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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Missing the problem

Let's Run has always been more of a drunk tank than a think tank, but the Johnson brothers' efforts have occaissionally nudged the sport in the US in the right direction. For example, they have emphasized the importance of high milage and aerobic development for distance runners, and I think it's no accident that US runners have gotten marginally better over the last few years.

But even more, they've pushed hard on the drug issue. Recently they attempted to force out Dennis Mitchell as the "head coach" of the U.S. team scheduled to take on Great Britain in an international dual meet, since Mitchell left the sport under a two-year doping ban and they felt USATF should not be rewarding such people. However, the coach in question wasn't that Dennis Mitchell, but the head coach at the University of Akron. Or was it?
...we still believed our original source to be correct (that the banned Mitchell was originally scheduled to be the coach) and after a series of phone calls including talking to Dennis Mitchell, the Akron coach, we talked to Jill Geer, Director of Communications of USATF.

According to Geer, there was some confusion at the USATF Convention as to which Dennis Mitchell delegates were voting for. She said that the original coach selected was Dennis Mitchell, the Akron coach, but somehow along the way, he was mistakenly replaced by Dennis Mitchell, the sprinter.

Last week, with the press attention put on this matter after the link on and subsequent article in the Times of London, USATF looked into the matter and determined there was a lot of confusion as to who the actual coach was and who the delegates had intended to vote for. With the ensuing confusion Dennis Mitchell the athlete agreed to step down as coach, being replaced by Dennis Mitchell, the Akron coach.
Now, the really big problem was totally missed here. It's a good effort to keep those with a doping history out of the sport. But the BIG problem is that many people didn't know who they were voting for! Yikes. Moreover, international teams are made up of individuals who all have their own coaches, and regardless of which Dennis Mitchell tried to do some actual coaching the athletes would tell him to shove it. Why on earth do we spend time and money to give out ceremonial titles? No wonder there was one cared.

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