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.

At the UW Invitational, no fewer than 8 Husky-affiliated milers broke 4:00 in the same race: Joe Waskom (2183) 3:51.90, Brian Fay (2171) 3:52.03, Nathan Green (2174) 3:52.76, Kieran Lumb (2178) 3:53.83, Sam Ellis (2038—outdoor eligibility only) 3:53.84, Luke Houser (2175) 3:55.98, Aaron Ahl (2163) 3:57.94, Aidan Ryan (2179) 3:59.55. (KIM SPIR)

What Will WA Do For An Encore In 2026?

After an unprecedented 5 straight years of “global championships” (Tokyo21, Eugene22, Budapest23, Paris24, Tokyo25) the ’26 season looked like it would be a return to the “off-year” concept.

Maybe not. In his end-of-year presentation Seb Coe said that WA is working on a plan for a 2–3 day meet that would highlight the world’s top athletes.

“We want to continue work on 2026,” he said, as reported in T&FN last month. “It’s not just a year I plucked out of the ether, it is a year in that 4-year Olympic cycle where we don’t actually have an Olympic Games or a World Championship.

“Someone described it as a ‘fallow year.’ There are no fallow years in athletics. That year we have the European Championships, the Commonwealth Games and area championships.

“But I didn’t want the athletes to slide off the radar screen one year in every four. I wanted them to really showcase themselves.”

He added, “We are still working on the format, and much is to be discussed and agreed upon. But it is taking the sport in the direction we want, which is building the profile for the athletes, providing them with competition opportunities, and unashamedly putting more money in their pockets.

“So there will be a focus on the new format, particularly around prize money.”

How About Nairobi In 2029?

After being beaten out by Tokyo in the bidding for the ’25 World Championships, Kenya confirms that Nairobi is going after the ’29 edition (the ’27 slot remains open).

Said sports minister Abadu Namwamba in early January, “Having lost the bid for 2025, we will prepare for 2029 and we believe we will be in a very strong position to put in a compelling bid. We will be banking on the goodwill from World Athletics. We will come up with a much stronger bid.”

The obstacles for Kenya remain daunting. Last July Seb Coe said, “There were challenges around the stadium which would have needed a great deal of refurbishment.”

Then there’s the continuing parade of doping positives for Kenyan athletes, a disturbing optic that doesn’t go well with being awarded WA’s biggest prize.

Bolt The Victim Of Major Fraud

Usain Bolt’s financial future took a hard hit in January when it was reported that the Jamaican sprint legend had been the victim of theft, to the tune of millions of dollars.

Jamaican authorities are investigating the firm that had been home to Bolt’s funds, Stocks & Securities Limited. An employee at the firm has been implicated in what police are calling widespread fraud.

The employee had apparently reached out to Bolt’s management team to seek help to repay the funds that she had stolen from Bolt and 39 others. Since then, Bolt has fired his business manager, saying that the parting was not amicable.

“I’m not broke, but it’s definitely put a damper on me,” Bolt said. “It was for my future. Everybody knows I have three kids. I’m still looking out for my parents, and I still want to live very well.”

The scandal has shaken the Jamaican government, which has put the Bank of Jamaica in charge of regulating the nation’s financial system, after the resignation of the director of the Financial Services Commission. The government also reached out to the FBI for assistance.

The Best Marathon Fields Ever?

Once again, the London Marathon (April 23) is looking to top the “best field” sweepstakes. In what organizers are calling the “world’s greatest lineup,” the women’s field includes defending champion and 10K recordholder, Yalemzerf Yehualaw, WR holder Brigid Kosgei and Olympic champ Peres Jepchirchir.

Other big notables slated to run are Olympic 5/10K champ Sifan Hassan (in her debut), 1500 WR holder Genzebe Dibaba, former 10,000 WR-holder Almaz Ayana and Berlin champion Tigist Assefa.

Not that the men’s field is less-than-stellar, as 4 of the 5 fastest men in history will line up — only WR holder Eliud Kipchoge (racing Boston 6 days earlier) is missing.

Among the luminaries: multiple Olympic/World medalist Kenenisa Bekele, fastest first-timer ever Kelvin Kiptum, defending champ Amos Kipruto, world champ Tamirat Tola, and hometown favorite Mo Farah. Other notable names include Leul Gebrselassie, Mosinet Geremew, Victor Kipchumba, Geoffrey Kamworor and Birhanu Legese.

Hassan To Make Marathon Debut In London

After winning a pair of golds and a bronze on the track at the ’21 Olympics, what will Sifan Hassan tackle at Paris24? “I am considering my plans, with both the track and marathon options for me,” said the just-turned-30 Dutch star in discussing her coming 26-mile debut.

“However, before I can make a final decision on which direction to go, I need to test myself over the marathon distance and I believe the best place for me to do that is in London with the best female marathon athletes around me. It will be a step into the unknown in many ways for me but I’m looking forward to it.”

Tighten Whereabouts Rules Says Pound

Are some athletes taking advantage of the current whereabouts rules, playing a doping game with the sport? That’s what Dick Pound thinks. A member of the IOC for 44 years, and WADA’s first president, the Canadian hardliner says the rules on whereabouts need to be tightened up.

“There is a game being played with respect to missed tests,” he told in December.

“The whereabouts requirement is a necessary element for any robust out-of-competition testing program. When a test is missed, there is currently an elaborate process of notification that takes far too much time.

“Quite often, an athlete may well be where he/she promised to be, but may not wish to be tested and deliberately does not answer the door.”

He added that WADA “should be able — where such conduct may reasonably be suspected as deliberate — to authorize short-circuiting the process.

“If, on Day 1, it is suspected that such conduct is deliberate, the official should be able to obtain permission to test on Day 2 and if that test is missed, to test on Day 3.
“Three missed tests are deemed to be the equivalent of a positive test.”

Blake Pessimistic About Jamaica’s Future

“Male sprinting is dying in Jamaica,” says Yohan Blake, who at 33 is the senior member of the Jamaican speed set.

“It’s the end of an era in Jamaica,” continued the 4-time Olympic medalist at a mid-January press conference in Mumbai. “The transition from high schools to professional is not easy. When young athletes suddenly get a lot of money, they start losing their way, start partying a lot. I see that happening a lot in Jamaica. It takes them away from the sport.

“Back in the day when we were running, there wasn’t too much technology, no iPads. Our focus was on sprinting. Now, everybody is just sitting on their phones. That’s an issue in Jamaica. We’re losing those kids in that transition.

“I don’t see anybody addressing the problem. Everybody just wants to get some money and leave. The talent is there, but [the challenge is] to harness that talent and give them proper guidance.”

Conflict Of Interest In ’24 OT Marathon Bid?

More than a few eyebrows elevated when USATF awarded the ’24 OT Marathons to Orlando, Florida, after the USATF board had unanimously given an “advisory” vote of approval that the Trials be awarded to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

What gives? It came out that on the day the selection was announced in November, USATF CEO Max Siegel sent a letter to Chattanooga’s organizers, telling them that their bid had been disqualified.

The issue was the role that USATF Board member Jim Estes played as a consultant to the Chattanooga effort. As Siegel said in the letter, “That fact on its face impacts the credibility of your submission to such a degree that consideration of it as a viable bid risks the integrity of the process.”

This despite Estes’s having earlier informed USATF of his Chattanooga role, discussing it with leadership on the phone and recusing himself from Board discussions of the bidding. A USOPC investigation backed the Siegel stance.

Coe As Head Of The IOC?

Seb Coe is keen to continue his role as WA President into a third 4-year term should he win reelection at the Congress in August. But Coe, 66, now says he would at least consider a candidacy to head the IOC when current President Thomas Bach completes his term-limited 12-year stint in 2025.

“I’m not ruling it in and I’m certainly not ruling it out,” Coe told The London Times. “Anybody who takes that role in 2025 needs to be asking some important questions. Does sport really, genuinely, understand the challenge that sits out there before it — its relevance, its salience, navigating the most complicated political landscape while holding out to its moral compass?”

While Coe’s résumé ­— double Olympic gold medalist — chief of the ’12 London Olympics LOC, chair of the British Olympic Association — appears tailor-made, Bach reportedly may prefer that a woman succeeds him. That may put former swimmer Kristy Coventry of Zimbabwe into the role of favorite.

Heptathlete Brooks Suing USATF

It was one of the most-gut-wrenching moments of the ’21 Olympic Trials. Now it’s a lawsuit against USATF.

With temperatures hitting triple digits during the second day of the women’s heptathlon, Taliyah Brooks collapsed and was hospitalized. Now she is suing the governing body for forcing the multi-eventers to compete in dangerous conditions when other events were moved to avoid the heat.

According to the 41-page complaint, “USATF did not respond to protect the health, safety, and well-being of the female heptathlon competitors, despite being well aware of the extreme risks of proceeding with the women’s heptathlon competition during the hottest part of the hottest day on record in Eugene, Oregon. This conduct by USA Track & Field was unconscionable and in disregard of its duty to prioritize health and safety of its athletes.”

USATF’s liability waiver won’t protect the organization from the suit, says Brooks’s lawyer, Bill Bock, explaining, ““We think the law doesn’t permit track & field to set up a condition like that, which prevents its own athlete members from being fully protected.”

WA To Modify Transgender Stance?

While there had been hints that World Athletics might follow World Aquatics and take a hard line on transgender athletes, instead it now appears that track’s governing body is seriously considering allowing transgender athletes to compete against females at all levels.

The news came from a “confidential consultation” that was sent to member federations.

The proposal does include a tightening of regulations for transgender athletes, though. The current cap on testosterone is 5 nanomoles per liter of blood for a year before an athlete would be eligible to compete. The new proposal puts the limit at 2.5 nanomoles over a 2-year period.

Not all are pleased with what they are seeing as an about-face from WA head Seb Coe. Amelia Strickler, the former shot putter from Miami/Ohio who threw for Britain at the WC, said, “The effects of the hormones and hormone replacements are not going to take away that male puberty advantage, and it would leave us women at a serious disadvantage.

“I hope more of us band together to prevent this because it’s going to be the end.”

IOC Softening On Russian Exclusion?

The IOC will “explore a pathway” for Russian and Belarusian participation in the Paris ’24 Olympics.

While athletes of the two nations have been mostly banished internationally over Russia’s invasion and war-making in neighboring Ukraine, the IOC declared in a late-January statement that “no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport.”

Decrying the IOC’s stance, which could precipitate a Ukrainian Olympic boycott, two groups, Athletes for Ukraine and Global Athlete, responded that Russian participation in Paris “will see the Russian state use athletes once more to bolster the war effort and distract from the atrocities in Ukraine.”

Street Meet Planned For Atlanta

For the first time since the ’96 Olympics, elite outdoor track will return to Atlanta. The adidas Atlanta City Games, to be held on May 06 in Centennial Olympic Park, will feature 100, 150, 100H and 110H races on a temporary 150m straight. Pole vault and 600m road events will also be staged along with a mile road race mixing general public and elite pro divisions.

A collaborative effort between Global Athletics & Marketing, past organizers of the adidas Boost Boston Games, and the Atlanta TC, the new meet is heartily endorsed by star GAM client Noah Lyles.

“If the weather is good and the track is hot,” says the world’s top 200 runner, “maybe we will go after a World Record in the 150m.”

Kenya Happy With Transfer Rules

Athletes switching nations has long been a sore spot in the sport. Several years ago, Seb Coe referred to the practice as “akin to human trafficking” in many cases. Since mid-2022, new rules have been in place to slow the practice of federations recruiting new talent from other countries.

One nation that is happy to see the new rules is Kenya, which has been a veritable shopping ground for other federations. Jack Tuwei, head of Athletics Kenya, said recently, “Athletes cannot change their nationality or allegiance in the future unless they first notify the federation and the government. This means similar incidents will not occur in the future. We want to thank WA for listening to us, and we hope that we will no longer meet athletes representing other countries without our permission.”

Among other things, the new rules call for the athlete’s proposed new federation to inform the old one of the proposed transfer, and reveal all communication between it and the athlete and/or agents involved. They are also required to disclose any fees or bonuses that might have changed hands.

The AIU reviews all such applications and then applications that are seen as valid and complete are forwarded to a nationality review panel.

2-Year Ban For Russia’s Litvinov

Sergey Litvinov, hammer thrower son of the ’88 Olympic champion and former WR holder of the same name, is serving a 2-year doping ban after volunteering that he used steroids during his unsuccessful bid to make Russia’s ’12 Olympic team.

Litvinov, with all his marks from the 2012–15 seasons —including a ’15 WC 5th-place — showing now expunged by AIU, admitted drug use in April and May of ’12 via his Facebook page, claiming he had been pressured by the Russian federation to use Turanibol and Oxandrolone.

“The hammer flew on without a good feeling or good technique,” he wrote, asserting that he ceased doping thereafter. “Then I felt that it was wrong.” ◻︎

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