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Yesterday, I read that Steve Roush, head of competition preparation for the USOC resigned. You may recall the name as it was previously mentioned in connection with the tendency of administrators to want their constituency to serve them rather than they, the officials, serving the constituency they are charged and mandated to serve ( Corporate Role Reversal Syndrome ). Steve demanded an immediate apology from three American cyclists who deplaned in Beijing wearing anti-pollution masks. Later he was forced to apologize and the CEO of the USOC sent a letter of apology to the athletes involved.
For some time Steve Roush and his immediate subordinate, Jay Warwick, have lead the fight to have more input into the programmatic aspects of USATF overall operations and high performance projects. This was generally done under the banner of the Sports Partnership Program of the USOC. The genesis of the USOC Sports Partnership Program was to basically assist the various sports federations ( NGBs ) make a more organized and effective presentation to the USOC for funding.   Not satisfied or fulfilled with this function, Warwick, and others sought an ever greater input and participation in providing and designing performance programs for sports and federations ( each Sports Partnership administrator had up to 6-8 sports to assist )  about which they had very little background and/or knowledge. This would allow them to take more credit for the success of the programs that fell under their umbrella, assuring themselves of being more valued and more likely kept on board by the USOC.  The High Performance Division ( me among others ) of USATF strenuously resisted programmatic interference from Warwick and the USOC. Jay Warwick’s claim to fame before he became the Sports Partnership administrator for USATF, and several other sports, was that he served as the CEO of Tae Kwon Doe. In recent years the USOC has seen fit to de-certify several national governing bodies because of the incompetent and often corrupt manner in which they were run and managed. Guess which one heads the top of that list ? If you are cynical enough to answer ” Tae Kwon Doe ” , you win the brass ring ! So what we have here is a person who was responsible for running a federation that was found deficient and subsequently de-certified,  seeking and demanding to have in-depth influence in the high performance programmatic aspects of the sport. Wait,…. hold on one minute. It gets even better !  The very same person, at the bidding and direction of his bosses ( Steve Roush being one ) sought, and got, influential input into the restructuring and reorganization process of USATF that was rushed through at the most recent USATF national convention. The hammer and cycle held over the head of USATF was the threat of de-certification by the USOC.
You may have also run across the high sounding and lofty pronouncements from the new CEO of USA Track and Field, about appointing a ” dispassionate and objective ”  Audit Panel  to review USA Track and Field operations with the purpose (s ), among other things, of improving U.S. performances at major international competitions. First of all, there was already a “best practices” review process by the High Performance Division itself. But a fair and objective review by a knowledgeable panel is a desirable thing and there can be no legitimate objection to such a process. When asked if I would cooperate with such a ” dispassionate and objective ” panel I answered I would with gladly cooperate. However, I insisted on one caveat,… that the panel not only had to be “dispassionate and objective” it also had to be KNOWLEDGEABLE.     Keeping in mind that at the time of the en paneling process, USATF was/is under extreme pressure from the USOC to restructure and organize in a manner the USOC wanted,… or face de-certification. The original “dispassionate and objective”  panel of seven ( 7 ) selected by our new CEO included the following:
3 – Current USOC employees ( if you cynically picked Steve Roush and Jay
Warwick as part of this three, you get your second brass ring )
1 – Former USOC employee
1 – Former very elite athlete
1 – Sports Scientist
1- One former U.S. Olympic coach
Now let’s get to the basic legality and mandates under which USATF is charged , and supposed to be operating. These can found under the bylaws of USATF. For example, Under Article III of the bylaws it clearly states that USATF is mandated, and has as one of its requirements the PURPOSE of, ” Promoting DIVERSITY of representation at ALL levels of participation in USATF activities.” The panel appointed by the new CEO had two blacks and only one female. This in a sport where approximately 50% of the U.S.. Olympic team members are women. In Beijing U.S. women won 9 of the 23 medals won, to the men’s 14. This in a sport where more than 80% of medals are won by blacks. In the past when I have challenged omissions like this, I have been accused of ” Playing the race card and stirring up sexist issues.” My response then, and now, is, ” If this is playing the race and/or sex cards, then stop stacking the deck and give us a reshuffle and something like a New Deal !!”.
Further, under the USATF bylaws it clearly and pointedly states under Article IV, ” AUTONOMY: USATF shall be autonomous in its governance of Athletics, in that it shall independently determine and control all matters to such governance, and it shall be free from outside restraint.” The DIVERSITY and
AUTONOMY requirements are found in all of the enabling legislation from the Amateur Sports Act (Ted Stevens Act ), to the USOC Constitution and the bylaws of the Board of National Governing Bodies. Both of these commands and mandates were ignored and violated in the selection of the original Audit Panel selection. When this was pointed out the response was that a panel did not meet the threshold of governance. What a crock !!! However, oddly enough, there has been  an addition of athletes. Perhaps that is because it was pointed out that the USATF bylaws state that USATF is required to, ” Keeping eligible athletes active in Athletics informed of policy matters and reasonably reflecting the views of such athletes in the policy decisions of USATF;”. It has been determined that “eligible” athletes means athletes that have been active within the “Ten Year Rule” requirements and criteria. Neither of the athletes on the original panel satisfied the “Ten Year Rule”.
Let’s not Roush to judgment here. First of all, the USOC logistical and competition support team of the USOC was the very best I have ever witnessed, and I have been on four Olympic staffs. Steve Roush had a critical hand in this. From the time we got off the plane with a USOC person there to guide us through the airport and onto our buses, until the same staff was there at the dorms to assist and get us on the buses back to the airport, the support was off the charts !! We were ideally and centrally housed with all the medical and training needs and modalities nearby. There were highly motivated, service centered people at every area of need. Beijing Normal University was our out-of-village haven for both training and a place where we could get American food prepared by American chefs. The facilities prepared and equipped for the various teams at BNU were of the highest quality and no expense and/or effort was spared in getting the very best for the athletes and coaches. Bottom line, in Beijing when the USOC was involved in what it is basically established to do, namely service and support sports federations in the best way possible, they e
xcelled at an unequalled level.  When they and our new CEO wander off the reservation and forget what their legislated and enabling mission and mandates happens to be, they take on the characteristics of General George Custer Roushing off to the Little Bighorn.
Brooks T. Johnson
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