By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
VETERAN coach Rupert Gardiner, with more than 30 years of experience, said he never felt more humiliated than he did when he was sent home from the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan for what the Bahamas Olympic Committee called an insubordination of team officials.
Gardiner said a team meeting was called with the management team, consisting of chef de mission Cora Hepburn, team manager Dawn Woodside-Johnson; BOC general secretary Derron Donaldson and the coaching staff, including head coach Rudolph Ferguson and assistants David Charlton and Ronald Cartwright.
“It was indicated in the meeting that my duties were being stripped and that I was being sent home,” Gardiner said. “I was told it was because of the heated confrontation with Dr Ricky Davis, that I was leaking information to the coaches and athletes here in Nassau and causing disharmony with the athletes, who were already under stress and for the letter in which Mr Drumeco Archer wrote that was sent to my email and Whatsapp, but I never saw it.”
At the meeting, Gardiner said Donaldson had already had the second accreditation in his hand to give to him and he indicated to me that he wanted to hear nothing from me and that the matter is over.
“During the confrontation with Dr Davis, both coach Ferguson and coach Cartwright were in the arena,” Gardiner pointed out. “After the meeting once we were up in our dormitories coach Ferguson indicated to me that what Mr Donaldson did was wrong. All coaches were present when this was done so the first thing that hurt me was none of the coaches stood up for me,” Gardiner said.
“Shortly after I went downstairs and I saw Mr Donaldson in the vicinity and I tried to stop him and speak to him about the matter, but again he refused to hear me out.”
Gardiner said he tried to point out to Donaldson that he did not receive the letter and asked him if he could send him a copy, but he never sent it to him.
“I also spoke to Miss Anthonique Strachan letting her know that it was indicated that I was being in favouritism to her and I allowed her to jump the gun during the time trials in Tokyo,” Gardiner said.
“She immediately called a meeting with the management staff and they indicated that it was not about her, but it was about the letter that Mr Drumeco Archer had sent to the BOC on email and WhatsApp.”
In reference to the verbal confrontation between Dr Ricky Davis and Gardiner, Strachan indicated that they can’t only blame the BOC for the runoff, but the BAAA as well because the problem should have been resolved before the team came to Tokyo.
Based on what transpired and after consulting his lawyer, Gardiner said he still doesn’t see any he was stripped of his accreditation and sent home. He said he’s distraught and would like to have an official statement made and an apology issued.
As it relates to the letter submitted by Archer, Gardiner said he never got it. He said he only heard that it was circulated through Whatsapp. He said he was told that it was also sent to him by email, but he never got it, so he couldn’t respond to what he didn’t see.
“I asked the General Secretary of the BOC, Derron Donaldson, to provide me with the information. Twice I asked him, but he never did,” Gardiner said. “I wanted to defend the letter, but I never got it, so I couldn’t defend it.”
As for the accusations that he was leaking information from Tokyo to the coaches in New Providence about the date and time for the runoff and who was competing, he said if the BOC did their job and checked the chain link, they would have discovered that he was not the culprit.
“They also accused me of allowing Anthonique (Strachan) to jump the gun in the runoff. That was why she had the advantage over Brianne Bethel,” Gardiner said. “But Brianne was in no state mentally or physically to run in the runoff.”
Gardiner said the runoff should not have been contested between Strachan and Bethel because Strachan participated in the BAAA’s Nationals and got second behind Shaunae Miller-Uibo in qualifying for the 200m, albeit the last of the four women to accomplish the feat.
But he said all recommendations to the BOC to have the runoff between Tynia Gaither and Bethel because, although they qualified prior to the nationals at the end of June at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, they didn’t participate in the event when Strachan qualified.
Instead, he said Gaither ran in the 100m the night before and was reportedly pulled from the 200m before the race and eventually submitted a Doctor’s slip and Bethel didn’t participate in any races in the nationals and provided a Doctor’s slip as well to be exempted.
Although Gardiner said the BOC said they received the wrong information from the BAAA on the times produced by the four competitors, but he and David Charlton, another assistant coach on the team, produced the correct results, which showed that Gaither ran 22.92; Strachan did 22.76; Bethel did 22.56 and Miller-Uibo did 22.05.
“When we got to the track to have the runoff, those young ladies, Anthonique and Brianne, begged Derron Donaldson not to have the runoff and they provided the times to prove that they should not have been running against each other,” Gardiner said.
“David Charlton, head coach Rudolph Ferguson and myself also provided him with the information. David went on the internet and showed Derron the information. Coach Charlton and coach Ferguson, Derron and myself all agreed that there won’t be a runoff. Derron told us that he would wait for the chef de mission, Cora Hepburn.”
Gardiner, however, said when Hepburn arrived, she was presented with the information. Gardiner said she contacted Knowles and then said the BOC will proceed with the runoff between Strachan and Bethel.
“The girls warmed up to do the runoff and Anthonique won in fairness, but they say I let Anthonique jump the gun,” Gardiner said. “That was why she had the advantage. But Breanne had no information of doing the runoff, but she was told that if she didn’t run, they would send her home.”
Gardiner said there were obvious some personal vendettas taking place, but because he was more vocal than the other coaches, he felt that he was the scapegoat.
“They took my accreditation and gave me another one. They didn’t explain to me what the accreditation was for and where it could get me,” he said. “The accreditation could only get me through the Games Village.
“I couldn’t go to the stadium. I was given a Games Village Administrator accreditation. I felt like I was a prisoner in the village. That was an embarrassment for me.”
After the meeting was called with the manager and coaches of the team and he was accused of the three infringement, Gardiner said he was disappointed that he wasn’t given an opportunity to defend himself.
“I feel terrible. I feel so bad because me and Cora Hepburn went to St Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina where she played volleyball and I ran track,” Gardiner said, “She knows me. She could have said Rupert, ;let’s sit down and talk.
“But she didn’t say one word. I think it was a conspiracy against me . I didn’t do anything wrong, except having a heated verbal attack against Dr Ricky Davis. It’s not about us. It’s about the athletes and doing what is best for them. We told them not to have the runoff between Anthonique and Brianne, but they still went and had the runoff.”
Gardiner said while Gaither was running the 100m and she was not available to compete in a runoff, the suggestion was made to let Strachan and Bethel run with Miller-Uibo in the 200m and everybody would have been happy.
But Gardiner said they were surprised when the entries came out that Gaither was not going to run the 200m, it was too late to have Bethel inserted in her spot.