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PROTRACK » GENERAL » AA CEO Dallas O'Brien talks to Runners Tribe about the 'LeCaze fiasco'

AA CEO Dallas O'Brien talks to Runners Tribe about the 'LeCaze fiasco'

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The Low-Down on the LaCaze Fiasco:
RT chats with the CEO of Athletics Australia

posted by rtross on June 19, 2012,

With the controversy surrounding the selection of Genevieve LaCaze sweeping through mainstream media over the past week, we caught up with the man in the middle of the storm, Athletics Australia’s CEO Dallas O’Brien, to discuss the facts of the issue….


In an official AA statement released on 15/6/2012 AA stated that:

“Athletics Australia has endeavoured to give athletes the largest possible window of opportunity for qualification, continuing post our Olympic Nomination Trials which were conducted in early March 2012. The qualifying period end date of 11 June 2012 was set in order to allow adequate time for selectors to consider the team and most importantly to give athletes the opportunity and time to appeal any selection decision if they elected to do so prior to 22 June"

I understand that time needs to be left for appeals and administrative issues. However, the USA Olympic trials do not even conclude until July 1. So if a team the size of the USA can get its admin sorted after July 1 why did AA and the AOC feel as if they needed 3 extra weeks?

It was the AOC that set the cut-off date of June 22 for us to get our nominations in, and then it was agreed we would have 11 days before that date to deal with selection, board ratification and athlete appeals. The appeals process is very complex and is something that takes time, rushing the appeals process is just not possible. Remember the IAAF cut-off date is July 7th, so the AOC decided that they needed from the June 22nd to July 7th to get their administrative issues in order.

As Tim McGrath from Inside Athletics has put it, ‘Athletics should be about the athletes’. Do you see how AA’s stance over the past week can be seen as being against the athletes?

That is just an utterly ridiculous statement. Athletes are the core of our business. We support athletes through contracts, Institute support, coaches and also give financial support to athletes in helping them qualify. We have the second largest track and field team ever (behind the Sydney Olympics team) going to the Olympics. We have done everything we can to accommodate our many athletes. Unfortunately some People make such comments without knowing all the facts.

Once John Coates decided he wanted Genevieve in the team we revisited our original decision and decided if the AOC were going to allow this, in affect changing our agreed policy, we thought the fairest thing to do was to extend the time to the 22nd for everyone. We at AA are thrilled for Genevieve LaCaze. She deserves to go in that she has run the time now.

We attempted to uphold that deadline as per the policy out of fairness to athletes who had centred their campaigns around that date. We are now dealing with the many legal and administrative problems that this has created. We now have numerous Australian athletes lodging appeals that they would not have lodged if we (AA & AOC) did not change a policy that had been in place for 12 months.

The matter is complex and it is hard for people to understand all the permutations.

Once the AOC and John Coates made it clear that they wanted LaCaze to be nominated why did it take so long for AA to agree to extend the nomination time period?

We made the original decision at a board teleconference on the Friday morning. We had correspondence from the AOC supporting whatever DECISION WE WOULD MAKE. Mr. Coates came out publicly around the same time without consulting us. Our President Mr Rob Fildes decided to act on the Saturday morning. I immediately started contacting all board members remembering it was a Saturday and people were all over the place. It took many phone calls with all the AA board members and to liase back and forth with AOC. We spent all day Saturday trying to reach an agreement with the AOC. We wanted the extension to apply to all athletes, not just LaCaze. We had to keep to our policy line until an agreement was reached.

Hollingsworth was so adamant that LaCaze should not be selected. However, unfortunately for Hollingsworth, he was the one who 12 months ago aided the entering of Sean Wroe to the 2011 world champs team for the individual 400m. How can such obvious double standards be tolerated by the AA board?

Eric let his thoughts be known in regards to the policy, it was not a personal attack on Genevieve but simply trying to uphold the integrity of the agreed policy. . . It was perhaps not the best timing to make the statement and Eric is making no further comments on the matter.

The issue with Sean Wroe is different. Eric had the authority as the team leader while the team was in camp to nominate athletes who had already been selected in the Team (for the 4 by 400m relay) to another event. He has made similar calls on other occasions (placing Sally Pearson into the 4 by 400m relay team is one example).

Moving on to Fabrice Lapierre’s appeal against non-selection. Lapierre last week placed second in the New York Diamond League long jump which is obviously no micky mouse event. It seems a shame that someone so capable of beating the world’s best on a good day won’t be competing in London?

IAAF rules govern this decision. IAAF selection policy states that once one athlete has an A qualifier that no-one with a B standard can be selected. With both Frayne and Watt jumping A standards, Fabrice simply needs to jump an A standard if he wants to compete. Now extending the date gives Fabrice more time and we really hope he makes it because he is capable of just about anything and could definitely medal for us. .

RT: Thanks for your time.

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