Lolo Jones selection criticized; US bobsled officials defend decision

Was Lolo Jones chosen for the U.S. bobsled team for publicity?.
Was Lolo Jones chosen for the U.S. bobsled team for publicity? (Getty Images)

It didn't take long for the criticism surrounding the choice of Lolo Jones as a member of the United States bobsled team to commence. The decision was announced Sunday; bobsled officials released a statement Thursday night defending the selection.

In fact, USA Today reports that athletes were "shocked" when Jones was named to the team.

"It's hard for me to name one or two athletes that would completely agree with that decision," veteran brakeman Curt Tomasevicz told the paper.

Katie Eberling, who Jones beat out for a spot on the team, believes that the pick was made under somewhat nefarious circumstances, though she doesn't fault Jones.

"I feel this year there was a certain agenda," Eberling told USA Today. "It's no fault of my teammates. There's been a lot of inconsistencies and that makes you wonder what's going on. It's not right."

Eberling will be in Sochi as an alternate.

Speaking with both USA Today and the Associated Press Thursday, U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation CEO Darrin Steele defended the decision.

"We followed the procedure and I'll stand by that decision all day long. It was a really close call. The numbers were close. There's no question about it. That always makes it more difficult. The trending was going toward Lolo and she's a great athlete and at the end of the day that's who we think is a better brakeman for the Games.

"I haven't heard anyone making the argument about Lolo not being a better athlete right now, a better brakeman for the team. I don't think I've come across that one time. I've heard a lot about history and all that's nice. But who's going to provide the best results for the U.S. team in Sochi? That's the bottom line. And I'll have that debate with anyone who wants to have it."

Some, including Selena Roberts, suggest that the choice is perhaps a collusion between NBC and Olympic officials to drum up publicity for the games.

"Now it's clear: This is the two-straw love affair that NBC needed after losing Lindsey Vonn," Roberts wrote in a column for Sports On Earth. "Lolo is the replacement star, the sex appeal sub for the injured ski queen, a hot storyline to ride down bobsled's serpentine track. NBC's convenience is another's conspiracy."

As for that theory, NBC executives said that such a notion was "utterly ridiculous" and "preposterous."

Still, some athletes are bothered by the fact that much of the attention will be on Jones, not the team as a whole.

"We're returning gold medalists and not getting much PR because all the bobsled attention is on Lolo," Tomasevicz told USA Today. "It brings a lot of attention to the sport which can be a good thing, but I'm not just sure who is benefiting from that attention."

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