The United States men’s 4×100 relay team finished their victory lap on Friday only to be told they had been disqualified.
Mike Rodgers, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay, and Trayvon Bromell make up the United States men’s 4×100 relay team. On Friday, up against Jamaica and the great Usain Bolt, the team raced to the best of their ability and crossed the finish line third, just after Japan. The men raised the flag of the United States and ran around the track, taking a customary victory lap and celebrating the bronze medal they were about to receive.
While the United States relay team spoke to the NBC Olympics reporter, Lewis Johnson, they learned that they had been disqualified from the race.
With heartbreak apparent on their faces, the team members were shown a video of an illegal pass of the baton between Rodgers and Gatlin. Officials ruled that the pass had illegally taken place outside of the zone.
The disqualification references rule number 170.7 of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) rule book. That rule is stated very clearly and there is no question that breaking it will lead to the team being disqualified.
“Rule 170.7: 7. The baton shall be passed within the takeover zone. The passing of the baton commences when it is first touched by the receiving athlete and is completed the moment it is in the hand of only the receiving athlete. In relation to the takeover zone, it is only the position of the baton which is decisive. Passing of the baton outside the takeover zone shall result in [a team being disqualified].”
Upon learning of the IAAF’s ruling, the members of the United States relay team were confused and outraged.
Gatlin instantly told NBC’s Johnson that he felt like “it was a clean exchange going through the zone.”
Early Saturday, the United States relay team filed an appeal with the IAAF, requesting that the ruling be reviewed and overturned. Barely even an hour later, the decision returned that all appeals had been denied and the decision that disqualified the United States relay team was to be upheld.
Sports Illustrated writer, Tim Layden, tweeted about the decision shortly after it was announced.
Re: USATF appeal of 4X100 relay, per IAAF’s Anna Legnani last night: “All protests and appeals rejected. All results stand.” USA DQ.
— Tim Layden (@SITimLayden) August 20, 2016
With the appeal behind them, the fourth place team, Canada, was awarded the bronze medal.
“Unfortunately, we’ve come to be defined by failure,” Dennis Mitchell, the United States relay team coach, went on to tell the publication.
Although the United States relay team has some incredibly fast and fantastic runners, they haven’t won a medal in the men’s 4×100 relay since 2004. A mixture of bad judgment and bad luck has gotten in the way time and time again.
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In 2008, the United States team was disqualified from the 4×100 relay when they fumbled a pass during the first-round heats. In 2012, the United States team won a silver medal, but had it stripped when Tyson Gay received a doping violation. In 2010, Justin Gatlin was banned for doping as well.
Despite the factors against them, Gatlin has been clear that the United States team is not giving up. He told the Washington Post that he intends to return to the Olympics.
“Come back stronger and faster, that’s what I plan to do,” Gatlin said. “I plan to get some rest, get together with family, have some fun, and get ready for next year.”
[Photo by Quinn Rooney/Staff/Getty]