LAST LAP — February

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.

Mariya Lasitskene will have plenty to shout about if she’s denied a U.S. visa again. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

22 Russians Approved For ANA Status

WA says 22 Russians can compete internationally as neutral athletes this season while the Russian federation itself remains suspended. The list:

Women — Dina Aleksandrova (distance), Svetlana Aplachkina (distance), Yelizaveta Bondarenko (PV), Vera Chalaya (400/400H), Polina Knoroz (PV), Mariya Kochanova (HJ), Kseniya Labygina (hurdles), Mariya Lasitskene (HJ), Polina Miller (400), Anzhelika Sidorova (PV), Natalya Spiridonova (HJ/LJ), Anna Tropina (distance).

Men — Aleksandr Buyanovskiy (400), Timofey Chalyy (400/400H), Aleksey Fyodorov (TJ), Ilya Ivanyuk (HJ), Aleksandr Komarov (multis), Artyom Makarenko (hurdles/multis), Vasiliy Mizinov (walks),Valeriy Pronkin (HT), Oleg Spiridonov (hurdles), Yaroslav Tkalich (sprints).

Coe Says No U.S. Visa Problems Expected

After fears expressed by Russian athletes, most notably by high jumper Mariya Lasitskene (who like fellow gold medalist Anzhelika Sidorova wasn’t allowed in the U.S. to compete at Pre post-Tokyo), that they won’t be able to get visas and compete at the Worlds, Seb Coe has given assurances that Russians will be able to travel to Eugene.

“Athletes will be given the right to enter,” said the WA head. “They will be able to obtain visas. This also applies to all other teams. We will be persistent in this matter. The Local Organizing Committee has provided us with guarantees that this process will be carried out in accordance with the established protocol.

As to which of Russia’s 22 authorized neutral athletes would be able to make the trip, Coe said, “There is a lot of work to be done on this issue.”

Asbel Kiprop Eligible To Race Again

Never one to ride off quietly into the sunset, ’08 Olympic 1500 champion Asbel Kiprop, banned since 2018 for a positive EPO test, says he will be back now that his 4-year ban expired on February 02.

The 32-year-old Kenyan policeman, who still maintains his innocence, says his aim is a fourth WC gold to go along with the ones he won in ’11, ’13 and ’15.

He indicates he will be starting with the 800 at the Kenyan nationals on April 06. “I want to begin like an amateur,” he says. “It is going to be a hard time since I have to shed my weight by 5kg [11lb]. I want to post good times and progressively go up the ladder and qualify to represent Kenya again.

“I don’t anticipate any opposition from the Kenyan athletics federation, which have in the past refused to accept athletes who have served major doping suspensions from competing for the country due to the negative publicity that accompanies them.”

WADA Generally Happy With Tokyo Testing

How good was the doping testing program for the Olympics last summer? WADA, for one, is calling it a win. In January the agency published reports from the Independent Observer Team indicating that the program worked well despite the withdrawal of more than 40% of the international doping control officers due to pandemic restrictions.

The collection of more than 6000 samples represented a “robust and comprehensive” effort, according to the chair of the team, despite difficulties accessing the Athletes Village to obtain out-of-competition samples. A total of 6 positive tests turned up.

However, one part of the overall effort was singled out by WADA as lacking — some of the 6 CAS judges at the Games had “an insufficient level of anti-doping knowledge” that shone through in the questions they asked in hearings.

CAS reacted to the complaint with “disappointment,” pointing out the criticism “appears to be based on subjective assessment by an employee of the WADA legal department and has at no point been raised with the CAS ADD [Anti-Doping Division] directly.”

Prosthetics Don’t Give Unfair Aid?

A study claiming that prosthetic legs offer no competitive advantage in the 400 has been published in Royal Society Open Science. In addition, Alena Grabowski, the senior author, asserted that athletes with prostheses had to overcome a significant disadvantage at the start.

The study was initiated when Grabowski was contacted by 400 runner Blake Leeper, in his quest to get WA to reverse its position on the legality of prosthetic legs. The preliminary findings of the study were submitted to CAS in ’20, but the court ruled that Leeper’s devices would remain illegal because they make him too tall.

But according to the new study, athletes with prostheses were 40% slower out of the blocks, had 19% slower velocity and were 1-3% slower on the curve.

The study did note, however, that the fastest of the bilateral amputees can finish the 400 faster than the non-amputees tested, saying, “prosthetic legs may enable athletes to sustain relatively fast velocities for a longer duration than biological legs, despite nearly identical experimentally derived sprint endurance profiles.” Prosthetic legs don’t fatigue?

Leeper assisted financially with the study, funding travel and accommodations for two of the authors.

Pushback On IOC’s Transgender Guidelines

A group of 38 medical experts and health professionals has released a statement calling the IOC’s new transgender guidelines unfair to women athletes.

Part of the IOC stance is that DSD athletes no longer have to undergo hormone treatments to compete in the female category, and that there is no presumption of an advantage placed on higher testosterone levels. The guidelines, though non-binding for federations, will put pressure on sports like track & field to continue to modify their rules.

The statement critical of the IOC appeared in the British journal Open Science & Exercise Medicine. The authors charge the IOC with reversing the ’15 consensus on the issue and putting the federations in a difficult position.

“While having no gender-eligibility rules, sport loses its meaning and near-universal support,” the conclusion reads.
“Athletes should not be under pressure to undergo medical procedures or treatment to meet eligibility criteria. However, if an athlete is fully informed and consents, then it is their free choice to undergo carefully considered or necessary interventions for gender classification for sport to compete fairly and safely in their chosen gender. Free choice is a fundamental human right, but so is the right to fair and safe competition.”

Said one of the authors, “If you create a definition of gender that is based on social rather than biological differences then you effectively destroy the female category.”

American Track League Gets A Title Sponsor

In this space last month we noted “A New & Improved American Track League” for this year. In a major development, the series masterminded by Paul Doyle has taken a big step forward, landing a title sponsor in apparel manufacturer PUMA. The deal is set to run for 3 years.

Said Doyle in announcing the deal in early February, “This partnership has been years in the making and gives vindication to what we have believed all along, that track & field is a viable sports property that should be able to establish and sustain a massive fan following. When a premium brand such as PUMA aligns themselves with our events, it brings instant credibility and I suspect more brands will follow suit.

“Track & field is one of the most beautiful sports. At its core, it is the epitome of performance. The athletes involved are truly the most exceptional athletes in the World. Our job as the premier league in America is to display these athletes in the most entertaining format possible.”

Said PUMA North America President, Robert Philion, “PUMA from the very beginning has been about helping athletes be better and the sport of track and field is the ultimate platform for us to show our value and innovation.”

The ’22 season will kick off with an indoor meet in Louisville which will be televised on ESPN, as will all ATL Premium meets.

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