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National athletes are being treated with disdain! Thompson’s email exchange with Sport Ministry official

“For you to address me in the manner of your last email was nothing short of disrespectful; in fact, it was the most disrespectful email I have ever read. What gives you the authority to address me or any athlete in the tone that you just did is beyond me.

“[…] It appears that as long as Darryl Smith is the Minister of Sport, athletes will continue to be treated with disdain…”

The following is an email exchange between Trinidad and Tobago’s three-time Olympic medallist and sprinter Richard “Torpedo” Thompson and Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs sport development officer Shabbir Mohammed.

The emails are shared with Thompson’s consent.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinter Richard Thompson acknowledges his supporters after copping the 100-metre title in the NAAA National Open Championships on 25 June 2016 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

(From Shabbir Mohammed on 26 January, 2018)

Dear Mr Thompson,

The Division of Physical Education and Sport has received an application recommending you for Elite Athlete Assistance for the fiscal year 2017-2018.

Your submission includes:

Recommendation from the TTOC; Recommendation from the NAAATT; Personal Information Form; Nomination Form; Annual Performance Evaluation Form; Quarterly Tracking Form; One Quarterly Financial Statement from 10/2016 to 10/2017; Training Schedule Form; Copy of MRI Report chart 237183 dated 11/01/17; Invoice  from Dr Anyl Lloyd Gopeesingh dated 07/06/16; Referral report to hip surgeon Dr Scheinberge: Dallas dated 05/10/2017; Report from Partners Imaging Center of Sarasota dated 12/09/16; Coaching Report dated 30th November 2017.

Notably:

The TTOC recommends you for elite funding as a member of the 4 x 100m relay pool; The NAAATT recommends you for elite funding for the 100m discipline with a T&T 2017 ranking #2 with 10.04 secs; Your Annual Performance Evaluation Form lists you as Injured for 2017; Your coaching report says that you can return to full training by March 2018; Financial Statements for monies previously received and supported by bills are outstanding.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s Richard Thompson (right) tries unsuccessfully to hold off Jamaica legend Usain Bolt in the first round of the 100-metre event at the Rio Olympics on 13 August, 2016.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

Please do not hesitate to come in to review these documents and/or to ensure that the correct submissions are made by you and your representing bodies for the correct application to be processed for consideration.

Thank you in advance for your assistance  on this matter.

Regards,

(From Richard Thompson on 27 January, 2018)

Hi Mrs (sic) Mohammed,

Thank you for your email to seek clarification on my forms submitted. Can you please let me know what money previously received you’re referring to because I haven’t received elite funding since 2015. Can you also please specify what bills are outstanding?

I have provided bills for close to US$50,000 of my money spent to prepare for 2016/2017, which was received, reviewed and approved by both the TTOC and the NAAA.

I did hip surgery a week ago and I’m currently in the process of intense rehab. As a result I will not be able come in to review the information. However, Natalie and Ruthven Thompson would be glad to come in this week to get things sorted out if necessary.

Kind Regards,

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinter Richard Thompson (third from right) prepares to chase Jamaica star Asafa Powell (centre), after the latter had received the baton from Usain Bolt at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

(From Shabbir Mohammed on 6 February, 2018)

Dear Mr Thompson,

Your situation is unfortunate. I will try my best to assist you to the best of my ability. Please consider the following information:

You have signed an agreement dated June 10th 2015 to provide documents that include providing a financial statement/ per tranche supported by bills; Your application for the 2016 season was incomplete; There was no medical report; No training schedule; No coach’s report; No financial statement supported by bills; You did prepare a budget drawn up in a table by pen on an 81/2” x 11” sheet of copy paper; As such you did not fill out the Quarterly Financial Statement form for 2015-2016 that required signatures and stamps of you, the TTOC and the NAAATT; E-mail was sent by Ms Emile to you on 17/03/2016 to let you know what was missing and the attached form to fill out.

Due to outstanding documents, no payments would have been made.

It is important to note that you have been injured and recommended for assistance to compete. You were not recommended for funding for medical assistance as an injured athlete by your governing bodies for 2016 or 2017 (as per elite athlete assistance policy).

I asked you to clarify the documents sent in for this year 2018 because if I place them on file it may be falsification. It is important to clear up the inconsistencies especially where you are the one providing the information to the governing bodies that recommend you for funding.

Photo: (From left) Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago facility manager Anthony Blake, three-time Olympic medallist Richard “Torpedo” Thompson, Sport Minister Darryl Smith and then Public Utilities Minister Fitzgerald Hinds.

Your report says that you may be able to fully train in March 2018 and another says that there is no world ranking for 2017.

Can an injured athlete who has no world ranking be elite?

Nevertheless, any monies disbursed have to be accounted for before any other type of funding is disbursed (as per service level agreement).

I see one financial statement for period July—December 2015 but no bills to back up the items.

If you did submit the bills before, kindly provide some document where you did so.

It is your responsibility and not the Division of Physical Education and Sport’s, NAAATT’s, TTOC’s or Minister’s to account for funding that you received. They do not want further funding as an athlete, you do.

I just want to do my job to start processing a completed application. Please ensure that the proper application is complete and submitted to your various associations for endorsement to be sent over to the Ministry.

If you are dissatisfied with the information I have just provided, please let me know so that another officer may be assigned your case.

Regards,

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago quartet of (from left) Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callender and Richard Thompson pose on the podium after winning bronze in the London 2012 Olympics 4x100m relay final on 11 August 2012.
The Trinidad and Tobago team were subsequently upgraded to silver.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Johannes Eisele)

(From Richard Thompson on 17 February, 2018)

Shabbir Mohammed,

Firstly, let me make it clear that prior to these chain of emails, I’ve never spoken to you, seen you, or was aware of your existence. So for you to address me in the manner of your last email was nothing short of disrespectful; in fact, it was the most disrespectful email I have ever read. What gives you the authority to address me or any athlete in the tone that you just did is beyond me.

If your response is reflective of the Ministry’s attitude to someone that is a three-time Olympic medallist and National awardee, I shudder to think of how my upcoming and lesser accoladed athletes are treated. My correspondence with you has been respectful and professional, and I am appalled to receive such condescension from a ministry official with whom I’ve never interacted.

Your approach seems to be strictly combative and one of no compromise. “If you’re dissatisfied with what I’ve said I’ll assign your case to another officer”? Is it that you do not possess the competence to handle matters that present a bit of sorting through, or is it that you’re simply arrogant?

Your way or the highway is all I got from your last message. If the director and the minister has sanctioned your email, it leaves a lot to be desired about the manner in which they too treat people.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinters (from left) Richard Thompson, Emmanuel Callender and Rondel Sorrillo watch the electronic scoreboard after their disqualification from the 4×100-metre event during the Rio 2106 Olympic Games.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

To utter the words that “you are the one that needs funding and not the Minister” speaks volumes about the mentality and abuse of power that the Ministry seems to believe they hold over the athletes. Let me remind you that WE are the reason you work in that office, so don’t for a second think that you are more high and mighty than those of us that work tirelessly for the Red, White and Black.

The fact that you assume the position to handle matters of national athletes, yet remain completely clueless about basic requirements, places a magnifying glass on why there are complications along the communication channel. Here we are in 2018, with me submitting forms and receipts from 2017, and you are asking me about 2015.

Sir, we have cleared that hurdle, that period has passed. I did not receive funding in 2016 because I did not submit those receipts. Case closed. However, I HAVE submitted receipts of US$50,000 of MY money spent in 2017, with all forms, coach’s report and medical reports to go along with it. What is the issue now?

Mind you, the Minister’s advisor Garvin Warwick was the one that instructed me to submit the 2017 elite funding application, when I saw him in September in Fatima, because he claimed that they would soon be ready to be disbursed to us. I was sure that I had been blacklisted for previously exercising my right to speak on matters that I saw as an injustice to athletes, and as such was prepared to not submit forms.

Photo: Former NBFTT president Garvin Warwick (far left) is the current advisor to Sport Minister Darryl Smith.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)

After seeing Mr Warwick, I felt assured that there would be no issue. Another broken promise of his.

For you to suggest that I am “not elite” because of an injury sustained representing T&T is not only unreasonable, it shows your lack of knowledge for professional athletics.

It is my responsibility to submit my information to the NAAA and the TTOC before it makes its way to your desk. THEY are the ones that determine/advise whether elite or medical assistance is requested for the athlete from the Ministry based on what I’ve provided.

I applaud them for acknowledging that injury is part of sport, unfortunately, it seems that you or the Ministry do not possess the common sense to comprehend that uncomplicated fact.

I have just undergone hip surgery, which I paid for. Last year I called and messaged both the minister and Mr Warwick about a pressing issue that needed to be addressed, to which I got no response. My sister had to personally make a surprise visit to the office to get a hold of them.

Of course, the minister was too busy to speak to her. Mr Warwick was presented with medical documents that showed a US$40,000 operation was necessary, and any assistance at all would be greatly appreciated, seeing that there was no clue as to when I would actually receive elite funding.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago Sport Minister Darryl Smith (left) has a laugh with NAAA president Ephraim Serrette at the 2016 NAAA Open Championships at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port-of-Spain on 25 June, 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

He assured her that he would work on it and get back to her in a timely manner. Another broken promise. It is only after I’ve had my surgery, that he forwards us to you, someone who, from the content of your emails, doesn’t seem to understand the basic rudiments of professional athletics.

I am not unreasonable. I am well aware of the financial constraints of the country in current times.

If the Ministry does not classify me as a priority and cannot assist because of this reason, or simply prefers to invest in another young and upcoming athlete, that’s understandable; but be honest and say that to me. Don’t continuously give me the run around as though you want to help when you have no intention of doing so.

It appears that as long as Darryl Smith is the Minister of Sport, athletes will continue to be treated with disdain. I have no intention of being beholden to the Ministry or its minions. I have represented T&T honorably for over a decade and will find a way to continue to do so, despite these attempts by people who, in fact, have ill intentions for my career.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago track star Richard Thompson (left) poses with President Anthony Carmona at a ceremony in The Anchorage, Carenage on 29 June, 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

I grieve knowing that many of my fellow athletes solely depend on you for their success, and have to be treated as though they are at your feet with a begging bowl. I grieve when I open the newspaper and read that members of the Golden World Championship 4x400m team, can’t pay their credit card debts from money spent on preparation that won T&T a gold medal in London 2017.

It seems as though elite or not, paperwork or not, receipts or not, the end result is the same… a contemptuous disregard for the needs of our athletes by Ministry officials.

Yet results are expected, and should they be miraculously achieved, guess who are front and center for the resume padding photo ops?

I pray for my fellow athletes, because as long as they continue to live a “cap in hand” existence, there is little hope for them to achieve their true global potential.

Richard Thompson

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s London Olympics 4×100-metre relay team of (from left) Richard Thompson, Emmanuel Callender, Marc Burns and Keston Bledman poses with Sport Minister Darryl Smith (centre) in a ceremony at The Anchorage, Carenage on 29 June, 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

Editor’s Note: Sport Ministry official Shabbir Mohammed responded to Trinidad and Tobago track star Richard Thompson on Friday 23 February.

The email, which Mohammed copied to 94 other persons—mostly other athletes—read: 

“Dear Mr Thompson,

Why would I choose to disrespect you?

S Mohammed”

About Lasana 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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300 comments

  1. Dunno. He’s most likely trying to do some positive PR for the Ministry.

  2. How did he get that from the ministry’s release? ?

  3. Is there really anybody surprised that the call ended immediately after the question was out? I am not. Did Minister Darryl Smith ever respond seriously and truthful to seriously asked questions? And if he responds to serious questions, did he not always refer the questioner to any other department or person in the ministry or somewhere else? Should he not have given a statement already immediately after Richard`s topic came up? Was Kelly´s interview not another reason from him to involve himself? What else is needed that he take his position serious and fulfills his obligations as responsible Minister?
    I am seriously interested to see a reporter or journalist to follow this topic for a serious, qualified and truthful statement from Minister Darrry Smith. Or will he again come out of a situation without being questioned again and pressed for a statement, as happened to so many times already for any other topics and matters.

  4. I understand Richard’s plight. Reading this I also see as is per usual the unprofessionalism of a Ministry staff member who is not held accountable for their actions and has been allowed to do as they please with little or no input from their supervisor and/or Director. So I ask when will we hold the Ministry staff and the one with the responsibility for them, director then PS to account? At times it can be the Minister’s fault, however the Minister cannot hire, fire and instruct any staff member to issue payment unless it is done from his personal vote. So why do we continue to ignore and allow the public servants with their own agendas to misbehave and get away with no punishment or reprimand.

  5. Can an injured athlete with no world ranking be considered Elite……wow….wow…..wow.

  6. Sadly Richard isn’t the only athlete who stopped receiving elite funding due to injury. The same thing happened to Marc Burns. I think the last time he received the funding was in 2012 or even before..simply because he was injured reppin T&T. It’s really crazy

  7. Shabbir is clearly extremely lacking in the art of communication and that is an important skill to have in the service industry.

  8. More disrespect compounded with blatant arrogance… that’s what that is. Pure unadulterated arrogance!

  9. Sometimes we judge a situation without all the information. A couple of emails may not be all the information in this matter. Yet… we all have very strong opinions on Shabbir’s work ethics. I wonder if we took time to think about what will happen to Shabbir. Do we care that Shabbir may lose his job? Is that what we want? Is that what he deserve for questioning the 3 times Olympian and national awardee?

  10. Maybe he was trying to do his job and made a mistake by asking Richard about his qualification as an elite athlete. Maybe what Richard really needed was medical funding, which is a different request.

  11. Yep. Guess that is all he thought the matter was worth. Or whoever is advising him…

  12. This S Mohammed needs some office training not even an OJT would behave in such a manner. Are you sure this is a real public servant .

  13. Seriously!!! Not “Dear Mr. Thompson no disrepect was intended….” and we know it was intended because of the underlying nuance of the words and phrases used…. he not even trying to coat it….? Obviously he feels he has some immunity to being reprimanded… ?

  14. Trevor Cooper youre are an idiot plain and simple. If you can comprehend what you read you will understand what i am saying. I didnt chose a side to the argument i am simply stating how to approach situations like this. After the exchange did Mr Thompson get funding……..no! Is the public servant still employed getting his salary this month end…….yes. Mr Thompson is right to seek funding after representing our nation but get all your things organise bring proof that you have in fact done so then make a huge stink about it. Customer service is piss poor in this part of the world and he has lived here most of his life to know that. There is no way he is gonna get a positive response now and this is advice to all athletes…..put all your facts of good treatment and bad treatment in documented form because you never know the day when it will be useful when you come to the public to show any incompetence you face dealing with any ministry in this country. He was disrespected but on his end he went about this the wrong way

  15. Editor’s Note: Sport Ministry official Shabbir Mohammed responded to Trinidad and Tobago track star Richard Thompson on Friday 23 February.
    The email, which Mohammed copied to 94 other persons—mostly other athletes—read:
    “Dear Mr Thompson,
    Why would I choose to disrespect you?
    S Mohammed”

  16. When will we become a nation of processes and LAWS ? Until then we will remain a banana republic. Time to put personalities aside.

  17. Discipline production and tolerance. Our keys to individual and collective success

  18. Sport funding in Trinidad is concentrated on football which produces one world class athlete every 40 years whereas track and field which produces a continuous stream of world beaters is treated like a bastard child. Why???

  19. Put the right people in charge and they will make a difference!

  20. Richard ,you are strong and stood up not only for yourself but also for your fellow athletes.These want you to crawl, pander and beg them after you have done so much for our country.Your reply to him was still respectful and professional .
    God’s blessing to you my brother.

  21. Correct is right. That’s insulting! Said in Basdeo Panday fashion?

  22. Yup… Demand respect at all times, especially when you have treated everyone, at all times, with respect.

  23. Bravo!!! I have a renewed respect for Richard Thompson. A great athlete and also a man of words. So sad, this little post-colonial piece of land we call home.

  24. That is a great response by Richard. The Ministry do not provide the necessary requirements for us as a country to produce top level athletes yet they are always on the bandwagon when our athletes accomplish outstanding performances because of their own determination, dedication and money.

  25. He does a lot of talking in front of cameras,but no action…FACTS…

  26. Collectively, much can be achieved.
    Wonder how much support he will gain from fellow athletes? Our culture is we like to benefit from the struggles of others, not to support a struggle or to risk anything.

  27. Trinidad and Tobago treats it’s athletes disdainfully. Only if they achieve something, then the media and the government are all over it. Before that, there is no support for all the hard work. Yes, even the media is to blame – look at the present situation. Which part of T&T knew that we are represented by 2 people in the Pyongchang 2018 Winter Olympics? I guess because it’s so far, they probably did not train in Trinidad, and T&T doesn’t care for winter that the media didn’t even spend 1 minute on it.

  28. Yes I saw it…. I thought I had already posted it.
    In my opinion he provided all relevant documents. More documents than some athletes who receive funding. But because he is blacklisted they are giving him the ‘gears’
    Kudos to NAAA for supporting him at this time.
    People have to remember that he was injured while training or competiting for the National team. He didn’t fall down on a boat cruise or pulled a hamstring at the Magdalena Hotel while cuddling up a outside woman.
    Good move NAAA.

  29. We are highlighting here the treatment meted out to one of our national heroes by the Government, can you imagine the type of treatment our average citizens face, on a daily basis by said government officials. (Especially our senior citizens )

  30. Wow,,,,the Arrogance of these two in the auspicious Ministry of Sport…..minister and his minion. Disrespectful and unacceptable. No appreciation. Richard did the right thing. Expose their nonsense and make this viral.

  31. I am in shock. Although, I really shouldn’t be.

  32. wow. No wonder our Sports men and women are not reaching their true potential in most sporting disciplines. Serious square pegs in wrong Holes . It is in all ministries that we have great problems with services in every level. So job well done let us wait and see what is the Ministry next step in helping him .

  33. Lasana Liburd Common courtesy is lacking all around. Just saying thank you is a chore from top to bottom..

  34. Teeheehee ? was Barrel intentional? ??