PHILLIP Whiteman’s timely financial injections into the touring national cycling team during the 2018 and 2019 seasons played an integral role in securing TT two spots at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
So says Erin Hartwell, former national cycling coach, who credited Whiteman for going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure TT’s travelling cyclists received the necessary support ahead of their international Olympic qualifier events.
Hartwell, who is in Hong Kong, China, endorsed Whiteman's actions during both seasons and admitted he was instrumental in handling several of the team’s finances, although not serving in an official capacity.
On September 21, a daily newspaper reported that Whiteman served in a managerial role for the national team at the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Cups in New Zealand, Australia and London. It also made an allegation about funds made available to him to buy specific equipment.
Whiteman, stepfather of two-time Olympian Njisane Phillip, denied the allegation and said the equipment was among a lengthy list of essentials which he bought with his personal credit card.
Whiteman produced a four-page spreadsheet of expenses he incurred on behalf of the team during that time. Visas, wheels, food, supplements, helmets, transport and accommodation in Hong Kong, among other necessary items, altogether tallied almost $350,000, he said.
He said he submitted the invoices to TTCF and was reimbursed in full.
Whiteman described the statements as “character assassination” and “defamation of his character” and said he is arranging a legal response to “the offending party.”
The day the report was published, the TTCF issued a press release distancing itself from the claims.
The release, signed by TTCF president Joseph Roberts, said, “The ‘anonymous’ source quoted in the article does not have all the facts. The only persons authorised to officially speak on behalf of the TTCF are the president (Roberts) and the PRO (Roxanne Chapman).
"The TTCF therefore distances itself and wishes to advise that after the matter is addressed, an official statement will then be made.”
Whiteman has been travelling the globe for the past 15 years, paying his own expenses, while accompanying Phillip on the majority of his global track competitions.
Hartwell said from his Hong Kong base, “Phillip Whiteman periodically accompanied the national team as an outside, yet very welcome, supporter of the programme to assist us as needed to meet the objective of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games.
“He was an asset to me, the national team and to the nation as he selflessly bent over backwards to help the squad in numerous ways, including using his personal credit and funds to support the team.”
The ex-national coach was present with the TT contingent of Njisane Phillip, Keron Bramble, Kwesi Browne and Nicholas Paul at these Olympic qualifier events. Whiteman was also present for the New Zealand and China legs of the 2019 World Cups.
Hartwell said, “Whiteman's uncredited support was critical to the team's success in 2018 and 2019. We would have struggled to meet various time-sensitive financial responsibilities while on projects without him.
“I am beyond grateful for the support he extended during the World Cups he attended with us. I have the utmost faith that he acted honourably and in the best interests of the team and nation. He, along with the Sports Company of TT and Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs, was a critical and unrecognised element that helped make the cycling programme a success over the past three years. I cannot thank him enough.”
On reading the article, head coach of Malaysian cycling John Beasley, of Australia, also chimed in on Whiteman’s stellar contributions to TT cycling over the years.
“It is hard to get support for the small sport of track cycling and even harder to get sponsorship, and articles like what I have read just make things all that much harder.
"I have known Phillip for a long time now and he is a real asset and ambassador for your great nation of TT.
“It is hard to find people like Phillip who have the drive, passion, and commitment, to help sport move forward in TT and also support athletes to live their dream, this is why I have taken the time to write in support of my friend,” Beasley wrote in an e-mail to Newsday.