Tue | May 23, 2017

Mystery of the misused ticket

Published:Tuesday | July 14, 2015 | 7:00 AM

Secrecy surrounds what appears to be the misuse of an airline ticket, issued to a member of the Jamaica team to the World University Games (WUG), now coming to its end in Gwanjiu, South Korea.

It all started when sprint hurdler Megan Simmonds suffered a mishap at the National Championships, failing to negotiate the final barrier in her 100m hurdles semi-final. The resultant fall ended up in injury to ligaments in both her ankles. This culminated in her being ruled out of selection for the season's main prize - a berth on the contingent going to the more prestigious World Championships in Athletics in Beijing, China, scheduled for August 22-30.

However, she had already been chosen for the WUG, based on early-season performances. The toast of these was a personal-best 12.91, first time under her event's magic challenge of 13 seconds. Her inclusion for the South Korean event meant a booking and receiving travel details from the Intercollegiate Athletics office, housed at the University of Technology (UTech), where the former St Andrew High student athlete studies. All this was duly effected only for her to receive some stunning news. Two hours before departure on a flight path which transited New York City on its way to the Far East, information reached her that the injuries sustained would prevent further competition for the 2015 season.

This columnist was reliably informed that when the team arrived in Gwanjiu, with Simmonds missing, it was only then that officials realised that she had not shown up for boarding. An official, who requested anonymity and who spoke to Foster's Fairplay, said that attempts were made with the travel agent to have her replaced. This, by a squad member previously omitted due shortage of funds. At this point came the startling revelation, that the ticket was used up to the Kingston-New York leg. Speculation was rife as to whether the athlete was the one who made what would have been the first leg of the trip.

 

Athlete was incapacitated

 

Subsequent investigations by this columnist, including a live link-up with athlete and mother, suggested that she went nowhere and actually was at home, incapacitated due to the effects of the fall. This was happily so, given last week's column on the young lady and her admirable qualities.

Realising the gravity and implications of this allegation Foster's Fairplay's suspicions were aroused. Based on what was heard thus far from sources close to this columnist, there were prospects of a criminal investigation.

Readers need to understand that, given current airline procedures, a passenger who has been booked and ticketed, with the relevant travel costs fully paid, is expected to turn up at the airline check-in counter with proper identification. Having satisfied the

airline employee of his or her

authenticity, a boarding pass is issued, providing access to the aircraft

after going through security and

immigration formalities. For someone other than the accredited traveller to get that far, could suggest some amount of complicity on the part of people at the airport.

What was of deep concern, at this stage, was the thought that an innocent Simmonds, who it appeared, had travelled nowhere, could be trapped under a cloud of suspicion, including among her teammates. Head of delegation Anthony Davis put that to rest. "I have not heard of any team member discussing the matter. I am unaware of any cloud over Megan re the use of the ticket. We are convinced Megan never travelled on the ticket ... . However, we never thought Megan was party to fraud."

As to whether the police would be called in, Davis said, "Our hands are full with the competition and conference activities, and so no decision has been made to report this to the police." One hopes that the guilty party, if there is one, will meet swift justice."

Megan Simmonds does not deserve the clouds of wrong-doing that were hovering.

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