US Olympic Trials: 100M Runoff Between Allyson Felix, Jeneba Tarmoh Must Happen

Dan KuklaCorrespondent IIIJuly 2, 2012

EUGENE, OR - JUNE 30:  (L-R) Jeneba Tarmoh and Allyson Felix hug following the Women's 200 Meter Dash Final on day nine of the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at the Hayward Field on June 30, 2012 in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Jeneba Tarmoh pulling out of a US Olympic Trial 100-meter dash runoff against Allyson Felix would be a disastrous ending to this already looney tune.

Withdrawing from the runoff shouldn't be an option for Tarmoh—because there shouldn't have been options in the first place.

Tiebreaker rules should have been set before this situation happened, not after. In either case, the tiebreaker needs to be done through competition, not chance.

The thought of deciding a spot on the US Olympic team by the flip of a coin is appalling. It violates everything that is great about sport.

It takes a lifetime of hard work and dedication just to be in position to tie for third place in an Olympic time trial. Qualifying for the Olympics and competing for your country against the world's best is the ultimate reward for years of sacrifice.

How does anyone think that deciding this with any form of random chance is even an option, much less a good idea? Let athleticism, not luck, be featured on the ultimate athletic stage.

Yes, Monday's scheduled runoff would likely be one of the most watched domestic track and field contests in the history of the sport. That is gravy, but this is not about TV ratings. The meat of this conversation is about sport and what it means to be an athlete.

Even if no one watches, a runoff should still be the only option.

"There's only one way for this to be decided," writes St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell. "USATF blew it. They wimped out and put this decision all on the athletes' shoulders and that's wrong. In the spirit of the Olympic trials, you don't change the personality of the event. You tell them it's going to be decided by a match race. Line up at the starting line and settle this thing in one breathless 11-second blur."

Of all the many mistakes made in this tiebreaker process, leaving it up to the athletes to decide stands as the worst.

You can't blame Tarmoh for any reservations about all of this.

She was initially declared the third-place winner. That decision was soon overruled when USATF officials reviewed the call because of the importance of third place in the Olympic Trials. Thus began the complete mess of deciding how to settle it all.

Tarmoh is exhausted from the week-long controversy and was disinclined to participate from the beginning.

"I'm not that excited at all," Tarmoh told The Associated Press, according to Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden. "This decision was really hard for me to make. I was pushed into a corner. They said if you don't make a decision, you give your spot up. I work too hard to just give my spot up. I had to say it was a runoff."

Tarmoh does not want to pull out of the runoff because she thinks there is a better way to break the tie. She still believes in her heart that she finished third and now feels robbed of that accomplishment. She wants to pull out because she has been subject to a "carnival of ill-preparedness and bureaucratic sloth," as Layden calls it.

Declaring a runoff as the tiebreaker from the start would have prevented any controversy and would have precluded Tarmoh from feeling so burdened.

Forcing Tarmoh and Felix to decide for themselves, however, was just disastrously wrong. Tarmoh has every right to now pull out and deliver just punishment for the crime.

Showing some grace, however, would end this nightmare from which she so desperately wants to wake up.

It would hopefully help reach her dream as well.