Some Top American Athletes Will Miss 2023 Pan American U20 Champs Due to Passport Issues

When Judson Lincoln IV flew to Eugene for last month’s USATF U20 Outdoor Championships, he was focused on one thing: breaking 45 seconds in the 400 meters. The Virginia Tech freshman had come close at the ACC Championships in May, running 45.17 to win the 400, but the time was stricken from the record after Lincoln was controversially DQ’d for taunting after crossing the finish line.

“I was more worried about my time goals than finishing first or in the top two,” Lincoln said.

Lincoln was vaguely aware that if he ran well enough, he had the potential to represent Team USA at an international meet, and packed his passport for the trip. Once in Eugene, he was told that a top-two finish would put him on the team for the Pan American U20 Championships, to be held August 4-6 in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

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Though Lincoln missed his time goal, he did win the 400 in 45.47 on July 9, the final day of the meet. He was not completely sure whether he wanted to extend his lengthy season by another month, but a trip to Puerto Rico to wear the USA singlet held some appeal, so he went to team processing at a nearby hotel to give himself the option.

The Pan Am U20 championships begin on Friday in Puerto Rico

But when Lincoln presented his passport to USATF officials at team processing, he was told he would not be able to compete at the championships. Lincoln’s passport expires in October, but USATF’s selection policy requires all team members to present a passport that does not expire within six months of the Pan Am U20 Championships — even though American citizens do not require a passport to travel to Puerto Rico. Lincoln and the Virginia Tech coach who had accompanied him to Eugene, Andrew Dubs, asked USATF if it would be possible to make an exception, but were told that was not possible.

“They told me it was a World Athletics rule and that, I guess it makes it easier for them just to go off World Athletics,” Lincoln said. “…The rule is supposed to be six months [after the competition], and I think that’s because if for some reason you get stuck out there or something and it expires, then you’re stuck. I guess that’s why the big ruling is. That’s what they told me…Maybe World Athletics, they just made an overall rule just to make it simpler, but maybe that could probably be changed if you’re [a US citizen] going to a US territory.”

World Athletics says passport not required

A World Athletics spokesperson told that a passport is not mandatory for international competitions and that WA usually accepts the rules of the event’s host country regarding passport requirements. LetsRun reached out to USATF Associate Director of International Teams Kimberly Sims and USATF communications for clarification but did not receive a response.

As families return to overseas travel coming out of the pandemic, the United States is experiencing unprecedented demand for passports. It currently takes 10-13 weeks to receive one via routine processing and seven to nine weeks via expedited processing, and those delays have contributed to a number of athletes being unable to take their spot on the Pan Am U20 team.

Gage Gose, winner of the 400 hurdles, presented an expired passport, birth certificate, driver’s license, and application for an expedited passport at team processing but was turned away; Gage’s father, Ben, said he was told by Sims that World Athletics required a passport with at least six months remaining to verify age and citizenship requirements and that there was nothing she could do.

After Gose’s race on July 9, Ben offered to drive with Gage through the night to Seattle in an attempt to secure an expedited one-day passport before USATF had to submit its team on July 11. Sims told him that would not be possible as she had to “certify” the team by 10 p.m. on July 9.

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Team USA will also be without one of the brightest sprint stars of the entire meet: sprinter Christian Miller, who set a world U18 record of 10.06 to win the 100 at USA U20s and doubled back to claim the 200 in 20.51.

Miller had been aware of the selection procedure and applied for a passport in June once he realized it was a requirement to be on the team but was not able to secure his passport in time. Miller brought his driver’s permit and birth certificate to team processing but was told only a passport would suffice.

“For some people that don’t have their passport, I feel like they’d be able to make an exception since they can provide [the same] information that’s on their passport,” Miller said. “I wasn’t happiest with the rule and I didn’t really understand it but there was nothing I could really do about it so I kind of went on and said I’d be back next year.”

A source told LetsRun that Tinoda Matsatsa, winner of the 800 meters, is another athlete unable to compete at Pan Ams due to passport issues.

Desire for more transparency in future

While Ben Gose acknowledges that the passport requirement was listed in USATF’s selection procedure before the meet, he said he wished USATF had been more transparent from the beginning about why, exactly, the rule was in place and why other forms of ID were unacceptable.

“USATF is punishing several athletes who put in many months of work to win a U20 championship, without any opportunity to fix what really should just be a bureaucratic hiccup,” Ben Gose said.

“It’s been devastating for our son and I assume for the many other athletes who were denied the opportunity to represent their country through no fault of their own — but rather due to a flawed ‘team processing’ system.”
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