Controversy continues in USA Track & Field: it needs to end, by Larry Eder

I do not like writing pieces like this. I am not a gossip columnist. But, in the past 24 hours, I have received the following letters from at least ten sources. I wrote to Mr. Leach and asked for permission to publish and he responded by email and gave me express permission. 

Lionel Leach wrote this letter, in his own comments to defend Timothy Baker, a long time supporter of Stephanie Hightower and supporter of the sport. As the controversy regarding Bob Hersh and Stephanie Hightower has not gone away, this just adds fire to the proverbial flame. The letter from Stephanie Hightower to Timothy Baker has just made everything worse, and for some, much clearer. 

What I have found, in my middle age,  is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle in most of these cases. I do believe that Lionel Leach was incensed. I also know that Lionel is a fine politician and has been at odds with Ms. Hightower for some time. 

I also know that Stephanie Hightower, on a good day, annoys half of the sport just for breathing, so, that is a constant. The letter is not one of her best, and it is not her worst. Is she pressuring Mr. Baker? Of course. But, welcome to the sport and how politics is dividing the sport more and more each day. Bullying Timothy Baker is not something that Ms. Hightower needed on her resume. 

I am not sure what the answer is. I do believe that some of the vitriol against Stephanie HIghtower is because of her approach, which rubs many the wrong way. I also think that she has talents and just because the women makes you crazy nuts mad does not mean she does not have value to the sport. I have seen Stephanie use her political talents to help the sport. Those talents are not evident in this letter, however. 

But, the defenders of Ms. Hightower rely on as much vitriol as the other side. 
The truth is, that the new style of governance in USA Track & Field is not working. The Board is not communicating, in a form that the constituency appreciates. That means, if one has ever taken a class on politics, that the board is, at present, failing. The board is communicating in a vacuum, I believe.

How dangerous is this? The Board of Directors needs to get outside of the meeting room, because, I can tell them, that there is trouble brewing. That the board did not figure out how a guy like Bob Hersh was respected when he had a vote of 392-70 is just ridiculous. I have been in the US, and Europe for six weeks. I can tell you that the USATF Board is being questioned by many on both sides of the pond. 

For me, seeing this absolute soap opera-like stories on USATF is infuriating. The great financial news that has come from Max Siegel’s hard work is being over shadowed by Board and President who seem to think that what they know is best and screw the naysayers. If this is not what they believe, then, the Board better get on the charm offensive, because the ship is truly listing. 

For someone who cares about the sport, I find this very distasteful. My recommendation to the Board: clean it up. 



  • Larry Eder

    Larry Eder has had a 51-year involvement in the sport of athletics. Larry has experienced the sport as an athlete, coach, magazine publisher, and now, journalist and blogger. His first article, on Don Bowden, America's first sub-4 minute miler, was published in RW in 1983. Larry has published several magazines on athletics, from American Athletics to the U.S. version of Spikes magazine. He currently manages the content and marketing development of the RunningNetwork, The Shoe Addicts, and RunBlogRun. Of RunBlogRun, his daily pilgrimage with the sport, Larry says: "I have to admit, I love traveling to far away meets, writing about the sport I love, and the athletes I respect, for my readers at, the most of anything I have ever done, except, maybe running itself." Also does some updates for BBC Sports at key events, which he truly enjoys. Theme song: Greg Allman, " I'm no Angel."

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