Vin Lananna Reinstated As USATF President

After CAS ruled in his favor, Vin Lananna is back as head of the national governing body. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

THE BIGGEST NEWS out of USATF’S Annual Meeting didn’t come from the convention at all, but from CAS, which ruled that president Vin Lananna, who had been placed on “temporary administrative leave” by the national governing body’s Board Of Directors nearly 2 years ago, was to be reinstated immediately. The news hit the morning of December 5, just as attendees were heading to their first meetings in Reno.

Elected president by acclamation in ’16, Lananna was also at that time the head of TrackTown USA, the local organizing committee behind some of the major track & field events in Oregon. He led the bid that brought the upcoming ’21 Worlds to Eugene.

However, the Board placed Lananna on leave after it was revealed that Lananna was questioned as a witness by the Department of Justice in its investigation of sports corruption. No indictment or public action resulted. The Board cited conflict-of-interest issues, but never followed up with promised action on Lananna’s case. That led Lananna to eventually file a grievance with CAS last February.

After the decision came down, Lananna told Ken Goe of the Portland Oregonian, “For the first time in two years I’m positive about what could happen.” Lananna attorney David Greifinger said the CAS ruling validated the wishes of USATF’s membership. “That’s what we were fighting for,” he said. “That was the principle involved.”

Greifinger told Ken Stone of the San Diego Times, “Unfortunately, I can’t go into the arbitrator’s award, which is a very lengthy opinion because, under orders from CAS, we can’t publish it unless they say we [can]. I think they will publish it, but they have to give us the benediction.”

Michael Conley, who had served as interim president/chair in Lananna’s absence, said in a USATF release, “The Board accepts the decision. USATF is prepared to move forward; it’s beneficial to the sport and our athletes to put this behind us.”

CEO Max Siegel stated, “Next year is a pivotal year for the sport with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the preparation leading up to Oregon21. We are thrilled to work closely with Vin and now focus on those events and our athletes to continue moving the sport in a positive direction.”

Currently, the 66-year-old Lananna is the head coach at Virginia and no longer has ties to TrackTown USA or the University of Oregon. He is expected to run for reelection to the USATF presidency in 2020. In a post-Reno e-mail to friends in and around the federation he said, “I must admit that it was an emotionally draining experience, both at the personal and professional levels. However, I truly believed it was vital for me to remain focused on the outcome of my dispute with the Board for the health of our sport and the essential principles of shared governance that were at stake. Limiting the role of the USATF president meant restricting the role of the membership, and it was not something that I was willing to compromise during that extended process.”

Looking ahead, he added, “The next few years will pose critical challenges for us, but I firmly believe that with your help 2020 and 2021 will set the stage for a resurgence of interest in our sport in the country.” ◻︎