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Osako Criticizes JAAF on Twitter After Being Denied National Championships Special Entry Without Qualifying Mark

Marathon national record holder Suguru Osako (27, Nike Oregon Project), aggressively criticized the JAAF on his personal Twitter account on Apr. 23 after not being allowed to enter the National Championships without a qualifying time.

Osako had sought entry to next month's National Championships 10000 m under a clause in the qualifying rules that lets the JAAF's high performance committee admit people who haven't hit the Nationals A-standard, but said his request was turned down because it might hurt other athletes' chances of qualifying for the World Championships and Olympics. He criticized the selection criteria. The same day the JAAF gave a public statement on its position, leading Osako to post a further string of tweets in response.

Osako wrote:

"I tried to get in to Nationals through the 'JAAF-registered athlete who the JAAF high performance committee considers especially high potential' option in the rules but got turned down.....The Federation high performance committee said the reason was that, 'If Osako ran well at the National Championships it would hurt the world rankings of the other athletes who lost to him, and a lot of people would be upset about that.' Wow, that's a great reason. LOL LOL"

Osako apparently wanted to run as part of his speed training, but that explanation was not accepted. He posted a picture of the qualification rules for the National Championships, circling the clause stating that the JAAF could let in people it considers exceptionally high potential. "I think that if the ranking system is going to be used then fairness should be expected," he went on. "That's what you'd think, but if you think about it there are a lot of inconsistencies.

1. Why did they include a clause like this? Probably so the people on the committee can let their favorites from the teams they coach run.
2. The year of the Beijing World Championships they let foreign athletes pace specific people in the 10000 m at Nationals. How can you say that's fair?

They've always given runners from the teams that the people on the Committee represent preferential treatment in going on Federation-sponsored training camps and planning trips, but I think it's about time they stop using the National Federation for their own private benefit.

If the world rankings create inconsistencies in the National Championships qualifying criteria then all they have to do is change them. Since they didn't change them I thought that meant the Federation didn't think they needed to be, so that's why I applied for this. I want them to specify exactly what kind of athletes are worthy of getting it.

Tweeting like this puts pressure on me and I hope you can see that there's some risk involved, but if someone doesn't speak up it'll never change. If I can say it so there's no misunderstanding, the people who will run at Nationals are not weak athletes, and the current me would have to fight to be among the top of them. I asked to do this because I wanted to take on that challenge."

Interviewed at the Doha Asian Athletics Championships the same day, JAAF director of marathoning and long distance Tadasu Kawano responded by saying that athletes who have met the A-standard are the priority at the National Championships. "There are almost no instances" of athletes being accepted using the clause Osako sought to exploit, he said. "It is not something used to give special treatment, and fairness must be maintained.

There was someone in between in this case and it seems they did not properly communicate our message to him. It appears as though there has been a misunderstanding." Asked for more specifics about the criteria under which someone might be admitted that way Kawano declined to elaborate, saying, "I can't speculate about what kind of cases might arise."

One instance of the special allowance for participation being used was at the 2016 National Championships, where despite having the left the sport for some time 2004 Athens Olympics men's hammer throw gold medalist Koji Murofushi was allowed to take part to try to qualify for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

According to Kawano, 20 athletes have already met the National Championships A-standard, with additional qualifiers possible. If the number of qualifiers is under 30 then additional people may be added in order of fastest time within the qualifying window, meaning that Osako, currently ranked 26th, still has a chance.

When Kawano's views were reported Osako was quick to respond on Twitter, saying, "I really wish they'd stop trying to obscure things with this kind of ex post facto rationalization. The problem isn't that I was turned down, it's that the lack of clarity in the rules makes it so that you can get shut out just based on the committee members' opinions. And that's not a problem limited just to this rule. I'm not stupid enough to be complaining about something that is clearly specified as being only for Olympic and World Championships medalists."

Other athletes current and former weighed in publicly with their views. 400 m hurdles national record holder and two-time World Championships medalist Dai Tamesue, 40, wrote,

"I'm on the outside of this, but since it looks like things are starting to go in a different direction I'd like to comment on the interaction between Osako and the Federation. Under the rules it is possible for someone to compete in the National Championships this way on the high performance committee's recommendation. It seems that this is in place in order to help people like potential Olympic medalists who may not have been able to make National Championships qualifying marks in time because of injuries.

That being the case, excluding an easy to understand case like Murofushi's, the area of concern is what kinds of athlete are eligible to receive this special treatment, where the process of selecting them is being discussed and who is responsible. The fact is that no criteria for eligibility are specified. This may be because not specifying makes it easier to help individual athletes. For example, they may not want to tie taking steps to help a bright hope for the future based only on judgments of their past results.

The criteria not being specified gives leeway in application of the rules to the subjective determination of the decision maker. The problem that Osako's issue raises is one of governance with regard to preventing someone trying to utilize the lack of criteria for their own interest. I think this is an indication of the danger that there will be more conflict and doubt between athletes and decision makers as a result of the vague criteria."

Past 400 m national champion Yuzo Kanemaru wrote,

"This is my personal opinion about Osako's tweets. With regard to him running at Nationals, if he ran and qualified for the 5000 m or 10000 m at the Doha World Champs or Tokyo Olympics, would he actually run them? I think that point would become a problem. If he qualifies for the Tokyo Olympics in the marathon he would almost definitely prioritize that, so I think that it would be better if he didn't run the National Championships on the track this time. My apologies if I'm misreading him and he definitely wants to go for the track. If you want to claim it's your individual right, then if you qualify there's no problem with competing.

From the point of view of running for development I can agree a bit, and I think that there is room for discussion on this issue and that raising it now can lead to discussion on improving the situation. I think it's a good thing when a variety of opinions positive and negative come out in response to a problem like this being raised, and personally I think it is a good development that there are more athletes like Osako taking the risk to raise awareness of these issues. Although that might be a headache for the Federation."

source articles:
translated and edited by Brett Larner

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