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Devon Allen’s false start at the final of the 110-metre hurdles competition during the 2022 Eugene World Athletics Championships was bad for the sport of athletics.

In April, he was signed by the National Football League’s Philadelphia Eagles as a wide receiver.

Allen was signed as a 27-year-old rookie after showing impressive speed during Oregon’s pro day in April. With the world championships over, he is hoping to find a way onto the Eagles roster, despite having not played for six years. He reported to his first training camp with the Eagles on July 26.

World Athletics regulations state that any reaction time within 0.100 seconds of the sound of the gun indicates a false start. Allen was too quick off the start by one-thousandth of a second. It was difficult to tell even during the slow-motion replay.

In the racewalking events, judges must witness with the naked eye, the rule violation when both feet leave the ground.

Racewalking events are typically 20 kilometres to 50 kilometres in length, so comparatively, the 110m hurdles event is short enough that a false start can influence the outcome of a race. In racewalking perhaps not, but why have different rules in regards to relying on technology?

Regardless, one-thousand of a second is too tight. And as witnessed in other sprint events, the blocks can be too sensitive. A false start in the sprints or in some cases multiple false starts can influence the outcome of the race because the tension-filled moment is different. Athletes may not react to the sound of the gun as well, for fear of being disqualified. The so-called advantage may be a wash.

The crowd in a stadium at a World Championships or Olympics Games always reacts negatively to a false start. It’s not good for the sport. World Athletics should amend the rule, perhaps go back to judging by sight.

Meanwhile, the Eagles of the NFL have many dedicated fans, who are likely very curious to see how good Allen may be. Some of the millions of Eagles fans and many more millions of NFL fans may have been watching the World Championships in Eugene. Here, the sport of athletics had an opportunity to capture the imaginations of football fans. If Allen had medalled, news outlets around the U.S. would have shown the replays of the races ad nauseum.

For a sport that is needing to grow its audience, it was an opportunity lost. The attempt of having the championships in the states was to conquer America with the first World Athletics Championships in the country. The meet was in Oregon, the state where Allen played college football, certainly some college football fans from the area may also have been interested.

It doesn’t appear that the sport is trying very hard.

Allen’s final two reaction times were 0.101 and 0.099.

Perhaps he was too good for the sport.

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