Home / Rio 2016 / TTGF: We are very grateful; Geddert: What a shameful moment in sports

TTGF: We are very grateful; Geddert: What a shameful moment in sports

“This circumstance and situation is a dark cloud over the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic movement,” said Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis. “It was one of the most gruelling and difficult situations that the TTOC has ever found itself in. We could have made decisions on the basis of purely our emotion and anger but that wasn’t the responsible legal position to take.

“This is not a very happy day for the TTOC, the Olympic movement and the members of the games committee.”

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Marisa Dick performs at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games. (Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Marisa Dick performs at the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

It was, almost certainly, the least enthusiastic announcement of an Olympic place in the 122-year history of the modern Games, as 18-year-old gymnast Marisa Dick—who has dual Canada and Trinidad and Tobago citizenship—was declared as the TTOC’s representative for gymnastics at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The choice, for the TTOC, was between Dick or nobody. And the fact that Lewis described such a decision as “gruelling and difficult” spoke volumes to the chaos that enveloped the sport, even before Dick controversially replaced 20-year-old Thema Williams on the eve of the Rio Test event on April 17.

Lewis revealed that, in the last two weeks, he received a pre-action protocol letter from the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTGF)—after he tweeted that the TTOC would not rubber-stamp the TTGF’s wishes—legal warnings from Williams’ attorneys and the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG) and threats of financial boycott from the public.

“The TTOC wasn’t between a rock and a hard place,” said Lewis, in response to one question. “The TTOC was between a rock and a very hard rock.”

The TTGF, who has generally been cast as the villain of the piece, made a curt and non-contentious statement.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation officials (from right) Ricardo Lue Shue, Elicia Peters-Charles and David Marquez pose with Sport Minister Darryl Smith (second from right). (Courtesy Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation officials (from right) Ricardo Lue Shue, Elicia Peters-Charles and David Marquez pose with Sport Minister Darryl Smith (second from right).
(Courtesy Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs)

“We are very grateful to the TTOC for allowing gymnastics to be a part of the Olympics for the first time in the history of Trinidad and Tobago,” said TTGF general secretary Elicia Peters-Charles.

Not that the TTOC had much praise for the TTGF on the day. Instead, Lewis promised action against the local gymnastics body.

“The TTOC has considered issues surrounding the process and will be invoking its authority under clause 13 of its constitution,” said Lewis, “to determine whether the TTGF has infringed the TTOC constitution, the Olympic charter, and the International Olympic Committee’s code of ethics in respect of their duty to be fair.”

Peters-Charles declined comment on the TTOC threat.

“At this moment, as the general secretary, I am not at liberty saying anything else,” she said.

It was just as well Peters-Charles did not respond. So far every attempt to corner the TTGF has been as effective as attempting to punch your own shadow.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams (right) and her coach John Geddert.
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams (right) and her coach John Geddert.

Williams’ coach, John Geddert, was mad enough for everyone else.

“What a shameful moment in sports,” stated Geddert, on his Facebook wall. “If there were ever a blatant display of unethical and corrupt sports management, this was it! The TTGF showcased their 10 foot tall and bullet proof, in your face, we do as we please, the hell with who gets hurt in the process, mentality for the world to see.

“What an epic moment for the proper message to be sent in response to the narcissistic and unthinkable actions. What an opportunity to show the world that honesty, integrity and rules do matter.

“What a moment to stand firm and stand tall. What a shame!”

Ironically, it was Geddert’s clumsy training report that the TTGF used to remove Williams from Rio in the first place. And his track record might also work against him.

A gymnastics insider was quick to point out that star United States gymnast Jordyn Wieber confessed to competing with a stress fracture in her right leg at the London 2012 Olympics. She failed to land an individual medal at the competition. Geddert was her coach.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnasts Thema Williams (right) and Marisa Dick have fun sightseeing in Rio, after the Olympic Test event on 17 April 2016. (Courtesy Hannifer Dick)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago gymnasts Thema Williams (right) and Marisa Dick have fun sightseeing in Rio, after the Olympic Test event on 17 April 2016.
(Courtesy Hannifer Dick)

Michelle Frankland, gymnastics coach and daughter of Tots and Tumblers club founder Annette Telfer, called it “a sad day for gymnastics” and sport governance on the whole. Williams was a former pupil of their gymnastics programme.

“It sends a clear signal that good governance at the end of the day does not matter,” Frankland told Wired868, “that the TTGF can break its own rules and policies and come out with their heads held high. It is a very sad day.

“I don’t believe that Trinidad and Tobago gymnastics is being very fairly represented in the Olympics. The rules and policies used to get the secured spot were not transparent and they were not in the interest of fair play.”

Did Lewis believe that the TTOC’s decision to send Dick to Rio vindicated the TTGF?

“The international federation whose jurisdiction it is to say whether there were breaches in their rules and procedures,” said Lewis, in reference to what he described as the ‘curious’ FIG intervention, “confirmed on Friday 29 of April that there were no breaches of their breaches and procedures as it relates (to) the Olympic Test event.”

So how can the local Olympic committee take action against the TTGF for a decision that it deemed to be legal?

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis (far left) and games committee members (from right) Dr Terrence Ali, Ian Hypolite and Diane Henderson announce their decision to select gymnast Marisa Dick on their contingent for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on 2 May 2016. Missing from the photograph is games committee member Annette Knott who was abroad. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) president Brian Lewis (far left) and games committee members (from right) Dr Terrence Ali, Ian Hypolite and Diane Henderson announce their decision to select gymnast Marisa Dick on their contingent for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games on 2 May 2016.
Missing from the photograph is games committee member Annette Knott who was abroad.
(Courtesy Wired868)

“What we will focus on is the decision-making process and in the context of a duty to be fair,” Lewis told Wired868. “My thinking is that we will appoint an independent group because I don’t want anyone to perceive the TTOC as unfair or prejudiced or biased…

“We are going to look into that direction.”

There was no response to the ruling from Dick, although it is likely that she has returned to her home in Canada.

Her social media pages have been wiped clean of public comments, after she was targeted for abuse in recent weeks.

In contrast, it was a love-in on Williams’ pages.

Ifran tweeted to Thema: “I love you. We love you. Gawd girl this pain, this pain, if we could eat it for you we would. Trust that it’ll get better.”

Photo: To Thema with Love. Fans of Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams offer support after the TTOC's decision to send Marisa Dick to the Rio 2016 Olympics on 2 May 2015.
Photo: To Thema with Love.
Fans of Trinidad and Tobago gymnast Thema Williams offer support after the TTOC’s decision to send Marisa Dick to the Rio 2016 Olympics on 2 May 2015.

Ameniki Safiya channelled pop star Beyoncé’s new album, which is seen as a symbol of defiance in the face of heartbreak: “You are amazing… Make your own #lemonade.”

As always, Williams was poised, economical and profound in her own public response.

“Who feels it,” she tweeted, “knows it.”

Photo: Thema Williams shares some art on Sunday 17 April 2016. (Courtesy Thema Williams)
Photo: Thema Williams shares some art on Sunday 17 April 2016.
(Courtesy Thema Williams)

AboutLasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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172 comments

  1. Apart from the fact that seems an extremely naive view of what the word “contract” means, the TTOC told the TTGF that they had to stick to the contract since November 2015. The writer is simply ignorant of a lot of things and very one-eyed.
    Have you ever heard of a contract that is non-binding and that one party is free to ignore if it chooses?

  2. Dicks, Lue Shues, Dows, Anita Pelletier, Ovidiu Serban, FIG, TTGF, all closing ranks and protecting one another.

    Dick knows, and has known all along, that she is protected by friends in high places but she is going to be portrayed as an innocent victim to garnish support.

    Dick’s people are crafty at telling a very different story from the truth. Especially in Canada, the media there is naturally going to look to local sources for info. Or if they aren’t looking – it’s sent to them. Perhaps by Anita Pelletier, for example, or her club Ortona, or Dick’s mother.

    Everyone on this site knows the back story but the journalists getting info from Dick’s handlers may be completely unaware that they are known liars and manipulators. And that those liars aren’t just celebrating Dicks spot at the Olympics, they are on a PR mission now. Thus, there is selective information being printed in Canada or other sites geared toward gymnastics fans. The population of Edmonton and the surrounding towns is similar to that of all of Trinidad and Tobago. But the Gymnastics community is tight, so word will spread eventually.

    Never even heard of Gymternet until now. One of the better known gymnastics sites is chalkbucket dot com. And this site is mentioned there.

    I like to tell as many people as possible about this site, to respectfully point them in the direction where they can find out more information.

    Please continue spreading the word about this shameful moment, taking cues from Thema, with grace and dignity. The facts cannot be disputed.

  3. I’m not sure of the details of such contract although I’m aware that contracts were signed. The writer is suggesting that it didn’t bound the TTGF to anything and they could have changed their minds anytime they wanted.

  4. This is what the writer responded to a comment regarding the issue of the contract: “The contract was for the girls to sign so neither could argue against the selection. It did not bind the federation to anything, which is why Thema Williams had no legal recourse when they changed their minds and instead appealed to the public. There was zero “breaking” of the contract on part of the TTGF because it only bound the girls to the agreement that if one got the spot, the other couldn’t fight it. Maybe learn about what you’re talking about before you say anything three times.:)”

  5. Sure. Let me copy and paste though as I have been asked before:
    “Ok, let me go through bit by bit as I read.
    Quote: “The Trinidad & Tobago Gymnastics Federation, or TTGF, told its athletes that the gymnast to finish with the highest all-around score at worlds would automatically earn the test event spot, a bad decision in hindsight, as it is now responsible for one of the most ridiculously juvenile fights in gymnastics history…”
    In fact, the United States selects its Olympic gymnast based on a single trial event.
    Quote: “the TTGF simply didn’t realize how ludicrous this was until after it had already “promised” the spot to Williams”
    In fact, it wasn’t a “promise.” It was a written agreement.
    Quote: “It’s important to note that the TTGF’s initial selection procedure wasn’t legally binding and that since the test event spot was a non-nominative one – meaning it belonged to the federation, not to the athlete who earned it for the federation – there is no FIG rule in place that says the TTGF had to select Williams for the spot based on her worlds finish. This seems to be a topic of confusion for most reporting on this event in Trinidad, but even though the TTGF had originally decided to select an athlete based on worlds finishes, its directors and decision-makers had every right to change their minds”
    Fact, the author doesn’t understand the word “contract.”
    Quote: “The TTGF thus didn’t “break the rules,” as some press has accused them of doing, though it did unfortunately end up going back on its word.”
    Fact, well, I explained that already.
    Quote: “Naturally, those in Williams’ camp were upset, most notably her mother Helen Adams. Adams immediately went to the press, leaking emails from the TTGF and stating that Williams was the “automatic choice” based on the “selection policy established by TTGF.”
    Fact, Gymter doesn’t know who leaked the stories to the press. Interesting that it chooses to slander Thema Williams’ mother.
    Quote: “With the backlash from the press, the TTGF caved under pressure, saying Williams could have the spot without being tested in order to focus on her physical and mental preparation for the test event, with Dick to continue training as the alternate”
    Fact, the TTOC told the TTGF that it had to stick to its written selection criteria.
    Quote: “This is where things get dicey and where the only coverage has been entirely biased. So biased, in fact, that a television station in Trinidad reached out to me during the test event because they wanted to feature someone with an actual knowledge of the sport who wasn’t personally connected to either party.”
    Fact: Gymter said on Twitter that it KNEW Marisa Dick was accredited on April 15, which was before even the TTGF had completed its paperwork for that. (Although Dick was probably contacted by then). Gymter refused to give a deadline. Makes you wonder who their source is though.
    … After that, it goes into speculation and opinion and I couldn’t really go any further.

  6. So Lasana you have a “gossipy” sports web page? I almost choked with laughter

  7. I read the article. If I was Lasagna or Ms Adams I would have taken her to task with a defamation law suit but I have been told in the past I use a sledge hammer to kill ants. I read Lasana:’s responses and deleted my comments but someone has to shut this clown up … Harsh lessons are life’s most successful teacher.

  8. Lauren Hopkins is obviously singing for a supper via her blog. She is running a business. She needs to make money to meet her expenses and pay her bills from money she make from her blog.
    Question is how does she make money via her blog? Is it by paid for PR-styled opiniated writings?
    She needs to familiarize herself with the Olympic Charter and examine the facts surrounding her masked opinions and give an objective take on whether the TTGF breached any aspect of the charter in making a so-called business decision to insert its blue-eyed second-best athlete at the expense of the higher-ranked athlete, who earned the right, under TTGF rules, to represent TT at the Rio Test Event.
    It is indeed very sad that she opines that it is acceptable to break rules for a financial (economic) benefit. That alone is testimony to her warped sense of values.
    Quite frankly, Lasana Liburd is a far superior journalist than her masquerade under pretense.

  9. Still didn’t read where FIG has an established procedure that TTGF needed to follow to nominate gymnast to a TEST event! I believe TTGF is entitled to set their own criteria, which they did, and which was agreed to by all parties concerned, including both gymnasts’ camps.. Apparently they thought Marissa would have easily outscored Thema at worlds.. they never even tried to add another qualifying event, but chose to undermine Thema – their emails confirm that they never wanted to send her.. and in hindsight it seems FIG was already aware of this…enter Thema’s coach with the cake, icing, ice cream.. as I said in another post. “Marissa fails to qualify.. cries (according to her mother) gets the spot… in a nutshell.. smh

  10. Not surprised at all. This how we are. I will not even watch her performance. God donot sleep.

  11. That’s what public officials do, they put themselves in the spotlight instead the athlete

  12. TTOC would have been better off sending nobody and facing a lawsuit no matter the cost – with the current public sentiment they could have easily started a crowdfund to cover legal fees and any compensation that would possibly have to be paid out to Dick. Better that than the current situation where people are withdrawing/threatening to withhold financial support to TTOC (affecting the whole delegation) because of failure to stand up for ethics and fair play in this situation. By the way, looking at Rule 44(3) (p.83 in the pdf) it says final decision to admit entry to the games rests with the IOC and nobody is entitled as of right to participate in the Olympic Games… maybe a huge petition to the IOC is in order here? Just thinking out loud… http://www.olympic.org/Documents/olympic_charter_en.pdf

    • I don’t know. A petition was started to get the TTGF defunded two weeks ago and it’s struggling to get to 5000. (It’s currently at 3100+). Meanwhile, the petition to raise the speed limit has crossed 5000 in 3 days. People might be peeved by what the TTGF has done and it’s unjust treatment of Thema, but they haven’t been galvanized into action yet….

    • I still can’t believe the Lewis and Co caved in like that. After all the gun talk the whole country looking to you as the last bastion of decency and fair play. Yes we would have willingly contributed if it came down to a lawsuit. Because it was the right thing to do. I don’t understand how they didn’t get it! Maybe money pass? ??

    • If I was the TTOC, I’d have taken the advice of my lawyer too. Trinidadians too fickle. By the time the law suit decided and they lose, Trinis done forget what happened and good luck getting any crowd funding. In fact, many would say then that the TTOC dotish and should have taken the legal advice and they look for that. I hate what has happened but at the end of the day, the TTOC must also be responsible.

    • Alana Morton I guess you’re right… just can’t easily accept that this is the end of the road and wrong wins here…

    • Neither can I. It’s vexing at best and rather depressing. The way forward now is to fix the TTGF so they can’t do this again. That board must go and the changes to the Constitution as recommended, must be made. Too many NSOs are run badly and in the end, they hurt the athletes they are supposed to be representing and abuse public trust.

    • Camille how does that get the TTGF out of office?

      The TTOC gets sued and Thema still has to operate under the TTGF. And they won’t be as careless as they were this time around.

      Am I disappointed? Of course!! But we’re losing sight of the big picture and what the tribunal means. And it’s nothing to sneeze at.

      My 2c.

    • Nicole Philip Greene, I was just thinking about what is possible to address public anger over the fact that T&T taxpayers will be paying for a self-confessed ‘Canadian at heart’ to go to Rio when the test event spot was taken from Thema in such an egregious manner. They say it aint over til the fat lady sings, and I just thought maybe TTOC’s word on this doesn’t have to be the last. That’s totally separate from the issue of disbanding the current TTGF board and dealing with the local administration issues, which is also of course crucially important to avoid another travesty like this recurring. Fully agree with you there.

    • Camille Richards I sincerely believe there was a lot more going on there than we know. Time will tell maybe?

      Having said that, yes, I felt greatly disappointed that the TTGF would get their way. But maybe they won’t have their cake and eat it too.

    • Pretty soon the TTGF will not only have their cake and eat it but they will open a bakery with all the funding that will be coming their way from participating in the Olympics as the smallest nation state to be a participant. Marquez and the Lue Shues will be Master Bakers and Trinis with their short memories, always ‘quick to anger and quick to forget and forgive’ , according to Dr. Eric Williams, will be lining up begging for cake and icing to boot ! This is the Land of the Nine Day Wonder and the injustice will be forgotten.

  13. Smh…. This whole situation is so unjust. More and more it appears as if what the TTGF did was premeditated. I think they would have switched Thema regardless of Geddert’s report since it appears as if they were prepared to breach the contract. Imagine Marquez is head of the delegation and he’s here in Trinidad and not Rio… What utter…. So as HOD he decided, sight unseen? Then Lue Shue’s incestuous relationship with the FIG; FIG’s complicity in the whole sordid affair and of course, the Dicks’ unrelenting campaign to get Marisa in at all and any cost… Even if they had to do a Tonya Harding on Thema. #Disgusting

  14. … Seems …representative of some the values currently permeating various spheres of our society…!

  15. I don’t care if she win gold. She is not getting my support, I am not supporting dishonesty.

  16. Hahaha I’m sure she is. See bullshit doesn’t thrive under applied pressure.

  17. If you check my Twitter page now you will see the author backpedalling mighty fast on some of her “facts.”

  18. What can I say, all the best!!!

  19. Hence why I skimmed. Every line could be argued and discredited. Every. Line.