Yes, USA Track & Field will sue your balls off if you mess with The Almighty Swoosh. But taking performance-enhancing drugs? They're much more forgiving. Hell, they'll even give you a job.
Prior to the World Relays, LetsRun broke a story about the U.S. national team sprint relay coaches, husband and wife Dennis Mitchell and Damu Cherry-Mitchell. Both served doping bans while competing as athletes, Dennis famously blamed his positive test on "five bottles of beer and sex with his wife at least four times." Or, at least, at first: Later, during the 2008 trial of his former coach, Dennis would come a whole lotta clean, claiming his coach encouraged drug use and injected him with human growth hormone.
Imagine that: Mitchell, innocent athlete, blamed his drug use on a pro-drug coach.
USATF, at least on its pock-marked facade, still claims that drug-free is the way to be. But are they? Jon Drummond, chair of USATF's Athletes Advisory Committee and the U.S.'s 2012 Olympic relays coach, was accused of toting around doper Tyson Gay's dope, knowingly and willingly. (He's since brought suit against Gay, disputing this.) And they've turned BALCO bad boy Justin Gatlin into their coverboy, featuring him on their national ads.
In the end, USATF, led by CEO Max Siegel (who could not be bothered to speak with the New York Times, or anyone else), is abandoning its fan base, which has clamored for reform, accountability, and answers. That fan base did not want these last six months. It is embarrassed by these last six months.
Well, tough titty.
USATF is forging ahead, alone if it must, remaking the sport into a vision wholly new. Winning is the only consideration—not drugs, not many of its athletes, and certainly not more and more of its fans. Win and the fans will follow, they're saying through their silence.
Or if those fans don't come around, they'll just build new ones.
[NY Times: "Of All The Track Coaches To Bring Aboard"] [Photo: AP Images]