Fourth-Place Medal

Jeneba Tarmoh pulls out of Olympic runoff with Allyson Felix

(Getty Images)The unprecedented Olympic team runoff between Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh is off.

Tarmoh withdrew from the scheduled two-woman race hours before it was to be aired live in primetime during NBC's coverage of Olympic trials. The women tied for third in last week's 100 meters and needed a runoff to determine who would represent the United States in the upcoming London Olympics.

ESPN reported Tarmoh wanted to concede her spot on Sunday but was told to sleep on the decision by the USA Track and Field officials whose incompetence led to this controversial process. Her agent said Monday that she will not run.

[ Photos: U.S. sprinter Allyson Felix ]

Tarmoh thought she earned the spot immediately after last week's race. A closer review by the photo official determined that the two had actually tied for the final spot on the team with a time of 11.068. Because U.S. track had no contingency plan for such a tie, things quickly delved into chaos. Should there be a runoff? Could it come down to a coin flip? Or would one of the women drop out, thus saving USA Track and Field the embarrassment of getting caught with its number down?

By Monday, it was too late for USATF to save face. And speaking of faces, Tarmoh is cutting off her nose to spite hers.

"She was uncomfortable with the idea of a runoff and a coin toss and she was no longer at peace with the idea," Tarmoh's agent said in a statement.

Tarmoh didn't qualify for the 200, so her only hope to compete in an individual event was to win the runoff. She could still earn a spot on the relay team, though USATF wouldn't be out of line to leave her off the team after her Oregon antics. Why would an Olympic team want someone who shuns competition, for whatever reason?

[ Photos: U.S. Olympic track and field trials ]

Being uncomfortable and not at peace with an idea is a reason to give up a possible berth in the Olympics? It's the opposite of the Olympic ideal. Does she hope that her protest will lead a larger one that gets her into the Games? Is she afraid of losing to Felix, so she took the easy way out? Does she think that laying on her sword will make her some sort of track hero?

Remember, Tarmoh: Unless you're Dan O'Brien, nobody remembers anything that happens at Olympic trials. (Remember Butch Reynolds, the most famous Olympic athlete in the summer of 1992? Of course you don't.) Even something as cowardly and futile as withdrawing from a race because you're not "at peace," won't make you remembered. Running in the Olympics: That's the way you build a legacy.

She has no more right to the 100m berth than Al Gore did to Florida after the networks called it for him the first time or that George W. Bush did after they messed up a second time. Just because the race lasts 11 seconds doesn't mean the aftereffects have to also.

[ Related: Justin Gatlin says Felix and Tarmoh should mud wrestle for Olympic spot ]

Both Tarmoh and Felix were robbed of a clear, easy process. They should never have been put in this position. Had this happened in swimming, they'd have raced the next day for a spot in the Olympics. But track officials bowed to the wishes of Bob Kersee, who coaches both Tarmoh and Felix and wanted to save his runners for the 200, and allowed him to dictate the terms of the runoff. It was a conflict of interest that was made worse by a rudderless USATF.

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