- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 8, 2009

USA Track & Field proposed last week that the world’s two dominant sprinting powers - the United States and Jamaica - meet for face-to-face matchups.

That’s positive news for the sport’s governing body, with chief executive Doug Logan working hard to clean up the sport’s drug-tarnished image, make the organization more functional, and produce an exciting product for track enthusiasts.

Right out of the gate last year, Logan went on a verbal marathon about his dislike of performance-enhancing drugs and its users. He went on to tackle USATF’s bloated and fractious board of directors, reducing the number from 31 to 15.

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One of those new board members is former Olympian Steve Holman, who won two national championships in the 1,500 meters at Georgetown.

Logan forced USATF to consider its image. Calling it the “Project 30 Task Force” (the goal of 30 “clean” medals in the 2012 London Olympics), USATF last month issued a 69-page report after analyzing Team USA’s performance in Beijing. It charted a course for programmatic change to maximize Team USA’s performance in Olympic and world championship competition.

One of the key findings: “Overall, there is a lack of accountability, professionalism and cohesion in the areas the task force studied.” No surprise there.

In an effort to stimulate the sport, Logan on Saturday invited Jamaica to engage in a home-and-home series this year. The event will pit the two nations’ sprinters and hurdlers against each other in head-to-head, team-scored competition.

His invitation came five days after the International Association of Athletic Federations announced that two of America’s most prestigious meets - the Nike Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., and the Reebok Grand Prix in New York - will be part of a new circuit of elite track meets known as the IAAF Diamond League starting in 2010.

Replacing the AF Golden League of six meets, the Diamond League will feature at least 12 globally televised meets on four continents, giving the IAAF a series that extends beyond the European confines of the Golden League, into the United States, Asia and the Middle East.

Logan’s proposition to Jamaica would create meets featuring male and female athletes in the 100, 200 and 400 meters; 100 and 110-meter hurdles and 400-meter hurdles; long jump; and the 400, 1,600 and sprint medley relays. The meets would be broadcast live on television, potentially in May or June.

At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Jamaica ended America’s dominance in the sprints, led by Usain Bolt’s world records in the 100, 200 and 400-meter relay. Collectively, USA and Jamaica won 11 of 12 medals in the 100 and 200; 16 of 18 in the 100 through 400; and five of six medals in the 400-meter hurdles.

“As the IAAF indicated when it announced its new Diamond League, it is rivalries and head-to-head competition that will do the most to increase the popularity of track and field around the world,” Logan wrote. “And of course, our sprinters are not ready to concede Jamaican dominance. Let us not forget that less than two years ago, it was the United States on top of three of the four short sprints and both sprint relays at the 2007 World Championships.

“We have all seen how wildly successful and popular USA vs. the World at the Penn Relays has become thanks to the USA-Jamaica rivalry at this event and the good-natured ‘competition’ between our countries’ fans at Franklin Field. All these factors lead me to believe that feeding the USA-Jamaica rivalry would be a thrilling addition to the athletics schedule, not just for our athletes and fans, but for global athletics.”

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