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CrossFit Denies Knowledge of Athletes’ Concerns Over Rope Length at Syndicate Crown

Photo Credit: Courtesy of @baconandprs
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CrossFit is denying they heard concerns were raised about the length of rope for workout three at the Syndicate Crown Semifinal this past Saturday in Knoxville, TN despite both CrossFit’s competition director, Adrian Bozman and CrossFit’s competition liaison being in attendance when athletes raised these concerns.

Remind me: Nine-time Games athlete Scott Panchik, who was competing at Syndicate Crown, said he injured himself during workout 3, stating that he twisted his knee descending to the ground after a legless rope climb, landing onto extra rope on the competition floor. 

  • After the event on Saturday, May 21, Panchik posted to Instagram revealing he “verbally expressed concerns” for athlete safety earlier that morning.
  • After the athlete briefing, Panchik discussed his concerns with Wilson Pak, the event director for Syndicate Crown. “I was told nothing could be done to change the ropes and this is what was provided to be used,” Panchik wrote.

Athlete briefings are a standard procedure for in-person competitions. Before and/or after each day of competition, athletes and key members of the event team are walked through the logistics, standards, and expectations of each workout, which is usually led by the Head Judge.

On Day 2 of the Syndicate Crown Semifinal in Knoxville, TN, athletes were briefed on the flow for Event 3: “2014 Regional Event 5”. It was here that several athletes raised concerns regarding the length of the ropes and the potential for injury with landing on the extra rope gathered on the floor, as confirmed by Ben Smith on the The Coach’s Office podcast.

  • “We had the athlete briefing at 7:30, and they were showing us the rope climbs…the ropes had like a foot and a half of rope on the ground…If you’ve ever climbed ropes for multiple reps you know when the rope is hanging on the ground you can very easily land on it and roll your ankle,” said Smith.
  • “Scott and I both went up to the event organizer and a couple other people who we thought were in charge…we brought it up to three different people in the hopes it would get down to someone that was in charge that could make that decision and we kind of got the runaround three times— mostly it was just ‘not anything we can do about it right now.'”

Panchik and Smith were not alone in their concerns. Individual athlete Haley Adams shared on her Instagram story on May 24 addressing the precautions she took in Event 3. When asked about her ankle being taped, Adams responded: “Taped it bc I was nervous coming down on it and the extra rope on the ground.”

Individual athlete Haley Adams posted precautions she took during Event 3 on her Instagram story.
Photo Credit: Instagram @haleyadamssss

In a statement to the Morning Chalk Up, Andrew Weinstein, the head of Communications and Public Policy for CrossFit, said the following:

  • “Adrian Bozman (Competition Director for CrossFit) and Competition Liaison Becky Harsh were attendees at the athlete briefing, but they did not hear any concerns raised about the ropes, nor were they part of the post-briefing conversation that took place with the Event Organizer regarding the issue. Those concerns were not raised directly with the Competition Liaison or other CrossFit staff, and CrossFit staff was unaware of those concerns prior to the event.”

However, on May 22 CrossFit released a statement on their website from general manager of Sport Justin Bergh, outlining their position on the incident which states:

  • “Unfortunately, Scott’s concerns about the rope climb did not reach CrossFit HQ prior to the event. Ensuring a real-time channel of dialogue and escalation for athletes during events was the reason we created the new Competition Liaison position this season, but clearly there was a breakdown in this situation, and we need to better educate both athletes and event officials on when and how to engage with the Competition Liaison.”

The Competition Liaison’s role and essential duties were described by CrossFit in the Hopper email on May 18: “The competition liaison will serve as a resource for the on-site competition team and will advocate for the best possible athlete experience. The role of the competition liaison is not to directly resolve disputes or issues but rather to ensure they are communicated to the appropriate party and resolved professionally.”

  • “Competing athletes may request the competition liaison to assist with communication with event organizers. Issues may include appeals, schedule discrepancies, warm-up area requests, safety issues, and concerns about competition fairness.”
  • “Competition liaisons will be introduced during the initial orientation brief and will be available at the venue throughout the competition.”

In regards to the Competition Liaison, Ben Smith said “Yeah, don’t know who that is. I think we were introduced to them on Sunday morning (Day 3), but I didn’t go to that athlete brief, so I don’t know.” Smith did not recall this person being introduced to athletes on Day 1.

Ultimately, he says, “It made me really angry… For CrossFit to say it’s anybody’s fault but theirs is absolutely ridiculous.”

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