Open letter of Portuguese athletes about toxic situation
Seven Olympic judokas denounce "toxic climate", "oppressive attitudes" and "intimidation" in the national team.
In the open letter, signed by Telma Monteiro, the athletes target the president of the federation, Jorge Fernandes.
Read the full letter here (in English).
"Open Letter from 7 Portuguese Judokas from the Olympic Project
After many attempts at dialogue, and given the lack of understanding, flexibility and sensitivity of the President of the Portuguese Judo Federation (FPJ), Mr Jorge Fernandes, for the need to readjust the management in terms of sports and psychosocial, the undersigned athletes hereby make public the unsustainable and toxic climate that involves, in this Portuguese Judo, appealing for the intervention of the Secretary of State for Sport, the Portuguese Institute of Sport and Youth and the Olympic Committee of Portugal.
We want an ambitious Judo and a healthy relationship with all the entities and people with whom we interact and we are willing to collaborate in a solution that allows us – us and all judokas – to return to the competitive potential that Portugal deserves. But it is with a feeling of desolation that we are all witnessing the oppressive and discriminatory attitudes practiced all too often within the national team that we are so proud to represent.
What was a good solution during the period when the pandemic caused by Covid-19 imposed the creation of a training bubble, in Coimbra, which allowed us to be at the Games safely, is today one of the factors in which we deeply disagree with the strategy. imposed by the FPJ. We tried all possible avenues of communication until we reached this moment of alert.
We have done everything over the years to maintain a professional relationship with the federative structure, which basically boils down to one person. In addition to not listening or clarifying, President Jorge Fernandes assumes numerous functions, including imposing technical and national team decisions that show a lack of respect for the coaches themselves. At this point we have exhausted our options and we feel exhausted too.
Faced with the need to have more quality training to face the
requirement of high competition, namely for the Olympic qualification, we wrote on July 13 a letter to the president of the Federation in which we expressed our concerns regarding our preparation and its impact, both physically and emotionally. In that same letter, we also presented some suggestions, appealing to the sensitivity of Mr. Jorge Fernandes.
The suggestions made were as follows:
- Participation in international internships, as well as competitions outside the country, according to the needs and planning of each athlete using the Olympic Project Scholarship - planning that, incidentally, must be thought out and organized together with the athlete and coach of the same .
- Changing the requirement to participate in all national internships carried out per month, to 1 required internship per month.
- Adjustment of the amount paid per trip to each athlete, according to the official tables of the value of the transport subsidy.
Following the letter, a meeting was scheduled (held on August 3) that should have been with the President, but, to our surprise, it ended up with the presence of coaches of all levels - except coach Pedro Soares -, the secretary of the federation Sérgio Oleinic, the person in charge of marketing and social networks Inês Ribeiro, the coach of the Paralympic Team, with the vice-president Sérgio Pina, and also with the son of the president Jorge Fernandes, now coordinator of youth judo. This created an atmosphere of intimidation!
Despite the climate of oppression felt, the letter was read and the request for a solution to the three points suggested and mentioned above was reinforced.
At this meeting, the president once again reinforced the obligation to presence in 70/80% of the internships, under the threat of not being summoned if this parameter is not met.
We remind you that these internships have been held since June 2020, every week, in Coimbra – the city where the President of FPJ resides. At the time, the clubs were operating on a conditional basis due to the limitations imposed by the pandemic. We were also unable to carry out international internships, which were not carried out.
Two years passed. What we recognized at the time as an excellent idea on the part of the Portuguese Judo Federation and which was – we reinforce! – a temporary solution, is now something that causes us emotional exhaustion, because every week, most of the time on weekends, we are forced to be present. That is, in one year, in 70/80% of the 52 (!!) internships.
Recently the athlete Anri Egutidze, missed the stage for having an appointment medical and health examination scheduled on the same date, ending up being prevented from taking an Olympic qualification test, on the grounds that he would not be in good health. This decision was taken without any club or federation doctor considering the athlete unfit. It would have been, it is concluded, a reprisal for being absent from the internship.
In these concentrations, sometimes, there are only 8 athletes present to train, and during the winter it can be 7 degrees inside the pavilion (!!); heating is only available sporadically. We've been dealing with all of this, week after week, focused on trying to improve.
Having the obligation to be present in Coimbra, they prevent us from being able to participate in international stages and train with the best in the world and consequently be stronger and better prepared for the competitions of the world circuit, on the stages that we aspire to and that the Portuguese are used to. to associate with national judo.
At the moment, the preparation grants awarded by the Olympic Committee to each of the athletes who won it through certain sporting results are managed by the FPJ, which uses this same resource to support the expenses to maintain the stages of the national team at various levels, in Coimbra. , then underlining the few resources for athletes to carry out international internships. Since each scholarship should be - by law - destined only to the athlete to which it is awarded.
The possible presence in internships - when we are rarely allowed - and competitions are so often informed at the last minute, which shows the disorganization in which we live, harming the preparation of athletes, and obviously still increases the costs of travel.
Recently, the athlete Telma Monteiro saw her participation in an internship in Alicante being confirmed at the last minute, having made a trip of more than 10 hours, in total, for the return and still being alerted later by the official of the federation Sérgiu Oleinic for the costs of the same. Remember that, in the current model, FPJ is responsible for managing the grant and booking flights, so the responsibility for the cost must be attributed to it and its limited organizational capacity.
For the same internship, athlete Catarina Costa – runner-up of Europe in title, 5th in the Olympic Games – had to travel by car with her coach, 9 hours of travel, as they said that now the flights would be expensive and that it would be very complicated, for this reason,
go to the internship. Once again, the federation was going to buy flights at the last minute.
It should also be added that the coach of the national Olympic project of each athlete has no prior knowledge of the changes made to the athlete's planning. As well as the calls are made by the President himself and by an official of the federation, being later delivered to the coaches of the selection.
The federation deducts from the athlete's Olympic scholarship the payment of expenses of the coach of the national team accompanying the same athlete This expense should be borne by the federation itself.
On the other hand, we believe it is important to expose the toxic environment we are going to living. Below we describe some of the many situations recorded, some of which on a regular basis:
- The President asks coaches to control their athletes to that they do not speak; it happened, for example, with the president asking the coach Ana Hormigo to control his athletes.
- Prohibit athletes from talking about mental health so they don't give a weak image, because "the athlete is a hero"; as the President said to the athlete Bárbara Timo, showing a huge lack of sensitivity not only towards the athlete – diagnosed this year with depression –, as well as towards the subject of mental health itself, which is now very present in international sport.
- At the aforementioned meeting, the President referred to the athletes Bárbara Timo, Rodrigo Lopes and Rochele Nunes – who had also signed the letter of July 13, with concerns and suggestions – as follows: "Bárbara, Rochele , Rodrigo, I find it strange that you have been here for three years…", referring to the fact that the athletes are from Brazil, continued: "they came from Brazil and were ungrateful to us by signing this letter"; stating things like "they went to competitions and internships that not even Portuguese athletes would go to, without the minimum" (which is not true!); he continued with expressions such as "very strange that Rodrigo, Rochele and Bárbara have signed this letter", as if the fact that they were born in Brazil took away any space to claim their rights as Portuguese athletes.
When athlete Bárbara Timo referred to having had depression because she was forced to go to Coimbra, President Jorge Fernandes replied: "But no one forced you to come here from Brazil (...) and now you want to change what you couldn't do in Brazil" . He also said: "You in Brazil didn't even drink a Coke and now you come here, we give you a hand and you want everything".
Reference has been made several times to the origin of the athletes, who must be treated with respect and with the right to express concerns or make suggestions similar to any other Portuguese athlete!
This year the athletes Telma Monteiro and Bárbara Timo were in an internship
international in Italy – at their own expense – when an Italian coach informed them that he had been contacted by federation official Sérgio Oleinic to find out if they were at that stage. Later, the athlete Bárbara Timo was reprimanded for having participated in the internship.
We don't understand what the standard of consistency is – the Federation President says that athletes can carry out international internships at their own expense, but when this happens, they face threats, reprisals and are called to attention. As happened when the athletes Rodrigo Lopes and Anri Egutidze stayed to train at the international stage in Madrid; the President threatened the club's coach that if this happened again "there would be consequences". All because the President of FPJ wants us to train in Coimbra at all costs!
- The athlete Anri Egutidze was forbidden by the president to speak Georgian – mother tongue – with another athlete also from Georgia.
- We witnessed several times the president talking loudly and in a way that shows a lack of respect for the national coach Ana Hormigo.
- The last time she asked us to sign the 2021 account report, athlete Telma Monteiro, who had received the report after the afternoon training session – like all the other colleagues who were ordered to sign –, kept it to read . The next morning, the President, accompanied by the secretary of the federation, intercepted her on her way to the gym to ask her what was her problem, since she had not yet signed the document. When she informed that she would need clarification regarding the values presented, the President did not allow him to practice before sitting down and discussing the values. Athlete Telma Monteiro said that she did not agree with the scholarship money being managed that way, to which Mr. Jorge Fernandes replied: "That's your opinion, but you have to sign it!"
The athlete made a point of saying that she would sign, but that she did not agree and that she would not sign anything similar in the future.
In the document you can find values that refer to an expense that is repeatedly presented in the report of other athletes, such as the expense of athlete Rodrigo Lopes to the Olympic Games - the value is presented in the athlete's report, as well as in the athlete Telma Monteiro . In that report, the costs of an internship with the same duration, in the same place – Coimbra – present different values. It was justified that it would be to pay expenses related to foreign athletes who sometimes come to train in Portugal; even if these athletes do not come to train with the athlete in question.
The president who often says: "They can complain to whoever they want because I'm the president-elect". an elected president
democratically can drive anyway? Manage the grants anyway? Talking to athletes and coaches anyway?
We ask for respect.
Read the full open letter in Portuguese here in Record