LAST LAP — October

Here’s this month’s collection of short takes on generally off-track activities that have gone a long way towards shaping the way the sport is headed.

Seb Coe ran unopposed in being elected to a second term as IAAF president. (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

IAAF Elections: Coe Confirmed As President, Restrepo First Woman VP; Banks Gets A Council Seat

One of the sport’s first orders of business in Doha was for the IAAF Congress to stage elections. Running unopposed, Seb Coe was given a second 4-year term as head of the international governing body. “It’s been a tough 4 years; there is no point in being naïve or coy about that,” said Coe. “I am pleased to have gotten here having implemented everything we said we would do and I want the next 4 years to be the fun bit really.” A bit of history was made when Ximena Restrepo, the ’92 Olympic 400 bronze medalist for Colombia, was elected as the organization’s first woman VP. Reforms adopted in ’16 mandated minimum gender targets and Restrepo, the NCAA 400 champ while at Nebraska, will be one of 8 women on the powerful IAAF Council. Vault legend Sergey Bubka was reelected as Senior VP.

Willie Banks, who replaced Stephanie Hightower as the U.S. candidate for Council, was successful in his bid and told the San Diego Times it’s the highlight of his career: “A lot of people would say ‘Oh, the World Record’ … [or] ‘Oh, he invented the clap.’ All these good things that happened to me were terrific, but to be able to win this and actually make an impact on the sport that has given me everything… now I finally get to pay back by giving some of the experiences and ideas and hard work that the sport deserves.”

Some Marathoners Not Thrilled By Sub-2:00

Eliud Kipchoge’s historic 1:59:41 run in Vienna didn’t sit well with everybody in the 26-mile family. American Ryan Hall posted on Instagram, “With all due respect to Kipchoge, as he is clearly the greatest marathoner of all-time regardless of the shoes he is in, when a shoe company puts multiple carbon fiber plates in a shoe with cushion between the plates it is no longer a shoe, it’s a spring, and a clear mechanical disadvantage to anyone not in those shoes.” Former WR holder Steve Jones, who found it to be “good theater or circus style drama” told the Staten Island Advance, “It’s a bit like Evel Knievel jumping the Grand Canyon or someone eating 100 hotdogs in 10 minutes.” And 2-time Boston winner Geoff Smith told the same paper, “I am not that interested in contrived events, always believing that more respect is gained by achievements in real races, but that’s just me. The sport has lost its soul and the pure need to run.”

HS Star Williams Cleared Of Doping Charge

Back in June at the Jamaican Championships, Briana Williams ran a brilliant 10.94 in taking 3rd to apparently make the island nation’s team for the World Championships, but in late August she was provisionally suspended after she turned in a positive test from that race. The positive was for a common diuretic, HCTZ, that’s on the banned list because it can mask the use of other substances. A September hearing by Jamaica’s disciplinary panel ruled that the drug was inadvertently taken as part of a cold medication and that no suspension was in line. Although the decision came down too late for the 17-year-old star to run in the Doha 100, it was possible for her to have headed to the WC for relay duty. Coach Ato Boldon explained that wasn’t in the cards, explaining, “It’s OK. She’s been exonerated and that’s the main thing. She’ll be back.” She was then voted, a month late, as T&FN HS Girls Athlete Of The Year.

Oregon21 Needs More Money

Eugene’s hosting of the next World Championships is now less than 2 years away, but the LOC says it needs a state subsidy because ticket sales and sponsorships won’t come close to covering its cost. The state’s tourism agency, Travel Oregon, has already allocated $20 million from the state lodging tax, but the committee says it is counting on another $20 million.

Governor Kate Brown, who traveled to Doha for the ceremonial passing of the baton, is a big booster of the meet. “This is a world, premier event,” she said at an early-October formal kickoff rally. “It is being held for the first time ever in the United States of America. For a small city like Eugene to host it is amazing.” She continued, “I am confident that we will have the resources we need to make this event happen. The investments that we make in this event will pay off for decades to come not only for Eugene, but for the entire state of Oregon.”

Not everyone agrees. “There are plenty of competing uses for $20 million in the state,” says Oregon economics professor Bill Harbaugh, the author of a critical blog. “I think it would be hard to find something sillier than a track meet that will happen anyway to spend $20 million on.”

Olympic Road Events To Move Out Of Tokyo?

In mid-October the IOC announced that in order to escape Tokyo’s terrible heat next summer it was formulating plans to move the marathon and walks to Sapporo, some 500M north of the Japanese capital. “Athletes’ health and well-being are always at the heart of our concerns,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. IAAF head Sebastian Coe said, “We have been working closely with the IOC and Tokyo 2020 on the potential weather conditions at next year’s Olympic Games and will continue to work with the IOC and Tokyo 2020 on the proposal to move the road events to Sapporo.”

But it appears that left hand and right weren’t exactly on the same page, because a day later officials in both cities said they were surprised by the decision. Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike said, “It is a very unexpected announcement. We know for a fact that many local residents are very excited and making preparations for it.” John Coates, chairman of the IOC’s Coordination Commission, said, “For Tokyo 2020, it came as a bit of surprise and I understand that. But the problem is that you can’t leave this up in the air. We had to move quickly and we didn’t want speculation, we didn’t want rumor and it was better to come out and say what our plan is.”

Cheptegei: Tokyo 10, Then On To The Marathon

After a spectacular year which has seen him win both the World XC and World Champs 10K gold, Joshua Cheptegei is already looking at the end of his track career. “Track events are so demanding,” said the 23-year-old Ugandan upon his return home from Doha. “You do not rest throughout the season, unlike marathon where you only have to do three events in a year.” He plans to win the Olympic 10K next year—he was 6th in Rio in ’16—before stepping up to the 26-miler. His longest racing experience so far has come at 10M (16.09km).

Nairobi As A World Champs Site?

Eugene ’21 and Budapest ’23 are already in the pipeline as hosts of the next two World Championships, but what about the ’25 version? A half-dozen African nations have expressed interest: Algeria, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa. Australia has also indicated its possible candidacy. Kenya, which hosted the ’17 World Youth (U18) Championships in Nairobi, seems very eager to step up to the plate. Quizzed on the topic by Kenyan journalists in Doha, Seb Coe said, “We have always supported the idea of the World Championships being held in Africa. We are positively aware of Kenya’s idea of hosting the 2025 edition. Hosting championships in Africa is not a risk when it comes to crowds and passion because you get what is promised.”

Nairobi is due to host the World Junior (U20) champs next year, but there have been grumblings of late about the Local Organizing Committee going months without receiving allowances and salaries from the Ministry Of Sports.

The French Questioned Coe About London ’17 Bid

Agence France-Presse has reported that French prosecutors working the Lamine Diack corruption case interviewed current IAAF head Seb Coe last year. At issue are theories that under the former president’s reign the awarding of 3 WC meets—London ’17, Doha ’19 & Eugene ’21—all involved potential wrongdoing. Coe told the investigators he was unaware of two payments totalling $3.5 million to a company owned by Papa Massata Diack, as part of a failed Qatar attempt to land the ’17 edition. For prosecutors, this “suggests that the benefits obtained from London were even more advantageous”. Coe replied, “Absolutely not,” saying that London had been chosen for its infrastructure.” Coe also said that he had voted for Doha over Eugene for this year’s bid, explaining, “The Middle East was a booming market supported by a desire to globalize sport.”

Eugene was suddenly designated the ’21 host in April ’15—when Diack was still in charge—without going through all the usual bid procedures. Coe explained to the French officials that the event had never been held in the U.S. and “for our commercial health we had to be in the American market.” He said he had supported the Eugene bid, but insisted he knew nothing of any promises the American bid might have made to the IAAF or Lamine Diack. Asked what role Nike played, Coe said, “I don’t know. Very little, I would say.”

Easing Of Rule 40 Good For Olympians

Back in June the IOC’s infamous Rule 40 was eased. The despised stricture basically banned athletes (and officials) from capitalizing on their fame during the Olympics. At least some advertising will be allowed. The USOPC has now modified its stance accordingly, now permitting these actions: Athletes can now thank personal sponsors during the Olympics; Athletes can receive “congratulatory messages” from personal sponsors during the Olympics; Personal sponsors of athletes can now “engage in generic advertising” during the Olympics. Britain says it is working on modifying its rules.

On a related note, the IAAF is planning to give athletes and federations greater freedoms to promote their sponsors during certain of its events. A new set of marketing principles was agreed upon in Doha and will be presented to the IAAF Council for final approval in November.

IAAF Looking For Calendar Control

The subject of calendar reform has been one of Seb Coe’s constant priorities. In his campaigning for the IAAF’s presidency back in late ’14, his “manifesto” said this, in part: “To many within and outside our sport, our calendar seems disjointed, lacks a narrative and the essential glue to build excitement and a loyal and passionate following. Many fans don’t know when the athletics season starts, when it ends, why it seems to bounce around from the USA to Europe to Asia and back again. A harmonized calendar is the key to promotion, marketing, the athletes and member federation development and we must address this.”

Fast forward to Doha, where the IAAF’s CEO, Jon Ridgeon, told Congress attendees, “We are looking to take much more control—with our member federations—over the global calendar. Every year we will be fixing regular dates for the World Athletics Series events [World Championships, World Indoor, etc.] and hopefully Area Championships [Euros, Pan-Ams, etc.]. Beneath that, the next important dates will be your own National Championships and Trials. Once those are protected, the other 1-day meetings, such as the Diamond League meetings, can be fitted around.”

He continued, “In a new development, we will make a big impact on the world of athletics by introducing a new series in pilot form in 2020—the World Athletics Continental Tour—a collection of the best 1-day meetings outside the Diamond League to give us even more opportunity to see more athletes, and for athletes to have more top-class competition.”

This Is My Lane, That One Over There Is Yours

Sergey Shubenkov had his fill of rock-’em-sock-’em hurdling against Omar McLeod this season. First in mid-June at the Rabat Diamond League, which the Russian won even as the Jamaican’s tumble knocked him to the deck at the line, and then in the World Champs final. Shubenkov’s fall in Morocco sidelined him for more than 2 months, purportedly with a knee swollen to grapefruit size. In comments to the Russian website, Shubenkov’s coach Sergey Klevtsov praised McLeod as “very richly gifted by nature,” then added, “but his technique is very bad.”

As insurance against future episodes, Shubenkov has had a clause written into his ’20 DL contract stipulating there shall always be at least one lane between himself and McLeod.

IAAF Says Nyet To Russia Yet Again

On the eve of the WC the IAAF extended its ban of Russia for the 12th time; the move came after the Russia Task Force offered another negative report, this time focused on inconsistencies in the data from the Moscow laboratory.
According to Task Force head Rune Andersen, “We are aware of the allegations of manipulation of the data and that an investigation is ongoing, In the light of that the task force recommended that RUSAF not be reinstated and the IAAF council unanimously agreed.”

At the same time, WADA opened compliance proceedings against RUSADA, and the agency has been given three weeks to explain the inconsistencies in the data. Otherwise an Olympic ban of the nation’s athletes could again be a possibility. Yuriy Ganus, the CEO of RUSADA, said he feared that WADA would impose stricter restrictions on his nation as a result. “This is an issue of recidivism, a repeat, and it’s about using the same methods again. It’s actually a big problem, and obviously it’s to be expected. If the sports authorities can’t find some answers—and I struggle to imagine what those answers could be—I can envision that the decision will be fairly strict.”

Ganus also noted that the Moscow lab was never a RUSADA facility, and has been under the control of Russian law enforcement. In a subsequent interview, he went even further, charging that there were thousands of cases of data manipulation: “Someone has tried to hush up information on a large scale.” The Russian government, however, says that it has addressed all of WADA’s concerns. President Vladimir Putin told a sports conference, “We are actively cooperating with WADA. The requirements presented by this organization are being fully complied with.”

Testo Limit For Transgenders Halved

A new protocol announced by the IAAF says that athletes transgendering from male to female will be held to the same standard as has been applied to DSD performers like Caster Semenya. An IAAF statement clarified, “She must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the expert panel that the concentration of testosterone in her serum has been less than 5nmol/L continuously for a period of at least 12 months prior to being declared eligible, and must keep her serum testosterone concentration below that level to maintain her eligibility to compete in the female category.” It was also clarified that a transgender female athlete is no longer required to be recognized by law in her new gender but should provide a signed declaration that her gender identity is female.

4 of 6 IAAF Challenge Winners Named

The hammer, multis and walks aren’t part of the Diamond League circuit, so as a way for the top performers in those events to be financially rewarded, the IAAF has set up annual separate “Challenge” circuits. This year’s multis titles went to Doha bronze medalists Damian Warner (Canada) and Verena Preiner (Austria). Each earned $30,000 for having the best combined scores in 3 eligible meets (neither of the world champions had enough meets). The top hammer prizes—also $30K—went to Paweł Fajdek of Poland (his fifth win in 7 years) and America’s DeAnna Price. The walk winners haven’t been named yet, since there’s still one series-eligible set of races to be held in late October.

Flanagan Announces Her Retirement

One of America’s all-time greatest long distance runners is hanging up her spikes at age 38. With happy tears I announce today that I am retiring from professional running,” Shalane Flanagan posted on Instagram. “I have felt my North Star shifting, my passion and purpose is no longer about MY running; it’s more and more about those around me. All I’ve ever known, in my approach to anything, is going ALL IN. So I’m carrying this to coaching.” She continued, “I hope I made myself a better person by running. I hope I made those around me better. I hope I made my competition better. I hope I left the sport better because I was a part of it.” A 4-time Olympian who won 15 national titles across the running spectrum, her medal chest includes the ’08 Olympic 10K silver and the ’11 World XC bronze.◻︎

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