LAST LAP — December

HERE’S THIS MONTH’S collection of short takes on generally off-track activities that have gone/will go a long way towards shaping the way the sport is headed.

Preparing at age 40 for the Olympic Marathon Trials to be held February 3 in Orlando, Sara Hall is less than thrilled with the event’s newly announced compromise start time. “10 a.m. is not much different from noon,” says Hall, whose concern is the potential for hot weather. (KEVIN MORRIS)

OT Marathon Start Moved Earlier

A compromise has been reached between marathoners and the LOC for the Olympic Trials in Orlando, with the starting time of the early-February 26-milers moved from noon back to 10:00.

Says Rocky Harris of the USOPC, “By making this adjustment in the starting time, we underline our collective commitment with USATF to support our athletes in their quest for excellence. We’ve listened to their feedback and acted accordingly, aiming to create conditions that foster peak performance.”

Still, not all athletes are happy about the new time. Tweeted international veteran Sara Hall, “The last 3 months I’ve worked hard to advocate for a safe and legit race for the 300 athletes lining up. We work our butts off for years for this and we deserve it. 10 a.m. is not much different than noon. The contingency plan is very aggressive & doubt it will move it earlier.”

She added, “Planning to make this team or die trying. The only thing is the latter is actually a possibility.”

In an interesting aside, it was revealed by Sarah Lorge Butler of Runner’s World that as of early November, USATF and the LOC apparently still did not have a signed contract for the event.

New Coach For Thompson-Herah

Less than 9 months before the Olympics, Elaine Thompson-Herah has switched coaches again. The reigning double Olympic sprint champion had worked with Shanikie Osbourne for 4 months. According to her management team, the split was caused by Osbourne’s seeking an “extremely excessive” financial arrangement.

It didn’t take long for the Jamaican star to sign on with Renaldo Walcott, who has coached rival Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce for 3 years. Reportedly the two will train separately. “Out of difficulties grow miracles,” she posted after the Walcott announcement.

ETH, who’ll be 32 in Paris, struggled with injuries this season, failing to make Jamaica’s Budapest team. She later rebounded and won the Brussels DL before finishing 3rd in the DL Final with a seasonal-best 10.79.

Part Of Huntington Case Grinds To A Halt

A federal judge has dismissed the Title IX lawsuit (“Last Lap,” April) against Indiana’s Huntington University — and various officials and coaches — by former athletes who say they were doped and assaulted.

Former Huntington runners Erin Manchess, Hannah Stoffel and Emma Wilson alleged that the coaching staff at Huntington ran an illegal doping program, and that former head coach Nick Johnson sexually assaulted them during massage sessions.

In the ruling the judge did not completely discount the allegations against former coaches Johnson and his wife Lauren, along with assistant Curtis Hines. However, the judge noted that the Title IX suit could not go through if the plaintiffs failed to notify anyone at the university with the power to correct the situation.

Judge Holly Brady ruled, in part, “their factual allegations are insufficient to plausibly claim that the appropriate employees at the University should have known of the sexual misconduct, doping and harassment, let alone they actually knew of it.”

State charges against Nick Johnson are still pending, with pretrial events already scheduled.

Court Agrees With Jeruto’s Doping Explanation

Kazakhstan’s Norah Jeruto, the ’22 world steeplechase champion, has been cleared of doping charges by a disciplinary tribunal.

The former Kenyan was not caught with a banned substance in her samples. Rather, her biological passport showed unusual activity that led to a suspicion that she has used blood doping and possibly EPO.

The argument that prevailed in this case was that Jeruto’s issues with ulcers and a bout with COVID raised “sufficient doubt” that the blood test irregularities were caused by doping.

The Athletics Integrity Unity (AIU) said that it is reviewing the decision before it decides whether or not to pursue an appeal.

Kenya Anticipates Multiple Sanctions

Kenya’s commitment to the drug wars will get a big boost in credibility soon, if the CEO of the nation’s anti-doping agency is on the mark.

Sarah Shibutse says that her agency will soon be releasing a huge list of performers who will be banned. “Over 50 athletes will be put on a list of shame at the end of this month for violating anti-doping rules.”

She added, “At the end of this month, we will sanction numerous athletes… Part of our strategy in fighting the vice as we prepare for the 2024 Olympic Games. We want to send clean athletes to the Olympics to avoid the shame the nation has received in recent major championships.”

Shibutse said her agency is also focusing on athletes who are dodging the testing system. “We are now getting to know their information. We are gathering information about their training camps, their coaches and their managers… More still needs to be done.”

Currently around 70 Kenyans are serving doping bans.

Mboma Eligible For Short-Sprint Return

Christine Mboma, the Namibian sprint star who won Olympic 200 silver in ’21, is planning her return to competition now that she has lowered her testosterone to levels required by World Athletics.

“We will now concentrate on getting her to qualify for the Paris Olympic Games by continuing with her preparation,” says coach Henk Botha.

The 400, 800 and 1500 are off limits to her until she has had her testosterone at 2.5nnmol/l for a minimum of 24 months. The WA guidelines will allow Mboma to compete at 100 and 200 immediately because she was within the previous acceptable range of 5nmol/l.

“She will only be able to compete in the other events in a year and a half from now,” Botha says.

“It was a roller coaster thing because it is all new for us. It is very unfamiliar ground even for World Athletics. But we were fairly lucky to find the golden route. And Christine is doing well and training well.”

The coach had previously claimed that the reduction in testosterone had not affected her at all in training.

Siegel Gets 5 More Years

USATF announced on November 9 that it had renewed CEO Max Siegel’s contract for 5 years, starting in January.

Said board chair Mike Conley, “Following an extensive review process of over a year, the USATF Board Of Directors is delighted to have renewed Max Siegel’s contract with USATF through 2028. Under Siegel’s visionary leadership, innovative thinking and tireless work ethic, our organization has firmly solidified its standing in the U.S. Olympic movement. As we prepare for the next two Olympic Games, we are grateful to have secured Siegel for a 5-year term as CEO and are more confident than ever in his ability to continue leading us to unprecedented success on and off the track.”

Said Athlete Advisory chair Will Leer: “As CEO, Max has reversed the financial woes of USATF and created a strong revenue base which has provided millions of dollars in financial support to athletes.”

Siegel’s salary and compensation for the 5-year deal were not released, but USATF noted that an outside firm had given advice based on its research of similar organizations and industry standards.

Wild Cards For ’24 World Indoor

Like the outdoor WC, the undercover version also has a mechanism for extra entries, but the Wild Cards don’t go to defending champs. Rather, WA’s annual World Indoor Tour is the mechanism.

The first half of the entries won the designated events on the ’23 tour:
•Men—400 Jereem Richards (Tri); 1500 Neil Gourley (GB); 60H Grant Holloway (US); HJ Hamish Kerr (NZ); LJ Thobias Montler (Swi); Hept Karel Tilga (Est).
•Women: 60 Aleia Hobbs (US); 800 Keely Hodgkinson (GB); 3000 Lemlem Hailu (Eth); PV Alysha Newman; TJ Liadagmis Povea (Cub); SP Sarah Mitton (Can); Pent Emma Oosterwegel (Neth).

For the remainder of the individual events (men’s 60, 800, PV, TJ, SP; women’s 400, 1500, 60H, HJ, LJ), Wild Cards will be determined by the results of the ’24 WIT. If a country has two more qualified athletes in an event in addition to their wild card holder, it will be able to send 3 to Glasgow. An exception is made for the heptathlon/pentathlon, where each country will be strictly limited to a pair of athletes. ◻︎

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