The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has responded to an open letter addressed to its president Sebastian Coe, addressing some key concerns. Gianni Merlo, president of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS), has this month, asked for the past world records in athletics be scrapped to make way for a fresh start.
Yes, that includes the multiple records made by track & field legends Usain Bolt and Mo Farah as well.
Reverting immediately, Coe mentioned that the action would take away all the glory of personal achievements made by the athletes done in the past. However, the IAAF also said that they are welcoming a debate over whether past incidents or records should come under the scanner and action be taken against possible drug offenders from the past.
Gianni brought the issue in front of the IAAF after their strong stance against doping in the sport, which resulted in the mass suspension of Russian track & field athletes from the Rio 2016 Olympics and the Paralympics 2016.
IAAF response on scrapping past world records
"The proposal to scrap the world records list which is the core of your letter, we understand the frustrations, "the doubts of the past" which you outline. We know that systems have in the past produced athletes that have probably not achieved records legitimately," mentioned Coe as a response to Gianni's letter.
"That's a very different thing from penalising clean athletes who have gone about breaking records based upon the hard work and dedication during their young lives, with clean coaches and clean federations.
"That said we welcome the debate and, as you will recall, UK Athletics Chairman Ed Warner included this particular recommendation in UKA's manifesto of 11 January 2016. UKA will, of course, share the conclusions of their work when it has been completed.
"In the meantime our primary focus is to the clean athletes who have legitimately set world records. If the records list is scrapped not only do these clean athletes risk losing their place in history, they face the implication that their records have not been achieved cleanly.
Key points addressed from the letter by Gianni
- If the fight against doping has come to this point, if it is as difficult as we all agree it is, then I think that the moment has arrived to close the world record books in athletics and open new ones.
- We can see emerging so many Olympic champions being stripped of their medals, their records. Given the doubts of the past that plague the sport, I think it would be healthy to begin a new era of athletics that would give new hope to coming generations.
- Closing past record books could also have a valid technical explanation. Due to the fact that a number of the rules across disciplines had changed – such as that of disqualifying an athlete after the first false start in the sprint – it would be possible to start from scratch and on solid ground because the race conditions themselves had changed.
- It is now almost impossible to set a world record during the Olympic Games or World Championships.
- The fanatic quest for records has brought athletics on the brink of the destruction. It is time to change the direction.
- Usain Bolt will be not remembered for his records, but for what he has achieved in every race, for his behavior. People remember Jesse Owens not for his world record, but for the symbol he represented.
- Now, in women's disciplines, there are records from the 100 meter races to the 800 meters that are hard to explain, that call for suspicion.
- In the era of athletics from 1980 to 2000, anti-doping measures were nowhere near the level they are at now.