Sport Ministry vows to “address staff sensitivity” but offers no Thompson apology; reveals past funding to sprinter instead

The Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs has promised to “address staff sensitivity” to Trinidad and Tobago athletes but stopped well short of admitting culpability in its treatment of three-time Olympic Games medallist Richard “Torpedo” Thompson or offering an apology to the sprinter.

Thompson, who competed at the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Olympics but is injured at present, says he felt disrespected in a recent email exchange with Ministry of Sport official Shabbir Mohammed during which he tried to follow up on a request for elite funding.

Photo: Then Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning (right) inspects sprinter Richard Thompson’s silver medals after the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
(Courtesy SPORTT)

However, Sport Minister Darryl Smith has refused to directly address the matter or offer an apology to the former Olympic silver medallist. Instead, the Ministry said it will provide unspecified training for its frontline staff.

“The Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs values its relationship with our national athletes,” stated the unsigned release from the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, “and in this regard, acknowledges its obligation to address staff sensitivity to its client interface going forward, through the conduct of refresher courses in Customer Service for all of its frontline staff.”

The Ministry also opted to share details of its financial investment in Thompson over the years although, ironically, the figures showed that the sprinter has received no financial support from the government since Smith took office.

Thompson, according to the MSYA’s records, received TT$1.25 million for the period 2007 to 2015 under the Elite Athlete Assistance Programme (EAAP) while he received a TT$750,000 reward for his silver medal run at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Smith was sworn in as Sport Minister in September 2015.

The maximum annual sum available to athletes under the EAAP is TT$250,000, which is allocated to athletes who have a global top 10 ranking while a rank of between 11 and 40 could mean up to TT$187,500 in funding.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprint star Richard “Torpedo” Thompson poses next to the clock after his title-winning 100-metre performance at the 2016 NAAA Championships at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain.
(Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

According to the IAAF, Thompson was a top 10 athlete on four occasions over the last decade—in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2014—while he ranked among the top 40 athletes in the world for every year barring 2013 and 2017.

It means that, under the EAAP rules, the former Queen’s Royal College (QRC) track star was eligible for a maximum of TT$1,937,500 in funding.

The following is the full media release from the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs:

The Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs’ (MSYA) is mandated to coordinate and facilitate the delivery of quality development services to our athletes. In light of recent reports circulating in the media as to email exchanges between Trinidad and Tobago’s athlete Richard Thompson and an official of the MSYA, the Ministry wishes to share elements of the policy concerning Elite Athletes Assistance Programme (EAAP).

In November 2006, Cabinet approved policy guidelines for the EAAP, so as to provide financial support for the preparation and continued development of national athletes who have attained the qualifying international ranking, as determined by the International Sporting Federations. These policy guidelines were developed through consultation with the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC), National Sporting Organisations (NSO’s) and other co-opted interests.

Photo: (From left) Jamaica gold medallists Michael Frater, Nesta Carter, Yohan Blake and Usain Bolt, and Trinidad and Tobago bronze medallists Keston Bledman, Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callender and Richard Thompson pose on the podium after the men’s 4 x 100 relay final at the the London 2012 Olympic Games on 11 August, 2012 in London.
(Copyright Johannes Eisele/AFP 2016/Wired868)

Further, the EAAP speaks to athletes who are world-ranked in individual sports in Olympic events and programmes and athletes who medal at Olympic Games, World Championships, Commonwealth Games, Senior Pan American Games and Senior Central American and Caribbean Games.  Athletes must have attained an international ranking in the top forty (40) of their respective disciplines in the preceding twelve (12)-month period in order to be considered for this programme.

The funding provided is intended to meet expenses such as training schedules, coaching fees, nutritional and medical expenses, travel expenses for training, sanctioned competitions and pre-games tours, accommodation for training and professional expenses.

Both the respective National Governing Body (NGB) and the Trinidad & Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) have significant roles in the EAAP application process, as they are required to certify and endorse each application as well as recommend the disbursement in writing, as evidence that the athlete/team has fulfilled the requirements for funding.

The MSYA wishes to emphasise that the EAAP policy guidelines speak to disbursements being made in tranches and the mandatory submission of documents, including bills, before any successive applications may be considered. It is to be noted that the payment of grants are subject to the availability of funds from the relevant Vote in any given year.

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)

Further, each athlete or their representative must sign a Service Level Agreement (SLA) which details the terms relative to the grant, monitoring procedures and conditions that may warrant the suspension or termination of further assistance, such as:

  • Falsification of documents/performance reports from coaches or trainers
  • The use of funds for purposes other than for the stated purposes
  • Non-submission of reports from coaches/trainers
  • Non-submission of financial statements
  • Withholding information on athlete sponsorships/endorsements

The MSYA’s records indicate that Mr Richard Thompson has been the beneficiary of TT$1.25 million dollars under the Elite Athlete Assistance Programme for the period 2007 to 2015. Mr Thompson has also been rewarded by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for his performance at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, in the sum of TT$750,000.00.

The MSYA stands ready to provide quality support, inclusive of grant funding, to ensure that all of our national athletes, including Mr Thompson, attain and maintain the highest level of ranking in their chosen discipline.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago’s 4×100 metre relay team of (from left) Richard Thompson, Marc Burns, Emmanuel Callender and Keston Bledman pose with their London 2012 Olympic Games silver medals in a ceremony at the Anchorage, Carenage on 29 June, 2016.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA Images/Wired868)

The Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs values its relationship with our national athletes and in this regard, acknowledges its obligation to address staff sensitivity to its client interface going forward, through the conduct of refresher courses in Customer Service for all of its frontline staff.

More information on the Elite Athlete Assistance Programme can be found on the Ministry’s website:

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  1. Not pleàsant reading…

  2. Frankie Sinanan please reserve your “VULGARITY” for your “FRIENDS”.

  3. Cecil Clarke I do not believe that Mr. Thompson is looking for an apology for himself “personally”. It is for all the Sports Men and Women in Trinidad and Tobago that we’re not treated “FAIRLY” by the “POWERS” that be. I think that he is “SMART” enough to know when he should leave the sport. So sad that you were not able to “GRASP” his concerns for what is taking place. Have a blessed day.

  4. So according to the policy, the state still owes Torpedo another 700k approximately?

  5. The more money spent on sportsmen snd women the less money he have to entertain the hornerwoman with

  6. Treat our national athletes with RESPECT people, if they are past their prime, let them know the situation and don’t let them be humiliated for a few dollars.

  7. Staff sensitivity or staff broughtupcy?The bottom line is courtesy,politeness and overall good manners.Of course training in customer service is key as well.

  8. Its time for Thompson to bow out he looking for apology like he want to end up like chalkdust carnival Sunday night ar man must know when his time come

  9. Wanna bet a foreign athlete with T&T roots would have been treated with more respect and attention? If Kierron Clements was to approach the TTOC to represent T&T, wanna bet the government would have created a special budget for him?

  10. Better the sports ministry didn’t say anything. I find that whole statement insulting. Apart from the no apology what’s the point of staying how much money Richard got over an 8 year period that when you break it down is not much at all to meet the expenses of a world class athlete

  11. Lasana it too early for me to get maddddd…. steups

  12. Very vindictive of this Ministry…..

  13. What class A sholes they are.

  14. The Ministry is run by children.

  15. What about state funding for this joker’s “big lime”?

  16. Damn, Darryl! You handkedcthatvwith all the sensitivity and finesse of a damn barrel!

  17. All I could do is chuckle! First of all, in order to genuinely and effectively address staff sensitivity, the leadership of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs has to demonstrate such skills. Not apologizing is a major failure! Seems to me Darryl Smith needs sensitivity training as well. Clearly, he needs to learn and practice how to engage in perspective observation/awareness so that it is easier for him and his cohorts to appreciate another person’s point of view, engage in an intelligent professional discourse, and come to a mutual understanding. A sincere apology is paramount to move forward, in this instance, because T&T sportsmen and women are watching. Secondly, what’s the intent of releasing to the public the funds that Thompson collected before 2015?

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