Contact: Scherie Dawkins
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The USATF Disregards the IAAF approved Qualification Period of May 1st, 2019 – June 29th,
2020 (Jan 2019-May 2020 for Marathon/50km RW) for 2020 Olympic qualifying standards for entry standard, sending Olympian home.

Eugene, OR, June 19, 2021: The United States of America Track & Field (Aka USATF) created a 29-day, un-publicized ruling that lead to the disqualification of discus thrower Whitney Ashley. A decision that clearly disregards the approved Qualification Period set forth by the Track & Field Governing Board, IAAF.

Upon completing the discus event at Olympic Trials, and listening to repeated announcements of Whitney being 1 of 3 athletes with the Olympic Qualifying Standard, excitement filled her heart and tears rolled down her cheek as a sigh of relief that she had accomplished her goal of being a 2-time Olympian.

The celebration was short-lived, only to receive a bombshell that would send shockwaves riddling through her body. Hopes of a second Olympic Team berth diminished sharply late Saturday, June 19th, when the U.S Olympic committee Official informed Whitney’s coach of a recent decision in the team selection process just 29 days before the Discus Competition on June 18th. He tapped her on the shoulder and lead her outside to tell her the unexpected news. Whitney was devastated.

She did not receive any notice whatsoever notifying her of the committee’s change in team
selection policy; no email, postal letter, fax, or phone call, and was disqualified and kept out of the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games.

The year 2021 was a year for coaches to limit exposure to COVID-19, adhere to social distancing and observe mandatory quarantine. After all, athlete health comes first. Building a World Ranking wasn’t a high priority, particularly since an agreement in 2020 was reached to honor all previous qualifications. 

USATF essentially reneged on their promise to honor the 2020 Olympic Qualifying Standards achieved by athletes for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Whitney’s qualifying mark was 63.64 in the Woman’s Discus event and ranked 14th in the world during the qualification period. Athletes were not going to be penalized because of COVID-19; the committee at the time, recognized that athletes lost an entire outdoor season and many had already suffered great losses in other areas of their lives.

In March 2019, the International Association of Athletics Federation approved the 2020
Olympic qualifying standards Qualification Period from May 1 st 2019- June 29 th 2020 and
Jan. 2019-May 2020 for Marathon/50km RW).

According to the IAAF (the Track & Field governing body), athletes had 2 ways to qualify
(1). “Achieve the entry standard within the respective qualification period.”
(2). “Qualify by virtue of his/her IAAF World Ranking position in the selected event at the
end of the respective qualification period.”

     In a nutshell, Whitney Ashley met both Qualifications in her Discus Event and in her World Ranking during the IAAF Olympic Qualifying Period for the 2020 Olympics. 

Here is What is clear is:

  1. On one hand, the USA Track & Field committee carefully scrutinized the athletes making sure the Olympic Qualifying Standard is met in the time period set forth by the IAAF for the 2020 Olympics.  Appearing as though it is of great priority.  
  2. They dropped an athlete out of the top 3 because she didn’t have the “Qualifying Standard”.

Here’s What’s not Clear:  Fairness & Integrity.

  • The Committee didn’t go down the list to SELECT the “NEXT ATHLETE WITH the OLYMPIC QUALIFYING STANDARD. (Which was Whitney Ashley, she got passed over & left behind).
  • An athlete was selected who did not have the Olympic Qualifying Standard during the IAAF Qualifying Period nor at Olympic Trials.
  • Said athlete selected above was selected on 2021 World Ranking. A year when multiple health restrictions were paramount and exposure to COVID-19 was of grave concern.

Whitney commented, “I don’t have a problem with committees making decisions.  I have a great concern about Fairness & Integrity.” She adds, if it were FAIR, the selection would have been based on the VERY SAME OLYMPIC QUALIFICATION PERIOD set forth by the TRACK & FIELD GOVERNING BODY, the IAAF. 

“I feel like I got double penalized for COVID-19.  How can they just make a new rule without informing the athletes it most affects.  I just don’t understand.”

Much can be interpreted as to why.  The selection process truly needs to be reviewed and clearly explained to all athletes.  USATF & the USOPC are respected organizations who all athletes look up to. We need their leadership. We need Integrity.  USATF CEO Max Siegal said it best commenting on a runner’s ban, “process is important, particularly when individual’s careers and lives are at stake.” We hope that holds true in this case as well.

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