Despite threats from at least one of what appears to be several elite athletes who vowed not to suit-up again for the country unless she resigns, President for the Turks and Caicos Islands Amateur Athletics Association (TCAAA) Edith Skippings says she will not leave that position.
In recent weeks media houses have been receiving anonymous letters purportedly penned by athletes who said they were dissatisfied with the treatment meted out to them by the TCAAA under Skippings.
Two of the athletes, Devante Gardiner and Wilkinson Fenelon have come out publicly as being among the disgruntled. Both Gardiner and Fenelon spoke with NewslineTCI concerning their plights.
Gardiner told Newsline TCI that he was done with representing the country at all levels.
“I am considered an elite athlete for Turks and Caicos. I have competed for the Turks and Caicos at many international meetings – from the Carifta Games, to the World Relays, to the Commonwealth Games, NACAC Games, Under 23 games and many others. I am part of the relay national records,” Gardiner revealed.
“Ms Skippings of the TCAAA has been treating all athletes bad…every last one. Many of them don’t want to speak out because obviously there are so much to lose. But as far as I am concerned, I don’t have anything to lose. I’m not competing for Turks and Caicos any longer as long as she is in power. I will never put on a TCI shirt again,” Gardiner vowed.
Gardiner also revealed that Carifta and World Junior Medalist Coleby Jennings has also decided not to represent the TCI, citing similar reasons.
“You have people like Coleby Jennings, who medaled at the World Juniors in the 400m. And he has expressed many times that he could not believe how he was being treated the way he was being treated.
“And he is done with Turks and Caicos also. He does not want to speak about it, he is just done. Eight out of 10 athletes are done (competing for Turks and Caicos). Many of them would love to speak anonymously, but as far as I am concerned, I would say I don’t care, respectfully.
“And we would all love for her to go ahead and resign and give somebody the position that want to help us. I have been injured year after year and I have no help in Turks and Caicos, but (yet) they continuously call on me to come and represent them only when it is beneficial to them,” Gardiner bemoaned.
“I have no funding help, I have no mental help, nothing. And this has been expressed to the TCAAA year after year,” he continued.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Fenelon, who told NewslineTCI that it has been tough maintaining health and physical conditioning post high school, because now they would have to pay for everything from nutrition, coaching, to therapy. However, he said no help was coming from the TCAAA and the Sports Commission.
He shares similar sentiments with Gardiner that they have been abandoned all year but only called upon when the TCAAA is putting on a meet, stating that as soon as the meet was over they are left on their own.
He revealed that it was recently, through athletes from the Bahamas, that they realized that the Commonwealth Games secretariat actually dispatches funds to all its members to assist athletes. He said such information was never communicated to them.
He also told NewslineTCI that the Sports Commission informed them of its policy towards athletes, which is also prohibitive, since to qualify for funding, they must finish school and attain IAAF qualification ranking.
“At this point I would never attain it because I am in school. Plus, how can we maintain it when we do not get any form of help from the injuries that we have picked up?” he rhetorically asked.
Fenelon said recently he has been harboring thoughts to switch allegiance to Great Britain if such conditions continue. He said however, that he would compete for Turks and Caicos for the rest of the season, and if nothing changes, he would request a release to compete under another flag.
NewslineTCI reached out to Skippings to get her side of the story.
“As regards to the Elite Athletes, a lot of them are just now being abreast of subsistent support that some of the Elites are getting from the Sports Commission, not from TCAAA…TCAAA has no money,” she said.
“The Sports Commission has a sports policy, and the sports policy states how you can get money from that fund. The sports policy only makes provision for elite athletes, and they define what makes an elite athlete.
“For over three years now, we have three persons getting money from that subvention. They were Olympian Delano Williams, Yanique Haye-Smith and Ifeanyi Otuonye,” she explained, further stating that the subvention was for all sporting federations in the country, not just track and field.
Explaining how athletes receive funding from the Sports Commission, Skippings said: “They (athletes) send in a request through us and then it goes to the Commonwealth Games Association, and who in turn send it on to the Sports Commission.”
“I have had a few athletes who reached out to me afterwards to tap into that funding. I had Akia (Guerrier), I had Devante, and a few others. I explained to them that it was for the elite athletes, according to the policy. I told Devante, most of all about it.
“I spoke to Mr. (Jarrett) Forbes (Director for Sports) about making some amendments to the policy that would allow for other persons that are not elite athletes to be able to tap into those funds, even if they would be given half of that amount.
“And he said in order for that to happen there would have to be changes and amendments to the policy. Mr. Jarett (sic) promised me that they would look into it and amendment would be put forward. But up until now, to my knowledge, no amendments had been done or approved.
Skippings said the subvention is $1,200 just for those three athletes per month, stating that she was constantly in chat with the athletes.
“I have so many conversations between me and a lot of my athletes on WhatsApp,” she said.
In the meantime, the TCAAA president outlined that a grant to assist with preparation for the athletes for the Commonwealth Games scheduled to be held in Birmingham, England this summer was received.
“And so, I spoke with athletes who are in preparation for the Commonwealth Games. I spoke with Angelo (Garland) and others about it,” she said.
She stated also that hurdler Yanique Haye-Smith is the local athletes’ representative, and so, if disgruntled athletes were not getting redressed, should reach out to her.
“They have a WhatsApp Group with all of the senior and elite athletes in it. So, if they have a problem with TCAAA or any member, the first person they are supposed to reach out to, if they are not getting any information from me or others is their representative…that’s the reason why they are there,” she insisted.
She added: “I have been open to athletes to reach out to me for everything, and quite a few of them have. I don’t take up my phone and call these athletes every month, but I am open to them if any of them needs to reach out to me.”
In the meantime, Skippings revealed that when she assumed the TCAAA presidency in 2011, the local body was not in good standings with the IAAF and was suspended from activities sanctioned by that body.
“And I have worked and done everything to get back into good standing from then to now,” she said.
She said to be in good standing, the local body has to send athletes to certain IAAF meets, certain regional meets, and must promote sport in your country.
Meanwhile, Fenelon said while he would love to see the back of Skippings, she does not make the policy, and so, things would remain the same.