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September 12, 2017

A turning point in the NOP vs. Bowerman rivalry

Andrew Bumbalough joined Woody Kincaid on The Price of a Mile Podcast last week to discuss a myriad of topics, among them his controversial disqualification at the 2014 USA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque.

If you don’t remember the incident, here’s a quick summary:

In the 3000 meters, Bumbalough lined up with his teammates Ryan Hill and Lopez Lomong with a strategy in mind — to take the pace out hard. The tactic didn’t end up working so well for Bumbalough as he faded and finished in eighth place.

Then shortly after the race, Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar filed a protest on behalf of his athlete, Galen Rupp, alleging Bumbalough impeded Rupp at the 2k mark of the race. After review, meet officials disqualified Bumbalough.

The problem? Bumbalough never made contact with Rupp. Upon further review, it was Hill, not Bumbalough, who appeared to have impeded Rupp.

“I didn’t think Ryan Hill and I looked that similar,” Bumbalough said on the podcast.

More than three years later, the question persists — why did Andrew Bumbalough get disqualified?

Here were some of Bumbalough’s comments on the incident:

On the origins of the NOP/Bowerman rivalry:

“When Jerry first moved to Portland, the groups were doing some things together. Things cornered off pretty quickly. Things were fine at first, but over the course of time a very healthy rivalry started to emerge as athletes from each group faced off against each other.

“What you saw in Albuquerque may have been a result of that rivalry going from just a rivalry to boiling over.”

On his decision to run a hard pace from the gun:

“When you’re racing, you’re throwing your best preverbal punches at everyone. Me taking it out felt to [Rupp and Salazar] I was messing with them. In reality, I was running my race and doing what I thought was best for me and our club.”

On what happened at the track after the DQ:

“I went back to the hotel and I didn’t know [I had been disqualified].

“From my understanding, Jerry tried to find out why I was disqualified and put out a counter-protest. Things were yelled at Lopez as well — he was pretty upset about it. I didn’t know any of this is happening because I’m back at the hotel thinking I got eighth place.

“Things were heated. Each coach had their idea of what happened, and they weren’t linking up.

“I don’t think a punch was thrown. Alberto was mad and came up to Jerry and some words were exchanged. Eventually, some other people joined the fray and cleared it out pretty quickly.”

On USATF’s slow reaction to reinstating him:

“I was disqualified for like three months.”

“There was an angry Twitter mob that was like, ‘#FreeBumbi’ and ‘give us a reason!'”

“USATF finally wised up and realized they made a mistake. At first they didn’t want to admit fault and didn’t think it mattered because I was in eighth place. But it does matter — I earned that result. Even though it wasn’t great, I should still get that result and not get disqualified because one coach is upset about the way the race is run.”

Why he thinks bitter feelings over an Olympic Trials prelim race was the reason for the DQ:

“In the prelim [of the 2012 Olympic Trials 5000 meters], Galen made a hard move and I covered it. I was with him down the homestretch and it felt good and easy so I kept running. When he looked over to match it, it was already too late — I crossed the line first.

“I’m sure he wasn’t pleased by it. I doubt it made him really happy.

“It’s just a preliminary round, but it’s a rivalry. Think of when the Bears and Packers play in a preseason game.”

Listen to the full podcast here:

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