The National Association of Athletics Administrations (NAAA) were advised by the IAAF (International Athletics Federation) that it would be in sprinter Semoy Hackett’s best interest not to participate at the 2013 Russia World Championships last month.
So said Minister of Sport Anil Roberts yesterday, minutes after a meeting with the NAAA at the Ministry’s Abercromby Street, Port of Spain headquarters, where Roberts and other Ministry and Sports Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT) officials were briefed on the circumstances that led to the athlete being allowed to compete at the 2013 National Championships, and consequently, ‘Worlds’. She left the Championships before it began, after she was re-suspended by the IAAF.
Fellow sprinter Kelly-Ann Baptiste also left the meet early after learning her ‘A’ sample had tested positive for a banned substance.
The meeting was attended by NAAA officials, president Ephraim Serrette, secretary Allan Baboolal, assistant secretary Dexter Voisin, vice-president George Commissiong--also head of the NAAA’s disciplinary committee--and sports lawyer Tyron Marcus.
The Minister was accompanied by Ministry of Sport Permanent Secretary Ashwin Creed, adviser to the Minister Caryl Kellar, SPORTT CEO John Mollenthiel and other officials.
Hackett twice tested positive for the banned stimulant methylhexamine, first at ‘Nationals’ in 2011, then again at NCAA Champions in the US last year.
The Ministry and NAAA have been at odds over a number of issues, including elite athlete funding, but that relationship has deteriorated further over the matter surrounding Hackett. There was further tension little more than a week ago, as a planned meeting was not attended by the NAAA, and the Minister blasted the “manners” of the Association.
Before yesterday, NAAA officials had said very little on the matter and after yesterday’s meeting, Roberts was still not satisfied .
And yesterday, a solemn-looking Minister described their reasons as “(sometimes) inappropriate, at times inaccurate and in other times presented situations of conflict of interest and improper decision making thought process”.
The Minister also stated that he is waiting on the NAAA to provide a copy of a letter from the IAAF that indicated Hackett could compete at track events.
“Later on,” Roberts said of the meeting, “having been grilled by the Permanent Secretary—and we asked for that letter but we do not have it and I want him to bring it for me so we can share it with the media and the public, it is very important—but grilled at the end of the meeting on the third occasion, Mr Commissiong, the chairman of the disciplinary panel that lifted the ban on Semoy Hackett admitted that the last sentence of the letter read words to the effect that it is in the best interest of the athlete not to participate.”
He further took issue with the fact that the Ministry paid for Hackett to attend the World Championships along with the rest of the team, saying Government has a zero-tolerance policy on doping and “cheating”, which the NAAA did not follow by allowing Hackett to run.
He said Hackett had been removed from the Ministry’s elite athlete funding once she tested positive, and said it was a “sad day” for track and field, and that the “debacle” could have been avoided if the NAAA had sought Ministry, and/or independent legal advice.
“While the NAAA is autonomous, this Ministry…has the responsibility to the people of Trinidad and Tobago on where their taxpayers dollars go, and the taxpayers dollars are not to go to cheaters. So the NAAA will have to respond on that.”
Contacted for a response, Baboolal told the media he would prefer not to comment on the matter, although he did say the NAAA will issue a release in response to the Minister’s press conference.
Roberts has also promised to subsequently provide the media with the responses of the NAAA to the questions posed in the meeting.