It’s been a little while since my last post and there have been a fair few news stories during that time so I thought I would do a quick post on some thoughts in the continuously news-worthy sport that is athletics!
WORLD INDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS
With the World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon due to get started very shortly, the fears of many that the schedule would be just too late for many athletes appears to have come true. With the US team yet to be picked, the biggest sized team announced is Great Britain’s who are sending a team of 24. The next closest team in terms of size is Ukraine (17) and even that includes one of the few 4×400 relay teams (8 for the men, just 6 for the women). I am sure the event will still be an interesting watch and many of the big names would chose not to do these Championships anyway but I do fear that some of the fields are going to be on the small side and might not be of the highest quality. The line-up for the multi-events for example are not that strong for example with a lot of the big European names giving it a miss and most likely concentrating on Gotzis. The fact there are a European Championships as well as an Olympic Games all taking place in the same year means the scheduling needs to be looked at to make sure all 3 events can have good competitive and quality fields.
The other area of interest are some of the changes (which the IAAF refer to as innovations which I think is a tad kind) to these championships. Obviously they have done away with qualifying rounds for all the field events and there will be reduced athletes after certain rounds (down to 8 after the 3rd round, 6 after the 4th round and 4 after the 5th round), similar to the European Team Championships. The aim is to give the field events a bit more focus as they get towards the end of the competition which in theory is a good idea but of course may depend on how the competition has gone. If one person is miles ahead of everyone then it might remove some of the excitement and having less people might make remove some of the intrigue if only a few people can win in the last round.
RUSSIA’S RED HERRINGS
The latest German ARD documentary by Seppelt and others about Russia’s apparent lack of real reform is probably not that surprising although frustrating that they haven’t really got their act together. The fact that banned coaches are still coaching athletes in March for me is enough to say that Russia should be banned from Rio for definite! For what it is worth, my opinion was that IF Russia could get their house in order and take it seriously and got everything in place then they should be allowed back in. The emphasis on the word ‘if’ though is because I had doubts they could do that in time as well as the fact that they had about 3 months when there wasn’t any testing going on. I am also very frustrated by many of the comments from Russian officials who just seem to think everything is because of a few individuals as opposed to a broken (or for some people a non-existent) anti-doping system and a culture that for decades has included the use of PED’s. The IAAF taskforce’s report is due very soon and will make interesting reading in terms of the conclusions it reaches. Furthermore it will be interesting if the new documentary affects the report in any way.
Hands up for those who had heard of this drug before a few weeks ago? Me neither, but apparently lots of people have been taking this in recent times including another female 1500m runner to test positive, this time Abeba Aregawi. Now, in my opinion, if someone has taken a drug that wasn’t on the banned list that was later deemed to be performance enhancing, then I don’t think that person should be called a drugs cheat (at least for that period when it was legal). For example as much doubt as people will have about Maria Sharapova’s comments, I don’t think it is fair to say her whole career is now under suspicion. Athletes will take whatever they can (of course you hope legal substances) in order to get that extra 1 or 2% that might make the difference and if it is legal to take then, then there shouldn’t be a problem with it (unless of course there are negative health effects which of course is an important consideration). Drug use is not always as black and white as some people like to suggest and this is one of those grey areas that will likely cause debate. It does not help when the head of Russian tennis (funny this is about another Russian isn’t it?!) finds the whole thing ridiculous and that athletes just take whatever their doctors give them. In Britain he would have been forced to resign immediately just on that comment alone! Obviously there are more Meldonium cases to be revealed which might make things interesting for certain countries. Yes I am looking at you Ethiopia!
CHANGE OF ALLEGIANCES
Recently Sean Safo-Antwi changed his allegiance from Britain to Ghana. Presumably this was at least partially due to the fact that he has a higher chance of making the Ghanaian Olympic team than he does team GB. Looking at the rankings, I didn’t see a single Ghanaian sprinter who even ran under 10.20 seconds last year so he would appear likely to make their team. Considering the reaction of the press to Zharnel Hughes and others when they started representing Britain last year, it is interesting to see what people’s views of the opposite situation are. Ultimately athletes have to be selfish and do what is best for them. While Safo-Antwi had a chance of making the British team (you never know with injuries and the like for example) I can understand him hedging his bets and since he already has the Olympic qualifying mark it makes sense that he would make the switch now. I guess my question would be though what would have happened if he had won the UK trials and been selected for Portland? He apparently made the application in January so would UKA have selected him knowing he wanted to compete for Ghana instead? Although not officially confirmed, Julia Bleasdale appears to now be representing Germany as well. Hopefully there won’t be many other cases of athletes switching from Britain to others, especially with UKA’s selection policies which are not universally loved I think it is fair to say.
Lots of other news at the moment with the London 2017 timetable recently released, issues with the London 2017 board, future event locations announced as well as the World Half-Marathon Championships taking place later this month in Cardiff. That’s it from me for now , I will probably do a quick preview for the World Indoors next week once all the entry and start lists have been announced. Thanks for reading and if you have not already done so, please follow me on twitter (@athlappetizer), give this post a like if you enjoyed it and if you have a comment on anything I have said please feel free to do so. Until next time!