KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — A U.S. bobsledder who was not chosen for the Sochi Games calls the selection process “corrupt” and questions why Lolo Jones received a spot on the women’s Olympic roster.
Chuck Berkeley, who made the 2010 Vancouver Games team and was on the World Cup roster this season, said the teams for Sochi were chosen based largely on an athlete’s popularity. He added that some sliders were favored over others with better credentials and that the USA-3 women’s sled Jones is pushing at the Olympics would fare better with someone else in her spot.
“I get that people want to latch on to a media sensation and run wild,” Berkeley told The Associated Press, referring to Jones. “But it comes down to this: There are athletes who deserve to be there who are not there, on the women’s and the men’s sides. And you have to ask yourself why is that the case. What is wrong with the selection process? Why is it flawed? Why is it corrupt?”
After hearing of Berkeley’s remarks, U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation CEO Darrin Steele told AP on Wednesday that he stands by the team selections. He also noted how certain athletes who did not get picked for Olympic spots, like Katie Eberling, were able to accept roles as alternates and help the team in Sochi.
Eberling’s omission was pointed out in a tweet by Berkeley on Tuesday night, where he said that the USA-3 sled would be better if she was in the second seat. Berkeley did not mention Jones in that tweet, though the jab toward Jones — always a lightning rod for critics — was thinly veiled at best.
“From my personal experience with Lolo, she’s had a very bad attitude,” Berkeley said.
He tweeted that he hoped the “marketing dollars” were worth the decision to put Jones on the Olympic team, though later clarified to AP that he thinks the attention the two-time Summer Olympian has brought bobsledding is a good thing.
U.S. officials have said that Jones’ inclusion on the Olympic roster has not led to any sponsorship opportunities for the federation.
“The men’s and women’s teams, we kept our distance from each other this year because of Lolo Jones,” Berkeley said in an interview hours after the initial tweet. “For no other reason. We like everybody else. It was because of Lolo Jones.”
Jones and Jazmine Fenlator were 11th after Tuesday’s first two runs of the women’s bobsled event. They had the fifth-fastest average push times in the field on the opening night, and the other two U.S. sleds were in gold and bronze medal positions at the midway point of the competition.
Berkeley also had harsh words for U.S. coaches, calling them “complete idiots” without referring to any by name.
Berkeley, a push athlete, said he thought he should have made the Sochi team, and he does not plan on sliding again for the U.S. unless the federation makes major changes in leadership and coaching.
“I’ll just say this: Cory Butner has never won a World Cup medal in his entire career as a driver without me in the back of his two-man sled, ever,” Berkeley said. “So how does Chuck Berkeley stay home when that’s the case? It’s just weird. I’ve won medals before Cory Butner in two-man. It’s strange to me that certain individuals who don’t meet all the criteria points … but someone else is going to go over you. At what point is the USBSF held accountable?”
Butner raced in the two-man competition at Sochi with Chris Fogt, the reigning U.S. push champion, in the back of his sled. They finished 12th.