Competitive Dishonesty in the CrossFit Open: Who Is at Fault?
When it comes to this whole CrossFit Games Open 15.1 and 15.1a debacle, I am sorry to break the news, CrossFit friends, but we’re all to blame. Granted, CrossFit HQ is holding the biggest piece of the dismembered corpse, but affiliate owners and athletes all buried a limb somewhere.
Sorry about the dead body analogy. It seems oddly apropos.
The Sandbagging Blame Game
For those of you whom have been distracted by the blue and black dress and don’t know what is going on, let me fill you in. When CrossFit announced 15.1 and its companion 15.1a, they apparently failed to recognize the fact that a number of affiliates would actively participate in a sandbagging process.
As you know, with various boxes being comprised of every class of athlete, from huge weight-movers to bodyweight gladiators, some saw fit to maximize their scores on 15.1a by having the strongmen do a single rep on the triplet, to leave them fresh for the strength piece, thereby allowing them to maximize. In essence, the weight-movers would concentrate on and perform well on the clean and jerk, and the gymnasts would crush the metcon. Thus allowing each team to have all of their best athletes contribute scores.
"We want to do well. That’s our human nature. We want the cheers. We want to see ourselves on the leaderboard."
This CrossFit rope-a-dope apparently caught CFHQ totally off guard. So much so that they needed to quickly issue a statement, which said, in part:
After seeing several cases of team competitors blatantly ignoring the triplet in order to focus solely on lifting heavy, CrossFit Games organizers have decided to invalidate the efforts of more than 20 athletes whose performances clearly strayed from the intent of the two-part workout.
Didn’t see this one coming, eh, guys?
The reaction from the CrossFit community at large has been all over the board. It ranges from those outraged that CFHQ changed the rules mid-stream, to those who want affiliates who harbor sandbaggers to be pulled from the competition, and everything in between. So let’s parse the culpability to see what we should be feeling here. Anger, disappointment, shame, guilt, or plain ol’ disinterest?
I can’t help but think that some hapless intern in a CrossFit Games planning meeting raised his hand from the back of the room and said, “But what if someone sandbags the metcon to get a better score on the lift?”
Intern is never heard from again. Family receives a delivery of raw fish wrapped in a plain brown wrapper.
Okay, so that’s unrealistic, but here is a realistic probability: Dave Castro doesn’t give two shits about the team side of this sport, which is why he never considered a possible team impact when designing it. He designed this workout for Froning and Frazier. The star-studded showcase that is the “Open Announcement” now has to factor in things like “does it make good TV” and “does it play to the wheelhouse of these two athletes” over a more practical “is this a good test of fitness,” “will this work for individuals, teams, scaled, etc.,” and “what are the possible scoring pitfalls of introducing this new twist”?
They missed this flashing yellow caution sign because there are now too many distractions to producing quality fitness tests. TV schedules, making sure the behind-the-scenes documentary is being filmed, dress rehearsals, and the like. Instead of creating the workout and then coopting two volunteers to do it, like back in 2011, the production comes first now. As such, production dwarfs the test itself, which is why this most recent blunder was not caught. Fail to take into account the team dynamic, and you leave yourself open to this.
HQ BLAME Factor: 10
Look guys, I know what the rules didn’t say. There is a lot of social media chatter about HQ changing the game when athletes were acting according to the rules. However, pleading ignorance because the rules did not specifically state that you can’t do something reminds me of this classic Seinfeld scene:
Just because the employee handbook doesn’t say you can’t have sex with the cleaning lady on the desk in your office, doesn’t mean it’s okay. Similarly, just because the rules didn’t state that you can’t let your gym’s Klokov do a single toe-to-bar then throw up a crushing 450lb clean and jerk, doesn’t mean it’s okay.
I would submit that the affiliates, good ones, who are on the top end of the competition spectrum, knew that this was gaming. Granted, a huge loophole appeared in the system and it appears that dozens, maybe hundreds of boxes, drove a truck right through the gaping rift.
"Dave Castro doesn’t give two shits about the team side of this sport, which is why he never considered a possible team impact when designing it."
Moreover, I have no doubt that any competitive box who saw other boxes doing it was not going to stand on principal and watch their regional dreams be dashed while other boxes used this bug to their advantage. It’s like looting during a riot. You know it’s wrong, but you’re not going to be the only one who doesn’t get a VCR, goddamn it.
Then again, you know what else the rules don’t say? They don’t say you can’t wear clown shoes for toes to bar. But we all know better. I hope.
Affiliate BLAME Factor: 5
Ultimately, it trickles down to us. We want to do well. That’s our human nature. We want the cheers. We want to see ourselves on the leaderboard. We want, sometimes more than anything, to appear in that little pop-up box that shows the top three names when you hover over your team’s name.
The desire to be recognised, to be on top, can sometimes trump the voice in your head that says what you’re about to do is tantamount to wearing clown shoes or having sex on the desk with the cleaning lady. Bottom line: a lot of people didn’t say no.
Athlete BLAME Factor: 3
In this particular instance of competitive dishonesty, who do you find to be the most responsible for wrong-doing? Respond in the comments below:
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