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An independent arbitrator has found that USA Cycling (USAC) used ‘not accurate’ and ‘unverified’ data provided by a coach with a reported ‘conflict of interest’ in order to carry out its selection for the men’s team pursuit squad at the recent UCI Track World Championships in France.
The data in question relates to Tristan Manderfeld, who first submitted a claim to the Commercial Arbitration Rules Demand for Arbitration on September 27, 2022 after he was left off the long list and the subsequent final selection for the worlds in October. The final hearing took place on October 7, 2022, and while the arbitration declined to rule on whether the selection was correct, and the USAC selection committee stood by its decision not to select Manderfeld, the ruling highlighted several inefficiencies within the current selection criteria.
USA Cycling has responded to VeloNews by stating that a new five-point program would be introduced and that athlete selection would come with far greater transparency in the future.
“In regard to Tristan Manderfeld, after receiving the arbitrator’s decision that we had not followed our selection procedures as written, our selection committee reconvened,” USAC’s president and CEO Brendan Quirk told VeloNews.
“The coaching staff and the selection committee followed the arbitrator’s instructions, applied the procedures as written, and selected the same athletes for the Men’s Team Pursuit Team, which did not include Manderfeld. These five steps will offer more transparency into the selection procedures and enhance the process. This will give us the best chance to meet our highest priority: Race-day performance by Team USA. Ultimately, that’s what matters most.”
According to documents seen by VeloNews the arbitrator found that, “USAC breached the approved and published procedures that were put in place surrounding athlete selection. On top of that, evidence was heard that found false data had been used in order to back up the initial selection for the men’s team after it was known that Manderfeld would file a complaint. USAC admitted that the data supplied by the coach, who had a ‘negative history’ with Manderfeld, was never verified or properly checked.
USAC was originally allowed to select five riders for the men’s pursuit team heading to France for the recent world championships. None of the riders in consideration for the selection met any of the top-level criteria for automatic selection, which meant the rules could allow for ‘discretionary criteria’ to be used. However, according to evidence supplied by Manderfeld two athletes posted on social media suggesting that they had been notified of their likely selection even before the selection committee had met.
“Despite the above-referenced deadlines, interestingly, Manderfeld presented evidence that Anders Johnson received an email on August 30, 2022 from USAC asking “when [do] you want to return from Track Worlds” and, on September 6, 2022, Eddy Huntsman posted on Instagram “we’re off to the velodrome at Sangalhos, Portugal for a few weeks of preparation before transferring to Paris in October for @uci_cycling World Track Championships,” the ruling on the case states.
According to the filing the selection committee did not meet until September 8 with David Domonoske, Anders Johnson, Brendan Rhim, Eddy Huntsman, and Grant Koontz, those chosen to represent the United States.
At that point Manderfeld made an initial objection, claiming that Rob Stanley, the Head Coach of the USAC Men’s Endurance Team, was his former personal coach and that ‘their relationship was negative.’
As part of his evidence Manderfeld then produced an audio recording of a telephone call between himself and Jim Miller, the USAC Chief of Sport Performance, where he discussed the negative relationship between himself and Stanley. According to the arbitration file, Miller “implored Manderfeld to fix his relationship with Mr. Stanley if he wanted to continue to be a competitive cyclist.”
VeloNews has reached out to Manderfeld via phone and text but has not yet received a response.
According to the documents, USAC argued that the October 1, 2022 meeting of the Committee was the, “final selection of the team for the World Championships and that the September 8, 2022 meeting was merely a predecessor meeting even though the procedures clearly stated the “final announcement of the team” was to be made on September 13, 2022.”
Gary Sutton, the head coach of the women’s endurance team, then contradicted USAC’s initial position by confirming that the October 1, 2022 meeting was arranged as a result of the fact “[Manderfeld] was going to arbitrate” and due to a “conflict of interest between [Mr. Stanley] and [Manderfeld].”
Under cross-examination during the arbitration hearing Sutton then stated that he presented data on each of the riders in contention for selection but that data came only from Stanley, the person in question to have a conflict of interest due to his negative relationship with Manderfeld.
The arbitration panel uncovered that the data compiled by Stanley was “not accurate pertaining to Manderfeld and different from what was expressly provided by athletes in their discretionary submissions to the Committee.”
During his examination, Sutton stated he was unaware of where the data had come from or if it had been checked once it had been presented to him by Stanley.
The documents also state: “With a conflict acknowledged as the reason for the second meeting of the Committee on October 1, 2022, it is difficult to ascertain why all of the information provided, including notes about each athletes, was provided exclusively by Mr. Stanley without supporting objective data. In fact, upon further review during cross examination, Mr. Sutton confirmed that data attributed to Manderfeld in the notes provided by Mr. Stanley was incorrect.”
“As noted during the hearing, the arbitrator was surprised at the lack of objective data present especially in a sport where there is an abundance of data related to speed, power, and many other things. Rather than relying on a summary prepared by Mr. Stanley, a conflicted individual, the Committee must be presented with underlying data and information to make a decision expressly using the discretionary criteria listed in the Procedures.”
The full statement from USA Cycling’s President and CEO Brendan Quirk to VeloNews.com
For the 2022 UCI Track World Championships, no American athlete met automatic qualification standards for the Men’s Team Pursuit. Therefore, this became a discretionary selection for our selection committee.
Discretionary selections are difficult, but ultimately, USA Cycling is responsible for putting the best Men’s Team Pursuit team on the track. That’s not always the same as putting the four best athletes on the team. We owe it to all the athletes, to ourselves and to the country to do so.
We are required to have selection procedures for protected competitions that are fair, clearly articulated and communicated, and consistently applied. We understand that when picks are based on discretion, there’s space for argument for one athlete over another. We respect the arbitration process and support the athletes’ right to challenge our selections.
In regard to Tristan Manderfeld, after receiving the arbitrator’s decision that we had not followed our selection procedures as written, our selection committee reconvened. The coaching staff and the selection committee followed the arbitrator’s instructions, applied the procedures as written, and selected the same athletes for the Men’s Team Pursuit Team, which did not include Manderfeld.
It is important to understand that our coaches aren’t on our selection committee. It is entirely made up of former world class athletes. They have been on World Championship and Olympic teams. They have also been left off those teams. They have all been in the athletes’ shoes and know what’s at stake.
I’ve been CEO of USA Cycling for 10 months and have prioritized organizational scrutiny of every mission-critical activity here, including selection. This work was already underway before this arbitration.
We have a five-point plan to improve our processes going into the 2024 Paris Olympics selection window:
1. Selection Committee Review
2. Selection Committee Process Decision Administration
3. Selection Committee Education and Training
4. Revisiting our discretionary selection criteria
5. Comprehensive upgrade to our athlete communication platform regarding selection
These five steps will offer more transparency into the selection procedures and enhance the process. This will give us the best chance to meet our highest priority: Race-day performance by Team USA. Ultimately, that’s what matters most.