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Why is no one setting athletics alight?

by 11/08/2017 18:59:00 0 comments 1 Views
  • Apparent drop in standards is a worry for the IAAF amid corruption and doping
  • The British weather played its part — but sprint times have been way down
  • Mo Farah's 26min 49sec in 10,000m is the only fastest mark of the year for men
  • Coach Toni Minichiello believes anti-doping advancements played their part 

By Matt Lawton for the Daily Mail

Published: 17:30 EDT, 11 August 2017 | Updated: 18:59 EDT, 11 August 2017

If athletics thought it would be poorer for the loss of Usain Bolt and Mo Farah before these World Championships, the last week has succeeded only in escalating those fears.

Never mind the sight of Justin Gatlin and Ramil Guliyev winning Bolt's events and creating a feeling of queasiness to match the worst symptoms of the London 2017 norovirus.

It is the apparent drop in standards that will worry a governing body already fighting to maintain global interest against the backdrop of corruption and doping scandals.

Usain Bolt is leaving athletics, but why are there no other stars setting the world alight?
Usain Bolt is leaving athletics, but why are there no other stars setting the world alight?

Usain Bolt is leaving athletics, but why are there no other stars setting the world alight?

Justin Gatlin winning the 100m — an event synonymous with Bolt — created a queasy feeling
Justin Gatlin winning the 100m — an event synonymous with Bolt — created a queasy feeling

Justin Gatlin winning the 100m — an event synonymous with Bolt — created a queasy feeling

And Ramil Guliyev claimed the 200m crown — what has happened to Jamaica's sprinters?
And Ramil Guliyev claimed the 200m crown — what has happened to Jamaica's sprinters?

And Ramil Guliyev claimed the 200m crown — what has happened to Jamaica's sprinters?

Sure, the British weather has clearly had an impact on the sprint events. But if this is the meeting that athletes have been aiming to peak at all season, there have been some surprisingly under-par performances.

What has happened to Jamaica's sprinters? What has happened to the finest female middle-distance runner the world has ever seen? Why has there been a drop in standards across the board this season?

The men's 100 metres matched the slowest winning time at a World Championships since 2011 — when Bolt false-started — and you have to go back to 2003 to find an even more sluggish champion. But it's not just here in London that the sprinters have been relatively pedestrian.

The world leading time is 9.82sec and belongs to Christian Coleman, who snatched the silver ahead of Bolt last weekend. You have to go back to 2004, and a performance that propelled Gatlin to the Olympic title, to find a slower world best for the year.

Here in London, world records have not been threatened and Farah's 10,000m time of 26min 49sec is the only fastest mark of the year for the men. For the women, only Almaz Ayana, also the winner of the 10,000m, and pole-vaulter Ekaterini Stefanidi have raised the bar for 2017.

Mo Farah’s 10,000m time of 26min 49sec is the only fastest mark of the year for the men
Mo Farah’s 10,000m time of 26min 49sec is the only fastest mark of the year for the men

Mo Farah's 10,000m time of 26min 49sec is the only fastest mark of the year for the men

Almaz Ayana won the women's 10,000m, 46 seconds clear of Tirunesh Dibaba in second place
Almaz Ayana won the women's 10,000m, 46 seconds clear of Tirunesh Dibaba in second place

Almaz Ayana won the women's 10,000m, 46 seconds clear of Tirunesh Dibaba in second place

Ayana's race is interesting, and not just because of the doping issues surrounding Ethiopian distance running. She was a minute down on the world record she set in winning gold in Rio, but remained 46sec clear of second-placed Tirunesh Dibaba. 

The same Dibaba who won the Olympic title in 2012, the 5,000m and 10,000m double four years earlier in Beijing and took bronze in Rio in 29min 42sec. Here she ran 31min 2sec.

Sure, Dibaba is 32 and focused on the Chicago marathon, while Ayana ran a rapid second half of the race. But there has been a serious decline in the performances of both her and her sister, Genzebe. 

The world record-holder for the 1500m finished last in the final on Monday, and while she has had illness and injury problems there has also been a decline since her coach, Jama Aden, was arrested in Spain last year in a raid that discovered doping products.

Dibaba, a decorated athlete over 10,000m, has seen her performances decline of late
Dibaba, a decorated athlete over 10,000m, has seen her performances decline of late

Dibaba, a decorated athlete over 10,000m, has seen her performances decline of late

Toni Minichiello thinks advancements in anti-doping techniques may be a factor in the times
Toni Minichiello thinks advancements in anti-doping techniques may be a factor in the times

Toni Minichiello thinks advancements in anti-doping techniques may be a factor in the times

What to watch on a packed Saturday of sport at London's World Championships
What to watch on a packed Saturday of sport at London's World Championships

What to watch on a packed Saturday of sport at London's World Championships

While Bolt has never been the subject of doping allegations, many of his fellow Jamaican sprinters have and concerns over a lack of testing in the country have been addressed. Whether that has led to a decline in overall standards is hard to say but they are not the force they were.

British coach Toni Minichiello urged caution in trying to deduce too much from these apparent trends, but he does think advancements in anti-doping techniques may be a factor.

'It is certainly harder to cheat,' he said. 'Although we're still not doing enough. We should be looking to put the top 30 athletes in each event on a special testing programme.'

But Minichiello also said it was fairly typical to see 'a dip in performances a year after the Olympics'. 'We will see an upturn as we get closer to the Games in Tokyo,' he said.

Perhaps we will, although with Bolt and Farah running their last track races this evening it is not terribly easy to see from where.

But the coach said it is normal to see 'a dip in performances a year after the Olympics'
But the coach said it is normal to see 'a dip in performances a year after the Olympics'

But the coach said it is normal to see 'a dip in performances a year after the Olympics'

 

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