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.

Sprinter Kenny Bednarek has found much success in Eugene but asserts its travel and lodging costs are “way out of control.” (VICTOR SAILER/PHOTO RUN)

Paris Venues Won’t Be Selling Alcohol

Zut alors! In the land of Champagne and Chablis the Paris24 venues will be dry?

Under a French law dating back to the ’90s, alcohol is banned from sports stadiums. Organizers of this year’s Rugby World Cup negotiated an exemption, but according to Le Parisien the Olympic people are not following suit.

Beer, wine and spirits will be allowed to be served in VIP and corporate hospitality areas, however. Many fans in France have lobbied for allowing alcohol to be sold at stadia across the country, complaining about the hypocrisy of selling it in VIP areas, but nowhere else.

From The Red Carpet To The Oval

Noah Lyles continues to take to fashion as an opportunity to give the sport of track & field a boost. The world champion sprinter noticed that other sports were getting attention from magazines such as GQ for the outfits they wore walking into stadiums.

“Why aren’t there any track & field people in here?” he wondered. So he started organizing “walk-ins” of some of the best athletes, dressed to kill, all to create that red-carpet buzz for the sport.

“I had to explain what the idea was to a lot of athletes, which I thought was going to be the easiest part, because everyone watches the NBA and NFL, but I guess I’m the only one that pays attention,” Lyles told the New York Times.

At the recent NYC Grand Prix, though Lyles might have been the only athlete to show up at the appointed time for the red carpet walk, he was mobbed by adoring fans.

“It’s really good for the sport,” said fellow sprinter Gabby Thomas.

LAGP Didn’t Impress Michael Johnson

Our February issue had a story titled “Big-Time Track Set For A Return To LA.” The end-of-May meet did feature Ryan Crouser’s shot WR, but sprint legend Michael Johnson had a critical overall reaction to the whole thing. He took to Twitter to express his thoughts:

“This meet was initially announced as a game-changer for the sport. The highlight of that announcement was a music festival, but included no plans to address the obvious problems of the sport. For that reason my expectation for the meet was that it would be no game-changer but actually more of the same.

“3 months prior to the meet, a headline-music-artist few people were familiar with was announced but nothing at all about athletes or matchups.

“Some big-name athletes were eventually announced but quickly pulled out.

“Few major matchups, few big names, athlete complaints, poor date planning. How does an organization plan for a meet to be a game-changer, but instead end up with the meet actually being a perfect example of all the current problems?

“This is not easy but it becomes harder when you make a big announcement about a game changer and you didn’t change anything.”

New Indoor Track Options In Reno & Atlanta?

After almost 20 years without an undercover facility, the University of Nevada is now in line to have a new track in place in the fall of ’24.

The $5M track, expected to be built in Italy by Mondo, will sit in the Reno–Sparks Convention Center in the November–March window. At some 1500m of altitude, the site should be very sprint-friendly.

Says Nevada high school executive director Donnie Nelson, optimistically, “This may be the single greatest opportunity to put Reno–Tahoe on the grand stage as a destination for world-class sports since the 1960 Winter Olympics. This track’s surface and construction will certainly stand the test of time. You will get to witness youth, high school, masters, collegiate, open, world and Olympic track & field champions compete right here in Reno-Tahoe.

“Build this track and Reno–Tahoe will become Indoor Track City USA.”

The ambitious Atlanta TC has undercover plans as well, and not just an indoor track but also a complete $100M facility. The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports the facility would be paid for by a mix of corporate philanthropic dollars, new markets tax credits and community donations, according to the Atlanta TC’s CEO, Rich Kenah.

The facility would be about 200,000 square feet on a 6-acre site. Kenah says he wants the site to be downtown, explaining, “It would be a heck of a lot cheaper and easier to build it in a far-flung suburb, where there is land readily available, but we have a real interest in developing the health and fitness of everyone in Atlanta.”

Bowie’s Cause Of Death Revealed

With the tragic news that sprint great Tori Bowie died from complications while undergoing labor alone, some former teammates have stepped forward and called for more attention to the crisis of maternity care for Black women.

Tweeted Tianna Madison, “As of June 2023… 3 of the 4 members of Team USA’s 4x100m relay team…who ran the SECOND fastest time in history, and brought home THE gold medal…have nearly died or did die in childbirth.”

Allyson Felix wrote in TIME, “We’re dealing with a Black maternal health crisis. Here you have three Olympic champions and we’re still at risk.” She pointed out that CDC data shows the maternity mortality rate for Black women in America is 2.6 times that for whites.

Concluded Madison in an article for Newsweek: “Our babies deserve to have mothers, and we deserve to live.”

Hurdles Or The Gridiron For Allen?

Devon Allen may soon have to make a choice between track and football. He spent his first NFL season with the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad last year, and naturally is hoping to be promoted to the game roster.

However, the World Championships run August 19–27, smack in the middle of the Eagles training camp. The team’s final two preseason games are August 17 and 24.

Allen is putting off making the call for now. “Obviously it’s going be a little bit of a decision, but I’m not going to worry about that until I make the World Championship team. USA is a competitive meet. Just got to focus on doing that first.”

After flying to a 13.04 for 2nd in the NYC Grand Prix, Allen said, “It’s going well. Balancing both is difficult, but I’m having a lot of fun as long as I can stay healthy… We’re ready to go.”

When Under-20 Isn’t A Junior

Luguelín Santos was indeed still just 19 when he won the ’12 World U20 (Junior, as it was called then) 400 title, but sharp-eyed statisticians noted that the young Dominican Republic star was born in November of ’92 and thus turned 20 before the year was out, rendering him not eligible to have run in the meet.

The chickens have finally come home to roost, with the AIU levying a provisional suspension while it investigates the case.

Admitting to having falsified his passport as a teenager, the 30-year-old Santos posted on social media, “I greatly regret what happened at that time, and without intending to evade responsibilities, I want to explain that in those years I was a young man under 18 years of age, with few resources, and little education… who simply followed the guidelines of those who directed me in my sports career back then.”

Big-Name Defections From Kenyan Team

There’s still no end of high-level talent available, but the WC marathons will be missing some of the earlier-named Kenyans.

On the men’s side, yearly world leader Kelvin Kiptum is gone, as is 3-time world half-marathon champ Geoffrey Kamworor. Titus Kipruto remains and will be joined by Timothy Kiplagat and Joshua Belet. Serving as reserves will be Bethwel Kibet and Michael Githae.

Women’s WR holder Brigid Kosgei is gone, as is Olympic silver medalist Sheila Chepkirui. Rosemary Wanjiru remains and will be joined by Sally Chepyego Kaptich and Shyline Jepkorir, with Margaret Wangari and Betty Chepkwony as the reserves.

Said AK’s Paul Mutwii, “It’s their choice and there is little you can do about it. It’s their right to make whatever change they want even without giving us reasons.”

AIU Cautions Against “Drip Therapy”

In early June the AIU retroactively announced 4-month bans for Jamaican hurdler Rushelle Burton and American sprinter Tamara Clark. The bans ran from February 01 through May 30. Both admitted receiving an IV infusion of “more than 100mL in a 12-hour period.” No prohibited substances were detected. In announcing the case, the AIU characterized the violations as “inadvertent and not intentional.”

AIU head Brett Clothier said Burton and Clark’s cases should serve as a warning to athletes: “It is critical that athletes are aware of the rules concerning IV infusions. In this case, the sanctions reflect the fact that the athletes brought the matter to the AIU’s attention themselves, but other athletes may receive harsher sanctions in different circumstances.

“These cases should serve as a warning to all athletes in our sport to take care of what they put into their body.”

Colorado Investigation Wrapped Up

The University of Colorado has released an 82-page report on the body-composition testing that was used by its cross country and track teams, saying that the protocol “negatively impacted a significant number of student-athletes.”

A number of athletes, as well as members of the school’s medical and coaching staff, had reported they felt the testing along with the messages from the coaching staff made the team’s eating-disorder situation worse.

However, the three staffers at the center of the complaints — head coach Mark Wetmore, associate head Heather Burroughs and dietitian Laura Anderson — will keep their jobs. The report notes that new safeguards have been put in place, including third-party reporting of complaints and unspecified personnel action.

In a statement, Wetmore pointed out that it was not a misconduct investigation, and “the inquiry team did not undertake specific efforts to corroborate facts related to incidents or events reported by student-athletes.”

He added, “Some of these unsubstantiated characterizations of events we vehemently deny.” ◻︎

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