June 24, 2015
Dennis Mitchell, the convicted doper who admitted at the Trevor Graham trial to taking HGH (but at the time of his positive test said he had high testosterone because he had five bottles of beer and sex with his wife at least four times), is now the paid director of the USATF relay program, and he was hired for this position by the USATF national office with no consultation of the USATF High Performance Committee.
The last two years, Mitchell has served as the head sprint coach of Team USA at the World Relays, and many assumed that he was serving in a volunteer capacity like the other coaches. LetsRun.com can now report that Mitchell is in fact a paid employee or contractor for USATF, heading up its relay team for the World Championships and Olympics.
Numerous attempts to speak to Mitchell or anyone at USATF behind this decision have gone unanswered.
More troubling to us than Mitchell actually coaching Team USA without first addressing the media and admitting what he has done is that no one at USATF will take responsibility for the decision. Jill Geer, director of communications for USATF, wrote us two weeks ago saying, “Dennis Mitchell is currently recognized as one of the top sprint coaches in the world and is in charge of our relay program. Dennis was vetted and hired by our high performance team, including both staff and volunteers.”
LetsRun.com then contacted World and Olympic champion Mike Conley, who understands the workings of USATF well. Conley used to work in a paid position in the national office as the Executive Director of the High Performance program at USATF. Now he is on the volunteer side as head of the USATF High Performance Committee.
Conley said, “My High Performance Committee did not vet Dennis. He was totally hired by the national office.” Conley went on to say that he wished there was a discussion on the merits of hiring Mitchell as that is something that should have been done. Conley noted he is “really good friends with Dennis” and generally of the “when they’ve done the time, they’ve done the time” line of thinking, but that bringing Mitchell (with his drug conviction) on as USA relays coach should have warranted an honest debate. He said, “I would love to be a part of that discussion. I would have loved to have heard that discussion. On the process side, I wish we had the conversation.”
Conley said in the national office “at some point there was some rationale and a discussion (on who to select as relays director) and they chose Dennis. (Why?) That is what you have to figure out.”
LRC went back to Jill Geer to give her Conley’s comments that his committee was not involved in the hiring or vetting of Mitchell. Geer reiterated she never said Conley’s committee hired Mitchell and wrote, “Relay staff planning began during a USATF Relay Summit meeting last fall, where USATF’s High Performance staff brought together top-tier sprint coaches and high performance thought leaders to discuss approaches to take on USATF’s relay program to maximize the likelihood of successful Team USA performance in the relays, with the primary focus being on technical execution and baton passes. The discussion also included identifying a coach or coaches to run the program. The plan and philosophies that came out of that meeting, including Dennis Mitchell as the National Relay Coach, was presented for discussion by USATF’s High Performance staff to the High Performance Executive Committee during the 2014 Annual Meeting in Anaheim. Coming out of that meeting, we moved forward with the relay program, including Dennis as National Relay Coach.”
LRC then contacted Conley again and he flat out said there was “no discussion” in the High Performance Executive Committee about the hiring of Dennis Mitchell. Conley even said he checked with another committee member to make sure the Dennis discussion didn’t occur when he was out of the room. Another High Performance Executive Committee Member, Ron Daniel (race walks) said he did not even know Mitchell was in a paid position. Attempts to speak with USATF Managing Director of High Performance Programs (paid position), Duffy Mahoney, were unsuccessful.
USATF has shown a tremendous lack of leadership and transparency on this issue.
If Dennis Mitchell is the best man in America to coach Team USA then USATF CEO Max Siegel needs to publicly state why and take ownership for the decision. Mitchell needs to publicly admit to his doping past and show what he is doing for clean sport. Until that happens, Dennis Mitchell should not be coaching Team USA.
Mitchell did admit at trial to taking HGH but the most we have seen him say publicly on the issue was when he admitted to Gatorzone.com in 2010 that he was “‘peer-pressured’ into ‘making bad choices’ while training under Trevor Graham for 90 days in North Carolina.”
The ability of Mitchell to remain silent is a reminder of how far off the radar track and field is in US sports spectrum. A mainstream sport in the USA would not try to get by with hiring a convicted doper without him first admitting to his transgressions and someone taking ownership of the decision to hire him. Instead USATF has not made Dennis available to the media and tried to give the impression there was a wide ranging discussion on the merits of Dennis with the USATF High Performance Committee when its chair said that never happened. Shame on USATF.
USATF should stand for clean sport and transparency. They have not made Dennis Mitchell available for media scrutiny.
On the Nike Oregon Project doping investigation report they have only issued this: “USADA is the appropriate organization to handle any inquiries regarding doping allegations in Olympic sports. USATF has no knowledge of or involvement in any doping investigations.” Nothing else.
Yet they have shown they can speak out about controversial issues when they don’t involve track and field. Within a day of its passage, Max Siegel issued a statement on Indiana Senate Bill 101. We wish Siegel was as willing to speak about controversial decisions he makes that affect the integrity of our sport.