The USATF debacle

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

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For anyone who hasn’t heard yet, there was an absolute mess this past weekend at the USATF Indoor Track & Field Championships. In the women’s 3000 meter run, Gabriele (Gabe) Grunewald won the race by a comfortable margin after displaying a stunning finish after a tactical race.

You can see the race here. Skip to about 10 minutes into the video to get to the last lap and the incident in question. As you can see in the screen capture I grabbed above from the video, the race by the end wasn’t even close.

The problems started later. As you can see in the video, there was some slight contact between Gabe and Jordan Hasay shortly after the last lap started. This is the kind of contact you see on a regular basis in indoor track. Close quarters, tight turns and high speeds lead to things like this on a regular basis. However, Hasay’s coach (Alberto Salazar) protested the decision to not call the contact a foul on Gabe.

The Head Referee ruled that there was no interference. Salazar appealed the ruling to the Jury of Appeal and, in what has been reported to be a 3-0 decision, Salazar’s appeal was denied. No interference. Next, according to all reports I’ve heard, Salazar appealed a second time. Some reports suggest he even appealed a third time. Finally, Gabe was disqualified, Shannon Rowbury was elevated to champion and Hasay given a spot on the team for the World Championships.

What’s the problem here? Well, according to the USATF Competition Rules (see Rules 119 a and 119 c) the ruling of the Referee should be upheld unless it is shown to be clearly erroneous. Also, the decision of the Jury of Appeal is final. There is no further right of appeal. The Jury may reconsider only if new conclusive evidence is presented.

So, according to all reports I’ve seen, Salazar was allowed at least one more appeal than rules state is allowed. Further, USATF claims the Jury of Appeal was presented new video evidence of the incident in question but the video production company says they gave USATF no new video and USATF has yet to offer any evidence that this new video evidence exists.

The good news is today, two days after all this happened, Hasay dropped the protest that was made on her behalf by Salazar. Gabe gets the championship and spot on the team for the World Championships she deserves. However, this does not abdicate USATF of its responsibility in all of this.

The USATF press release makes it clear they are not admitting any wrongdoing in all of this. If Hasay did not drop the protest, I get no sense that Gabe would have been reinstated. In fact, in this press release itself, USATF is getting caught in a lie. They claim they followed the process laid out in the competition rules but all indications are that they did not.

USATF can not be let off this easily. They have to be held accountable for what happened. We need to keep the pressure on them until they prove real, substantial changes have been made.

I know it doesn’t seem like much but please consider starting by signing this petition. It is asking to show this "new conclusive evidence" that USATF claims was used to overturn the appeal. This would be a first step in holding USATF accountable. Secondly, let’s keep our eyes open for ways to hold Max Siegel to his word when he states "We are all looking forward and will address our processes to try to minimize the potential for controversy or misunderstanding in the future." Suggestion for Siegel: a good place to start would be a transparent process.

Don’t let this go away quietly. Let’s use this ugly affair to spur on some real change.

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