LAST LAP — January

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.

Christian Coleman will be eligible to defend his world sprint titles indoors and out in ’22. (MIKE SCOTT)

WA’s Indoor Tour To Expand In ’22

With 38 meets set to be staged in 14 countries, World Athletics will be bigger than ever in ’22. The meets will be in 3 tiers, with differing compensation: Gold (at least $7000 in prize money for each event, including $3000 to the winner), Silver (at least $30,000 total and $4000 per event) & Bronze ($12,000 & $2500).

The Gold-level meets will also have 11 scoring events, whose prize is a $10,000 bonus as well as a Wild Card to the World Indoor in Belgrade in March. This year’s events: men’s 60, 800, 3000/5000, PV, TJ, SP; women’s 400, 1500, 60H, HJ, LJ.

The 7 Gold meets: January — 28, INIT Indoor (Karlsruhe, Germany); 29 — NYRR Millrose Games (New York, New York). February — 06 New Balance Indoor GP (Staten Island, New York); 17 — Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais (Liévin, France); 19 — Müller GP (Birmingham, England); 22 — Copernicus Cup (Toruń, Poland). March — 02 Villa de Madrid (Madrid, Spain).

Christian Coleman Free To Run Again

He’s back. Christian Coleman, the reigning world dash champion indoors and out, is no longer suspended. He’s set to make his return to competition at the Millrose Games in a high-end head-to-head with Olympic Trials winner Trayvon Bromell.

An 18-month ban for whereabouts failures caused the Tennessee alum, now 25, to miss out on the Olympic year. He became eligible again on November 13.

To ensure he doesn’t run afoul of the testers once again, he told Gene Cherry of Reuters, “I think it comes down to being more responsible. Those are the rules and I just have to do better.”

The return to the track will be big for him, he added. “It will be emotional to get out there and finally display my talents again. I want to win. I think I have a higher standard for myself than just being back out there and being average. The ultimate goal is to be ready for the World Championships.”

Coleman is the owner of the four fastest indoor 60 times in history, topped by his World Record 6.34, set at altitude.

Coe Optimistic About XC In The Games

Seb Coe’s bid to bring cross country racing back to the Olympics may have fallen short for Paris ’24, but the WA president feels the situation looks good for Los Angeles ’28.

“We got quite close for Paris 2024,” he said in mid-December. “I sort of accepted the rationale that this probably wasn’t the time to add new disciplines into the Olympic world at that point, particularly with COVID, with the extra costs and resource implications. We agreed to park it.

“But the conversations that have taken place with the IOC and also now with the Local Organizing Committee in Los Angeles do mean that the door is open. It does look highly likely that if the door remains open and we do land this that it would be 2028 Summer Games that will be our first opportunity.”

Coe maintains, however, that ultimately cross country is a better fit for the Winter Games. “From a personal perspective, I tend to think cross-country sits more comfortably in the Winter than the Summer Games. I have been told by the IOC in the past that you can only have a winter sport that’s done on snow and ice.

“I’ve not been that aware of recent Olympic Games where there has been an abundance of snow and ice anyway.

“I’m slightly tongue-in-cheek here, but I also think it would add to the diversity of the Winter Games, that does tend not to have representation from a large part of the world, for obvious reasons. I think cross country would help with that.

“I am nothing if not relentless and I am not coming off this agenda,” he concluded.

An Investigation Into Nike/USATF Relationship?

If a federal criminal investigation into the relationship between USATF and Nike sounds like a big deal, that’s because it would be. According to reporting by Runner’s World a DC grand jury has subpoenaed documents relating to the financial ties between the two organizations, some dating back to ’12.

Recall that Nike and USATF signed a 23-year sponsorship agreement in ’14, purportedly worth $19 million a year. USATF CEO Max Siegel called it a “game changer” but some insiders criticized the deal for being too long-term in a rapidly changing sports economy.

Bevilacqua Helfant Ventures LLC was also named in a subpoena. The firm, run by the two former Nike employees who negotiated the USATF/Nike deal, took in over $23 million in commissions to be doled out through ’39.

Another subpoenaed entity, says RW, is Matchbook Creative, an Indianapolis marketing firm that had once called itself a Max Siegel company.

A Break From Running For Allie Ostrander

At age 24, Allie Ostrander has decided to step away from pro running, at least for now. She announced on Instagram that she is ending her contract with Brooks. The 3-time NCAA steeple champ for Boise State has been with the shoe company since ’19 but has been troubled by injuries, and earlier this year revealed an eating disorder.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision because my passion for running and competition is as strong as ever,” she wrote. “However, the string of injuries that I experienced throughout the last year and a half has made it evident that my body cannot currently handle the volume and intensity of training that is necessary to be a professional runner.

“I didn’t realize the toll that it was taking on me until I reached my breaking point. So it’s time for me to do what I should have all along: put my mental and physical health first. This isn’t me retiring from professional running, it’s just me taking a step back.

“I’m making this decision in the hope that some time to heal and become stronger will let me train at a high level when I return.”

DL Field-Event Protocol Revised Again

For ’20 & ’21 the Diamond League used a “final 3” format for the throws and horizontal jumps. Only the top 3 after 5 rounds competed in the sixth, and marks from that round only were used to determine final placings. Fans and athletes alike seemed generally united in their opposition to the methodology.

That unpopular bit will be gone in ’22, but there will be another innovation regarding jumping/throwing order, with athletes being seeded coming in.

For rounds 1-3 they will perform in inverse order (top seed going first).

For rounds 4 & 5 the athletes will be reseeded according to placings in the first 3 rounds.

After a short break, estimated at 2:00, all other action in the venue will stop for round 6, which will feature the top 3, again recast into inverse order after round 5 standings.

Says DL CEO Petr Stastny, “We are delighted to have found a revised format that all stakeholders in our 1-day meetings support.”

One practical effect — with the jury obviously being out on whether it’s good or bad — is that the day’s top performer will be “forced” to take a sixth attempt instead of passing.

Hansons Sweeps At USATF Club XC

When the USATF Club Cross Country Championships were proposed, it was the hope that many of the top American distance runners would take part. While it may not have turned out that way, one club that does take the competition seriously is the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project.

The Michigan-based crew swept both open titles at the December contest in Tallahassee. In the women’s race, Natosha Rogers pulled away by halfway and led Hansons-Brooks to the win with her 19:42.0 over 6K. Carrie Verdon (Team Boulder) came in 2nd at 19:46.6 and Annie Rodenfells (BAA) was 3rd in 19:48.4. Hansons-Brooks scored 27 to Atlanta TC’s 63, with 21 other teams scoring.

In the men’s 10K, Frankline Tonio of Nike triumphed over Zachery Panning, 30:14.6–30:17.3. However, Panning’s 2 points helped Hansons-Brooks to a score of 44, well ahead of Nike Bowerman’s 115 and 33 other teams.

Another Shot At A National Track League?

Those who think the salvation of American track & field will be a league where top talent competes for regional teams get to have another go at it in ’22, as the Track & Field League (TFL) will debut, if all goes to plan.

Kevin Stephen, the former Southern Mississippi coach, is developing the league, and says he has funding commitments from three Fortune 500 companies. Former Oregon star Jasmine Todd has been working to recruit athletes.

So far 8 squads are projected: Alabama Freedom, Arkansas Passion, Illinois Justice, Kentucky Dream, New Mexico Unity, Texas Fire, Virginia Inspiration and Washington Liberty.

The organization’s website shows a robust schedule, with 7 indoor meets leading to a championship February 13-14 at Chicago’s Gately Park facility. The outdoor schedule shows 13 meets in addition to a championship on September 3-4.

A scale of athlete appearance-fees offers $4000 for regular-season meets, $6000 for semis and $10,000 for the championships. In addition, prize money is promised as well, with $10,000 for a win in the championships.

Russian ANAs Capped For Major Champs

WA has released its strict new guidelines for Russian athletes seeking to be named Authorized Neutral Athletes (ANA). Russia will be limited to a total of 20 athletes eligible to compete in major international champs in ’22. No roster cap applies to other international competitions, including the World Junior (U20) Championships.

The half-dozen meets in question: WA Walking Team Champs, World Indoor, World Outdoor, European Champs, WA Half-Marathon Champs, and the Euro XC Champs.

Once the Russians name the 20 athletes, they cannot make substitutions. The Doping Review Board may require these athletes to get additional testing. Any failure to comply with the WA requirements means the roster of 20 will be slashed by 25% for each infraction.

In general, WA is requiring ANA athletes to have been tested out-of-competition without notice three times in the preceding 12 months, all of the tests at least three weeks apart.

A Grant Holloway/Rai Benjamin Match Race?

Talk is brewing of a challenge race over the rarely run 200 hurdles for barrier silver medalists Grant Holloway and Rai Benjamin. Originally suggested by coach Tonja Buford-Bailey, the idea seems to have traction with the principals, with Holloway tweeting, “Anything for you mommy,” and Benjamin adding, “1.5 Mill… get the sponsors in the chat.”

No firm details have been set yet — indeed, it’s not even clear that this has gone beyond the friendly banter stage. Though the banter is where this gets fun — Benjamin and Holloway are glib, charismatic performers who appear to get along quite well.

Whether a 200 hurdle race is the best match point is open for debate. Both Benjamin and Holloway have terrific range that extends into the other’s “territory.” Benjamin has run 10.03/19.99 for the sprints, while Holloway has run a 43.75 leg on the 4×4.

RIP: Lamine Diack, 88

Once the most powerful man in the sport, then a disgraced criminal, Lamine Diack died in Senegal, in December at the age of 88.

A world-class long jumper — 25-¾/7.63 in ’58, 25-4/7.72w in ’59 — he became a politician and sports administrator and in ’99 was elected to the first of four terms as head of the IAAF (now WA). He was also an IOC member.

Various ethics investigations into Diack found allegations of bribery dating back to ’93. In ’15 he was charged with corruption and money laundering for a scheme that covered up Russian doping positives in exchange for payoffs. He was placed under house arrest by French prosecutors. In June ’20, he was found guilty, along with his son, Papa Massata Diack, and sentenced to 4 years.

Diack never saw the inside of a jail. He remained on house arrest until the French released him on bail last year, ostensibly because of his deteriorating health.

The only acknowledgement of Diack’s death from World Athletics was a one-sentence statement: “Following confirmation from the Confederation of African Athletics, we note the death of Lamine Diack, President of the IAAF from 1999 to 2015.”

SafeSport Says Alberto Salazar Is Out

Alberto Salazar’s coaching days have come to an end, at least in the eyes of the Olympic movement. The 63-year-old former Nike coach lost his appeal with the U.S. Center for SafeSport and is now banned for life from coaching.

This is in addition to the 4-year ban he is serving for violating the anti-doping code. He lost his CAS appeal on that one, which will expire in September ’23.

The SafeSport ban, which had originally been tagged for “Sexual Misconduct; Emotional Misconduct,” is now in the database only as a sexual misconduct charge. No details are forthcoming; SafeSport will not comment in order to protect the reporting process and the victim(s).

Note that the SafeSport ban doesn’t have the legal reach to keep Salazar from coaching at the high school or college levels, however unlikely those prospects may seem.

New WA Rules On Shoe Heights

In July of ’20 the international governing body took action to reign in high-tech shoes somewhat. For shoes worn in the 800 and up the “stack height” was limited to 25mm. For events shorter than 800m the limit was set at 20mm. Road shoes could go as high as 40mm, and XC was set at 40mm for flats, 25mm for spikes. The 20mm rule was applied to all field events save the triple jump (25mm).

All that will change as of November 01, 2024. Under greatly simplified restrictions, all track and all field events will be limited to 20mm, spiked or not. Road shoes will retain the 40mm limit and XC will be at 40/20.

In explaining why athletes will be able to use larger heights for 3 more seasons, WA said, “This timeline was agreed to give manufacturers sufficient notice following the significant investment they will have made into spike shoes with a sole thickness between 20 and 25mm.” ◻︎

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