Track athletes lash out at proposal to wipe record books clean

IAAF President Sebastian Coe looks on during a Feb. 6 news conference in Monaco.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe looks on during a Feb. 6 news conference in Monaco.
(Valery Hache / AFP/Getty Images)

It should be no surprise that track-and-field athletes have reacted swiftly — sometimes angrily — to a proposal that would cast aside current world records under the premise that faulty drug-testing in the past makes them unreliable.

European Athletics has forwarded its “Record Revolution Plan” to the international track federation, proposing the sport wipe away much of its history and start with a clean slate.

“It’s a radical solution for sure,” said Svein Arne Hansen, president of European Athletics. “But those of us who love athletics are tired of the cloud of doubt and innuendo that has hung over our records for too long.”


Wilson Kipketer, a former middle-distance runner from Kenya who previously held the indoor record at 800 meters, called it “a shame, unfair and insult.”

Steve Cram, a former top runner from Britain, complained to BBC Sport that the proposal takes former athletes who competed cleanly and “lumps us in with all the cheats.”

Track and field has suffered through a series of doping scandals over the years. Most recently, the entire Russian track federation was banned from international competition after authorities found evidence of widespread cheating that implicated athletes, coaches and government officials.

European Athletics recommended this week that current world and European records be recognized only if they meet three criteria: The performance must have occurred at a meet with high officiating standards; the athlete must have previously undergone an agreed-upon number of doping control tests; and urine samples from that performance must have been stored so they could be retested for 10 years.

Top performances that fall short of the standard would remain on the books but not be listed as records.

“I like this because it underlines that we have put into place doping control systems and technology that are more robust and safer than 15 or even 10 years ago,” said Sebastian Coe, president of the IAAF, whose international federation will now consider the recommendation.


While some athletes bristled, Kelly Sotherton suggested an alternative.

Sotherton is a former heptathlete from Britain who was upgraded to a bronze medal for the 2008 Summer Olympics after two of her competitors had their samples retested years later and were retroactively disqualified.

“Got an idea (and just brain storming) for athletics potential WR wipeout,” she tweeted. “Set new events/new distances = new records?? Yes?? NO??”

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