USATF DQ Report Released: Did Alberto Salazar Have Undue Influence? We Still Don’t Know

5 Takes on USATF’s DQ Report

July 9, 2014

So after four months, USATF’s report on the DQ controversies at February’s USA Indoor Track & Field Championships in Albuquerque is finally out. Conveniently for USATF, they released it hours before the start of a long holiday weekend last Thursday.

We refuse to ignore it however.

5 days later, we have five main thoughts.

1. Are you kidding? It took four months for this? It reminds us of a fifth grader’s generic book report.

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We were stunned by how generic the report was.

Given how much time passed, we figured it would be very detailed and would include a detailed account of what happened, who talked to who, what exactly was said, etc.

Instead we got a generic statement along the lines of “No undue influence took place” and “The DQ rules are very vague and need to be changed.”

Well we knew the DQ rules were vague by looking at the rule book. As for their being no undue influence, conflicts of interest, etc. we have no idea if that’s true. The report didn’t even state who was on the Jury of Appeal, what potential conflict of interests they might have had and who actually spoke to whom during the whole fiasco.

We’re just supposed to take their word for it and believe that the Jury reached an impartial decision even though they didn’t have a private room to make their decision in, and as a result, they had to deal with Alberto Salazar talking to them in person and Paul Doyle on the phone.

In our mind, the crazy thing about the report is that — even after reading it — the main question we had going in still isn’t answered:

2) Did Alberto Salazar have undue influence on the process (either intentionally or not)? 

The nationwide uproar about the ABQ DQ controversy, which resulted in 200,000 people reading our behind the scenes look at it –  The Inside Story Of Gabriele Grunewald’s DQ – Insider Access, False Promises And A Violation Of USATF’s Own Rules? – took place because many people believed Alberto Salazar had undue influence on the process.

The controversy went viral because Grunewald’s representatives were told by the Jury of Appeal they could go home as there was no DQ, and yet there ended up being a DQ later in the evening after Salazar was seen with his head in the Jury of Appeal’s tent.

As the report says:

One of the more troublesome aspects of the series events was the appearance to some observers, certainly to Grunewald’s representatives but also to others, that in arguing on behalf of Hasay, Salazar was exercising the influence of Nike, which of course is a major USATF sponsor. (Grunewald runs for Brooks.) One newspaper report referred to “conspiracy theories and talk of Nike throwing its weight around.”

The report says this wasn’t the case:

(Salazar) specifically denies ever having made any reference to Nike in his arguments, and he denies that he in any way invoked
Nike’s relationship with USATF in connection with the appeal. The Jury of Appeal confirmed this to the working group, and also stated very forcefully that the affiliation of Nike with Salazar and Hasay did not in any way influence their decision. We have no reason at all to believe the contrary.

So the report says we have no reason “to believe the contrary,” but doesn’t even mention the names of the people on the Jury and tell us about their affiliations or potential conflicts of interest.

Salazar doesn’t have to invoke the word Nike to have undue influence, intentional or not. Given his past prominence in the sport as an athlete and now his prominent role as a coach for Nike, everyone knows who Salazar is and that seems to be clear with the Bumbalough DQ.

Ryan Hil, not Andrew Bumbalough, make contact just after 2k Ryan Hill, not Andrew Bumbalough, make contact just after 2k

To us, the report actually raises questions of undue influence from Salazar.  Check out this bullet point about the Andrew Bumbalough DQ:

“A meet official told Salazar that Bumbalough had interfered with Rupp. Salazar then filed a protest, identifying Bumbalough.”

The way that is written it appears that an official on his own initiative went up to Salazar to tell him a foul that Salazar didn’t see had occurred. That sure sounds like special influence to us. Why is an official going up to a coach to tell the coach about a foul he didn’t even see?

(How do we know that Salazar didn’t see the foul? Because the report tells us: “In fact, Salazar did not actually see the incident but had been told by an official that it was Bumbalough who had interfered with Rupp.“)

In Major League Baseball, the umps don’t go up to managers and say, “Hey, I know you weren’t looking and didn’t see this, but if you file a protest, I think you’ll get a call so make sure you file a protest.”

Now, we don’t know that’s what happened because the report is poorly written. It’s possible a Salazar associate saw the flag come up, told him about it and Salazar then asked the official about it but it’s certainly not written that way.

But if it did happen that way, with the official going out of his or her way to let Salazar know about a foul, we want to know if that is normal. The report doesn’t tell us. If an official sees a foul, shouldn’t he or she just go to the Referee and let the Referee disqualify the athlete? Or is it normal to go to a coach and tell them to get ready for a protest?

We don’t want to go off into crazy la-la conspiracy land, but we must admit we found it to be extremely odd that the bullet-point of, “A meet official told Salazar that Bumbalough had interfered with Rupp. Salazar then filed a protest, identifying Bumbalough” is in a slightly different font than the rest of report. How does that happen? Further proof this report was done in amateurish fashion.

That whole anecdote raises more questions than it answers in our mind.

Speaking of the report being poorly written and at a generic fifth grade book-report level, it seems to us that:

3) The over-turning of the DQ by USATF and Max Siegel was illegal and against USATF’s rules so why doesn’t the report state this emphatically?

The Jury of Appeals has "conclusive evidence" she was fouled, yet she's still not the 2nd place finisher. The Jury of Appeal saw “conclusive evidence” she was fouled, yet she’s still not been moved up from 4th to 3rd.

In March, thanks to some information provided to us by Greg Harger, we wrote a long article – Irony Of Ironies: USATF’s Reinstatement Of Gabriele Grunewald Was Another Example Of Itself Violating Its Own Rules And Making Them Up On The Spot – about how the overturning of Grunewald’s DQ by USATF Max Siegel was itself also a violation of USATF rules.

By rule, the Jury of Appeal could have only DQ’d Grunewald if they saw “new conclusive evidence” that a DQ was warranted and that all decisions of the Jury of Appeal are final.

The report says that Jury of Appeal saw this “new conclusive evidence” when the video was enlarged on a computer and not shown to them simply on a “bed sheet,” but amazingly doesn’t detail what they saw. The report just wants everyone to trust that they saw “it.” The report at a minimum should have quoted the members of the Jury of Appeal, stating exactly what they saw and why they DQ’d Grunewald.

Regardless, because the Jury of Appeal saw this conclusive evidence, Grunewald was DQ’d. Yet, even though all decisions by the Jury of Appeal are supposed to be final, she ultimately wasn’t DQ’d because that’s not the result Max Siegel, Hasay or Grunewald wanted.

What does the report say about this?

It says it’s not allowed but doesn’t say it directly:

“Nonetheless, as has been pointed out by some observers, there does not seem to be anything in USATF’s rules or in the Bylaws that would give the Chief Executive Officer (or anyone else) the authority to broker a settlement such as this or to effectively overturn a final decision by a Jury of Appeal. We urge that the Law & Legislation and Rules Committees review this matter and consider adding something to the appropriate document(s) to clarify how situations like this may be properly dealt with.”

The report is written in way too soft, generic language. It is saying “this isn’t allowed,” but doesn’t say it directly. Instead it uses the language “there does not seem to be anything.” Are you kidding us?

The head of USATF acted illegally, albeit with good intentions, to change the outcome of a nationally-televised national championship so the public would get the outcome they demanded and the report acts like it’s not a big deal? Really?

4) The report talks about the need for a mechanism to change mistakes that happened. Guess what? It already exists.

With regards to Bumbalough, as we’ve written before, we think he could be reinstated under this rule, “The Jury of Appeal may, however, reconsider decisions if new conclusive evidence is presented.”

Showing someone, “Hey you DQ’d the wrong person” when they didn’t realize it is new conclusive evidence. The jury never knew to look at the face of the person in the video and see if it was Bumbalough because they assumed it was. Showing them the video in this instance and pointing out the person’s face is “new conclusive” evidence.

5) If an athlete has been DQ’d, USATF needs to make him or her aware of it before the window of opportunity for filing an appeal closes.

With regards to the men’s 3000, the USATF report does a decent job laying out what happened in what order, but we don’t know how far apart everything took place. This is what the report says about the facts of the race:

“Not being aware that there was any disqualification in the race, and believing that there was no reason think there might be one, Jerry Schumacher, who coaches both Bumbalough and Hill, left the arena before the official results (showing the DQ) were posted. By the time he learned what had happened, the time for filing an appeal to the Jury of Appeal had expired.”

From that information, it’s impossible to tell when the official results were posted. We know they weren’t posted straight away because Salazar filed a protest and the Referee had to confirm that a foul occurred on video before he DQ’d Bumbalough. So Schumacher, who again, was not aware of a DQ and believed there was no reason to think there might be one, left the arena. At some point after that, the official results were posted and since athletes/coaches only have 30 minutes to file an appeal once the official results are up, the window was closed by the time he found out.

That’s an unprofessional way of doing things. It’s one thing if the official results come up on the video board with DQ next to a runner’s name. But in this instance, Schumacher and Bumbalough had no idea when the official results were going to be published (because they had no idea that Salazar had filed a protest) and when they did find out, USATF essentially told them that Bumbalough was DQ’d and there was nothing he could do about it.

The good news is that USATF addresses this issue in its report. Kind of.

One of the recommendations in the report is that USATF “Establish a procedure whereby athletes or their representatives may view the video evidence in protest and appeals situations.” This recommendation was actually suggested for the women’s 3000 so that athletes/coaches who wished to file a DQ/who would be affected by a DQ would be able to see the video evidence that the Jury of Appeal uses to make its decision. The report goes on to state that:

“While this procedure would not have deterred the appeal in the women’s 3000 in Albuquerque, making the video available to athletes adversely affected by a Referee’s decision (or their representatives) would in many cases avoid the need for further process, and in all cases would make the appeal process seem more transparent to athletes.”

Again, everything in this report is very vague, so it’s hard to tell whether “making the video available” to athletes is the same as telling them, “Someone is filing a protest against you, here’s the evidence we’re going to be judging you on.” We hope that USATF acts on this recommendation because, as they say, it “would make the appeal process more transparent to athletes.” For Bumbalough in Albuquerque, the appeal process couldn’t have been more opaque.

Messageboard discussion on the report: The ultimate holiday weekend news dump: USATF DQ report has been released.

Previous Coverage: The Story That Went Viral with 200,000 Views: The Inside Story Of Gabriele Grunewald’s DQ – Insider Access, False Promises And A Violation Of USATF’s Own Rules?
*Irony Of Ironies: USATF’s Reinstatement Of Gabriele Grunewald Was Another Example Of Itself Violating Its Own Rules And Making Them Up On The Spot
*The Inside Story Of The Andrew Bumbalough DQ: A Case Of Mistaken Identity Or A Near Catastrophe Bigger Than The Grunewald DQ Averted?
*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.”

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