BRIAN LEWIS, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC), has made it clear that the TTOC will reserve the right to final selection for the TT team, for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August .
Lewis was speaking yesterday at a media conference, staged at the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs’ Conference Room in Port-of-Spain .
And the TTO C president was referring to the ongoing saga regarding TT gymnasts Thema Williams and Canadian-born Marisa Dick, with the TT Gymnastics Federation (TT GF) controversially replacing Williams with Dick as the national representative at the Olympic Test Event in Rio last weekend .
Dick, on Sunday, qualified for the Games in the artistic gymnastics category .
On Sunday, Lewis posted on his Twitter page, “as long as people understand its @ TTO lympic that has the final say in respect of #TeamTTO selection for the Olympic Games .
Plain talk.” He later tweeted, “Olympic Charter — NOCs have ‘exclusive authority for the representation of their countries at the Olympic Games.’ (Rule 27.3)” In light of the tweets, Lewis said yesterday, “until now, the International Gymnastics Federation and the (TT GF) would have been acting in accord with their jurisdiction. Of course the Olympic Committee, the Ministry of Sport and the Sports Company (of Trinidad and Tobago) would have had to strictly respect that, in accord with the Olympic charter .
“I trust that now the matter is in the jurisdiction of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTO C), that the International Gymnastics Federation and the (TT GF) will respect the TTO C’s jurisdiction, rights, rules and responsibilities in accord with the Olympic charter rule 27 which says that ‘the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee has sole and exclusive authority for the Trinidad and Tobago team at the Olympic Games’.” Lewis added, “in layman terms the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee has sole and final and exclusive authority for the composition of the Trinidad and Tobago team for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.” The TTO C president stressed that his group will not be dictating who will represent the twin-island republic in Rio in August .
“What the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee has done over the years is move from the situation where the Committee would have made arbitrary decisions in terms of the composition of the team for the past 18 years,” said Lewis .
“We have worked significantly with the respective National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) to arrive at a collaborative decision, that would have ensured that fairness, transparency and accountability were key (parts) of the selection process .
“We don’t have any challenges with the sports that are accustomed qualifying for the Olympic Games. It is understandable that this is the first time for gymnastics, it’s an evolution and they will learn, and the Olympic Committee will afford them the opportunity to fully ventilate their concerns. But, at the end of the day, it is the TT Olympic Committee that will make the decision. The International Gymnastics Federation will communicate to the Olympic Committee that a quota place is available and will ask the TTO C to confirm whether they will accept that position. After that has happened we will then look at the whole selection.” As far as legal action is concerned, Lewis commented, “we have been taken to the High Court and the Equal Opportunities Commission before, so we have the benefit of advice from, in this case, Senior Counsel Elton Prescott and our attorney Dave Williams.” He continued, “Thema Williams’ attorney (Keith Scotland) has taken certain actions and (the) Senior Counsel has advised that it will be irresponsible for me to comment on any matter that is specific to the legal aspect of it.” And Scotland, in a brief telephone interview yesterday, said, “we are proceeding apace with what we have to do. We (wrote) our pre-action letter and it’s going to go out (today) God’s willing.” Minister of Sports Darryl Smith, during yesterday’s media conference, stated that the pair of gymnastics are among the beneficiaries of Elite Athlete Funding .
Asked about Williams in particular, Smith said, “yea, $60,000 just like Marissa Dick .
In fact they got funding for (the 2015 World Championships in) Glasgow as well.” At the World Champs in Scotland, Williams finished in 59th spot while Dick was 77th, in a field of 192 .
Questioned about the issue of funding for the TT GF, Smith responded, “it is the law of sport that Government and Ministers cannot indulge in the selection of athletes (by) governing bodies .
We’ve seen countries that have gotten banned for less than that .
“I know Trinidad and Tobago people are very passionate about the sport and they have a loud decibel on social media with regards to this situation,” he added. “But we also have policies in place with regards to funding. The Sports Minister went on to say, “it’s not just about these two athletes, it’s not just about the (TT GF). There are hundreds of young people who participate (in gymnastics) and we don’t want to do anything to damage that .
“For me to jump up and make a comment, first of all on the situation but moreso on the subvention that they receive, it wouldn’t be correct.”