Saturday 15 December, 2018

Gov’t funding of TTFG questioned by Thema, attorneys

Gymnast Thema Williams and her attorneys are questioning the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs' continued funding for the Trinidad and Tobago Gymnastics Federation (TTFG).

In a media briefing on Tuesday following victory for Williams against the TTGF and former TTGF president David Marquez, vice president Akil Wattley, Ricardo Lue Shue and wife Donna Lu Shue, Williams, along with attorneys Martin Daly SC and Keith Scotland, said three letters will be sent asking for clarity surrounding the Williams' removal from competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics, and her replacement with Canadian-born gymnast, Marisa Dick. 

Daly said they intend to write to the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) to find out what were the circumstances under which Williams was replaced.

They intend to also write to the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC), asking why no one sought to clarify the situation after the decision was made to replace her. 

He said the third letter will be written to Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe to ask for funding of the TTFG to be reviewed.

“We intend to write the Minister of Sport because we will have a problem that the government is willing to continue providing subventions and financial support to the Federation and they still have money for Thema.”

“We would like to know what is the Minister’s plan, are you going to continue financing this organisation while the money for Thema hangs in the balance?” he said.

High Court judge Frank Seepersad ruled that former TTGF president David Marquez, vice president Akil Wattley, Ricardo Lue Shue and his wife Donna were intrinsically biased against Williams in replacing her with Canadian-born gymnast Marisa Dick in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Williams, who initially sued for $11.2 million, was awarded a total of $200,000 in damages.

Daly said additionally when Williams returned home from Brazil, the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) never asked Williams for her side of the matter.

“They never asked her anything…we have some questions to ask…we think the purpose of a body like that is to regulate what happened,” he said.

Daly said that although High Court Judge Frank Seepersad ruled that the TTGF was inherently biased in its decision, the fact that it didn’t allow the argument of unlawful means conspiracy did not affect the core judgement.

We completely accept that we did not succeed in the unlawful means conspiracy case, (but) it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference. When the judge said that the defendants allowed their judgement to be impeded by entrenched bias, he’s referring to the core defence. Sadly for us, they won’t have to pay the money, the Federation will have to pay the money,” he said.

Scotland also pointed out Williams’ commitment and contribution to the sport through her community initiatives, asking what Dick has done for the local gymnastics industry since her participation in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

It’s a legitimate question we have to answer. It’s a one-event affair, that can’t be right for the development, and yet, Williams is here in her own way…she’s giving back to gymnasts.”

Williams said that although she isn’t training for a competition, she still practices daily and it’s still a ‘big part’ of her life.

Williams said she is glad this particular ordeal is over and said she intends to focus on her studies.

 

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