The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

No Excuse for What Happened to Tarmoh

Jul 6th, 2012
9:28 am PDT

Hayward FieldI’ve hesitated on saying anything about "Dead Heat Gate" not because I don’t have an opinion but because I’ve felt there were far to many opinions out there already. But the more I read, the more I’m angered that the villain in all this comes back to Tarmoh.

Don’t get me wrong, personally I say a warrior competes. That’s what you live for. It’s what you train for. And when something as precious as a championship berth is on the line at any level – high school, collegiate local  regional, and definitely the Olympics – you do what you gotta do. Wrap up a muscle; beg for a lane; plead for one more review.

So, I get the animosity that’s been put out there – sort of. Here’s why "I" hesitate to condemn Tarmoh. Because as a warrior, as a competitor, she simply should have been told what to do and then been sent out to do it! Tiddly winks in the lobby in an hour. We’re drawing straws at breakfast. Or quite frankly, runoff in the morning before the day’s events begin – see you at 10:00!

How can you NOT have a procedure for a tie? How can you NOT be able to pull people together and say this is how and when this will be decided, be ready! More importantly, how can you NOT have equipment available to separate them? In 1984 Benita Fitzgerald was part of a "tie", and it wasn’t the only close race of the meet. The men’s 800 had identical times for 1st & 2nd AND 3rd & 4th! Anyone remember the 200 final at Worlds in ’87, or an even closer/deeper finish in Edmonton ’01? And if that’s too long ago how about the women’s 100 final in Beijing where they awarded two silver medals!

No procedure for a tie? Are you _____ kidding me? But then realizing we were bereft of policy we couldn’t even call the brain trust together, close the door, and come out and PRETEND we really had one all along! Duh! How hard should it have been to say what should be done? This is how they do it in other sports. Cool let’s adopt that. And really you didn’t have to look at any other sport. Playground track says run off. Middle school track says run off. High school track says run off. USATF, if decision making is that difficult email me, I’ll give you my number, call me – I have no problem making decisions, it’s really easy!

But what does Tarmoh get – here are some options, YOU decide! We’ll figure this out in a week. Say what! And one is to flip a coin? An Olympic berth. A coin flip. Does that even sound right? This all sounds stupid doesn’t it? Imagine you’re the one at the center of this.

I can’t speak for Allyson or Jeneba. But I think it’s a pretty safe bet that both went to Eugene to compete – to run. They weren’t there to join policy making roundtables or clarify tie breaking procedures. Other people had those jobs – and failed miserably at them from top to bottom. Athletes compete. The other stuff drains them – and besides that’s someone else’s job!

Reminds me of New Orleans 1992 when Butch Reynolds was trying to beat the world’s best quarter milers AND the legal system that was trying to keep him off the track. Stellar running in the rounds finally saw him wear down and he failed to make the team – the pressure finally got to him. And Butch was nothing if not a warrior!

I think the pressure got to Jeneba.And it’s not her fault. She trained. She showed up and she competed. That’s what she was supposed to do. And USATF failed her. THEY weren’t prepared. THEY didn’t pull it together. And there’s no excuse. People pick up sizeable paychecks to make decisions so that things run properly and they should all be held accountable. Tarmoh shouldn’t be the tarnished one from this situation. She’s not the bad guy here.

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4 Responses to “No Excuse for What Happened to Tarmoh”

  1. Coach Larry says:

    I agree with everything you’ve said but there is more to it. Roger Jennings, the man looking at the photo-finish images made the initial decision that Tarmoh finished a split (3/1000) second ahead of Felix. That was posted on the board and Tarmoh took her victory lap. Jennings later said he had second thoughts and called in USATF officials, who declared it a dead heat. “Jennings said, ‘In the end, my read was subjective. The involvement of the torso is always subjective to some degree. They (USATF) went with what they could actually see. I was overruled, and I certainly signed off on their decision. But I did my job. I called what I saw. I try to stay consistent. If I went back and read that photo 100 times, I would call it the same way every time.’ (That is, he would call Tarmoh the winner, based on an interpolation of where her torso was at the finish).”

    I have no doubt that had the run-off taken place, with the emotional high of Felix’s “statement” win in the 200m Final and the emotional low of Tarboh having had and then “lost” her Olympian status, that Tarboh didn’t stand a chance. She knew that as well.

    But even if USATF or the sponsors didn’t pressure Jennings to have doubts about his call, and if it were indeed a dead heat, couldn’t USATF have sought a waiver from USOC and/or the IOC to send 4 women? Doesn’t the IAAF have a procedure for breaking ties?

    In sport ties do exist. No one wants them, no one likes them but they do exist. I feel bad for Tarmoh. I also feel bad for Felix. Instead of one (3rd place) winner, we end up with two losers. This entire situation is just another example of why track & field is still headed in a downward spiral.

    • CHill says:

      I don’t blame Jennings either … He did his job … We should have been ready for the outcome and we weren’t !!! Period … Inexcusable … I never thought Tarmoh wanted to run .. Not because of fear, but because she knew she had already given her best shot … She wasn’t beating Felix again … Not soon .. Especially after that deuce … Lose lose for Tarmoh … Let’s be real …

      That should have been done and over within 24 hours !!! You guys need to run again … You have 24 hours to prepare … See you in the morning … Spot goes to X athlete … Let’s move forward …

      Tarmoh, Felix and the sport got screwed … And those responsible look innocent …

  2. michael roth says:

    The answer is simply a 60+ year void of Leadership, with a capital “L”, within USATF. Cronyism is the name of the game & until the voters decide that it needs to end 100%, this dog & pony show will continue on forever.

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