WILL TAKE COUNSEL: Anil Roberts
Minister seeks legal advice on Hackett case
Kwame Laurence firstname.lastname@example.org
Minister of Sport Anil Roberts is seeking legal counsel on his next move in the Semoy Hackett matter, following advice from track and field’s world governing body to the National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) “to limit the disclosure of documents related to this case until its conclusion by CAS”.
In an invitation to a press conference at the Ministry’s Abercromby Street, Port of Spain office, yesterday, the media was promised “a full breakdown of the discussion and information revealed during the meeting between Ministry/Sports Company officials and the National Governing Body for athletics, the NAAA on Monday this week”. But instead, Roberts disclosed that on Tuesday the NAAA had sought guidance from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
In the letter, addressed to IAAF Medical & Anti-Doping Department results manager Thomas Capdevielle, NAAA general secretary Allan Baboolal said: “We seek your advice on whether we should give any printed information on the case, pending the conclusion of the matter.”
Capdevielle replied yesterday.
“It is unclear to us on what basis is the Minister of Sport intervening at this stage of the case.”
Capdevielle went on to advise against the “disclosure of documents” related to the Hackett case.
“At Monday’s meeting,” Roberts told the media, yesterday, “we requested a letter in which (NAAA first vice president) Mr (George) Comissiong, the chairman of the disciplinary panel, said that the IAAF had recommended that Semoy Hackett be allowed to run. At the end of the meeting, Mr Comissiong admitted that the last sentence in the letter stated that the IAAF strongly recommends that Semoy Hackett should not run at the World Championships. He did not provide it, he has not provided it.”
Roberts said that if his Ministry’s involvement is interpreted by the IAAF as government interference, he would do whatever is required to ensure there are no sanctions against T&T, and by extension the country’s athletes.
“Since they have taken it to an international level and could be making a case that the Government is interfering, and then the IAAF would consider banning our athletes, no, no , no , no, no...I love my athletes, our athletes too much, so I will cease, desist, hush, and not ask any questions, seek a lot of legal advice from Senior Counsel before I speak, if that is the way that the NAAA wants to defend their incompetence.”
Roberts said that if the IAAF does accuse him and his Ministry of government interference, he would “humbly apologise”.
“We will write to the IAAF and say we will not interfere in any way, we will not ask any questions, we will not do anything to impact on our athletes’ performing at any level.”
But Roberts strongly believes that his involvement in the Semoy Hackett matter is justified.
“Seventy per cent of your budget, 80 per cent of your budget comes from taxpayers, and when you have been found wanting in your decision-making, you claim that you are autonomous. The NAAA is indirectly attempting to get the IAAF to state that there is government interference. There is no government interference...the simple request of the Fourth Estate, the media, the people of Trinidad and Tobago for information on your decision-making processes. If you choose to hide behind the IAAF, it’s not looking good for the NAAA executive.
“They will have to deal with their membership,” the Minister continued, “and the general council and all the clubs across Trinidad and Tobago, and explain to them why they are jeopardising the reputation and ability of all athletes, to try and protect themselves from having made an irresponsible, uneducated, uninformed decision to allow a cheater to run.”
Hackett tested positive for Methylhexaneamine at the 2012 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, in Iowa, USA. As a result, the Louisiana State University (LSU) sprinter was handed a provisional suspension by the NAAA disciplinary panel. The suspension was later lifted by the NAAA panel, and in June Hackett ran at the 2013 T&T Championships. She was subsequently selected to represent the country at last month’s World Championships in Moscow, Russia.
The IAAF, however, appealed the NAAA ruling, taking the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Hackett was re-suspended, and left the World Championships.
In 2011, Hackett had tested positive, also for Methylhexaneamine, at the T&T Championships.