I put out my money to help the team

I put out my money to help the team

Sports

    Jonathan Ramnanansingh                              

The TT team sprint members - Keron Bramble (left), Njisane Phillip (centre) and Nicholas Paul, during a race in 2019.  -
The TT team sprint members – Keron Bramble (left), Njisane Phillip (centre) and Nicholas Paul, during a race in 2019. –

PHILLIP Whiteman, stepfather of two-time Olympian Njisane Phillip, has denied claims made by a local newspaper that he owes the TT Cycling Federation (TTCF) money for equipment purchased during the national team’s Olympic qualifier campaign in 2019.

The story, which was published on Monday and Tuesday in the daily newspaper, said Whiteman was given TT$375,000 by the TTCF to travel to France to complete the purchase of wheels for the touring sprint quartet of Phillip, Nicholas Paul, Kwesi Browne and Keron Bramble.

It said Whiteman “refused to hand over the remaining amount, although the invoices clearly showed there was an outstanding balance from the purchase of equipment”.

However, Whiteman refuted these claims and revealed the equipment was among a lengthy list of essentials which were purchased personally by him, from his credit card, to which he submitted the necessary invoices to TTCF and was reimbursed in full, in three tranches.

According to the Sport Company of TT (SporTT) director, the duration being incorrectly reported on spans between November and December 2019 when TT, under the guidance of then-coach Erin Hartwell, travelled to China and New Zealand for the International Cycling Union (UCI) World Cup campaign.

“After speaking with Larry Romany (then TTCF president) and having the chairman and CEO of SporTT having no objection to me assisting them, I put out my money to pay for the expenses for the team. TTCF paid nothing for the two World Cups because they applied to SporTT late for funds.

“The TT Olympic Committee (TTOC) decided they would help because they realised how important it was for the boys to qualify for Tokyo. TTCF were going to get money from the Sport and Culture Fund but were unable to at the time. So I said I would pay and they would reimburse me. This was because I had the credit cards with available credit limit for US dollars,” he stated.

Whiteman also produced a four-page spread sheet of expenses he incurred on behalf of the team during that duration, all of which he said was reimbursed. Visas, wheels, food, supplements, helmets, transport, accommodation in Hong Kong among a host of other necessary items altogether tallied almost TT$350,000.

He continued, “TTOC paid for the airfares. I paid everything up to New Zealand. I paid all the overweight for the riders. I bought the tyres and rims. I did not go to France. I ordered the equipment from France and had them airfreighted into Hong Kong. I bought helmets for Kwesi Browne and others. All these things are what they applied to the Sport and Culture Fund for. They didn’t have the money, I paid for it.

“I paid for all their meals in New Zealand, the hotel in Hong Kong, for bike boxes. I had to get new bike boxes there for the whole team. I had to order uniforms from the US because those that we (TT) went to Hong Kong with were full of holes. I ordered from Vie13 (sport apparel producer). I had US cyclists bring in racing socks from the US to Hong Kong for the TT cyclists.”

He admitted that he was speedily reimbursed by the TTCF since they received the finances disbursed by the Sport and Culture Fund during and after the World Cups.

Whiteman, who is also a contractor, indicated that the TTCF is supposed to also have a copy of these invoices and if they have been misplaced, they should have asked him to come in and bring all the receipts for their perusal.

He further criticised the report which also said he served as the team manager during the World Cups. According to him, he has never been selected in any official position with the national team although he has been travelling the globe with Phillip, paying his own expenses, for the past 15 years of his stepson’s decorated sprinting career.

Whiteman added, “I was not the manager. There was no manager. Erin (Hartwell) used to call me the ‘financier’. I was just there to pay the bills and help. I’ve gone on these campaigns for the many years with Njisane. I’m not there in official capacity but if they want something, and I can assist, I’ll go get it for them. I’m here to help the boys.

“When we departed on this trip not a single member of the TTCF was there to see the team leaving. I had to send my personal vehicles to transport all the athletes and bikes to the airport. I’ve done these things over the years without asking for a cent back. It’s not now I’ve been financing these people. I was in Europe for the last set of World Cups. I paid my own airfare, my own hotel, paid to assist Erin to rent two vehicles.”

After the initial report was published on Monday, TTCF issued a press release on the same day distancing itself from several statements written in the daily newspaper. The printed report claimed a (TTCF) “general council member speaking on the condition of anonymity” shared the information that Whiteman owed an “outstanding balance.”

The letter which was penned by TTCF president Joseph Roberts read, “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 considers the slur of incorrect statements printed as character assassination and defamation of his character, especially as a sitting member on SporTT’s board.

He concluded, “A response will be forthcoming from my attorneys of the offending parties.”

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