2019 Doha Diary: Reflections the Ortega incident


The 110m hurdles was a fun event. The way that the Jury of Appeals fixed the event was, well, silly. This is how Stuart Weir put the final patina to the 110m final...



When Omar McLeod fell in the men's 110m hurdles final, he had no idea what a can of worms the incident would open up. Obviously Omar was intending to win the race, not fall over the last hurdle. Omar fell in front of Orlando Ortega, the Cuban-born, Spanish hurdler blocking his route to the line. As reported at http://www.runblogrun.com/2019/10/jury-of-appeals-awards-bronze-medal-to-orlando-ortegabut-is-he-getting-it.html the Jury decided to award an additional bronze medal to Ortega - bronze on the grounds that he was in third place at the time of the incident.

A subsequent counter appeal by China claimed that the decision to award a second bronze medal to Ortega was "totally arbitrary, not based on any written IAAF regulation and has no precedent in history... Team CHINA insist to keep the 4th place for their athlete Wenjun XIE, and request that the athlete be awarded the Prize Money and Placing Score for the IAAF World Rankings corresponding to 4th place". The Jury of Appeal rejected the appeal adding "With respect to World Rankings list and Prize Money, the IAAF Competition Department is responsible. The Jury has no jurisdiction over these matters". It is hard to disagree with the Chinese claim as to the arbitrary nature of the decision.

US Hurdler, Freddie Crittenden, commented on Twitter: "This needs to be addressed. No reason why Xie Wunjumn should be demoted due to an incident between Ortega and McLeod. It is indeed a messy situation but Wenjun earned 4th place and should have it. Just like Ortega earned his medal". Coach. Andreas Behm tweeted: "I applaud IAAF for looking for a resolution to Orlando Ortega interference. BUT why in this unprecedented process not let Xie Wenjun keep 4th place based on actual race results? Why DEMOTE Xie to 5th place by no fault of his own?" Coach Stuart McMillan commented: "How can an athlete (Xie) be demoted based on what you think would have happened in the last 10% of the race? We all felt bad for Ortega but there is no precedent for predicting the result and changing the placings?"

Another comment on twitter was that Milan Trajkovic had been running well until he was caught by Martinot-Lagarde's elbow so that he should be moved up a few places!! There was even a suggestion that that this entire thing was Ortega's fault as he had made contact with the runners either side of him and that McLeod's loss of balance may have been because Ortega had made contact with him.

Someone asked in Twitter if they had used hawkeye [technology used in other sports to predict the flight of the ball] to decide where Ortega would have finished? Now that is an interesting thought. One could use that technology, I suppose, to predict where any faller in any race might have finished. What nonsense!

In the semi-final of the men's sprint hurdles, Ronald Levy was deemed to have illegally impeded Shane Brathwaite. Levy was DQed and Brathwaite awarded a lane in the final. We all understand that. However, as there is no suggestion that McLeod did anything wrong and he was not in any way sanctioned, the decision to treat an accidental clash in this way is very strange. When the USA women's 4 by 100 relay team was impeded in the 2016 Olympics, the rules were bent to give them a run against the clock to claim a place in the final. Also arbitrary but at least they did finish the race.

The current outcome is unsatisfactory for a number of reasons:

1 Awarding a place to someone who did not finish is unsatisfactory

2 The official result is a nonsense. Joint third: Pascal Martinot-Lagarde (13.18) and Orlando Ortega (13.30). How can you place two athletes in the same position (3rd) when they have different times?

3 If the upgrade is based on the fact that Ortega was in third place at the time of the incident, then why was he not awarded third place. Did the Jury decide that although he was third at the time of the incident, Martinot-Largarde was going to catch him in the final view meters?

4 How was the decision made: speculation as to where Ortega might have finished.

5 Simply wrong to demote Wenjun XIE and dock his money, through no fault of his own.

6 It opens the door to appeals by all runners who are impeded in future races.

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