In response to the spate of controversies at last weekend’s USA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Albuquerque, the Track & Field Athletes Association (TFAA) has posted a petition on their website requesting an alteration to the appeals process at USA Track & Field (USATF) championship events.
The TFAA would like to have two appointed athletes present during any appeal in order to monitor the discussion and ensure the process is conducted properly:
The TFAA is requesting that going forward, at all major (senior) USATF Championship competitions, two athlete representatives, appointed by the TFAA, be allowed to sit in on all protest and appeal procedures at the competition. These athlete representatives would not be allowed to participate in or obstruct the review or decision-making process but rather be a silent observer, but with full access to all discussions, video review and written documentation. These athlete representatives would observe the process to ensure that proper protocol is followed, taking notes to document each action that occurs for future reference if necessary.
The intent and goal of this request is transparency, accountability and trust-building. The TFAA realizes that it is easy to throw around blame and opinions after a situation is over, and in the future would help assure actual and perceived integrity and confidence in the process for fans, coaches, agents and particularly for the athletes.
The TFAA’s request is a good one in light of what occurred last weekend. First, there was the unfair disqualification of Gabriele Grunewald, who was temporarily stripped of her national title after being accused of bumping a competitor during the women’s 3,000 (the disqualification was eventually, and rightfully, overturned). Then there was the even more ridiculous disqualification of Andrew Bumbalough, who was disqualified for interfering with another runner despite there being no video evidence to support the penalty. In both cases, the decisions to disqualify the runners came after appeals made by legendary coach Alberto Salazar, prompting some track fans to speculate that he exerted undue influence over the proceedings. The lack of transparency on the part of the USATF during the imbroglios was not appreciated by the track community, and the TFAA’s idea would be a small (but valuable) step towards rectifying that.