Nick Symmonds on his antitrust suit against USA Track and Field and the U.S. Olympic Committee:
It’s about “keep[ing] governing bodies on their toes.”
Nick Symmonds, a two-time Olympian who grew up in Boise, is known in the running world for two things: being fast and being one of his sport's most outspoken and provocative personalities. Since filing a lawsuit against USA Track and Field and the U.S. Olympic Committee, it appears Symmonds' reputation will stay intact.
On Jan. 20, Run Gum, a performance supplement and caffeinated chewing gum company co-founded by Symmonds, filed an antitrust lawsuit against USATF and the USOC, claiming they had created a monopoly on sponsorships because only shoe and apparel logos are allowed on athletes' bodies or attire.
Run Gum sponsored 20 athletes during the 2015 USATF championships, supplying the athletes with branded uniforms and funds to travel to the national meet.
During the competition, Symmonds sported large Run Gum temporary tattoos on both biceps but if the USOC and USATF have their way, none of that will be allowed at this summer's Olympic Trials.
Symmonds told website FloTrack if companies such as McDonald's or Starbucks wanted to pay an athlete $1 million to wear a jersey with their logo on it, the athlete would have to turn it down.
"They can't take that money," said Symmonds. "There is no way for any company, any non-apparel manufacturer, to advertise on an athlete during the Olympic Trials and that's wrong."
Due to his pushback against the rules, Symmonds was left off Team USA for the World Championships after he had refused to sign a statement of conditions limiting athlete-sponsor visibility. Additionally, USATF and USOC have ruled any athlete who makes the national team for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will be required to sign the same statement.
"[USATF] are an entirely inept organization and I don't expect them to have their shit together in time," said Symmonds. "But in the meantime, I am putting my faith in [CEO Max Siegel] and his ability to get things done and have a statement of conditions that has all of its terms defined by the time the Olympic Games comes around."
Until then, Symmonds said he intends to spend the next several months training to make the USOC team for the Summer Games. To stay in top form, he runs 60 miles per week around his Seattle home, but still takes Sundays off to go fishing.
Symmonds said he'll ramp up his efforts in March with a five-week training stint in Albuquerque, N.M. Afterward, he'll travel to Asia for a few early season races to tune up his legs in anticipation of the racing season.
To qualify for Rio, Symmonds will need to finish in the top three at the U.S. Olympic trials, which are held in Eugene, Ore., in early July. Track experts predict an 800-meter run time of 1:44.5—Symmonds' winning time from 2015—is necessary to secure a spot on the Rio-bound Team USA.
Symmonds, whose best time of 1:42.95 was set during the 2012 London Olympics, said he's not worried about his chances in 2016.
"I feel my experience will come through like it always has," he said. "I've made every team I've tried out for and I believe if I stay healthy, this will be no exception."
Symmonds' confidence notwithstanding, he'll have some serious competition this year from a number of American athletes hoping to unseat the reigning U.S. champion. Notable frontrunners include 21-year-old Clayton Murphy, who replaced Symmonds on the U.S. team last year, and 18-year-old Texas A&M freshman Donavan Brazier, who ran the nation's sixth fastest indoor time in his collegiate debut.
Symmonds, who turned 32 in December, said the influx of younger runners in his event doesn't worry him. He'll be relying on the experience gained from winning eight national titles.
"If I got fired up about every youngster who ran a fast time, I wouldn't be able to sleep at night," Symmonds said. "I train to run three rounds. I train to run faster each round and have my best product at the end of each round. It's something that takes a decade, or certainly years, to get right."
Once in Rio, Symmonds will face many of the same international competitors he ran against in 2012, including Olympic champion David Rudisha, who holds the record for the 800-meter. Despite the likelihood of racing the "greatest half miler who's ever lived," Symmonds' goal for Rio is simple: win an Olympic medal.
"At this point I'm only doing it for the medals," he said. "And to keep governing bodies on their toes."