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Marquez: TTGF acted fairly

Published: 
Friday, September 21, 2018
Day two: Thema Williams vs Gymnastics Federation trial
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Attorney Ramesh Lawrance Maharaj, left, speaks with T&T Gymnastics Federation officials, president David Marquez, from left, Akil Wattley and Ricardo Lue Shue at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain on Wednesday. Yesterday, Marquez testified on day two of the multi-million dollar trial. Photo by:SHIRLEY BAHADUR

Three former executive members of the T&T Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) were yesterday called upon to justify their and their colleagues’ last-minute decision to withdraw gymnast Thema Williams from a test event for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Testifying in the trial of Williams’ ongoing multi-million dollar lawsuit against the TTGF, the organisation’s former president David Marquez, general secretary Elicia Peters-Charles and member Sarah Lambert all claimed that the organisation’s executive acted fairly when it made the decision, hours before Williams was due to compete.

While being cross-examined by Williams’ lawyer Martin Daly, SC, Marquez admitted that the issue of Williams’ fitness to compete was raised by her personal coach, John Geddert, in an email sent to him the day before the event.

In the email, Geddert mentioned that Williams was suffering from discomfort in her ankle but noted that she still wished to participate.

However, Marquez confessed that the email was not a request to have Williams replaced by alternate Marissa Dick but rather a general status update on Williams’ preparations.

While Marquez claimed that he felt that he needed additional information on Williams’ condition from Geddert, he admitted that he only decided to call him hours later after he and the other executive members discussed the issue and decide to replace Williams.

After the decision was made, Geddert sent a follow-up email questioning the move.

Even as Daly pointed out that telephone records, requested as part of the case, showed that the executive members made 80 calls amongst each other before the decision was made, Marquez claimed that he was too busy with discussions to call Geddert for clarification.

“This was not an ordinary situation. It was an emergency,” Marquez said.

Marquez also admitted that when they made the decision, they did not have the notes of its massage therapist Nicole Fuentes, who detailed Williams’ complaints about her ankle. The federation is relying on the notes to prove its defence that it had to withdraw Williams to protect her against further injury and to avoid a poor performance at the event.

In her testimony, Peters-Charles admitted that the executive members did not gather for a meeting but instead rather called each other on their cellphones as some of them were abroad.

As she was being pressed by Daly, Peters-Charles also confessed to describing Williams as egotistical and self-centered during the executive discussions on whether to replace her.

However, Peters-Charles claimed that her personal opinion would not have changed her colleagues’ individual votes.

Lambert was questioned over her analysis of Geddert’s email, in which he described Williams’ performance at a warm-up event, in which she fell six times, as a “disaster”.

“I would say that, that person was not ready as they could have been at that stage,” Lambert said as she was asked to analyse Williams’ performance.

Neither Lambert nor Peters-Charles was implicated in the lawsuit like Marquez and former executive members Akil Wattley, Ricardo Lue Shue and his wife Donna Lue Shue.

Also testifying on behalf of the federation yesterday was Fuentes, who was questioned by Daly over Williams’ ankle issue. Fuentes admitted that such a complaint was normal after lengthy travel.

“A flight could have that effect. I also had swollen feet from my flight,” Fuentes said. Fuentes was also quizzed on an email sent to the federation complaining over its delay in informing her of its last-ditched decision.

“I was obviously upset. I was performing administrative duties and it was not communicated to me. I ought to have known that some change was going to be made,” she said.

The trial is expected to continue today when Marquez is expected to complete his testimony and Wattley and the Lue Shues are expected to testify.

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