Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation (TTCF) racing secretary David Francis has voluntarily conceded his position as team manager for national cyclist Njisane Phillip for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Francis’ withdrawal follows a Wired868 article on Friday 15 July, which detailed Phillip’s bitter disappointment that his teammate and proposed soigneur, Varun Maharaj, was not accredited for the Games. Instead, the TTCF opted to send Francis alongside the cyclist’s mechanic, Elijah Greene.
After two days of discussions with the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC), the two parties reached a decision that would leave Phillip and local sport fans relieved.
“Based on recent media reports received, urgent meetings held with the Trinidad & Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) and concern for the cyclist’s welfare as an individual athlete,” stated a release by TTCF president Robert Farrier, “Mr David Francis has voluntarily withdrawn himself from the position of Team Manager. Mr Francis’ decision has been consequently relayed to the TTOC.
“It is unfortunate that this situation has escalated into the media, however, we are happy that we have an amicable resolution in the interest of the cyclist and the sport cycling on the whole.”
This morning’s meeting, which was held at the National Cycling Centre, was attended by TTOC President Brian Lewis, TTCF president Robert Farrier, TTCF racing committee chairman Joseph Roberts, TTCF racing committee secretary Gary Acosta and TTCF assistant racing committee secretary David Francis.
According to a TTOC media statement, Francis’ withdrawal: “will allow the TTOC to fill the vacant position on the Cycling Team as best as they see fit. The individual selected for this position will be chosen from the short list of officials previously submitted by the TTCF for the Rio Olympic Games.”
Maharaj was the only other name on the TTCF’s shortlist for the Games.
The TTCF tried to defend its initial choice.
Farrier, via press release, said the local Olympic Committee informed the TTCF on Wednesday July 13 that only only two members could accompany Phillip to Rio. And, although the 25 year old cyclist made it clear that he wanted Maharaj, the TTCF opted for Francis instead.
“The Team Manager’s role is also of key importance since he/she ensures the efficient functionality of any team,” stated Farrier, “and is an established position on all International cycling teams.”
The local cycling body did not communicate its decision to Phillip or Maharaj.
Farrier said the racing committee, which is headed by Joseph Roberts, made the ruling based on precedent.
“The Racing Committee also noted that for the past two years and the 10 qualifying events for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, technical members representing the TTCF in the capacity of Team Manager and Mechanic were always selected for each of these events. This same Management Team composition was also utilised for the 2012 London Olympic Games.
“With that being said and given the limited allocation for staff members, the Racing Committee being guided by the TTCF Selection Policy and the precedence set by previous International Events, selected a Team Manager and Mechanic as the final two officials for the TTO Cycling Team to the Rio Olympic Games.”
In the end, under siege by public opinion and with an incensed star cyclist on its hand, Francis—and, by extension, the TTCF—decided to put the athlete’s wishes first.