Alberto Salazar

Farah. Mo Farah. Knight of the realm, for running fast

Farah. Mo Farah. Knight of the realm, for running fast

LONDON — Five years ago, the London Summer Olympics opened with a happy and glorious riff, Daniel Craig reprising his role as James Bond, escorting Her Majesty the Queen out to the royal helicopter, where it then wheeled above cheering crowds in the sun-splashed city below (hello!) and then under Tower Bridge to Olympic Stadium.

From the moment the “queen” and “007” jumped out of that copter, Mo Farah, the Somali-born British distance runner, has gone on to win the Olympic distance double-double thunderball, first in London and then in Rio, the men’s 5,000 and 10,000. For his efforts, the queen on January 1 of this year made Farah a Knight of the Realm. Pretty heady stuff.

The problem with encores, as 007 could readily tell you, is that it’s always tough to top the spectre of that last installment. So many critics. The world is not enough, as it were.

When the presumption of innocence meets la-la land

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It’s Oscar Sunday here in Los Angeles. “La La Land” is expected to clean up.

 

Ladies and gentlemen and boys and girls, let’s turn the lights down low, settle back into our comfy seats with a big tub of popcorn and, what with the weekend's super-interesting script ripped from the Sunday Times over in London tied to a Fancy Bears hack all about Alberto Salazar and Sir Mo Farah and others, let’s revisit some showstoppers from years gone by.

What an interesting idea, just generally speaking: when the presumption of innocence meets la-la land.

But first:

Just like at the movie theater, when they tell you to turn off your cellphone, this disclaimer, brought to you Saturday from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency:

“Importantly, all athletes, coaches and others under the jurisdiction of the World Anti-Doping Code are innocent and presumed to have complied with the rules unless and until the established anti-doping process declares otherwise. It is grossly unfair and reckless to state, infer or imply differently.”

https://twitter.com/Ry_Madden/status/835659821059735553

Oh, wait.

For clarity: do these rules apply with the same import to Russian athletes?

Because this would be the same U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that over the past 18 months has helped promote the charge to ban each and every Russian athlete because of allegations involving what an independent World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned report alleged was “institutional control” of the Russian anti-doping control system.

Just to reiterate from the USADA press aide's tweet, italics and underline mine: "all athletes, coaches and others … are innocent and presumed to have complied with the rules unless and until the established anti-doping process declares otherwise.”

For emphasis:

“It is grossly unfair and reckless to state, infer or imply differently.”

A U.S. Congressional subcommittee meets Tuesday to consider “ways to improve and strengthen the anti-doping system.” Perhaps this can be on the agenda.

La, la, la, la, la.

Returning, as we were, to a story seemingly crying out for a Hollywood-style treatment:

The Sunday Times, citing a Fancy Bears hack of a March 2016 USADA report, says Farah and others were given infusions of a research supplement based on the amino acid L-carnitine.

The newspaper says Salazar boasted about the “incredible performance boosting effects” of the stuff and emailed Lance Armstrong before Armstrong was outed for doping: “Lance call me asap! We have tested it and it’s amazing.”

Farah, in a Sunday post to his Facebook feed, said it was “deeply frustrating” to have to respond to such allegations and asserted he was a “clean athlete.”

To reiterate, Farah is, and the others in the Salazar camp are, assuredly entitled to the presumption of innocence.

Scriptwriters out there: do you know what might, just might, make for a really interesting take on the Farah saga? In retrospect, if you will, maybe the turning point in the whole thing?

In 2011, at the IAAF world championships in Daegu, South Korea, Farah lost the 10,000 meters by just this much, to a guy perhaps only true track geeks have ever heard of, Ibrahim Jeilan of Ethiopia.

After some 26 minutes of racing, Farah ran the last lap in 53.36 seconds, which is crazy fast.

It wasn't enough.

Jeilan won, in 27:13.81.

Farah got the silver, in 27.14.07.

Since, Farah has pretty much won everything of import, including both the 5 and 10k races at London 2012 and Rio 2016.

Jeilan isn't exactly a total chump. He was the 2006 world junior 10k champion. He is the 2013 10k world silver medalist.

But since that fateful evening in Daegu, Aug. 28, 2011, their career paths have — diverged.

One might ask: how come?

Moving along, as we were.

In 1978, when I was a second-year student at the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Illinois, the best-picture winner was “Annie Hall.” Talk about neurotic. You want neurotic? Here was neurotic: a second-year news writing class, taught by a crusty curmudgeon straight from central casting, Dick Hainey, in which we were taught that one mistake, even one, would get you an automatic failing grade and, son, you deserved to fail and, better yet, start learning to suck it up, because anything less than perfect obviously equals abject failure.

Here is another decree from the oracle atop the mountain that was Professor Hainey, and while anything less than perfect turns out maybe to be not such great advice for life, this next nugget is a worthwhile journalism lesson that has stuck for more than 40 years:

If your mother tells you she loves you — check it out.

In that spirit— and, once more for emphasis, Sir Mo and the others in the Salazar pack are assuredly entitled to the presumption of innocence — let us visit some hits from the wayback machine even as we note that Julia Roberts is, according to Variety, set to produce the film adaptation of the New York Times best-seller “Fool Me Once”:

Armstrong, 1999: “I have been on my deathbed, and I’m not stupid. I can emphatically say I’m not on drugs.”

Armstrong, 2005: “I have never doped. I can say it again but I’ve said it for seven years.”

Armstrong, 2005: “How many times do I have to say it? … Well, it can’t be any clearer than, ‘I’ve never taken drugs.’ “

Armstrong, 2010: “As long as I live, I will deny it. There was absolutely no way I forced people, encouraged people, told people, helped people, facilitated. Absolutely not. 100 percent.”

Armstrong on Twitter, May 2011, as his former teammate Tyler Hamilton was about to go on “60 Minutes”:

https://twitter.com/lancearmstrong/status/71358750434402306

Armstrong, 2013, after USADA got him: “All the fault and all the blame here falls on me. I viewed this situation as one big lie that I repeated a lot of times. I made my decisions. They are my mistakes, and I am sitting here today to acknowledge that and to say I’m sorry for that.”

Hamilton, interview in his Boulder, Colorado, living room, 2005: “I didn’t blood dope, that’s for sure.”

Hamilton, May, 19, 2011, confession letter to family and friends: “During my cycling career, I knowingly broke the rules. I used performance-enhancing drugs. I lied about it, over and over. Worst of all, I hurt people I care about. And while there are reasons for what I did — reasons I hope you’ll understand better after watching — it doesn’t excuse the fact that I did it all, and there’s no way on earth to undo it.”

Hamilton, describing a July 2000 blood transfusion during that year’s Tour de France, as relayed as part of the USADA case against Armstrong:

“The whole process took less than 30 minutes. Kevin Livingston and I received our transfusions in one room and Lance got his in an adjacent room with an adjoining door. During the transfusion Lance was visible from our room, Johan, Pepe and Dr. del Moral were all present and Dr. del Moral went back and forth between the rooms checking on the progress of the re-infusions. Each blood bag was placed on a hook for a picture frame or taped to the wall and we lay on the bed and shivered while the chilly blood re-entered our bodies.”

Floyd Landis, his very own 2007 autobiography, the ironically titled Positively False, chapter 11:

“I did not use performance enhancing drugs in the 2006 Tour de France or any other time in my career. All I ever did was train. I put training first, even before my family. When you want to win, you eat, drink, sleep and breathe cycling. Knowing it’s not forever is what makes it doable. So I made the sacrifices I had to make, and I did so honestly.”

From page 278-79 in the book, Landis describing a post-2006 Tour de France trip back to where he was from, Farmersville, Pennsylvania, amid the largely Mennonite area of Lancaster County:

"One by one, hundreds of people walked across the yard to my parents to congratulate them. One woman went to mother with tears in her eyes. 'She said that she and her husband had lost their son in Iraq seven months before,' Mom said. 'She told me, 'My husband has never gotten over it, but he rides a bicycle and he watched every single stage. He's a different person since your son won. It was like healing to him.' I just felt so blessed that you were able to inspire someone while doing something that you love,' Mom told me. I never rode my bike in order to have an effect on anyone else, but I understand that people are influenced by what they see. When my mom told me this story, I was really touched that I had helped someone."

USADA Reasoned Decision, just one of many harrowing passages describing Landis' doping: “They shared doping advice from Michele Ferrari," the Italian doctor identified by USADA as a key player in the Armstrong scheme, "and when Floyd needed EPO Lance shared that, too.”

Doping denial inside in big red letters, too, 2004

Marion Jones, her very own 2004 autobiography, and in big red capital letters about 175 pages in:

“I have always been unequivocal in my opinion. I am against performance-enhancing drugs. I have never taken them and I will never take them.”

Government sentencing memorandum, 2007, United States v. Marion Jones:

“The defendant’s use of performance-enhancing drugs encompassed numerous drugs (THG, EPO, human growth hormone) and delivery systems (sublingual drops, subcutaneous injections) over a substantial course of time. Her use of these substances was goal-oriented, that is, it was designed to further her athletic accomplishments and financial career. Her false statements to the [investigating] agent were focused, hoping not only to deflect the attention of the investigation away from herself, but also to secure the gains achieved by her use of the performance-enhancing substances in the first place. The false statements to the [investigating] agent were the culmination of a long series of public denials by the defendant, often accompanied by baseless attacks on those accusing her regarding her use of these substances."

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas, 2007, in sentencing Jones to six months in custody, emphasizing that what she did was not a “momentary lapse in judgment or a one-time mistake but instead a repetition of an attempt to break the law.”

Who knows what will happen at the Oscars?

What the next few weeks or months will bring with Sir Mo, Salazar and others?

Surprises and plot twists galore, perhaps.

La, la, la, la, la, everyone. Keep a watchful eye on your sweet mother and the popcorn.

#Followthesun, and other hot (maybe) takes

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-- In advance of the publication in the coming days of highly technical planning details, it’s far-more-interesting logo-unveil time in the 2024 Summer Olympic bid game. Paris, for instance, came out a few days ago with a stylized Eiffel Tower. On Tuesday,  Los Angeles unveiled its logo and the tagline, “Follow the sun.” Reaction: let’s be honest here and admit that logos and slogans rarely play a huge role come voting time, with the exception perhaps of the incredibly on-point Pyeongchang 2018 tag, “New Horizons.”

The LA24 logo

The Paris logo

Mayor Eric Garcetti, left, with swim star Janet Evans and others applauding for LA24 bid leader Casey Wasserman

Following the sun: the wow factor from the 30th floor, looking west

At issue in this 2024 campaign is nothing less the fundamental direction of the Olympic movement: whether the International Olympic Committee is prepared to take LA mayor Eric Garcetti and bid leader Casey Wasserman up on what they said Tuesday to a fired-up crowd on the 30th floor of a downtown skyscraper, the sun setting gloriously to the west. The mayor: “Imagination is critical because it leads to hope. Hope leads to dreams. Dreams lead to innovation. That is the story of our city.” Wasserman said a "sense of relentless reinvention and new beginnings” anchor “LA2024’s distinctive value proposition for the good of the Games and the Olympic movement,” a bid with 97 percent of the venues already in place or planned (canoe slalom still to be figured out).

Let’s be honest some more, because at some point there has to be plain talk about this campaign, and it ought to start now, even though the vote isn’t until 2017 and lots can, and will happen. Right now, Europe — pretty much all of it — is a big question mark. As former U.S. treasury secretary Lawrence Summers wrote in Tuesday’s Washington Post, “These are difficult times in Europe with the refugee crisis, economic weakness, security issues and the rise of populist movements.” There’s LA, and then there’s Paris, Rome and Budapest. This campaign will doubtlessly feature any number of references to Paris mounting a fourth bid. At the same time, it needs to be understood that the LA effort is not just an LA, or SoCal, thing; it is America’s third bid, after New York in 2005 for 2012, Chicago in 2009 for 2016.

Straight talk, continued: logic and common sense say the IOC can hardly run the risk of turning down the three biggest cities in the United States in succession. (Of course, it can do so, and an IOC election can typically prove volatile.) But if LA does not win for 2024, it would be exceptionally problematic — and that is putting it gently — for LA to come back for 2028, or to see any other American city step up. It takes millions of dollars to run a bid, and in the United States that money has to be privately raised. The money is here and now for LA24. Imagine a 2024 loss — and then Wasserman going back to all those he hit up for $1 million apiece and saying, looking at 2028, something like, oh, well, now the IOC is going to treat us fairly. Not going to happen. The time is now.

-- IOC president Thomas Bach was in LA earlier this month, making the rounds after prior visits to Paris, Rome and Budapest, the other cities in the 2024 race. Bach then went up to Silicon Valley for talks.

Reaction: so curious that the far more important purpose of Bach’s California trip, the excursion to Silicon Valley, drew  minimal press attention. He met with representatives of Visa, Facebook, Twitter and Google, among others. The IOC needs big-time help in reaching out to young people; it is focused in particular on the launch of the Olympic Channel. If you’re an IOC member, looking at that line-up in California, and there’s a California bid, doesn’t that too comport with logic and common sense?

IOC president Thomas Bach, center, at Google HQ // photo IOC

-- One more LA note. The U.S. Olympic Trials for the marathon went down Saturday on a course that wound around downtown and the University of Southern California campus. Galen Rupp won on the men’s side. Many in the running press (there is such a thing) immediately pointed to the possibility of Rupp, silver medalist in the 10k in London in 2012, running both the 10k and the marathon in Rio.

Reaction: let’s wait to see what the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has to say in the coming months, if anything, about Rupp and his coach, Alberto Salazar. As Kara Goucher, the women’s fourth-place finisher, said after the race, "Justice is coming."

Kara Goucher near the finish of Saturday's U.S. marathon Trials // Getty Images

-- Speaking of the IOC’s purported youth outreach: the Winter Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer are on.

Reaction: did you notice? Did anyone — like, any teens or 20-somethings? The very best part about the YOG experiment is the Young Reporters program, which has produced a number of promising young stars. There’s also an argument that the Youth Games serve as a petri dish of sorts, allowing the IOC and, perhaps more important, the international sports federations to check out without real peril events such as skateboarding (Nanjing YOG, 2014) and, now in Lillehammer, parkour. Fine. But that’s not the point of YOG, expressed by former IOC president Jacques Rogge in launching it. It’s to connect meaningfully with young people. How’s that going?

-- Speaking of a way that actually works in reaching young people: kudos to organizers, and especially the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Assn., for the Big Air event a few days ago at Boston's Fenway Park. It featured jumps and tricks off a 140-foot ramp set up on the field at the iconic baseball stadium.

Reaction: terrific idea, terrific execution. Great stuff, especially on TV.

Women's winner Julia Marino, 18, of Westport, Conn., during the Big Air event at Fenway Park // Getty Images

-- USA Swimming announces a contract extension, through the end of 2020, for executive director Chuck Wielgus.

Chuck Wielgus // photo USA Swimming

Reaction: USA Swimming is one of a handful of well-run national governing bodies, and that is in significant measure due to Wielgus, who is a fundamentally decent human being. Anyone who knows USA Swimming knows Wielgus has wrestled for years now with cancer; he deserves widespread admiration and respect for the soft-spoken courage he has repeatedly shown in public in dealing with significant medical issues. Switching gears: the well-publicized challenges sparked by sexual abuse of young swimmers are not — repeat, not — Chuck Wielgus’ fault. Six years ago, in particular in regard to the comments he made on an ABC 20/20 investigation, was Wielgus at his best when he said he didn’t feel the need to apologize? No. Does an 18-year tenure deserve to be judged by one moment? No. And, now, USA Swimming is way ahead of the curve with its SafeSport program. If you want to criticize Wielgus, he deserves credit, too, for realizing, perhaps belatedly, what was wrong and helping to craft an industry-standard response. What should be Wielgus’ next goal: effecting fundamental change in the USA Swimming governance structure. Simply, the board of directors has too many people; it’s too big and unwieldy. Better for USA Swimming to do what it does best, and be a leader in the field, meaning slim down the board, before something happens — whatever that might be — to compel change under pressure.

-- Michael Phelps shows up in a swim brief and has fun with the Arizona State basketball-game "Curtain of Distraction."

Phelps doing his thing at the ASU basketball game // screenshot Pac-12 network

Reaction: you can just tell the guy is happy. Which means: watch out, world. Prediction, absent a huge surprise at the U.S. Trials: five Rio gold medals (200 IM, 200 butterfly, 100 fly, 800 relay, medley relay), and that is no knock on his friend and rival, Ryan Lochte. As long as Lochte continues to pursue the 200 backstroke — at the Olympics, the 200 back final goes down before the 200 IM final on the same night — it’s a lot to ask, particularly of the legs, to go for gold in the 200 IM, too. As for the butterfly events, Chad le Clos of South Africa is a major talent. But in saying last summer after winning the 100 fly at the world championships (Phelps did not swim at the 2015 worlds) that Phelps could “keep quiet now,” le Clos awoke the tiger, and probably foolishly. Phelps has always done best when someone goes and trash talks — ask, in sequence, Ian Thorpe, Ian Crocker and, of course, Milorad Cavic. The x factor for Phelps in Rio: the 400 free relay, one of the signature moments at the Beijing 2008 Games, when Jason Lezak turned in an otherworldly last leg to beat Alain Bernard and the French. For the past couple years, the French have been the world’s best in that event, and it’s not clear, at least yet, that even with Phelps the U.S. has what it takes.

-- The Zika virus takes over the Olympic news cycle, and U.S. soccer women’s national team goalie Hope Solo, among others, expresses concern about being part of it all in Rio.

Prediction: Solo goes to Rio.

-- Two former officials with the Russian anti-doping agency, which goes by the acronym RUSADA, die within two weeks. Founding chairman Vyacheslav Sinev, who left RUSADA in 2010, died Feb. 3. Then this past Sunday, Feb. 14, the former RUSADA executive director Nikita Kamaev, died, just 52, of a “massive heart attack,” the agency said. Kamaev had resigned just two months ago, amid the doping scandal that sparked suspension of the Russian track and field program. That scandal is tied, in part, to a November report from a World Anti-Doping Agency commission that suggested state-sponsored doping. On Feb. 11, three days before Kamaev’s death, the Russian prosecutor-general’s office (predictably) rejected the WADA commission report, saying it held no concrete facts proving state-sponsored doping.

Reaction: it's like a Russian novel, full of twists and turns and who knows what. For that matter: who knows, really, what is believed to be real in Russia, and what is not? This prediction, though: like Hope Solo, the Russian track and field team will be in Rio. The IOC is super-big on a concept called “universality,” which means everyone in the entire world coming together. It’s actually a fundamental rationale for the Games. Given that, how possibly can officials — in particular track and field’s international governing body, the IAAF, or more, the IOC — keep the Russian track and field team away? Also: who really wants to challenge Vladimir Putin, given the potential for many uncertain ramifications?

-- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dies over the weekend at a ranch in Texas.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia // Getty Images

Chuck Blazer, once a senior soccer executive // Getty Images

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the FIFA matter last December in Washington // Getty Images

Reaction: what might that have to do with sports? Turn to a case called Crawford vs. Washington, decided in 2004. The 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that in a criminal case, the defendant “shall enjoy the right … to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” What does that mean when someone makes a “testimonial” statement out-of-court but doesn’t (that is, can’t, for instance because of illness, or won’t, because of the assertion of privilege) testify in court itself? Writing for a unanimous 9-0 court, Scalia said the “testimonial” statement can’t be admitted as evidence — unless the defendant had a prior opportunity to cross-examine the person who made that statement.

So, again: sports? The U.S. Department of Justice inquiry into corruption at FIFA centers on Chuck Blazer, the American who was formerly a high-ranking soccer-world executive. Blazer reportedly has been ill for years with colon cancer. What if he dies before any trial? Would anything he had to say be admissible? For that matter, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has already been prominently mentioned as a potential Scalia replacement. Would the Justice Department be so interested in aggressively pursuing soccer stuff if someone else took over?

Mo Farah: long-running king of his domain

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BEIJING — The 10,000 meters is why track fans who are track fans are, really, track fans and those who are not track fans, well, aren’t.

It’s 25 laps around the track. The best men in the world run it in about 27 minutes.

It starts slow and finishes fast. Really fast.

It’s a race of will, skill, tactics, tenacity and great theater.

On Saturday at the Bird’s Nest, the first night of the Beijing 2015 world championships, Britain’s Mo Farah affirmed his standing as the best in the world, winning the 10k in 27:01.13. Two Kenyans, Geoffrey Kamworor and Paul Tanui, took second and third. The American Galen Rupp finished fifth.

To the beat of 16 drummers banging on giant red drums along the homestretch, Farah — in his typical style — unleashed a ferocious kick over the last lap and particularly the final 100 to claim his fourth world championship gold. The winning time made for a Bird’s Nest record, by three-hundredths of a second.

Britain's Mo Farah sprinting to victory in the men's 10k // Getty Images

The 10k went down after an evening that saw another jaw-dropping Bird's Nest opening ceremony — no drums this time, as at the start of the Beijing Olympics seven years ago, but plenty of dancing, singing and more — and, then, the first rounds of the men’s 100, dominated by Justin Gatlin in a (slightly) wind-aided 9.83 seconds.

In women’s shot put, Michelle Carter took third, just the second-ever American woman ever to win a medal in the event -- and the American team's first medal of the championships. Germany’s Christina Schwanitz won, China’s Lijiao Gona grabbed second.

The drumbeat heading into Saturday at the Bird's Nest had been doping, doping, doping -- and not much else.

Rupp and the Somali-born Farah, training partners at The Oregon Project under Alberto Salazar, have for months been fending off doping-related inquiries.

Gatlin, in the minds of many in the press, particularly the feral British media, came here as the symbol of a sport ever-afflicted by doping, the consequence of his two failed tests, the first for ADD medication in 2001, the second for a testosterone bust in 2006 — even though a read of the record makes it abundantly plain such a characterization is entirely unfair.

Bolt, meanwhile, returning to the scene of the first of his Olympic golds and his 9.69, then a world record (he would lower it the next year at the Berlin 2009 worlds to 9.58), was cast as all-around good guy, maybe even savior of the sport — a role he explicitly, at a pre-meet news conference, declined.

Even the International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, was asked about doping, and not just once, at a Friday news conference.

Bach's answers, meantime, ought to serve as a vivid reminder that the world can be fraught with moral judgments that don’t serve to accomplish much of anything. As Bach made plain, we live in a world of grays, not black and white — of rules, laws, transgressions, sanctions, redemption and opportunity.

Bach was asked whether he — emotionally — could get behind a lifetime ban for doping.

“If you ask me about my emotions,” he said, “I would say clearly yes, a lifetime ban I would still support.”

But, he went on, “I had to learn from different courts and lawyers, like [IAAF president-elect] Sebastian Coe and others who were asking for this, that this is legally just not possible. A lifelong ban would not stand any kind of challenge. We have to accept this.

“… If you have an athlete who has served his suspension, then he has the right to participate in championships. There I can remind you that we made an effort once to change this, for the Olympic Games, with the so-called ‘Osaka rule,’ “ which would have barred participation in the next edition of the Games for an offender, “and again we lost the court case — that this is not possible.

“The suspension is there and afterwards we have to treat these athletes in the same way like the others.”

A few moments later, Bach was given this example — if a civil servant makes a mistake, he or she is out of a job. Why not the same for an elite athlete?

“This is a different kettle of fish,” he said.

“We have had examples for the sentences, the judgments made by courts. It’s a legal question. We are not allowed to go further to take stricter sanctions. It’s a question of human rights. I’m not going to give you a lecture here. It’s a question of human rights, and we must admit these facts.

“Also, we must be conscious of the fact that the fight against doping is not only a question of sanctions. It’s also a question of efficiency of test systems, it’s prevention as well and other measures.”

Doping, doping, doping — and then, finally, Saturday night, some running and throwing. Would it quiet the chatter?

Not on your life.

Gatlin, asked the inevitable question in a post-race interview, said, “Understand it has been 10 years since I’ve done that. It has been 10 years since that happened to me. And I’m here doing better things. So everybody needs to drop it.”

In the first heat of the men’s 100, Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, in the inside lane, went 9.95 — the 91st official sub-10 of his career. (Only a skeptic would note that Powell, a former 100 world record-holder, himself served a doping ban.)

Next heat: the American Tyson Gay, into a slight headwind, 10.11 for the victory. (Attention, skeptics: Gay, the American record holder, 9.69, has also served a doping ban.)

Third: Femi Ogunode, the Nigerian-born sprinter who runs for Qatar, took the heat, in 9.99. (Skeptics: Ogunode served a two-year doping ban that ended January, 2014.)

Fourth: the American Trayvon Bromell, in his second international meet, his first major meet, rocked the occasion by bringing back the short shorts. In the outside lane, he eased up and still went 9.91 for the win. Yow.

Fifth: France’s Jimmy Vicault in an easy 9.92, Canadian Andre DeGrasse — the Pan Am Games and NCAA champion from USC — in 9.99.

Sixth: Gatlin gave the camera two kisses, then two fists together in a show of strength, then — in the outside lane — ripped off a wind-aided 9.83. Wind-aided but just barely — the wind .1 over the limit at 2.1 meters per second. The last few meters — Gatlin didn’t even run hard.

“I just did what my coach said," Gatlin said afterward, a reference to Dennis Mitchell, "and go out there and dominate the first part of the race.”

Justin Gatlin cruising to victory in the heats in round one of the men's 100. That's South Africa's Henricho Bruintjies also in the frame, who would finish third in the heat, 24-hundredths  back // Getty Images

Seventh: Bolt made a show for the cameras of “running” with his fingers. Settling in to the blocks, he crossed himself, then pointed to the sky. He then lumbered out of the blocks and jogged to victory in 9.96. The American Mike Rodgers (skeptics — Rodgers also served time off for doping) took second, in 9.97.

Bolt, afterward: “Overall, it was good,” fifth-best overall in qualifying, then conceded not “as great as I want it to be.”

That 9.96 was, for Bolt, fast for an opening round. At those 2009 worlds in Berlin, he went 10.2 in the first round; 2011 worlds in Daegu, South Korea, 10.1; at the London 2012 Olympics, 10.09; at the 2013 worlds in Moscow, 10.07.

Ultimately: Berlin, world record; Daegu, false start and DQ; London, gold; Moscow, gold.

Gatlin took third in 2012, second in 2013.

Justin Gatlin and Usain Bolt after round one of the men's 100 // Getty Images

Bolt also said, “I know Gatlin was running very easy but that is how it is. I am not worried.”

Gatlin on Bolt: “He did the same thing in 2012. He ran kind of slow in the first round, picked it up in the semis, first in the finals.”

That’s exactly it — for all the intrigue of the first round, the semifinal heats will be far more telling.

As Maurice Greene, the Sydney 2000 100 gold medalist here as a broadcaster, had said Friday, “The semis is going to be able to tell a lot. It’s really going to show you if Bolt is really ready. Then you will be able to make your decision about the final.”

The 10k is, of course, far too demanding for rounds. It’s one shot, and one shot only.

In Daegu, Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeylan ran the last lap in 52.7; Farah, 53.36. Farah’s silver made for Britain’s first-ever medal in the 10k — but Jeylan was the winner, in 27:13.81.

Since then, in international majors, the 10k has been all Farah: gold in London, gold in Moscow. In 2013, Jeylan took second. The difference: Farah kicked the final 100 in 12.82, Jeylan 13.15.

In London, Rupp took silver; he had been eighth in Berlin in 2009, seventh in Daegu; then took fourth in Moscow.

No non-African born runner had won a medal at a 10k worlds since 1987, when Francesco Panetta of Italy took silver. Could Rupp?

Farah, meanwhile, was seeking to become the first non-Ethiopian multiple worlds 10k winner.

The first lap Saturday went 68:39. Typical.

The field went through one kilometer in 2:52.7, two in 5:32.1, three in 8:15 — a very quick 27:30 pace.

At 5k, 13:40, Rupp running sixth, Farah seventh.

At 6k, 16:22, Rupp up to third, Farah fourth.

By 7k, the 22-year-old Kamworor had made a move into the lead, at 19:06. He is the 2015 world cross-country champion, the 2014 world half-marathon winner. Tanui was second, Farah third, Rupp fourth.

At 8k, Kamworor was timed in 21:49.99, Farah 26 seconds back, Tanui 26-hundredths back. A third Kenyan, Bedan Karoki Muchiri, was 46-hundredths back. Rupp, 62-hundredths. Everyone else — far behind.

With three laps to go, Farah moved to the lead. Kamworor immediately took it back.

They stayed that way with two to go. On the homestretch, the drummers started pounding.

One lap: Farah in front, Kamworor on his shoulder, and the lapped runners getting in the way, Farah stumbling ever-so-much with perhaps 350 meters to go but just as quickly recovering.

Down the homestretch, Farah pulled away. That winning time again: 27:01.13.

Farah in victory // Getty Images

Kamworor — still learning how to run on the track and so a force with which to be reckoned come next year, and the Rio Games — crossed 63-hundredths back.

Kamworor joined two legends of the sport, Britain’s Paula Radcliffe and Kenya’s Paul Tergat, as the only runners to win worlds cross-country gold, worlds half-marathon gold and worlds 10k silver. No one has ever won gold in all three races.

Tanui took third, 1.70 behind.

"We worked as a team trying to beat Mo Farah," Kamworor said. "But he is a tough guy to beat. I learned a lot from this race. It was very tactical, very slow from the beginning but getting faster and faster.

"I must say I am happy for our performance, medal counts, and with such a fierce competitor as Farah, silver counts."

 Muchiri ran a season-best 27:04.77 for fourth, Rupp a season-best 27:08.91 for fifth.

"I'm definitely disappointed," Rupp said, adding, "I just didn't have it today."

Farah ran the last kilometer in 2:28.81, Kamworor in 2:29.46.

"I nearly went down," he said, "but I managed to stay on my feet, thank God, and win the race. I just get to keep doing what I'm good at, and that is running and winning medals for my country.

"I just have to concentrate on winning my races. I do it for my family and the people behind me, for my wife and my kids."

Farah ran the first 5k in 13:40, the second in 13:21.

Seven years ago in Beijing, knocked out of his Olympic heat, Farah ran 13:50.

His last lap Saturday: 54.14 seconds.

Talk amongst yourselves. The 100 final goes down Sunday night.

Justin Gatlin: flag-bearing ray of sunshine?

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EUGENE, Oregon — The weather forecast Sunday for the cathedral that is Hayward Field promised patches of sunshine. So apt. The U.S. team now heading to Beijing for the August world championships could be, may well be, the best-ever. Don’t say 30 medals. But, you know.

At the same time, can this team, this sport run away from the storm clouds? Say Justin Gatlin. Say Galen Rupp. You know.

Gatlin, who hasn’t lost at the 100 or 200 meters since 2013, ran away with the 200 Sunday at the U.S. nationals, ripping off a 19.57. That was a new U.S. outdoor national championships record. It made for the fifth-fastest 200 ever.

Justin Gatlin is all alone at the finish line of the 200 at Hayward Field, in 19.57 seconds // Getty Images

Gatlin’s performance highlighted a meet at which the U.S. team served notice of depth across the board. When Allyson Felix wins a 400 in which Sanya Richards-Ross doesn’t even make the final and Francena McCorory takes fourth — that’s evidence of how good the Americans are, and that’s just one event.

The list of potential multiple medal events is long. Just for starters: men’s shot put, men’s and women’s sprints, men’s and women’s sprint hurdles, men's triple jump (four qualifiers, all from the same university -- Florida, go Gator fans).

The U.S. women are really good in the 800 — Alysia Montaño winning Sunday in 1:59.15, Brenda Martinez just back in 1:59.71, Ajee' Wilson coming in third in 2:00.05 on one shoe. Maggie Vessey fell and didn’t have a chance.

At last year’s championships in Sacramento, Montaño was heavily pregnant with her first child, a daughter, Linnea, born last Aug. 15. You want sunshine?

Alysia Montaño and Brenda Martinez before the start of the 800 final // Getty Images

As the U.S. team proved in the Bahamas this past May, it now has the recipe, assuming of course no baton drops, to beat Usain Bolt and the Jamaicans in the men’s 4x100 relay.

The key is getting way ahead of Bolt by the anchor leg. It’s simple: Gatlin, who runs one of the middle legs.

Take it to the bank: head to head, Gatlin, right now, absolutely would beat Bolt at both marquee distances, 100 or 200, and it might not even be close. Line them up: Gatlin is your guy. Bolt’s 2015 best in the 200, just as a for instance, is 20.13 in the Czech Republic on May 26.

So: how is Gatlin, age 33, 11 years after winning the 100 at the Athens Olympics, running better and faster than ever? More to the point: is Gatlin running clean? Better question: what if, truly, he is?

Questions, questions, questions all meet long for Rupp. There were British reporters here for the duration, and not for the Oregon sunshine.

Rupp, and his coach, Alberto Salazar, have been at the center of doping-related allegations for the past several weeks. All smoke, no fire. But a lot of smoke. Like, a lot.

Rupp is the London 2012 silver medalist in the 10,000 meters — behind his Oregon Project teammate, the British runner Mo Farah, who in recent days has been facing the same sorts of questions. Here on Friday, Rupp won the 10k and on Sunday took third in the 5k. Rupp also put on a bravo performance for the media after that 10k, scrupulously sticking to talking points, and talking points only — oh, and was that his agent, and Bolt’s as well, Ricky Simms, right there?

“I believe in a clean sport,” Rupp said, time and again. “I’m not going to lie. It’s been hard,” he said, over and again. And so on.

As was observed in the press tribunes at Hayward — so curious that Bolt did not run this week in Jamaica. Maybe Simms had more pressing business in Eugene.

Earlier this month, ProPublica and the BBC published allegations by, among others, the U.S. distance runner Kara Goucher and a former Salazar assistant, Steve Magness, that Salazar encouraged elite runners at the Oregon Project, which he leads, to push if not skirt anti-doping rules.

On Wednesday, just before the start of the meet here, Salazar published a 12,000-word online manifesto disputing the allegations. The Oregon Project, he said, “will never permit doping.”

A significant chunk of those 12,000 words went toward Salazar’s relationship with Goucher.

On Sunday, after her 5k-race, in which she finished 18th, Goucher said she doesn’t like “being labeled a liar.” At the same time, she asserted her “love for the sport is much stronger than my passion to have people like me.”

She said she first met with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on Feb. 1 or 2, 2013. Why that hadn’t emerged until now, she said, will all come out in due time.

“I believe in the truth,” she also said, “and I know that these things take time. I believe USADA is doing everything in their power. Think of how long it too for Lance,” a reference to the cyclist Lance Armstrong, “and I believe the truth will come out.

“When, I don’t know.”

Gatlin, meanwhile, who is often labeled a two-time doping loser, tried something of a media reach-out strategy here, talking to Reuters and to Sports Illustrated in a bid to get ahead of what he and everyone in the sport knows is going to be the other major U.S. track storyline come August and Beijing.

This is how it’s going to be: Tyson Gay, who served a one-year ban, won the 100 here on Friday, in 9.87 — his first world championship slot since 2009.

This is also how it’s going to be, absent injury or something freaky:

This year, Gatlin has run 9.75 and a world-best 9.74 in the 100. The sprints historically have been the domain of the Americans. Yet Gatlin would be the first American to get back on top of the world-scene sprint podium since 2007 — since Gay won the 100 and 200 at the worlds in Osaka, Japan.

It's all been Boltus Interruptus since, if you will, albeit with that 2011 worlds 100 false-start hiccup for Yohan Blake.

Bolt’s best 2015 100 is a 10.12, in April — though he did run a fantastic anchor leg at the World Relays.

Maybe the yams in Jamaica will prove super-potent this summer, or something.

Otherwise, this is a pretty easy call.

On Sunday, after winning the 200, referring to that Bolt-led Jamaican sprint domination of the past few years, Gatlin said, “I think a lot of sprinters are waking up and understanding that, you know, it’s time to fight back. It’s time to be able to represent your country. It’s time to work hard and go out there and bear your American flag with honor.”

Is the world, captivated by Bolt since 2008, ready for Gatlin to rule the sprints in Beijing? At the very Bird’s Nest where Bolt became, well, Bolt?

“You know what? I don’t know. At this point in time, all I can worry about is myself. That’s all I can do. I can only wake up as Justin Gatlin and go to sleep as Justin Gatlin.”

Earlier in the meet, Gatlin had suggested to Reuters that his first doping matter — when he tested positive in 2001 for an attention-deficit disorder medication — doesn’t deserve, really, to be counted.

“Last time I checked, someone who takes medication for a disorder is not a doper,” he said.

“Other people in the sport have taken the same medication I had for ADD and only got warnings.

“I didn’t,” a two-year ban that was later cut to one.

Gatlin’s second go-around with the doping rules has proven far more problematic.

In 2006, Gatlin tested positive for testosterone. He has consistently maintained he was sabotaged by a massage therapist with a grudge against his former coach, Trevor Graham; the therapist is alleged to have rubbed testosterone cream onto Gatlin at the 2006 Kansas Relays.

Query: does that pass the my-dog-ate-the-homework test?

Gatlin got four years.

He was eligible for eight but argued, successfully, that the ADD strike shouldn’t count against him in aggravation.

So — to his position.

Gatlin told SI, “That makes me a two-time doper? I don’t understand that at all,” and the man has a genuine point.

The hangup for many is the sabotage story. Maybe it's true. Maybe it's not. Without more in the public domain, who can say?

In the end, the thing is, Gatlin has done his time. The rules say he can run. What more, now, should the guy do?

If he were to get caught again, surely Gatlin -- who is a smart guy and has been around -- knows the consequences. It'd be over and done, however many prior strikes he wants to count. Is that risk worth whatever reward?

How about this: if this were the NFL, would this be such a big deal? Don't those guys get busted all the time, and it's small-point news in the back of the newspaper? Why is it seemingly such a bigger deal in track and field?

All of you who now want to stand up and scream, lifetime ban for even a first offense! Go away. That's not feasible, because of right-to-work and other legitimate concerns. If you want to mutter and sputter about such things over a pint in a pub, fine. The rest of us are going to live in the real world.

So what is it? Is track the last refuge of moralists? Come on. The world is not black and white. It's full of shades of grey. Elite track and field is, in every way, big-time, professional sport. So are sprinters supposed to be held to a different standard than linebackers? Really? Why?

So what is it?

Is it that, at 33, Gatlin is running so damn fast?

What explains that?

His 2004 best in the 100 was 9.85. Now he’s a full tenth of a second faster, and every sign is — aiming toward August — he probably will go faster still.

Until Sunday, Gatlin had a 2015 world-leading 19.68 in the 200 — here at Hayward, at the Prefontaine Classic, on May 30.

He ran a 19.92 in the first round, then 19.9 flat in the semis, then that 19.57.

His 200 times were all in the 20s until last year, when he posted 19.68 in Monaco.

The testing system is too fraught with uncertainty to declare that Gatlin — or, for that matter, anyone — is 100 percent clean.

For instance, and without reference to Gatlin — or, again, anyone — the British newspaper the Daily Mail on Sunday, quoting the American Victor Conte, the doping expert at the center of the BALCO scandal who now is in the supplement business, explained in lay terms the art of using a slow-acting substance called IGF-1 LR3.

Total cost for a 40-day cycle: as little as $200. Use: 100 micrograms per day.

“I believe there is rampant use of it right now,” Conte told the paper.

Then again, it is also the case that Gatlin is 25 pounds lighter than he was in 2010. What sport scientists have discovered is that upper body weight is, literally and figuratively, a drag for sprinters. Be as scrawny as you want up top. Just be able to pound it, and hard, with your lower body, because that’s what exerts mass and force.

If you’re carrying 25 pounds less, it stands to reason that you might well run faster, right?

Even a lot faster.

What if, for the sake of argument, Justin Gatlin is indeed running clean? What then?

“When you come out to Hayward Field,” Gatlin said atop the medals stand, “you have to come out and make a statement.”

“Look out, Jamaica?” Dan O’Brien, the 1996 Olympic decathlon champ who was doing PA duties at Hayward.

“Look out world,” Gatlin said. “Here we are — USA!”

"Thank you, Meb"

Meb Keflezghi’s victory Monday at the Boston Marathon, so poignant, so soulful, proved an epic reminder of why sports matter. He is the first American man to win the race since 1983.

Keflezighi, who turns 39 in a couple weeks, is the oldest Boston Marathon winner since at least 1930.

Meb Keflezighi celebrates after winning the Boston Marathon // photo Getty Images

His win, in 2:08.37, marked a soaring triumph of the human spirit — a year after the bombings that killed three people and wounded hundreds. Keflezighi ran with the names of the dead — a fourth, a police officer killed in the manhunt that ensued after the bombings — written on his bib, which read, simply, “Meb.”

Officials estimated that perhaps a million people turned out for the 2014 Boston Marathon, to cheer on the 36,000 runners, 9,000 more than usual.

To say that Keflezighi was not expected to win would be an understatement. After all, he had finished only 23rd at last year’s New York Marathon. Fifteen guys had faster personal-best times than Keflezighi going into Boston 2014.

Keflezighi is, of course, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist and the 2009 New York marathon champ. But he is no longer running in Nikes, having lost that sponsorship  — thought to be too old and too slow. Instead, he was kicking Monday in red-and-silver flyers from Skechers, the Manhattan Beach, California-based company better known for skateboard shoes.

Too old and too slow proved tactically brilliant Monday.

He went out in a two-man pack — everybody else let them go — with Josphat Boit. At Mile 16, Keflezighi made his move, running that split in 4:39, opening up a big gap. He said afterward he had to fight off a stomach bug about Mile 22. He then found the strength to keep ahead of Kenyans Wilson Chebet, the two-time Amsterdam Marathon champion, and Franklin Chepkwony, the 2012 Zurich Marathon winner.

Chebet finished in 2:08.48, Chepkwony two seconds behind that.

“Going through the last two miles, it was a challenge, it was difficult,” Keflezighi said at a news conference, adding a moment later, “Sometimes you just have to run and dig deep.”

The debate can begin now about where Keflezighi stands now in the ranks of American marathoners. Frank Shorter? Bill Rodgers? Alberto Salazar?

Keflezighi's 2004 silver made him the first U.S. man to win an Olympic marathon medal since Shorter, who won gold in 1972 and silver in 1976.  When Keflezighi won in New York in 2009? That made him the first U.S. man to win there since 1982.

For sure, this much  has to be acknowledged: Keflezighi has had to compete in an era when the East Africans have been in their ascendancy. What he has done — Olympic silver, New York and, now, Boston, and Boston in 2014 with all the symbolism — deserves appropriate recognition, and especially from anyone with any connection to the hardest thing that will forever define the distinct culture that is the marathon:

Putting on your shoes — red-and-silver, whatever — and stepping out the door.

Too old, too slow, can't do it -- all of that got beat back Monday. That is the essence of the marathon. And, in a very real way, it is the essence, too, of sports.

It's why he ran, and so many of thousands of others did, too.

“What he has accomplished should be a source of pride for all Americans,” Max Siegel, the chief executive officer of USA Track & Field, said in a statement that captured the moment.

“Since 2004, Meb has set the standard for what American marathoners can achieve. With everything that was at stake at the 2014 Boston Marathon, this must rank as one of the greatest American marathon performances in history.

“Thank you, Meb.”

 

USATF, Nike in apparent $500 million deal

USA Track & Field on Tuesday announced a groundbreaking 23-year deal with Nike apparently worth $500 million, an arrangement that holds the potential to transform the leading sport of the Olympic movement in untold ways in the United States for a generation. The Nike deal comes 13 days after USATF announced a seven-year partnership with Hershey, the chocolate maker. In February, 2013, USATF announced Neustar, the administrator of the .US top-level domain, as the three-year sponsor of its national road-racing championships.

Two more significant deals are expected to be announced next week.

Olympics Day 14 - Athletics

“We are a more robust organization and, frankly, it is creating a lot of positive momentum for people who want to engage with us,” USATF chief executive Max Siegel said, adding of the Nike arrangement that while the Oregon company is “a significant part of our funding, it is one sponsor.”

Neither USATF nor Beaverton, Ore.-based Nike would disclose the financial details of the arrangement, which runs from 2017 through 2040. It is believed, however, to be at least double USATF’s current annual financial and in-kind support from Nike. Based on USATF financial documents and past media reports, that would put it in the $17-20 million dollar range annually.

“Nike was founded as a running company, and our passion for track and field is at the core of our DNA,” Mark Parker, the company’s chief executive and president, said in a statement, adding, “We have been a longstanding partner of USATF since 1991 and are extremely proud to extend our partnership and commitment to the sport.”

Half a billion dollars is the kind of money that might regularly fly around the NFL, NBA or Major League Baseball.

In Olympic sport in the United States, not so much — and particularly in track and field, bedeviled in recent years by virtually every manner of issue, challenge, problem, crisis, whatever imaginable, everything from rules imbroglios to political turf wars to governance matters to repeated doping scandals.

Despite it all, Team USA keeps racking up medals: 29 at the London 2012 Games, testament to the world’s best grass-roots, high school and college programs.

Because it's USATF, and it has such history, there is the easy temptation to wonder what's the catch in a deal of this magnitude.

For sure, the deal will likely result in more pressure for more track and field events in Oregon. On Tuesday, for instance, the IAAF, track and field’s international governing body announced that Eugene, along with Barcelona and Doha, Qatar, were candidates for the 2019 world championships; the IAAF will decide in November. The world championships, which date to 1983, have never been staged in the United States.

Will Nike be just “one sponsor”? It has provided USATF uniforms for the last six editions of the Summer Games. It is the driver behind the Oregon Project, the group founded more than a dozen years ago to promote distance running — where Alberto Salazar directs the likes of Mo Farah, Galen Rupp, Jordan Hasay, Shannon Rowbury and, now, Mary Cain.

Nike assuredly doesn’t do deals unless it has run the financial analysis and figures it makes sense, or more. Nike surely considered the present value of some $20 million annually, and the 2040 value of those dollars.

Then again, there’s this:  in a deal, it’s always good — for everyone — to find certainty.

What if this deal is indeed a game-changer for USATF and beyond, for the entire U.S. Olympic scene, prompting everyone to think big?

When he took over nearly two years ago as USATF’s chief executive, Siegel took a look at the federation’s financials. USATF had roughly $2.7 million in operating reserves. Now: $6 million. By year’s end: $20 million.

Siegel has simultaneously undertaken a campaign to use increasing amounts of interest income to pay for USATF operating expenses in Indianapolis.

With more money freed up, the theory is to use dollars for programming and athlete support.

“One of the things I wanted to make sure I was able to do was install a really solid financial foundation to give us plenty of runway to [develop] programming,” Siegel said.

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USATF has long operated in a space where there is consistent, if not chronic, push-and-pull from an incredible array of interests — athletes, agents, organizers from the track as well as road racing, and more.

Half a billion dollars would seem to spell “leverage.”

Siegel would say only, “It definitely gives us the ability to set a very high standard, both in terms of accountability and expectation with our constituents. Every single program in the federation is going to benefit significantly in terms of the infusion of capital.

“We can engage with our leadership and set a new standard of leadership: ‘You are going to have to perform at a very high level.’ “

At the same time, as the pushback from the controversial disqualification of Gabriele Grunewald — and then reversal of that DQ — at the women’s 3,000-meters at the U.S. indoor nationals in February in Albuquerque underscored, USATF needs, now more than ever, to make sure its governance is up to a $500-million standard.

“What I have heard since I got involved with the sport is people talking about professionalizing, or raising the level of professionalism, in the sport,” Siegel said.

“I have read through all the levels of coverage, even the criticism of our sport, from Albuquerque. As CEO, I don’t disagree. For the last 20 years, I have been a talent and athlete advocate. We want to be a big brand and to make money. To do that, what these issues have done, have highlighted, is the need to sit down and make sure our governance lines up with the desired commercial outcome.”

The time is now, he emphasized for a wide-ranging governance review — “across-the-board.”

“We are looking at a pretty comprehensive governance review,” Siegel said, noting that while USATF has already announced a review of “field-of-play” decisions, “To be effective, you have to take a comprehensive look at all of it.” He observed that “special interests” tend “to be passionate,” and USATF “has done patchwork over the years.”

He said, “We need to take a look at governance change for the whole organization."

Portland wins 2016 world indoors

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MONACO -- The U.S. team has long been No. 1 in the world in track and field. Hosting the world in track and field? Not so much. The U.S. has not played host to a major championship since 1992, in Boston. Before that, Indianapolis staged the world indoor championships, in 1987. Of course, Atlanta and Los Angeles put on the Summer Olympic Games. That was 1996. And 1984.

To say that this has been a recurring sore spot with track and field's governing body, the IAAF, would be putting it mildly. When, oh when, would the United States -- and, more particularly, USA Track & Field -- ever step up?

On Friday, Portland, Oregon, won the right to stage the 2016 world indoor championships, USATF president Stephanie Hightower asserting that under the direction of federation chief executive Max Siegel and in concert with TrackTown USA president Vin Lananna there is energy and synergy to "rebuild the brand of track and field in the United States."

The IAAF Council awarded Portland the 2016 event amid a spirited campaign that also saw it give Birmingham, England, the 2018 world indoors.

The UK is now lined up to stage the 2014 Commonwealth Games (in Glasgow), the 2016 world half-marathon championships (Cardiff, also awarded Friday), the 2017 world track and field outdoor championships (London, at the same stadium that staged the 2012 Games) and, now, the 2018 world indoors.

Talk about legacy from the 2012 Olympics.

The 2014 world indoors will be staged March 7-9 in Sopot, Poland.

Birmingham had staged the 2003 world indoors, IAAF president Lamine Diack at the time calling them the best-ever, and but for the fact of an American bid would probably have won going away for 2016.

"This is a sport that needs to nurture its roots in the United States," UK Athletics chief Ed Warner acknowledged Friday after all the political horse-trading was said and done.

The IAAF's "World Athletic Series," which includes its major championships, is sponsored by adidas; the current deal goes through 2019. It sometimes can seem as though everything sports-related in the state of Oregon is underwritten by Nike. How the two will mesh come 2016 remains uncertain.

Warner also said, "I feel as though Christmas has come early for British athletics."

For Portland and USA Track and Field, as well.

Teen middle-distance sensation Mary Cain announced here Friday that she would be forgoing college and turning pro, and would be based in, where else, Portland, with coach Alberto Salazar, and the Oregon Project, with stars such as Olympic medal-winners Mo Farah and Galen Rupp. Her plan, she said: "To throw myself into insanely fast races and have no pressure."

The Portland 2016 plan:

A three-day meet in March 2016, tentatively March 18-20, the week after the NCAA indoor championships, at the Oregon Convention Center, with seating, Lananna said, for "8,400-plus."

A new 200-meter track will be built and then, as a legacy of the event, repurposed for use -- somewhere. It will be the only indoor track in the track-crazy state of Oregon, Lananna noted.

TrackTown USA served as the organizers for the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials at venerable Hayward Field in Eugene, on the University of Oregon campus. It will also serve as the local organizing committee for next year's IAAF world junior championships, also in Eugene.

The 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials will be back in Eugene, based at Hayward.

All this begs the obvious:

It's fine, maybe even great, that TrackTown has lit a -- or, maybe more accurately, capitalized on the -- spark in Oregon. There's a lot of Nike money behind all this, in Oregon. At the same time, Oregon is a long way away from pretty much everywhere else. Anyone who has ever been to Eugene knows it is hard to get to. And almost no one who gets drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers ever goes, wow, that was my first choice.

When was the last time you ever heard any of your European, Asian or African friends say, gee, you know, I want to vacation in the United States and I think I'm going to go to -- Portland? San Francisco, absolutely. New York, definitely. Disneyland, for sure. Portland? Get real.

Look, there are a lot of reasons to like Portland. Excellent coffee. Fine wine. Lewis and Clark. But it is not a major market, and to argue otherwise strains credulity.

If, as Hightower asserted, track and field is truly to be re-branded in the entire United States, it needs to think about a strategy that gets people where it's at in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, the Bay Area, Boston, DC, Detroit, Seattle, Phoenix, Tampa, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver and on and on.

Asked about that, Siegel said "television properties" were in the works without offering more specifics. Lananna volunteered the example of the MLS Portland Timbers soccer team, saying that a few years ago it was nothing and now it draws "rabid" crowds in a "crazy environment," adding, "We hope to do the same … we feel very confident we will be able to do take those same steps forward."

Those would be giant steps, indeed, off a three-day track meet in an indoor convention center in Portland, which -- let's not forget -- will be staged amid the hoopla of NCAA basketball March Madness.

It's worth noting something else. Cain said Friday that when she was younger she was a swimmer and idolized Michael Phelps. Phelps, by putting himself back in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency testing pool, has taken his first steps toward being back in the water in Rio in 2016. Don't kid yourself. This, in the sphere of Olympic marketing, is what USATF is likely up against in 2016, too.

Still, give USATF and TrackTown USA credit. This is its first step, a welcome step in bringing world-class international track and field back to the United States after more than two decades. It's Portland, sure, but you have to start someplace, and that someplace has to be where you know it's going to work.

 

An epic 10k in a hard rain

EUGENE, Ore. -- The rain here Friday was at times epic. It was cold and relentless. To make the United States men's Olympic team in the 10,000 meters, you had to run 27 minutes through that rain. You had to run hard and tough and push away pain and doubt. And a lot of history.

No American man has won an Olympic medal in the 10,000 meters since Billy Mills, in 1964.

Maybe, just maybe, watching Galen Rupp cruise to the finish line, his tongue out in a playful wag, a big smile as he loped down the home stretch at venerable Hayward Field, there is hope for London and 2012.

Rupp broke away with three laps to go to win in a Trials record 27:25.33. He closed in a final mile 4:13.

That 10k Friday was the fastest of the year by an American, and the 12th-fastest of all time by an American man.

"Mission accomplished," Rupp said afterward.

Matt Tegenkamp, who has been bothered by injuries for the better part of a year, took second, in 27:33.94. "Everything had a purpose this year and it was all pointed toward this race," he said.

Rupp's training partner, Dathan Ritzenhein, came in third, in 27:36.09. In January, he had finished fourth in the Olympic marathon. "That fourth-place finish made this all that much sweeter," he said.

To go to London, moreover, Ritzenhein not only needed to finish top-three but to meet the Olympic "A" standard qualifying time -- 27:45. He did so by roughly 10 seconds.

Coming down the final stretch, figuring he had third-place locked and also knowing he was going to beat 27:45, Ritzenhein said, "That's what make it all worth it."

The American distance running community is filled passionate, keenly analytical people. To say they have been waiting, and waiting -- and waiting -- for someone to come along and win an Olympic medal would be a gentle understatement.

There is analysis of -- well, almost everything. One of the best track and field writers out there, Ken Goe of the Oregonian, wrote a lengthy article this week that described how Rupp's coach (Ritzenhein's, too), famed 1980s marathoner Alberto Salazar, made some "big changes" to Rupp's upper body mechanics to help him "be more loose and relaxed while racing."

"We made a huge, huge jump over 10 days. The change is amazing," Salazar said.

Rupp, late Friday, laughed. "I think I'm just running taller."

Everyone understands that Rupp holds enormous potential.

He finished 13th in the 10k in his first Olympics, in Beijing. Last year, at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea, he finished seventh.

For Rupp and for Salazar, if not for their critics, that's progress.

Late last summer, Rupp ran a 26:48 10k at a race in Belgium. That's the American record in the event.

Along with Ritzenhein, Rupp trains here in Oregon with Mo Farah, the British runner who in Daegu won the 5k and took second in the 10k. Farah is expected to be a major medal contender at the London Games.

The rain Friday? "It is what it is," he said. "You're still going to go out and compete, get the job done."

Rupp will run again here, in the 5k.

And then, in London. For sure in one race, maybe two.

"I don't know if it's my time," he said, then added with the maturity of a runner who knows that it might well be, "I hope to just be in the mix. You hope to be there with a lap to go. At that point, it's anybody's race. At that point, you give it all you've got. You just want to be there at the finish."

Galen Rupp answers his critics

The community that closely follows American distance running is full of zeal, snark and great passion.

Last week, in a race in Belgium, Galen Rupp broke the American record in the 10,000 meters, and by more than 11 seconds, finishing in 26 minutes and 48 seconds. That was his personal-best time, by more than 22 seconds.

Rupp's run was the fourth-fastest in the world in 2011. He is now the 16th-fastest man in history at 10k; his 26:48 is the 29th-fastest of all time.

Chris Solinsky had held the American record, 26:59.60, set in May, 2010. Solinsky's run was the 81st-fastest 10k ever run; Solinsky is now the 39th-fastest man in 10k history.

All those superlatives -- and what did Rupp get from the American track and field community?

Along with the praise -- a healthy dose of angst and criticism.

No American man has won an Olympic medal in the 10k since Billy Mills in 1964. There's a lot of pent-up emotion. Bring on the therapy sessions!

"Dear Galen Rupp: Time to Move Up to the Marathon," said one poster to the message boards at LetsRun.com, criticizing Rupp's finishing kick.

As was duly noted, Rupp was blown away in the last lap of the race by eventual winner Kenenisa Bekele and Kenya's Lucas Rotich.

Bekele won in a world-leading 26:43.16. Rotich took second, Rupp third. Bekele, for the unfamiliar, is the world-record holder and arguably the greatest 10k (and 5k) runner of all time.

More than one critic also noted that Rupp was blown away at the close of last month's world championship 10k in Daegu, South Korea, finishing seventh.

Also on the LetsRun.com message boards: the assertion that Solinsky's effort, at the beginning of the 2010 outdoor season, was just as good as Rupp's, at the end of the year and on a super-fast track.

The event in Belgium, in Brussels, called the Van Damme meet, is notorious for speed. Dating back to 1996, 12 of the 16 fastest 10k runners of all time have turned in their best at Van Damme, including Bekele's world-record 26:17.53, on August 26, 2005.

Wait -- there's more.

Alberto Salazar, the 1980s distance great who is now coaching both Rupp and Britain's Mo Farah in Oregon -- Farah won silver in Daegu in the 10k and gold in the 5k -- said the following in comments published on the IAAF, or international track and field association, website:

"… When you run World Championships in hot weather you've got to deal with it.

"But even though Galen is not a big guy he's still big compared to a Kenyan or an Ethiopian. It's a disadvantage if you are a Caucasian running in the heat versus an African, you just have more body mass and it's going to be harder."

What's an American record-holder to do?

First things first.

"I mean, I don't -- I don't think it has anything to do with being white," Rupp said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters, asked if it was a disadvantage to be a white runner in a discipline dominated by dark-skinned Africans.

"I think his point in saying that is more that I'm just a bigger guy than a lot of these guys," adding a moment later, "It's easier for them to stay cooler longer. I think that was the point [Salazar] was trying to make with that statement. You know, I agree with it."

As for his finishing kick -- Rupp agrees with his critics. He needs to get stronger.

It's a process, he said.

Farah has urged patience. Salazar has urged patience.

If there is anything the American distance community ought to understand, that's for sure it -- if there is to be greatness in the 10k, it takes patience.

Rupp, for instance, finished 13th in the 10k at the 2008 Olympics. To go from 13th in 2008 to seventh in 2011 -- that's definitely moving up, isn't it?

"Sometimes it takes time," Rupp said. "It takes years of doing a lot of strength workouts and to keep the same approach we have been taking. You have got to be able to finish fast in slow races to be able to close in fast races."

A couple years ago, he said, it was "hang on as long as you can." Now it's the "fun part, where I'm going to be there at the end."

He said, "For me to make that next jump, I have to be sound. I'm close to making that big jump. I think I have the pieces in place to do something well. I have great people around me and full confidence they are doing the right thing."