CORRECTING THE RECORD(S)

track-startGive them this, the IAAF, heretofore one of the premier La Cosa Nostras of international sporting organizations, has at least begun to honestly wrestle with the scourges of performance-enhancing drug abuse and bribe-fueled corruption that have brought their sport into such worldwide disrepute and public disregard.

And so we see where an open letter to IAAF head Sebastian Coe from Gianni Merlo, president of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) suggesting that the sports’ record book be scrapped and a new one be opened, received a thoughtful public response from the home office in Monaco.

A clean break from the old records isn’t a bad idea, given who knows how many of those marks were achieved on the level. But rather than just erasing the current books, here’s another way of achieving the same goal by turning the record book pages back a bit. Continue reading

TOP 10 POSTS OF 2016

The author

The Blogger in an analog state

As the interesting, arresting year of 2016 comes to a close I thought I’d go back through this year’s blog offerings and see which ones captured the reader’s imagination or piqued your interest most.

Here then the Top 10 most read posts on this site from the now fading year.  Topics range from Olympic performances, to State of the Sport issues, to presidential politics,  and beyond.  Many thanks to all who stopped by for a read and maybe even a reply. Happy 2017 to all!

 

  1.  RUPP IS IN!!! – Galen announces his debut marathon will be the U.S. Oly Trials in Los Angeles. Kinda thought he might do well. Now, it’s on to Boston 2017!
  2. THEORY OF PERVERSE INCENTIVES IN RUNNING – Foot-racing, which used to be the focus of running events, is now just a supporting element.
  3. IN THE WAKE OF THE WOMEN’S 800 – A crash, tears and histrionics in the women’s 800m final at the Olympic Trials.
  4. DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC? – Almaz Ayana smashes the women’s world record in the 10,000 meters by 14 seconds without as much as a furrowed brow.
  5. CHICAGO 2016 – For the second year in a row the Bank of America Chicago Marathon staged a no-pacesetters competition with a slow winning time.
  6. COE ATTEMPTS TO WALK IAAF OFF THE LEDGE – New IAAF prez tries to draw his sport back from the cliff of doom.
  7. SUB2 PACK FORMS UP – Like the murmur of far off hooves, the Sub – Two Hour marathon quest became a lot more audible in December.
  8. IN TRUMP WE TRUST – And we thought the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series was historic!
  9. THE HEAT WILL BE ON IN L.A. – Conditions for the Oly Trials Marathon in L.A. were forecast from the low-70sF (21C) to 80F (27C) at noon.  Not ideal, by any measure.
  10. BACK TO PACING AS USUAL – Pure racing for high stakes is what grabs the attention of the common man.

That’s the Top 10 from 2016.  Safe New Year’s celebrating, and we will get together again in 2017!

TR

END

 

THE DRIP, DRIP, DRIP OF SCANDAL

WADA Independent Commission Report 2015

WADA Independent Commission Report 2015

So on the same day that WADA unanimously declares Kenya non-compliant with its anti-doping code, thereby threatening the East African running juggernaut with exclusion from this summer’s Rio Olympics (along with Russia, which was also declared non-compliant last November) we also have word that  organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic bid were alleged to have made a “seven-figure payment” to an account controlled by the son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack, who, himself,  was arrested last year by French authorities on corruption and money laundering charges, over allegations he took payments for deferring sanctions against Russian drugs cheaters.  And the beat just goes on and on and on.

Sebastion Coe Rebuilding Trust

IAAF President Sebastian Coe (Getty Images)

I don’t know, maybe Sebastian Coe is the IAAF’s last best chance.  But these latest two bombshells make you wonder if anyone involved in this filthy sport can truly be the cleansing agent needed to disinfect the body politic?

And perhaps that reflects how bad the situation really is. Looking at the entirety of the WADA Independent Commission report, along with Commission chair Dick Pound’s subsequent public support for Seb Coe as new IAAF president, the only judgement one can make is that there seems to be little appetite for the kind of wholesale reconstruction that these reports suggest is necessary.  Continue reading

HEALING BEGINS

World Indoor Champs logo 2016Last week’s IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon has been praised for its innovations in track & field presentation, things like NBA-style player introductions, music during competitions, and medal ceremonies in Portland’s Courthouse Square.  And while there were many performances to laud and races that stretched emotions taut, it must also be noted that there was an uneven quality to a meet billed as a “World Championships”.

Though 148 nations sent at least one representative to Portland — up from the 135 in Sopot, Poland in 2014, but down from the 168 in Istanbul, Turkey in 2012 — there was a shortage of top-flight fields in many events. One reason may well be the specter of the Rio Games this summer. Continue reading

THEORY OF PERVERSE INCENTIVES IN RUNNING

When applied to American politics the theory of Perverse Incentives shows how gerrymandering congressional districts has led to gridlock rather than problem-solving – ostensibly the purpose of Congress – because gerrymandering incentivizes congress people NOT to work with the opposition party.  When applied to today’s running world, the theory of Perverse Incentives shows how the focus on the individual-event management, while improving the quality of events, has constricted the potential growth and development of The Sport, which would necessitate a unity of purpose across multiple event platforms.

What can you do?

Perfect Storm?

Today, a decade and a half into the 21st century, The Sport of racing has been subsumed by The Activity of jogging.  The tail, we might say, is wagging the dog.  And regardless of what Lord Sebastian Coe, the embattled IAAF president told viewers on the Standard Charter Dubai Marathon telecast recently — “when people see elite performances you can see how it pulls them into competition. It’s almost a perfect storm” — the opposite, in fact, is true.

There has been a total break between the front of the pack and the back of the pack. There is an almost complete lack of interest in the sport of foot racing by the experiential runners, much less by the general sports fans. And now with the devastating accounts of drug abuse and institutional corruption haunting the IAAF, the sport is in even more desperate condition than ever.

“Fast times once meant something,” says Patrick Lynch former elite athlete coordinator for the Boston Marathon and long-time observer of the sport. “There used to be a slew of running writers who could contextualize those times, people like Bert Rosenthal of Associated Press, Joe Concannon of the Boston Globe, Neil Amdur of the New York Times, Dick Patrick at USA Today. They’re all gone now. There are no running beat writers left anymore in the mainstream press.

FullSizeRender (3)

2012 Honolulu Marathon with Mark Wetmore (Mr. Green), Pat Lynch (Mr. Blue) across from Hono race director Jon Cross and Moi (Messrs. White).

“Just as the three-point line came in to play through the American Basketball Association to differentiate it from the established NBA – along with the red, white, and blue ball – when the NBA absorbed the ABA, NBA executives saw that their same old brand of basketball needed to adapt to grow.  In the same sense running has become stagnant, well past due for a change. Events are successful but their races are not.”

Though he built the elite fields at the Boston Marathon from 1986 to 2012,  and before that was very active in the Boston running community, Pat Lynch has always cultivated an opaque public persona (you can’t even find a picture of him on Google!).  That he is willing to speak openly now only underscores the seriousness of the case he makes. Continue reading

TENNIS ENTERS THE DARKNESS

 

The Dark Side

The Dark Side welcomes tennis

Forget it, it’s all the same. As John Manyama, manager of 1989 New York City Marathon champion Juma Ikangaa lamented after visiting a big time Manhattan disco then comparing it to the one he’d built back home in Arusha, Tanzania with lights he bought at Home Depot, “we have only just been kidding ourselves”.

Well, we have only just been kidding ourselves, too. After all the rigmarole about the two WADA-commissioned Independent Committee reports outlining corruption, extortion and willful blindness in the IAAF, now we hear that 16 players who have been ranked in the top 50 in tennis have been fixing matches or sets or games over the last decade, with the outcomes determined by Mafioso in Russia and Italy.

Come on, people, it is officially over. First FIFA, then IAAF, now tennis? And before that MLB and its complicity with steroids, and football’s case with concussions, lead poisoning in the Flint, Michigan water supply?  Kids, this is who we are. Not that we don’t try to keep things above board, but how can we not see all of this as anything other than the human condition regardless the sport, regardless the national origin, regardless the political affiliation?

Put a lot of money on the line in a competitive arena, and the sharks and short-cutters begin to circle like the water has been chummed. It’s in their DNA, and too good to pass up.  The only thing that can’t be fixed is the human drive to beat the system. Continue reading

PEACE FOR OUR TIME REDUX

"Peace for our time." - Neville Chamberlain

“Peace for our time.” – Neville Chamberlain

We heard it in September 1938 when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich announcing “Peace for our time” after meeting with Chancellor Hitler regarding Germany’s takeover of the Czech Sudetenland.

Considering Hitler invaded Poland a year later to kick off World War II, Chamberlain’s pronouncement stands as gold medal winner in the “Ooops” competition in World Political Assessments Olympics. But it sounds like we just heard something vaguely similar coming out of Munich again today in regards the ongoing IAAF Corruption Scandal

After a scathing indictment of the IAAF came out last November in his original WADA-commissioned report outlining institutional corruption, extortion and widespread drug abuse in the Russian athletics’ federation, founding WADA president Dick Pound announced that today’s follow up report would go even farther and include a “wow factor” revelation.

As you can imagine, alarm clocks were set and seats were arranged around computers worldwide to hear the latest nefariousness and watch for any potential perp walks. After all the wickedness these princes of power had put the sport through for so long, here was the coup de grace about to come down.

So what the hell happened? Where, exactly, was the “wow factor”? The only wow I heard was my own exclamation after Mr. Pound made a screeching 180-degree turn on his own Independent Commission’s report. Continue reading