This past weekend was USA Track and Field Indoor Championships. Wow, talk about drama! Unfortunately, little of it was on the track. I’m not even sure where to start but I’ll give it my best try!
February 22, 2014. 3:31 MST.
The women’s 3000m goes off and the pace is slow – real slow. As you would expect, it initially bunches everyone up and sets up for a fast finish.
During the final lap, there was contact between Hasay and Grunewald. An official put up a yellow flag indicating a possible infraction. Meanwhile, Grunewald went by Hasay and then Rowbury for the win.
Jordan ended up finishing fourth and was upset after the race.
Salazar couldn’t believe Jordan finished fourth and he started pointing fingers.
Salazar petitioned to have Grunewald disqualified. The referee denied the petition. Salazar then appealed the decision, which was heard by a three-person USATF Jury of Appeal, and they also ruled in Grunewald’s favor. The USATF rules state:
The decision of the Jury of Appeal shall be final. There shall be no further right to appeal. The Jury of Appeal may, however, reconsider decisions if new conclusive evidence is presented.
This is where things get weird. That should have been the end of it. Unless new evidence is presented, the issue is resolved. However, Salazar and other Nike representatives were still not satisfied.
Eagle Eye, who is in charge of instant replay, stated that no new evidence was presented. According to http://www.letsrun.com, Eagle Eye representatives stated:
We just replayed the exact same footage that we had. There was no new footage – nothing new at all.
However, the third appeal went in Hasay/Salazar/Nike’s favor and Grunewald was disqualified. USATF never released the “new evidence” or even specifically stated what it was. It never stated where the evidence came from or the basis of the reversal.
This caused an uproar amongst both athletes and fans.
In all seriousness, many athletes were pissed off!
Will Leer (a Nike athlete) stated:
“I would be remiss if I didn’t take this moment to say how badly I feel for Gabriele and how much I think the DQ is a disgrace… USATF needs to get their act together with that one.”
Nick Symmonds, even before this fiasco, stated:
“The more I have to deal with USATF’s nonsensical decisions, the more I have to deal with Nike controlling the sport, some days I’m so overwhelmed it makes me just want to hang up my shoes and say, all right, you guys can have it, I’m going to do something else.”
The following day, the (non-Nike) women in the 1500m protested Gabe’s 3000m disqualification.
Anyhow, to make a long story short(er), on Monday, Salazar withdrew his protest – most likely at the request of Jordan Hasay who released a statement on her blog. So it’s all over, right? Not quite.
February 22, 2014. 3:47 MST.
The men’s 3000m, unlike the women’s, went out fast. Andy Bumbalough led through 2000m before starting to fade.
He was ultimately passed by several runners and finished eighth. And then he was disqualified. USATF hasn’t said much, but he may have been disqualified for interference for slowing down and making it more difficult for other athletes to pass him somewhere around 2,000m — um, what? But it gets weirder. According to www.letsrun.com and also reported on www.runblogrun.com, Salazar and Jerry Schumacher (also a Nike coach) got into a heated argument and Alberto had to be physically restrained. Apparently, he thinks Schumacher and his athletes were conspiring to beat Galen Rupp (isn’t that the idea?).
Anyhow, this was an ugly black eye for track and field. First, we had Nike exerting pressure to strip a two-time cancer survivor of her title. Second, we had the best known (American) coach in the sport needing to be restrained as he went after another prominent coach. Ouch. I know I’ve gone on longer than normal so I’ll wrap things up. However, I should first point out that USATF gets over $10 million per year from Nike as part of a marketing deal (as reported by ESPN) – this makes up over 40% of USATF’s annual budget. While this is not against the rules, does it make the organization beholden to Nike?