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Discussion: The French criticizes IOF

in: Orienteering; General

Aug 25, 2009 4:27 PM # 
The French Orienteering Federation published today an official statement about the WOC Relay race. They criticize the IOF, and ask for chosing fairplay and ethics instead of invalid result lists.

It was almost inevitable somebody was gonna say something... people will point the finger at them and say they're hungry for a relay medal after 2 years in a row of almost winning one... but deep inside, what do people think of IOF's decision to let the results stand?
What would you have done had you been an official at WOC?
This could be a really interesting debate!
Aug 25, 2009 4:59 PM # 
For the benefit of those like me who weren't there and have no idea what transpired, could someone give a short synopsis?
Aug 25, 2009 5:01 PM # 
Aug 25, 2009 5:28 PM # 
Pink Socks:
In short,

Last leg of relay, #1 runner (Sweden) gets severely injured, so #2, #3, and #4 (France, Norway, Czech, running together) stop to help. #5 Switzerland (running separately) goes on to win gold.
Aug 25, 2009 5:39 PM # 
I think the IOF did the right thing.

P.S. Were the WOC not held annualy, I would say they did the wrong thing.
Aug 25, 2009 6:36 PM # 
I think the IOF should have paid more than lip service to those three (and their teams) who selflessly gave up their medals to do the right thing by helping Martin Johansson. In fact, by my understanding of the rules, they must stop and give assistance. Because of the remoteness of our race venues, this sport requires that safety be shared by everyone involved and not just handled by the race's support system.
Looking at the splits, it appears that Gueorgiou and Nordberg were together and 2.5 minutes ahead of Merz with about 30 minutes left in the race. For those elites, I believe this is a sufficient margin to be almost certain that they would beat the Swiss team.
I would award those teams a set of shared medals for upholding the most important rules in our sport. What a perfect opportunity to display the IOF values. I would really like to know how the Swiss team feels about this.
Aug 25, 2009 7:00 PM # 
Very interesting question and scenario. For context, here is the applicable IOF rule:
26.3 Except in the case of an accident, obtaining assistance from other runners or providing assistance to other competitors during a competition is forbidden. It is the
duty of all competitors to help injured runners.

Sometimes we get so focussed on rules and procedures that we lose the ability to think outside the box or come up with innovative solutions. In this case could they have immediately called the jury together and said "We have a unique situation we need to deal with" -- then done as detailed a review as they could -- look at the numbers, the split times, done interviews etc. then come up with a special solution - for example 2 Gold, 2 Silver, 2 Bronze to the three countries that did place that way, as well as to FRA, NOR and CZH based on their order after 2nd leg or last confirmed control on leg 3 before the incident?
Aug 25, 2009 7:06 PM # 
I think the IOF did the right thing too. Had they not let the results stand, the complaints might be coming from the Swiss, the Latvians, or anyone else who did well. They have no real option to do anything other than what they did.
Aug 25, 2009 7:11 PM # 
I was the Secretary General of WOC2009, so here is the inside view of what happened:

I was warned quite early by one of the refreshment guards by phone, that a big accident happened to the Swedish runner on the course. He lost consciousness and needs medical treatment asap. In 5 minutes, I was on site with an ambulance car. Being the first car there was quite a special situation. The situation was much better, than expected - Johansson did not lose his consciousness, but had big pain in his leg. Thierry Gueorgiou was holding his hand strongly and they all were quite relieved, when we arrived. Johansson managed to talk to us and in under 10 minutes, he was inside the ambulance car. The strange thing is, that we had 3 other accidents happening at the same time, but fortunately none of them was like this.

When I got back to the finish (~ 1 km), my humanic side insisted, that their is no possibility to have the race results as they are. In the meantime I knew, that the situation is not that easy.

The Organising Committee immediately started talks about what to do with the situation. The IOF Sports Director came to us immediately, telling that the IOF's view is that this is a very sad situation, but a result is a result, and it should be kept. It was quite clear, that we only have two very simple options:
1. Cancel the results, as it was 'unfair' in a way (based on IOF Foot-O Competition Rules 26.13.).
2. Keep the results as they are and give recognition to the teams involved.
We knew, that whichever decision we take, there will be a lot of people, who are clearly against the decision.

First, we asked the three teams' officials involved in the rescuing mission, but they didn't give any clear answer. Then we asked the three teams, who eventually got onto the podium because of the situation. Two of these teams were hesitant about what to do (they wanted to talk to their runners first), the third one was clearly in favour of keeping the results (his competitors were not happy of the medal they earned this way, though). So we got no clear input from the teams.

As time was passing quite fast, and the Organising Committee itself was divided in the question, we decided to have a vote. The vote resulted in a tie, and thus the Chairman's vote was decisive - and it was to keep the results as they are.

I informed all the teams involved about the decision, and we agreed with those, who happened to be on the podium, that they will not cheer, not stand up on the podium and will receive their medals in their hands. At that time, they seemed to have all agreed on the situation.

Two of the three teams involved in the rescue mission were a bit upset though, when they heard about the decision. They wanted to hand in a protest (referring to section 26.13. in the IOF Competition Rules), but after some talks, they decided not to hand in the protest.

Once again, I must say, that it was a very strange situation, where any solution would be far from ideal. We tried to follow the rules as much as possible, but still the communication now is more negative, than it was in the arena.

A lot of team leaders came over to me (Sweden included), that we made the right decision. Cruel as it is, but I'm quite convinced, that had it been the other way round, we would have received much more criticism overall.

we, the WOC2009 Organising Committee still think, that this decision - although still not a good solution - was better than the other one.
Aug 25, 2009 7:16 PM # 
Thanks for posting!
Aug 25, 2009 7:19 PM # 
Excellent. Well handled; democratically. I apologize for my negative aspersions above.
I am especially encouraged that there were voting members against letting the results stand.
Aug 25, 2009 7:25 PM # 
Thanks for the post, and explanation. Certainly not a situation anyone of us would want to have to deal with; and make such hard decisions.
Aug 25, 2009 7:26 PM # 
Thanks Less for your very good account of the situation.

I do wonder though: why wasn't it an option for IOF to award 2 sets of medals like Rosco suggested?
You see, if stopping to help someone was simply a humanitarian (does that word even exist?!!!) decision, then yeah, that was your decision so results are results. But since it is in the rules to stop to assist someone in need, then I think it becomes a totally different situation doesn't it? I mean, I am sure the 3 guys stopped not because of the rules but because they're good guys, but still, they followed the rule and got penalized. So why not 2 sets of medals I wonder?

The other question is: if it was possible to award 2 sets of medals, would all the teams involved be happy with that anyway? mmmm...
Aug 25, 2009 7:37 PM # 
Barbie, I might be misunderstanding you but, who gets gold Smola, Gueorgiou or Nordberg? As I understand it from Aron's post, he and the other OC members agreed that they only had two options. Those were to either keep or cancel the results.
While I was going to propose giving silver to France, Norway, Czech and bronze to Switzerland, Russia and Finland, it seems the rules would prevent either of our creative solutions.
Aug 25, 2009 7:38 PM # 
Superb explanation and superb decision taken under extraordinary situation. Thank you for the insight.

In my mind there is no real alternative to what was done. I think the solution to situations such as this lies outside the official results. For example there is the Pierre de Coubertin Medal which is awarded in the Olympics for outstanding examples of Sportsmanship (it was awarded to the Brazilian de Lima following the Athens marathon). It would be great if this medal or something like it was open to nominations from all sports. Perhaps there is such an award that these heros could be nominated for. Or perhaps the IOF should be able to create one to honor this moment and to recognize future situations should they be so unfortunate to arise again.
Aug 25, 2009 8:00 PM # 
I realize that I have surpassed my quota of posts but I have to say am surprised that the leaders' substantial margin at the time of the incident does not seem to be considered. Were the race run to a probable conclusion, Switzerland, Russia and Finland would not have medals. What if there were only 10 minutes left in the race? 5?
As hypothetical OC members, how do you defend letting the results stand?
Aug 25, 2009 8:04 PM # 
I also think the better decision is to keep the results. There will be an appropriate time and moment to recognise the sportsmanship of the 3 runners - in some ways it is best not done in the heat of the moment.

There is an inrternational trophy for fair play - I'm sure the runners involved will be nominated.
Aug 25, 2009 8:06 PM # 
Expresso, the answer is in your own words ... "were the race run to a probable conclusion". Probable is not certain.
Aug 25, 2009 8:24 PM # 
I liken it to a misplaced control. Since the race results are probably flawed by a misplaced control, they are thrown out.
Aug 25, 2009 8:36 PM # 
Expresso, you can take that view, but you are comparing an organisational mistake to an accident of nature. They are quite different things imo.

Instead I would ask you to compare it to last years WOC - the leader got stung by a bee with only two (?) controls to go - there was more "certainty" over France winning last year, than this. But there was no debate last year.

It seems because 4 teams were affected, not just one, the circumstances are different but I find that inconsistent. So what's the magic number that turns an exceptional circumstance into an "unfair" race?
Aug 25, 2009 8:36 PM # 
Ah, but that is what the rules say - that a misplaced control voids the course. The rules say that runners MUST stop to help each other. The rules imply that by stopping to help someone you will lose places. That to me is part of the sport - and I personally am very happy that it is a clear cut rule. Because if it is me with a bleeding leg then I don't want the next guy thinking about what he is going to do (I kind of like that he will be disqualified if he doesn't help!). There are other examples of this kind of self-less action in competition (one sailing example in particular rattles obscurely in my head). It is just part of the sport - you might have to give up a gold medal at the World Champs or at your local Wednesday night event. We all play by those rules and we all take our chances.
Aug 25, 2009 8:51 PM # 
Thank you both for engaging in this discussion.
Cracker, I understand your points. However, I am not talking about the unfortunate one who was injured, but rather the other 3.
AZ, your argument is compelling. It does imply that you will lose places.
However, in my mind, this race result was completely flawed and an opportunity was missed to indelibly acknowledge those three runners for following what I consider to be the paramount rule in our sport. This was a rule and not just sportsmanship.
With tongue completely in cheek, who would have thought there would come a day when I agreed with France on an issue at odds with the rest of the world? =P
Wait, check that, there was the other half of the OC committee who voted to throw out the results too.
Aug 25, 2009 8:54 PM # 
>Or perhaps the IOF should be able to create one to honor this moment and to recognize future situations should they be so unfortunate to arise again.

brilliant idea....
Aug 25, 2009 9:14 PM # 
I think the race is only slightly flawed. If you think that the point of the race is to determine "who is best" then every race will be flawed. The nature of sport is that on any day any person might win and so "who is best" is an impossible question.

I prefer to look at a race as serving the purpose (in this case) of saying which team will we honor by awarding the title of Winner of the Relay at the 2009 World Champs. This year the winner was the Swiss (under strange circumstances). But I don't see that as meaning they are the best team - just that they won this particular race.

"The best" in my mind is most closely approximated by the World Rankings. "World Champ" is a much more fun, exciting, unpredictable and possibly unfair thing
Aug 25, 2009 9:18 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Seems analogous to a crash in cycle, horse, or car racing. The lead car loses control and crashes (SWE), and the cars immediately behind also crash (FRA, NOR, CZE). Those far enough back scoot around unscathed, including the eventual winner (SUI).

The crash isn't a fault of the organizers (OC committee). It's not really the fault of those who got sucked into it. The IOF rule of helping fallen competitors is, in this case, akin to the laws of physics in that car crash. Once the crash takes place, if you're right behind it, there's no way to avoid it.

Their sportsmanship is to be commended, though. They could have just run by, won their medals, and then later claim to have not seen/heard the injured runner.
Aug 25, 2009 9:31 PM # 
If only there was an Australian speed skating example.
Aug 25, 2009 10:06 PM # 
A medal acknowledged as all but won is impossible to take away. In a generation orienteers will remember the three who stopped but no-one will remember who won medals in the relay. I think being given the chance to show sportsmanship and humanity in such a situation is a greater gift than a medal. I feel some sympathy for the first and second leg runners who received none of the 'Team Fairplay" accolades, but didn't get a medal.
The insight from less greatly appreciated. Well done on the day!
Aug 25, 2009 10:12 PM # 
Haha Nev, brilliant. Not to mention the poor guy in the Athens marathon (they didn't cancel that race, either).

AZ's last two posts are perhaps the best summation of the situation I have seen. It happens many times in sport that the winner was not the best on the day. It's unfortunate maybe, but not unfair.
Aug 25, 2009 10:41 PM # 
I don't know. The situation was that after Johanssons crash the three leading teams are forced to leave the race, the fourth (Khramov) somehow quit the race and jogged back to the finish and the fifth team stated, that they don't want a gold medal won that way, the organizer should have just decided to annulate the whole thing. Why? Just to save the value and seriousity of the title 'world champion'. As it is now this title can't be taken serious, not even by the holders themselves.
It would have been a strong signal towards the three nations who were in lead, that no one else got the medals instead of them, eliminated by a hazard they could not influence.
Aug 25, 2009 10:44 PM # 
The Swedish Team, lead by Martin, gave a truly heartfelt and creative acknowledgment to all the 9 runners from those three teams at the WOC banquet. I was personally very touched when they awarded each member a Swedish team yellow jersey and Swedish team yellow orienteering socks....along with a bucket of other less notable prizes.

I think that it should also be acknowledged that there is more than hurt pride at stake with medal winning decisions. For some athletes, and for some teams, winning medals comes with a monetary incentive from sponsors and team funding sources. This just to emphasize that the sacrifice each team made was very real.
Aug 25, 2009 11:02 PM # 
Some of the commentary in this thread seems to assume that those affected stopped to help because it is in the rules to do so. I very much doubt that even passed through their minds. Let the result stand, let us find other ways to recognise what these incredible guys did, and let's look forward to an incredible relay next year when the Swedes, Czechs, French, Norwegians, Russians and probably the Swiss will all be going out with even more incentive "to prove something" than usual.
Aug 25, 2009 11:04 PM # 
Sailing has a similar rule to 26.3 (it's the first rule in the fundamental rules of sailing), but sailing rules also allow boats to "seek redress" (claim time lost for helping other boats). A similar provision in the IOF rules would probably have allowed redress to given with a fair degree of accuracy in this instance, but for most races it would be pretty speculative. By not allowing redress, the IOF rule could possibly discourage people from providing assistance, so allowing redress would probably enhance safety, even if it gave organisers a bit of a problem in assessing a fair allowance for time lost.
Aug 26, 2009 12:09 AM # 
If the affected teams had been much further down the potential results list, we might not be having this discussion. The fact that they would in all probability have filled the medal positions can't be taken into account, the way the rules are written - and they're written to achieve fairness. I was interested to read the Secretary General's explanation, and pleased to agree with their decision-making process. Their only other alternative was to cancel the race which would have been a less favourable outcome. Acknowledging the sacrifice of the runners who did not achieve a result is important, but it can't be used to change the outcome.
Aug 26, 2009 12:17 AM # 
Hopefully any decent sponsor will reward any incentives based on the 'probable outcome' ... if not, I hope said sponsors would get a lot of publicity for their stinginess!
Aug 26, 2009 12:23 AM # 
This heroism might get more play in the press in their respective countries than merely winning a medal. Any sponsor should love that!
Aug 26, 2009 12:55 AM # 
I normally would be satisfied with the current outcome. The race was run, unfortunate things happened, and the organizers used due process to achieve a result. It is a difficult situation, and we seem to be respecting that.

Annulling the result at this point would be unfair to the 9 who received medals---unless they, all nine of them, decide to play the sportsmanship card and petition the IOF to void the race.

I encourage them to do that.
Aug 26, 2009 12:56 AM # 
Nevin, awesome one!!! good analogy
Aug 26, 2009 1:04 AM # 
There was a situation very similar to those described by Kupackman in the World Athletics Championships, Women 1500m (2 days after the WOC Relay). Ethiopian was leading with 200m to go, when a Spanish girl pushed her and she fell. The Spanish girl ended up winning, but was disqualified - no medal. The Ethiopian girl finished last - no medal. These two may (I emphasise may) have finished 1-2, so at least two other runners got medals they otherwise may not have.
Aug 26, 2009 2:44 AM # 
I think letting the results stand was the best decision. I hope the personal sponsors of the affected runners decide to pay the bonuses they would have received for getting a medal. The sponsors are undoubtedly receiving positive attention as a result of what happened.
Aug 26, 2009 3:53 AM # 
The sponsor that had a their logo in the 'Team Fairplay' finish chute photo should be very satisfied. But it might take a bit more imaginative marketing for whoever had their logo on Thierry's shirt that was used as the wound dressing. Ideas?
Aug 26, 2009 4:41 AM # 
I strongly believe that the results should stand, just as the IOF decided. Yeah, it sucks to be on one of the teams who had a rescuer, but that's life. As people have noted, the heroes of this year's WOC were the three guys who stopped, not the three teams who have medals, and that's how people will remember it.

We wouldn't be having this conversation if it had been the last four runners who stopped rather than the first four, and I don't think that four runners affected is enough to invalidate a result. A real catastrophe, with, say, over half the teams affected, would be a reason to void the results.
Aug 26, 2009 8:21 AM # 
So far as I can see, the decision was between taking a positive and a negative response to what happened.

The positive one: award the medals (in a tasteful and low-key way) and reward the sportsmanship of the three teams who stopped their race. There is no question that the results would have been different under different circumstances, but the outcome of the competition is what it was.

The negative one: cancel the race and acknowledge the selfless act of the three teams who stopped. No one gets a result, so maybe it is fairer in some way. But this solution actually detracts from their act of sportsmanship - it is less of a sacrifice to stop your race if it means the end of the race for everyone else as well. In my opinion this would have set a difficult precedent for similar situations in the future (which there will be...).

I am surprised that the French federation are making a big deal out of this. They should be too busy marketing Thierry's heroism for all they are worth!
Aug 26, 2009 9:47 AM # 
Martin Johansson tells what really happened
Aug 26, 2009 10:22 AM # 
Thanks Tapio...almost brings tears to the eyes.
Aug 26, 2009 12:03 PM # 
If the IOF decides to cancel a race when someone gets injured and other runners are forced to suspend their race, the IOF has to ensure that this happens in a "fair" manner. Thus, the same rules also apply for runners far behind the podium. Now I really wonder if the "big" nations (SWE, NOR, FIN, FRA, SUI, CZE,...) are willing to "loose" their medals just because the Chinese runner gets hurt and gets first aid by the runners of Croatia, Turkey and Japan... Let's face it: who would honestly consider a race cancellation in this hypothetical situation?

I truly appreciate the efforts made by the IOF council to make fair competitions. To weight a lost medal higher than a lost 20th place would be highly unfair and unethical, no matter how "unfair" this year's relay outcome is.
Aug 26, 2009 12:04 PM # 
Here is the story of the sailing incident that happened in the 1988 Olympics. A Canadian sailor, Lawrence Lemieux, gives up a chance of an Olympic medal to save two others.The article is interesting because Lemieux talks about his (lack of) thought process - just like Birdman points out, this isn't really a question of what the rules say.
Aug 26, 2009 1:13 PM # 
It would be inhuman to do anything but help in these situations. On this we are all certainly in agreement but that was not the topic of debate. The crux of the discussion above has been about what the IOF OC should have done about the results when the race was over and all were safe. While I remain a minority dissenter, I have appreciated hearing the enlightening points above.
Aug 26, 2009 2:00 PM # 
With all due respect to the fine points made above, I don't think it matters.

Whether or not medals are physically handed to people or official results are listed this way or that way doesn't change anything regarding what we know happened.

The problem is information theory. You are trying to ascribe one bit of information (medal or no medal to the winner) over a detailed event with lots of information. In most races that is possible, but here it is not, so it seems silly to make the attempt.

JMHO, of course.
Aug 26, 2009 2:30 PM # 
Is it time to go meta already?? ;)
Where earlier I was in the "shallows above the depths plumbed by others," now I am on the beach.
Aug 26, 2009 5:04 PM # 
Much as I'd like the British to still be WOC relay champions...

it does seem the best outcome. Everyone in the sport knows what happened, whether the "winners" get some lumps of metal or not. Outside the sport, like Oli says, the four leaders can milk the "Fairplay" option (obviously our man would have won if he hadn't stopped...). The medallists can wave their medals at their Sports Federations as mission accomplished.
Aug 26, 2009 5:27 PM # 
The photo (on World of O') of the 3 of them jogging in is one of the great sports images I've seen. Here are 3 great rivals. Also, each could be really bummed out about not completing the race. Yet the 3 of them are obviously enjoying the compay as they jog in. Wow!

A large, high-quality, framed copy of the photo for each could be a great 'sportsmanship' momento.
Aug 26, 2009 7:21 PM # 
Holger Hott:
You are all talking from the perspective that this happened just a few days ago, which is right today. But what will the common orienteer think and know in 10 or 20 years? Time blurs everything and what is left as the strongest reminder is the result list.

I think the best reminder for this great day of sportsmanship would be no result list. A hole in the statistics would make people in the future take notice and remember more.
Aug 26, 2009 7:55 PM # 
I think an act of sportsmanship of this magnitude will not be easily forgotten, even in 10 or 20 years.

In fact, it is possible that the opposite will occur - in 20 years time, the names of Nordberg, Tero and Smola will still be well known and we will have difficulty remembering who won.

For example, I personally had no trouble remembering who the Brazilian was who got pushed in the Athens marathon but had to look up who won the race.

I think your fears HH are unfounded. I think the major memory from this race WILL be the act of sportsmanship, not the result.
Aug 26, 2009 11:17 PM # 
Nick Harris:
I agree, Cracker - this is the stuff of legend. It will be a tale told to new orienteers about the culture of our sport - "you *always* stop to help an injured competitor, like the WOC relay in 2009..."

I applaud the way this situation was handled by the race officials and Less's post explaining it. I think the results must stand. Whilst I understand the sentiment, to me the arguments for voiding the race don't stand up.

I like the idea of a sportsmanship award. It would be a fitting acknowledgement of the sacrifice made by these guys. The presence in the record books of a sportsmanship award next to the results would indicate that something unusual occurred that year, which might address Holger's fears to some extent? The only thing is, such an award must also be available to runners at the back of the field who stop to help others.

I also agree with the post that suggested national federations should be capitalising on positive PR value of this incident, rather than shooting barbs at one another. In rugby parlance, "orienteering was the winner on the day"

In the end, full respect to Martin who was obviously giving his all at the front, and to Anders Thierry and Michal whose actions, when it counted, were above the race.
Aug 27, 2009 4:33 AM # 
Thanks for the link to Martin J's blog Tapio. Explains why Tero wasn't wearing a shirt when he jogged into the finish with the other guys!
Aug 27, 2009 5:07 AM # 
I'm relieved my officiation tasks never extends to having to make these decisions as one would need the wisdom of Solomon to please everybody in this instance.

Personally I think they made the right decision letting the results stand but I would have undestood if the race result was nullified. Any other option, like extra medals for likely placegetters, would be just wrong as it's all speculative.

Maybe I'm not a typical orienteer, then again maybe I am, as I can't even tell you who won last years relay, but I reckon I'll remenber this incident and the sportsmanship involved for many years to come.
Aug 27, 2009 8:57 AM # 
I agree with most points of view that were expressed above, really passionating discussion subject to follow!

However I still feel unconfortable toward one specific thing. For me the problem is indeed more about the significance of medals... If reading the articles of Matthias Merz' and Daniel Hubmann's homepages in detail, the first feeling you get is that these guys are almost ashamed to have been awarded a gold medal. They explain they strictly wanted to refuse the medals (but weren't allowed to), will never be proud about it, never deserved it, and that they will never be able to speak about victory and World Champions in this situation, etc.

Is this the feeling you should get about a gold medal? Is it normal to start having a "hierarchy" in gold medals, somehow between the ones which were deserved and the ones which weren't?... I know I'll be speaker in French at next year's WC-Final, and knowing we always present the runners, I just asked myself the following: for Baptiste Rollier it was the first WOC gold medal, so will I tell that we have at the start the 2009 World Champion in Relay? If listening only at my feelings, I know I won't, and refere to other of his achievments. Because it seems to make everyone so much uncomfortable. This gold medal doesn't seem "real" in these circumstances, not even for the runners themselves (once more, according to their webpages). And I don't considere you should ever be ashamed or unconfortable about a gold medal - or then there is something wrong.

Then I remembered about the situation we have in athletics here: if there are less than 3 runners at the start of the competition, no title is delivered. There is a winner, and there is a best time, there is even a prize giving ceremony, but there is no medal and no cantonal champion. In the books, this year stays blank - because the circumstances make that nobody deserves to be awarded the title of cantonal champion.
Even though the situation is very different, this is somehow the feeling I got about this relay: there was a fastest team, there was a fastest time, so there is a result list, and it is legitime to keep it. But the circumstances are so strange that nobody can really be called a World Champion.
A gold medal should stay a gold medal. Something you can be proud of forever.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure it is impossible in the IOF rules to have a result list but no titles - but this was just a reflexion...could have been a nice compromise.
Aug 27, 2009 10:57 AM # 
I think that the Switzerland, Russia and Finland team members (last changes) should give (gave) the medals to the 3 great ones and that way they would be the great ones too. In this way, i really don't know why do they keep the medals. To show them to kids, or to celebrate them? They' didn't earn it. And no one would remember them as champions.
The big 3 get their glory and it's far beyond WOC medal. They are celebrated as humans. Long live their sportmanship and the tales about the great example of it.
Aug 27, 2009 11:12 AM # 
I am absolutely with ljus.
Aug 27, 2009 11:16 AM # 
Sorry i didn't read the article before mine and the Merz and Hubmann thougths.
It remind me of something that happened in Yugoslavia basketball team at World championship back in 1972 when was found out that the Portoriko team was doped and they all decided to go out from the champs. But because of the politics and politicians they were ordered to come back. All the members from the team except one particular guy (Ljubodrag Simonovic) decided not to come back. Afterward he was discredited and thrown away from the team because he think/thought...
Why am i telling this? Let the guys ("medals winners") - not officials - decide what they want with their medals. Athletes are humans not robots. They think.
At next competition they can get off their burden and give the medals to the real winners.

p.s. Afterward Ljubodrag Simonovic become famous writer about ethics in sport. His first book (out of 5) was named "Rebellion of the robots"...
Aug 27, 2009 7:18 PM # 
You can read Tero's side of the story on his website at
Aug 27, 2009 9:24 PM # 
I think the right decision was made: the results should stand. Orienteering is a game, and what happened at control 12 is more important than the outcome of the race or the results. I think that all the angst over the medals and whether the results should stand inappropriately lends more importance to the game than to the way three excellent athletes helped their competitor when he had an unfortunate accident. There are rules that are followed to yield a results list and medals, and these statistics will often not tell the whole story.

What if a different unlucky scenario had happened? Imagine that many of the top runners got food poisoning before the relay and either were unable to compete for their teams or ran anyway and performed poorly. Would anyone be calling for the results to be thrown out or for two sets of medals or for medals to be handed from one team to another? What if some of the runners were injured in a car accident on the way to the start? What if some of the best runners decide to take a year off from WOC, thereby compromising their country's chance at a medal? We can imagine many ways having nothing to do with fairness that the competition could be compromised, and there is no reasonable choice but to accept them and let the race go on.

On the one hand, I am disappointed that an unlucky thing happened that prevented some of the top teams from racing to the finish. On the other hand, I am tremendously heartened and proud by the opportunity to reflect on the importance of taking care of each other and by the fine example set by all the athletes involved, from those who helped the injured runner to those who humbly accepted their medals in their hands, in deference to the circumstances.
Aug 28, 2009 8:35 AM # 
What if the unlucky thing happened and they just ran on by? It now looks as though Martin Johansson would have probably been OK. Could such a thing happen? Tero writes...

"Just in a couple of milliseconds, the last year?s scenario came back in my mind."

...when he had to stop for the bee stinging incident, others ran on by, and everything turned out OK. It's easy to see why the French feel hard done by.
Aug 28, 2009 10:10 AM # 
Agree strongly that the solution reached by the organisers was the only possible outcome that makes any sense. It is just a part of sport, any sport. Any other solution would have been so fraught and would have been messy and highly unstaisfactory. It is tough on the affected teams, but they can hold their heads up high knowing they did the right. The medallists may feel their medals are devalued but that is just sport. There is always next year. If France, Norway, Sweden and Czech are vying for the lead on the last leg of next year's relay, just imagine how beserk Per will be going on the commentary! Once again, it is just part of the sport.
Aug 28, 2009 11:17 AM # 
That's a lot of "what if's" ebone but I'm struggling to see what relevance they have to this debate.

I think that all of you who are saying the decision taken was correct would have a very different perspective if it was you in Thierry's (or Anders' or Michal's or Holger's or any or anyone else from those teams) shoes.

But here's another "what if", hopefully it is a bit more relevant to the actual situation. Thierry says he saw Merz and Khramov (but they didn't notice what was going on below) run past as they were carrying Martin to the road. But what if they had seen and had stopped? (Actually if Thierry had been more cunning he would have called out to them to help). Then we would have had 5 teams affected. The medals would have gone to FIN LAT HUN. What if even more runners had stopped to help? At some point, because of the number of teams involved, cancellation of the race would have become inevitable. How many teams would need to be affected before that happened. Obviously 3 was not enough. 4? 5? 10? Would the IOF and the organisers have been happy to see the medals awarded to, say, ITA, GBR and EST? How about AUT ROM ESP? I suspect that just 1 or 2 more teams would have been enough to tip the balance but I don't know.

One thing I am pretty sure of though: those team officials who insisted that the results stand as is would have been calling for the cancellation of the race if one of their runners had stopped and missed out on an almost certain medal
Aug 28, 2009 2:29 PM # 
@rob: I think ebone's hypothetical incidents are relevant. The problem he's getting at is that if the IOF intervened here, it's very difficult to see how they could justify not intervening to "correct" a whole host of other "unfair" influences on the results. That just highlights that if we went down the road of trying to correct misfortunes, we'd quickly tie ourselves in knots. Well done the IOF for resisting that temptation.
Aug 28, 2009 2:38 PM # 
Here's a "what if":
What if the Chairman's vote in the tied OC vote went the other way?? and the results were canceled for reasons:
- race result was flawed, and/or
- best reminder for this great day of sportsmanship *

What would this AP discussion look like??
"No. Give SUI, RUS, FIN the World Champion medals. They deserve them."
I Dunno.

The difference I see between the Eric's "what ifs" and with what really happened comes down to probability. Without the show of sportsmanship, the likelihood of SUI, RUS, FIN receiving the medals they did is very remote and the likelihood of FRA, NOR, CZH earning medals is high.

* Holger, above.
Aug 28, 2009 8:10 PM # 
@robplow: 10 people wouldnt stop to help 1 injured runner; I doubt even 5. According to Tero's account, he said to Smola to continue his race, but Smola didn't. Suggests possibly 1 too many stopped anyway.

Here's another couple for you:

A bridge from the last control to the finish gets washed out during a thunderstorm and a third of the field are not able to complete the race. Results stand (back in the days of clipcards so no result could be given at the last control).

Half the field get a wrong control code in their control descriptions. Results stand.

Oh, not hypothetical - real-life situations from past major international orienteering races.

So I suggest to you the number would be a lot higher than you think before cancellation becomes inevitable.
Aug 29, 2009 5:11 AM # 
Valentin Novikov wrote about relay here:
"There were many conversations for all next days. We have already decided to go to return medals because there was the rumor in the morning that Swiss team returns their medals back. But when we have learnt that nobody returned anything, we have decided that if we'll return our medals, but champions did not do it, this will cause bewilderment of all around."
Aug 29, 2009 6:29 AM # 
I would like to pay attention to nonprofessional work of the announcer in the event center. When Dmitry Tsvetkov finished after the first leg the announcer told, before the official decision that Russian team - DSQ. Some time later (about 10 minutes) he told that Russian team is OK. This misinformation has certainly affected Andrey Khramov result.
Aug 29, 2009 10:19 AM # 
If I remember correctly (I was trying to stop the runner for an interwiew), P.F. told something like "unofficial result" and "we are waiting for the official communication".

So, in my humble opinion, if this could affect the result, lot of things could affect it: the megascreen with the map and the course in 3D before the race (not seen by runners by seen by coaches), the coach at the spectator control giving information about the position of the flag just behind a tree (some runner in women class ran around another big tree... losing seconds), all the spectators in the BBQ area near the control point at the end of sprint qualification and final... and so on!

I'm an O-speaker also for international competitions, frequently some runners told me that they were listening my voice in the forest, trying to understand something about the overal situation. So we must be careful: I know that we are ever near the limits with all the informations we tell by microphone (specially when something unusual happens, like the supponed russian MP). But there is also a minimum set of informations we have to tell to the spectators as a live chronicle, and (I repeat, in my humble opinion...) the informations could be done as unofficial, like PF did.

I'm surprised if Khramov was affected by this, but if you refer words of the runner himself, I have to believe to you and him. Believer but surprised.
Anyway, thank you to introduce this important (for me) argument.
Aug 29, 2009 2:31 PM # 
Well, about Khramov -- Novikov ran the second leg and in the continuation of the paragraph above he writes (translation is mine): "I went out before the mess up with Dmitry's announcement, DQ'd or not, I was running undisturbed [by that]."
Aug 29, 2009 3:01 PM # 
I was wondering when you trot out the "Great Swiss Bridge Disaster" Cracker. I've heard that story a few times - it's one of those that gets better with every telling. I'm impressed that have managed to maintain your rage at the grave injustice that was done to you all those years ago.

Half the field get a wrong control code in their control descriptions. Results stand.
Haven't heard that one - is it as good as the Swiss Bridge story?
Aug 29, 2009 5:06 PM # 
The Tsvetkov situation speaks to something I've long had an opinion about, that in a relay, disqualifications should not be announced until the final runner of the team finishes (and in no case should later runners be prevented from running). The reason is that there is always the potential for an appeal of the situation, and the officials should not interfere with the race in progress.
Aug 29, 2009 8:12 PM # 
It seems to me the decision reached for the WOC relay was a very tough one, but, in the end, also the best of the available choices. Whichever way decided, it was certain to be controversial.

It's not always fun being the one in charge!
Aug 29, 2009 10:10 PM # 
Cheers Rob. Any chance I'll get I'll trot it out - it scarred me for life.

The other, and more relevant one, was from the European Championships in 2006 (womens long distance final).
Sep 3, 2009 7:11 PM # 
Maybe one of these approaches would be a way to avoid penalizing someone who helps an injured competitor. If you stop to help someone you have the option of returning to the previous control punching it again and then continue from there. The time between when you first punched it and the second time you punched will not be counted. Some people will complain that's not fair since you have rested while helping. If you want to make that argument then have you go back 2 controls. Your course will continue from there with the exception that the time for navigating between those 2 controls will be the GREATER of your 2 times for that leg. That way you have to run an extra leg to compensate for resting and you cannot improve your time since the greater of your 2 times is the one that counts. For the same reason you would not want to walk that leg since that would usually increase your time.
Sep 3, 2009 8:14 PM # 
jcarr, your proposal sounds fine for use at a just-for-fun event, or perhaps a children's birthday party. Otherwise it's hard to take it seriously.
Sep 4, 2009 12:05 AM # 
I've got video evidence of the "Great Swiss Bridge Disaster", in the process of getting it on the web, but will probably take a few more weeks
Sep 4, 2009 3:30 AM # 
NZ still on dial up?

This discussion thread is closed.