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Sunday, July 30, 2006

A thought to ponder

Let's suppose Justin Gatlin admits his guilt in using exogenous testosterone. And let's suppose he does what most of us would consider ethical and explains to the anti-doping authorities the details of his use; how, when, and so on, probably beginning shortly after his joining the Sprint Capitol training group. (And we'll also have to ignore his previous positive test which was mixed up with a drug he used most of his life to combat ADD.)

What would happen? He still gets a two-year ban, plus his results would be canceled back to the beginning of his admitted doping. This is exactly what happened to Kelli White; she had three years of results canceled along with a two-year ban, a total penalty of five years. Why, exactly, are those who help the anti-doping authorities getting a larger penalty than those who deny, deny, deny?

Just wondering.

More Info

In reference to the Justin Gatlin doping case, previously I wondered about the various tests used to examine testosterone levels. Here's some more info via the San Francisco Chronicle:
Donald Catlin, who runs the Olympic drug testing laboratory at UCLA, said that the test to discover high levels of testosterone is two-pronged and labor-intensive. The first part, to see if there is a high T/E ratio, can take anywhere from eight to 12 hours, he said. The second part, to see whether that high ratio comes naturally or from an external source, is also lengthy.

He added, however, that it is rare for B samples to fail to confirm the initial result. "This is not a slam-dunk case," he said of Landis' case. "There is work to do, and if there's ever a test that won't repeat a positive, it will be a really complex analysis, and this is one of them."
It appears likely he was busted for real. The general consensus over at the Track & Field News "Dope Talk" forum is that Gatlin played with fire by getting involved with Trevor Graham. While not wanting to call him stupid, remember he is still a very young man who only spent two years in the collegiate system; Graham is generally considered a nefarious figure who has coached, depending on your system of counting, anywhere from six to fifteen athletes who have been caught doping.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Well, this was not something I expected.
"Reigning Olympic and world 100-meter champion Justin Gatlin said Saturday he has been informed that he tested positive for testosterone or its precursors, the same positive test that has thrown Floyd Landis' victory at the Tour de France into question."
Gatlin himself recently said his most important job is to convince the public he's not taking drugs. Now, there are two possibilities: a) he's guilty as sin, or 2) the drug test is flawed. The first is not a pleasant thought, not because the face of the sport in the USA would get an immediate boot, but because he's been so vocal in support for anti-doping measures. I mean, if he's guilty, there isn't a clean guy on the planet.

Of course, the second isn't a pleasant thought either. We trust WADA to know their tests are bankable in court, otherwise the whole exercise is a sham. In a recent story about Floyd Landis and the hot water he's in, cycling journo Austin Murphy has some interesting things to say:
I just talked to Dr. Gary Wadler in Long Island [N.Y.]. He's a specialist associated with New York University who helped come up with part of the World Anti-Doping Agency's code, and he's saying that this doesn't all add up. There aren't these dramatic variations in your test levels of testosterone; they're fairly consistent in your life. There should be some record of Landis having high levels, which he kept claiming was the case.

...[Landis' last chance is] a test called IRNS, or mass spectrometry. Wadler says this test doesn't care about whether or not your body produces extra amounts of testosterone. It's a chemical test that tells us whether or not this testosterone was either introduced from an outside source or if it is naturally occurring.
Now, if you've been following the anti-doping thing for any length of time, Wadler is one name that pops up a lot. He is no apologist for dopers. When he raises doubts, there's something going on. But more to the point, if a test exists which differentiates exogenous and endogenous testosterone, why do we bother with the other test anyway?

Friday, July 28, 2006

X-Man Done Tuckered Out

Remember when Xavier Carter ran a stunning 19.63 in Lausanne, the second-fastest mark of all time? Well, in three meets since then he hasn't won. I think the long collegiate season finally caught up with him.

Anyway, when he ran that I referred to some research about altitude, wind, and lane selection affecting sprint times. I finally found the online corrector for lane/wind/altitude. It says the X-man's 19.63 is worth 19.73 at sea level in still air and lane 4. Still impressive, but not as jaw-dropping.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Anti-Doping News

Reuters now reports as fact what has recently been rumored: Tour de France champion Floyd Landis failed a doping test after stage 17. This was Landis' amazing breakaway win that brought him from oblivion back into contention for the title. Discuss here.

I should not be disappointed or upset by this. I should be happy that a sport is willing to take hit after hit in pursuit of some sort of honesty. However, I can't avoid a feeling of dismay as I gradually begin to suspect that every elite athlete in the world is doping.

At least track & field is not involved in Operation Puerto, so far as we know. Although if you read the linked press release carefully, Spain’s Guardia Civil is not investigating any athletes outside of cycling. They may, in fact, be involved.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More Ohio State News

An Ohio State University presented its new women's head track coach this morning. As generally predicted, it was assistant coach Karen Dennis. I went to one of her clinic presentations once, and I wasn't super-impressed, although it's very easy for a good coach to look bad in those kinds of settings. On the other hand, her teams' accomplishments while she was head coach at UNLV ('92-'02) and Michigan State ('81-'91) were very average.

So the Buckeye leadership took a look around and the best they could find were the assistants already in place. While Robert Gary has been noted for taking a truly awful distance program and making it competitive on the Big Ten level, this still does not bode well for the track programs. When leadership truly cares about a program, they make a high-level national search. When they don't, they bump people up the line.

The giant will slumber on.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Fantasy League update

There was little top competition this last week, as the World Athletics Tour took a break. Many countries held their national championships last weekend.

At this point, each team got two extra selections. Team totals are still the top eight athletes.

Bershawn JACKSON USA 400mH 232.6
Asafa POWELL JAM 100m 223.3
Virgilijus ALEKNA LTU DT 221.3
Daniel Kipchirchir KOMEN KEN 1500m 216.4
Dwight PHILLIPS USA LJ 203.7
Jeremy WARINER USA 200m, 400m 201.7
Kenenisa BEKELE ETH 5k, 10k 200.9
Justin GATLIN USA 100m,200m 194.6
Dominique ARNOLD USA 110mH 180.5
Brad WALKER USA PV 176.6
Saif Saaeed SHAHEEN QAT 3000mSC 163
Ladji DOUCOURÉ FRA 110mH 155.6

Team Total 1694.5

Lashinda DEMUS USA 400mH 221.2
Blanka VLASIC CRO HJ 217.8
Sanya RICHARDS USA 400m 216.8
Tirunesh DIBABA ETH 5k, 10k 204.1
Susanna KALLUR SWE 100mH 198.1
Meseret DEFAR ETH 5000m 196.1
Michelle PERRY USA 100mH 191.7
Berhane ADERE ETH 5k, 10k 162.4
Ejegayehu DIBABA ETH 5k, 10k 160.6
Veronica CAMPBELL JAM 100m,200m 149.8
Christine ARRON FRA 100m,200m 138.7

Team Total 1629.5

The men's lead is down to 65 points. This week sees some significant action, with three Grand Prix meets on the schedule.

Monday, July 24, 2006

All-Time Top Tens -- Men's 800 meters

Third in a continuing series.

#10. Joaquim Cruz, Brazil
#9. "Peerless" Mel Sheppard, USA

#8. Alberto "El Caballo" Juantorena Danger (Cuba)
Born September 3, 1950, Santiago de Cuba

The 800 meters was actually Juantorena's second-best event, as he specialized in the 400. He was a baseketball player as a teenager and did not take up track until 1971; he nearly made the Olympic 400-meter finals the very next year.

Juantorena was undefeated in the 400 over the next two years, but required foot surgery prior to the 1975 season. Part of his recovery included 15 kilometer runs which he found easy. Thus the plan for doubling up in the 400 and 800 was hatched. Even though he was second on the yearly world list going into the 1976 Montreal Olympics, he had not yet run against the world's best or in a competition with multiple rounds, and was a big question mark. He won in world record time, finished the season undefeated, and the next year broke his own record in the midst of another undefeated campaign.

After that it was mostly downhill, as Juantorena suffered a number of injuries culminating with a broken foot suffered during the first World Championships in 1983. Those two seasons alone were dominating enough to push him up to #8 of all time in this event.

Year Rank Mark Meets, Etc
1976 1 1:43.50 WB 1)Oly Gms; undefeated (8 meets)
1977 1 1:43.44 WB 1)Weltklasse, 1)W Cup; undefeated (11 meets)
1978 6 1:44.38 4)Weltklasse
1979 -- 1:46.4
1980 -- -- did not compete
1981 -- 1:46.0
1982 2 1:45.15 9 wins in 10 meets
1983 -- 1:45.04
1984 -- 1:44.88

Links: Wikipedia -- Sporting Heroes -- IOC profile -- Telegraph interview -- 1976 Olympic finals

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Why Am I A Superfan?

People rarely stop to wonder why their interests so fascinate them. I mean, plane spotters might be able to foil the CIA but people whose idea of fun is taking pictures of aircraft and posting the tailnumbers on the internet can't possibly have a great deal of self-awareness. (Hey! Who's that on the phone! Is it the kettle?)

To me, the reason I'm a track fan is painfully obvious: track and its associated sports are fascinating. A close competition puts me on the edge of my seat like nothing else; while I find sports such as cycling or cross-country skiing entertaining, you just can't beat a good footrace.

It's been said that without sports, men would have nothing to talk about. When you run into another track fan, though, you've found more than a mere acquaintance. You've found another person who gets it, and those people are hard for anyone to come by. Not only can I still remember the people I sat next to at the the 2001 World Championships, but the 1987 and 1988 Ohio high school championships as well.

Right now I'm reading Dry: A memoir, a book both funny and terrible about an alchoholic's attempts at sobriety. The author's thoughts on making friends:
...the kind of friendship that's easy to make in elementary school when you're six or seven. You let a kid have your swing and suddenly he's your best friend. Suddenly you don't care that you hate math, because you hate it together...

[Then] comes high school, college, work. By the time you've started working, you'll never make a friend as completely and easily as you did when you still wiped your nose on your sleeve.
Well, I still do wipe my nose on my sleeve but only when I'm out running. Running buddies are people you never forget, even when you move across the country and see each other just a few times a year. I know that teammates in any sport make deep and lasting friendships, but running seems different. Maybe it's expecting, and getting, the other guy to show up and run fifteen miles when you know he's got a pounding hangover because you've got the same one from the same party. Maybe it's just the endless hours on the road with nothing else to do but talk (and eventually learning that silence is OK when there's nothing to say).

As much as that, I think it's because you can constantly find new people to run with; most athletes are done with competitive sports when they graduate from high school, and virtually all of the rest are done at their college commencement. But with running, you can take that singularity of purpose you had when you were sixteen and just had to beat that other school, and do it all over again trying to get a Boston Marathon qualifier when you're thirty, or forty, or so old you can barely stand up. Try being that intense in your church softball league and they'll all think you're nuts (and with good reason). However, all your running friends both old and new not only understand your particular pathology but encourage it.

Here's to the Superfan's former teammates, competitors, and assorted other nutjobs. Maybe we'll make a Real Men of Genius commercial someday.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The latest from Sports Illustrated

Tim Layden posts his rundown on the international season so far. Little if any of it is news to regular Superfan readers.

The most interesting portion is right at the beginning, about Marion Jones.
I refuse to climb on the Marion Jones bandwagon, and not just because she hasn't spoken to me since 1998. (The erstwhile Mrs. Jones and her then husband C.J. Hunter despised the warts-and-all feature I wrote back then, about 34 controversies ago, and cut me off. This sort of thing happens when you write accuracies, which were very mild compared with what has been said in the ensuing years.)
Someone who works for Sports Illustrated has no worries about kissing athlete ass in order to still have things to write about. This does, however, clearly demonstrate the shortcomings in a publication such as Track & Field News. Whether you believe they need to keep their journalistic access, or are just writing track's version of Tiger Beat, they never write a disparaging word about any US athletes. Thank goodness and Al Gore for the internet.

Glenn Cunningham Bio

I was surprised to find this book, a niche publication to be sure, at my local Borders outlet. I'm into track history in general and pre-WWII in particular, so I picked it up.

Cunningham is a fascinating character. He was burned nearly to death in a fire when he was seven years old, and it took him months before he could walk and years before making a full recovery. He was scarred for life and it had a major effect on his racing. After his competitive years were over he ran a BoysTown-like ranch which took in young people in need of help.

The book is a bit disappointing, I must say. The author appears to have done little if any research besides interviewing Cunningham and his family and friends, and reading newspaper clippings. Cunningham is described in universally glowing terms, and while he surely was a remarkable man, everyone has some dark side to them. Also, the author appears to have a frustrating lack of knowledge about track history (he includes several factual errors which were easy to check) and track in general (such as saying outdoor mile races have 16 turns). And unlike the fantastic book about one of Cunningham's track racing contemporaries, Seabiscuit, we learn essentially nothing about his training regimen.

It's worth reading, but it's only worth a trip to the library. Don't go out and cough up 15 clams for it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Anti-Doping News

Today's New York Times reports that Trevor Graham is being investigated by the same federal grand jury which will soon indict Barry Bonds. Graham, as you may remember, was Marion Jones' coach during her peak years and was the man who anonymously sent the THG-filled syringe to USADA, and currently coaches co-WR holder Justin Gatlin. Graham did not testify to the BALCO grand jury and so cannot be charged with perjury, but he likely made false statements to federal investigators and could be charged with that and/or obstructing justice.

What did he lie about? A certain Angel Guillermo Heredia, 31, of Mexico and Laredo, Tex., maintains he supplied Graham and many of his athletes with steroids, HGH and EPO. Graham told the feds he'd never met the guy. Heredia says he has photographic evidence to the contrary.

Here we have a little more circumstantial evidence against Marion Jones. There are still a few pollyannas out there who argue it's all about nothing, but the noose gets ever tighter. From a teacher's perspective, there ARE people who seem to always find themselves surrounded by troublemakers even if they themselves are not, but those people are universally dumb. Of all the criticisms leveled at Jones, stupidity has never been one of them.

On a related note, today's stage in the Tour de France was a thriller. I've been cheering for Floyd Landis because he rides for the team who makes my hearing aids. Yesterday he totally bombed and fell from the lead to 11th, more than 10 minutes off the lead and seemingly totally out of contention for the podium, never mind the overall win. Today he attacked early and climbed back into third, only 30 seconds off the lead.

How does this have anything to do with doping? Easy. The Tour lost all of last year's top five riders either to retirement or Operation Puerto, and only one rider in this tour has ever finished on the podium in Paris. Yet it is the most exciting in years. While the race lost most of its stars, the sport itself is just as interesting as it ever was. Being tough on doping has cost them nothing.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Will the Sleeping Giant Awaken?

This last June it was announced that longtime Ohio State head coach Russ Rogers will retire effective in September. This has led to much speculation about who will replace him (OSU said there will be separate men's & women's head coaches), which can be read here and here and here and here. Trackshark now reports that men's assistant coach Robert Gary will move up to men's head coach, with no info on any of the other jobs.

Amid that speculation about new hires are some recollections of Russ Rogers' less than stellar career. Apparently he made enemies in Ohio very quickly:

"In over 30 years I have not heard one person make a single positive comment concerning Rogers."
"Russ got off on the wrong foot with Ohio HS coaches by addressing 1500+ at their clinic shortly after getting the OSU job. Among other comments including "a lefthanded third leg in the 4X1 is more important than speed", Russ told the crowd that he 'will recruit nationally because Ohio doesn't produce kids good enough to run for OSU.'"

Immediately prior to his hiring at OSU, he was possibly the most headline-making head Olympic track coach in USOC history, as multiple relay team members told the press Rogers said they would not see relay action unless he became their agent. Apparently the response from the athletes was such that there would not have been any relay teams if Rogers had kept to his word; in any case, it was a remarkably poor hire even for such a money-grubbing institution as An Ohio State University.

But Rogers has only continued a tradition of underachieving in this sport. In 183 Big Ten championships (indoors and out) the men's track program has won just nine times. The women's team has never won the Big Ten, and has achieved runner-up status only four times. Distance running has been even worse; there have been no Big Ten cross-country championships in Ohio State history, and until Gary was hired as a coach the men had never qualified to the NCAA championships, and Oberlin claimed more Big Ten track distance titles than the Buckeyes. The women have only won the Ohio Intercollegiate XC title twice. It's safe to say that this level of futility is not acceptable to the Ohio State faithful in a media-heavy sport; look at what they did to winning football coaches Earle Bruce and John Cooper.

Rogers' comments notwithstanding, Ohio's production of top high school talent is bettered in depth only by California, Texas and Florida, and bettered in breadth only by the Golden State. We have produced All-Americans in every event competed at the state meet, and Olympians in every single event. The number of collegiate All-Americans who came from Ohio high schools is staggering, but very few of them stayed in Ohio and even fewer yet went to Columbus.

There are other hotbeds of high school track in this country; the west coast is the most outstanding, but the northeast, Texas and Florida are great too. But in Ohio, there is only one major university. Every boy who grows up watching college football in this state knows about the Horseshoe and the Best Damn Band in the Land; any coach who can take advantage of that and be competent enough not to screw the kids up could build a juggernaut to rival UCLA, USC, Florida, Oregon or even Arkansas. On the women's side, the financial advantage alone that OSU has over every program within 200 miles of Columbus should set them up for a fantastic ability to recruit.

Will the giant awaken? We shall see.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Fantasy League update

After the last week's action in Lausanne, Rome and Madrid, here are the standings updated since last week.

Bershawn JACKSON USA 400mH 232.6
Virgilijus ALEKNA LTU DT 221.3
Daniel Kipchirchir KOMEN KEN 1500m 216.4
Dwight PHILLIPS USA LJ 203.7
Kenenisa BEKELE ETH 5k, 10k 200.9
Justin GATLIN USA 100m,200m 194.6
Dominique ARNOLD USA 110mH 180.5
Brad WALKER USA PV 176.6
Saif Saaeed SHAHEEN QAT 3000mSC 163
Ladji DOUCOURÉ FRA 110mH 155.6

Team Total 1626.6

Lashinda DEMUS USA 400mH 221.2
Sanya RICHARDS USA 400m 216.8
Tirunesh DIBABA ETH 5k, 10k 204.1
Meseret DEFAR ETH 5000m 196.1
Michelle PERRY USA 100mH 191.7
Berhane ADERE ETH 5k, 10k 162.4
Ejegayehu DIBABA ETH 5k, 10k 160.6
Veronica CAMPBELL JAM 100m,200m 149.8
Christine ARRON FRA 100m,200m 138.7

Team Total 1536.6

The men's lead shrinks slightly to 90 points, down 13.7 from last week. There are only two minor meets on the schedule this week, so little will change.

Monday, July 17, 2006

All-Time Top Tens -- Men's 800 meters

Second in a continuing series.

#10: Joaquim Cruz, Brazil

#9. "Peerless" Mel Sheppard (USA)

Born September 5, 1883, Almonesson Lake, New Jersey
Died January 4, 1942, New York City

In Roberto Quercetani's book on the 800 meters, Wizards of the Middle Distances, an appendix lists his nine legends of the event. Sheppard is one of them, and his career accomplishments put him last out of those nine.

Sheppard's greatest success came at the 1908 Olympic Games in London, where he swept the 800, 1500 and the now-defunct medley relay. Those were the first Olympics that generally brought together the world's best athletes; the next best title to win back then was the AAU championships, which Sheppard did five times. In an eight-year career, Sheppard was the world's best half-miler four times and the runner-up twice.

He was a notorious front-runner. In his Olympic victory his splits were 53.0 / 59.8. Four years later he led out the first lap in 52.5 and came back in 58.5, just getting nosed out by schoolboy sensation Ted Meredith.

In later life Sheppard earned even greater fame as a lawyer, as he unsuccessfully defended the Lindbergh baby kidnapper Bruno Hauptman.

Year Rank Mark Meets, Etc
1906 1 1:52.9* 1)AAU, 1)Can Ch
1907 1 1:54.5* 1)AAU
1908 1 1:52.8 1)En OT, 1)Oly Gms, 1)AAU
1909 -- 1:56.4*e
1910 2 1:53.9* 2)AAU
1911 1 1:53.5* 1)AAU
1912 2 1:52.0 2)Oly Gms, 1)AAU
1913 -- 1:56.3* 3)AAU

Links: Wikipedia

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Where is he now -- Brian Oldfield

The Chicago Tribune has an article on one of the more entertaining athletes in our sports' history. Oldfield was a star just barely before my time, but even if you remember him it's worth checking out.

Rome Golden Gala coverage

The Rome stop on the Golden League circuit is on OLN right now, and was on CBC yesterday. I watched it live on WCSN. The anticipated matchup was Jeremy Wariner versus Xavier Carter, but that one fizzled as Wariner trounced the field. The IAAF has the roundup (men, women).

Over at the Let's Run message board, there's a lively discussion or two about the merits of Dwight Stones as an announcer. WCSN's setup for the Golden League is to carry the host TV feed with Stones doing commentary stateside. Stones totally missed Daniel Lincoln setting an American Record in the steeple, amongst other shortcomings. The general consensus is that he's not very good, and most of us could do better.

And why aren't we given the chance? The idea of a "professional sports announcer", one who could cover anything, seems to have gone the way of the dodo in favor of ex-jocks who specialize in one sport. Guys like Howard Cosell, Jim McKay and Al Michaels have all but disappeared. None of the great baseball announcers ever played in the majors. Football-centric Keith Jackson covered all kinds of things, and he did a bang-up job announcing track at the Olympic Games even though he never competed in the sport. I've heard it said that the best track announcer ever is Frank Zarnowski, a non-jock who is probably the world's foremost expert on the decathlon.

Instead of such competency, we get decided incompetency in the form of Larry "Your Local High School Track" Rawson, the aforementioned Stones, and Carol Lewis. This trio's IQ is about one step up from Howard, Fine & Howard; Lewis alone might rate as the worst sports announcer ever, even supplanting the exquisitely bad Ralph Kiner.

Everyone I meet tells me I've got a radio voice. I've got experience as a PA announcer for track, and people say I keep them well informed; that's because I'm a big fan and tell them the things I'd like to know. I work cheap, too--a six-pack is usually enough. So whaddya say, WCSN? I'm ready to go!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Skeets Weighs In On New Hurdle World Record

The man who single-handedly took the WR from 13.21 down to 12.93 tells the IAAF's Chris Turner "it's about time".
“I was running 12.91 wind assisted 27-years-ago, and it is only yesterday that the (wind legal) record has gone below that….The Hurdles are more forgiving these days, so you can really hit them during a race, even run through them. Back then (1980s) they were solid wood (cross bars) and you dared not hit one as it would break your ankle open.”

He explains why Liu has an advantage over the Americans:
“He is technically sound. His basic flat speed is not as good as the other guys which means that he can race the hurdles at his top speed without fear of going too fast. He is able to relax, not worrying about going too fast, and can just concentrate on his technique, clearing the hurdles low.”
“Xiang’s body is phenomenally flexible. You have to be to be able to react to the hurdle." His flexibility is such that "he must be able to do a Russian split, and as I understand he has a good gymnastic base to his fitness, which is what I had too.”
Edit: There's quite an argument going on over at the T&FN boards about whether Nehemiah is full of crap or not.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The X-Man Cometh

Yesterday's 19.63 for 200 metersby Xavier Carter is getting more internet buzz than Liu Xiang's hurdle world record. I suppose dropping a PR by 0.39 seconds (as Carter did) will get more attention than dropping it by 0.03 (as Liu did). More likely it's because Liu was already a WR holder and Olympic champion while no one thought Carter capable of such a time.

Well, maybe he isn't. The track is very fast, and 200m times are more affected by environmental factors than most people realize. Lausanne's 615 meters of elevation supposedly aid sprinters by 0.02 seconds. Not for the 200, according to physics professor Jonas Murieka. According to his calculations, yesterday's conditions (615m of altitude, 1.1 m/s of aiding wind) gave Carter an additional 0.13 seconds above and beyond what he would have run at sea level and in still air. Well, actually, those calculations were for lane 4; he got considerably more "air time" by being in lane 8.

And what about the lane? Considering that the old 220 yards on a straightaway was about 0.3 to 0.4 seconds faster than running it around a curve, the turn is a very important part of the race--so much so that the IAAF abandoned the 200 race at its indoor championships, since the wining athlete was determined by lane draw as much as anything else. Carter was in lane 8 on a track noted for its broad curves. Murieka has also published research on curves and 200 meter times, but maddeningly he draws no conclusion on the effects of lane selection!

Still, we knew this guy has that special something. The guy ran a 10.09/44.53 double in the space of 42 minutes, indicating sub-44 is in him and just waiting for competition to bring it out.
"Up next, Carter will travel to Rome on Friday for the Golden Gala where he is slated to go head-to-head with Olympic gold medalist Jeremy Wariner in the 400 meters."
Oh boy. This is the moment we thought might not come for years--a worthy opponent to Jeremy Wariner. This is going to be very fun.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lausanne Super Grand Prix

In terms of the fantasy league, the meet went with a first a two seconds for the men versus two firsts for the women. However, due to the fact that only the best five results from the World Athletics Tour count for each athlete, the men only gain two points on the women.

That is not the big news, however. Liu Xiang is no longer a co-world record holder in the 110m hurdles, as he ran a stunning 12.88 for a new record. Dominique Arnold was also under the old record, at 12.90, and was essentially even off the last hurdle.

Xavier Carter was a late entry in the 200 meters and got stuck out in lane 8. He hadn't run since his historic four-win weekend at the NCAA championships. Bad start, OK turn, dynamite last 50, ran 19.63, the second-fastest ever. This race was the first ever with four men under 20.00.

Those are just the headlines, though. A fantastic meet.

Fantasy League update

After Paris, here are the updated standings:

Virgilijus ALEKNA LTU DT 211.7
Bershawn JACKSON USA 400mH 211.7
Justin GATLIN USA 100m,200m 194.6
Dwight PHILLIPS USA LJ 192.5
Kenenisa BEKELE ETH 5k, 10k 180.6
Daniel Kipchirchir KOMEN KEN 1500m 178.9
Dominique ARNOLD USA 110mH 163.7
Saif Saaeed SHAHEEN QAT 3000mSC 162.1
Brad WALKER USA PV 162.6
Ladji DOUCOURÉ FRA 110mH 155.6

Team Total 1495.8

Lashinda DEMUS USA 400mH 206.6
Sanya RICHARDS USA 400m 196
Tirunesh DIBABA ETH 5k, 10k 184
Meseret DEFAR ETH 5000m 180.1
Ejegayehu DIBABA ETH 5k, 10k 157.6
Michelle PERRY USA 100mH 153.2
Berhane ADERE ETH 5k, 10k 150.3
Veronica CAMPBELL JAM 100m,200m 149.8
Christine ARRON FRA 100m,200m 138.7

Team Total 1392.1

The men's lead drops to 103.7 points. Athletes competing today at the Super Grand Prix Meet in Lausanne are Komen, Arnold, Jackson, and Isinbayeva. If I'm reading this right, there will be a webcast beginning at 1:45 PM Eastern time.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Major-Meet Bidding and the Midwest

The last few years have been very nice to track fans in this part of the country. Indiana State has hosted the NCAA Div. I cross-country championships (2002, 2004-06), and the USATF outdoor championships were and will be in Indianapolis (2006-07). We may be in for some more.

Des Moines annually hosts the fabulous Drake Relays, and with a recent stadium upgrade they're now ready to host bigger things. They are one of six finalists for the NCAA Outdoor Championships for the next three years. Des Moines brought out the heavy hitters, with Iowa governor and presidential hoepful Tom Vilsack making the final presentation. Besides the fact that I could drive there in a day, Des Moines makes sense because the city has already shown it loves track and will work hard to make people welcome.

A slightly bigger event is also up for bid soon -- the 2016 Olympic Games. The decision is still far off (October 2009) but the race is on to decide the city the USOC will put forward. The early favorite is San Francisco...but remember, there's a Mayor Daly involved.

All-Time Top Tens -- Men's 800 meters

Here's the first installment of the all-time rankings.

#10. Joaquim Cruz (Brazil)
Born March 12, 1963, Taguatinga, Brazil

The heights of Cruz' career were great; his 1984 season was one of the best the event has ever seen. But with only four world rankings spread out over six seasons, there's just not enough there to merit being placed above the tenth spot.

Cruz was great almost from the start. At age 15 he ran 1:51, and in 1981 he set a World Junior Record of 1:44.3 (good enough for #2 on the world list, but not a world ranking). He went to the University of Oregon in the fall of 1982 and over the next three years he rarely lost. His best time, 1:41.77, is still #3 on the all-time world list some 22 years later.

But after that three-year run his achilles tendons began to give him trouble. He regained form enough to pick up a silver medal at the 1988 Olympics, but that was the end of the line for him. Cruz now lives in the San Diego area and coaches track.

Year Rank Mark Meets, Etc
1981 -- 1:44.3 6)W Cup
1982 -- 1:46.0
1983 2 1:44.04 3)W Ch
1984 1 1:41.77 1)Oly Gms, 1)Weltklasse; undefeated
1985 1 1:42.29 2)Weltklasse
1986 -- --
did not compete
1987 -- 1:45.00
1988 4 1:43.90 2)Oly Gms

Links: Official site - Wikipedia - Sporting Heroes

Sunday, July 09, 2006

ESPN and "Sports"

Miller and Hinds point out that ESPN will show anything just so long as they hold the rights to it.

Anti-Doping News

For those thousands -- nay, millions! -- of dedicated Superblog readers who are waiting to see the Paris Golden League on tape-delay today (OLN, 3-4 PM Eastern), I'll put off dissecting the meet and its effects on our fantasy league until tommorrow.

Of course you already know that Marion Jones is running well again. Previously I have highlighted her shady connections. Now comes news that Aziz Zakari has tested positive for stanozolol (aka Winstrol, the drug that busted Ben Johnson and Rafael Palmiero). Zakari's coach is Steve Riddick, who also coaches Myriam Mani (just back from a 2-year suspension), the strangely-muscular Tonique Williams-Darling, and guess who else? Yep, Marion Jones. Zakari is now her twelfth training partner with a positive test.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

All-Time Top Tens in Track & Field

I have a track & field historical book project that I've been working on for the better part of a decade. The intention was to rank the top ten of all time in each event. I'm barely any close to being finished than I was 5 years ago. Right now I'm making zero progress, at least in part because of my blogging.

Inspired by a thread on the Track & Field News forums, I've decided to do this in an installment fashion right here. My criteria for ranking is basically a rip-off of Track & Field News' annual world rankings system. Here's the introduction I wrote a long time ago.

A title like “Track and Field’s All-Time Top Tens” needs some explaining. Top ten what? And how were they determined?

Since 1948, Track and Field News, the “Bible of the Sport”, has annually ranked the top ten athletes in each standard Olympic track and field event. They have become recognized as the definitive World Rankings. From the magazine itself: “The whole purpose of our World Rankings is to establish relative merit for the single season in question. The Rankings are not reflective of how the compilers feel athletes would finish in any kind of idealized competition. Ergo, the “best” athlete isn’t always number one.”

This book seeks to do the same—not in a season-by-season comparison, but to make an ordering of the all-time greats in each event by their career records. I want to use the same criteria that T&FN uses, but obviously I have certain problems since I am comparing athletes of different eras agains each other. Here are the criteria as described by T&FN, with the adjustments that I will make.

1. Honors Won. This means scoring high placings (with emphasis on actually winning) in major international competitions. It should be noted that the importance of a meet is relative to who competes in it, not how much stock an athlete might place in it. As important as major meets are, we should also note that no competition, not even the Olympics, is the be-all, end-all. We’re looking for people who maintain high standards over the whole year.

I won’t change much here, except to substitute “whole career” for “whole year”. It’s true that legends are made at the Olympics. Nowadays, the major meets are the Olympics, the World Championships, and the Grand Prix Final along with a few others, but this was not always the case. The first few Olympic Games, along with the boycotted Games of 1980 and 1984, generally did not bring the world’s best together. Meets that have been considered “major” at one time or another include the World Cup, European Championships, Commonwealth Games, and the AAU and AAA championships.

2. Win-Loss Record. Simply put, an analysis of how athletes fared in head-to-head competition with their peers. But a win in a major competition might outweigh losses to the same person in a multiple number of minor ones.

This both can and can’t be done in comparing athletes from different eras. For example, Jesse Owens never ran head-to-head against Carl Lewis. But it says “with their peers”; you can compare how each ran against their own competition. However, compiling career win-loss records would be tedious at best and often impossible. Since they are a great way to boil complex seasonal records down to a single number, I’ll substitute World Rankings for Win-Loss Record. Like Honors Won above, high rankings are important with emphasis on ranking #1. If two contemporaries are compared to each other, I may use a combination of World Rankings and Win-Loss Record where possible. Win streaks and undefeated seasons will also come under this heading.

3. Sequence of Marks. More concisely, performances. How fast you ran or how high or how far you jumped or how far you threw something. It’s very easy for the casual observer to place the most consideration on the last factor, when it should in fact be the opposite. We reward people who have proven themselves against other people, not against themselves.

Here’s the biggest problem when comparing athletes from different eras. The best marks of 100 years ago are not notable today to say the least. Unless I came up with something else, all the athletes in this book would come from the last 25 years. It is possible, though, to find mark-related accomplishments that can be considered in the context of their time—world records. I will consider the number of records that an athlete set, along with the length of time the record(s) stood and how much they improved on the existing record.

For most of the history of the sport, two lists of records were kept; one for metric distances and one for yards. I combined them into one list in each event area. In the sprints and horizontal jumps, altitude-aided marks were rejected. Furthermore, unratified but statistically valid marks (as determined by the Association of Track and Field Statisticians) were added to the list. The final result was something so unofficial that they only can be called World Bests.

Other assorted issues to deal with:

Indoor competition. T&FN says that for its World Rankings, it “plays only a small role, and is not considered at all in shorter running events, where small tracks add a whole new variable to the equation”. My rankings agree completely.

Road competition. Not considered in any way except for the marathon.

Walking events. They’re not in this book. I could be accused of denigrating the walks as an exercise in ridiculousness. The truth is that there’s little historical information available; the walks are totally ignored by the ATFS in their Performances Through the Years series.

Drugs/Doping. As the years have gone by, few other issues have given me more problems than this one. It is obvious that this book is riddled with cheaters, although we may never know exactly which ones. Suspicion runs so deep that virtually all highly successful athletes of the last 25 years have been accused of drug use at one time or another. No matter how hard it is for me to avoid it, this is not the place for a rant against the sport’s leadership and how they allowed this to happen.

There is strong circumstantial evidence that drug use has dropped off (at least in certain events). Two near-simultaneous events brought this about: Ben Johnson’s positive test at the 1988 Olympics, and the implosion of eastern Europe’s state-sponsored sports programs. From about 1989 to the present, the performance levels of world-class throwers and female middle-distance runners have been far lower than those throughout the 1980s. It can be inferred that since these are the events that are most affected by testosterone-like drugs, their use is down. The picture is not so rosy all over, though. In 1989 a short piece in Track and Field News warned about the new drug EPO and its effects on endurance. Throughout the 1990s, performances in distance races exploded.

So what to do? Some cheaters do get caught and suspended. Until the BALCO affair, just one has admitted to a career of drug use, though; the Canadian government investigated Johnson in the wake of his positive test, and he told his story on the witness stand. Although it was derided as a circus at the time, Canada’s Dubin Inquiry (named after the judge who presided over it) is still the only instance of a governmental agency investigating its own athletes for a history of drug use. Apparently the Canadians’ sense of honor and fair play superceded any worry that other athletes or even an entire system would be exposed. No other country can claim to have such high morals.

So Ben Johnson is totally wiped out from these pages; it’s as if he never existed. I cannot do the same with others, though. If an athlete tested positive and served a suspension, it will be noted and the reader is left to pass judgement as he wishes. With rare exceptions, rumours will be ignored. Even if it’s naïve, I’ll assume innocence unless guilt was proven.

Professionalism. For most of the history of the sport money was the big sin, not drugs. Nowadays we see things differently. While I’m not here to document or explain the origins and development of the amateur system, a little background is helpful. Running, jumping and throwing have been around forever, but they became the sport we know in the mid-19th century at elite British and American colleges. Some of those who competed wished to continue after their school days were over, and the gentleman’s sports clubs were born. The amateur code was a response to multiple issues; foremost were a need to avoid the corrupting influences of wagering and for the upper classes to compete while not appearing plebean.

Early amateurs did not attempt to separate their sport from money, though. They were not above competing against professionals, and cups, belts, and other prizes awarded to amateur champions were often listed by their value. In addition, the gate receipts from meets went into the club’s coffers, so a single top-class athlete that drew large crowds could fund lavish comforts for his club-mates (such as with Lon Myers and the Manhattan A.C.). Whatever the origins, as soon as control of amateur sports went to any national level the amateur code was used as a political tool. Since there never was any time that money was completely separate from track and field, everyone was guilty but only some were prosecuted—the definition of fascism.

The rankings in this book are based solely on athletic accomplishments, so professional marks are included provided the athlete competed under rules reasonably similar to those we accept today. Most of the time, though, the pros could only compete against each other and that often meant solo efforts against the clock or measuring tape. And as it was said above, “we reward people who have proven themselves against other people”, so they still receive some penalty.

World Rankings. Track and Field News’ first world rankings covered the 1947 season. Since these all-time rankings include athletes from before that time, we have a problem. I did a LOT of research and came up with a yearly top three for each event, and then filled in the rest of the top ten rankings by the world list of best marks. It’s an imperfect system to be sure, but the best that I could do without spending years globe-hopping to obscure libraries while learning to read a dozen or more languages. For years in which there was little international competition, such as during the World Wars, I picked just the #1 athlete in each event and used the world list to fill out a top five.

Starting Points. The sports of running, jumping and throwing are as old as the human race. The modern sport of track and field as we now recognize it is far younger than that, though, as it became somewhat standardized in the mid- to late-19th century. I used 1880 as the beginning of my history of the sport as it was the year of the Amateur Athletic Association’s formation. Our sport’s history is tied to amateurism, and the formation of the AAA solidly cemented the amateur movement. Many of the events in this book were not commonly contested in 1880, though, so each of them will have their own starting point as described in the individual chapters.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

If I were King of All Track

Sports Illustrated has a "Commissioner For A Day" writeup on eight different sports. I'm sure it's merely a mistake, an office drone paperwork snafu, that they didn't ask me to write a column about track. So if I were King of the IAAF, I would mandate:

1. Athletes wear national colors on the GP circuit. Right now in any multi-lap race you've got a dozen identical Nike jerseys and a few identical Adidas outfits. You can't tell who is who. Contrast this to the World Cup, where the red-and-white of England and the striped jerseys of Argentina are immediately recognizable. Track guys aren't going to run in national uniforms, no, but a simple and recognizable scheme of two or three colors with space for a sponsor logo on the chest. (The national uniform will be the same exact color scheme with the country's name where the logo was!)

2. Replace the lame World Cup with a Davis Cup style dual meet tournament. Take two years to work it out. Meets can be indoors or out. The first year reduces it to eight nations (Commonwealth, South America, Asia, Pacific, North/Central America, Africa, and two from Europe) and the second year crowns a champion. Nice leadup to the Olympics, eh?

3. Find some way to penalize athletes who duck each other. Coe and Ovett only ran against each other in the Olympics, when they couldn't avoid it any longer. This year's Gatlin-Powell two-step isn't any fun either. Flog them in public if necessary, just get them to face off regularly!

4. Eliminate the World Cross-Country short course race. Already done, but not fast enough. "Short" and "cross-country" don't go together and it just dilutes the talent while drawing the meet out an extra day. A bad idea from the start.

5. Make the IAAF World Rankings dependent on head-to-head record. Right now it's little more than an average of an athlete's six best marks.

6. Get an IAAF channel on satellite TV. All track, all the time. **drool**

New Track & Field News

The so-called Bible of the Sport came in the mail today. As a news-oriented publication mostly dedicated to looking back at events that happened three or more weeks ago, it's OK. Really, I only subscribe for the e-mail newsletter.

One thing has really gotten me irked, though. A few years back when the NCAA was talking about instituting the regional qualifying format for the outdoor NCAA championships , T&FN was very much in favor of it. Ever since it has gone into place, however, all four regional meets together have merited nothing but a one-page write-up, highlighting naught but the top athletes who failed to qualify to the NCAA. Quotes from coaches on the regional format are universally negative, despite the fact that the vast majority of coaches (more than 5 out of 6) prefer the new way of doing things. I mean, if you're going to be in favor of something, talk it up rather than make it look bad.

Now, I do believe there are problems with the regional format. They are few and minor, and easily fixable. At-large bids to the national championships go in order by the national list of best marks, provided that the athlete finished in the top 8 in that event at the regional meet. Track is about the only sport that goes at it in such a simplistic way; every other sport puts together a selection committee. Why are we above (or below) such a practice?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Comedy is Personal

As trauma to the groin is to home video shows, painful steeple episodes are to track "highlights".

Our first clip comes via

Next up is your basic steeple fall.

We get a bit more painful, as the crowd says a collective "ow!"

And finally, the ultimate in steeplechase humilation comes from the college boys at

Paris Golden League

The start lists are up. Men in our fantasy league who will be competing are Kenenisa Bekele (5k), Brad Walker (PV), Dominique Arnold and Ladji Doucoure (both 110H). Women are Christine Arron (100m), and Lashinda Demus (400H).

TV coverage will be on CBC, Saturday 2-4 PM, and OLN, Sunday 3-4 PM.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Fantasy League update

Today's action at the Athens Super Grand Prix meet has had an effect on the fantasy league standings. The full extent is not reflected below, since the World Rankings will not be updated until next Monday.


Virgilijus ALEKNA LTUDT211.5
Bershawn JACKSONUSA400mH211.2
Justin GATLIN USA100m,200m194.8
Daniel Kipchirchir KOMENKEN1500m179.6
Saif Saaeed SHAHEENQAT3000mSC162.1
Kenenisa BEKELE ETH5k, 10k161.3
Dominique ARNOLD USA110mH148.1
Ladji DOUCOURÉFRA110mH147.6

Team Total1462.9


Lashinda DEMUS USA400mH186.2
Sanya RICHARDSUSA400m176
Tirunesh DIBABA ETH5k, 10k164.7
Meseret DEFAR ETH5000m164.1
Ejegayehu DIBABA ETH5k, 10k154.8
Michelle PERRY USA100mH154.6
Veronica CAMPBELLJAM100m,200m149.8
Berhane ADERE ETH5k, 10k147.5
Christine ARRON FRA100m,200m138.9

Team Total1297.7

The lead extends to 165.2 points. It will begin to narrow as July wears on, though.

The next significant stop on the World Tour is Saturday's Golden League meeting in Paris.