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Max Siegel Press Conference Quotes


Opening Statement

I really believe what you guys are seeing here at TrackTown and on the field of play is a culmination of a lot of hard work from this entire track and field community over the last four years.

When I took over the organization, I had two goals. One was to create organizational stability and to drive innovation in our organization. We were very honest with ourselves with respect to where we were as a business. There's one thing that's undisputed, and that is that we have the No. 1 track and field team in the world. We had amazing athletic performances, but we wanted to be honest with ourselves with where we were as a federation and as a business. With that, we took a look at what our purpose was really to promote the sport, to field the most competitive team in the world, to drive diversity, to be the economic engine and the governing body of track and field, and really try to align ourselves and our staff to achieve the same kind of business success that our athletes enjoy on the field of play.

There's a lot of conversation about the NFL, the NBA. I think if we benchmark against our peer groups, we want to take best practices, we want to be athlete-centric, we want to focus on our constituents, and we clearly strive to be the No. 1 national governing body in Olympic sport.

When it came to what we could do with respect to athletic performance, you can see in the numbers. We spent $850,000 in 2015 in sports science. That figure for 2016 will be $1.25 million. In 2017 to '20, we have a floor of $2 million a year that we're going to invest in the sports science area.

We have been able to do some innovative things with our partners from St. Vincent Sport Medicine from free health care on the entire Diamond League circuit. Our St. Vincent Sport Performance partners were very hands-on in Allyson Felix's rehab and Duffy [Mahoney] and Robert Chapman have launched a concierge medical service to not only make the care available to the athletes who are able to come to Indianapolis, but we deploy a team of professionals to go out and work with our athletes and keep them healthy and to really work with them on their athletic performance.

We've been trying hard to pay attention to the small details that people don't see in the general public...We have been trying really hard to enhance the athlete's entire experience with competition, processing, being a part of our team. Some of that is reflected with how the athletes are received and treated next door and walked through team processing.

We were really happy to report as it relates to compensation and athletic performance, which is all the function of raising revenue, is that we are just scratching the surface and just beginning to deal with an area that for the first time in the history of this federation in sport, we have entered into a revenue distribution plan with our athletes over and above the tier support that they get from being tier athletes from discretionary funds, will be compensated for making the national team, Team USA and the Olympics or the World Championships. We work collaboratively and painstakingly and put in a collective effort with the AAC, Dwight Phillips is here, the chairman, our event leaders, to come up with a system that was fair that we could roll out to benefit the athletes as we continue to work in a fluid manner to improve it. We sat down as a group and we said, 'OK, we want to recognize that every single member on a national team is equally important.' With the funds that we allocated, which is $1.8 million dollars a year over the next five years, every athlete that makes the team gets a $10,000 stipend, which accounts for 75 percent of the funds that we allocated for this distribution plan. The other portion that the athletes agreed, regardless of discipline or event, there will be a bonus that was associated with winning a medal that would essentially reward superior athletic performance and that structure came up with $25,000 for gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze and all of that is in addition to what they get compensated from by the United States Olympic Committee to compete. There's prize money, there's a stipend and there's a medal bonus.

Under this current administration, we have brought on 12 brand new partners. It was a goal of ours to diversify the type of partners and revenue streams. We have education partners. We have confection partners. We have equipment partners. We have things that are athlete centric. If you look at our budget, 70 percent of our revenue for our athletes comes from sponsors. A small portion comes from sanctions. A small portion comes from membership. A small portion comes from other ancillary things, but the lion's share of our revenue to support our programs and our athletes come from our sponsors.

With our Youth Hershey RunJumpThrow, we are going to be extremely focused on the next several years on really going after the connection with the high school and middle school audience. We need to encourage our young people to stay involved with track and field. We need to be relevant and meaningful to people at an early age.

Many people in this community have had a long-standing relationship with USA Track & Field. Friends who work at the organization, neighbors who volunteer for the organization. We value each and every person who is incredibly passionate about USA Track & Field. Without our volunteers, without everyone who contributes to this sport, we wouldn't have a sport. With that said, as the federation, as the governing body and the economic engine, it is critical that we run a fiscally responsible and financially sustainable business to really achieve our mission. With that, we have really worked hard to bring in the necessary resources and collaborations to move our organization forward on our continued quest to upgrade the professionalism and the support.

In 2012, we were roughly an $18 million a year organization. Around the Olympic years, you'll get a $3 or $4 million dollar bump in high performance funding. Generally speaking, we hovered between $16 and $18 million a year. This year, we are operating with nearly a $36 million budget, which is the most money that the organization has spent in the history of USA Track & Field to support athletes in funding. We anticipate that level of funding to be consistent for the foreseeable future. We have not, in any stretch of imagination, become complacent. We continue to strive higher to bring on new partners to improve our programming, to support the organization. We've had 17 new deals in the last 48 months and 12 new partnerships at USA Track & Field. None of this really matters if we can't figure out a way to reinvest these resources, especially during a time like this and ongoing to enhance our athlete performance and support.

On first-time Olympians qualifying to compete in Rio:

What's really amazing is when you're sitting with Jackie Joyner-Kersee, there was a Jackie Joyner-Kersee before there was an Allyson Felix. One of the things that makes me incredibly proud is when you look at the system that we have and the depth of the talent that we have, the one thing you can be consistently fairly sure of is we will have an amazing team and amazing athletes.

It's heartbreaking to see some of the veterans who will not be on the team, which happens all the time. It's also equally exciting to see some of the new members making their first team. I was standing behind the awards podium with Vashti [Cunningham] and Chaunté [Lowe]. To see a veteran there to actually mentor and encourage one of our youngest Olympians in a very long time was exciting.

On the current Olympic qualification process:

I know that most people come back to this being the fairest way to produce the best athletes, especially with an extremely deep talent pool that we have here. You see it play out on the field of play. The result of it typically reflects itself in international competition. I think the way that it is right now is the most fair way to select talent.

On choosing host cities for Olympic Trials:

We have, for the last three or four years, been really aggressive at cultivating relationships and developing new markets for all of our events and properties. Obviously, with each one of our events, we want our collaborating partner to be able to deliver the event at the highest level. One of the things that we saw with the Marathon Trials was we went from no one wanting it, to three of four cities in the finals bidding on it. Despite anything else, I think we're starting to see that with a whole host of our events at every level of the organization.

The reality of the situation is there have been other cities that have expressed an interest to bid on the Olympic Trials. I think that people are well aware of what the requirements are to deliver it at the level that we see it right now. We'll consider those bids. We're really encouraged by the interest. I think we have enough meaningful events and properties that we can sit down with cities right now and come up with a plan. I've had recent meetings where someone said, 'OK, if we wanted 2024 Trials, what is it that we need to do between now and '24 to demonstrate  that we have the capability and the capacity to do that?' We will not sacrifice of the quality of the competition or how it's delivered but we're constantly looking for partners who are interested in showcasing our events around the country.

On health and security concerns in Rio de Janeiro:

We have been working very closely with the United States Olympic Committee. They have put together an infectious disease advisory committee and council. Working really closely with the CDC and other medical professionals to give us protocol for our athletes in Rio.

Most of our athletes have been focused on making the team. We haven't heard a lot, but we've gone the extra step to make sure the information is available, that we are following the latest, most current protocol.

USA Track & Field has a Chief Security Officer. After our staff was literally at the finish line at the Boston Marathon to do drug testing and our athletes had concern about their exposure at the Penn Relays, it became really obvious and important to us to stay ahead of it and make sure that we had security protocol for our staff, our athletes, domestically, internationally. Our staff has been on all the international trips with our juniors. They reach out to the international governing body, the local organizing committee. Our team for Rio has been coordinating with the USOC. We have both venue security, point-to-point security, training camp security and have really tried to back that up with our athletes when the need for additional security on the local level.

On global doping issues in the sport:

I personally have zero tolerance for cheating and doping. I think here in this country we probably have one of the most comprehensive and aggressive doping initiatives and testing with USADA, which is independent from us which in my opinion is where it should be.

In our sport, it is incredibly sad and frustrating and negative attention that it brings to our sport. But I think it gives us an opportunity to recalibrate and really look at the leadership role that the IAAF has taken across the world.

Jill Geer
Chief Public Affairs Officer
USA Track & Field

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