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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. These athletes don’t get the support that they need but as soon as they’re successful in representing the country, these hypocrites especially that joke for a minister, is the first to take credit for their achievements.

  2. Please tell me this is fake! I’m actually hoping so. The gentleman sole purpose it seems so the annoy Mr. Thompson.
    Ok even if RT did not submit all the necessary documents, be of service where you can show him his gaps.
    Also as noted – as most of us are aware – things are tight in T&T at the moment. Say it may be difficult based on current standing but we will at least make an effort. Be forthright.
    My apologies for requesting that last part. Welcome to T&T.

  3. Most of them never kick ah lime in dey life. I really don’t know if we’ll ever get it right.

  4. Stop taking pics with them. Mentality of Trinis. Sad

  5. this is sad,,

    Thompson is being wrong and strong, though ,,,

    If his paper work is not properly filled out , then the error is on his part …
    If all his documents were in order , then he’d have a grouse …

    I would have expected better from a QRC granduate …

    He needs to bring ALL of his paperwork up to date –
    This is no big deal ..
    He is the one making a mountain out of mole hill ..
    He is asking for “special treatement” , because he is “richard thompson ” ..

    AND I’m sure many idiots reading this are going to support him in his stupid childish tirade …

    • If you read his email you would understand what he has stated. But clearly you are not a QRC graduate so I do not expect you to!

      He isn’t asking for “special treatment” because of who he is. He is merely making the point of the injustice that is done to the athletes and speaking out where others may be apprehensive to do for fear of victimization from the Ministry officials.

      Go back and read his statement again as you’ve clearly missed his points. The issue is the disrespect of the email received from Shabir Mohammed more so than the Elite funding not being received…Read the email again I urge you and see where he acknowledges that he didn’t receive funding in 2016 due to not fulfilling the paperwork required! That case is closed!! Now that he has fulfilled his obligations to submit the necessary paperwork for this new period, then tell me why should we revert to what has gone as he paid the price by not receiving the funding for that period?!

      So before casting aspersions about idiots supporting his ‘stupid childish tirade’, you are urged to brush up on your comprehension skills as clearly you’ve not read and understood the contents of Mr Thompson’s email…

      • Earl Best

        Being a “QRC graduate” is the problem here, not the solution.

        Please, QRC graduate, open your mind like we were taught to do and re-read ALL the emails. Then have a look at the comments again and see if you see the light.

        My guess is that Royalian success has so far dazzled you here.
        Signed,
        An ultra-proud Royalian.

    • Not me… anyone who reads these emails and critically analyse them will see that Thompson is being aggressive without cause.

      • Ask yourself why he is being aggressive and trust me it is with cause! You clearly haven’t analysed the emails critically! To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction!

        • critical analysis of the emails seems to have passed you by… I see nowhere was Mohammed out of place. Your ‘QRC’ elite athlete was being a pig with bad manners.

      • I agree… he was being aggressive. Once you have to mentioned that you are a 3 times Olympian and national awardee in the conversation, you are trying to tell the person “know your place” I also noted that the email is dated Feb 17th… that means he answered and then proceeded to make it public. He had his agenda.

  6. Always a fan of Thompson. Well spoken man. Respectful rebuttal.

  7. When incompetent people hold office hope for the best but expect the worst 🙂

  8. Is richard Thompson still an athlete????

  9. I love how Thompson handle him ! Those of that ilk love people to kow-tow to them. Meanwhile Shabbir cyar run from A to B, ‍♂️but he want to handle the athlete like he’s a nobody. Ah love how Thompson put him in his dog placeToo many sickening, disrespectful officials in TNT. Left to them TNT wouldn’t be known on the world stage at all!

  10. The majority of,them are arrogant

  11. Utter rubbish and we expect them to represent us with pride smh

  12. Oh Jamaica, Oh Jamaica, Oh Jamaica you’re always on my mind

  13. Who the hell is Shabbir and why is this person holding such a position

  14. Just heard Richard Thompson on i95 fm with Andre Errol Baptiste. Hope this issue gets resolved quickly, especially for the sake of other athletes. Smh

  15. The way these people operate you would think it’s some kind of clan or secret society…. they not easy at all. If you go to a meeting with them they smile and make all kind of promises and once you leave here… you can’t get any more responces or any follow up.
    I am glad he is exposing them.. just like Keshorn did and Keston did..they operate in a very vindictive way

  16. Stand up to them Mr. Thompson. That Shabbir character deserved what he got and more. Rude and disrespectful.

  17. Hear nah!! Jean-Luc Rochford, national footballer, is another athlete getting BS!! #Shame

  18. What the hell? Richard Thompson’s 1st response was polite and concise. How did Shabbir Mohammed go from 0-100 from that with such a combative and disrespectful tone? There must be some correspondence missing in between there somewhere because that tone makes no sense at all.

    • I read the emails and I believe the the official became personal in dealing with the matter by questioning his status as an elite things went down hill from there. His job was not to question Mr Thompson’s position but to direct him on the correct way to complete the forms. Mr Thompson on the other hand in feeling offended he should have: 1. Email the officer with his concerns and also send a copy to the supervisor. 2. Ensuring that his paperwork was in order so that would not be an issue in putting his case forward about the treatment received from the officer.

      This also speaks to customer service, the officers who are dealing with the athletes are the face of the ministry and it would seem to me their job is to guide the athletes or thier management in the proper way of completing the required paperwork for the funding.

  19. Unbelievable…. Teocah Arieal you read this madness

  20. My mouth was agape reading this. I cannot believe this is authentic.

  21. No money for our top athletes/sport ambassadors, but plenty money to “wine and dine” in Tobago. I hope that the upcoming athletes, Jereem Richards and co. take note. Shameless Minister and Ministry Officials.

  22. We live in the social media where it’s imperative call out and show up these people for what they are ….and show them up big time!!

  23. Shameful and disrespectful indeed. We going nowhere fast!

  24. When his clapback game is strong well done richard stand up for your rights alot of corruption taking place all over

  25. Sad to note these developments between Sportt/Min of Sport and Torpedo Thompson..

  26. O and btw Lasana Liburd i told you this type of article would could be a daily series.lol

  27. When will these people learn,there has never been a sport called administration, This is shoddy treatment for one of our most celebrated sons of the soil.Sad!!!

  28. WaW. SMH. The bottom line is that athletes across the board have to get those passes/degrees/ skills to make a living outside of sport . WaW again. I ll be sure to forward this to my son. I preach to him day in day out about the reality of sport in sweet TnT. I Hope and pray he takes heed. Amen.

  29. That is the first thing they do here when you speak out…they blacklist you.
    Sure ..he has been blacklisted because he spoke out. That is how they do it in that Ministry.
    They ‘punish’ … in their mind they think it’s punishment… anyone who speaks out about what is really going on with Athletics.
    Especially if you are out of the country you ketch your backside to collect any funding or money due.

  30. Wow hell no total disrespect one like me I wud have never represent Trinidad and Tobago again . Instead Canada , America or any other country here I come

  31. Shame on them, I am all for accountability but you do not TREAT people so, in fact the ministry should have officers permanently assigned to our elite athletes to avoid this kind of shit.

    • I thought I heard him say he submitted all be necessary documents, but perhaps it got misplaced???? who knows, these tho he always happen. I do hope that all concerns get their deserving rewards.

  32. I find the responses from the Sports Ministry to be somewhat terse; perhaps even caustic. Reading through those emails one can easily form the impression that there is some discord between the athlete and the Sports Ministry. This can prove to be discouraging to any athlete representing our nation. I hope that good sense will prevail, and efforts will be made to have some serious discourse.

  33. Big respect to Thomson…..big disrespect to the Minister and those under him.

  34. Come on now Joan, guy looks like Kung Fu Panda. Only thing he looks like he worked hard on was his 3 square meals lol

  35. This interchange is shockingly deplorable! I am grossly disappointed with Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs on this critically sensitive matter. This unfortunate situation, clearly supports my consistent suggestion that T&T Ministers of Sport and Permanent Secretaries of Sport should not be (1) politically appointed. (2) should be thoroughly vetted. (3) Should have proven leadership and people management experiences/talents/skills. (4) should have a genuine interest in T&T sports development. (5) should be knowledgeable of the requirements of our elite and professional athletes.

  36. Malik he eh no little pencil pusher. #justpointingouttheelephabtintheroon

    • I cynically chose that term because I’m seeing signs of a man trying to “pull rank” over someone because he probably knows he could never be at that level. So to get back at him he has to let him know who is boss in his legendary administrative stance. It’s actually a form of discrimination …..

  37. Sad they have to go out, represent our country and are not respected at home .

  38. How is it a little pencil pusher all of a sudden feel he have all that power to address a grown man like that? Hiding behind a computer … disrespectful no rass …….

  39. Seems as if Sports and Culture are in the same boat … total disregard for both

  40. Joan by mill you mean threadmill? Asking for a friend….

  41. This is very unfortunate and totally unnecessary and one of the reasons why persons in this position should have gone through the mill like Richard and so be in a better position to understand what athletes go through. In the first place, at the mention that he had just had hip surgery and was unable to come in, a visit should have been arranged to go to him to obtain the clarification that you needed. I am sure this would have made all the difference moving forward even if in the final analysis for some valid reason monies were not forthcoming. It is not what you do but how you do it. As to the tone of the email as Richard said, no national athlete should be addressed in that manner, elite or not.

  42. How can we expect the minister to understand what athletes go through and have empathy? TnT wicked yes. Was Minister Smith ever fit for that job? He more looks like an agriculture man who understands food.