The decision by France-based semi-professional table tennis players Dexter St Louis and Rheann Chung to challenge their non-selection by the Trinidad and Tobago Table Tennis Association (TTTTA) on the team for the upcoming Commonwealth Games has implications for the selection of athletes here in Guyana.
In filing an interim injunction restraining the TTTTA from going ahead with its decision to select youngsters Aaron Wilson and Yuvraj Dookram with Arun Roopnarine as the alternate, for the April 4-15 Games, France and Chung have shown that they are not afraid to challenge the status quo in Trinidad with respect to selection of athletes by the respective associations/federations.
They are also forcing the TTTTA to have to justify the selections.
And, in providing the court with evidence that they are willing and able to pay damages should they lose the case, St Louis and Chung have shown that they are not afraid to put their money where their mouths are.
It is indeed a rare occurrence when a sportsman or woman challenges their non-selection on sports teams.
One can remember former West Indies batsman Desmond Haynes suing the president of the West Indies Cricket Board of Control (now Cricket West Indies) and the Barbados Cricket Association for loss of earnings after he was ruled ineligible for selection after failing to play in all five Red Stripe Cup (then the Regional four day competition) matches.
Haynes had returned from South Africa a few days late and subsequently was left out of the squad to play Australia in the 1995 Home Series.
The case dragged on for several years before it was settled out of court.
Now, another high profile Caribbean sportsman is attempting to force sports associations to be accountable with respect to team selections.
St Louis has been the most decorated male table tennis player in Trinidad ever since he burst upon the scene as a 15 year-old junior player at the 1983 Caribbean TT Championships held at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall.
Since then he has gone on to win the Caribbean men’s singles title on numerous occasions. He also represented Trinidad and Tobago at the Olympic Games.
Chung, his stepdaughter is also a former Caribbean women’s singles champion and Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Games representative.
Last week, an interim injunction barring the TTTTA from further action with respect to its two representatives for the 2018 Commonwealth Games was lifted and reinstated within hours.
The TTTTA applied for the injunction to be lifted when a lawsuit, filed by St Louis and Chung came up for hearing before Justice Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell in the Port-of-Spain High Court last week.
The case has now been adjourned to Wednesday when a decision on the continuation of the injunction pending the final determination of the case will be made.
St Louis and Chung’s case is expected to go on trial on March 5.
In their lawsuit, the 50-year-old St Louis, and his 33-year-old stepdaughter, Chung, questioned the process used by the TTTTA to select 19-year-old Wilson and 21-year-old Dookram to the team and Roopnarine as reserve.
They seek damages for breach of contract, conspiracy and unlawful interference and an order that the issue be resolved through the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC)’s arbitration process.
The TTTTA, in their defence, claims that the duo was informed via email of the selection criteria and chose not to participate adding that they only decided to challenge the process after it was completed.
The TTTTA also claims that it followed closely the guidelines of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee and its deadlines in making its selection.
Meanwhile in Guyana, the situation is quite similar. Guyana will be represented by the discipline of table tennis at the upcoming Commonwealth Games but to date the team has not yet been named or released if named and there has been no trials or selection criteria announced by either the Guyana Table Tennis Association of the Guyana Olympic Committee.
The sport of athletics too has not named their representatives and according to reports the Athletics Association of Guyana (AAG) is facing a conundrum whether to select athletes with the future in mind or select their best athletes.
Sports associations in Guyana are a veritable law unto themselves selecting players to national teams without any proper selection process and doing a disservice to the many athletes to train assiduously for an opportunity not to mention the honour, of representing the land of their birth.
Many of the associations have no set selection criteria and select teams only `The Almighty’ knows how.
This is why St Louis’s challenge is so important for it will in future alert sports associations/federations to the fact that they can be sued by those who feel they are deserving of being selected.
The action by St Louis/Chung will also in future (a) ensure that the selection criteria is sent out to the sub- associations, clubs and ultimately the players, (b) ensure that the selection of players for the various representative teams can uphold the strictest scrutiny (c) ensure that the right athletes are selected (d) ensure that those who feel discriminated against can have their day in court (e) ensure that those who have been discriminated against can and should be compensated and (f) force associations to stop the practice of selecting their favourites or refusing to select persons they do not like.