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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: https://www.msya.gov.tt/