CrossFit Games

The Devin Ford Controversy and the Top 20 Athletes Worldwide

April 23, 2019 by
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While the verification process is still ongoing for National Champions, CrossFit HQ made official the top 20 worldwide athletes from the 2019 CrossFit Open. With that they announced the a number of penalties — one which caused a massive social media uproar among fans and athletes. More on that in a minute. 

  • The Open leaderboard is set and everyone above the blue line has officially qualified as a top 20 worldwide athlete. 
  • This part might seem confusing. There are a good number of national champions above that line. They will qualify as national champions and not the top 20 worldwide. For example, Mathew Fraser is national champion for the U.S. and Jacob Heppner is qualified in the top 20. 
  • A couple of the big male names: Jacob Heppner, Cole Sager, George Sterner, Rich Froning, Scott Panchik, Jason Carroll, Streat Hoener, Travis Mayer, R. Paul Castillo, Sam Kwant, Logan Collins, Alex Vigneault and Dean Linder-Leighton.
  • A couple of the big female names: Brooke Wells, Kari Pearce, Amanda Barnhart, Mekenzie Riley, Katrin Davidsdottir, Carolyne Prevost, McKenzie Flinchum, Alexis Johnson, Tasia Percevecz, Kristi Eramo, and Haley Adams. 
  • Rich Froning, Tasia Percevecz and Alexis Johnson will probably decline their invites to compete on teams. Technically neither Mayhem nor Team MisFit (Johnson) has qualified as a team yet but that could change starting this weekend at Asia CrossFit Championship. It wouldn’t surprise us if Haley Adams, who is set to compete at the Asia and Reykjavik Sanctionals, accepts and competes as an individual. 

Deep dive: As we noted earlier this month, CrossFit HQ began reviewing more videos week-by-week and assessing steeper penalties during the Open. 

  • CrossFit is holding a tighter standard in the review process with these score corrections.
  • Every athlete we’ve spoken to has agreed with an increase in video verification to ensure that only the best are ending up in Madison, especially since the Open is a direct route to qualification now. If you’re a Games athlete and don’t agree, feel free to drop us a note. 
  • CrossFit Games’ General Manager, Justin Bergh, said that this type of review will be the new norm: “This is what top athletes should expect going forward.”


Which is what makes this next part so controversial and has CrossFit Games athletes speaking out. 

Devin Ford, a six-time East Regional athlete, was assessed a “major penalty for performing only 40 handstand push-ups in 19.3.” He missed the required 50 handstand push-ups by 10 reps. 

  • The “major penalty” was 1 minute, 10 seconds added to his original score of 8:24, which sent his 19.3 score from 15th to 131st worldwide.
  • This amounts to approximately 7 seconds per missing handstand push-up. Comparatively, Rich Froning was assessed a 3-second penalty per missed double-under in 19.2.

CrossFit Games’ explanation: “Ford logged a time of 8:24 and submitted a video of his second attempt at 19.3 for official review that was found to be missing 10 reps. Later, Ford submitted a video of his first attempt with all reps completed and a time of 8:49. Rather than accept the original score, or modify to match his first attempt, officials issued a major penalty on his original submission, resulting in a time of 9:34.”

How Games athletes are responding: Devin Ford posted to Instagram for the first time since April 2015, saying: “I’ve always hated social media. Chicks taking pictures of their ass, dudes showing only their best lifts, and everyone posting fake ass pictures…So no I will not be posting lame ass pictures… I’ll be documenting how I became one of the fittest in the world using science, nutrition and bio-hacked my body to compete in a ring I had no genetic business to be in.” This got a few responses from top competitors.

  • Patrick Vellner: “Don’t forget using blatant rep cutting techniques! ?? #hacktheopen
  • Brent Fikowski: @pvellner I hear this fitness stuff gets a lot easier if you ignore rep schemes and movement standards.”
  • Travis Williams: “Stick to the ass pics and selfies dude. Nobody respects a cheater.”
  • Lukas Esslinger: “You should start a youtube channel. First video should be: My best tricks to do less work in less time.”
  • Adam Klink: “As a coach, fan and competitor of the sport, I feel like the ‘sport’ of CrossFit is losing its credibility. I put the word ‘sport’ in quotes because CrossFit lacks a key element; a specific set of rules for competition…At best, the rules of the ‘sport’ are vague, allowing for CrossFit HQ to handle individual situations in a manner of their choosing as these situations arise…As for those individuals qualifying from the Open, I believe all five videos should be reviewed, but maybe that’s just me…I want to see the continued success of The Games, but at this moment in time CrossFit HQ is jeopardizing the future of the ‘sport.'” Full statement.
  • Dakota Rager:@adamklink I only skipped the last 7 reps of the workout. Can I re-input my score to finish at 15:24? I’ll even allow a small penalty.”
  • Jason Caroll:@fikowski @pvellner wait…so we were not supposed to do all the reps? And if so don’t lock them out? Shiit i gotta re do all 5 workouts…”
  • Tim Paulson: “HQ needs to be the ones to rescind the invite if they want this sport to be taken seriously, and the Open to be seen as a legit qualifying ground and not a place filled with questionable performances.”

Pay attention: Eight top athletes, seven of which are Games veterans, are openly speaking out about this. This is a bit unprecedented. Top athletes are seriously upset about this. 

Adding fuel to the fire: Two-time Games athlete, Tim Paulson told us one of his comments on CrossFit Games’ Instagram post was deleted. We scrolled through and couldn’t find them. He shared the original posts with us:

  • “@CrossFitGames can you explain to us all – if an athlete showed a propensity for poor movement or cheating, were all of their videos requested? Also, any comment why choosing not to perform the workout as prescribed (altering rep count) is a penalty and not an invalidation?” 

While we’re on the topic. 

7:55 AM: This story was updated to include a link to Ford’s 19.3 video.

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