TT cycling was having a superb 2019 heading into an Olympic year. A world-record breaking performance, multiple podium finishes at the region’s highest competitive level, the re-writing of several national records and even the attainment of professional contracts, for the first time, to two female cyclists. Everything seemed to be going perfect ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Games.
But a huge spoke potentially could be in TT's cycling wheel after Thursday’s shocking revelation by Panam Sports that TT had been stripped of two medals (men’s team sprint and men’s individual sprint) due to doping discovered at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru (July/August).
On Boxing Day, Panam Sports revealed an updated results list which indicated that TT (Nicholas Paul, Njisane Phillip and Keron Bramble) were removed as men’s team sprint winners and Colombia was upgraded to the gold medal position. Additionally, the document also showed one national athlete replaced from his podium placing in the men’s individual sprint, elevating Colombian Kevin Quintero into runner-up spot. Paul's individual sprint gold in an all-TT final remained untouched.
A source close to the situation told Newsday the TT athlete did not test positive for a performance enhancer.
Attorney Tyrone Marcus, representing one of TT's cyclists whom he did not name, said the doping violation was being contested but said Panam Sports has now jeopardised the arbitration process.
Cycling points earned at the Pan Am Games are not tallied towards Olympic qualification as compared to those achieved at the Pan American Track Cycling Championships.
In its statement, Panam Sports declared 15 positive doping cases, emerging from a total of 1,905 samples taken (1,652 urine and 253 blood) from athletes during the July 26 to August 11 Games.
It read, “After a long and thorough process analysing the doping cases discovered at Lima 2019, the Panam Sports Executive Committee approved the decisions and disqualifications proposed by the Disciplinary Commission, leading to a series of changes in the medal table of the Games held in July and August. These decisions were taken at the recent Executive Committee meeting in Fort Lauderdale, United States.”
Panam Sports Secretary General, Ivar Sisniega, said, “We have been very careful with the issue of doping at the Pan American Games of Lima 2019, respecting all the corresponding protocols and processes. After our Executive Committee meeting, we have officially approved the decisions of the disciplinary commission and the respective disqualifications of the athletes involved, and this has generated the changes we are reporting today. With this, we close the medal table of our Games.”
Prior to the release of this statement by Panam Sports, it was reported that neither the TT Cycling Federation (TTCF) and/or national coach Erin Hartwell, had been informed of any such result change.
Since the news broke, members of the local cycling fraternity, TT Olympic Committee (TTOC) and others representatives close to the situation, have remained tight-lipped citing a confidentiality clause.
Marcus' statement just after noon on Friday criticised Panam Sports for breaking the confidentiality of the process and "severely compromised" it.
His statement read, “I use this opportunity, as legal representative for one of the cyclists on the TT team, to state that the assertion of and ensuing consequences of an anti-doping rule violation has been legally contested and is currently under judicial consideration before an arbitral body. A key ingredient of this arbitral process is the inherent confidentiality provision that has been crafted to protect against premature disclosure of any information that may form part of the judicial proceedings.
“It is unfortunate that Pan Am Sports, a reputed umbrella sporting body, has failed to respect such a fundamental feature of dispute resolution, which has been entrenched in many global rules and regulations to promote fairness, equity and sporting justice. In light of the conduct of Pan Am Sports, the appropriate intervention will be made to salvage a process that has now been severely compromised.”
Marcus added that his future comments would be limited in order to respect and comply with the rules governing the assertion made against the local athlete and/or team.
In response to these allegations placed against member/s of the national team, the TTCF has denied any confirmed knowledge of medal-stripping from the said Games.
The TTCF fraternity’s public relations officer issued the following statement, “We understand of the report circulated on social media on the doping allegations and the stripping of medal places of the Team Sprint and Individual Sprint at the Pan American Games that was held in Lima, August 2019. The TTCF has not received any correspondence officially on this matter. I would be able to make an official statement as soon as the Federation gets the official facts from the relevant authorities.”
While a multitude of local cycling personnel opted to veer away from commenting on this matter, former TT Olympic cycling manager Peter Maharaj, called on the local sporting authorities to further educate athletes on the repercussions of their actions both on and off the competitive circuit.
“The TTOC, Sport Company of TT and Ministry of Sport need to address this issue and bring about awareness to current and aspiring athletes. I’m sorry for the rest of the team and...all those who support the progress made thus far,” he said.