Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Is everything hunky-dory now that Gabe Grunewald is declared the winner of the USA indoor 3000?

If you read other track and field/running blogs around the country that deal with the elite side of the sport, you'll know by now (unless you've been hiding under a rock) about the non-disqualification, disqualification and withdrawal of disqualification of Gabe Grunewald (photo by Paul Merca from 2012 Olympic Trials) in the women's 3000 at last weekend's USA Indoor championships in Albuquerque that for a few days, put Jordan Hasay on the plane to Sopot, Poland for next weekend's world indoor championships.

The firestorm or feces meeting the proverbial fan from the blogosphere and Twitterverse was swift, ranging from calling Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar "sleazy", "whiny", and other adjectives not suitable for publishing.

There's been reaction about Grunewald's camp not allowed access to the protest area that the Salazar/Nike camp had access to because Nike is USA Track & Field's largest sponsor, along with the introduction of "enhanced video" that led to the Salazar camp getting their way and getting Grunewald DQ'd after two denials by the meet's Jury of Appeals.

(Before we get too far, for the purposes of this post, we won't delve into the disqualification of Andrew Bumbalough from the men's 3000, not to mention the near scuffle between Salazar and Jerry Schumacher, Bumbalough's coach, and Salazar screaming at Lopez Lomong accusing him and Bumbalough of impeding Galen Rupp, Salazar's athlete, though it begs the question on what was the evidence that got Bumbalough disqualified, and also whether or not Salazar violated any USATF coaches' code of conduct policies by berating Lomong. That's a whole different post).

Now I was not in Albuquerque to witness the meet, but numerous questions about the Grunewald case need to be answered:

A)  How did the Salazar camp get a third chance to protest when their first two protests to the referee and the Jury of Appeals were denied? Was Salazar, because he is an employee of USATF's biggest corporate sponsor, given an extra lifeline not available to any coach/athlete without a Nike sponsorship? And if so, why would USATF go out of its way to violate their own rules?

B)  There has been talk that after the first two protests were denied, enhanced video footage magically showed up. What is the video, and why won't USA Track & Field release it?  I don't want to speculate, but for all I know, it could be some kid's cell phone video, or video from the stands (neither of which is admissible in making a protest). Whatever it is, tell the public what it is and show it. In the NFL, the same video that a referee uses to review instant replay, or a coaches challenge is shown to the general public, both in stadium and at home. Otherwise, the refusal to show the evidence makes it look like a conspiracy by USATF, Nike, and the Salazar camp to cover their behinds using the veil of Jordan Hasay's withdrawal from the world indoor team. This appears to be a case where perception trumps reality.

C) Related to B, why is Jordan Hasay withdrawing if this supposed enhanced video footage available is enough to get Grunewald disqualified?  Did she cave in to the pressure of a potential public relations disaster?

It's cool that Gabe Grunewald got her spot on the plane for Sopot, but until these questions get answered, the athletes, coaches and agents, and most importantly, the viewing public (or what's left of the viewing public that didn't stumble upon the meet on TV while flipping channels) will rightfully be skeptical of any actions that USA Track & Field will take moving forward. There has to be steps taken to prevent the next athlete at a national championship or Olympic Trials from getting Grunewalded.

NOTES:  Here is the official USA Track & Field announcement stating that Grunewald was reinstated as the winner of the race, and a link to the official USATF release announcing the disqualification of Grunewald.


The Track & Field Superfan said...

I don't want to speculate, but for all I know, it could be some kid's cell phone video, or video from the stands (neither of which is admissible in making a protest).

Multiple knowledgeable sources have told me that the "enhanced video" was the same video we saw on TV and/or but enlarged. Whether or not that fits the relevant rule's requirement "new convincing evidence" isn't clear.

Mercanator said...

Jesse, I've heard the same thing from folks I trust, but until USATF publicly admits it, the general public is left to speculate. In the end, everyone looks bad.

This whole thing reminds me of a quote I once heard about the sport from someone--"The only amateurs in track & field are the ones running it".

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