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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 managing director and chief 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. Glad Richard has the courage to address this head on and without manipulation, fearlessly speaking the truth, and bravely allowing transparency of how tax paid dollars are not reaching the intended recipient.

  2. This is why Jehue Gordon have a perfume line

  3. Somebody flew pass their nest…is time the athletes be treated with dignity and respect…the powers that be act like a bunch of bandwagonist

  4. the only time our athletes performed well was when the gortt supported them. that wouĺd have been the london olympics. we had atletes in many semis and some finals. im sry but this govt has failed the athletes.

  5. Quick question anyone, how was Mr Walcott horned for his bronze medal in the last Olympic?

  6. I wonder how she would feel if she was injured at work and had to spend her own money on surgery and recovery and after being told she would be compensated it turned out to be false. Then when advised to apply for compensation through other means that she didn’t know she qualified for she was told well.. are you a top employee? You’ve been out of the office for several months and your efficiency rating is below par so I don’t think we should approve your application.. why don’t you ignore your doctor’s orders and come in to see us so that we can evaluate your case face to face

  7. Sherlan Cabralis your comments in this thread show exactly what is wrong with how we treat our athletes in T&T. He clearly states that he did not intend to apply for elite funding because he did not believe he would qualify but it was after he was given a recommendation to do so by those knowledgeable about the process and its requirements that he applied. There is nothing wrong with asking a three time Olympic medalist a question… but when you proceed to be condescending with your words it becomes unnecessary. You and others argue that he his past his prime and has nothing left in him so he should just make do with what he has. I’m sure you didn’t even know who he was before he won anything but celebrated all the same when he did and now you want to take him out to the field and shoot him like a horse with a broken foot. There are still meets to run and exposure for our country to get from his performances. How about you let him work hard on getting healthy so that he can make us proud again and you take your negativity somewhere that it is warranted

  8. If it’s true then this very disappointing behavior by MSYA.

  9. I can never understand how any administrator feels he is bigger than the player. The player is the sum total of all of our efforts to get him/her to the tip of the sword in whatever our sporting endeavors. The player in turn must also acknowledge that s/he isn’t bigger than the sport and our collective. The athlete is the star of the show, not the administrator. The error that this arrogant administrator makes is what also leads arrogant coaches that are unable/unwilling to adapt to discard or not select clearly talented players whose career windows in top form are fleeting and limited(Gullit, Redondo, and Tevez come to mind. Carl Hooper is the exception bleh). It(and greed) is also what makes FIFA feel it can shut out state involvement in local FA’s that it doesn’t approve of regardless of the altruistic (or no) nature of the intrusion. The less said about the WIBC and big idiot, the better. One word. Secede. For what it’s worth, and I know he had his challenges in the last administration, Omar Khan seemed to get it right. Indeed we had a very successful period with him in charge. I always got the impression that if he had to, he himself would run onto the pitch to carry water for the players. Administrators know your place!

  10. Exactly, Lasana. He sounds exactly like the professional bureaucrats we come across in virtually every state entity.

  11. Ancil, Richard never denied that he didn’t fill out the paperwork. I think you’re focusing on that but he was upset at Shabbir’s tone. Not so much the funding issue, which would probably be made above Shabbir’s pay grade anyway.
    So you and Richard were just looking at different things.

  12. I am not saying accept it i am saying put all your ducks in a row then make it public. Remember this particular public servant is saying that he didnt submit all his documents and also insinuate that his claims could be bogus. So the thing to do is make you have proof that you indeed made the submission then when you get nothing as expect expose them. After all,all we have are some disrespectful emails to go by.

  13. I agree Lasana, that was the part that stood out to me as well. His behaviour was unprovoked, and as a public servant particularly disrespectful. Simply guide Richard through the procedure. Treat him with respect, even if you can not approve his application, I can not understand how that was not done.

    But the hostility? To treat people like they begging? No justification for that.

  14. Ancil why should any of us have to put up with rude public servants? The word ‘serve’ should be a clue. I don’t think the issue is about the funding. He felt he was being given the runaround and then being spoken down to at the same time.
    That’s the impression I got here.

  15. But also however the email read Mr Thompson could have taken it up on himself to resubmit all that was asked for then complain when he didnt get the funding. Bring to us the public all the evidence that what was requested was indeed submitted then from there we definitely would have known that there was never any intent to assist. This is standard procedure dealing with TnT public servants they are rude and disrespectful most of the time but Mr Thompson should be wise enough to know thats how they are and to make sure he does everything to the letter before he starts and argument with ppl who from what we see here have very little intention to help.

  16. Richard isn’t world class any more if there is a turnaround in his porfamance no problem but for now I say if he qualify then so to mark berns …

  17. That man should have been fired since the Tobago affair but the head seems to be guided by ignorance

  18. I suggest Dr Rowley get involved to resolve this issue.Compromise on both sides is best.

  19. What is shabir background in sports?

  20. Shawn Charles, we not only had story almost a day earlier but have all four emails as opposed to just the one in the Express. Doh do we dat. Lol

  21. Stupzzzz Richard please face the fact you done

  22. Thank god richard Thompson had his money to pay for his surgery….. imagine if he didn’t up to this day this poor man would be lying on a hospital bed in pain awaiting surgery in a public hospital…. this man represented us our country…. shame

  23. I got that immediately. But my question is why did it go there so quickly?? I saw nothing in Richard Thompson’s response to warrant this at all. Quite baffling in addition to unprofessional and disrespectful.

  24. Lasana Liburd and JC-L Thank you. Your analysis of this issue is on point and well appreciated. Hope that your statements bring clarification to those who perhaps misunderstood this entire scenario. Kudos to you both.

  25. I saw red when that line came up. Absolutely disgusting behaviour

  26. Sherlan, Shabbir was unprofessional. It would have been unprofessional no matter who he was talking to.

  27. He asked a question… Richard just needed to provide the info to be processed. How dear Shabbir asked the 3 times medal Olympian and National Awardee a question (as stated by Richard Thompson). Hopefully, Shabbir will know his place next time.

  28. Bonnie, Shabbir doesn’t have stuff as far as I know eh. So who is he to “pass the case to someone else”?!
    I won’t pin all the issues of the ministry of sport on shabbir’s shoulders but he was out of place and probably reflects the culture there and in many ministries.
    The whole “onus is on you” bit might be true but it is also a touch insensitive.

  29. I dunno Orin Gordon, the man called into question his elite status, which was unnecessary. He then employed that very Trini of brush offs: if you’re not happy then I’ll pass your case onto someone else i.e. ‘I cyar deal with your shite even tho that’s mih wuk, so you’ll just have to start over with somebody else’. He was a bit petty in his email.

  30. I thought no one got that. Pure passive aggressiveness

  31. The elite funding is so badly drawn up. I’ll give you example. Our best medal chance is relays But wording of elite funding means only one or at most two relay members get funding and other two or three must fend for themselves. Obviously ridiculous.
    In any case Sherlan, I think if Shabbir has issue with athlete nominated by NAAA and TTOC, it is obvious who he should take that up with. And it isn’t Thompson.

  32. The man is a proven Olympian…treat him like one..

  33. The athlete had no ranking for 2017 because of injury. His last World ranking (2016) he was 45th, .01 seconds behind 36 (9 tied at 36). Also, he was part of a relay team ranked 8th in the world. Now tell me the reason the Administrator questions this athlete’s qualifications to receive elite funding when he was recommended by 2 bodies that govern his sport? Come nah, yuh better than dat!

  34. Mind you, elite funding is for International standards of 40th in the world of high for whatever discipline.

  35. If an athlete has an injury which was a result of representing his country and that injury is such that prevents him from participating in a certain season to obtain world ranking for that season, is it fair for a sports body to deny that athlete funding for the next season?

  36. Medical funding is another request

  37. How did he get the hip injury again?

  38. I putting myself out… But… how many times in our beautiful and fair country people have been recommended for positions or assistance and they are not qualify? The rep ask a question, which has a straight forward answer as far as I am concern. The same NSOs we always questioning, has recommended an athlete who has no world ranking, which is required, and a hip injury for elite funding. Should Shabbir be a little more sensitive… maybe.

  39. what i want to know that all of youll who commenting was there

  40. Most of you guys are full of shit, you are not above the law. Follow the rules and don’t blame the dam minister for an officer doing their work

  41. Lasana Liburd and JL-C. THANK YOU. I fully share these exact sentiments. Your responses clearly depict the true real live picture of this entire scenario. Hope that the persons with unrealistic views will STOP, THINK AND UNDERSTAND.

  42. I’m not in agreement with the response of the ministry of Sports, but some of those guys are professional with the exception of Kadifa Kelly Mitchelle Cleo Jarreem The 4 x400 team kadeem Lewis and Keshorthe rest of them are no longer elite athletes and they must understand that, emphasis now have to be on the next batch of talent

  43. To- ‘Jumbie’ and ‘Earl Best’, your analytical and reading skills are somewhat distorted” Are you really QRC graduates or ‘scholars’? Why you cannot comprehed? Please Take time and read ‘Observer’ response, I hope you will understand this entire scenario. A blind man can see’, a deaf man can hear and a dumb person can speak of this as a reaction to an insulting, ignorant action. This is not an ‘I’ athletissue this is a ‘We’ athletes issues which remain unattended and unanswered far too long. Where is the Minister in all this? He is ‘hush hush and mum’ on the subject operating without any limbs and in a selfish robot like manner. No money but construction of a sports complex in His constituency?

    I say and give Kudos to a well written, educated, intellectually aware, informative, masterful response by Richard Thompson to the Ministry Officer and thank you for enlightening the public. This Ministry Officer is unaware of his job description and unknowledgeable of his job functions. His unprofessional attitude and inappropriate behaviour may have worked well in the past regime but certainly would not happen under this one. There is zero tolerance this time around. Is it that * there are square pegs in round holes *the Officer may not have earned his position* maybe, he was placed in the position? His wanting to remove himself from handling this matter and to quickly pass it on to someone else paints an ugly picture which loudly speaks for itself. He has clearly demonstrated his incapability to complete the task at hand. He appears to be very clueless and don’t know his job. He can’t event add the dots between the Organizations which referred, made their recommendation and gave their approval. Is is that the capabilities of these Organizations or the lack of are questioned by this Officer? It can be assumed from his actions he is alleging that they are not ‘fit and proper’. PLEASE let’s address the athletes concerns in a professional and proper manner with the aim of bringing to an amicable conclusion.

  44. Exactly Lasana Liburd.. does he understand what it takes to train in the US… does he understand the financial constraints an athlete has to go through to reach the status that Richard has attained.
    The athlete has provided more information that is normally required to get funding plus he has the recommendations of the two governing bodies.
    This is a minute example of what athletes here have to deal with. At least Richard received dialogue…most of the time athletes and coaches don’t but I expect that this was an attempt to belittle the athlete for speaking out. Sad….but it goes on regardless…

  45. I met and interviewed Tommo in Beijing in ’08. You won’t meet a nicer, more unpretentious guy. Clearly the email made him see red.