Stephanie Hightower

Who run the world? Beyoncé knows. The IAAF, too

Who run the world, as Beyoncé so eloquently puts it? 

Can there be any doubt that the International Olympic Committee and the International Association of Athletics Federations are in the midst of undertaking the most emphatic efforts to put talented, sophisticated, deserving women in positions of leadership?

Thus the question: under what theory can Willie Banks’ candidacy for the USA Track & Field position to the International Association of Athletics Federation governing Council be effective?

Particularly when USATF already has, in Stephanie Hightower, a senior executive who has given USATF a much-bigger voice, presence and influence within the IAAF than in some time and who, as well, commands the respect and trust of the most important person at the federation, its president, Sebastian Coe.

Olympic scene: reform plans, fairy tales and more

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Stuff happens. A lot isn't by itself enough to justify its own column. Here goes a collection of stuff:

— From the department of decoding news releases:

The International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, and the World Anti-Doping Agency president, Sir Craig Reedie, held a meeting Monday at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, after which the IOC issued a statement that included remarks from both men. From Bach: “There was a very positive atmosphere in our meeting today, and I am very happy that any perceived misunderstandings could be clarified. We agreed to continue to work closely together to strengthen the fight against doping under the leadership of WADA.”

WADA president Sir Craig Reedie at a meeting last month in Scotland // Getty Images

Translation: Consider this a real step forward because it looks like WADA has been asked to drive how doping reform gets delivered.

— News: IAAF enacts wide-ranging reform plan at Saturday vote in Monaco. The count: 182-10.

The IAAF reform vote may have looked like an election result from the Communist days, with 95 percent in favor, but reality is that what the vote does is give IAAF president Seb Coe time and some structure to begin what is sure to be a lengthy, arduous and contentious process of reform.

The IAAF amounts to a classic business-school case — better, a book waiting to be told — about how to rip up one structure, the president-as-unchallengeable-king model by which the federation was run for more than 30 years, and replace it with a 21st century model featuring a president, an empowered chief executive officer and more. Change is never easy, no matter the scene, and it won’t come easily to the IAAF.

— How do you know change is going to be a slog? Because of the finest part of the IAAF meeting: the moment when the delegates realized that, yes, their votes were going to be made public and they were going to be accountable for pushing the electronic vote-system button. Yikes!

Even better: Ukraine abstaining. Home of Sergei Bubka, whom Coe defeated in 2015 for the IAAF presidency. Senegal abstaining. Home of Lamine Diack, the former IAAF president, now under criminal investigation in France. Jamaica abstaining? Seriously? When anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that doping protocols in Jamaica have over the years been, at best, lackluster? If you were a Jamaican representative to some IAAF commission or another, please consider handing in a resignation letter, and pronto. Before you get, and appropriately, kicked off.

— For the history books:

Coe at one point before the vote made like Winston Churchill or something, declaring, “The greatest symbol of hope for our future is the civilized discourse we have had, its firmness of purpose and its sense of justice.”

IAAF president Seb Coe at last Friday's federation awards ceremony in Monaco // Getty Images for IAAF

— That 95 percent vote? That is in large part due to Coe’s political skills. He knows how to close a deal. He also knows how to delegate his proxies, chiefly among them the American delegate Stephanie Hightower. He, she and others were working it, and hard, at the IAAF gala Friday night before Saturday’s vote.

Looking ahead: the IAAF is now mandated to have female vice presidents: at least one by 2019, two by 2027. In this context, it is worth remembering the — use whatever descriptive you want — observation of the-then IAAF vice president Bob Hersh at a public USA Track & Field board meeting not so long ago that it was unlikely a woman could be elected an IAAF vice president. He also said, “We need a seat on the executive board and I have a better chance of getting that seat than Stephanie and by a large, large margin.” As ever, time reveals all things. At the IAAF elections in 2015, Hightower was elected to the council as the highest vote getter for one of six seats designated to be filled by women. She got 163; next best, Nawal el Moutawakel of Morocco, an IAAF council member for 20 years and IOC member since 1998, with 160.

— It’s also worth recalling all the senseless outrage that attended the USATF board decision to put forward Hightower, not Hersh. The time is now for Mr. Hersh, as well as all the complainers, and in particular those in the media who gave undue weight to those complaints, to apologize — to say to Stephanie Hightower, hey, sorry, we were dead-on wrong.

Let’s review:

"But I do know that at this meeting she was full of shit, so that’s not a good start. She completely disregarded the wishes of the people she is meant to represent. She did not lose honorably" -- Lauren Fleshman in a post on her blog about the December 2014 USATF annual meeting, referring to Hightower.

For emphasis, more from Ms. Fleshman:

https://twitter.com/laurenfleshman/status/541051730016743424

So over the weekend Ms. Fleshman was voted onto the USATF board, as an athlete advisory committee member. Congrats to her. Maybe while on the board she will find renewed purpose in collegiality and an understanding that perhaps things aren't always as black and white, and given to outrage on Twitter, as they might seem.

Then there was this, from the distance runner David Torrence, part of a lengthy message string he put out on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/David_Torrence/status/541045226408665088

This would be the same David Torrence who ran for Peru in the 5000 meters at the Rio Olympics rather than take his chances at the U.S. Olympic Trials. In Rio, Torrence finished 15th. Behind three Americans, among them silver medalist Paul Chelimo.

As this space has advocated on many occasions, the level of civility in and around USATF needs to be ratcheted way up and the volume on complaints turned way down. This episode — Hightower and Hersh — offers compelling evidence why, and on both counts, civility and volume.  It's just way better policy for everyone to talk to and with each other instead of resorting to insults or epithets. As Coe put it: "civilized discourse."

— Mr. IOC President, please institute an IAAF-style transparent vote system for the bid-city balloting, and do so in time for the 2024 Summer Games election next Sept. 13 in Lima, Peru.

Otherwise, despite your assertions that the IOC’s own reform package, Agenda 2020 (approved by the members in December 2014, also in Monaco), is indeed meaningful, reality suggests its impact is minimal, and particularly if it can't own up to the acid test. What good is purported "reform" if  the most important election in the IOC system is consistently underpinned by a culture and protocols in which everyone lies, cheerfully, to everyone else, knowing there’s zero accountability?

— The IOC president, meanwhile, is now on record as saying that without Agenda 2020 there would have been no, zero, bids for 2024. This is absurd. Los Angeles, Paris and Budapest would all still gladly be bidding.

A skeptic might say: five cities started the 2024 race and, amid Agenda 2020, only three remain.

Hamburg’s voters turned down a bid. Rome is now out, too.

Meanwhile, a Tokyo government panel has said costs for the 2020 Games may exceed $30 billion, roughly four times the bid projection, unless cuts are made. At a conference last week, the IOC declined to sign off on a $20 billion Tokyo 2020 budget, seeking a lower number.

— Both Etienne Thobois and Nick Varley were key players in Tokyo’s winning 2020 bid. Nick was the 2020 messaging guy. Etienne served on the IOC’s evaluation team for 2016 — a race in which Tokyo came up short — before switching to the bid side and being involved on behalf of the winning Tokyo 2020 project in many key elements, including the bid’s finances and budgets.

Both now serve in key roles for the Paris 2024 campaign. Varley is playing a significant role in seeking to craft a winning Paris 2024 message. Thobois is the bid’s chief executive officer.

Here is where things get awkward.

Tokyo’s bid was centered on a plan to keep most of the competition venues within five miles of the athletes’ village. Confronted with spiraling costs, the organizing committee has since done a massive re-think, and several venues may now well move outside the city.

Thobois, in a story reported a couple days ago by the Japan Times, said this:

“I think Tokyo tried to win the Games at a time when Agenda 2020 was more or less not there. So you were trying to build some kind of fairy tale.”

What?! Fairy tale?! Seriously?

He went on:

“That concept that everything was within eight kilometers was leaning into a lot of constructions, and venues that turned out not to be needed. In our case it’s very different. So the delivery model is definitely very different and I don’t think you can compare the two situations.”

Actually, yes you can. And it’s illogical not to do so. The two guys who played leading roles in selling a “fairy tale” three-plus years ago are now trying to sell — what?

“We are talking about $3 billion for the Games, infrastructure-wise,” Thobois also said about the Paris 2024 bid, according to the Japan Times, “which is very modest.” The Paris budget proposal: $3.4 billion for operations, $3.2 for infrastructure.

Who can believe those figures? If so, why?

There’s also this, from a lengthy November 2013 Q&A with both Varley and Thobois, Etienne observing about the winning 2020 vote:

“Tokyo were able to secure some really heavyweight, influential votes — to me that was the key. Once you secure those big leaders, those influential voters within the IOC, then things start going your way quite quickly. [Olympic Council of Asia president Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad] al-Sabah is obviously a very influential vote to get, but on the doping issue a guy like Lamine Diack, president of arguably the biggest federation [the IAAF], quite a senior, well-respected figure, and he was clearly supporting the Tokyo bid and that was a very strong asset. There were others like that, too.”

Uh-oh.

Again on Diack, that "senior, well-respected figure":

Diack is now the target of a French criminal investigation, and primarily because of “the doping issue.” The authorities allege that as IAAF president he ran a closely held conspiracy designed to, among other things, collect millions of dollars in illicit payments in exchange for making Russian doping cases go away.

Another thought on Paris 2024:

If you asked someone, hey, do you want to go to Paris for, say, the weekend, the answer would of course be yes. Who wouldn’t? Look, I had one of the most glorious summers of my life there, as a student in the 1980s. But in the bid context, that’s not the central question. It’s, do you want to go to Paris and turn over your life — oh, and by the way, the future of the Olympic franchise — to the French authorities for 17 days? Answer away. No fairy tales, please.

Last Friday, the LA2024 bid committee released a new budget plan. It’s $5.3 billion with no surplus and a $491.9 million contingency.

Easy math: $5.3 billion is roughly one-tenth the figure associated with the Sochi 2014 Games. It’s maybe a quarter of what may be on tap in Tokyo.

A first pass at the LA 2024 budget, prepared in the summer of 2015, called for a $161 million “surplus.” That is Olympic talk for “profit.”

Let’s be real. Even if the bid committee can't and won't say so, any Games in Los Angeles is going to make a boatload of money. The only thing that needs to be built is a canoe venue. Everything else already exists; this means infrastructure costs would be super-minimal. The 1984 Games made $232.5 million. The last Summer Games in the United States was 1996. Economics 101: there’s huge demand, especially from corporate sponsors, and the supply has been cut off for going on 20 years now.

Further, California is now the world’s sixth-largest economy, with a gross state product of $2.5 trillion in 2015 — up 4.1 percent, when adjusted for inflation, from 2014. In August, California added 63,000 new jobs — that represents a whopping 42 percent of new jobs added in the entire United States.

This new pass at the budget eliminates the $161 million surplus. It throws all of it into “contingency.”

Now some first-rate analysis from Rich Perelman. Rich’s background in Olympic stuff goes back a long way. In 1984, for instance, he ran press operations at the Los Angeles Olympics; he then served as editor of the Games’ official report. This summer, he launched a newsletter called the Sports Examiner. In Monday’s edition, he offered this take on the LA 2024 plan:

“This is incredibly smart for several reasons. First, it eliminates any plans by outside groups to spend that surplus in 2025 and beyond before it is earned. Second, a zero-surplus budget looks good to the State of California, which has guaranteed to pick up any deficit of up to $250 million at the end of the Games. Third, having no announced surplus allows a clever organizing committee leadership to leverage the need to keep expenses down and obtain maximum outside support from both the private and public sectors in the run-up to the Games.”

Flashback to the SportAccord convention in Sochi in 2015. Then then-president of the organization, the International Judo Federation president Marius Vizer, called the IOC system “expired, outdated, wrong, unfair and not at all transparent.”

Bach’s IOC proxies, led by Diack, mounted a furious response, and Vizer resigned from the SportAccord job about six weeks later.

Vizer, as many have since said quietly, was 100 percent right. And Diack now?

The anti-doping system currently allows athletes to use otherwise-banned products with a doctor’s note and official approval. That approval is called a TUE,  a therapeutic use exemption. The Fancy Bears hack suggests TUE use has been exploited if not manipulated.

Speaking to the British website Inside the Games amid the weekend Tokyo judo Grand Slam, Vizer suggested a novel approach to athlete TUE use — if you have one, you can’t compete.

“My opinion,” he said, “is that those athletes which are using different therapies should not be accepted into official competition during the effect of these products.”

Vizer’s comment is significant for any number of reasons. Here’s the most important collection: he’s almost always right, he isn’t afraid to speak out and, unlike many who just complain, he is consistently in search of and willing to suggest solutions.

News item: American and other athletes weigh boycott of 2017 world bobsled and skeleton championships set for Sochi.

Responses:

1. William Scherr, a key player in Chicago’s 2016 bid, said this the other day on Facebook, speaking generally about the Olympics, and it’s spot-on:

“The Olympics are the only time where the world gathers together, puts aside differences and celebrates those things that make us similar. We learn about people and cultures that we otherwise would never know, and we learn that despite being separated by distance, ethnicity and beliefs that we run, fight, swim and jump the same way.”

A boycott is just dumb. History has shown that the only people a boycott hurts are athletes. Those athletes weighing their 2017 worlds options might want to consider history.

2. No matter the context, neither sanctimonious righteousness nor rush to judgment rarely make for a winning play. If the Americans, for instance, think that doping is only going on in Russia — that’s funny. If the Americans, for instance, think that there is no link in many minds elsewhere between, on the one hand, Lance Armstrong, Marion Jones and many more and, on the other, U.S. sports success — that’s funny. That we in the United States might go, wait, the allegation is that in Russia it was state-supported — that’s a distinction that in a lot of places many would find curious. The fact is, we don’t have a state ministry of sport in the United States. So of course world-class cheating would be undertaken in the spirit of private enterprise.

3. The allegations involving the Russian system are extremely serious, and the report due out Friday from Canadian law professor Richard McLaren, with yet more accusation, is likely to be even more inflammatory. But accusation without a formal testing of the evidence is just that — accusation. All the Americans claiming the moral high ground right now — if you were accused of something, wouldn’t you want the matter to be tested in a formal setting, meaning in particular by cross-examination? Let’s just see, for instance, what comes out — whether Friday, before or after — about the credibility of Grigoriy Rodchenkov, the former Russian lab director now living in the United States.

Can't we all just -- lower the volume?

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Attention, all you sanctimonious, moralistic, smarter-than-everyone-else know-it-alls who traffic in rumor, half-truth, character assassination and worse when it comes to USA Track & Field, and in particular the effort to win Olympic and world relay medals. Do yourselves a favor, along with everyone who values civility, dialogue and tolerance: give it a rest.

Under the guise of anonymity, the stuff that gets said, and in particular written, about USATF and — now, in the aftermath of last week’s Penn Relays, where one of two U.S. men’s 4x100 teams again had a problem exchanging the baton — is way, way, way beyond the bounds of decency, fair comment and constructive criticism.

To be blunt: a botched handoff is not armageddon.

Tyson Gay, in red, struggles to hand off to Isiah Young at the 2016 Penn Relays // photo courtesy Penn Relays

Nearly 18 years of writing about the Olympic movement has led to a great many track meets. Across those years, U.S. relay difficulties have been duly noted. At the same time, fans and self-professed experts rarely understand or appreciate the real-world difficulties that go into executing the relays, especially a bang-bang event like the 4x100.

If the result is not gold, there’s typically just a lot of yelling and name-calling. It’s as if the United States ought to win every single time simply because that is the American way.

That is thoroughly unrealistic.

And the time has come for everyone to take a deep breath and appreciate the three core Olympic values: friendship, excellence and respect.

In this instance, especially: respect.

Five of the six U.S. relay teams at the 2016 Penn Relays were winners. Five of six.

USATF high performance director Duffy Mahoney // photo courtesy USATF

That sort of mark underscores the goal, as articulated by Duffy Mahoney, USA Track and Field’s chief of sport performance:

“We are trying to build a better mousetrap. We are trying to take a difficult situation and do the best job we can, or a better job, at optimizing the chance of medal attainment,” in particular at the Olympics and world championships.

As the International Olympic Committee notes in a new promotional series, "Sport is respect. It's not all about winning."

Since he took over as USATF chief executive four years ago, Max Siegel has expressly sought to lower the volume of the conversation in and around the sport. He has preached, and practiced, dialogue and cooperation.

So, too, the current board chair, Steve Miller.

The results of Siegel’s first four years are, by any measure, remarkable:

Up, and in a big way: annual budget (to more than $35 million in 2016), federation assets, prize money for elite athletes, partnership agreements, merchandise sales, USATF.tv users and page views.

You can’t be creative at the leadership level when, as the sport used to continually find itself, you’re figuratively scrounging from paycheck to paycheck. A 23-year Nike deal, worth in the neighborhood of $500 million, means the federation finally has financial stability.

USATF chief executive Max Siegel at a news conference in Portland, Ore., in advance of the 2016 world indoor championships // Getty Images

As it happens, beginning in 2016 roughly $1.8 million is due to be distributed to athletes over and above USATF tier and development funding, and other programs. What that means: $10,000 for making the Olympic team as well as bonuses of $10,000, $15,000 and $25,000 for Olympic medals. A top-tier athlete who wins a national title and competes for the national team but does not medal: base pay, $45,000. That same athlete, with an Olympic gold: USATF support of $95,000.

Internationally, the USATF board of directors made the right call in nominating Stephanie Hightower for the policy-making executive council of the sport's international governing body, the IAAF, in place of Bob Hersh. She led a USATF sweep at IAAF balloting last August that also saw the election of Britain’s Seb Coe as president.

Track and field is not — repeat, not — the NFL. Nor the NBA or MLB. Nor even the NHL.

Athletes are not unionized. They are independent contractors. You want the American way? Every athlete is, to a significant extent, his or her own brand — with the exception of certain national-team events, such as the Olympics and, recently, the Penn Relays, where it’s entirely reasonable for Nike to want to appropriately and reasonably leverage its sponsorship. That’s one of the elements it’s paying for, right?

The disconnect is fundamental: track and field is perhaps the only sport in the U.S. Olympic landscape in which there remains a dissident cohort seemingly hell-bent on destroying anything and everything in the pursuit of precisely the sort of petty, personality-oriented politics that used to wrack the U.S. Olympic Committee before a 2003 governance change.

Some of this is tied to the very same underlying issue that for years vexed the USOC: the battle for authority between paid staff and volunteers.

Some of it, especially in the relay landscape, involves rival shoe companies vying for influence, position or an uncertain something vis-a-vis Nike.

Some of it is just nasty and wrong.

Siegel, who is the only African-American chief executive of a national governing body in the U.S. Olympic picture, was targeted in recent months by racially charged emails. So were others at the Indianapolis-based federation. The matter has drawn the attention of law enforcement.

It’s intriguing to draw a contrast between, on the one hand, the almost-total lack of public condemnation from some of the sport’s most outspoken activists after those emails were published and, on the other, the loud voices that proved keenly critical of Siegel and USATF in the aftermath of a rules violation at the 2014 U.S. national indoors.

Further disconcerting: what gets written on message boards at sites such as Lets Run and a Facebook page entitled “I’m tired of USATF and IAAF crippling our sport.” At least on Facebook there are names attached to the comments. The stuff on Let’s Run is so frequently laced with such venom, almost always posted via pen names, that it’s a wonder some enterprising lawyer hasn’t already thought to ask what’s appropriate.

At this year’s Penn Relays, U.S. runners Tyson Gay and Isiah Young could not cleanly execute the third, and final, hand-off in the men’s 4x100. This led to a Let’s Run message-board string relating to the U.S. relays coach entitled, “Fire Dennis Mitchell Now.” The site highlighted the link on its homepage; as of Thursday, five days after the race, the link still sat on the page.

The Let's Run link to a message string sparked by the men's 4x1 at the Penn Relays

In and of itself, the message-string headline is innocuous. But the discussion underneath veers off to allegations of various sorts about Mitchell. Some of it is arguably the worst kind of hearsay. Almost none of it deserves to be aired in a public forum without corroboration and real evidence.

Late in his career as an active athlete, Mitchell served time off for doping. That fact tends to enrage his detractors. Typically, they fail to note, or to care, that the Olympic movement’s rules when it comes to doping make expressly clear that everyone deserves second chances. Especially a guy who was team captain at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Moreover, in 2008, Mitchell testified for the federal government in its case against North Carolina-based coach Trevor Graham, one of the central figures in the BALCO scandal.

As Mitchell said in a 2015 interview, “I was a witness for the good guys. I wasn’t prosecuted. I wasn’t threatened. I wasn’t put on trial for lying. I was a 20-minute witness for the federal government to tell everything about my life and his life that would incriminate him. That’s what I did.”

Mitchell said, referring to the coach-athlete relationship, “I want my athletes to understand I am the caretaker of their dreams. I have no options. It’s all due to what I have been through. It’s because I have been with a coach who has been the opposite — who doesn’t care about your life, your family, your dreams.”

He also said, “I am on this earth to fulfill a life of servitude,” adding, “I am here to coach. I am here to be a beacon to others who are lost. I am comfortable with that. My job is not to be a CEO. I am a nuts-and-bolts guy. That is what God has given me … he didn’t give me the great ability to be other than I am. I have embraced it. It hasn’t come easily. At one time, it was taken away.”

At recent Olympic Games and world championships, the list is long of U.S. relay missed handoffs, disqualifications and other errors. Indeed, after the 2008 Beijing Games, USATF went so far as to commission a report that in significant part sought to identify root causes and fixes.

In the 2008 relay program, on the men's side, of the six guys who ended up in the 4x1 relay pool, only one had run his leg in any of the three relevant meets (Stockholm, London, Monaco) before Beijing: Darvis "Doc" Patton, who ran leg three, and then only in two of the those preceding meets. At the Games in the semifinals, Patton and Gay, anchoring, could not compete an exchange.

It's worth observing that Patton and Gay were not at the relay practice camp prior to the Games. This goes to the issue squarely confronting the American program now: getting together to practice and compete as much as possible.

In essence, Mitchell is, at least through the 2016 Games, a big piece of the fix.

USATF hired him in a bid to bring winning structure and order to a scene that should be simple — getting the stick around the track — but, in fact, is layered with complexities.

Despite the well-publicized glitches, there are signs the U.S. relay program can, genuinely, meet expectations.

Dennis Mitchell at the 122nd Penn Relays last month at Franklin Field // photo USATF

The gold medal-winning U.S. 4x100 men's relay team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, left to right: Dennis Mitchell, Leroy Burrell, Mike Marsh and Carl Lewis // Getty Images

For instance, the 2015 Penn Relays showed real evidence of development: Notre Dame grad Pat Feeney stepped in on short notice to run a 44.84 anchor to give the U.S. 4x400 team a win over the Bahamas.

At the 2015 World Relays a few days later in the Bahamas, a U.S. foursome — Mike Rodgers, Justin Gatlin, Gay and Ryan Bailey — went 37.38 to take down Usain Bolt and the Jamaicans.

There are also signs of just how difficult putting, and keeping, together such a program can be.

Bailey, struggling with his hamstrings, has essentially been MIA since last June’s U.S. nationals in Eugene, where he false-started out of the 100 and then withdrew from the 200.

It’s also the case that, in the relays, stuff happens. At those 2016 Penn Relays, Gay and Young could not connect; the year before, Rogers, Gatlin, Young and Bailey beat the Jamaicans (without Bolt), winning in 38.68.

After this year’s Penn misfire, former U.S. standout Leroy Burrell declared it “might be time for a bit of regime change with the leadership,” adding a moment later, “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to get the stick around. I saw thousands of relay teams yesterday — maybe not thousands but hundreds of relay teams get it around. But the professionals can’t. That ’s just not good for our sport.”

His comments came after this from Carl Lewis, the 1980s and 1990s sprint champion, at the USOC media summit in Beverly Hills, California: “America can’t cross the line so something’s going on here. Nine-year-olds never drop the stick.”

A note: Mike Marsh, Burrell, Mitchell and Lewis made up the four who ran a then-world record 37.4 to win gold in the 4x1 relay at the 1992 Barcelona Games. The current mark: 36.84, run by Bolt and the Jamaicans in the London 2012 final.

Another note: three of four on that U.S. 1992 relay were members of the famed Santa Monica Track Club: Marsh, Burrell and Lewis. That leaves -- who?

One obvious follow-on: Marsh, Burrell and Lewis, teammates, could — and did — run together regularly in practice and competition.

The starting place for any elite-level relay discussion has to be this: the Olympics and worlds are not high school or college.

It’s one thing to execute when a men’s 4x1 relay is 45 or 50 seconds. It’s another at the highest level, when the time drops to 38 or even 37-ish seconds.

“I’m tired of people who have been part of Team USA take shots at Team USA,” Gatlin said in response to Burrell’s remarks. “To put us in the same boat as high schoolers is insulting.”

Added Rodgers, “People keep pointing their fingers and downing us, but nobody has ever tried to come out there and help us. Nobody from the past. Not Carl or Leroy. They haven’t been out there. I can’t really respect their opinions because they’re supposed to be leaders in our sport and in the USA, and they’re not coming out there to drop some knowledge on us, so I don’t care what they have to say.”

The next variable: in a perverse way, the U.S. program suffers from a luxury of too much talent. Other countries know all along who the top five or six runners in the 4x1 or 4x4 might be, because there are only that many, and so they can run together, repeatedly. Obviously: practice makes perfect.

In 2015, the United States saw 33 men and 37 women meet the Rio 2016 Olympic qualifying standard in the 100. For men, that’s 10.16; for women, 11.32.

At those 2015 World Relays, who took third in the men’s 4x1? Japan. There are not 20 guys in all of Japanese track history who have run 10.16.

Next, and sticking with the men’s 100:

For the 2016 Olympics, there will be six guys in the U.S. men’s relay pool. But officials clearly can’t know until the evening of July 3, after the U.S. Trials men’s 100 has been run at venerable Hayward Field in Eugene, who the first four guys across the line are going to be.

The other two spots? Officials similarly have to wait until other events are run; those two spots might be filled, after discussion, by another 100-meter place finisher, 200-meter runner or even a hurdler or long or triple jumper. Whoever.

Because there’s probability but there literally cannot be certainty about who the top four guys might be, that makes it a virtual impossibility to practice, practice, practice together.

On top of which:

It’s unclear what gets accomplished — other than disruption — when athletes who are sponsored by shoe companies other than Nike get pulled from U.S. national-team relays, and particularly on short notice.

Five years ago, Ato Boldon, the 1990s Olympic sprint medalist who is now widely considered the sport’s premier television analyst, put forth a list of six “rules” he suggested the U.S. program adopt. A number still deserve solid consideration today, including:

“Rule 3 is managers/agents stay the $%&* out of practice/discussions. What YOUR client ‘wants to run’ means nothing.”

The week of the 2015 Penn Relays, adidas pulled no fewer than eight athletes out, citing uniform issues.

At the 2015 Diamond League meet in Monaco, U.S. officials weren’t told that Trell Kimmons, who also is sponsored by adidas, wasn’t going to run until he was literally in the tunnel about to compete.

After the Monaco meet, USATF, working in conjunction with its’ athletes’ advisory committee, worked out an entirely workable compromise, the details of which went out to all involved in late March or early April of this year, meaning everyone had more than ample notice:

In general, athletes would be free to wear what they wanted — both to and from meets, and in practice. The exception: one domestic and one international relay competition, typically USA v. the World at the Penn Relays and Monaco or a similar summer event. At those two events, on the day of competition, athletes would have to wear Nike to and from, and of course at the meet.

On the men’s side in the 100, six of the top 10 Americans run for Nike: Rodgers, Gatlin, Gay, Young, Bailey, Remontay McClain. Strike Bailey. So down to five. All five sent word they were in for Penn.

Wallace Spearmon, who is now unattached, also said he would be in. So, six.

Treyvon Bromell, the 2015 worlds bronze medalist in the 100, is a New Balance guy. USATF got told he would be a no-go.

Kimmons and Marvin Bracy are adidas. No-go, USATF was informed.

On the track, Rodgers, Gatlin and Gay had staked the Americans to the lead before that missed final handoff, Gay to Young.

“I can’t fault them for wanting to sell shoes,” USATF high performance director Mahoney said.

But, he said, “In this case, it’s almost penny-wise, pound-foolish. What are they trying to accomplish?”

Coe in charge, track at an inflection point

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Let’s get the joke out of the way early. For a sport savaged by months of doping stories, it turns out there’s a legal marijuana store literally across the street from the Oregon Convention Center, site of the 2016 track and field world indoor championship, which features a groovy, granola-crunchy green track. Can’t make this stuff up. Seriously, now: track and field arrives for the 2016 world indoors, a four-day run that got underway Thursday night, at an inflection point.

Since Sebastian Coe was elected president last August of track’s world governing body, the International Assn. of Athletics Federations, the headlines have mostly been grim. Claims of rampant corruption in the regime of former IAAF president Lamine Diack — allegations that Diack's administration was ripe with conflict of interest, graft, money for cover-ups. And, of course, doping, doping, doping. Russians, Russians, Russians. Oh, and how about the Kenyans, Ethiopians, Moroccans and more?

Wait — what’s this? UK Anti-Doping announces Wednesday a life ban against a track coach there, Dr. George Skafidis, in the wake of nine, count them, nine anti-doping violations, all relating to sprinter Bernice Wilson. In Britain? What?

The focus Thursday shifted to the sport itself, with the IAAF and local organizers, led by Vin Lananna, giving the first night of the championships over entirely to the pole vault. France's Renaud Lavillenie won the men’s event, setting a world indoor championships record, 6.02 meters, or 19 feet 9 inches. The world record, which Lavillenie set two years ago, is 6.16, 20-2 1/2. On Thursday, he made three attempts at a new world record, 6.17, 20-2 3/4. No go. American Sam Kendricks took second, clearing 5.80, 19-0 1/4. On the women's side, the U.S. went one-two, Jenn Suhr winning in a championship-record 4.90, 16-0 3/4, Sandi Morris taking second in 4.85, 15-11. As evidence of the upswing in women's pole vaulting, Thursday's competition marked the first time four women in the same competition cleared 4.80, 15-9.

"I think the Summer Olympics are going to be pretty crazy," Morris said afterward.

Jenn Suhr, the 2012 Olympic champion, winning 2016 world indoor gold // Getty Images for IAAF

London 2012 gold medalist and current world record-holder Renaud Lavillenie of France making his into to the 2016 indoor worlds // Getty Images for IAAF

The rest of the field jumping, Lavillenie waits to start -- part of the mental game in pole vault. He entered at 5.75 meters, or 18-10 1/4 // Getty Images for IAAF

Lavillenie after a scary end to his second attempt at 6.17: "I was just able to manage it and fall safely. It’s not so often I do something like that. It happens. Pole vault is very dangerous and very intense. That’s why we love it." // Getty Images for IAAF

Lavillenie, after, meeting the media. Track junkies: in the blue warmup jacket beyond Lavillenie, that's Dan O'Brien, the 1996 Olympic decathlon winner

As the vaulters did their thing, KC and the Sunshine Band could be heard belting out their mid-'70s anthem, “That’s the way (I like it),” just one of the musical numbers featured on a loop that played over the convention speakers. In another twist, the vaulters got individual introductions — each athlete running in turn into the arena down a ramp, his or her name in lights.

Medal ceremonies: back downtown at Pioneer Courthouse Square, with more music and that Portlandia hipster vibe.

Attendance Thursday at the convention center: a robust 6,924.

It's like track and field was, you know, making a genuine effort to be more interesting. And, even, innovating.

Pioneer Courthouse Square: set up to be the 2016 world indoors medals and party center

This is the reality of what is happening with Coe, in particular, and that is particularly worth noting at the start of these championships, the first world indoors in the United States since 1987.

“The USA has historically been the powerhouse of track and field,” Coe said earlier Thursday at a sun-splashed news conference in that square. “Yet given its great economic power, it is still a country where the general perception of track and field is low. The regeneration of that is taking place here in Oregon and I genuinely believe this will be a reawakening of track and field in this country. This is a new and exciting chapter in the history of our sport."

Sebastian Coe at Thursday's news conference, flanked by the husband-and-wife team of Canada's Brianne Theisen-Eaton and American Ashton Eaton, both multi-event stars // Getty Images for IAAF

Let's be real: that's going to take time.

Things were broken. Now they have to get fixed. Coe is the guy to fix them. New chapters, regeneration, reawakening — whatever label you like — don’t just happen overnight.

Which is why the many cries for Coe’s resignation are seriously misplaced.

As Coe said at that news conference in that square, “Our sport is still strong. Not to deny we haven’t gone through challenging, dark days.”

Later, asked specifically whether he believes there are clean Russian athletes, a ridiculous question in its own right, as if an entire country of 140 million people can’t produce one soul that competes without drugs, he said, “I’m sure there are. But the reality is we need to get the athletes,” wherever in the world they might be, “back into systems that people are trusting.”

That's half of what's what. Here is the other: doping is not just a track and field problem (hello, tennis star Maria Sharapova, swim champion Yulia Efimova and others now looking at meldonium issues). It is not just a Russia problem.

“We are responsible for our sport,” Coe said. “We are not the world’s policeman.”

A World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned report — the first part delivered in November, the second in January — suggested that Diack ran a closely held conspiracy to cover up certain doping results, mostly in Russia.

Diack and his longtime lawyer, Herbert Cissé, are said to be facing criminal inquiry in France.

Last week, the IAAF’s policy-making council met in Monaco, the federation’s longtime base.

Process isn’t sexy. Process takes time. The press loves (even a hint of) negativity.

At the same time, Coe was duly elected after a hard-fought campaign, defeating the former pole vault legend Sergey Bubka. That means Coe earned — better, deserves — the opportunity to effect change.

The council was met with 51 measures. It approved 51.

It’s a measure of how into-the-21st century the IAAF has to go, alternatively an indicator of how Diack ran the federation for 16 years as more or less a personal fiefdom, that a good number of the 51 deal with basic, albeit essential, governance items.

For instance, things like getting double signatories on checks. Or job descriptions. Or standard HR controls.

Any institutional change is a combination of change wrought from without and within. Coe is — this is key to understand — a change agent.

So, too, Stephanie Hightower, the USA Track & Field president who was elected last August to the IAAF council.

As the USATF board said in December 2014, in a statement when it went with Hightower instead of the longtime U.S. representative to the IAAF, Bob Hersh:

“Change is difficult for any organization. It is especially difficult when it involves long-serving officials. In 2015, there will be significant, structural change at the IAAF – with their leadership, with their direction, vision and politics. This is a different era and a different time. We think Stephanie Hightower provides us with the best chance to move forward as part of that change.”

From 2011-15, Hersh had been the senior IAAF vice president, Coe one of three other vice presidents.

Once Coe was elected, he immediately turned in part to Hightower and to Frankie Fredericks, the former sprinter from Namibia who for years has been making a new career in sports administration.

Some have groused, and loudly, that as an IAAF vice president, Coe “must have known” what was going on with Diack.

Using that same logic, why aren’t the many critics of the USATF process by which Hightower was selected to run for the IAAF council asking the same about Hersh?

This, understand, is a rhetorical question — not what Hersh did or did not know. But those who have been often been the loudest in their criticism are not being consistent. You want to criticize Coe because he was vice president — but think it was somehow wrong for USATF not to re-appoint Hersh, who as the No. 2 man, the senior VP, should have been most closely involved with the organization and with Diack?

Indeed, the suggestion that Coe “must have known” itself betrays logic.

The IAAF council met maybe three or four times a year. That’s roughly 10 days of 365. Coe had been an IAAF vice president since 2007; from 2005-12, he was thoroughly occupied as boss of the London Olympics.

It’s a little bit like being vice president of a school board and getting asked why you didn’t know the high school basketball coach was stealing from the travel fund.

Was there talk at the council during Diack’s latter years about doping in Russia? Obviously: there were public records of sanctions. But if the word from the top was that Russians were being caught because of advances in blood passport work, precisely what more should any of the roughly two dozen on the council have done?

To reiterate a point made in this space before: the point of a conspiracy, which is what Diack alleged to have run, is to keep it hidden from those not part of it.

Coe’s “must have known” is one of four apparent points of objection that have been raised over these past several months, in tiresome fashion.

Coe at Thursday's opening ceremony, with Portland 2016 local organizing chief Vin Lannana and Portland mayor Charlie Hales // Getty Images for IAAF

Objection No. 2:

When he succeeded Diack last August, Coe called Diack the “spiritual leader” of the sport.

Given what we know now, Coe could have used a different phrase, for sure. Hindsight is always 20/20.

But three notes here:

One, when you succeed someone, you generally say nice things.

Two, Coe would never — repeat, never — have used those words if he’d had even an inkling of what is alleged to have gone down. Coe is not only a smart guy, he has had a career in the hard-knocks school of British politics.

Three, there has been zero suggestion from law enforcement linking Coe to any misconduct or wrongdoing, and you can believe he has been in contact with French agents.

Objection No. 3:

Again in Beijing upon election, Coe gave a legalistic response, rather than one more PR-savvy, when asked about his longtime ambassadorial role with Nike, saying in essence his relationship was well-known and -documented. Coe has since relinquished the position.

This was an optics problem, and nothing more.

Those who would savage Coe cried, conflict of interest! Coe was affiliated with Nike for nearly 40 years. That run included the years he oversaw the London 2012 effort. Where were the critics — particularly in the British parliament, where he regularly appeared for status reports for 2012 — during all that time?

Objection No. 4:

Upon the publication early last August of a story in The Sunday Times that claimed more than 800 athletes, and a third of all medalists in endurance events at recent Olympics and world championships had suspicious blood results not followed up by the IAAF, Coe called the allegations “a declaration of war” on the sport.

In turn, that more or less prompted many, particularly in the British press, to declare a war in print with Coe.

Here it is worth referring to Part II of the WADA-commissioned report:

The “database” on which the story revolved was “in reality, no such thing,” but a “compilation of various test results.” The three-member panel, headed by Canadian lawyer Dick Pound, the first WADA president, said it “would not have been legally possible to bring a successful sanctioning process against any athlete based on the values in the IAAF database.”

Also: “The [commission] was provided with no explanation for the differences in approach and cautions expressed … in previously written scholarly publications on the subject matter and the opinions expressed in the work commissioned by The Sunday Times. The differences are quite significant.”

Going forward, it’s worth emphasizing that in significant measure the announcement of new doping cases — specifically in Kenya and Ethiopia — marks the results of basic anti-doping standards finally being applied to, or adopted by, the rest of the world.

Which, in its way, is what Coe observed at that sunny news conference.

He said, “People want immediate action. People want immediate results. People want immediate change.

“It takes time.”

A historic "road map" for Russia?

Track and field’s governing body, the IAAF, did what it had to do Friday in provisionally suspending Russia after shocking revelations of systemic, perhaps state-sponsored, doping.

The IAAF action followed by a few hours a step taken by a World Anti-Doping Agency panel. It, too, did what it had to do. Among other things, it found Russia non-compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code.

What it all amounts to is this, the real story: a historic opportunity is now upon us, all of us, that may not come again quite some time, to get Russia — if you will — to behave, and stay behaving.

And not just in track and field. Across all sports.

Russian president Vladimir Putin earlier this week in Sochi with sports minister Vitaly Mutko // Getty Images

To reiterate an important point: Russia is not inherently any better or worse than anywhere else. But when evidence emerges of a doping scheme that may well have been state-sanctioned, evoking memories of the notorious East German system in the 1970s, that’s a call to significant action. That was the take-away, loud and clear, in a report made public Monday by a WADA-appointed independent commission.

The twin messages that emerged amid Friday’s action were also manifest:

— One, there is recognition, admission, acknowledgement — use whatever term you want — from the Russians. None of this happens — hello, Mr. President Putin — without the Russians recognizing that, for real, they are up against it.

On Wednesday, Putin, ordering an investigation into the WADA-appointed report findings made public Monday, had said there ought to be “professional cooperation” with international anti-doping bodies.

His coded language makes plain: the Russians realize they have to play ball.

Again, after everything set out in Monday’s report, there is no other option, particularly with the 2018 FIFA World Cup yet to come. You’re naive if you don’t think emissaries further emphasized — at senior levels within the Russian sports and government infrastructure — that this was, indeed, the message.

Message received, the Russian sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, telling the R-Sport news agency on Friday, "We're prepared for broad cooperation." He also said he has asked WADA president Craig Reedie to provide a "road map" Russia could follow.

All the other stuff Mutko is saying? Allegations that the IAAF concealed more than 150 doping cases, mostly from countries other than Russia? Maybe. The British anti-doping system held “zero value” and was “even worse” than Russia’s? Come on.

Look, within international politics at its keenest, which is indisputably what this is, face-saving can be an important skill.

— Two, and this is the challenge in front of WADA and the IAAF: how to push the Russians — hopefully, themselves — into putting new systems in place that can survive both the short and long term?

Of course there is going to be push-back.

Here, for instance, was Yelena Isinbayeva, the Russian pole-vault queen, the 2004 and 2008 Olympic gold medalist:

“To ban innocent … athletes from competing in international events and [the] Olympic Games in Rio is not fair,” she wrote in a letter published on the Russian track federation website hours before the IAAF met via teleconference.

With all due respect, Isinbayeva’s logic proves too simple.

If one runner in a relay tests — and proves — dirty, everyone’s medals get taken away. The entire team has to deal with the sanction.

Same here, just on a systemic level.

Because this is, as the WADA panel’s report made plain, a systemic problem.

The clean athletes in Russia — a note on behalf of skeptics: assuming, indeed, there are any — ought now to be just as eager for change in the Russian track and field system as everyone anywhere else.

Otherwise, the clean Russians don’t get to take part in the world indoors, in March in Portland, Oregon, and in the Rio 2016 Olympics in August.

That ought to make for internal leverage.

The external leverage came Friday from the IAAF, which voted, 22-1, to provisionally suspend the Russian track and field federation.

It’s not clear who the sole holdout is. Talk about being on the wrong side of historic change.

An intriguing issue before Friday’s IAAF teleconference was whether the Russians would declare themselves unfit or, for a variety of political reasons, let the IAAF do it — which ended up being the course.

Make no mistake: the clear intent of the IAAF and WADA actions Friday, all around, is to give the Russians every opportunity to get things fixed, if not by Portland, then for sure by Rio.

As Mutko told Associated Press, “We may miss one or two competitions. But for athletes to miss the Olympics and world championships would be real stupidity.”

The full WADA board will meet Wednesday in Colorado Springs, Colorado, presumably to ratify what has already been done and then — prediction — deliver a study group on the notion, suddenly pushed by the International Olympic Committee, of an independent body that would be responsible not just for drug testing but sanctioning, too.

Observations: the last thing world sports needs is a new layer of structure. Give WADA significantly more means and commit to its authority. If you want someone independent to run the doping scene, that’s sensible. But look to WADA, already with 16 years experience.

WADA, for the record, already deserves significant congratulations.

It had the cajones to set up an independent commission in the first place; it fully authorized commission head Dick Pound and his two associates, Canadian law professor Richard MacLaren and German law enforcement official Guenter Younger, who along with staff proved relentless; and it had the will Friday to act decisively in finding Russia non-compliant.

You know who else deserves kudos?

Seb Coe, elected in August the IAAF president.

No, really.

Coe has taken withering media heat this week, with many, particularly in the British press, suggesting he was — because he served for eight years as an IAAF vice president — part of the problem and thus neither can nor should be part of the solution.

There has been, and repeatedly, the suggestion that because Coe was vice president he must have known what the former IAAF president, Lamine Diack, who stepped down in August after 16 years, was up to. French investigators allege that Diack accepted more than $1 million in bribes to allow at least six Russian athletes to compete, including at the 2012 London Olympics.

Also under investigation are Diack’s legal adviser, Habib Cissé, and the former head of the IAAF anti-doping department, Gabriel Dollé.

The figure at the center of all this is probably one of Diack’s sons, Papa Massata Diack. Interesting how he has known in recent days to avoid France.

Ask yourself: would Coe really have been in the loop?

During 2011 and 2012, what was Coe’s focus? Yes, he was an IAAF vice president. At the same time, this is what he was really doing: he was running the London Olympics.

Further, there were — and are — four IAAF vice presidents.

What we know from French authorities is not complete. Nonetheless, the suggestion is that Diack was part of a conspiracy. The only way a conspiracy works is for those involved to keep it, you know, quiet. Do you think Diack called the four 2011-15 IAAF vice presidents — Coe, Ukraine’s Sergey Bubka, Qatar’s Dahlan al-Hamad and the American Bob Hersh — and said, hey, guess what I’m up to, fellas?

Further: French authorities interviewed Coe in recent days. Have they since said anything about Coe being a target of any sort? No.

A side note for those who intently follow USA Track & Field: Hersh was the senior IAAF vice president from 2011 until elections this past August. The USATF board opted last December not to re-nominate him for an IAAF role but to put in his place Stephanie Hightower — even though USATF membership, which typically knows next to nothing about international track, had voted overwhelmingly for Hersh.

Guess that USATF board decision is looking pretty good right about now.

At any rate, a 22-1 vote makes clear the IAAF council is in Coe’s corner.

In an IAAF statement, Frank Fredericks of Namibia, the former sprint star who is now chair of the IAAF athletes’ commission, said the council was “100 percent in support of President Coe and believe that he is the leader that our sport needs to instigate the necessary actions swiftly and strongly.”

A vote of 22-1, meantime, also spotlights a fact of life in international sport that came up time and again at a conference last week in New York sponsored by the Qatar-based International Center for Sport Security:

International sport is big business. Far too often, the governance structures in international sport have not caught up to that reality.

The focus for most now is on Russia, and whether the Russian track and field team will get to Rio. But if you’re paying attention:

The IAAF council, for example, currently stands at a full 27. That’s too many. It should be more like 15. That’s the number on, among others, the International Olympic Committee executive board, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s board of directors and the USATF board.

Further, if the IAAF was too often run by Diack and, before him, Italy’s Primo Nebiolo as expressions of autocratic power in word and action, now is the time for the IAAF to put in place a chief executive officer, and empower him or her to run the thing day to day.

Coe for sure seems to be paying attention, another reason he deserves to be cut some slack. In our 24/7 world, everyone seemingly wants answers now. But process and governance take time.

The IAAF statement announcing the 22-1 vote also included a note about what was called Coe’s “reform program,” Coe’s No. 2 at the London 2012 organizing committee, Paul Deighton, appointed to oversee a far-reaching review, to be carried out by Deloitte.

The plan is to feature, among other facets, a “forensic” accounting and, as well, the creation of an “integrity unit.” The unit, to be made up of a board and review panels, would oversee issues relating to anti-doping and more.

Coe, in the IAAF statement:

“Today we have been dealing with the failure of ARAF [the Russian track federation] and made the decision to provisionally suspend them, the toughest sanction we can apply at this time. But we discussed and agreed that the whole system has failed the athletes, not just in Russia, but around the world. 

"This has been a shameful wake-up call and we are clear that cheating at any level will not be tolerated. To this end, the IAAF, WADA, the member federations and athletes need to look closely at ourselves, our cultures and our processes to identify where failures exist and be tough in our determination to fix them and rebuild trust in our sport. There can be no more important focus for our sport.”

USATF bids for kumbaya, for real

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INDIANAPOLIS — For years, USA Track & Field was arguably the most dysfunctional of the major sports federations in the American Olympic scene. Personality politics ruled. Budgets stayed flat. Almost every decision seemed to be met with argument or that more basic question: what’s in it for me?

As any business or management expert would affirm, culture change is maybe the hardest thing ever.

Underway now at USATF, for anyone not stuck in the past and willing to look with more than a glancing pass, is a profound culture shift for the better.

Instead of being combative — first, last and always — USATF increasingly finds itself on the road to collaboration and cooperation.

USATF chief executive Max Siegel, left, and board chair Steve Miller

A session Saturday at an Indianapolis hotel room underscored that reality amid a master’s class in leadership from Steve Miller, the USATF board chair, and Max Siegel, the organization’s chief executive.

Siegel came dressed for the meeting in an untucked business shirt; Miller, in a black polo and black loafers with no socks. Ties and jackets? No way. Disarming? To the, well, max.

Siegel called the session Saturday a “conversation” among “key stakeholders.”

Miller said, “Together we have a chance to change the sport. Separately, we have no chance.”

At another point, Miller said, “We are in this together. We have a chance to move the organization forward. We have a chance to do some things that have never been done before. We have a chance to end the repetitiveness of the five-year, the 10-year, the 20-year conversations,” the loop that inevitably led to accusations, drama, friction and more, almost none of it constructive.

Under the direction of Siegel, chief executive since May 2012, USATF has made significant financial strides. Its 2016 budget is a projected $35 million, about double what it has been in recent years — and that is without the benefit of the roughly $500 million 23-year Nike deal, which kicks in the year after.

USATF’s logical next step: streamlining its governance.

In the wake of a meeting three weeks ago at which USATF and its Athlete Advisory Committee agreed in principle on a revenue distribution plan that will deliver $9 million in cash to athletes over the next five years, the session at Indianapolis’ Alexander Hotel was called to bring together nearly 50 people — from all over the country — to discuss “law and legislation” changes.

That is, governance.

As Duffy Mahoney, USATF’s chief of high performance, said Saturday, there’s a big difference between governance and politics.

Politics is important, of course, and grabs headlines.

Governance gets stuff done.

No one cares about governance until, actually, they do care.

The close cousin of governance is process. Process is not sexy. No one cares about process.

Again, until they do care.

Example A: the process by which the USATF board last year chose Stephanie Hightower, now the USATF president, to be the federation’s nominee to the IAAF council, the sport’s international governing body, in place of Bob Hersh, who had served for 16 years.

Hightower would go on in August to be the highest vote-getter at IAAF elections in Beijing.

The process, which played out at last year’s USATF annual meeting in Anaheim, California, called first for a general assembly vote.

Most importantly, though arguably not well-communicated, that vote was merely a recommendation to the USATF board of directors — who could overrule it, by two-thirds vote.

Hersh won the floor vote.

The board, though, selected Hightower, believing in her and in a new direction amid major changes coming up at the IAAF, including the election of a new president to replace Lamine Diack of Senegal, who served atop the international federation for 16 years.

In August, the IAAF picked Britain’s Seb Coe as its new president. He defeated Ukraine’s Sergei Bubka.

On Saturday,  two activists spoke at length in favor of proposed rules changes -- Becca Peter, who lives near Seattle, and David Greifinger, a Santa Monica, California-based lawyer.

Greifinger returned time and again to the same theme: democracy.

"That has worked in this country for a long time," he said at one moment.

For sure.

But the United States is not a pure democracy. It is a representative democracy.

As Miller observed, "The popular vote in our country does not always elect the president."

Moreover, democracy is not the same as leadership. And what nations, companies and non-profit sports organizations such as USATF need way more of is less pure democracy -- the USOC slimmed its board down from 115 to 15, and USATF is also down to 15 from 32 and, before that, over 100 -- and more leadership.

"It's one of those things about leadership," Miller said. "You don’t get elected and [suddenly] know everything about leadership."

Nothing at Saturday’s meeting will in any way prove binding. Indeed, the entire thrust was to set the stage for this year’s annual get-together, in about five weeks in Houston.

Two proposals -- both sparked by the process that saw Hightower picked for the IAAF -- may well show up in Houston:

The first, advanced by Peter: to bar the IAAF council member from simultaneously serving as USATF president or CEO. In Saturday’s straw poll, that got two votes.

“You have to get the best person for the job,” the agent Tony Campbell said. “If the best person is wearing two hats, so be it.”

The second: to provide that the USATF general assembly elect the IAAF rep. Straw vote: one in favor.

“Why change this now?” asked Robin Brown-Beamon, the Florida-based association president. "It worked.”

To laughter in the room, Sharrieffa Barksdale, the 1984 Olympic hurdler, said, referring to Greifinger, "If you have ever seen the movie ‘Frozen,’ David — let it go!”

An even-better cultural touchstone, referred to indirectly several times by Miller: "We're all in this together," the pitch-perfect tune from the 2006 hit movie "High School Musical."

This was the theme three weeks ago, at the meeting with the athletes that led to agreement.

And that set the tone for Saturday’s get-together.

Reminding one and all that the metric that matters most is how many medals the U.S. team collects next summer at the Rio 2016 Games, Moushami Robinson, a gold medalist in the women's 4x400 relay at the Athens 2004 Olympics, said, “It’s time to move past the residue so we can get done what we need to get done.”

Added Dwight Phillips, the 2004 Olympic and four-time world long jump champion who is now chair of the Athletes’ Advisory Committee, “It has always been competitive: ‘Let’s fight, let’s fight, let’s fight.’ How about, ‘Let’s compromise, let’s come to an agreement.’ And we’ll see progress.”

To be sure, disagreement and discussion are always part of any institutional process. And that’s totally healthy.

At the same time, USATF’s long-running dysfunction, the temptation to immediately and vociferously wonder if the sky is falling, and now, often bore echoes of the same woes that for years beset the U.S. Olympic Committee — until the USOC, too, made needed governance changes (slimming down that board of directors) and putting people in place who know what they’re doing (in particular, chief executive Scott Blackmun, in early 2010).

Now it’s USATF’s turn to look forward — to acknowledge that while discussion and dissent have a place, so, too, do compromise and turning the page.

Another proposal advanced by Greifinger:

— The USATF board now numbers 15. Six are representatives of what’s called “constituent-based” groups, including youth, officials and coaches. The current reps are selected by a process that includes nominations and slates and further complications. What if those six reps were elected by their constituents?

The consensus Saturday: fine.

Even so, it was also generally agreed, whoever gets put up for any of those six slots must pass some sort of vetting. Details obviously remain to be worked out but it's common-sense they would include a background check, drug testing and, to be obvious, a passport for the international travel that track and field demands.

And this notion, put forward by Rubin Carter and Lionel Leach:

— Make the CEO “confer and agree” with volunteer leadership on a variety of decisions.

Confer? Sure, as appropriate, Siegel said.

Secure agreement? Not workable, Siegel said, to widespread assent.

How could he sign off on this deal or that if he had to secure the OK of volunteers who might -- or very well might not -- hold particular expertise?

Siegel also noted the unintended consequence of such a provision: “no accountability for my performance.” If everything had to be run by volunteers of different stripes, how in the real world to gain an accurate measure of what Siegel did, or didn't, get done?

This, of course, is exactly the move the USOC made -- away from volunteer leadership and toward empowerment of a professional CEO and staff.

Houston and the annual meeting await.

For the first time in a long time, maybe ever, the focus at USATF is not on what happened before -- the recrimination attendant to reliving and rehashing the past.

As Miller said, “We are in this together. We have a chance to move the organization forward.

“We have a chance to do some things that have never been done before," on the track and and off: "We have a chance to end the repetitiveness of the five-year, the 10-year, the 20-year conversation.”

U.S. No. 1 overall -- in fast-changing world

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BEIJING — With images of Jesse Owens and Luz Long on the big screens, Owens’ grand-daughter kicked off the final night of the 2015 track and field championships by presenting Usain Bolt his gold medal from the men’s 4x100 relay the night before.

This was, in a nutshell, the past and present of the sport. The future?

Usain Bolt on the medals stand Sunday night // Getty Images

This, probably more than anything, from Seb Coe, the newly elected president of the IAAF, the sport’s governing body, taking over from Lamine Diack of Senegal, who served for 16 years: “We are more than a discussion of test tubes, blood and urine.”

He also said at a Sunday news conference, “We have a sport that is adorned by some of the most super-human outrageously talented people in any sport. Our challenge is to make sure the public know there are other athletes,” not just Bolt, “in our sport.”

This is not — not for a second — to discount the import of doping in track and field. But it’s clear things are changing.

The men’s 100 is often thought to be the dirtiest race in the sport; not so; a read of the historical record shows that, without question, it’s the women’s 1500.

And now that times in that event are often back at 4 minutes and over — the final Tuesday saw a slow, tactical 1500, won by one of the sport’s breakout stars, Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia, in 4:08 — more women from more countries can claim a legitimate shot at a medal.

That, actually, is one of the two big take-aways from these 2015 worlds: more athletes from more countries winning medals.

And, despite a disappointing medal performance by the U.S. team, the other: the emerging political influence internationally, concurrent with Coe’s presidency, of USA Track & Field.

Seb Coe, center, at Sunday's news conference, with IAAF general secretary Essar Gabriel, left, and communications director Nick Davies, right

Despite the chronic backbiting within certain circles — sometimes, track and field comes off as the only major sport in the world in which its most passionate adherents seemingly find joy by being so self-destructive — the sport could well be poised for a new era in the United States.

That depends, of course, on a great many factors. But everything is lined up.

Next year’s Rio Games are in a favorable time zone.

USATF has, in the last three years, under the direction of chief executive Max Siegel, made significant revenue leaps.

Beyond that, Eugene, Oregon, last year played host to the World Juniors and a meeting of the IAAF’s ruling council; the 2016 world indoors will be staged in Portland, Oregon; the 2021 world championships back in Eugene.

The 2017 track championships will be in London; in 2019, in Doha, Qatar.

By comparison: the swim world championships have never been held in the United States. This summer’s FINA championships were held in Kazan, Russia; in 2017, the swim worlds will be in Budapest; in 2019, in Gwangju, South Korea.

In elections that preceded this Beijing meet, all five of USATF’s candidates for IAAF office won; USATF president Stephanie Hightower got the highest number of votes, 163, for any candidate running for the IAAF council.

“You’ve got Seb leading the way but the change in the USATF position internationally is extremely significant,” Jill Geer, the USATF spokeswoman, observed Sunday night.

She also said, “Our development has to continue, and we don’t take our status as the world’s No. 1 track and field team for granted, at all,” adding, “No medals are guaranteed.”

From 2013 going back to 2004, the U.S. has been a 25-medal average team at world majors, meaning the Olympics or worlds.

Here, 18 overall, six gold.

Kenya and Jamaica -- with a victory late Sunday in the women's 4x4 relay -- topped the gold count, with seven. Kenya, overall: 16. Jamaica, overall: 12.

The upshot: for the first time at a world championships, dating to 1983, the U.S. finished third or worse in the gold-medal standings.

The last worlds at which the Americans won so few medals: Edmonton 2001, 13 overall, five gold; Athens 1997, 17 overall, six gold.

Here, the Chinese showed they are an emerging track and field threat, with nine medals, seven of them silver.

Ethiopia, Poland, Canada and Germany won eight apiece. Canada won two golds, in men’s pole vault, Shawn Barber, and on Sunday in men’s high jump, Derek Drouin, with a jump of 2.34 meters, or 7 feet, 8 inches.

Canada's Derek Drouin after his winning jump // Getty Images

Some specific examples of how the world is changing in real time:

The women’s 100 hurdles, long the domain of the Americans (and, recently, Australia’s Sally Pearson, who was hurt and did not compete here)?

Your Beijing podium -- Jamaica, Germany, Belarus.

The women’s 200? Gold went to Dafne Schippers of the Netherlands in a time, 21.63, surpassed in history only by the Americans Florence Griffith-Joyner and Marion Jones.

Asked the inevitable question, Schippers said, I’m clean.

Allyson Felix, the U.S. 200 star, didn’t challenge Schippers in that race; instead, Felix ran the 400, cruising to gold Thursday in 49.26, the year’s fastest time. Coe said the conversation ought to begin in earnest now about the possibility of allowing Felix the chance — like Michael Johnson in Atlanta in 1996 — to double in the 200 and 400 next year in Rio.

Without question, Bolt remains the dominant figure in track and field, and has been since his breakout performance here at the Bird’s Nest seven summers ago. Indeed, Coe said no single figure in international sport had captured the public imagination like Bolt since, probably, Muhammad Ali.

Assuming Bolt can keep himself in the good health he showed here, the world gets at least one more run-through of The Bolt Show, next summer in Rio, now with a worthy rival, the American Justin Gatlin, who took silver in both the 100 and 200. After that? Bolt’s sponsors want him to keep going through the London 2017 world championships; Bolt said he will have to think about it.

That relay Saturday night capped yet another incredible performance for Bolt. But for his false start at the Daegu 2011 worlds, he has won everything at a worlds or Olympics since 2008 — 100, 200, 4x1.

That was a familiar storyline.

This, too:

Mo Farah, the British distance star, nailed the triple double — winning the 5 and 10k, just as he had done at the Moscow 2013 worlds and the London 2012 Olympics.

The American Ashton Eaton won the decathlon, setting a new world record, 9045 points. He and his wife, the Canadian Brianne Theisen-Eaton, make up the reigning First Couple of the sport; she won silver in the heptathlon.

Dibaba, after winning the 1500 on Tuesday, took bronze in the 5000 Sunday night, a 1-2-3 Ethiopian sweep. Almaz Ayana broke away with about three laps to go, building a 15-second lead at the bell lap and cutting more than 12 seconds off the world championships record, finishing in 14:26.83.

Senbere Teferi outleaned Dibaba at the line. She finished in 14:44.07, Dibaba seven-hundredths behind that.

For junkies: Ayana covered the last 3000 meters in Sunday’s final quicker than any woman has run 3000 meters in 22 years.

Dibaba’s sister, Tirunesh, had held the world championship record, 14:38.59, set in Helsinki in 2005. Tirunesh Dibaba holds the world record still, 14:11.15, set in Oslo in 2008.

Then, of course, Beijing 2015 saw this all-too-familiar tale:

The U.S. men screwed up the 4x1 relay, a botched third exchange Saturday night from Tyson Gay to Mike Rodgers leading to disqualification after crossing the finish line second, behind Bolt and the Jamaicans.

Going back to 2001, the U.S. men’s 4x1 has failed — falls, collisions, botched handoffs — at nine of 15 major meets. Not good.

Job one is to get the stick around. If the Americans do that, they are almost guaranteed a medal — and, given a strategy that now sees Gatlin running a huge second leg, the real possibility of winning gold, as the U.S. team did in May at the World Relays, with Ryan Bailey anchoring.

Bailey did not qualify for these championships.

It’s not that the U.S. men — and women — didn’t practice. Indeed, all involved, under the direction of relay coach Dennis Mitchell, thought things were lined-up just right after the prelim, in which the same four guys — Treyvon Bromell, Gatlin, Gay, Rodgers — executed just fine.

The plan, practiced and practiced: hand-offs at about 10 to 12 meters in the zone in the prelims, 12 to 14 in the final. The plan, further: 28 steps in the final, 26 in the prelim — the extras accounting for the faster runs in the final, adrenaline and other factors.

Rodgers took responsibility for the essential mistake. He broke too early.

As Jill Geer, the USA Track & Field spokeswoman put it in an interview Sunday night with several reporters, “In the relays, there’s a lot of pressure. everybody feels it,” athletes, coaches, staff.

She added, “They don’t accept a DQ any easier than the public does.”

Geer also noted, appropriately, that medals at this level are a function of three things: preparation, execution and luck, good or bad.

In the women’s 1500 on Tuesday, American Jenny Simpson — the Daegu 2011 gold medalist, the Moscow 2013 runner-up — lost a shoe. She finished 11th, eight-plus seconds behind Genzebe Dibaba.

Men’s decathlon: Trey Hardee — the Berlin 2009 and Daegu 2011 champion — got hurt halfway through the 10-event endurance test. He had to pull out.

Women’s 100 hurdles: 2008 Beijing gold and 2012 London silver medalist Dawn Harper-Nelson crashed out; Kendra Harrison was DQ’d; and the 2013 world champion, Brianna Rollins, finished fourth.

Women’s 4x4 relay: the Americans sent out a star-studded lineup, 2012 Olympic 400 champ Sanya Richards-Ross, Natasha Hastings, Felix and Francena McCorory, who had run the year’s fastest pre-Beijing time, 49.83.

Before the race, the four Americans went all Charlie's Angels.

Left to right, before the 4x4 relay: Francena McCorory, Allyson Felix, Natasha Hastings, Sanya Richards-Ross // Photo via Twitter

Felix, running that third leg, then put the Americans in front with a 47.7-second split. But McCorory, windmilling with 90 meters to go, could not hold off Novlene Williams-Mills, and Jamaica won in a 2015-best 3:13.13. The Americans: 3:19.44.

It was the first Jamaican 4x4 relay worlds gold since 2001. The Jamaicans have never won the relay at the Olympics.

After the race: McCorory, Hastings, Felix // Getty Images

What gold looks like // Getty Images

In the men’s 4x4, LaShawn Merritt reliably turned in a winning anchor leg to lead the U.S. to victory in 2:57.82.

Trinidad and Tobago got second, a national-record 2:58.2. The British, just as in the women’s 4x4, took third. The British men: 2:58.51; the British women, a season-best 3:23.62.

Earlier Sunday night, Kenyan men went 1-2 in the men’s 1500, Asbel Kiprop winning in 3:34.4, Elijah Manangoi 23-hundredths back.

The U.S. got three guys into the final, including 2012 Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano and Matthew Centrowitz, second in the 1500 at the Moscow 2013 worlds, third at Daegu 2011.

The American finish: 8-10-11, Centrowitz, Manzano, Robby Andrews.

Manzano said afterward, “The first 800 was fine, but I thought I was just going to gear up like I did two days ago,” in the prelims, riding his trademark kick. “Unfortunately it didn’t quite pan out like that. Sometimes it just clicks in place, and today didn’t quite fit in there.”

A couple hours before that men’s 1500, Geer had said, “We had an awful lot of 4-5-6-7 finishes,” adding that “those are the kind of finishes where we will be drilling in and saying, how do we turn that 4-5-6 into a 1-2-3?”

The men’s 5k on Saturday, for instance: 5-6-7, Galen Rupp, Ben True, Ryan Hill.

Beating Farah? That’s an audacious goal.

But, Geer insisted, there is “nothing systemically wrong” with the U.S. effort.

“Our performance wasn’t necessary all the medals we had planned for or hoped for,” she said.

At the same time, she asserted, “When you look at our performance here, where we did well and maybe didn’t do well, if we can fix, which we absolutely can, even half the areas we had execution mistakes or under-performed, we will be extraordinarily strong in Rio.”

Sport at the crossroads: Seb Coe wins IAAF presidency

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BEIJING — With track and field at a historic crossroads, the IAAF membership on Wednesday elected Great Britain’s Seb Coe president.

Coe defeated Sergey Bubka of Ukraine, 115-92, two great champions of and advocates for the sport facing off in an election that reflected on track and field’s past but, more important, its future.

After the two men exchanged congratulations at the dais, an emotional Coe said, “I think for most of us in this room, we would conclude that the birth of our children are big moments in our lives, probably the biggest. But I have to say that being given the opportunity to work with all of you, to shape our sport, is probably the second-biggest momentous occasion in my life.”

Post-election news conference: IAAF spokesman Nick Davies; president Lamine Diack; president-elect Seb Coe; general secretary Essar Gabriel

Bubka, graceful, said, “I am a happy man and I am sitting in front of you because I love athletics,” what track and field is called everywhere in the world but the United States. “This is my life. Nothing has changed in my life. I will continue to serve athletics with dignity and deep passion, as I did before.”

A few minutes later, Bubka was elected vice president, along with representatives from Qatar (Dahlan Al Hamad, head of the Asian confederation), Cameroon (Hamad Kalkaba Malboum, chief of the African confederation), and Cuba (the legendary Alberto Juantorena, the 1976 Montreal 400 and 800 meters champ, now a key figure in his nation's sport hierarchy).

The 2019 world championships will be held in Doha, Qatar.

In another key development, USA Track & Field president Stephanie Hightower was easily elected to the IAAF’s ruling council. She secured the most votes, 163, for the six seats reserved for women on the board, more even than Olympic gold medalist Nawal el-Moutawakel, the IOC member and overseer of the 2016 Rio Games, who drew 160.

Stephanie Hightower // photo courtesy USATF

Hightower said she was "humbled and thrilled to have been selected to serve."

The 2021 world championships are due to be staged in Eugene, Oregon; the 2016 world indoors, next March in Portland.

“I congratulate Lord Coe on his election as IAAF president, and I am excited to continue to work with him on the important projects that our organization began with president Diack,” TrackTown USA president Vin Lananna said in a statement.

He added, “Together with our friends at the IAAF and USA Track & Field, I am confident that we will create a lasting legacy for the sport.”

Four more Americans won key posts Wednesday, too, signs of emerging USATF strength at the international level: Anne Phillips was elected chair of the federation’s women’s committee, Maryanne Daniel one of the two female members of the race-walking committee. Bill Roe was elected to the cross-country committee, David Katz re-elected to the IAAF technical committee.

In all, USATF went an unprecedented five-for-five -- an emphatic rebuttal to domestic naysayers who had been hugely critical of the nominees put forth last December in Los Angeles by the USATF board.

Hightower, Phillips and Daniel emerged as the top vote-getters in their categories.

“Putting these candidates forward was a strategic decision by our board to be a leader rather than a follower in the IAAF’s new era,” USATF board chair Steve Miller said.

"None of these outcomes was guaranteed. Our election success was the result of a lot of hard work by our candidates, our staff and by our closest colleagues in the IAAF congress. Today’s elections are simply the start of what will be many months and years of hard work at the IAAF level.”

Voting for the IAAF’s 27-member ruling council showed the emerging strength of the Middle East in world sports. In addition to Al Hamad, the IAAF elected representatives from the United Arab Emirates, Ahmad Al Kamali, and Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Bin Nawaf Al Saud.

Spain’s Jose Maria Odriozola, meanwhile, took over as treasurer from Russia’s Valentin Balakhnichev.

The presidential vote total, 34 years to the day after he set a then-world record for the mile in Zurich, 3:48.53, reflected Coe’s strength around the world: Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania and North America. South America, with its 13 votes, was always a Bubka redoubt.

Svein Arne Hansen of Norway, president of the European athletics federation, issued a statement that said, “I would like to congratulate my friend Sebastian on bering elected as president of the IAAF. I am looking forward to working closely with him over the coming years for the good of our sport.”

Coe formally takes office on August 31, at the end of the 2015 world championships.

The winning margin, 23 votes, also may prove significant as things go forward: comfortable enough for Coe to claim a commanding mandate but not so large as to, in any way, embarrass Bubka.

Outgoing president Lamine Diack, who served for 16 years, said, “For me, it’s a dream come true that I can pass on the baton to a new generation, to Sebastian, who has been prepared for the job. And I think we can say that our sport is in safe hands …

“The white-haired generation,” Diack said, “has done what it could. Now over to the black-haired generation.”

Track and field has, of course, long been the centerpiece of the Summer Games.

As Coe noted at a post-election news conference, “Track and field is the No. 1 sport. I am absolutely delighted to be president of the No. 1 sport. I will do everything within my human capabilities to make sure our sport maintains the values, maintains the strong legacy and the very firm foundations president Diack has left me.”

At the same time, track is increasingly being challenged by, among others, swimming and gymnastics; moreover, survey after survey suggests young people may increasingly be interested in sitting on the couch and playing video games.

And track seems chronically to be beset by doping scandals — headline after headline in recent weeks, for instance.

During the campaign, Coe aggressively defended the IAAF’s anti-doping efforts.

“As you have seen,” he said to delegates from the more than 200 federations just before ballots were cast, “I will always be in your corner.

“Your fight is my fight.”

This proved consistent with his all-along strategy, which emphasized not only who he was — relationships in Olympic sport can be everything — but, even more so, a plain-spoken program of rich content.

In contrast, Bubka — who also ran a spirited campaign — was more apt to turn to the relationship aspect.

Sergey Bubka, presidential runner-up, IAAF vice president //  Getty Images

Two days before the election, for instance, Bubka sent out an email blast that linked to a photo album from stops along the campaign trail.

There is no question — zero — that Bubka, the 1988 gold medalist in the pole vault who for 10 years has been head of the national Olympic committee of Ukraine, is both personable and eminently likable.

In the end, however, the IAAF decided it wanted, and needed, more.

Time and again, Coe would go back not just to his record of achievement — Olympic gold medalist in the 1500 meters in Moscow in 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984, chief of the enormously successful London 2012 Games — but to the manifesto he put forward several months ago.

Broadly, Coe’s vision sketched out for the IAAF a platform rooted in integrity and credibility; creativity and change; enhanced transparency; the imperative of bringing in more sponsors, and doing more with existing corporate partners; increased financial and administrative support to the members; deeper connection with governments; intensified engagement with track’s current and potential audience, notably young people; and a far more robust communication strategy, both within the federation and out.

“Everything you do in the sport is underpinned by trust,” Coe said at that post-election news conference.

He also said, “This has been a very, very long, hard, tough campaign,” asserting it had “given the sport a chance to pause for breath, to review itself, renew itself, think about what the next 30 or 40 years look like.”

That the time for change is now had become crystal clear.

Even Diack himself said so, in the congress: “Perhaps you shouldn’t have elected me in 2011. I had already decided to leave,” adding a moment later, “But we decided to continue working together, and to pursue the path that we followed.”

That path has been a slow walk, the last few years of Diack’s presidency seeing the sport launch the World Relays in the Bahamas but otherwise stagnate in significant ways; the presentation of a track meet, for instance, pales in comparison to that of a world-class swim meet.

At the same time, Diack leaves the IAAF with what Coe called “an extremely strong foundation.” In 2016, the federation’s revenue projects out to $81.9 million, including a $40 million payout due from the IOC. IAAF reserves at the end of 2014 totaled about $74 million, up $12 million from just four years ago.

That said, as a financial report made public Wednesday underscored, the IAAF is hugely dependent on television rights fees — $27 million of its roughly $59 million in income for 2014 — and needs to figure out how to grow that pie.

Indeed, that’s the apt metaphor for track and field itself: it’s strong but there is so much sleeping potential there.

That, in a nutshell, is the theme Coe tapped into.

As he said at the news conference, “Our product is athletics but our business is entertainment.”

Coe at the IAAF congress // Getty Images

During the campaign, Coe also had some influential help.

It was known in closely held circles that the IOC president, Thomas Bach, would not have minded — not one bit — a Coe presidency, even though Bubka has for several years been a member of the IOC’s policy-making executive board.

Same for another key personality in the Olympic and international sports scene, Kuwait’s Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah.

John Coates of Australia, an IOC vice president, issued a statement calling the vote a “great day for athletics and international sport,” adding, “Seb was clearly best qualified for the presidency as not only an Olympic champion, businessman and politician but as a person of the very highest integrity and character who has organized a most successful Olympic Games.”

The British government assuredly played a role in supporting Coe’s campaign. Hugh Robertson, the 2012 Olympics minister, served as a lead advisor.

The British prime minister, David Cameron, took to Twitter:

Diack, at least publicly, remained studiously neutral during the race. But it was an open secret that he had been piqued two years ago when Bubka ran for the IOC presidency that Bach won; Bubka’s candidacy prevented Diack from publicly supporting Bach. Did any of that linger?

Coe logged over 700,000 kilometers in the air since Christmas, criss-crossing the world several times over to meet with track and field officials virtually everywhere.

On the flight to Beijing for this history-making 50th IAAF congress, three members of his team were asleep “before the wheels left the tarmac,” Coe said. A flight attendant said to Coe, wow, they sure seem relaxed. He said, “No, no, no — they’re absolutely knackered.”

He also said Wednesday about the marathon effort: “I would also like very briefly to thank my teams — because when I was asleep, they were still working hard into the night,” including the veteran strategist Mike Lee, who can now claim another victory.

Coe went on to note that credit was truly due his wife, saying she had "borne the brunt of most of this over the last year." He quipped, "I will be meeting her outside the main congress hall with a photograph of me, just to remind her what I look like.”

Coe gambled big-time Wednesday, standing only for president. Bubka put his name in for both the top spot and for vice-president.

Everyone thus understood at the core that if Coe lost, he was out of town on Thursday, and very likely out of the sport for good. Did track and field want to run the risk of losing his experience, expertise and more?

“Congress, friends,” Coe said in remarks before the balloting that would name just the sixth president in IAAF history, dating to 1912, “there is no task in my life for which I have ever been better prepared, no job I have ever wanted to do more and to do with greater commitment.

“With confidence and affection, my friends, I place myself in your hands today. If you place your trust in me, I will not let you down.”

USATF: 12-1 is one more than 11-1

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The USA Track & Field board of directors voted Saturday by 12-1 not, repeat not, to rescind its December decision to nominate Stephanie Hightower for a spot on the IAAF council. Meeting in Santa Monica, California, the USATF vote ought to put to rest the controversy that has lingered since the annual meeting in December in Anaheim. Then the vote was 11-1 in favor of Hightower following a 392-70 floor vote for current IAAF vice president Bob Hersh.

Plain math: 12-1 is one more than 11-1. The dissenter Saturday was one of the athlete representatives, Curt Clausen.

It’s time to move on, people.

USATF board chair Stephanie Hightower after Saturday's vote

“Change is just tough,” USATF board counsel Larry James said afterward, adding a moment later, “As we get to that 90 percent, the last 10 percent is the most painful.”

He also said, “Leadership has to lead.”

The 75-year-old Hersh said afterward, “I don’t want to comment at this time,” adding, “Obviously I have some misgivings about the whole procedure.”

Misgivings?

Just to speak hypothetically, what would you make of someone who would suggest at a public board meeting that a woman had no chance of being elected an IAAF vice-president? Seriously? When women have for years now been International Olympic Committee vice-presidents? Should that person really be representing the United States of America? In 2015?

Again hypothetically, what would you make of someone who might suggest, also at a public board meeting, that Cubans don’t like Americans? In an era in which change between Cuba and the United States is plainly in the air?

At a time in which several of USATF’s seemingly most vocal critics are asking for enhanced transparency, what would you think if someone might hypothetically suggest that a discussion that has attracted keen interest over the past four months be held in executive session?

How about this:

Let’s dial back the wayback machine. It would be fascinating to give Hersh a dose of truth serum and ask: four years ago, did you say to Hightower, give me one final term and I will mentor you, even get you on IAAF committees, and then stand down?

Or if that truth serum was still going: last summer, in a private meeting, were you, Bob, asked in a private meeting if you would mentor Stephanie, and did you say, “I could but I won’t?”

Because Saturday, publicly, Hersh once again committed to mentor Hightower, if only he could get four more years.

As if.

To those critics who decry age-ism: the IOC in December affirmed its mandatory retirement limit at age 70. As a matter of best-practices governance, isn't it common-sense that the IAAF is going to enact a similar provision, and soon?

The winds of change are coming this summer to the IAAF. Either Seb Coe or Sergey Bubka is going to be elected federation president. Both are in their 50s. The USATF board decided in December that Hightower, 56, a contemporary of both Coe and Bubka from their time together as athletes and now as sport executives, would be a better choice as USATF nominee than would Hersh.

This U.S. debate about who ought to get the IAAF nomination has run its reasonable course.

For emphasis: there is nothing good that can come of continuing a dialogue, or debate, on this point any further.

The decent thing now would be for Hersh to concede. In politics, there are winners and losers. He has lost. Now he should do the decent thing, and the sooner the better, for the sake of the sport -- and the organizations -- he purports to love.

There is so much going now on that is good about USATF: financially, grass-roots investment and, of course, the prospect of a great summer at the world championships in Beijing followed by epic performances at the Summer Olympics next year in Rio de Janeiro.

This is the first time in maybe forever that all these things can be said about the state of affairs at USA Track & Field.

You just have to step back to see the big picture.

Those who prefer to dwell in divisiveness and name-calling are living in a past that is rapidly receding.

It’s over, people. Get on board.

Is USATF perfect? Hardly. No institution is or can be.

Does USATF deserve criticism when warranted? Absolutely.

That said, is USATF way, way better than it has ever been?

You bet.

Why? Because Hightower and the board have empowered chief executive Max Siegel to do his thing. She is not, repeat not, a dictator. She has grown into the job — as she would readily admit — and Siegel and the staff are doing what they do. That is how a $13 million business grows into $30 million, and it’s only getting started.

So, as this space has repeated several times: the time is now for civility, tolerance and decency. Of course, to reiterate, disagreements are fine. But, big picture, let’s stop the noise and the over-the-top lectures about history and democracy.

We — Americans — do not live in a democracy. We live in a representative democracy.

On the matter of the IAAF nomination, this representative democracy has now spoken, not just once but twice.

USATF should rightfully be the gracious leader among the nations in track and field. It’s time for everyone to get together so that USATF can humbly assume that role as a partner with others around the world — without unnecessary and unproductive personality politics that contribute nothing.

If you prefer it more plainly:

Complain and scheme if you want. Fine. But here’s the deal: you risk being left behind. Way behind.

At USATF, there are a lot of smart, progressive people now running the show. For real. Change is all around. If you step back and take a look, it’s right there. Is it going to happen in a day? Nope. Over time? Yep. It is happening now, and already? Absolutely.

Hightower, after the vote, had it right. She said, “This for me is about how we move the organization forward.”

USATF: a letter from Italy

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A letter from Italy, from one of the most influential strategists in track and field, to Bob Hersh, currently an IAAF vice president, makes clear what many here in the United States fail to understand: Hersh is an eminently decent man but his time near the top at the IAAF has come to a close. Hersh should realize that.

“Personally,” writes Luciano Barra, whose career in track and field and Olympic circles has seen him both wielding and observing power and its nuances for decades, “I think that you are spoiling your career in the world of athletics trying to remain in the IAAF council also on this occasion,” a reference to this summer’s IAAF elections.

Luciano Barra, then with the Torino Games organizing committee

“Life goes for each of us and time is a severe judge. You are 75, the IAAF will have [drastic] changes in Beijing and you should have understood that this was the right time to leave in glory, being appointed IAAF honorary life vice president.”

Barra prefaces the entire letter by saying, “It was a pity that we did not find the possibility to speak in Prague,” at last weekend’s European indoor championships, and adds, “I must say that many of the things I am writing are shared by many people I spoke with in Prague.”

The letter is most notable because Barra, as Hersh would well know, is close — and has been for years and years — to IAAF insiders.

To recap just some of Barra’s resume:

He was general director of the Italian Olympic Committee from 1984 to 2003, its sport director the final 10 years. He was chief operating officer of the Torino 2006 Winter Games. He is an honorary life council member of the European Athletic Association and has been around track and field, and the organization of its events, virtually his entire life.

Barra is far from unfamiliar with the United States and Americans, incidentally. He served as an adviser to the Chicago 2016 Olympic bid.

It is amid all that context that he wrote Tuesday’s letter to Hersh, mindful that in Beijing either Seb Coe or Sergey Bubka will be elected IAAF president and that USA Track & Field will nominate a delegate to the IAAF spot.

In December, USATF opted not to re-up Hersh but to nominate Stephanie Hightower, the USATF chairwoman.

Within the U.S. track and field community, there continues to be misunderstanding about the dynamics of the 392-70 floor recommendation for Hersh and then the 11-1 board of directors vote for Hightower. A follow-up Feb. 7 board letter sought to explain why the board went the direction it did.

This letter from Barra ought to further make plain to those within the United States why Hightower is the choice.

To emphasize, Barra’s opinion not only matters; it reflects an important current of thinking in key IAAF circles that ought to be better understood in the United States, particularly with the USATF board meeting this weekend in Los Angeles.

Hightower is now 58. When he, Barra, was 58, he wrote, he retired after 18 years in the European athletics council because the Italian track and field federation had a new president and that new president wanted to represent Italy: “It was a normal ambition for him.”

“The same I did in the Italian Olympic Committee at 62 … after 15 years as sport director general (with 110 medals in five Olympics [as compared to] 55 … before) [so that I could become] deputy CEO of Torino 2006 Olympic Games.”

“For this reason,” Barra writes to Hersh, ”I cannot understand your position and your continuous quest of support also internationally. I do not know, and I do not want to know, the formal aspect of what has happened inside your federation, but if legally this has been possible, what can you say?”

Barra goes on:

“I have understood that you have been claiming the important achievement you have reached in these years inside the IAAF. Surely you have good score even if I have been critical on two of your main [activities]: the one of Technical Delegate and the one of Chairman of the Diamond League group.

“I do not want to come back on my e-mails about the time table you have ‘painted’ for Moscow and London, I am only happy to see that those who have taken the baton from you have not followed many of your ‘best practice.’ You know what I am talking about because I have written open letters on it.

“As far as the Diamond League is concerned you should know that many people in the World Athletics consider that activity as the [worst] ever run by the IAAF on many [points] of view. Financially [it] is not positive, from [a] television point of view [it] is even worse, but most of all [it] has allowed athletics to be totally in the hand of the managers. To pursue athletics based on money and records has also made the doping a major issue.

“You chaired a group in Marrakech to discuss about the need to make athletes recognize the one day meeting (the vest problem) and in spite of a report of many pages (43?) you were not able to arrive to any proposal. Should I go on?

“So why not finish in glory and take the positive aspect of what you have done? The alternative is to be challenged on the substance of what you have done, independently to the formal aspect of your queries.”

At the end the letter says, “PS it is possible that I will circulate my thought,” and indeed it is now circulating worldwide.