Drastic measures are needed to improve the integrity of global athletics even if it means resetting some of the sport’s most iconic records, according to KwaZulu-Natal Athletics president Sello Mokoena. Mokoena was speaking after UK Athletics, the umbrella body for the sport in the UK, called for the complete scrapping of every record in light of the doping crisis that was destroying the sports. IAAF chairperson Sebastian Coe was reported to support the idea of scrapping off certain individual records that were highly suspicious or linked to a confirmed drug cheat.
According to media reports suspicious world records include the women’s 200m time of 21.34 seconds set by Florence Griffiths-Joyner in 1988, the men’s shot-put by American Randy Barnes in 1990 — he was later banned for life for steroids — and the women’s 400 metres record set in 1985 by East Germany’s Marita Koch. Mokoena says that some records, like the women’s 100m for women, were near impossible to repeat by clean athletes: ‘UK Athletics suggestion is good if it is to be done scientifically using algorithms and experienced statisticians. This step will require commitment from all athletics stakeholders such as administrative bodies; sponsors; event organisers and most especially the athletes themselves. We cannot continue to think and do things the same way if we are to restore integrity in the sport.’ Mokoena says that situation required such drastic measures as the empty chairs at stadia at major events points to a sport which has lost public appeal and credibility in the current environment of dishonesty and cheating. The average age of those who watch athletics is 55 and indicates therefore that the sport that is in decline.
Mokoena says South Africa was not immune to the doping scourge: ‘One positive test is one too many. Unfortunately South Africa has had a few positives in recent year. All athletes cite mitigating factors chief amongst them being ignorance. This points out to the need for education for both coaches and athletes.’ At least the doping system in South Africa attempted to bring in the element of independence, which was lacking in other nations. It however still suffered from a lack of resources, pointed out by frustratingly long delays before results are known. To restore credibility in the sport Mokoena would like to see South Africa increase its anti-doping efforts including raising awareness among athletes; increasing the number of athletes tested; and harsher bans for those who test positive.
He says: ‘All clean athletes and coaches would welcome much needed and long overdue clean up in the sport.’
Photo credit: WESSEL OOSTHUIZEN / SA SPORTS PICTURE AGENCY