THE TT Cycling Federation (TTCF) has issued a pre-action protocol letter to national cyclist Njisane Phillip requesting the immediate return of five new Mavic wheels which he allegedly took, without approval, from the National Cycling Centre (NCC) in Couva on December 23, 2019.
The legal letter, which was sent by attorney Adriana Marine of Virtus Chambers in Port of Spain, on Friday, demands the two-time Olympian return the wheels “in the condition in which they were taken, that is, new”.
If the 29-year old speedster is unable to do so, he can, alternatively, pay the US$15,600 value of the wheels. Additionally, Phillip is also asked to pay the TTCF’s legal costs to date, which amounts to $TT7,500.
The multiple-time national sprint champion is required to issue a response to TTCF’s legal team within 28 days or legal proceedings will commence.
According to the legal document, on or about December 23 last year, Phillip allegedly took five Mavic race wheels (two rear disk, two front disk and an iO five spoke) from the NCC office of former technical director for cycling and national coach Erin Hartwell.
Hartwell allegedly told Phillip not to remove the wheels and reminded him the equipment belonged to the TTCF and was procured for use by national athletes through the Sport and Cultural Fund grant.
The letter says Hartwell also told Phillip that he would have to report “the theft” to SporTT and the TTCF, which he did, four days later.
The cyclist's action, according to the pre-action protocol letter, saw the TTCF incur US$15,600 in loss and damages and also resulted in there being only three wheels left for use by the remaining three riders on the national team.”
On December 24, 2019, Phillip sent a letter to TTCF explaining his actions.
The 2012 Olympian said he would use the wheels to continue to train but noted that the TT cycling team had previously been using his wheels, his personal property, for training and competition over the past two years.
Phillip’s letter read, “Five wheels have been destroyed during this time without any reimbursement to myself...I do intend to continue to train myself as an athlete for TT as a cyclist (2024 Olympic campaign) using the equipment purchased for our use and such I have taken three wheels for this purpose.”
According to a similar letter sent to TTCF by Phillip's national teammate Keron Bramble, on December 24, it was revealed that the latter was in possession of the next two wheels.
TTCF’s legal letter noted, “You, without the knowledge, permission, authority, consent and/or acquaintance of the TTCF 'loaned' and/or temporarily permitted the said Keron Bramble to take possession of two of the said wheels.”
After receiving Hartwell’s report on the incident at NCC, on December 27, TTCF’s racing committee chairman Joseph Roberts and assistant racing secretary David Francis said they met with Phillip to appeal for the return of the wheels.
On January 31, 2020, racing secretary Jacqui Corbin allegedly contacted Phillip with another request to return TTCF’s property by of before February 4. TTCF also reached out to Phillip’s local club (Rigtech Sonics) president David Voisin “in hopes that an amicable resolution of this matter would be forthcoming.”
After examining the letter of explanation sent by Phillip on December 24, 2019, the TTCF attorney said Phillip “knowingly misappropriated, with the intention to deprive the TTCF, of property belonging to the TTCF.”
Marine added, “The property was that of the TTCF and it was solely within the remit of the TTCF to determine how and when its own property would be utilised."
The pre-action letter said notwithstanding Phillip's claim that his wheels were used for free by national cyclists for two years, he had no legal right to seize TTCF property as compensation.
“The allegation of the authorised use of five wheels that belonged to you over the last two years does not in law or in fact authorise you to misappropriate the property of the TTCF.
“Based on your correspondence and subsequent conduct it is evident that you knowingly removed said wheels without authority to so do and with the intention to permanently deprive the TTCF of its property.”
To support its claims, the TTCF also attached four documents to the pre-action protocol letter as reference.
The first being a letter from the Sport and Culture Fund informing the TTCF that their application for funding to purchase equipment for five cyclists had been approved in part.
The second and third documents were those sent in by Phillip and Bramble respectively to the TTCF, highlighting their intentions to use the five wheels “for training purposes”.
The final document was TTCF’s January 31 letter to Phillip, signed by Corbin, requesting the return of TTCF’s property.
The pre-action protocol letter was issued under the authority of the TTCF’s trustees, president Joseph Roberts and Joel Browne.
Newsday tried to contact Phillip, who is currently abroad, via social media messaging on Sunday but up to press time he did not respond. Close affiliates of Phillip also declined to comment.