The nine-day drama surrounding Allyson Felix's and Jeneba Tarmoh's 100-meter dash dead heat at the U.S. Olympic Trials has taken yet another twist, as Tarmoh reportedly decided Sunday to withdraw from the agreed-upon run-off scheduled for Monday evening. Tarmoh's agent then told USA Today Monday that she will not run against Felix and will concede the U.S.'s final 100-meter qualification spot.
Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden reported that as of Sunday night, Jarmoh had not yet officially withdrawn from the race with U.S. Track and Field officials and that USATF was reportedly attempingt to change her mind and ensure the run-off -- scheduled for an 8 p.m. Eastern live broadcast on NBC -- went ahead as planned.
Assuming Jarmoh's withdrawal becomes official, it would reduce her participation in the London Games to her role on the U.S. 4x100 relay team. Layden reported that the 22-year-old Tarmoh had been left "exhausted" by the cloud of uncertainty surrounding the dead heat, and embittered by what she sees as unfair treatment by the USATF.
"In my heart of hearts, I just feel like I earned the third spot. I almost feel like I was kind of robbed," she told the Associated Press after Sunday's run-off announcement. "I was pushed into a corner. They said if you don't make a decision, you give your spot up. I work too hard to just give my spot up. I had to say it was a runoff."
Per Layden, photo finish judge Roger Jennings named Tarmoh the third-place finisher by .001 seconds immediately following the June 23 100-meter final, but just as immediately asked USATF officials to review that decision. While USATF considered (and eventually approved) an overrule of Jennings' decision, Tarmoh conducted the traditional victory lap and postrace interviews as the third-place finisher and first-time Olympic qualifier.
So we don't blame her a bit for being unhappy with that spot -- and that joy -- being snatched away after the fact, and she has even more reason than most to be angry with USATF's failure to have a protocol in place ahead of time to deal with the situation.
But in the end, USATF's hands are tied (pun intended). When even the now-famous 3,000-frames-per-second finish line photo can't separate the two, simply declaring one or the other the victor or defaulting to Jennings' hasty decision wouldn't have been any more fair to Felix than what's happened to Tarmoh was to her.
So why withdraw? Maybe because it's the only way Tarmoh knew how to protest her treatment, the only bargaining chip she'd been left with in her "corner"--losing the run-off is a substantial blow to both NBC and USATF, who would have seen the run-off become the most-talked event in American track since Beijing.
And until Tarmoh officially withdraws, the hope here will be that she will reconsider. (That she wouldn't even attempt to win back the qualification spot she's spent years preparing to win seems ... odd.) But for now, the run-off is off, and it's Felix will run the 100 in London.