Yahoo! Sports' Jon Baum has detailed the tiebreaking procedures for Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tamroh after the American runners tied for third place in the 100 meters at Olympic trials. (Will they compete in a run-off? Will USA Track and Field get bailed out by one runner giving up her place on the 100 team in order to focus on the 200?) Fourth-Place Medal's Maggie Hendricks has broken down the ridiculous coin flip process from the hastily written rules. ("Each athlete shall inspect the coin to ensure the obverse and reverse hubs of the coin reflect the images of George Washington and the Eagle, respectively," is part of the rules.)
What me and my Yahoo! colleagues haven't touched on is the sheer absurdity that any part of this process is still being worked out because the USATF didn't have a contingency plan for a third-place tie. The USATF, an organization which has a 320-rule, 266-page rulebook that includes a full page on how to set up the refreshment stand during a road race and 1 1/2 pages on tiebreaking procedures in high jumping didn't have the foresight to envision a tie for the final spot on an Olympic sprint team?
This should get Bud Selig off the hook for his baseball All-Star game tie. At least he failed to have a contingency for something that didn't matter.
The "this has never happened before" defense is only applicable if the "this" in that sentence was something that couldn't have been imagined like, "what happens if a bear abducts a runner in the middle of a marathon," or something like that. Two runners tying doesn't fit that bill. It's rare that a photo finish between two runners competing for the final Olympic spot would fail to clearly provide a winner, but it's not so out of the realm of possibility.
No matter how this gets resolved -- my prediction is that Felix will bow out of the 100 after winning the 200 and that she'll receive an assurance she'll run on the 4x100-meter relay -- there won't be a winner. Because of a disorganized USATF, Felix and Tamroh have already lost. The only beneficiaries of this incident will be the two athletes in the distant future who will tie at a qualifying race and know that there are procedures in place to break that tie rather than a panicky response cobbled together out of necessity.