Where Your Dreams Become Reality
Boston Publicity Stunt it Ultimately Hollow- Shoes Are Not Banned|
By David Monti
(c) 2007 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
April 17, 2007
At yesterday's 111th Boston Marathon, two Kenyan athletes with slim credentials appeared to be trying to steal the race, when in fact they were simply stealing television time, promoting a running shoe which is supposedly banned by USA Track & Field (USATF), the federation which governs athletics and road running in the United States.
The trouble is that the shoes, made by Spira Footwear of El Paso, Tex., aren't banned by USATF, despite Spira's recent filing of a lawsuit which suggests the contrary. In a press release circulated on April 9, the company said that they were suing the "International Amateur Athletic Federation," incorrectly naming the International Association of Athletics Federations, and the "United States Association of Track and Field," incorrectly naming USATF, over a technical rule which "purportedly bans spring
technology for competition." The suit involks the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and claims the company has been harmed because athletes are afraid of disqualification for wearing the shoes in competition which contain spring-like units called WaveSprings.
But in a brief written statement, USATF confirmed today that the shoes aren't banned: "Because of pending litigation, USATF cannot comment on Spira shoes beyond confirming that USATF has not examined or 'banned' the shoe, as we have publicly stated multiple times over the last year-plus," wrote USATF spokesperson, Jill Geer, in an e-mail message.
A spokesman for the Boston Marathon, Marc Chalufour, told RRW yesterday that the race is held under USATF rules and referred the question of the legality of the Spira shoes to USATF. The race, he said, has no specific ban on Spira shoes.
Although the two front-running Kenyans, Josephat Onjeri and Jared Nyamboki, dropped out of the race, the athlete who won the men's masters (40+) title at Boston, Oleg Strizhakov of Russia, was wearing Spira shoes. Calls from at least one message board that he be prevented from receiving the $10,000 prize because he wore the shoes would appear to be groundless.
Front runner publicity stunts in major marathons are nothing new, of course. Television producers are compelled to show the images of the race leader, no matter who they are or what their intentions. In one famous example, Paul Zimmerman led the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials Men's Marathon for 15 miles wearing a singlet with an enlarged "Intel" logo before dropping out.
"It's unfortunate that a casualty of that is the viewing public and the race," said Phil Stewart, editor & publisher of Road Race Management, a running industry newsletter. "It's nothing new."