media_artricles :: 2018
T&T track star takes aim at Ministry official over 'disrespectful' emailKwame Laurence :: Trinidad Express :: 18.02.2018
An email conversation between Richard "Torpedo" Thompson and Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs Sport Development Associate Shabir Mohammed about Elite Athlete Assistance has left the triple Olympic medallist incensed.
Thompson sat out the entire 2017 season, and is currently recovering from hip surgery performed last month.
In a January 26 email, Mohammed noted that both the National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) and the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) recommended that the much-decorated T&T sprinter receive elite funding. On February 6, Mohammed sent another email to Thompson. The lengthy message included this rhetorical question: "Can an injured athlete who has no world ranking be elite?"
On Saturday, the "Torpedo" retorted:
"Firstly, let me make it clear that prior to these chain of emails, I've never spoken to you, seen you, or was aware of your existence. So for you to address me in the manner of your last email was nothing short of disrespectful; in fact, it was the most disrespectful email I have ever read. What gives you the authority to address me or any athlete in the tone that you just did, is beyond me. If your response is reflective of the Ministry's attitude to someone that is a three-time Olympic medalist and National awardee, I shudder to think of how my upcoming and lesser accoladed athletes are treated. My correspondence with you has been respectful and professional, and I am appalled to receive such condescension from a ministry official with whom I've never interacted.
"Your approach seems to be strictly combative and one of no compromise. 'If you're dissatisfied with what I've said I'll assign your case to another officer'? Is it that you do not possess the competence to handle matters that present a bit of sorting through, or is it that you're simply arrogant? Your way or the highway is all I got from your last message. If the director and the minister has sanctioned your email, it leaves a lot to be desired about the manner in which they too, treat people.
"To utter the words that 'you are the one that needs funding and not the Minister' speaks volumes about the mentality and abuse of power that the Ministry seems to believe they hold over the athletes. Let me remind you that WE are the reason you work in that office, so don't for a second think that you are more high and mighty than those of us that work tirelessly for the Red, White and Black.
"The fact that you assume the position to handle matters of national athletes, yet remain completely clueless about basic requirements, places a magnifying glass on why there are complications along the communication channel. Here we are in 2018, with me submitting forms and receipts from 2017, and you are asking me about 2015. Sir, we have cleared that hurdle, that period has passed. I did not receive funding in 2016 because I did not submit those receipts. Case closed. However, I HAVE submitted receipts of US$50,000 of MY money spent in 2017, with all forms, coach's report and medical reports to go along with it. What is the issue now? Mind you, the Minister's advisor Garvin Warwick was the one that instructed me to submit the 2017 elite funding application, when I saw him in September in Fatima, because he claimed that they would soon be ready to be disbursed to us. I was sure that I had been blacklisted for previously exercising my right to speak on matters that I saw as an injustice to athletes, and as such was prepared to not submit forms. After seeing Mr. Warwick, I felt assured that there would be no issue. Another broken promise of his.
"For you to suggest that I am 'not elite' because of an injury sustained representing T&T is not only unreasonable, it shows your lack of knowledge for professional athletics. It is my responsibility to submit my information to the NAAA and the TTOC before it makes its way to your desk. THEY are the ones that determine/advise whether elite or medical assistance is requested for the athlete from the Ministry based on what I've provided. I applaud them for acknowledging that injury is part of sport, unfortunately, it seems that you or the Ministry do not possess the common sense to comprehend that uncomplicated fact.
"I have just undergone hip surgery, which I paid for. Last year I called and messaged both the minister and Mr. Warwick about a pressing issue that needed to be addressed, to which I got no response. My sister had to personally make a surprise visit to the office to get a hold of them. Of course, the minister was too busy to speak to her. Mr. Warwick was presented with medical documents that showed a US$40,000 operation was necessary, and any assistance at all would be greatly appreciated, seeing that there was no clue as to when I would actually receive elite funding. He assured her that he would work on it and get back to her in a timely manner. Another broken promise. It is only after I've had my surgery, that he forwards us to you, someone who, from the content of your emails, doesn't seem to understand the basic rudiments of professional athletics.
"I am not unreasonable. I am well aware of the financial constraints of the country in current times. If the Ministry does not classify me as a priority and cannot assist because of this reason, or simply prefers to invest in another young and upcoming athlete, that's understandable; but be honest and say that to me. Don't continuously give me the run around as though you want to help when you have no intention of doing so.
"It appears that as long as Darryl Smith is the Minister of Sport, athletes will continue to be treated with disdain. I have no intention of being beholden to the Ministry or its minions. I have represented T&T honorably for over a decade and will find a way to continue to do so, despite these attempts by people who, in fact, have ill intentions for my career. I grieve knowing that many of my fellow athletes solely depend on you for their success, and have to be treated as though they are at your feet with a begging bowl. I grieve when I open the Newspaper and read that members of the Golden World Championship 4x400m team, can't pay their credit card debts from money spent on preparation that won T&T a Gold medal in London 2017. It seems as though elite or not, paperwork or not, receipts or not, the end result is the same...a contemptuous disregard for the needs of our athletes by Ministry officials. Yet results are expected, and should they be miraculously achieved, guess who are front and center for the resume padding photo ops.
"I pray for my fellow athletes, because as long as they continue to live a 'cap in hand' existence," Thompson ended, "there is little hope for them to achieve their true global potential."
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NATIONAL HERO: Trinidad and Tobago track star Richard "Torpedo" Thompson celebrates his men's 100 metres silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China