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Why is heptahlete Taliyah Brooks suing USA Track & Field?

Whether there is a bigger issue in play or not, the organization’s apparent lack of care is not a good look in the least.

Why is heptahlete Taliyah Brooks suing USA Track & Field?
Patrick SmithAFP

When USA Track & Field hosted the Olympic Track & Field team trials at Hayward Field back in June of 2021, the highest temperatures ever in Eugene, Oregon’s history were recorded.

USATF facing legal action from Taliyah Brooks

According to reports, USA Track & Field is now being sued by heptathlete, Taliyah Brooks who collapsed during the event last summer and was later hospitalized due to heat exhaustion - temperatures stood at 111 degrees that day. “The complaint is asking the court to set aside a clause that USATF is trying to enforce that would prevent Taliyah Brooks from holding them accountable for its negligence,” Brooks’ lawyer Bill Blocke declared. Adding further weight, the complaint goes on to cite USATF’s denial of the Athletes’ Advisory Council’s petition to reschedule the heptathlon trials to a cooler time of the day during the record-breaking heat wave. Additionally, it alleges that the USATF failed to provide an adequate number of staff for the event, provide sufficient medical attention, or have an ambulance on site.

What happened to Taliyah Brooks at the Olympic trials?

On the second day of the seven-event competition back in 2021, Brooks entered the long jump sitting at No. 2 in the overall rankings. On the previous day, she had competed in 108-degree weather and though she felt off, she did her best to hydrate. Then, as she warmed up for javelin, reports indicate that the track reached an astonishing 150 degrees and at that point, Brooks collapsed. Devastated, she awoke a brief time later in an ice tub and began to rage at the realization, that her Olympic dreams had now come to an end.

What do we know about Taliyah Brooks lawsuit?

Speaking about the case, Brooks’ lawyer alluded to the effects that the event had on his client’s career. “Not only did she miss the Olympics, but It really impacted her ability to perform at the level that she had been competing at for probably about another year,” Blocke said. “It really set her career back and she was looking for some assistance from USATF. They said that they were not going to provide her any.” It’s worth noting, that the USATF along with their insurance company, communicated their stance via mail. Indeed, the correspondence reminded Brooks of the numerous release forms she had signed in order to compete, while stating, “Should this claim get into litigation, USA Track & Field will rely on the waiver as one of its defenses.” Incidentally, the aforementioned insurance company also offered their take saying, “USATF was aware of extreme heat conditions on the weekend of the competition finals and took necessary precaution.”

The case according to Blocke is of great significance for all athletes. “This is an important case for the protection of the health and well-being of athletes,” he said. “If a national governing body like USATF can avoid accountability for its negligence as a condition of entry into the U.S. Olympic Trials, then any promise by USATF that it will protect its athletes is empty and unenforceable.”


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