It’s been less than two weeks since the T&T Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) bafflingly decided to strip Thema Williams of the duly-earned privilege of representing her country at the gymnastics Olympics qualifiers. In that time, a surprising number of Trinbagonians have rallied to protest the obvious injustice, indicating that T&T might finally be maturing just enough to begin rooting out the endemic corruption stifling the country. In fact, a core group of citizens (referring to themselves as the Incensed and Right Thinking Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago) have led the charge in the public arena, releasing statements, giving interviews and working tirelessly to get answers to the nation’s questions about this debacle.
Of course, not everyone feels quite the same way about the matter, which is why some very curious defenses of the TTGF’s actions have emerged. As I believe in the importance of free discourse on any and all matters, I’ve decided to address them here with all the seriousness they deserve: the Maury test.
In no particular order:
- You said Marisa is a better competitor than Thema. Our investigations have determined… that was a lie:
Regardless of how you feel about the situation, the fact is that the TTGF set the requirements for qualification. Thema outperformed Marisa. She earned the spot. Talk, as they say, done.
- You said Marisa never tried out for Team Canada. Our investigations have determined … that was… let’s call it misdirection. You see, Ms. Dick only needed to compete in the Elite Canada or Canadian Championships and make the scores in order to be considered for her national team. She did indeed compete in 2011 and 2012:
She just didn’t make the score (feel free to check out the selection criteria here). Then she made the switch to Team T&T, and the rest is (infamous) history.
- You said there was no conflict of interest in the TTGF’s handling of this entire situation. Our investigations have determined … that was… tough to believe, at best:
Listen, the only ones who know exactly how close the TTGF was to Team Dick are the TTGF and Team Dick, but given the kinds of revelations which have been emerging about their relationship on a daily basis, it’s not unfair to say that they were more friendly than not. And given the kinds of emails that were sent from Team Dick to the TTGF and subsequent events, it’s not a stretch to imagine that there was a bit of influence being wielded.
- You claimed you pulled Thema at the last minute (in contradiction of the contractual agreement between the TTGF and its athletes) because she was injured. Our investigations have determined … that was… a bit hypocritical.
The TTGF has insisted that Thema was pulled out of concern for an ankle injury referenced in her coach’s email. However, Marisa has long revealed that she competed in Glasgow (where, you remember, she and Thema were vying for the right to represent T&T at the Olympic qualifiers) with a dislocated rib. This fact has even been trotted out to explain how Marisa was able to overcome jet lag to secure T&T’s Olympic spot. No word yet on why Marisa was allowed to compete with such an injury, while Thema was sidelined despite the fact that she, her coach and her doctor all insisted she was fit enough to compete.
- You claimed that TTGF President David Marquez was the Head of Delegation for the Olympic qualifiers in Brazil. Our investigations have determined … there’s something very fishy going on here:
“Yes, we had a HOD across there, Nicole Fuentes,” said Peters-Charles, during Thursday’s press conference, “she was informed by the president, acting as HOD, to inform Thema.”
That quote came from TTGF General Secretary Elicia Peters-Charles who, on April 21st, was responding to questions about whether the TTGF had bothered to inform Thema that she’d been pulled from competition. At that same press conference, however, Marquez admitted that Fuentes wasn’t properly consulted. The problem is that the athlete’s contract stipulates that only the HOD could remove an athlete “in consultation with [the] coach and relevant medical personnel” (who, you’ll recall both felt that Thema was fit to compete). So, naturally, the TTGF has since changed the story, claiming instead that Marquez was actually the HOD. Still no explanation for exactly how he could be running a delegation in Brazil from Trinidad, though.
Fascetiousness aside, it’s clear that – at best – the TTGF misstepped all over the place in their handling of this matter. They also misstepped in their assumption that this incredibly blatant… screwup… would go unnoticed by wider society. At this point, it would be less of an embarrassment for them to step down and avoid tarnishing T&T’s fledgling involvement in Olympic gymnastics any further.
Of course, that would require them to be more concerned with protecting the sport than with pushing their own agenda.