TTOC throws lifeline to table tennis

- St Louis, Chung added to Commonwealth Games team

(TTOC) With the clock counting down for Trinidad and Tobago to meet the deadline for the ratification of players for the Commonwealth Games from April 4-15, the local Olympic Committee (TTOC) has come to the rescue of table tennis.

The TTOC has agreed that four players will go forward to the Gold Coast games – the two originally selected players, Aaron Wilson and Yuvraaj Dookram, and France-based duo Dexter St Louis and Rheann Chung.

The decision of the TTOC was communicated to Justice Eleanor Donaldson-Honeywell at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, where legal proceedings to break the impasse between the France-based duo and the TT Table Tennis Association were to get underway.

Senior Counsel Elton Prescott, who represented the TTOC, told the judge consideration was given to the deadline for the TTOC to confirm its list of nominated athletes for the games.

He said the offer by the TTOC was for the benefit of sport nationally and was not intended to shut down any conversation between the parties.

The lifeline thrown by the TTOC came after this country’s table tennis showing at the games looked unsound, as on Friday, three appellate court judges ruled against discharging an injunction which restrained the association from taking any action on their selection of Wilson, 19, and Dookram, 22.

After the selection of Wilson and Dookram, and reserve Arun Roopnarine by the TTTTA, St Louis, 49 and a two-time Olympian, and Chung, 32, his stepdaughter, challenged the decision, saying it was unfair.

They are the most accomplished players in TT’s table tennis history, with, among other accolades, five Caribbean titles each. No other local has won a regional senior title in four decades.

The pair sought damages for breach of contract, conspiracy and unlawful interference and an order that the issue is resolved through the TTOC’s arbitration process.

They were granted an injunction by Donaldson-Honeywell, who, despite dismissing the request from St Louis and Chung to force the matter to arbitration, told the parties that the alternative dispute resolution procedure would have been more expeditious, less costly and equally, if not more effective, in achieving a just result based on specialisation of the tribunal in sports practice and law.

In defence of the lawsuit, the TTTTA claimed arbitration was not an option, as it can only be initiated by the association under the TTOC’s constitution.

They insisted the two had been informed via e-mail of the selection criteria and chose not to participate.

It also alleged that they only decided to challenge the process after it was completed and that it had closely followed the TTOC’s guidelines and deadlines in making its selection.

The TTTTA further argued that neither St Louis nor Chung adhered to the national selection policy implemented at the association’s AGM in January 2016.

The policy says those who wish to be considered for national selection must compete in at least one local tournament on the TTTTA calendar and have a podium finish in the last nine months.

In her affidavit filed in the court proceedings, Chung said, “I was unfairly bypassed for selection for the 2018 Commonwealth Games

“I was neither given an opportunity nor informed of any trial events for selection by the TTTTA, despite my previous contributions as a national of Trinidad and Tobago, often at my own cost.”

Although St Louis and Chung will be going to the Gold Coast, they have not abandoned their lawsuit against the TTTTA. Their attorney Matthew Gayle said although the issues were not urgent, they will still be pursuing their claim of unfair treatment.

A case management conference has been set for April 24 to map out the way forward on the outstanding issues.

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