© Copyright – 2019 – Athletics Illustrated

The world record for the 1500-metre distance is 3:50.07, as set by Ethiopian Genzebe Dibaba in July of 2015. She bettered Qu Yunxia’s time of 3:50.46 from 1993 – a time that is highly suspicious, as she was a member of Ma’s Family Army camp, which was a group that was suspended due to six of 27 athletes failing blood tests around the Sydney Olympic Games. The next three fastest 1500m performances all-time were also by Ma’s Family Army. The “Ma” is Ma Junren a controversial coach who was dropped by the Chinese Olympic team due to doping his athletes.

In 2016, Wang Junxia, a former 10,000m world record holder said that she told Tencent Sports (media) that she was part of a state-sponsored doping program, not unlike the Russian systematic doping program, which after an investigation received a national ban which continues today.

Yunxia’s time was only bettered during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games by Ethiopian Almaz Ayana, who after the win said: “my god is my doping.” Her time was 29:17.45, while Yunxia’s was 29:31.78. Ayana not only bettered the dirty record from 1993, but she also destroyed it by 14 seconds.

When Dibaba broke the 1500m record, it was a relief that she knocked the dirty, Ma’s Family Army, record off the books, however, she too has been associated with a coach with questionable practices. Somali, Jama Aden was busted after a month-long surveillance in Sabadell, Spain. He was caught with drug paraphernalia. At the time, 20 of 22 athletes were tested for performance-enhancing drugs. Apparently the investigation continues.

Dibaba hasn’t run as well since.

So, based on the Aden arrest and Junren’s doping program, the five-fastest 1500m performances all-time are highly suspicious or confirmed dirty by the athletes themselves.

The seventh-fastest performance all-time is by Russian Tatyana Kazankina from 1980. She ran 3:52.47. Her career came to an end when in 1984 she refused to take a drug test.

The eighth-fastest performance all-time was by another Ma’s Family Army member Yin Lili from 1997 at 3:53.91. The ninth-fastest, Paula Ivan, has had no suspicious activities connected to her, however, the 10th fastest has, who is yet another Junren athlete in Lan Lixin from 1997, she ran 3:53.97.

The 11th fastest is Dibaba again.

So it is no surprise when 10 of the top-11 performances all-time are questionable that Sifan Hassan’s 2019 IAAF Doha World Athletics Championships performance is clouded in controversy. She ran the sixth-fastest time in history – a performance that lands right smack in the middle of 10 performances that are most likely dirty. While the field of athletes behind her were straining, she appeared to breeze through the line and capable of so much more.

Hassen has also been associated with a coach that has been accused of doping his athletes. Alberto Salazar of the Nike Oregon Project (NOP) was suspended for four years just days before Hassan’s jaw-dropping performance, where after 1100m; she completely dusted a world-class field in a breezy effortless run – seven days after winning the gold medal in the 10,000m. In that race, she finished the final 1500m in 3:59.09.

Hassan dropped the pace from the beginning and wound it up to spread the field over the final 200m.

As she was running down the finish straight the race announcer was saying, “Never in the history of the world championships, never in the history of the Olympics, has a man or a woman won both the 10,000m and the 1500m.”

She also ran a preliminary qualifying 1500m race followed by a semi-final race, that’s four races in seven days, two of which are of all-time great performances.

In that final 1500m race, fourth-place finisher Shelby Houlihan of the US, ran the 16th fastest 1500m all-time and a national record.

“Yeah, I thought I could run that fast,” she said. “I just didn’t think it would go at that speed and honestly after her (Hassan’s) other races, I honestly thought it would be someone else that would win.”

Faith Kipyegon of Kenya who won silver ran the 12th fastest performance all-time and set a Kenyan national record.

Three national records were set in the race; Hassan’s was also a Dutch record, but not Ethiopian, she was running for The Netherlands and Dibaba owns that one still. There were three more personal bests and three more season bests.

Canada’s Gabriela Debues-Stafford, who had improved the national record twice this summer with a 4:00.26 and a 3:59.59 to become the first Canadian to break the four-minute barrier, destroyed her own record with a 3:56.12, to finish only sixth. For Debues-Stafford, it is unlikely that she imagined running that fast this year.

American Jenny Simpson is a three-time World’s medallist in the event. All three medals including gold in 2011 and a silver in 2017 were run over four-minutes. In Doha, she finished eighth in 3:58.42.

Saturday’s final was a four-second personal best for Hassan.

Hassan joined the Nike Oregon Project in 2016. During the 2019 season, she accomplished six new personal bests. In addition to her 1500m performance, she ran the mile in 4:12.33 – a world record, 3000m in 8:18.49 sixth-fastest all-time (top-5 were all Ma’s Family Army), 5,000m in 14:22.12 (17th all-time), 10,000m in 30:17.62 (16th all-time), 5K on the road in 14:44 (world record) and the half-marathon in 65:15 (12th all-time).

Hassan said after the race, “I am clean. Do people think that I don’t get tested? I get six a month or five weeks. I am constant, I have been a top athlete since 2014, I have been constant (consistant). When people are clean, they always improve and they are always constant. Come test me every single day, every day. I believe in clean sport. I am always clean. I will be clean. I believe in Alberto, he always works hard.”

Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Marion Jones, and countless others have also never tested positive.

Her statement on consistency since 2014 is not exactly accurate. Yes, she has been an international level athlete since 2014, however, her 2019 5,000m best of 14:22.12 is 37 seconds faster than her 2014 time of 14:59.23. Her 3000m best of 8:18.49 is nearly 50 seconds faster than her best up to 2014. Her outdoor mile is 17 seconds faster, while her 1500m is just over five seconds faster, which is significant for that distance.

New Zealand’s Nick Willis, a long-time, top-level 1500m runner summed it up in a tweet with this:

“I know absolutely nothing about Sifan and her training. But how are we supposed to celebrate two of the most incredible track performances EVER, when her coach (the man has taken her from being one of the best to the greatest ever) has just been handed a 4-year suspension?”