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Just The Facts, Ma’am

Just The Facts, Ma’am
Jesse Squire

On Saturday night at the USATF Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, Gabe Grunewald won her first national title in the 3000 meters. Later that night, she was disqualified for “for clipping and impeding the stride of Jordan Hasay” on the final lap of the race. How that disqualification came to be is quite controversial, to say the least.

Here is what we know, or at least think we know.

At the beginning of the last lap of Saturday’s race, physical contact occurred between Grunewald and Hasay. You can view the incident on the official race video at approximately the 10:09 mark. The official on the track raised a yellow flag, indicating a possible infraction. However, he ruled that no interference had occurred.

A protest was lodged on Hasay’s behalf by her support staff, which was denied. An appeal was made to the jury of appeals (chaired by Sue Humphries and including Anne Timmons and Kim Dismuke) which was also denied. None of the above facts are in dispute, and according to USATF rule 119-4(c), “[t]here shall be no further right to appeal” but the jury “may…reconsider decisions if new conclusive evidence is presented” (emphasis added).

Another appeal was made, though, and this time is was successful. Grunewald was disqualified and lost her spot on the US team to the World Championships. That spot went to Hasay, who finished fourth and moved up to third but was the second finisher who has achieved the requisite qualifying mark.

The full statement from USATF:

During the women’s 3,000-meter final contested Saturday evening, a meet official raised a yellow flag, indicating a possible field-of-play infraction by a runner. A review of the official’s report by the Women’s Running Head Referee and subsequently by the Jury of Appeal led to a ruling of no infraction. The Jury of Appeal then reviewed additional video evidence and reversed their initial ruling, disqualifying Gabriele Grunewald for a field-of-play infraction impeding Jordan Hasay. Protests and appeals were filed by representatives of athletes during the process. In accordance with USATF Competition Rules 111 and 119, the Jury of Appeal is a three-person panel appointed by the USATF Games Committee. Protests and appeals are governed by USATF Competition Rule 146. The decisions of the Jury of Appeal are final.

Note the statement: “The Jury of Appeal then reviewed additional video evidence”. From where did that additional evidence come? What was it?

Paul Doyle, Grunewald’s agent, says he contacted the meet’s video production company, Eagle Eye, and was told that no new video had been submitted. The same video was simply resubmitted. This directly contradicts the USATF statement and somebody is misrepresenting the truth–USATF, Doyle, or Eagle Eye. And note that USATF’s rules require new conclusive evidence. If no new evidence is submitted, then the Jury of Appeals’ decision cannot be revisited, period.

Many athletes and fans took to various internet forms of communication and suggested that the real reason for the eventual DQ was undue pressure from Nike, USATF’s main corporate sponsor. Hasay is sponsored by Nike and Grunewald is sponsored by Brooks. (If it’s true that Nike would go to these lengths to get one of their athletes on the US team for a championship that, in the big picture, isn’t all that important, then think about the pressure Nike-sponsored athletes are under and how difficult it must be.)

Where do we go from here? Doyle says that if Grunewald is not reinstated by Monday, then the lawyers get involved. He will file a “section nine arbitration petition”, and if you’re wondering what that is then you can start reading at Cornell’s law website. Since all this took place in Albuquerque, maybe we better call Saul.

Comments

  1. Kevin

    You might be right: appears T&F is Breaking Bad

  2. Robby

    I really appreciate such an objective look at the situation. Adult men and women have seemed very keen on starting up a witch hunt these past two days, and they’re only embarrassing themselves.

    Lauren Fleshman has been among the most irresponsible — constantly calling on Hasay to… well, it’s unclear what she wants Hasay to do. (Voluntarily not go to Sopot, I guess? Fleshman never comes right out and says it). She just seems to enjoy attacking the Nike athlete at the heart of this controversy. THAT seems to be her prerogative. Anti-Nike more so than pro-anything or anyone. She has been in full-on “sour grapes” mode for the past two days. Some way to live.

    And while we’re on the topic of an athlete who not so long ago was cashing checks signed by Nike, let’s not forget a few basics of the business world. Commercial partnerships dissolve, contracts terminate, people go their separate ways. Being a loyal Brooks athlete or Saucony athlete or New Balance athlete doesn’t mean you have to (or should) give Nike and Adidas the same glares you reserve for condemned criminals. A generation of athletes has now come up in the world thinking that “business savvy” equates to belligerently promoting your sponsor d’jour and trashing everyone else. These are the same movers and shakers who fancy themselves marketing savants by placing hashtags in front of anything with a serif. It’s not that simple, Symmonds.

    As for what happened on the track itself, GG had all the room in the world to make a clean pass on Jordan Hasay. Whole lanes. She failed to do so. It’s the easiest thing in the world to wrap yourself in the flag of the little guy, the cancer survivor, the Erin Brockovich, and hurl stones at the “Evil Empire.” It requires a good degree more maturity to take a step back and think that maybe 100% avoidable collisions aren’t great for Track racing.

    Maybe people just like to complain, and this is their excuse this season. Other sports have their issues, but what makes Track different is that any time we encounter such an issue, we bitch about it until we’re blue in the face and then we call our own sport hopelessly broken. Maybe it just sucks that GG bumped Hasay when she didn’t need to, and now she’s not the US Indoor Champion. I think it really is as simple as that, no matter how much that realization might deflate Track Twitter’s collective mob mentality right now.

    Last point — NBA coaches don’t yell at the refs sincerely hoping to get a bad call reversed. No ref has ever made a call, gotten an earful from a coach, turned around, thanked the coach for showing the ref the error of his ways, and then reversed the call.

    Rather, coaches yell in large part to show their athletes that they have the athletes’ backs. “I will go to bat for you” is something a coach needs to communicate to his or her athlete with regularity, whether by words or actions.

    Alberto likely crossed some lines in advocating for his athlete on Saturday night the way he did — but a distance runner NEEDS to trust in her coach. Do you think that Hasay has any doubt in her mind, after seeing Alberto risk his job and his license and his good standing with the USATF, that her coach is 100% in her corner?

    • Salazar wasn’t necessarily in Hasay’s corner but possibly advocating for the people at Nike who sign his paycheck. I’m sure he has real concern for his athletes but it’s over-simplistic to think that he was merely fighting for her. As for the incident, it was most likely caused by a seriously slowing Hasay who impeded the accelerating Grunewald. As the evidence was presented, there was no case for a DQ.

  3. RunnerMom

    > It requires a good degree more maturity to take a step back and think that maybe 100% avoidable collisions aren’t great for Track racing.

    No one has said avoidable collisions are great for track racing. Quit knocking down straw men. People have said that collisions happens in track and they’ve always been ignored when they’re unintentional/incidental, no one falls, and they don’t change the outcome of the race. It happens in every pack from cross-country down to the 800. Runners aren’t, and shouldn’t be, disqualified anytime they slightly bump someone else.

    The biggest issue isn’t even that GG was ruled out. It’s the fact that USATF knew she deserved to be crowned the winner, ratified that result multiple times all the way up the chain of command, and then reversed themselves at the eleventh hour without any explanation (and, likely, without following their own rules for new, convincing evidence).

    You’re also going after another strawman with respect to Salazar. No one has said he shouldn’t “advocate for his athlete” or “have Hasay’s back.” That’s silly. What they have criticized him for (and what NBA/NFL coaches are criticized for ALL the time) is going overboard, being aggressive and violent. Was Bob Knight simply “showing his dedication to his team” when he strangled struggling players and hurled chairs across the court? Of course not. Don’t be daft. There’s a difference.

  4. Lowe

    Don’t know why i feel the need to comment so much but it really seems like Hasay (JH) is getting the bums rush.

    It’s a shame all the way around. Grunewald (GG) seems to have had fantastic form for a kick finale and a slow early pace that played perfectly to her. Would she have won the race without the incident with JH? Almost certainly. (Whether JH got punted or not, she doesn’t normally have the high end speed for these shorter events when they are raced to a kick.) For her part, JH didn’t seem to have done anything at the moment, or earlier in the race, to have asked for trouble. All in all, it looks like GG’s attempt at an inside move at the start of the bell lap caused the trouble. I would be devastated at the DQ result if i were her. If GG took responsibility for the incident, she’d rise hugely in the estimation of everyone – like, hey, it’s a racing deal, i thought Jordan was going to surge again at the bell, i was really amped after catching up on the back stretch, and i tried to get an inside line on the corner but it wasn’t really there and i’m sorry i tripped her into the rail at the key move of the race and i hope she’s alright. Life happens. With gears like hers, and a bright future, GG needs to analyze what She did wrong, not USTFA, learn from it, and be a force to reckon with at the international meets. US track fans need them all in the game, and not a bunch of needless acrimony between it’s best runners.

    One fan’s take on the play by play:
    Leading up to the bell, GG was playing catch up from the acceleration gap SR and JH got on her at the beginning portion of the last lap. JH started to compress up on SR at the start of the front straight before the bell, and moved out to the outer half of lane 1 to avoid contact, but then came back to center of the lane behind SR by the time they reached the clocks. GG stayed along the rail, but remained entirely behind JH all the way to the finishing line (i.e. the bell). The moment GG’s leading foot steps on the line at the bell (at 8:52.3 of the NBC online race clock; 10:07 of the USATF video), JH’s rear foot is directly ahead on the track ahead, and JH is heading into the turn. So, at the start of the turn JH has the position, and GG has NO claim on the inside. GG accelerates very impressively into the turn, and within 3-4 steps her leading foot is overlapping JH’s rear foot, but on the INSIDE of JH’s line (8:53.3 or so, directly in profile to the camera). JH was holding her line as she goes through the corner, so GG is assuming something is going to happen that doesn’t happen. Maybe she thought JH would move up and outside of SR a stride ahead. Maybe she thought JH would feel the pressure, passively move out and let her through. Maybe she wasn’t thinking at all. But at 8:54.4 of the race clock, GG’s outside foot lands immediately adjacent JH’s inside (left) foot as it lifts off for the forward stride. At 8:54.5, GG’s right knee is immediately adjacent the same lifting left foot of JH. At 8:54.9, JH’s left foot finally lands very far inwards against the rail, with both arms raised for balance and body awkwardly angled to the inside and threatening to take her inside of the rail (DQ). JH’s next stride is like a sissors kick along the rail, with GG behind trying to avoid both the rail and JH. JH’s right (outside) foot now lands almost on the inside rail (8:55.2) with her arms up to try to avoid the violation. By 8:56.2, JH has overcorrected out into the lane, and GG is back on the gas (impressively) now on the outside, where more contact ensues (8:56.4).

    One possibility is that an initial contact (at 8:54.4 or 54.5) by GG with JH’s left foot causes that Left foot to deflect off her (JH’s own) right leg and thus inwards to the rail. The classic stumble. This is NOT not shown in the frame set of the online video, but at the original 30 fps (or more if they were using a higher speed camera), it very well could be apparent to review.

    Frankly, that appears to constitute bullheaded POS running on GG’s part. She didn’t need to INTEND to impede Hassay. But she did impede her, through an intentional, unprovoked action. Stupid. GG was by far the better physio on the track, but it takes at least a few morsels of intelligence to get er done. She gets what she gets. It really seems incredibly stupid considering how strong she ran out the final 200.

    Now, JH might have prevented the temptation to run inside on her if she had stayed right on the rail. But she didn’t do anything wrong. She had position and therefore had earned the right to make the passer work for it. It’s mostly unclear why JH slowed up markedly immediately after the contact(s). She might have hit the rail with her ankle, or pulled something slightly. Or, she might have just been mentally weak, or physically wasted to the point that she was on the point of uncling under anyway. I don’t think she gains anything from commenting. No need to feed the trolls.

    Several previous times during the race, JH would pull up on the outer part of lane 1, when Thweatt’s pace compressed on the corners and also when she was threatened with getting boxed in as the racing picked up towards the end. GG had stayed on JH’s tail through all that, always pulling up on the inside of JH on the corners (and taking the shortest line) and letting JH take the rail when the pace eased out the line coming onto the straights. Maybe GG anticipated a similar event on the corner of the bell lap. Whatever. Play with fire. Get burned.

    Last note: i’d love to see a Nascar style track event, where getting on someone’s bumper and muscling them out of the way was not only permitted but embraced. But that is not what track is really about. Yes, there’s contact. Yes, you deploy the elbows for offense and defense. Yes, spike wounds are honorable. It’s not especially genteel. But there’s a limit to clipping and running up the back of someone. Banging the rail with an ankle isn’t as helpful as earning a Darlington stripe.

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