The National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) might have faced a restraint of trade lawsuit had the organisation not selected Semoy Hackett for last month’s World Championships in Moscow, Russia.
Hackett’s attorney, Michael S Straubel could have exercised that option had the Trinidad and Tobago sprinter been barred from competing at the June 21-23 National Championships—the qualifying meet for Worlds.
Originally, Hackett’s entry for the National Championships was not accepted by the NAAA since the sport’s local governing body believed she was under suspension. However, on June 19, in an e-mail letter to the NAAA, Straubel challenged that decision. Referring to a letter from the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the attorney made the point that Hackett was free to compete.
Hackett had tested positive for Methylhexaneamine at the 2012 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships, in Iowa, USA. The Louisiana State University (LSU) sprinter was provisionally suspended by the NAAA disciplinary panel. Later, however, that panel lifted the suspension. But with the IAAF Doping Review Board considering an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the NAAA was under the impression that Hackett was re-suspended.
In response to Straubel’s letter, the NAAA sent an e-mail to IAAF Medical & Anti-Doping Department Results Manager Thomas Capdevielle, enquiring about Hackett’s status. Capdevielle confirmed that the sprinter was not suspended and eligible to compete at the T&T Championships. He did say, however, that she would be “well advised to refrain from competing until the outcome of the disciplinary procedure”.
Hackett, who had served a six-month ban after a positive test in 2011, also for Methylhexaneamine, opted to run at the 2013 National Championships. She finished second in the women’s 200m final and fourth in the 100m final, qualifying for the World Championships in both events.
Hackett was selected on the T&T team for Worlds, but while she was in Moscow the IAAF lodged an appeal with the CAS. The 24-year-old sprinter was re-suspended before stepping on the track, and she subsequently left the Championships.
In the closing paragraph of Straubel’s June 19 letter to the NAAA, the Indiana-based lawyer said: “As you know, and Ms Hackett has asked me to stress, the national championship this weekend, as the qualifying meet for the World Championships, are critical to her career. It is very important that she be allowed to compete.”
Straubel did not respond to questions about the possibility of a restraint of trade case being brought against the NAAA had the organisation refused to allow Hackett to compete at the National Championships or not selected her for the World Championships.
The attorney explained that “Ms Hackett has requested that we not make public statements regarding her case.”
But local sports lawyer, Stefan Fabien expressed the view that a restraint of trade case was one of the available legal remedies had Hackett been excluded from the National Championship meet or omitted from the World Championship team.
“Ms Hackett is a professional track athlete; that is her trade. Additionally, there is judicial support for the view that where a person’s right to work is in issue, a decision of a domestic tribunal, such as is the NAAA, could be the subject of judicial scrutiny.
“On the basis of the facts in the public domain, I am of the view that her lawyer would have reserved all his client’s rights, in order to prevent the NAAA from denying both her entry to compete at the Nationals and by extension, the World Championships; having particular regard to the potential loss of lucrative appearance fees likely to be secured at the prestigious World Championships.”
Hackett was eighth in the women’s 200m final at the 2012 Olympic Games, in London, England. At the 2013 World Championships, athletes finishing eighth in individual events each received US$4,000.
Fabien told the Express that filing an injunction was one of the options available to Hackett’s legal representatives had the NAAA insisted on keeping her out of the National Championships.
“Such rights include, but would not have been limited to: seeking a declaration that the NAAA’s decision not to allow her to compete was null and void, and/or seeking an injunction restraining the NAAA from excluding her from competing at the trials.”