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USATF CONVENTION OPENS ON OPTIMISTIC NOTE
By David Monti
(c) 2007 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

HONOLULU (29-Nov) -- With his books in the black and 26 medals (14 gold) won at last August's IAAF World Championships in Athletics, USATF CEO Craig Masback was riding high as he strode the podium to give his State of the Sport address at the opening session of the USATF annual convention here.

Reminding the 800+ attendees that their organization was $3,000,000 in debt back in 1997 when he took charge of the Indianapolis-based governing body, Masback said today that his organization was sitting on a significant reserve fund and was "poised to use our power to make a difference."

Indeed, under Masback's guidance the United States has minted global stars like Allyson Felix and Tyson Gay, Jeremy Wariner and Sanya Richards, Bernard Lagat and Alan Webb and Deena Kastor and Meb Keflezighi.  He called athletics "the world's best sport," and thanked the federation's members for their hard work and support to make the United States the world's #1 track team.

But Masback also acknowledged the sport's ongoing doping scandals, which he said were not over.  In the fight against doping, he called 2007 "a year of progress and pain."

"I regret to say that there are challenging days ahead," said Masback about the infamous cases of sprinters Justin Gatlin and Marion Jones and coach Trevor Graham which have yet to be fully resolved in various judicial forums.  He said that USATF could be proud of its anti-doping record, unlike sports like baseball which spent years denying that there was a problem and now has an all-time home run record holder who was recently indicted for lying about whether he used performance-enhancing drugs.

"In contrast, we are what America needs," he said of track and field when compared to Major League Baseball.

Masback said that the job of catching cheaters would never cease because a certain percentage of people would always try cheating as a means to get ahead.  He said dishonest athletes were no different from stock traders who used insider information or taxpayers lied about their incomes.

In the area of promoting the sport Masback said that in 2007 USATF enjoyed its highest-ever television ratings for a non-Olympic year, and that the television package for the 2008 Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., next summer included coverage on the USA Network, America's highest-rated cable channel, and NBC Sports.

"We have an incredibe TV schedule" for 2008, he said.

President Bill Roe also addressed the convention, handing out a dozen President's Awards and leading a group remembrance of members of the USA track and field community who had lost their lives in the past year.  He called fallen marathoner, Ryan Shay, who collapsed and died at the recent USA Olympic Team Trials - Men's Marathon, "a bright star who was nowhere near his peak."  He announced a special raffle which would benefit Shay's widow, Alicia Shay.


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