Charlotte referee mystifies hurdlers over undo of DQ

The M45 110-meter hurdle race at Charlotte nationals was among the greatest in masters history, given the 14.41 world age-group record it produced. Jamaica’s Karl Smith was chased to the record by Linz world champion Dexter McCloud of Georgia. But Dexter was DQ’d shortly after the race, giving the national championship to Jeff Brower of Texas. Dexter was flagged by several officials for pushing over the ninth hurdle with both hands. The results showed Dexter as DQ’d, and that was that. Or so we thought. About a week later, the online results were changed to show Dexter as having taken second. What happened? Therein lies a tale.

About 10 days ago, I received a note from Jeff, the M45 hurdler from Austin.
Under the subject heading of “Advice needed: Odd official handling at Charlotte,” he wrote that “something odd has happened, and it really disturbs me. I’ve tried to get it resolved through other channels, and have run into a brick wall.”
“I went down to the awards table and found out that the 1st place finisher was from Jamaica, and the 2nd place finisher had been DQ’d (pushed down a hurdle with his hands). Consequently, as I was 3rd in the race, they gave me a gold medal and a National Champion patch. Of course, other hurdlers were affected as a result of this. I looked at the results online several days after the meet, and the results reported the facts above:
M45 Short Hurdles 39″
1 1149 *Smith, Karl M46 Alexandria, VA 14.41* +0.0
2 138 Brower, Jeff M47 Austin, TX 16.92 +0.0
3 738 Lycan, Kelly M47 Lawton, MI 18.17 +0.0
4 1085 Schwieterman, Jose M47 Flossmoor, IL 18.38 +0.0
– 782 McCloud, Dexter M45 Norcross, GA DQ +0.0 Push
Hurdle w Hand
Jeff noted that the new online results showed that Dexter’s DQ had been undone.
Here are the current results online:
1 1149 *Smith, Karl M46 Alexandria, VA 14.41* +0.0
2 782 McCloud, Dexter M45 Norcross, GA 16.72 +0.0
3 138 Brower, Jeff M47 Austin, TX 16.92 +0.0
4 738 Lycan, Kelly M47 Lawton, MI 18.17 +0.0
5 1085 Schwieterman, Jose M47 Flossmoor, IL 18.38 +0.0
On Aug. 18, Jeff began making some inquiries, and learned that the head track referee, Murray Sanford of Georgia, had changed the results to reinstate Dexter’s finish.
Here’s the email message in which Murray takes responsibility for being the DQ-undoer:
From: Murray Sanford
To: Carroll DeWeese
Sent: Sunday, August 13, 2006 5:41 PM
Subject: M45 D/Q
M-45 short hurdles…Dexter McCloud
Dexter was a D/Q in the original posting of the event results…
however I later re-instated him after talking to two other umpires
that provided information on the race that lead me to reverse my
earlier decision.
A revision was later posted in the awards area, but the change
was not indicated in the results posted on the website. I believe
Dexter placed second…do not remember the time. He did not receive
an award for this event.
Contact me should you require additional information.
Murray Sanford
Track Referee
USATF Masters Championships
In an email to me, Jeff points out that the date of Murray’s note to Carroll (a member of the Games Committee at Charlotte) is 8/13/06, so apparently the DQ-reversal was an issue before Jeff began raising it.
So Jeff, a longtime USATF meet official himself, wrote to Murray, asking for the names of the officials he spoke to, and any details on the race that led to his reversal of the DQ. Jeff says Murray never responded. Jeff later wrote me, “I’d like evidence to confirm that Murray spoke to anyone before reversing the DQ.”
Jeff takes pains to explain that he’s not looking for national-champ bragging rights. He simply is aghast at the week-delayed reversal of the DQ. He thinks it’s just plain wrong. And the lack of a response from Murray just raises his hackles more.
Luckily, he has video evidence to back himself up.
He sent me links to two online movies showing Dexter pushing over the ninth hurdle.
Movie of the full race:
Movie of the foul:
It’s a solid case for DQ’ing Dexter.
Jeff wrote me: “Remember — who won isn’t the issue. Abuse/misuse of power is. That’s why Murray and every official must be accountable. As a USATF National official, I have to accept that responsibility when I’m in that role.”
Hoping to learn more, I emailed Murray as well. That was Oct. 26. It’s been more than a week now. No response. Today I called his home phone number twice. Phone rang forever. Nobody answered.
I also wrote to Dexter last week.
Dexter replied:
“Allow me to spend my ‘two cents’ on this question. The reason my disqualification was overturned was because it was not correct in the first place. While I’m sure that Murray can provide you with the specific language in the rule book, the gist of it is this: It is not illegal to touch the hurdles with your hands as long as you are attempting to clear the hurdle and have not impeded the progess of other competitors.
“If it were illegal to touch a hurdle while racing, I would be disqualified every time I hit the hurdle with my trail leg!”
Dexter expressed suspicion about Jeff’s motives, asking why he was raising the issue months after the fact. I wrote Dexter back and pointed out that Jeff had made his first inquiries in mid-August.
In my reply to Dexter, I also noted the exact language in the USATF rule book:

Rule 168 4D says:
“A competitor shall be disualified if he/she … in the opinion of the Referee, deliberately knocks down any hurdle.”

So there it is.
I emailed Murray the links to the movie for his review. I have no idea if he’s seen them.
But the videos are clear — the officials at the scene flagged Dexter for a DQ and that’s the way it should have stayed.
So what now?
Murray Sanford is incommunicado. Charlotte meet organizers haven’t responded to Jeff’s inquiries either. Serious questions have been raised over Murray’s motives. And nobody in USATF officialdom seems willing to investigate.
A crying shame.

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November 3, 2006

18 Responses

  1. John Stilbert - November 3, 2006

    Seeing is believing – at least it was for the 3 officials who witnessed the foul first-hand. I can’t believe that they would reverse the decision without trying to obtain video of it. It would be really interesting to hear their reasons for reversing the DQ – spineless maybe?
    Dexter’s contention that he is allowed to push hurdles over because his trail leg touches them all the time makes about as much sense as a thrower saying it’s OK to step out of the front of the ring because they have to step out of the ring every time they leave the ring.

  2. Dexter Mccloud - November 3, 2006

    Clearly you chose to read, and process, what you wanted to read out of my email comment. I CLEARLY said that “It is not illegal to touch the hurdles with your hands as long as you are attempting to clear the hurdle and have not impeded the progess of other competitors.”.
    I don’t know the exact language of the ruling but that was my interpretation and belief when Ken Stone email me about this.
    My statement about my trail leg was an analogy. Obviously it went over your head…

  3. Sharon - November 3, 2006

    I watched the video of the foul. He pushed it over with his hands and then stepped over it. The rules require that a competitor be disqualified if “he/she does not jump any hurdle.” You can’t jump a hurdle that you have already knocked over with your hands. Based on the video, I believe that the DQ was a correct call.

  4. Dexter Mccloud - November 3, 2006

    You have the advantage of watching the race in slow motion. Think about this for a second – how can a 200 lb man running FULL SPEED “step” over a hurdle?
    Also, you have the rules wrong – the issue in question, rule 168 4D, states that a competitor be disqualified if “in the opinion of the Referee, deliberately knocks down any hurdle”.
    Having said that, please don’t fall into this trap of “yellow journalism” that Ken Stone is stirring up. No one, EXCEPT Ken Stone, has made mention of this conspiracy that he is trying to stir up. He has emailed everyone and anyone in the higher echelons of USA track & field, the WMA and IAAF. I think it’s significant that NO ONE has deigned to respond…I only choose to respond because the implication is being made that I am somehow involved in whatever is going on (in one email, he urged me to “confess”).
    Even Jeff Brower, the person who precipitated this drama, has been curiously silent.
    So what does that tell you?

  5. Francis Anthony Schiro - November 3, 2006

    Hey!!!!! where do all you people stand on an athlete WALKING over ALL the hurdles and NOT even running in the “race” ????? Not to mention being awarded a NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP!!! What do YOU people think about that??? I would LOVE to know..

  6. Tom Fahey - November 3, 2006

    The film shows that Dexter pushed over the hurdle with his hands. However, did the officials have the film when they overturned the call? It would not be a foul if he touched the hurdle with hands while attempting to clear it. That could be a difficult call in the heat of the moment without the aid of video tape. In sports, the officials make the best calls they can. Right or wrong, we have to live with it.
    Side-note: I had to laugh about Ken Stone’s comment: “Jeff takes pains to explain that he’s not looking for national-champ bragging rights.” Many people give the impression that masters compete in these meets for the exercise and camaraderie. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be National champion. Many of us train just as hard as we did in college and want to win just as badly as we did then.

  7. mr - November 3, 2006

    The ruling on the track was DQ. But, what rule did the officials use to DQ him? Because that will make a difference when determining whether to reverse it or not.

  8. mr - November 3, 2006

    Rule 168.4 Reads as follows:
    All races shall be run in lanes. Each athlete shall jump each hurdle and shall keep to his or her lane throughout. Except as provided in rule 163.5, a competitor shall be disqualified if he/she:
    a)does not jump any hurdle;
    b)trails the leg or foot below the horizontal plane of any hurdle at the instant of clearance;
    c)jumps any hurdle not in his/her own lane;
    d)in the opinion of the Referee, deliberatley knocks down any hurdle
    Now the question is, how is deliberate defined. I think he pushed it over before trying to clear it, but as a hurdler I know that in the heat of the moment things happen and I highly doubt he thought to himself, “Let me push this hurdler over.”
    To me deliberate is premeditated, but I would have lifted the flag too if I were the referee.

  9. Jim Barrineau - November 3, 2006

    I think the key question here is did Dexter “deliberately” knock the hurdle down. It appears to me that he hit the previous hurdle hard, throwing him off stride and carrying him into the next hurdle where he instinctively put his hands on the cross piece. I don’t believe this gave him an advantage, but served to prevent injury to himself. Given the referee had the discretion to make the call, I think Murray Sanford made the correct one.

  10. Rob Norton - November 3, 2006

    As a hurdler, I know what it feels like to avoid certain damage to your body by fending off a collision. That’s what this video shows me, a measure of self defense, because the athlete seems to hold back just a bit before clearing the hurdle. I don’t think fending off the barrier provided any adavntage in this case because Lane 6 was closing even with his own miscalculation on the last hurdle which could be seen as deliberately knocking over a barrier. It must be the re-interpretation in the reverse call that Lane 4 did not deliberately knock down the barrier (for advantage), even though it was a consequence of avoiding calamity.

  11. John Stilbert - November 4, 2006

    In the video it looks as if he pushes over the hurdle because his contact with the previous hurdle has left him off-balance and too close to allow him to clear the hurdle in a normal manner. You could argue that it was “deliberate” (in order to prevent injury) but I seriously doubt that it was premeditated.
    Whether it is a violation of the rules or not is up to the judgement of the officials, and that’s the way it was ruled on the track. The question of whether or not that ruling was correct should have been resolved in a more timely manner. Over-ruling it a week after the meet would seems to viloate the rule concerning timeliness.

  12. Getulio Echeandia (Tony) - November 4, 2006

    Dexter only pushed down the hurdle 8 because he had crashed into hurdle 7. At no time did he intentionally knock down the hurdle to get to the finish line before the other athletes. A hurdler is penalized whenever they hit a hurdle, it slows them down, it alters their rhythm and it cut’s their stride (which happened in this race and that?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s why Dexter found himself on top of the hurdle). To be fair why not just award first place to both Athletes, issue resolved. Both will meet again and they can settle their dispute on the track.
    I do have two questions though; why has this taken so long to come to light? and does anyone have a video of my race? I haven’t seen video of my race and I would love too!

  13. Andrew Hecker - November 5, 2006

    Its about as clear as I have ever seen. He made no attempt to clear the hurdle, therefore he is subject to DQ. The fact that an athlete did that to avoid injury is irrelevant–of course you will protect yourself, he has the right to do that. But at the same time he did not execute the race as defined by the rulebook. If a high jumper thinks he’s going to hit the bar and knocks it out of the way to avoid injury, he also fails in clearing that attempt. From the video, which by the proposed new rules in the future (if so approved) could not be used as evidence, the umpire assigned to watch that flight of hurdles clearly raises her flag instantly. Other officials concur obviously on the video. After raising the flag, it is the duty of the umpire(s) to converence with the head unpire to explain why the flag was raised. These umpires are to “recommend” a disqualification. Normally, given no evidence to the contrary, the head umpire delivers that DQ directly to the results table unimpeded. Possibly the track referee is contacted, but normally does not get involved in the process until a protest is filed. The referee is supposed to watch to see what can be seen independently (though a lot just chew the fat–sorry guys, I got to call them as I see them), remember the incidents that are out of the ordinary and make sure proper procedures are followed by the crew. The referee should take the word of the umpires at face value unless there is compelling contradictory evidence or a disagreement between umpires.
    I will add that Jeff himself did not really clear the height of the 10th hurdle. That is more of a judgement call, where umpires have to determine the intent of the athlete. Usually an athlete that makes a pattern of those kind of clearances (more than one hurdle) is also DQed. That is much more of a gray area and also much more common. Someone who knocks over a hurdle with his hands usually knows the jig is up and walks off the track.

  14. Lester Mount - November 5, 2006

    I just found out about this reversal and would like to understand how and why it happened. I saw the race, and he was disqualified correctly, he intentionally pushed over the hurdle with his hands. Look at rule 146. 2. Protests…must be made to the Referee at once and not later than 30 minutes after a result has been announced,…
    3. Protests,…For National Championships, they must be made in writing.
    So, my question is did Dexter file his writen protest with the Referee within the time limit? If so, why didn’t anyone at the meet know this, especially the games committee? I don’t think I know everything, but as a master level official I know when someone intentionally pushes over a hurdle.

  15. Jim Barrineau - November 6, 2006

    After reading all these comments it is obvious that the rule concerning grounds for disqualification in the hurdles needs to be refined. There is simply too much room for interpretation. Now I see why some folks don’t like instant replay in football. All of these arguments are mute in this case since there was no protest to the DQ and the 30 minute window had closed…….

  16. Thomas Gilliard - November 21, 2006

    I saw the event like this, Dexter McCloud would have never cleared the 9th hurdle if he would have made the attempt. His lead leg would have rose under the top cross bar of the hurdle causing a crash. So technically speaking, he never cleared the hurdle with his lead leg and his body never went over the hurdle at its’ highest point.
    Normally one might see this type of thing happen with an athlete approaching the first hurdle, instead of the 9th. And normally, you would see the athlete walk away from the race at that point.
    If this were an open division event, he would have been DQ’d.

  17. joe johnston - December 3, 2006

    After watching the video, my 2 cents goes w/Jim Barrineau & Rob Norton. A. McCloud gained no competitive advantage, but did “deliberately knock down hurdle” #9(to save his life). So wording of rules needs refinement; 1. “deliberately” indicates we’re judging what someone else is thinking…that’s kind of difficult. 2. With hurdles weighted & constructed like these, I can’t imagine how any competitive advantage could be gained by deliberately knocking down hurdles. I’d love to race, for money, if the other person is required to “deliberately knock down all of these hurdles” :) B. the runner in outside lane “deliberately knocked down hurdle” #10,(likewise, to save his life) should have been disqualified also, but I suspect(can’t know what they were thinking) officials attention was still directed to McCloud, so they missed it!

  18. Thomas Gilliard - December 24, 2006

    Sorry folks, the information posted by me:
    Posted by: Thomas Gilliard | November 21, 2006 4:24 AM was not the message I perrsonally posted. Saddly, I think Dexter McCloud should have been DQ because he never made an attempt to clear the hurdle. If he had made the attempt, I guarantee, he would have fallen over it. That is how I saw the film. My first message was erroneously posted under the name, Jim Barrineau at November 6, 2006 5:39 AM,

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