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USATF Rudderless and Clueless

February 25, 2014 By: John Blue Category: General Running News, Track

The dust has settled and USATF has reinstated Gabrielle Grunewald as the indoor 3000 meters National Champion.

In my admittedly inexpert opinion, based on repeated viewing of the available video, Grunewald didn’t deserve a DQ. Track–particularly indoor track–is a physical sport. Elbows are thrown and minor jostling is commonplace.

Truthfully, I can’t really fault Salazar for protesting or even appealing the initial dismissal of his protest. It’s pretty normal for a coach to advocate on behalf of his athlete, even to the point of obnoxiousness. What was disturbing to me (and many other observers) was that there seemed to be an extra-legal process that led to the disqualification, and that Salazar got deferential treatment.

If Grunewald had simply been DQed, there would have been complaints. There would have been accusations of favoritism, but if it appeared the rules had been followed the disturbance would have passed. But instead, the protests grew in volume. “USATF corruption” was a trending hashtag on Twitter.

Initially, USATF issued a press release indicating that Grunewald had been DQed based on “additional video evidence.” Now USATF issues a press release indicating that Hassay withdrew the protest that led to Grunewald’s DQ. The problem here is that if there was evidence to support Grunewald’s DQ, Hassay’s withdrawal should have no impact.

Either there was reason for a DQ or there was not, regardless of Salazar/Hassay’s protest, and USATF’s weak press release does nothing to clarify the matter.

What is needed going forward is a some reform to insure that USATF follows it’s own rules and that there is transparency in the process. Despite repeated calls to do so, USATF never has (to date) released the “additional video evidence” they claim led to the disqualification. This leads many to believe there are no steadfast rules and that who you run for is more important than how you run.

And now that Gabrielle Grunewald has had her DQ reversed, it is time for USATF to step up and explain why Andrew Bumbalough was disqualified in the men’s 3000 meter race. USATF stated that the DQ was for “interference,” but most commentators who have reviewed the video come to the conclusion that officials simply confused Bumbalough with teammate Ryan Hill. (You can see Rupp stumble a bit as he passes Hill at about 5:00 into the video, but no contact with Bumbalough.)

Because Bumbalough only finished 8th there doesn’t seem to be the hue and cry for his reinstatement, but it is no less disturbing to me. It is obvious that USATF still has a lot of work to do to regain the trust and respect of athletes and spectators.


1 Comments to “USATF Rudderless and Clueless”

  1. Allen James says:

    As a two-time Olympian who won the ’95 USATF Champs in Sac-town and I was also born there, please don’t be offended. It’s my hope that the TFAA, our track and field athletes union, will organize a boycott of the Outdoor Championships. It’s not at all Sacramento’s fault, I loved competing there.

    It’s all about athletes rights and fair treatment from those corrupting the sport we love. The scandalous events of the Indoor meet were just enough to run the Titanic into that little bit of ice floating above the water. This has been 40+ years in the making and USATF (TAC, AAU) and the IAAF have been making money off of us for far too long. We’re limited in sponsorship opportunities and now the IOC even sensors athletes at the Olympic Games.

    By definition we are professional, yet we make on the average less than $10,000 per year. Our current and future athletic success will depend on this potential boycott and future actions to give stability to our pro athletes and remove the lame leadership limiting athletes personal value.

    It’s my hope that the TFAA will be able to strike new partnerships and exciting competitive opportunities to bring our sport back to the forefront of the sporting public. You can join our efforts by supporting TFAA go to and for as little as $20/yr you can help the cause. As a former elite athlete and Olympian, I recently joined too.
    Thank you!


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