USATF Board Of Directors Responds To Extreme Backlash For Rejecting Membership IAAF Council Vote

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A Message From The USATF Board Of Directors

USATF Press Release
December 9, 2014

The Board’s selection of IAAF Representatives has been the topic of significant discussion within the USATF Community. The press release announcing our choices ( described the process as well as providing a brief statement about our discussion and rationale.

Articles 10 and 11 of the USATF Bylaws govern our Board of Directors, including the procedures for the selection of board members ( ) . These Articles include a nomination process from committees, up through the Nominating and Governance Panel, for the board positions representing High Performance, Coaches, Officials, Youth, General Competition and Long Distance Running. These groups each nominate three candidates, one of whom from each group is selected by the USATF Nominating and Governance Panel. Three athletes are directly elected by their constituents, three independent members are selected by the Nominating and Governance Panel, and a representative of 5C organizations sit on the board, as well as our IAAF representative.

Since our 2008 Annual Meeting, nominations for IAAF positions have been submitted by committees through the Nominating and Governance Panel for consideration and selection by the board. The intent of that legislation – written by a board that pre-dated the current board – was to increase the likelihood of American candidates being selected to IAAF positions. This effort has been largely successful.

Leading into the 2014 Annual Meeting, a memo was circulated seeking to change the selection procedures for the IAAF Council position to have it be a position elected by voting members at the Annual Meeting. This memo specifically stated that the explicit purpose of the change was to achieve the outcome of having our current IAAF Council representative, Bob Hersh, being re-appointed. The memo made several references to USATF being a democratic institution.

Very few organizations in our everyday lives are “pure democracies,” where decisions are made by a straight popular vote. At USATF, we vote for our officers and leaders via democratic means, but it is through a delegate system. And while democratic institutions such as governments have governance as their sole function, USATF also functions as a business. Our governance therefore is a combination of governance and business principles, under the USOC charter.

In the last two years, USATF’s business has seen more positive changes in our bottom line than ever before. Those changes have come about because of the efforts of our CEO, Max Siegel, who has increased revenue from $19M to $34M, increased net assets from less than $4M to $17M, and entered into nine new partnership agreements. The public needs to understand that Max as CEO oversees business, not governance. He had and has no role, and no vote, in the selection of our IAAF representatives.

The IAAF representative position is a diplomatic position, representing USATF at a global representative body – the IAAF. Even in the world’s greatest democracy, the United States, our diplomatic positions such as ambassadors are appointed, not elected. This IAAF position is no different. It, as well as our candidates for IAAF committees, are selected by the board after input from membership and committees.

In the case of Friday’s selections, we took the recommendation of the USATF body that was present at the Annual Meeting very seriously. That body voted by more than 80 percent to suggest Bob Hersh for the IAAF position. Bob has been part of the IAAF in various capacities since 1984, and is currently Sr. Vice President. He serves the IAAF very actively and very ably in many capacities. Stephanie has been active in the sport internationally for more than 35 years and is highly respected in IAAF circles.

The IAAF is at the threshold of perhaps the biggest change in its history. Its President, Lamine Diack, will finish his time in office this August. Diack has been IAAF president since 1999; he was preceded by Primo Nebiolo, who served from 1981 until his death in 1999. Elite athletes currently competing have never done so under any president but Diack.

The top two candidates for Diack’s successor are Sebastian Coe, who oversaw the wildly successful 2012 London Olympic Games, and Sergey Bubka, one of the most successful track athletes in history. Coe has already declared his candidacy, writing a manifesto that discusses the need for the sport to modernize. Bubka is expected to declare as well. No matter which candidate is selected, it is clear the IAAF will move into a very new era and into a new direction.

Change is difficult for any organization. It is especially difficult when it involves long-serving officials. In 2015, there will be significant, structural change at the IAAF – with their leadership, with their direction, vision and politics. This is a different era and a different time. We think Stephanie Hightower provides us with the best chance to move forward as part of that change.

Far from subverting USATF’s democratic process, we followed it. An hour before the board convened our meeting, the membership enacted governance changes that enabled them to recommend an IAAF Council nominee to the board. That legislation required a super-majority, 2/3 vote of our board to reject and then select another candidate different than the one recommended by the body. The board that met on Friday included three newly selected board members in their first meeting. Only one person from a board comprised of representatives from officials, coaches, athletes, LDR, high performance and general competition dissented to the selection of Stephanie Hightower.

Leaders are charged to lead and to make difficult choices. This was a choice about the opportunity to be a key part of a historic change that will take place at the IAAF this August, and to have an opportunity to be among the leaders of that change. The next 10 years at the IAAF will bear little resemblance to the previous 30.

As a board, we follow USATF procedures and make hard choices. We recognize that this choice was unpopular among those in attendance at the Annual Meeting, but we believe we made the right choice for the organization for the right reasons. We are optimistic that the coming year will continue the growth of the organization at all levels.

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