THE DAY DECENCY AND DEMOCRACY DIED

Let’s start from the very top and the actual beginning. The legitimate and compelling a priori assumption when it comes to USATF,…. is without athletes there is no need or requirement for USATF to even exist. The basic rationale and validity for its existence is for it to support the needs wishes and objectives of its athletes’ constituency. Included in that mandate and mission are the volunteers, coaches, officials, and ground root support people that directly work with,.. and develop athletes’.   These are the critical and necessary elements for U.S. track and field athletes to continue their status as the #1 Track and Field Team in the world. The national office and the administrators and board  would like to take credit for this lofty position,…..and do at every conceivable opportunity to toot their horn. However, if USATF ceased to exit tomorrow as an administrative body, our medal count at the Olympics and World Championships would not be negatively impacted at all. Here’s the reason why, in a typical Olympics or World Championships the people who actually produce the medals are broken down pretty much along the following lines:

College/Universities, on college/university campuses produce a medal count of                                                        12 – 15

Bobby Kersee, John Smith, Clyde Hart typically produce                                                                                                      6 –  8

Miscellaneous coaches, like Alberto Salazar, Don Babbitt, Julie Benson, etc.                                                               3 –  6

None of these people get substantial dollars or support from USATF. Mostly they are independent of USATF support and generally operate in a world away from USATF direct contact. The glaring possible exception to this is the work of Dr Ralph Mann and his more than 25 years of biomechanical analysis. The above, non-USATF dependent personnel, produce between 24-27 medals at a typical Olympics and World Championships. If your were to compute the total direct dollar amount they get from USATF it would be less than the travel and hospitality bill incurred by the president and the ceo of USATF at these same events.

But I digress. The essential point is that USATF exists solely for the purpose of supporting and assisting athletes and the volunteers and other field people that in fact DO directly  support athletes,and therefore DO contribute directly to the athletes’ successes and the resultant medal count that the USOC and USATF are so anxious and ready to brag about. As a form of democratic governance USATF is supposed to function in ways that reflect the will and wishes of its target constituency, namely athletes and the people in the field that minister directly to the needs of athletes. These two groups,….( 1)athletes and (2)those who really and directly support them , are found in two USATF constituent bodies, namely the(2)Delegate Body at the national convention and the(1) Athletes Advisory Committee which is responsible for representing the wishes and rights of athletes.

At the most recent USATF national convention in Anaheim, California,last week,  each of these two critical and central groups had elections centered around the position of the IAAF representative  position . Bob Hersh was the current representative going into the election process. This position had been elected by the Delegate Body in the past, as it should because the position represents the total body, and the only place where the total body votes is in the Delegate Body. But after the Bill Roe/Doug Logan/Stephanie Hightower by-laws and governance “reform”, this important election was left in the hands of a shrunken( from 29 to 15, 3 of which are outside and “non-aligned”). and non-representative USATF board of  directors. Hightower’s term as president ends in 2016 and she can not repeat. In order to perpetuate herself in power two things have to take place. First she has to make sure she has a place on the board itself going forward. The IAAF representative automatically carries with it a board seat. Then it has to come to past that the board itself elects the chair of the board, negating the fact that in the past the president, who was elected by the total Delegate Body, was also the chair of the board. When then c.e.o.,Doug Logan, circulated the idea back in 2008, that the board should elect the chair of the board, providing him with an opportunity to combine c.e.o. and board chair,  Hightower, smelling a rat in Logan’s ploy vehemently fought that idea and won. The chair of the board basically conducts the board meetings and sets the agenda and generally exercises considerable power ad authority as a result. Hightower finds herself in an interesting position now. She has to make sure a procedure she was deathly against in 2008, now is reversed in order for her to perpetuate her ruinous reign. Since she has a strangle hold on the majority of  board votes, if it were left to the board to elect the chair, as she has publicly stated, she “has the votes”. This would leave the popularly elected president of USATF as less than a figurehead. That means that again we would have the wishes of the majority,as expressed through a fair and open election of the Delegate Body,  negated by a vote taken in a closed “executive session” by the board.

Back to the elections. David Greifinger, a UCLA trained lawyer, formerly general counsel to the board and currently general counsel to the Athletes Advisory Committee saw through the Hightower high- handedness and submitted a  proposal that the Delegate Body vote to recommend to the board that it vote to return Bob Hersh as USATF, IAAF representative. This gesture was not totally  anti-Hightower, as much as it was recognition of several very important things:

(1) Bob Hersh was the Senior Vice President of the IAAF, a very lofty and influential position within the body and heir apparent if the present IAAF president was unavailable

(2) Bob Hersh was a member of the IAAF Council. This like the board of directors and comprises less than 30 memebers from a general membership of more than 200.

(3) Bob Hersh is a Columbia trained lawyer and brings decades of honorable and reliable service, including the 16 years it took him to move up Senior Vice President

(4) Bob Hersh’s long and impressive tenure brings with it tangible and intangible benefits to USATF that a new person in the position would  not immediately  possess

After all the heated debate and discussion it essentially came down to a vote of the Delegate Body as to whom it would ask the board to elect to the position of USATF, IAAF representative. The representative of each of the 50 states, and the District of Columbia voted.  The vote was a compelling and convincing 392 for Hersh and 70 for Hightower. A more than 5 to 1 ratio in support of Hersh.

The other relevant vote took place in the Athletes’ Advisory Committee meeting. Again, after much debate and discussion, it was pointed out to the athletes that what was at stake was a vote to support David Greifinger’s proposal in favor of retaining Hersh as IAAF representative. and rejecting Hightower’s bid to unseat him and pave the way for her to continue in power and authority. The vote was returned as unanimous for the more than 70 athletes in the room, with one abstention. There were NO votes in favor of Hightower .

When the board of directors met, it voted 11 for Hightower, with one abstention, and 1 vote for Hersh. When the results were announced the people who were still present at the convention generally were in a state of shock and utter disgust . It was obvious that the board had rejected the wishes of the majority of the people whose wishes and rights it is supposed to protect and serve. There is a very fine distinction between what is law and what is jurisprudence. The law is basically what is written and jurisprudence is based on what is fair and prudent. In a democratic process the will of the majority is supposed to trump the wishes of a self-serving and self-centered few. The board’s action was such a miss-carriage of the critical constituents’ will and wishes as to be demagoguery in its most demented and demeaning form. How,….. you ask, can 11 people be so above the rest of us, that they can dishonor an honorable man, his service, and the overwhelming majorities that supported him ? The answer is found in the fact that some times the verb of what we do, becomes the adjective to describe us. The board dishonored Bob Hersh,……… and by doing so assumes the adjective and description of what they did.

Thanks.

Brooks T. Johnson

( 407 ) 758 -0 755

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