Embarrassment or great PR move? Coin flip or runoff? Heads or tails? The head of the U.S. Olympic Committee is trying to steer clear of any grand pronouncements about the tiebreaking procedure -- or lack thereof -- that has dominated the talk at the Olympic track trials for nearly a week now.
What he will say, however, is that nothing like this will happen again.
"Next time," CEO Scott Blackmun said Thursday, "we'll have a process in place that addresses this that won't involve a delay in the decision."
Last Saturday, Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh crossed the line in a tie for the third and last Olympic spot in the 100 meters. Not even a camera shooting the finish at 3,000 frames per second could resolve the dead heat and America is still waiting not only to see who wins, but to find out how the runners will go about deciding that.
USA Track and Field had no tiebreaker in place, so it had to make one up on the fly. It gave the runners a choice between a runoff or a coin flip, but they have chosen to delay their decision until after they're done racing in the 200 meters. Heats for that race were scheduled for Thursday evening in Eugene, Ore.
USA Track and Field will wait until the end of the 200 final Saturday to get the athletes' choice on whether they prefer a runoff or a coin flip. Bobby Kersee, who coaches both athletes, is asking for a runoff for next Tuesday, to give both athletes time to recover.
All American athletes travel to the Olympics under the umbrella of the USOC, which helped the USATF come up with the protocol last week. Despite his role as a leader of the U.S. delegation, Blackmun isn't saying much.
"Obviously, it was unprecedented given the technology we have today," Blackmun said. "It was unforeseen. I understand where the athletes are coming from, which is that they've got a race in front of them, the 200 meters."
Unspoken in all of this is the USOC and USATF have long had a tense relationship, the gist of which has involved the USOC trying to get the track people to manage their sport in a more professional manner. Recently, USATF hired a new CEO, Max Siegel, who, along with chairwoman Stephanie Hightower, are spinning the tiebreaker chaos as a positive.
"You're always going to have your haters and your critics," Hightower said earlier this week. "That goes with the territory. I think we've been responsible, responsive and we've been thoughtful. If this is a way to educate people about our sport, I'll take good with bad."