KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Athletics is confronting a debate over a Premier League-style airbrushing of history over proposals to scrap all world records set before 2005.
Track and field has seen its credibility undermined by a steady increase in doping scandals and suspicions ever since the state-sponsored systems of the former East Germany and the Soviet Union five decades ago.
The sport could find itself saddled with ‘double records’ similar to English elite football in which the promotional trend to magnify modern achievements in the Premier League era overshadow all-time records.
Confusion also exists in European football between all club competition history and the modern Champions League era.
Similar debates have engaged academia over the ‘Rhodes Must Go’ campaign concerning a statute of Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University and the Colston Hall debate in Bristol over the monuments legacy of slave trader Edward Colston.
Dubious records in athletics history include the 1985 world mark of east Germamy’s Marita Koch in 1985 and the 1988 marks of United States sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner in the women’s 100m and 200m.
Also excluded from official records would be British distance runner Paula Radcliffe’s marathon mark of 2hr 15min 25sec in 2003.
Further complications arise over the concession that athletes who won in ‘old record’ times would keep the associated medals also a concern that clean athletes would feel their own own reputation and honesty had been tarnished without cause.
The sport may end of settling for a system of OWR and MWR for the cataloguing of old and modern records.
An immediate protest came from Radcliffe who, ironically, has been one of the most voluble complainants about athletics’ need to crack down on dope cheats.
She said: “I am hurt and do feel this damages my reputation and dignity.”
Svein Arne Hansen, the European Athletics president, said world records “are meaningless if people don’t really believe them”.
European Athletics set up a taskforce to study the credibility of world records in January. Its ruling council has ratified the taskforce’s proposals and now wants them confirmed by the sport’s world governing body, the IAAF.
A world record would be recognised only if it meets all three of the following criteria:
1, It was achieved at a competition on a list of approved international events where the highest standards of officiating and technical equipment can be guaranteed;
2, The athlete had been subject to an agreed number of doping control tests in the months leading up to it; and
3, The doping control sample taken after the record was stored and available for re-testing for 10 years.
The IAAF has stored blood and urine samples only since 2005 hence the choice of that particular date for a new start.
Current records that do not meet the new criteria would remain on an ‘all-time list but not be recognised by the governing body as records.