Explainer: European Athletics’ plan to rewrite the record books

By Antoinette Muller 1 May 2017

European Athletics has put forward a radical new proposal which essentially means all world records set prior to 2005 will be wiped from the history books. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.

What is happening with athletics world records?

European Athletics held a council meeting over the weekend where something fairly radically was proposed and given backing by The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president, Seb Coe. Essentially, it is proposing new standards for recognising records.

What are those standards?

Pretty simple.

1. The performance is achieved at competitions on a list of approved international events where the highest standards of officiating and technical equipment can be guaranteed;

2. The athlete has been subject to an agreed number of doping control tests in the months leading up to the performance, and,

3. The doping control sample taken after the record is stored and available for retesting for 10 years.

But why?

European Athletics president, Svein Arne Hansen, said the proposal is “revolutionary” and is being done to “change the concept of a record and raise the standards for recognition a point where everyone can be confident that everything is fair and above board”.

And how does this mean records will be scrapped?

See points two and three. The IAAF has only stored blood and urine samples since 2005 and doping controls in some eras are dubious at best. But point three is the clincher.

So, who might lose out?

Paula Radcliffe’s world marathon record of 2hr 15min 25sec, Mike Powell’s extraordinary world long jump of 8.95m, Florence Griffiths-Joyner’s 100m and 200m world records, Jarmila Kratochvílová’s 800m record, Hicham El Guerrouj’s 1500m record, Jan Železný’s javelin record, Marita Koch’s 400m record… the list is pretty extensive. You can take a look at the list of world records in track events we published before the Rio 2016 Olympics here and find the list of field events here. Basically, everything set prior to 2005 is likely to be gone.

Does that mean Caster Semenya is in line for an 800m word record?

Not quite. Semenya’s best time ran at Rio last year currently puts her 20th on the all-time best list. While the bulk of the women ahead of her came in the pre-2005 era, Kenya’s Pamela Jelimo thrice ran a time in the top 20 post 2005.

What about Wayde van Niekerk, is he going to lose his record?

Probably not. Van Niekerk, as far as we know, has complied with all the testing requirements in the new proposal.

And the IAAF supports this?

It certainly seems like it.

Coe said: “I like this because it underlines that we (the governing bodies) have put into place doping control systems and technology that are more robust and safer than 15 or even 10 years ago.

Of course, for this to be adopted for world records by the IAAF it needs global approval from all area associations.

There will be athletes, current record-holders, who will feel that the history we are recalibrating will take something away from them, but I think this is a step in the right direction and if organised and structured properly we have a good chance of winning back credibility in this area.”

It will go to the IAAF Council Meeting to be held in August.

Does it mean all those numbers will be wiped from history?

No, records not established under the new criteria will remain on the all-time list, but the recognition will shift to the next in line, whoever achieved the best “under the new standard”.

Where has all of this come from?

The Guardian reported that it’s been discussed for years, but as with all such “radical” suggestions, there is a lot of red tape to get through.

Does it mean that those records are in doping doubt?

Not quite. European Athletics say they simply want to stress that “criteria has changed” and in order to move forward, especially following a number of fallouts, they need to “regain the public’s trust”.

And the athletes say…

No one has commented publicly, but Radcliffe is on record previously as saying she will “never agree” with records being wiped and starting on a clean because she knows “100%” that “at least one of those records was achieved clean and that means more were too”. DM

Photo: Jarmila Kratochvilova (Czechoslovakia) still holds the 800m world record, 1:53:28, which she set in 1983. Only one runner ever came within a second of that time. (AP)