Getty Images

Buzunesh Deba inherits 2014 Boston Marathon win, but not the prize

Leave a comment

BOSTON (AP) — Buzunesh Deba will leave the Boston Marathon with one champion’s medal this week.

She would like to make it two.

The 29-year-old Ethiopian inherited the 2014 title this December when Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo was stripped of her victory for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Jeptoo joins Rosie Ruiz, who was caught cutting the course in 1980, as the only people to be disqualified from the Boston Marathon after breaking the tape on Boylston Street.

“She took my chance,” Deba said this week after returning to Boston, where she has also finished third and seventh. “I lost so many things.”

When Ruiz took a shortcut to the finish line, she deprived Jacqueline Gareau of the thrill of breaking the tape, being crowned with the traditional olive wreath and hearing the Canadian national anthem waft over Copley Square. Race officials, who were immediately skeptical of the unknown and unseen Ruiz, made it up to Gareau with a substitute victory ceremony and even had her cross the finish line again — this time in street clothes.

But Gareau’s victory was in the race’s amateur era, so there was no cash to recover.

Jeptoo, whose 2006 and 2013 victories remain unchallenged, claimed $150,000 for the victory and an additional $25,000 for setting a course record. Both legally belong to Deba, whose time of 2 hours, 19 minutes, 59 seconds remains the fastest in Boston Marathon history, but the Boston Athletic Association would have to claw it back from Jeptoo.

“We are trying,” CEO Tom Grilk said.

In the year after the finish line explosions that killed three people and wounded hundreds more, Jeptoo herself was already an afterthought, coming in just minutes before Meb Keflezighi claimed the first American victory in the men’s race since 1983 . As “The Star-Spangled Banner” played over Boylston Street, Jeptoo’s third win — even in a course-record time — drew less attention than normal.

But for Deba, it was costly. All the after-the-fact ceremonies, medals and even the prize money — if she ever gets it — wouldn’t make up for the opportunities lost when she wasn’t able to capitalize on being a returning champion.

“When you are the champion, the next year, the appearance fees, the contracts, everything” is more lucrative, the two-time New York City Marathon runner-up said this week. “My happiness is that day. But she took it from me.”

Deba’s husband and coach, Worku Beyi, said they are talking to B.A.A. officials about the prize money, “but it is not 100 percent.” They are hoping Jeptoo will return the money.

“She knows herself she is not champion,” Beyi said.

Deba has a chance to steal back the spotlight on Monday, when she joins a field of more than 30,000 in Hopkinton for the 121st edition of the race. Among them are defending champion Atsede Baysa of Ethiopia; Kenya’s Gladys Cherono, who has the fastest time in the field; and two-time Olympian Desi Linden, who is trying to become the first American woman to win in Boston since 1985.

The men’s field includes defending champion Lemi Hale, who last year completed Ethiopia’s first sweep; 2012 winner Wesley Korir; and Keflezighi, who is planning to retire after the New York City race in the fall. Partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the 60s are expected to greet the runners for the 26.2-mile trek to Boston’s Back Bay.

Security will be tighter than before the 2013 bombings, but race director Dave McGillivray is hoping things are getting back to normal after three races without incident.

“I just feel like we’re back to putting on a road race,” he said. “Everything is running smooth. We just want to get it on.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: How to watch Boston Marathon

Lawmakers choke back tears, scream at Olympic sport leaders for sex-abuse scandal

AP
Leave a comment

WASHINGTON (AP) — The tears and anger this time came from lawmakers who spent the day fuming over a growing sex-abuse problem in Olympic sports that leaders have taken too much time to solve while devoting too little money for the fixes.

“I just hope everyone here realizes the time to talk is over, and you need to walk your talk,” Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said Wednesday shortly after choking back tears while questioning leaders of the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

The hearing of the House subcommittee was filled with both substance and spectacle — the latter coming mostly courtesy of a five-minute burst from Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., who told the USOC’s acting CEO, Susanne Lyons, “you should resign your position now,” and tore into USA Gymnastics CEO Kerry Perry and the rest of the panel for not uttering the exact words: “I’m sorry.”

“If you don’t want to say you’re sorry, I don’t want to talk to you,” said Carter, who represents the district where a lawsuit that triggered the mushrooming scandal in gymnastics was filed.

In fact, members on the panel of U.S. sports executives did apologize to the victims, whose numbers grow almost daily and whose pain was most heart-wrenchingly displayed during the sentencing hearing for Larry Nassar, the Michigan State doctor who also worked for the U.S. gymnastics team.

But set against the USOC’s slow-moving reforms, to say nothing of the raw numbers presented by SafeSport CEO Shellie Pfohl, some of the apologies felt hollow.

The USOC started talking about reforming its sex-abuse policy in 2010 after a scandal was exposed inside of USA Swimming. From then, it took seven years to open the SafeSport center to independently investigate sex-abuse claims made by Olympic athletes. Pfohl described an office that has been overwhelmed in the 14 months it has been in business.

— When it opened in March 2017, Pfohl said the center received 20 to 30 calls a month. In the wake of the #MeToo movement and the Nassar case, that has increased to about 20 to 30 calls per week.

— SafeSport operates on a budget of $4.3 million a year, $1.55 million of which was recently added as part of the USOC’s mission to bolster its response to the abuse issue. That brought the USOC’s contribution to $3.1 million. (By comparison, the USOC gave the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, in charge of Olympic drug testing in the United States, $3.7 million in 2016. Its budget is more than $19 million.)

— The budget is enough for 14 full-time employees, which includes five full-time investigators. Seven additional investigators work on a contract basis. The center has fielded 840 reports over 14 months. Reports have come in regarding 38 of the 49 national governing bodies.

— Part of the delay in opening the SafeSport center came because the USOC met reluctance from almost everyone in funding, both from outside and inside the Olympic movement. The NGBs are charged on a sliding scale, depending on their size. USA Swimming contributed only $43,000 this year, “but we’re one of the larger NGBs, and based on who we are, we could provide more resources,” CEO Tim Hinchey said.

Pfohl said she wouldn’t turn it down.

Meanwhile, she is still waiting for paperwork to apply for a $2.5 million grant the government wrote into this year’s budget. (The government gave $9.5 million to USADA in 2016.)

The witnesses testified to a continued lack of uniformity in sex-abuse policies among the NGBs, despite efforts that date to at least 2013. Some publish full lists of banned coaches and athletes. Some distribute them only to members of the organizations. Under terms of a recently passed law to protect athletes, the NGBs are supposed to be audited randomly by the SafeSport center, but that project is hamstrung because resources do not exist.

Meanwhile, the role of the USOC in overseeing it all remains confusing.

Brought up more than once was an exchange during a deposition for a sex-abuse lawsuit in which a USOC lawyer was asked if protecting athletes was a top priority for the federation.

“The USOC does not have athletes,” answered Gary Johansen — speaking to the reality that, except during the Olympics, athletes technically fall under the umbrella of their individual sports.

Lyons said that mindset will change.

“We do hold ourselves responsible, and if there’s a failing, it’s from not properly exercising our authority,” she said.

One of the best examples of the USOC using that authority has been the top-to-bottom housecleaning it demanded from USA Gymnastics.

Most news about the federation’s changes, however, has been delivered in long news releases. Wednesday marked the first time Perry has made public comments since her hiring in December. She left after the hearing without taking questions.

“I’m glad you’re here today, but a lot of people have wanted to hear from you since you took the job,” Dingell said.

But Dingell didn’t really like what she heard — “I don’t hear a sense of urgency,” she said — and she was not alone.

“As compared to how much money a district attorney’s office has, or how much money a Title IX office has at a school, it’s not in the same ballpark at all,” Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Olympic swimmer and outspoken critic of the USOC’s efforts, said of the SafeSport budget. “Shellie desperately needs more money.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Rhonda Faehn, women’s program head, ‘no longer with USA Gymnastics’

Lindsey Vonn, Ronda Rousey among athletes featured on Shark Week

AP
Leave a comment

Olympic medalists Lindsey Vonn and Ronda Rousey headline an athlete roster appearing on Discovery Channel’s Shark Week in two months.

They follow Michael Phelps‘ much talked about Shark Week shows last year.

Vonn will appear on a show called “Monster Tag.” Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski are also included.

They “will join forces with top shark scientists to learn crucial information about the ocean’s top predators,” according to Discovery Channel.

Rousey, a 2008 Olympic judo bronze medalist, will dive with a mako shark in “Uncaged: Shark vs. Ronda Rousey.” The title is similar to “Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White” from last year.

“First, Rousey, in a cage, dives into the ring with several lightweight shark species in the waters off Fiji and then moves onto the main event in New Zealand where she’ll ‘free dive uncaged’ with the heavyweight mako shark,” according to Discovery Channel.

More on Shark Week from Discovery Channel is here.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Vonn’s proposal to race men tabled