The fallout from the Josh Golden controversy during the 2013 CrossFit Games Open is the stuff of which legend is made. If you are not aware of the story, it goes like this:


Josh Golden, from the SoCal region, scored a whopping 387 Reps on workout 13.2 (deadlift, push press, box jump). His score put him in a three-way tie for first place, worldwide. As is suggested by the CrossFit Games rulebook, he submitted a video of his performance to enable him to claim the cash prize. His video (which, to my knowledge, is no longer available) was descended upon by the rabid masses like rats on R. Lee Ermey in Willard. The outcry was heard around the world, and his character was fairly robustly assailed on Facebook.


Fact is, if you’re going to post the highest score in the world, your performance needs to be spotless (See Sam Briggs below). Josh’s wasn’t, so not only was his video rejected, but so was his score, and so was his affiliate’s ability to judge any further workouts.



But here’s where we begin to have some problems. What happens when there is no outcry? CrossFit made a public announcement when Golden’s score was rejected, but what becomes of the scores of other videos that are deemed to be questionable?


There appears to be virtually no known answer. One of the biggest questions that permeated social media during the Open was, “What happens to those videos?”


If you look, for example, at Golden’s 13.4 workout video here, you will notice that it’s being given five “Workout is Good” votes, two “score needs modification” votes, and seven - yes seven - “Workout is Rejected” votes. But yet, the score stands, as Golden is credited with the highest score for 13.4 in the entire SoCal region.


crossfit games, crossfit, crossfit games open, crossfit open is brokenSo what are the rules when it comes to video submissions and the judging of same? The official rulebook is silent on this, and looking through the plethora of videos on the leaderboard, it seems that there is no consistency. In fact, it seems like there is no governance of the video submissions at all. You would think that once a video earns more “no” votes than “yes” votes, HQ would be flagged. Then an HQ designated judge would review it, adjust the score accordingly, sign off on the athlete’s page, and be done with it. But that is not happening.


Which basically means that ALL of the videos submitted this year, with the exception of Josh Golden and Danielle Sidelle, were accepted - even the ones where the “rejected” surpass the “good” votes. Why did these online judges have to take the judges course? What’s the point if they are merely going through the motions? What’s the point of clicking “workout is rejected” if, in fact, the workout is not rejected? And what the hell does “score needs modification” mean? Does anyone have a practical example of how the video submission scores were modified appropriately based on judges’ input?


What about poor Scott Conlon from the Africa region? His 13.3 workout was judged by no one. But effectively, his score is on the leaderboard so…what? If you don’t get judged at all you still get to submit a score?


So Golden and Sidelle, who were not actually required to submit videos at all, were judged at affiliates and submitted videos. Their standards are found to be suspect, and they were thrown out of the competition. Meanwhile hundreds of other videos were submitted with multiple “workout is rejected” votes, and those scores stoodd, along with likely dozens of scores where no judging took place at all.


What’s wrong with this picture?


crossfit games, crossfit, crossfit games open, crossfit open is brokenNot to beat a dead horse, but once again this is the uneven application of standards being heaped upon the masses by CrossFit. There is no level playing field here. The video-submission component of the Open seems to be the most arbitrary, unevenly applied aspect of this entire competition.


The fix is simple. As soon as a video is uploaded, it gets assigned to one judge. No different than if you were doing the workout at an affiliate. That judge has no-rep override power. The judge can adjust your score by up to five reps if you are repeatedly no-repped. If you receive more than five no reps, the video is passed up the ladder to an HQ level reviewer. The HQ reviewer will judge and score, and again, if there are more than five no-reps, the workout is rejected, and the athlete is disqualified from the Open.


Overly harsh? Not really - it’s no different that what happened with Golden and Siddelle.


Recap: This is how you fix the CrossFit Games Open:


  1. Declare wether you are a competitor or merely a participant when signing up. This allows CFHQ to target workouts more toward competitors than to the larger mass of people and makes it more of a competition.
  2. Disallow CrossFit employees from participating. This avoids the perception of impropriety.
  3. Initiate a rule whereby you cannot judge anyone from your own gym. The will require boxes to cluster for the Open and remove the incentive for reps to get by because the judge has a vested interest in the athlete doing well.
  4. Declare team or individual prior to the Open beginning. This will allow teams to make it who are actual teams, not riding the coat tails of a few strong individuals.
  5. Find a way to eliminate leaderboard manipulation. Reveal the full leaderboard after all scores are submitted.
  6. Finally, determine the best way to deal with videotaped submissions in a manner much more effective than is currently being done.


Whether anyone at CrossFit Inc. reads, digests, or even remotely appreciates any of these suggestions is not really the point of this series. The point is, and has been, to start a dialog. See you at the hopefully new and improved CrossFit Open 2014!


Read the rest of the series:

The CrossFit Games Open Is Broken, Part 1

The CrossFit Games Open Is Broken, Part 2: Inbreeding and the "Appearance of Impropriety"

The CrossFit Games Open Is Broken, Part 3: Team Competition and Leaderboard Shenanigans


Photos provided by CrossFit LA.