POSTED: February 9th 2009

Task force slams track and field

Tyson Gay: caught up in the baton blunder /
Tyson Gay: caught up in the baton blunder /

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT / Sports Features Communications

TAMPA: A blistering verdict on the United States’ track and field performance at the Beijing Olympics has been issued by its own inquiry team.

The US collected 23 track and field medals in Beijing compared with 25 in Athens in 2004 but significantly below expectations. The low point was the baton-change disasters in the first rounds of both men’s and women’s 4x100m.

Chief executive officer Doug Logan will now study the report from the nine-strong Project 30 Task Force team whose members included Carl Lewis, Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, Ralph Mann, Mel Rosen, Aretha Hill Thurmond and Deena Kastor. USOC-nominated members were Steve Roush, Doug Ingram and Jay Warwick.

Lewis said: “We have to come together to save our sport. It was pretty clear to all of us what needed to be done. If, at the end of the day, the athletes accept this and say they are going to make our sport better, there's no problem."

The report highlighted: “A lack of accountability, professionalism and cohesion” . . . a team staff selection system which “lacks transparency and accountability, creating a culture of mistrust for coaches and athletes alike.”

High-cost failure

It criticises the Olympic trials set-up, poor long-term planning by athletes, coaches and their agents and the high-cost failure, at more than $1m over six years, of the National Relay Program.

Also identified is a lack of communication between coaches and athletes, poor management of the relay pools and questions over which coaches were responsible for the relays – all of which led to the 4x100m embarrassments.

The heart of the 69-page investigation is attacked in a verdict that “American athletes as a group do not conduct themselves as true professionals and the USATF does not hold them to professional standards.”

Logan said: "I became uneasy with some aspects of the competition [in Beijing], some of the performances I was witnessing. I saw that our athletes were not performing at their peak. The relays gave me a bit of anguish, but at the end of the day, it only became a symptom of what I saw were some significant lapses."

The Task Force, in identifying those 'lapses', has made 10 recommendations. A priority is seen as the need to hire a professional general manager of high performance. If all its strictures are followed then it believes the target of 30 medals in London 2012 is still attainable.

Keywords · USATF · track and field · 2008 Olympic Games · Beijing · Carl Lewis · Logan

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