by Jon Gugala
Andrew Bumbalough, a Nike athlete trained by Jerry Schumacher in Portland, says he was at his hotel at least an hour after the end of the men’s 3000-meter final in Albuquerque when he was told by a teammate that he’d been disqualified, nullifying his eighth-place finish.
USATF official results currently list Bumbalough as a DQ for “Interference”, and he says Schumacher and assistant coach Pascal Dobert appealed the ruling at the track, but it failed. The reason given to his coach by USATF, he says, was that he “looked over and deliberately stepped out in front of Galen Rupp and made contact at some point, which impeded [Rupp’s] progress illegally.” Bumbalough does not know who filed the protest, but he’s pretty sure his coach does.
Because it’s really hard to guess about these things.
But did Bumbalough impede Rupp?
“No,” he says. “I did not intentionally do that, and I don’t believe that I did that.”
When he got the news, Bumbalough went to the tape, replaying the race so he could discover the interference. He couldn’t find it. “I made absolutely no contact with anyone in the field, much less Galen,” he says.
Watch the video and judge for yourself. Just after 2000 meters Bumbalough, leading the pack and spent from the early pace he instigated, begins to drop back. Behind him are teammates Ryan Hill and Lopez Lomong—second and third, respectively—followed by Galen Rupp in fourth and Bernard Lagat in fifth. Bumbalough is fading, and Rupp shoots into lane two and moves past Lomong. Rupp comes abreast with Hill when Hill makes his own move into lane two to pass Bumbalough, or possibly to keep position ahead of Rupp. There is contact; Rupp stumbles and loses a step, and Bumbalough continues to drift back, eventually spit out of the new pack of four, led by Hill.
From the video, it’s Hill that contacts Rupp, not Bumbalough, yet Bumbalough was charged and disqualified. There’s been speculation on the LetsRun.com message boards and on Flotrack.org that it’s possible USATF simply mixed up Bumbalough with Hill. When you watch the video, it’s easy to understand why.
“If that’s the case, then that’s pretty poor officiating,” Bumbalough says. “If they’re mistaking the runner out on the track with ‘enhanced video evidence’”—at this point, he references USATF’s official statement on the disqualification of Gabe Grunewald—“I feel like that is pretty unacceptable, especially at this elite level.”
His coaches, Bumbalough says, weren’t satisfied with the reason they were given for the disqualification because he hadn’t made any infractions. But they didn’t push their case with USATF any further because, though they didn’t agree with it, it wasn’t a top-two finish that would lead to a national team spot.
But Bumbalough isn’t satisfied. A DQ is not the same as eighth place, though he says he didn’t want either going into the weekend. “The principle of the matter is important,” he says, and he’s thankful others, including teammate Shalane Flanagan, have been so vocal about the situation on social media, pushing for a more conclusive answer.
“I don’t feel like I did anything wrong,” he says. “I shouldn’t be disqualified for something I didn’t do. I earned my eighth-place finish, and if it were in a more important situation—say an Outdoor Championships on a World year, or the Olympic Trials, or something where more was at stake for me—then that would be a huge travesty.”
Bumbalough says his agent, Tom Ratcliffe of KIMbia, has contacted USATF for a written statement as to why his client was disqualified.
Ratcliffe has been contacted for comment, as has USATF.
UPDATE: From Ratcliffe, “I have been in touch with Jim Estes at USATF and he has passed on our request for a review to Max Siegel, but no word yet. It’s clear they made a mistake, so I assume they’ll address.”
Follow Jon on Twitter at @JonGugala.