By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, a 1984 Olympic gold medalist, will be charged with fixing a troubled U.S. Olympic track and field program today when she is announced as USA Track and Field's first chief of sport performance, according to two sources with knowledge of the move.
Fitzgerald Mosley, 47, who resides in Haymarket and attended Gar-Field High in Woodbridge, helped put together a blisteringly critical report of the U.S. track and field team's performance after the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing as a member of an independent panel that included famed sprinter Carl Lewis.
Among more than a dozen recommendations in the report, which blamed the U.S. team's debacle-filled Olympic performance on disorganized coaching and a lack of professionalism by athletes, was the appointment of a general manager of sports performance to take charge of an area the report deemed to be in "chaos."
Fitzgerald Mosley was considered an ideal choice for the post because, despite her close connection to track and field, she had remained apart from USATF politics and policies since she retired as an athlete in 1988, giving her a desirable distance and independence, according to one of the sources. She also was considered among the most clear-thinking, incisive and diplomatic members of the nine-person panel that authored the report, the source said.
The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly in advance of the announcement.
USATF chief executive Doug Logan made the decision with input from President Stephanie Hightower and other USATF constituents, according to a source, and began informing them of the move yesterday. About a half-dozen candidates were interviewed, the source said, and Fitzgerald Mosley was considered the first choice.
"She's got nonprofit experience, she's got leadership experience, she's got athlete experience, she's got athletic managerial experience as well," one of the sources said. "She's someone everybody knows, but she's not someone who owes favors to anybody either."
The independent panel was assembled by Logan on the heels of an Olympic Games in which the U.S. team led the overall medal count but underperformed in many areas, most notably the relays. In a stunning embarrassment, both the U.S. men's and women's 4x100 relay teams dropped batons in back-to-back races near the end of the track and field competition.
As star U.S. athletes struggled, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and others from his nation dominated the headlines.
Fitzgerald Mosley's first priority will be ensuring that post-collegiate athletes have access to the best possible training opportunities, one of the sources said.
After graduating from Gar-Field in 1979, Fitzgerald Mosley attended the University of Tennessee on a track scholarship and earned a degree in industrial engineering. She won a gold medal at the 1983 Pan American Games before becoming the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold in the 100-meter hurdles.
She has spent eight years as chief executive of Women in Cable Telecommunications in Chantilly and will remain in the region for the immediate future, a source said. USA Track and Field, the governing body for the sport in the United States, is based in Indianapolis.
Fitzgerald Mosley was president of the Women's Sports Foundation Board of Trustees in 1997-98, and remains a member of the board. She also has overseen the direction of the U.S. Olympic Committee's training centers, considered a valuable trait as the USATF seeks to improve its training opportunities for athletes.
In addition to appointing a director of sport performance, the 69-page report recommended an overhaul of USA Track and Field's high-performance program, improvements to its anti-doping policies and the termination of its million-dollar relay developmental program. The report deemed that program "a waste of money and a failure."
The relay program has been dissolved.