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Sport Ministry official irks Thompson

Published: 
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Elite Athlete funding frustration continues
T&T’s Olympic athlete Richard Thompson

A recent exchange of emails between celebrated national sprinter Richard Thompson and Sport Development Associate in the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, Shabir Mohammed, has left the three-time Olympic medallist feeling disrespected, disregarded and simply put unloved.

Clearly insulted by the remarks of Mohammed in his most recent email, Thompson vehemently responded, reminding the official of not only his contributions to this country, but also his fellow national athletes.

He is quoted saying: “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 medallist 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.

“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.”

Thompson is a highly decorated sprinter out of Cascade. At the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, he was a silver medallist in both the 100 metres and the 4x100m relay along with Keston Bledman, Emmanuel Callender and Marc Burns. However, the relay medal was upgraded to gold after Nesta Carter was found guilty of doping thereby disqualifying the Jamaican men’s team which had crossed first.

Thompson also won the silver medal in the 4x100m at the 2012 London Olympics with the same team he competed in the 2008 Olympics.

The five-time national champion did not mince his words in response to the Ministry’s official and made reference to an article published in the Guardian newspaper on February 4 with national quartermiler Jarrin Solomon lamenting the fact that local athletes are not getting the necessary financial support to excel on the world stage.

Thompson said: “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.”

Thompson indicated that he has had a conversation with another Ministry official where he was assured that the situation would be remedied soon.

 

 

 

He wrote, “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."

In Mohammed’s email to Thompson, he challenged whether the famed national athlete should be considered among the highest level of athletes in the country.

Mohammed is quoted saying: “You were not recommended for funding for medical assistance as an injured athlete by your governing bodies for 2016 or 2017 (as per elite athlete assistance policy).

“I asked you to clarify the documents sent in for this year 2018 because if I place them on file it may be falsification. It is important to clear up the inconsistencies especially where you are the one providing the information to the governing bodies that recommend you for funding.

“Your report says that you may be able to fully train in March 2018 and another says that there is no world ranking for 2017.

“Can an injured athlete who has no world ranking be elite?”

This question seemed to irk Thompson, causing even more outrage.

He wrote, “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.

Thompson closed off by saying: “I pray for my fellow athletes, because as long as they continue to live a “cap in hand” existence, there is little hope for them to achieve their true global potential.

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