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Feb 7, 2018

Why Tariq Cano’s Cycling Dreams Could Die at Hands of Dion Leslie

Tariq Cano is a youth dreaming of a better future in the sport of cycling. Long glamorized by the Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic and later by other races, cycling has had its share of internal struggle. Now there is trouble brewing between Cycling Federation of Belize president Dion Leslie, who is also U.D.P. mayoral aspirant for Belize City; Deputy Orson Butler, and a younger cadre of aspirants looking to take over the throne. Cano says he has been consistently questioning the Federation’s seeming neglect of the sport during Leslie’s time in charge, and with no answers forthcoming today he took his concerns to the press, saying there is an unexplainable delay in holding constitutionally due elections. News Five’s Aaron Humes has more.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

Tariq Cano wants to be the next president of the Cycling Federation of Belize. But first, there must be an election, and the young man has grown impatient with his president, Dion Leslie.

 

Tariq Cano

Tariq Cano, Presidential Aspirant, Cycling Federation of Belize

“From since the month of November, I’ve been requesting information about the election for the Cycling Federation of Belize. We’ve asked to set a date, to give information about the meeting and the due process that is supposed to happen for election to happen. And these letters have been dismissed and ignored, you would say. We were just trying to find ways of how to have this thing properly, without any main fuss, but it wasn’t working out; so we went further to seek legal advice. Myself went to Mr. Hector Guerra and Mr. Gavin Courtenay for legal advice in the matter.  The issue is not with Mr. Leslie – I’ll put that out there. The issue is not with him; it’s with the cycling governing body; he just happens to be the president. And so the issue is with the Federation not showing accountability for the stuff that they’ve been doing financially, and with the different processes in terms of selecting national teams, and proper development for the cyclists and for the growth of the sport.”

 

Dion Leslie

Leslie has been in charge since 2013. The federation’s constitution then in force mandated elections every two years. But sometime in 2017, that was changed to every four years, though even the participants in the press conference were not sure. But there is nothing, Cano’s attorney Hector Guerra told us, standing in the way of the Federation holding a much-overdue election – especially any approval of the constitution by the National Sports Council.

 

Hector Guerra

Hector Guerra, Attorney for Tariq Cano

“The constitution mentions absolutely nothing about it having to be approved by the national Sports Council. The matter of ratifying the constitution and passing a new constitution is governed by the old constitution that was in place before the new constitution – which was passed in November, purportedly – was put in place. And so in effect what we are saying, what Tariq’s concern is, has to do with the minutes of that meeting in November. There has been no minutes forthcoming from the Federation. And so in the letter that I sent on behalf of Mr. Cano, we asked for those minutes, those minutes have not been since disclosed to us. Mr. Tariq has in the past requested those minutes, and his attempts at getting those minutes has been dismissed repeatedly.”

 

Cano’s running mate is Karen Vernon, an enthusiast and mother of two prominent cyclists. She spoke to the disappointing lack of explanation in the Federation’s financial dealings.

 

Karen Vernon

Karen Vernon, Vice-Presidential Aspirant, Cycling Federation of Belize

“We got an email this morning with the financial records for 2017 – I’m sure that they said they will share it with you guys – it’s not a financial record at all, it doesn’t say anything. I remember asking repeatedly for financial records and to hold an annual general meeting, because that should be done on a yearly basis. You should have an annual general meeting with your entire membership, present your financials and present that to the National Sports Council. That hasn’t been done for the past four years.”

 

At this point, Cano wants answers from the Federation executive for the delay in holding elections. He told us he is not aware of any trickery on their part, but their sins are already troubling enough. He also spoke to what he wants to do differently if he is put in charge.

 

Tariq Cano

“In my eyes it’s just been a delay; we have no concrete reasoning behind why they are delaying because we don’t know. They have not issued any formal reports or why it is being delayed per se, besides the fact of the constitution, which to me is not valid. So in that aspect we don’t know if there is anything else behind it, besides the fact of the constitution and the Sports Council approving the new constitution, with the delay. I’ve been in cycling since I was ten years old; I’m now twenty-seven years of age. As you said I have represented Belize locally and internationally. As recent as last year I’ve been putting mixed teams together – Belizeans, Guatemalans, Mexicans and Costa Ricans – to do international races, and getting more Belizeans out there to be noticed by these continental pro teams so that they can be picked up and developed. My hope and my aspiration for this is that I want to move cycling from being local to being international. I want that our talent can be shown outside, and they can end up getting paid for what they are doing, doing proper programs from a younger age so they can develop and get out there. Belize has a lot of talent, in many different sports. And cycling, believe it or not, naturally we are very talented when we go outside; but we don’t have the proper structure, we don’t have the financial support, and that is what is damaging the sport. My hope is to broaden the horizons internationally for these athletes, get them properly developed – get the females developed, get the youths developed and turn Belizean cycling global. That’s my dream, and that’s my objective.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

The constitution was approved at an official meeting of cycling team managers and is now before the Sports Council. Cano is also being represented by Gavin Courtenay. A second aspirant, Hao-Cheng Lee, has retained Alder Waight of Barrow and Williams addressing similar concerns to Leslie and the Federation. A deadline of February twenty-second has been set for a response to that letter. The Federation continues to organize this coming weekend’s Digicell Valentine’s Classic and other upcoming races including the Cross Country.

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