Last update: 11-Dec-2013 6:16 am
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Anil not happy with NAAA’s take on Hackett
Minister of Sport Anil Roberts said he remains unimpressed with the local governing body’s explanation of its decision to lift its ban on Semoy Hackett to represent T&T at the World Championship.
Speaking with the media after the Ministry and officials of the Sport Company of T&T (SporTT) met with executives of the National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA), headed by president Ephraim Serrette, Minister Roberts said the answers to his questions posed to the NAAA were, “either inappropriate, at times inaccurate, and at other times presented situations of conflict of interest and improper decision making thought processes.”
Hackett, along with another T&T athlete Kelly-Ann Baptiste withdrew from last month’s 14th World Championship, in Moscow, Russia after testing positive for banned substances.
Accoring to Roberts, some of the questions put forward to the NAAA during the meeting were: “Did the NAAA receive independent legal advice on the issue?” and “What was the existing case law and the success of athletes dealing with the court of arbitration for sport?”
He said, “Because, one would think that such an issue—antidoping, where an athlete had been found cheating, to lift a ban and take a risk on the reputation of T&T, that a responsible organisation would seek a variety of legal opinions before moving forward.”
Roberts described Hackett’s withdrawal at the World Championship as an embarrassment, but said the NAAA was liable for lifting her ban in the first place. He said it was a serious issue as taxpayers’ money was involved, even though she had been removed from the Elite Athletes Assistance Programme (EAAP) last year.
“While the NAAA is autonomous, this minister and this ministry, the permanent secretary, have (a) responsibility to the people of T&T where their taxpayers’ dollars go, and taxpayers’ dollars are not to go to cheaters.”
The IAAF refunds athletes who participate at the World Championships, once they are without violations. This, according to Roberts, is a serious issue, as the world governing body will not refund athletes who have tested positive for banned substances.
“The government pays in advance, so the taxpayers paid, but we will not get any refund whatsoever for Semoy Hackett, which means that the government and taxpayers have paid for her to go and embarass the country.”
Roberts said the IAAF wrote to the NAAA in a letter, which once provided would give more clarity to the situation for the benefit of the public. The NAAA, however, failed to appear with the IAAF’s letter. The letter, according to Roberts, said Hackett was advised that she was initially permitted to participate, but it is in her best interest not to do so.
“So, the NAAA has to explain why they went against that advice,” said Roberts.
He continued, “At the conclusion of the meeting, we are hearing that the NAAAs has said that in their recommedations to the court of arbitration for sport, they are going to now recommend that Semoy Hackett be banned. Now, if anybody in this country or in this room could explain to me how the group that lifted the ban, when the ban existed could now go an say ‘well, uphold the ban’, I am at a loss.”
“All I can say is it is a sad day for T&T. Zero tolerance is zero tolerance, you cannot say zero tolerance to domestic violence and then say it was just a slap or say zero tolerance to corruption, then say it was only $7,000 you thief.”
Roberts said further details of the lengthy meeting will be disclosed today, with a copy of the minutes to be provided.
Reached for comment yesterday, Serrette declined to answer questions and forwarded them to NAAA secretary Allan Baboolal, who advised that a media release will be published after the NAAA listens to the minister’s comments.
NAAA first vice president George Commissiong was also contacted, and said that the meeting was productive. “We did not agree on everything. There was an understanding by both parties on circumstances concerning the Hackett matter. We understand his concern and tried to share ours,” said Commissiong.
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