President of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC), Brian Lewis, said Commonwealth Games gold medallist Michelle-Lee Ahye, as an outstanding athlete and role model for Trinidad and Tobago, deserves respect.
Speaking to LoopTT, Lewis said Ahye, who made history as the first female athlete from Trinidad and Tobago to win gold in the Women's 100 metres final at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, worked hard and suffered much in order to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the games and bring home gold.
Lewis spoke out in support of Ahye after media reports which made reference to her personal life.
"I understand that the media has its job to do and now we have to take into account that it's not just traditional media, there's also social media. Nevertheless, you must decide whether you want to get involved and fuel the drama or not."
"Speaking on behalf of the TTOC and the Trinidad and Tobago Commonwealth Games Association, inclusion, diversity and non-discrimination are all key parts of who we are."
"I have tremendous respect for Michelle-Lee Ahye as I do all our athletes. She's a sincere and genuine person and she has been open about parts of her life and that has to be respected. She's tremendously talented, she's worked extremely hard and her feats at the 2018 Commonwealth Games are a testament to that."
Lewis said Ahye has constantly worked hard to support her family.
"She has also come from very challenging circumstances. A lot of what she's does as a professional athlete is to ensure that her mother, who has been her rock, and who has provided her with unwavering and unconditional love, is well taken care of."
"What people may not realise is that four years ago, at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, she was one of the favourites for a medal and due to injury she didn't achieve her goal. She has since harboured and treasured that ambition for four years and carried that flame in her heart."
"And this year, she achieved that goal," he said.
Lewis said the double Olympic finalist and world champion deserves all of the acclaims heaped upon her and should be honoured as a role model for all Trinbagonians.
"She's a role model for the modern athlete and a modern sports personality of the 21st century," he said.
Lewis said that although in a democratic society, others are entitled to their opinions, there must be respect for the right to private life.
"Although Trinidad and Tobago is a conservative society, there is a line that we are very clear on in terms of people's rights to their privacy and life and to make their choices as they feel, and that has to be respected," Lewis said.
Lewis acknowledged that some may have comments which may be deemed negative, but the TTOC remains in alignment with the policies of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is one of equality and non-discrimination.
"We try to ensure that the environment for athletes is a positive one and that they are given everything they need to ensure they attain their goals. This is why we focus so much on sponsorship and funding in order to support our athletes as much as we can.
"Based on the TTOC values which are shared values in line with the IOC, we very much promote inclusion, diversity and respect."
"Michelle-Lee Ahye was our flag bearer because we felt that she had earned that honour and privilege to carry the Trinidad and Tobago flag at the Opening Ceremony. Her performance is now sealed in history and she has always conducted herself with dignity," Lewis said.
Lewis also encouraged sports fans to show their support by pledging contributions to the TTOC and their initiatives in order to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago's athletes can represent their country to their best abilities.