The Inside Story Of Gabriele Grunewald’s DQ – Insider Access, False Promises And A Violation Of USATF’s Own Rules?

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by LetsRun.com
February 24, 2014

Editor’s note: Jordan Hasay has withdrawn her appeal and Gabriele Grunewald has been reinstated as USATF 3000m champion. The article below is still a must read on a crazy story and process at the USATF national championships.

By now, you know that Gabriele Grunewald has been disqualified after running away from Nike Oregon Project teammates Shannon Rowbury and Jordan Hasay on the last lap of yesterday’s women’s 3,000 at the 2014 USA Indoor Track and Field meet.

Grunewald was the dominant winner on the track but the winner off the track was Nike coach Alberto Salazar, who protested Grunewald’s win and ultimately got her disqualified and now, barring a win by Grunewald in arbitration or the courts, Salazar’s athlete Jordan Hasay, not Grunewald, is going to Worlds.

What you don’t know is how the disqualification went down. We have the inside story and it raises many disturbing questions surrounding insider access and potential violation of USATF rules.

We spoke today with Gabriele Grunewald’s husband Justin as well as her agent Paul Doyle and her coach Dennis Barker of Team USA Minnesota. Here is the inside story of Grunewald’s DQ.

Doyle said that after the race was over, the head referee went over to talk to the official on the turn who had raised his or her flag after Grunewald and Hasay made contact with roughly 180 meters remaining in the race. They talked things over and determined no foul had occurred.

Alberto Salazar (or someone working for him) protested the race result and said his athlete Hasay had been fouled.

How the Grunewald camp learned of the protest is certainly interesting. In industry circles, it’s long been known that Salazar and fellow Nike coach Jerry Schumacher have a frosty relationship to say the least. Their relationship, or lack thereof, reached a new low yesterday when after the men’s 3,000, Salazar was physically restrained during a confrontation with Schumacher.

“Alberto is protesting and he’ll get his way.”

Before that happened, Justin Grunewald revealed to us today that it was Schumacher, whom Grunewald called a “saint,” who tipped the Grunewald camp off about the Salazar appeal and ominously predicated exactly what was about to happen.

“You need to do something ASAP, Alberto is protesting and he’ll get his way,” Justin Grunewald says Schumacher told them after Schumacher saw Salazar file a protest.

Once aware that a protest was going on, Justin Grunewald ran over to the officials tent and asked if he could learn what was being alleged in the protest. He was told he could not. About 20 or 30 minutes later, Justin Grunewald says “a blonde-haired official, in her 50s”came out and told him, “The protest was easily denied. You have nothing to worry about. There was nothing to protest even.”

Alberto Salazar then appealed the referee’s decision to the Jury of Appeals.

For Salazar’s appeal to be successful, he faced a high hurdle according to the USATF rule book. The USATF rules are written much like the rules in the NFL – you are supposed to give the benefit of the doubt to the initial ruling unless there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Rule 119 4a) says,“The decision of the Referee or the Chief Race Walking Judge shall be upheld unless shown to be clearly erroneous.”

Doyle said three people are on the Jury of Appeals and two of them are Sue Humphrey, who is the chair of USATF’s Women’s Track and Field Committee, and women’s committee member Anne Timmons. He didn’t know who the third person on the Jury of Appeals was. They looked at video evidence from the television broadcast of the race and declined Salazar’s appeal.

“The three-person jury reviewed the video and determined that there was no infraction,” said Doyle.

USATF Says Grunewald Is The Champion – You Can Go Home Now – Oh, Wait, Alberto’s “Sticking His Head” Into The Officials Tent

At this point, Gabriele Grunewald’s representatives were told everything was over – Grunewald was the champion and everyone could go home. That makes sense as according to the USATF rule book, a ruling by the Jury of Appeals is final unless “new conclusive evidence” is presented.

Rule 119 4a) says,“The decision of the Jury of Appeal shall be final. There shall be no further right to appeal. The Jury of Appeal may, however, reconsider decisions if new conclusive evidence is presented. In Youth Athletics, only video designated as official by the Games Committee before the competition may be used.”

Doyle’s employee, Piotrek Buciarski (the CFO of Doyle Management) was told he could leave as Grunewald was in the clear:

Grunewald was smiling why she was on the track

Grunewald was smiling while she was on the track.

“(Piotrek) actually said (to USATF), ‘Can I leave you my phone number in case anything changes and there is any further appeal?’ and they said, ‘No that’s not necessary this is a final decision,’” said Doyle. “He went on about his business but about 20 minutes later, he happened to be walking by the protest area again and saw that Alberto Salazar was talking to the jury and apparently the appeal had been re-opened.”

Barker tells a similar story.

“The appeal was ruled unanimously in our favor twice and they said everything was done. They said there were no more appeals to be done. We were actually leaving the place and as we were leaving I looked over at the curtains where the (jury) was and I saw Alberto sticking his head through the curtains, talking to them. So I went back to the table and I said, ‘So we’re good?’ And they said, ‘Yeah we’re good. There is absolutely no evidence there was a foul based on our findings. It’s done.’”

“But I thought, ‘This doesn’t look good’ as there were a few other Nike people starting to congregate around the curtains. So I decided I’d just hang out for a little while and then all of a sudden one of the Nike guys started writing another appeal and I said “Based on the rule-book, it says no other appeals can be made (once the Jury of Appeals rules). The decision is final unless there is new evidence. But they said, ‘Well there is new evidence.’”

The Smoking Gun? Eagle Eye Admits There Was No New Video Evidence

This is where it gets interesting.

Both Doyle and Barker say that the people who work for Eagle Eye, those in charge of instant replay, said no new evidence was presented. As Barker explained:

“So I went over the Eagle Eye guys and said, ‘Has new evidence been uncovered?’

A couple of the Eagle Eye guys said to me directly. ‘No. We just replayed the exact same footage that we had. There was no new footage – nothing new at all.’ As soon as they said that, some (USATF) official came over and talked to them and then they weren’t allowed to talk to us anymore.”

Doyle says Piotrek Buciarski’s experience was similar:

“The supervisor from Eagle Eye heard him (Piotrek) talking to the technicians and told them not to answer any questions. (The supervisor) then went over and spoke to a member of the jury and came back and told Piotrek that they can’t confirm or deny anything and they aren’t going to answer any questions.”

The third appeal didn’t go well for the Grunewald camp as she was disqualified. The Grunewald camp appealed that disqualification but were rebuffed.

Very Simple – What Is The “New Conclusive Evidence?”

In general, courts don’t like to get involved in sporting disputes.The problem for the Salazar camp and USATF, from a legal standpoint, is USATF’s own rules say that a decision by the Jury of Appeals is final and can’t even be appealed unless “new conclusive evidence was presented.”

More than 24 hours after the fact, USATF has failed to respond to multiple requests by both the Grunewald camp and LetsRun.com to provide proof that any such new evidence was presented, let alone conclusive evidence.

As Justin Grunewald said, “They don’t communicate at all. They won’t talk to us. They won’t do anything. They just said she’s disqualified. They won’t let us see the video as to why she was disqualified.”

One would think, given the uproa in the track and field world that has taken place over the last 24 hours. that culminated with most of the women in the women’s 1500m walking off the track after the race hand-in-hand in protest, that if such new evidence existed that USATF would simply release the information to dampen the public relations disaster. One also would think such new additional evidence would have found its way onto the telecast today on NBCSN, but nothing new was shown.

The only comment that USATF did issue was in press release where they claimed “The Jury of Appeal then reviewed additional video evidence and reversed their initial ruling.”

Real simple, USATF, please release the “additional video evidence.” If not, you clearly have acted in violation of your own rule book.

24 hours after the fact, Barker isn’t buying the line that such evidence exists:

“What they say is enhanced video – well that’s total bs. The Eagle Eye guys said to me it was the exact same footage they had played twice before that they used before to rule on our behalf. Now they are digging in to protect themselves and saying what they need to say to protect the company line. Even if the officials (wanted to say something else), I feel a couple of them feel like they are being coerced to say what they are saying.”

We asked both Barker and Doyle why would a Jury of Appeals reverse a decision without seeing new evidence.

Doyle, who as an agent receives a significant portion of his income from contracts that his athletes have with Nike, refused to speculate.

“I don’t want to speculate. I definitely don’t want to speculate,” said Doyle slowly. “I just know the end result is not the correct result and I’m hoping the USOC intervenes and gets this thing right because it’s a tragedy from Gabe’s standpoint if she’s not given the national title and the chance to run in Poland.”

“I think it was coercion from Nike”

Alberto Salazar

Alberto Salazar

Dennis Barker held nothing back.

“I think it was coercion from Nike,” said Barker about the shoe giant who is USATF’s #1 sponsor (reports have stated Nike contributes north of $10 million per year to USATF’s $23 million budget). “It just seemed to me that Alberto sticking his head in there and talking to the committee while they were meeting and the other Nike people hovering around there, I think there was intimidation.”

Speaking of coercion, when the Grunewald camp appealed the DQ to the Jury of Appeals, Doyle says Alberto Salazar was allowed to speak to the jury, but the reverse wasn’t allowed:

“Meanwhile when our appeal was going through Alberto Salazar was there, sticking his head through the curtain and speaking to the jury members and he then turned to Darren Treasure (the sports psychologist Salazar’s camp uses) and gave him a thumbs up.

Piotrek, (Buciarski), who works for me went over to stand by there to see if there was anything he needed to hear. The jury member asked Piotrek who he was and he said, ‘I’m a representative for Gabe Grunewald,’ and they said, ‘Ok I need to talk to Alberto – will you please step away.’ They actually made him step away and then they came back and announced that Gabe had been disqualified.”

To think that Alberto Salazar doesn’t have special access with USATF would be wrong if Doyle’s account is accurate. (Editor’s note: We reached out for Alberto Salazar several times this weekend searching for a comment but have not received a response).

Justin Grunewald Loses His Cool to Alberto: “This is bullshit. How do you sleep at night? You’ve got a defibrillator in your chest.”

Justin Grunewald admitted to us that when he was notified that his wife was disqualified, he lost his composure and lashed out at Salazar and screamed at Salazar, “She’s had cancer twice. This is bullshit. How do you sleep at night? You’ve got a defibrillator in your chest.” (Editor’s note: Gabe Grunewald is a two-time cancer survivor and Salazar is a heart attack survivor who survived 14 minutes without a pulse)

USATF employee Jim Estes grabbed Grunewald and said according to Grunewald, “You can’t talk to Alberto Salazar like that.”

So What’s Next?

When we spoke to Doyle on Sunday afternoon, he said that his camp had contacted the United States Olympic Committee and they were informally trying to have USATF resolve things.

“Hopefully we learn something tonight, but if not we’re definitely filing arbitration tomorrow,” said Doyle. “Right now the USOC is unofficially trying to prevent this from happening and trying to talk USATF into finding a solution. But if we file the Section 9 (Arbitration) with the USOC, they will officially come in and try to rectify the result, and if we’re not happy with the result, then we file with the courts.”

At 11:15 pm Mountain Time we spoke with Doyle again. He said the unofficial attempts to get USATF to reconsider with unofficial pressure from the USOC had failed. He said therefore they had filed an official arbitration request with the USOC and notified USATF of their actions. He said the arbitration request should be approved on Monday and they are hoping to have a hearing by Wednesday or Thursday.

Quick Thought #1: This is very simple to us – USATF needs to show the “new conclusive” evidence that a foul took place or raise the white flag.

Jordan Hasay before the DQ

Jordan Hasay before the DQ.

Paul Doyle summed things up perfectly:

At first the officials said there was no infraction. Then it was appealed and they said again, “No infraction.” They appealed again and all three of the jury members reviewed the tape and they said there was no infraction. Now all of the sudden it changes?

Why? …

They haven’t provided us with any new evidence. To our knowledge and what we’ve been told , there is no new evidence.

And conclusive evidence – those are the key words. Even if they do prove they have new video evidence, it has to be conclusive to reopen the appeal – simply new video evidence won’t reopen the appeal.

We are very confident that we will win (in arbitration).”

Quick Thought #2: While Doyle is focused on the technicalities of the appeal process and whether they were followed correctly, he believes that there were zero grounds for Grunewald to be DQed, let alone conclusive evidence for a Grunewald DQ. He actually believes that the person most responsible for the contact and the one committing a foul, if there was one, was Hasay, not Grunewald.

Doyle thought that no foul worthy of a DQ occurred, but urged us to go back and watch a race replay which he said he’d done a hundred times. He said the contact between Hasay and Grunewald was caused because Hasay moved to the outside on the homestretch hoping to pass Rowbury. When Hasay realized that wasn’t going to happen, a tiring Hasay moved back into the inside which is where Grunewald was throughout and contact was made with Grunewald.

Here are two screen shots of what Doyle is talking about.

Hasay on the outside of lane one approaching the bell

Hasay on the outside of lane one approaching the bell.

Hasay comes back in the contact occurs

Hasay comes back in and the contact occurs.

We highly urge you to watch the video replay here at the 10:00 mark. Remember, for the Jury of Appeals to overturn the referee’s initial decision not to DQ Grunewald, the evidence has to show the referee was “clearly erroneous” in his or her initial decision. And for the Jury of Appeals to hear an appeal of their initial ruling to not overturn the referee, they have to be provided with “new conclusive” evidence.

Doyle also added that the television viewers (like ourselves initially) who thought Grunewald bumped Rowbury from behind later in the lap were incorrect. He said slow motion replays (which were shown on NBCSN today which we watched and confirmed) showed that Grunewald caught up to Rowbury so quickly she was caught off guard and had to jump outside to avoid her. Grunewald’s jerk outside caused some to assume she had run into Rowbury from behind which he said wasn’t the case, except for possibly grazing her arm incidentally. Rowbury even admitted to LRC that no foul occurred.

Quick Thought #3: If you don’t think lots of people in the sport are indirectly intimidated or influenced by the financial might of Nike, then you don’t understand how things work. Case in point: Justin Grunewald confirmed Sunday that a story hinted at by Jon Gugala on twitter was true.

After losing his cool last night with Alberto Salazar (editor’s note added at 12:05 pm central 2/24: when Justin says he yelled at Salazar, “This is bullshit. How do you sleep at night? You’ve got a defibrillator in your chest”), Justin Grunewald in a stroke of pure coincidence ended up in the same elevator as Alberto Salazar on Sunday morning, but this time it was Salazar who lost his cool according to Grunewald. Salazar didn’t recognize Justin Grunewald from the night before but did realize that Grunewald was staring at him so Salazar asked him who he was. Grunewald deadpanned, “I’m Justin Grunewald. I’m going to be a doctor, and I have a good life.”

Salazar then responded according to Grunewald, “Oh, I know who the f— you are. Get the f— out of my face.”

Update 12:05 pm central 2/24: Alberto Salazar’s son Alex has written disputing his dad said “I know who the f— you are. Get the f— out of my face” and asking viewers to remember the context.

Main portion of Alex Salazar’s email to LRC indented below:

“I’m not going to comment on the rest of the story as there will be a time for that.

I do want to clear up this “altercation with Justin Grunewald.  Below is your story that you released this morning.  You link to the story and quotes from Gugala so you know the whole story yet this is all you choose to write? Why? Because it makes Alberto come across as this crazy guy which only helps your story?

Put yourself in Albertos shoes.  This guy screams something in his face on Saturday night about his defibrillator.  Then confronts him in an elevator 12 hours later in a very threatening manner.

Justin: “You can only push me so far before I break”.   Alberto: “Do I know you?”  Justin: “You’re gonna know who I am”  Alberto: “I don’t know who you are” Justin “I’m going to be a doctor, I’m Justin Grunewald”

Alberto never said “I know who the fuck you are, get the Fuck out of my face”.  On Sunday at the track we had to have him identified so we knew to steer clear of him.  So Alberto still didn’t know who he was on Sunday afternoon, so of course he wouldn’t say “I know who the fuck you are”.  Let’s face it, we have a very unfortunate incident that will be cleared up in the next 48 hours and you have a team of people Grunewald and Dennis Barker doing everything they can to smear Alberto and Nike which helps there story.

I just ask you report the truth, not 2nd and 3rd hand stories that are tweeted and emailed to you by biased parties. 

LRC editor’s note 12:05 central 2/24: You will see in the next two paragraphs we explained with initial publication of this story why LRC initially declined to run the elevator incident story, but changed our mind. We also note that this was the version of events from Grunewald and Baker and that we had reached out to Salazar for comment without receiving one. We also included the incident of Grunewald yelling at Salazar on Saturday night in our story and in the editing process have given Grunewald’s comments, “This is bullshit. How do you sleep at night? You’ve got a defibrillator in your chest” their own bold headline.

Jon Gugala wrote a piece on their encounter but Run Blog Run which had been carrying his pieces this week didn’t want to carry it. The Daily Relay initially published it but then took it down. Getting on the bad side of Nike can be a very expensive decision for a website/magazine.

We ourselves were offered it but weren’t going to publish, not out of advertising fears, but simply because we felt it was gratuitous and would put the focus on Salazar and take away from the focus on USATF in our estimation not following their own rules. But we changed our minds once the piece was published and then taken down on The Daily Relay as people already saw it when it was up and it is a great small example of how people tread very lightly when it comes to Nike because they invest a disproportionate amount of the dollars in pro track and field in the US.

Quick Thought #4: Dennis Barker ended our discussion talking optimistically, hoping that the Grunewald situation would be an event that leads to some much-needed change with USATF.

“I told Jim Estes, ‘This isn’t the end of this, it’s just the beginning.’ There needs to be changes in the organization – there’s cronyism and corruption. This kind of crap happens meet after meet. Every athlete knows the next time it could be them and that’s why now there is this groundswell of people who want to change the organization.

And I think it’s going to be changed – whether they like it or not.

Every national meet you go to, it’s like they’ve never run a meet before. If they put the rules out there and let everybody follow exactly what the rules are, like how many people are going to get in (to each event), what the deadlines are, what happens if there are scratches, then people would accept it and be okay with it. But they don’t do that. They just have this secrecy and they jump people over other people (to get into the meet) and it gets to the point where you don’t have any confidence in them at all.

That’s why I’ve asked for USATF members nationwide to send a vote of no confidence to USATF. How can you have confidence in an organization that consistently screws the athletes?”

One thing though that likely won’t be changed for the better is Barker’s view of his fellow coach, Alberto Salazar.

“I don’t think this is about (Jordan Hasay) at all. It’s been all about Alberto. I mean he’s basically an egomaniac and this has all been his doing. The fact of the matter is with 400 meters to go, you could see on Jordan Haasy’s face that she was not going to be a factor in that race.

I know Gabriele really well and I knew (by looking at her) she was loaded for the last 400. The only impediment Jordan Hasay had in the last 200 meters was a lack of training for what was needed to get on the team. And if she is honest with herself, she’d admit she was toast with 200 to go. I’m sure she’s very nice and would maybe admit that if you asked her, but I don’t think she’s allowed to admit that. Alberto has such tight control over his athletes – they aren’t making those decisions and aren’t saying anything so the decision isn’t really theirs.”

The thing with Gabriele was just the beginning (for Salazar). After the men’s 3,000, he came storming back there red-faced and went after Jerry Schumacher. He had a lot going on – he was popping down protests at 100 dollars a pop – one for Gabriele and then one they did to DQ Andrew Bumbalough.

He had his two minions walking around with him trying to intimidate people. It was quite a scene, really embarrassing for him, pathetic really.

He’s a guy I used to look up to, but I have absolutely zero respect for him any more.”

Editor’s note: We reached out for Alberto Salazar several times this weekend searching for a comment but he never responded.

 More: Gabe Grunewald Blows Away The Field Over The Last Lap & Wins Her First US National Championship – Or Does She?
*Alberto Salazar To Gabe Grunewald’s Husband: “Get the f— out of my face.”