Day two at the IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Daegu, South Korea began with a scintillating last 30 meter sprint in the longest track event, then all but ended before a single foot had been run in the shortest. Thus did we rise when Ethiopia’s Ibrahim Jeilan overcame England’s brave Mo Farah for the 10,000 meter gold, before swooning in frustration when Usain Bolt was DQ’d for false-starring [sic] in the 100 meters.
So talk all we want about the need for, or the fairness of the false-start rule – The Science of Sport men have a full explication – Day 2: False starts and flying finishes – what is inarguable is that the current “zero-tolerance” penalty is too onerous a mechanism for the state of the sport to maintain at present.
While there was news of Bolt DQ scrolling below the ESPN Sportscenter show I watched this afternoon, but there was no story, much less an ESPN reporter on site, or an expert panel in Bristol breaking down the races in Daegu. If your World Championships don’t even make the Sportcenter cut, you are officially off the radar in America.
So, as Bill Maher would say, “Time for New Rules”:
New Rule: In order not to lose our superstars altogether, we shouldn’t disqualify sprinters outright for a false start, we should penalize them. For championships we penalize by adding time, to be determined, for each false start in subsequent starts. In doing, so we retain the presence of our stars, but lessen their chances with a burden of their own making. It’s equitable.
For non-championship exhibitions, even better, a false start would move the athlete’s blocks back and an appropriate distance. Not perfect, but stimulating.
By penalizing distance, we add a whole new chase element to the sport, and a new distance to time. Young Yohan Blake of Jamaica won the Daegu gold in Bolt’s absence by two meters over Walter Dix of the U.S. Imagine if Bolt would have had to try to run him down from 102 or 103 meters out?
The idea is to penalize the runner, not penalize the sport. By maintaining our laboratory sterility, we risk a continuing loss of fans.