The wreck of a track and field meet that USATF held in Albuquerque six weeks ago has created a sideshow that could very well change the sport in some very dramatic ways. When I last blogged about this meet we had two controversial disqualifications that left athletes pissed off to the max and fans shaking their heads. USATF stepped up last week and said it would form a committee to examine the disqualifications, more than a full month after the meet happened.
What's become all too clear is that USATF is for amateurs. It has no business running the professional side of track and field. An organization that handles youth track to masters track simply should not be dealing with a professional sport where potentially large sums of money hang in the balance.
Professional track and field athletes should expect and demand a professionally run organization. The athletes and their coaches should have a clear understanding of the sports rules and regulations. The shoe companies cannot impose their will on how the sport is run. Favored shoe company status (Yes, I'm talking about NIKE) is unfair.
There is rumbling that a boycott of this summer's outdoor national championship meet could come about should the Albuquerque committee's findings be less than satisfactory. Given the fact there are no World Championship slots up for grabs a boycott by non-NIKE athletes wouldn't surprise me in the least. I think it would be a good thing.
A better thing would be for Max Siegel to sit down with the athletes, seriously, the top 20 in each event, and figure out a way to divorce the professional side of the sport from the amateur side. Siegel needs to bring all the shoe companies to the table and figure out how to make it possible.
The biggest hurdle is money. I'm guessing that a lot of USATF relies heavily from all those membership fees it sucks in from youth and masters athletes. Although, I'm sure this is chump change when compared to the sponsorship money that is at stake. The devil will be in the details.
Now I'm not saying USATF should go away altogether. The athletes need the officials and judges that USATF has trained to run their meets. The bulk of those folks work for free. And therein lies the crux. A professional sport in the hands of unpaid part-timers.
It's easy to see why Albuquerque turned into such a cluster fuck. That's why in the end, at the very biggest meets, where money and prestige is on the line, there has to be an unbiased panel making decisions on how gets in and who doesn't, who gets disqualified and how moves on. But that won't happen until a house cleaning takes place at the highest reaches of USATF. Too many coaches and too many officials have allegiances and enemies that have led to mess. I'll be honest, I don't see an easy fix to this can of worms.