The International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG) can feasibly be drawn into the controversy regarding the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastic Federation’s (TTGF) decision to replace Thema Williams with her alternate, Marisa Dick, at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Test event on April 17.
Williams’ de-selection, which was ostensibly done on the grounds of injury, now appears likely to lead to legal action against the TTGF while the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) can also be drawn in.
Williams’ attorneys, Keith Scotland and Dr Emir Crowne, will speak more on their intentions at a 4 pm press conference at the Virtus Chambers in Port of Spain on April 27.
However, it is arguably the FIG—which is led by president Bruno Grandi and men’s and women’s technical committee presidents Steve Butcher and Nellie Kim—who set the ball rolling with the decision to allow Williams to be replaced by Dick in the first place. Did they break their own rules to do so?
The FIG, according to rule 4.2 of its technical regulations, stipulates that: “In the case of injuries or illness of any gymnast between the time of accreditation and 24 hours prior to the beginning of CI (Qualifications), the NF (national federation) is allowed to change any accreditation. The gymnast injured or ill must return his/her accreditation and another gymnast can be accredited.”
The FIG further explained that: “24 hours prior to the beginning of CI, no new accreditations can be delivered. The 24 hour period is the one which precedes the start of the day of CI of the respective team/gymnast.”
The Rio Test event—or CI—began on April 16 with the men’s competition while the women’s competition was on April 17.
However, Dick was in Alberta preparing for a provincial meet at Fort McMurray on April 15 while Williams’ coach, John Geddert, did not send his memorable training report to the TTGF until 7.24 pm (8.24 pm Rio time) on April 15. And Williams did not hand in her accreditation until after 9.15 am on April 16.
By then, the FIG’s accreditation deadline might have passed.
The FIG’s rules do allow for a change of athlete after the deadline. But only under certain conditions:
“In the case of injuries or illness with medical certificate verified by the official FIG/LOC medical doctor of any gymnast between 24 hours prior to the beginning of CI and 60 min prior to CI or CIV,” states the FIG technical regulations, “any gymnast already accredited can be used as substitute by the NF.
“The substitute shall take exactly the same place as the replaced gymnast.”
Based on those stipulations, Wired868 asked the FIG Media Department, by email, the following questions:
“Did the FIG receive a medical certificate that verified an injury to Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams on April 15, 16 or 17 at the Rio Test event? Was Marisa Dick accredited prior to her arrival in Rio De Janeiro on April 17?
“If the answer to one or both of those questions is “no”, then why did the FIG allow the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation to replace Thema Williams with Marisa Dick?”
TTGF president David Marquez said by email and confirmed at last week’s press conference that his body did not have a medical report for Williams. Geddert said that, on April 16, the relevant medical official cleared Williams to participate, based on the authorisation of the Trinidad and Tobago board.
By then, Dick was already on her way to Rio.
Dick’s mother, Hannifer Dick, told Wired868 that she insisted on confirmation that her daughter could compete in Rio before they started their arduous day and a half journey to Brazil.
According to different reports, the Dicks got that confirmation between 11 pm (9 pm Alberta time) on April 15 and 1 am (11 pm Alberta time) on April 16—which would have been between 12 am and 2 am in Rio.
How could the TTGF have known, at such short notice, that the FIG would allow Dick to compete, despite the fact that there was no medical certificate to permit Williams’ withdrawal?
The FIG is usually very fussy about proper procedure where injuries are concerned.
Clause 5.5 of the FIG’s technical report states: “If a gymnast, a group or a team leaves the competition without being able to present a medical certificate from one of the competition’s official medical doctors, the gymnast, the group or the team will be expelled from the competition and will not be permitted to continue the competition.”
So why did the FIG take a different approach for Williams and Dick?
Up until the time of publication, the international gymnastics body had not responded to Wired868.