It has been a little over two weeks since the USATF national convention and the election of Stephanie Hightower as the new president of the organization. With her election the Bill Roe regime should come to an end as his term goes ” Roe, Roe, Roe,…. gently down the stream,….. and out of power and influence.”. However, it is more than obvious and apparent that a gentle and civil passing of leadership from Roe to Hightower is not what is in the cards.
There are several things standing in the way that portend of rough sledding down the line.
It is an all too common occurrence that service organizations start out with the very highest  and loftiest regard and concern for the protection, support and service of the constituency they are created and organized to serve. Once ensconced in power the leaders of these service organizations, in just about all cases, seek a complete reversals of roles . That is,…. instead of them, the leadership, serving the legitimate needs of the constituency,… they expect and demand that the constituency serve them !!!!
We see this manifested all around us from the highest levels of our government down to organizations like the NCAA, USOC, and now with USATF in conjunction with the USOC. The USOC was mandated by the Amateur Sports Act in its mission statement from congress to: “Lead the world’s best National Olympic Committee: Help U.S. Olympic athletes achieve sustained competitive excellence while inspiring all Americans and preserving the Olympic ideal.”. Notice the prominence of ” Help U.S. Olympic athletes…..” in the mission statement and mandate and juxtaposed that against the manner in which the USOC goes about its daily business and demands. Picture American cyclists departing a plane in Beijing, having been bombarded with the notion that polluted air was to be expected, a few wore protective masks. They were pounced upon by Steve Roush of the USOC , head of USOC competition at the Beijing Games, scolded and made to apologize for merely taking a protective measure they thought prudent based upon the information they had gotten from USOC sources and elsewhere. After the Games, Roush was forced to back pedal and apologize to the athletes for his high handed actions against them. The question and real issue is, if the primary and basic function of the USOC and its employees is to “Help U.S. Olympic athletes….”,…..why was it that athletes’ rights were not, assumed, observed and protected as a pre-audit, rather than as an embarrassing and revealing post-audit ?
The same kind of high handed disregard for organizational mission statement was manifest in the new CEO of USATF, Doug Logan’s appointments of athletes and others to his USATF Audit Panel. This panel was charged with interviewing and reviewing with people within USATF about the best practices and worse practices within USATF. The panel would evaluate what it had gathered and this form the basis for “reform” within USATF. The panel was self-described by Logan as being “dispassionate and objective”. Of the seven original panelists, four had current ( 3 ) and/or past ( 1 ) USOC employment status. Further, the enabling language and mission statement of both the USOC and USATF state clearly that “…steps (be) taken to encourage the participation of women, disabled individuals, and racial minorities….”. There were no physically disabled members of the panel. There were no members representing youth a category of athletes that USATF is mandated to serve and represent by the Amateur Sports Act and the USOC by-laws. Of a panel of seven, only one was a woman in a sport where approximately 50% of the Olympic team is female and women won nine ( 9 ) and men won fourteen ( 14 ) of the twenty three ( 23 ) Olympic medals won in Beijing. Racially, blacks routinely win more than 80% of the U.S. medal count at major international competitions, including the Olympics. Black representation on the original Audit Panel was approximately 33% !
What all of the above amounts to is a very flawed, but predictable, attempt by those in power to pervert a system that is designed to serve others in such a way as to serve their own self-serving missions and mandates. If the process surrounding the “reform” efforts is so deeply flawed, it is highly unlikely that what comes from it will be much better. Essentially what we have here is a preconceived and preordained “reform” effort seeking problems to correct. This is not to say that change and reform within USATF is not a laudable and desired objective. It most clearly is ! However, in order to achieve real and legitimate reform, you can not start with illegitimate and ill-conceived processes and policies that violate the very concepts and principles the “reforms” are supposedly aimed at addressing and redressing.
During the Roe regime, the minority of board members that stood up and objected to women and minorities being strategically omitted in the USATF board processes, and also supported the rights and privileges of the youth constituency, were categorized as the dissidents. It was reported out that this group was causing dysfunctionality within the board. The pit bull for this disinformation was Lynn Cannon, the secretary of the board. She went on a constant and comprehensive campaign to discredit the “dissenters” and “dissidents” as the cause of board conflicts despite the fact that it was she who struck another board member and shouted an obscene expletive as she stormed out of a meeting, abdicating her secretarial responsibility in the process. Her animosity and disruptive presence became so troublesome that she was asked off several USATF committees.. She projected the idea that some board members were abusing their budgets and requesting suites at the various meeting they were mandated to attend. It was made to seem that these board members simply made a unilateral decision and on their own authority exceeded their budgets. What was strategically and sleazily ommited was the fact that the Budget and Audit Committee of USATF reviewed and scrutinized any and all budget overages and reported them to the board. If a board member exceeded their budget, an explanation was demanded and the board voted on whether or not the overage was legitimate and acceptable,….not the individual involved. Knowing this, and despite this, she spread the notion that board members were acting exclusively on their own and essentially illegitimately abusing their budgets.  She persisted in her personal attacks on the character of certain board members, even going up to the election volunteer table for Stephanie Hightower at the convention and raging tearfully, ” How can you support this person ? She is the most evil person in track and field ! “.
Later she was to ask another board member, ” Where is there a place for me in the next quadrennium ?”.    That is the question, and most pressing issue, as we move into the next four years leading up to London, ” What place do self-serving people willing to pervert the processes and system have in the affairs of USATF for the next four years ? “. Tragically, it appears that there are plenty already in place and willing to step forward and assume this role.  There are two areas that we can depend on as something of a brake on some of these executive excesses. First, Stephanie Hightower is a product of elite athletics, who has gone to great lengths to get familiar and informed about the other constituencies within the sport. She is a very strong and natural leader, but woefully outnumbered on the administrative and executive level. However, she won the election because she was able to bring significant support from athletes to her candidacy. The restructuring mandated by the USOC makes this combination very important, even essential, because the best brake on administrative and executive excesses will be the athletes and th
eir unwillingness to be manipulated out of their rights and privileges under the law.
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