© Copyright – 2017 – Athletics Illustrated
In July, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) will likely approve a motion that the European Athletics Association has proposed. They want to bring in a best practices protocol for ratifying world record performances in athletics.
They want to uphold a standard of pre and post-event drug testing, they also want records to be ratified where the blood and urine samples have been stored, which only started in 2005. Finally, the governing body wants to select events where world records could be ratified based on where the highest standards of officiating and technical equipment can be guaranteed.
The blood and urine storage question will affect world records that are currently on the books that took place before 2005. They may be culled.
English marathon runner, Paula Radcliffe, set the world record of 2:15:25 in April of 2003 during the London Marathon. There are dozens of other records that could be affected.
Radcliffe agrees that something needs to be done but vehemently disagrees with the proposal as is. She told Athletics Illustrated, “I am frustrated and angry that yet again, and very unfairly – the clean athletes are being made to pay a heavy price (after already losing out on moments, medals and income to cheats) because of those athletes who choose to cheat and defraud. I think there are far better ways to restore credibility (such as creating improved testing and investment in testing, global equality of testing, better investigations in cases of suspicion and quicker reallocation of medals to clean athletes.).”
The proposal will do nothing to benefit the sport’s image and will only further confuse a public that is already apathetic about the waning sport.
Instead, the IAAF and regional governing bodies need to look to performances where drugs were apparent and or there was an admittance to taking them or being forced to take them. Furthermore, the IAAF also needs to not just remove highly suspicious world records, but need to reach down into the depths of performances and remove the entire history of drug cheats.
They must invoke a no-tolerance policy and there should be repercussions for all cheaters, coaches, and agents.
Athletes are affected by the depth and breadth of cheating, not just by world records alone. For example, during the 2012 London Olympic Games, more than half of the women’s 1500m field, that raced in the final, have since tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. Athletes that did not make the final were cheated out of an opportunity to race for a medal, by more than just the winner of that event – a world record wasn’t run in that race.
Regarding the 1988 Seoul Olympics 100m final, Ben Johnson’s coach, Charlie Francis provided a stark revelation, “[The 100m final] was an even playing field. It just wasn’t the even playing field that you thought it was.” In other words, everyone cheated.
A glaring example where the IAAF needs to go deep is in the women’s middle distances that took place during the 1990s.There were several records and several more questionable performances by Ma Junren-trained athletes, known as Ma’s Army, of China. At least one of the athletes Wang Junxia wrote to a Chinese journalist at the time. She told him that they were subject to state-sponsored doping. The letter was put away and was never published. This letter became public knowledge in 2016. Additionally, Junren was fired, as six of his athletes tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. This should be enough to go on. In this case, all of the records of performances associated with Ma’s Army should be removed from record keeping.
The records that were set in 1993 and 1997 in China were ridiculous. For example, until recently, Qu Yunxia had held the women’s 1500m record from her Beijing performance in 1993 of 3:50.46. Her performance wasn’t the only one that was suspect. Wang Junxia ran the second fastest time in 1993, with her performance of 3:51.92.
In 1997 Jiang Bo moved into second place in world athletics history, with a 3:50.98. During the same race in Shanghai, Lang Yinglai ran 3:51.34, half a second back, for the third fastest time. There were seven more Chinese athletes that ran top-10 history-making performances in that one meet. That particular event cannot be more suspect.
These performances are yet further tainted by the fact that the athletes had never before nor after ran anywhere near as fast, except Junxia, winning in the 1996 Olympics 10,000m. The performances should have been removed from the books in 1993 and 1997 respectively.
On July 17, 2015, 23 years later, Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba finally broke the suspicious world record with her performance of 3:50:07. The following year, her coach was arrested in a hotel room in Sabadell, Spain, which is located just north of Barcelona. Apparently he was under a month-long, 24-hour surveillance.
To invest at the expense of a month-long, 24-hour per day surveillance and to bust the coach where apparently 22 athletes were located, suggests that the Spanish police had something to go on, especially since they were armed with drug testing equipment – an expensive proposition. When they made the arrest, they tested 20 of the 22 athletes. At least two Dibaba sisters were there. Somehow, magically, Aden and the 20 athletes that were tested got off. Little more has been said since. Mysteriously, Dibaba under-performed during the Rio Olympics due to suffering a foot injury.
In an appalling farce, Junxia set the world record in the 10,000m event in 1993. To set both the second-fastest 1500m and the fastest 10,000m records in the same season is a mockery. It is yet another highly suspicious record. It was preposterous at the time at 29:31.78. Until then, the fastest was 30:23.25 by Norway’s Ingrid Kristiansen, set in 1986. Kristiansen would have finished nearly one full lap behind Junxia for the second fastest time in history. The optics of the performance is off the charts.
Although Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana has not been associated with drugs, she has run a time that immediately set off alarm bells. During the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, she ran solo to improve Junxia’s time down to 29:17.45.
She said, “Three things, number one, did my training, number two, I praise the Lord, he is giving me everything, everything, everything. And my doping is my training, my doping is Jesus. Otherwise, nothing. I am crystal clear.”
Radcliffe, only managed a performance of 30:01.09 in 2002. Does that mean that Ayana is good for a 2:13 marathon?
Some of the records that took place before 2005 were set by East German athletes, where it has been well documented that a regime of systematic doping was in place. There is no question that the East Germans were indeed doping.
The Russians (former USSR and Soviet Union) have proven to have a culture of cheating. Their own Athletics Federation, the All Russia Athletics Federation as well as their anti-doping body, including their head anti-doping doctor have been proven to not only facilitate doping, but to hide positive test results as well as extort their own athletes. The ARAF has been rightfully suspended from global competition. They have at least 14 world records on the books. They should be removed.
The East Germans still have a handful of records on the books. They should also be removed.
The history of obvious cheating has played a large part in the downfall of the once glorious sport of athletics.
“This is confusing to people trying to follow our sport,” shared Radcliffe. “And [it is] insulting to those of us who worked hard and cleanly to achieve marks that we are very proud of. The reasoning is also flawed. I am certain that in 2003 (and indeed well before that) I actually was subject to more out of competition tests and in competition tests than a fair number of the athletes with marks that would replace the exsisting ones from 2005 to the present day.”
The testing today continues to lag behind the cheats as suggested by the recent, over-the-top, world record performances by Dibaba and Ayana.
She added, “The standard of testing is not yet good enough to guarantee no cheat is getting away with it today, so until we reach that point, PR stunts like this should not even be considered. Rather concentrate on investigating the suspect ones and finding proof to stand up in a court of law.”
Shoestrings: This is not the first time that Radcliffe has had to fight to keep her marathon world record official. Her record was under threat when the IAAF wanted to remove it due to the nature of the race, where she apparently was paced by several men, to ensure she did not have to break through the wind.
Radcliffe also owns the third, fourth and eighth fastest times in history with her 2:17:18 in Chicago in 2002, 2:17:42 in London 2005 as well as her 2:18:56 from London 2002.
The news of the new world record ratification protocol comes on the heels of the attempt by Nike to have the two-hour barrier broken by a group of elite athletes this weekend. They include Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, who owns the fourth fastest time in history, which he set at 2:03:05 in London 2016, as well as Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa and Zersenay Tadese of Eritrea.
It is unlikely that the IAAF will ratify the sub-two hour effort if the world record time of 2:02:57 is broken. Kenyan Dennis Kimetto ran the record during the 2014 Berlin Marathon.