Dead Heat: Indy-based USA Track & Field Stumbles

As the amateur sports capital of the world, Indianapolis is accustomed to some less-than-professional athletic performances. But the recently botched decision-making at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Eugene, Oregon, by USA Track & Fieldan organization based on our own downtown Washington Streethas received a bit more press than, say, the Indiana-versus-Kentucky NCAA basketball scheduling kerfuffle.

Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh, two women competing for a spot on the women’s 100-meter Olympic team, both finished with a time of 11.068 seconds, that despite an initial time for Tarmoh of 11.067, later overruled. They tied for the third (and final) place on the team. Then a runoff was announced, though USATF had no official tiebreak policy for such unlikely but certainly possible events.

See the race here, starting at the 4:15 mark:

The controversy over the “dead heat” blocked out some other exceptional events at the U.S. trials in Eugene, and when Tarmoh decided to drop out on Sunday night, it let all the air out of the highly anticipated runoff, leaving USATF looking deflated and embarrassed and the once-declared third-place finisher conceding her spot.

The response from national sports media has been excoriating. A sample of the language from Sports Illustrated alone: “systematic bungling; embarrassing circumstance; resounding thud of failure; daily train wreck of inaction; lurid, pathetic sideshow; a sport unable to conduct itself; the USATF … has done little right … enacted a stunning display of non-leadership throughout the week; slow dismantling of the sport.”

To note, two phone calls to USA Track & Field headquarters here in Indy rang through without answer. Expect that the issue of this controversial tie will be raised ad nauseum during the Olympics in London. Maybe when USATF leaders come home to Indy’s 90-degree-plus weather, they’ll fashion a considerably better solution to the case of a “dead heat.”

>> MORE: Here’s the official press release from USATF about Tarmoh’s withdrawal from the runoff and the 100-meter team.

Logo via the USA Track & Field Facebook page