Discussions and continuing trial

Meeting Scheduled Between USATF and TFAA

This morning, we start with some positive news about USATF. Yes, I wrote positive news, and no, this isn’t a joke. Yesterday, USATF agreed to meet with the Track & Field Athletes Association (TFAA) on March 10 “to discuss the procedure for protests and appeals of results at championships track meets.” According to TFAA President Adam Nelson, the meeting will take place via conference call with USATF CEO Max Siegel and chairman and president Stephanie Hightower. TFAA initiated the meeting in response to USATF’s two questionable disqualifications which occurred at Indoor Nationals in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Quick recap: the first disqualification was Gabe Grunewald, winner of the women’s 3k. Grunewald was disqualified after the race based on “additional video evidence” of alleged physical contact between her and Jordan Hasay, but was later reinstated. The second, Andrew Bumbalough, was also disqualified in the 3k, but on the men’s side. Independent reviews revealed no contact between the two competitors. However, there is evidence of Ryan Hill cutting in front of Galen Rupp in an attempt to escape being boxed in. Unfortunately, Bumbalough remains disqualified at this time.

The controversy surrounding both disqualifications occurred coincidentally against athletes coached by Alberto Salazar of the Nike Oregon Project. A further “coincidence” is that Nike is a prominent sponsor of USATF. These circumstances led to conspiracy theories, much to the anger of fans and athletes alike. I could see the conspiracy between Grunewald and Hasay: if Grunewald is out, Hasay’s ticket to Poland belongs to her. But the Bumbalough incident wouldn’t affect anyone’s chances of attending the World Indoor Championships, so I’m not sure how much weight that theory has. Regardless of what happened in the past, looking to the future appears bright. The fact that USATF agreed to meet with TFAA is hopeful.

Trial, Day 3: Attempts to Shake Witness

Oscar Pistorius will be in the news for the duration of the trial, so it’s important to keep tabs on what is happening. Quick story: yesterday, Pistorius’ neighbors testified for the prosecution. In short, they testified that they heard the screams and the gunshots the night of the murder. Today, on cross examination, Pistorius’ defense lawyer questioned neighbors Charl Johnson and his wife, Michelle Burger. Barry Roux, the defense lawyer conducting the cross of the witnesses, pointed out that there were “differences between the statements that Johnson and Burger had given to the police after the shooting, and testimony that they gave in court.” Roux raised the suspicion that the couple contaminated evidence by discussing how they would testify in court, and suggested that their similar testimonies appear to substantiate that allegation. (However, I will point out that they are husband and wife; they were together when they both heard and witnessed the same events; wouldn’t it be odd if they gave two completely different testimonies?)

Roux pointed out that the couple neglected to discuss statements “that they heard a woman’s screams rising in anxiety and intensity and that they heard the woman’s voice ‘fading’ after the last in a volley of gunshots” while in court, but that they provided such information to the police at the time the initial report was made. In another article that featured yesterday, Roux and Burger had a heated exchange over whether Burger mistook “the screams of agitated Pistorius for that of a woman.”  Afterward, Burger broke down, so it’s questionable whether Roux’ strategy worked as well as he wanted.

I would like to point out a couple of problems the trial suffered. One problem is that a news station leaked a photo to the public of the first witness to testify yesterday. Judge Thokozile Masipa is investigating the matter, and has warned the media not to allow such actions to occur again. A second problem occurred with the translator. Burger testified in Afrikaans, but after a disagreement with the translator’s choice of words, switched to English.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is making it easier for athletes to “check in” in accordance with the appropriate rules by providing a free ADAMS app to athletes worldwide. Some athletes have “specific anti-doping responsibilities regarding the provision of whereabouts information to support out-of-competition testing.” The app enables athletes to update their whereabouts (where the athlete is located so that WADA has access to testing them) in an easy and fast manner. Moreover, the app is capable of reminding athletes when to submit their whereabouts information by providing deadlines. The app is available to Android users only. The article does not mention what to do if you are an iPhone or some other cell phone service provider, so I guess you’re just out of luck if you don’t have an Android phone.

Part of the Boston Athletic Association’s (BAA) stricter security guidelines preclude military troops from ruck marching on the 26.2 mile course, ending a decade long tradition. BAA’s vague reasoning is built in the rules forbidding them to march: “units or groups such as military ruck-marchers and cyclists, who have sometimes joined on the course, will not be allowed to participate.” BAA did not discuss their ban with Tough Ruck, a group that was in the middle of organizing a march in conjunction with the BAA.  Interestingly enough, members marching for Tough Ruck in last year’s marathon “were among the first responders to help the wounded.” Now, Tough Ruck is looking for an alternative location for 746 registrants, covering 29 states – a substantial increase in participation from last year, when no more than 30 marched in the marathon. BAA made no further comment on the ban as of yet, but it is a bit odd in the way BAA went about doing it and their reasoning behind it.

Finally, we turn to some non-track and field related news. Brandon Browner, former Seattle Seahawks cornerback, was reinstated by the NFL after “serving a [2.5] months of a one-year suspension for using marijuana.” Legally, his case was legitimate, and it was likely to win if he went to federal court. However, the NFL decided not to become involved when Browner prepared for legal action. Instead, the NFL caved, and simply ended his suspension without resistance.

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