LAST LAP — November

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.

Double Olympic sprint champ Elaine Thompson-Herah has left her longtime coach. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

New Coaching Situation For Thompson-Herah

After dodging swirling rumors for weeks, double-double Olympic sprint champ Elaine Thompson-Herah finally confirmed that she has left noted coach Stephen Francis and the MVP Track Club.

“I want to assure everyone that I have begun my training independently and will continue to do so while I finalize all aspects of my team for the upcoming season,” she said.

ETH had steadily denied the reports that began circulating in late September but staged her first fall workout under the eyes of husband Derron Herah and former world 400 champ Bert Cameron.

She also said, “I remain committed to representing my country and to lead with courage and grace as I am aware that I inspire young women across the world who have dreams and who dare to see those dreams come to pass.”

Dave Johnson Steps Down At Penn Relays

Changes are coming to the Penn Relays organization with the retirement of director Dave Johnson after 26 years at the helm.

In his stead, Penn track/XC coach Steve Dolan will expand his portfolio and take on the Relays as well.

“I am honored by the opportunity to help lead the next chapter of the Penn Relays and humbled to follow Dave Johnson with this responsibility,” said Dolan. “Dave did an outstanding job both developing and leading the Penn Relays over the last 26 years as the event director.”

Johnson brought many innovations to the oldest track meet in the United States (founded 1895), including the USA vs. The World program as well as the Relays’ funding shift to corporate sponsorship.

Prior to moving on to Penn, Johnson was T&FN’s Statistical Editor. He continues to be a part of our World Rankings Panel.

WA Announces 2 Gold Tour Calendars

This year’s Cross Country Tour Gold schedule will feature 14 races (the first few already in the bank), half of them in Spain:

October—16 Cardiff, Wales; 24 Amorebieta, Spain; 31 Soria, Spain. November—14 Atapuerca, Spain; 21 Seville, Spain; 28, Alcobendas, Spain. December—19 Venta de Baños, Spain. January—06 San Giorgio su Legnano, Italy; 09 Elgoibar, Spain; 16 Serradilla, Spain; 23 Hannut, Belgium; 30 San Vittore Olona, Italy. February—06 Albufeira, Portugal; 12 Eldoret, Kenya.

The seventh year of the World Indoor Tour will feature 7 meets:

January—28 Karlsruhe, Germany; 29 New York City. February—06 Boston, Massachusetts; 17 Liévin, France; 19—Birmingham, England; 22—Toruń, Poland. March—02 Madrid, Spain.

Both tours will also have Silver and Bronze levels of smaller meetings.

Flanagan’s Busy Idea Of Retirement

As reported in this space last month, the “retired” Shalane Flanagan set out on a quest to run 6 World Marathon Majors this fall, all under 3:00. With one race remaining in the sequence, she has performed quite nicely:

At Berlin (9/26) she placed 17th in 2:38:32.

At London (10/03) she was the leading woman in the non-elite category, with a 2:35:04.

Then came the big weekend, Chicago (10/10, 34th in 2:46:49) followed by Boston (10/11, 33rd in 2:40:36).

No. 5 was her version of a virtual Tokyo race (10/18), a 2:35:14 with pacing help from her Bowerman TC friends.

She said on Instagram, “I can’t believe I am saying this… but five down, ONE TO GO.”

That would be New York City on November 07.

IOC Won’t Punish Saunders

The case is finally closed on the Raven Saunders podium protest at the Tokyo Olympics. The shot silver medalist, following the ceremony, posed for photographers with her arms crossed over her head, telling NBC that “X is the intersection of where all oppressed people meet.”

The IOC immediately launched an inquiry into whether she violated Rule 50 banning political protests. The USOPC backed Saunders. Within days the IOC put the matter on the back burner with the news of the death of Saunders’ mother.

Now the IOC has released a statement saying it “wrote to Raven Saunders and reminded her that such demonstrations contravene the Olympic Charter and go against the clearly expressed wishes of the vast majority of her fellow athletes, as the consultation process before the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 has shown.

“We have asked her, should she qualify for future editions of the Olympic Games, to keep the rules and the wishes of the athletes’ community in mind and to use many opportunities provided in the [Rule] 50.2 guidelines to express her view at the Olympic Games.”

Nike Oregon Project Case Closed

WADA has shut its books on its Nike Oregon Project investigation, issuing its final report on the matter along with a statement saying, “We are satisfied that USADA exhausted all reasonable avenues to establish Anti-Doping Rules Violations against those involved in the Nike Oregon Project.”

The statement adds, “Excluding Mr. Salazar, Dr. Brown and ‘Witness A,’ our review found there was insufficient evidence to warrant proceedings against any other person.”

That means that no further punishments will be levied against NOP athletes, except perhaps for the curious case of “Witness A.”

The unidentified athlete was suspected of doping violations but also provided substantial help to investigators. The statement notes that in this case, “WADA’s Legal Affairs Department is following up with USADA to ensure the terms of the World Anti-Doping Code are followed correctly.”

It would appear that Witness A struck a deal with prosecutors and is either getting a reduced penalty or none at all, with confidentiality another possible part of the arrangement.

The Latest WADA vs. Russia Chapter

Don’t look now, especially if you were hoping to hear that the long-simmering war between Russia and WADA is finally over. It’s not by a long shot.

In early October, WADA stripped the license from the Moscow lab, citing “the laboratory personnel’s manipulation of data.” The data in question is what WADA investigators had gotten off of the servers at the laboratory in ’19, in the hope of prosecuting more Russian cases.

Investigators found much of the data had been tampered with, and false information was added to falsely implicate WADA’s witnesses.

The lab has been suspended since January ’20, but the latest move had been held up since then by CAS hearings.

The lab decision came a day after Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the Sports Ministry to settle its issues with WADA and WA.

In the same week a major house-cleaning of the RUSADA board saw three members replaced, including the chair. “WADA is concerned with the sudden resignations,” a spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the organization is asking the Russians for an explanation.

NACAC Working On New Elite Series

North America and the Caribbean may soon have their own coordinated circuit of topflight meets. NACAC is working to organize a competition schedule that would give athletes in the region a steady string of competitions from March 15 to June 15.

The committee working on this is headed by USATF’s Duffy Mahoney, and so far has 21 meets on its list. Currently, 6 of the meets take place in the United States.

Said NACAC secretary general Keith Joseph, “What you have right now, for instance at the Diamond League meets, you have to be in the top ranking in the world and those have more points. But increasingly, if we have more events where ranking points are available, then they can make the same amount of points or more than their European counterparts.”

Carter In Hot Water Again

Last month we reported that Jamaican sprinter Nesta Carter was retiring at age 36. The announcement was lacking context that emerged weeks later: Carter, whose earlier drug positive from a retest of his Beijing sample cost his teammates their ’08 relay gold medals, has tested positive recently and is facing a fall hearing.

In his August retirement announcement, Carter said that injuries had hampered him this year. He added that he was being treated for an undisclosed medical condition and said that the medication he needed “breaches existing anti-doping rules.”

Okagbare’s Woes Mount

The legal prospects for Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare are looking more and more grim. Originally popped for human growth hormone in a July out-of-competition test, she later tested positive for EPO.

A third charge she is facing is one of non-cooperation with the AIU investigation. The AIU paperwork says she “failed to comply with a formal requirement to produce relevant documents, records and electronic storage devices.”

While Okagbare has steadfastly denied all the charges, her woes may increase immeasurably with the news that under the Rodchenkov Act, U.S. federal authorities are reportedly investigating the situation. Prior to her suspension, Okagbare was training in Florida. ◻︎

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