Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Nike - Thanks for hiring Craig Masback!

I just heard today (most of you probably already knew this as I think it was anounced last week) that Craig Masback has resigned as CEO of USATF to take some kind of marketing job with Nike. All I can say is, good riddance. I've been a frequent critic of USATF as it has operated under Masback, so I am holding out hope that they make a better choice of the new CEO and can get things turned around. The main 2 criteria in my opinion for the new CEO would be no former elite athletes, and no lawyers (though a former Prosecutor would be ok!).

In a nutshell, here are my main complaints with USATF:

1. Drugs. We have lost all moral authority on this issue. Remember all the grief (rightly so) we gave the Eastern Bloc countries for their state-sponsored drug programs in the 70/80s? While the USATF is obviously not directly engaging in such programs, it is certainly enabling rampant drug use to take place. As with most sports in the US, USATF has not demonstrated any desire to actually police itself. Am I the only one who finds it odd that the only big name track athletes to fail a drug test have been at or near the end of their career? Regina Jacobs. Mary Slaney. Etc. And of course it took the Feds, and not our own sport, to crack the biggest name in track so far: Marion Jones. Being an elite athlete is not a right, it is a privilege. Masback has often taken a lawyerly "right to work" type approach when dealing with probable drug use by top athletes, where no such right should exist.

2. Development/Youth sports. Where are the programs that the member dues should be going towards? Track is a great sport to which we need to be introducing new kids all the time.

3. What does USATF have to do with trail ultras? Nothing. No reason for them to be involved at all. It isn't an Olympic or World Champ sport. The sport has a way of self-selecting the important races and simply slapping a "USATF Championship" label on a mediocre race isn't going to change that. But, if they insist on being involved and asking ultra runners to pay dues, see #2 above.

4. For the ultra event that is (and should be) under the purview of the USATF, namely the 100K world team, how about providing some support for the team? It is an embarassment to make runners who make a US team have to pay for any part of their trip expenses. Wearing the US jersey should be an honor for the folks able to qualify, not just for the ones able to afford to.

4 comments:

Sarah said...

I hadn't heard or read that - thanks for posting it.

I think about the 'Trail Championships' thing every time I wear a sweatshirt I got a few years back...at a West Coast ultra that was out of water and sports drink at the first aid station when I came through, and I wasn't near the back of the pack. Pretty embarrassing.

And you're right about the National Team, too - incredible, really!

Hope 2008 is starting out well for you and Judy, and that we see you guys again one of these days.

Sarah (PCTR)

chisholm said...

Paul,
In the real world who would you nominate to head up the USATF, come up with more than 1 if possible, and which of the issues you mentioned should be addressed 1st. For the record, I began track on a grass, 200 yd circuit at the age of 8, in a inner city program that supported itself.

Nike offered a program recently as 3 years back to start t&f school programs at schools like mine on a $75 per school budget. I don't know how the program is going, but it was a start.

Paul DeWitt said...

Chisholm,

Good questions, and I think they are related. The drug problem is absolutely the first priority because if it isn't fixed there really isn't a sport left to lead.

My first choice would be Dick Pound, who has shown an eager willingness to combat drug use in sport. He is Canadian, but that shouldn't be a problem (for example, we have a foreigner coaching the Women's US National Soccer team I believe).

2nd choice would be Eliot Spitzer (former NY attorney/current NY Gov). I guess the USATF would be quite a downward move for him though!

3rd choice would be somebody from the corporate world who had some of the above qualities.

- paul

crowther said...

Hi Paul -- I agree that much more progress is needed on the drug testing front, but I've gotta say thumbs down on the Dick Pound idea. The guy has a long history of making sensational public statements that are not based on verifiable facts. For details, see the N.Y. Times piece "The Scold" by Michael Sokolove (Jan. 7, 2007.