Posts

Show Us Your Hammer Lord Coe

One month from today the IAAF will elect their next president. Two candidates are vying for the position: Lord Sebastian Coe and Sergey Bubka.

Both Coe and Bubka have stellar resumés that will surely push the sport forward. But sometimes it is a bit difficult to see the differences between them. Read more

The Next Frontier in the War on Doping

Track and field realized it had a doping problem long ago; if Ben Johnson in 1988 wasn’t a wake-up call for those final fans pleading ignorance, then they were never going to wake up. Since then track and field has been on the path to recovery, but I do not think anyone envisioned it would take this long. Read more

Cheating and the IAAF Qualifying Standards

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At the end of June I wrote about the absurdity of the IAAF men’s hammer throw standards. Now that the qualification period has closed we can see the extent of the damage done. Last year in London 42 athletes competed. This year, if each country sends the largest possible team and there are no new injuries, an estimated 26 athletes will compete at the World Championships. Only four countries will have more than one athlete: Russia, Belarus, Hungary and Poland.

My first post talked about how unrealistic standards are in comparison to historical results and how these standards exclude potential finalists and medalists from the competition. In addition, the standards discriminate against the hammer because funding and sponsorship decisions are often based upon the IAAF’s standards. Both of these points are equally valid for all field events, it is just that the hammer has been hit particularly hard.

But there is also an elephant in the room when we start talking about standards: illegitimate marks. The standards are so high that many athletes throw qualifying marks at competitions with questionable validity or doping control procedures. This, in turn, helps the IAAF justify higher standards. This is a bold statement for me to make, especially since I have only anecdotal evidence to back it up, but while many other elite athletes allude to the problem on Facebook no one is willing to come out and say it. The reason I want to speak up is because if the Diamond League included the hammer throw I think this problem would nearly disappear.
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High Standards Are Lowering the Standards in Hammer Throwing

The men’s hammer competition at last week’s IAAF Hammer Challenge meet in Ostrava assembled the best field of the year so far and included the Olympic gold medalist, the Olympic silver medalist and eight of the top eleven throwers in the world so far this season. Yet despite the big names, only two throwers eclipsed the IAAF “A” qualifying standard for this summer’s World Championships. And only five even surpassed the “B” standard, the minimum standard for entry to the World Championships. It is not that the results were bad; quite to the contrary the results were quite strong and for just the second time this year two throwers broke 80 meters in the same meet, something that didn’t even happen at last year’s Olympics and only happened three times during the entire 2012 season. The culprit wasn’t the performances, it was the exorbitantly high new IAAF Qualifying standards.

The last qualifier for the finals at all major championships over the past few decades. The current A standard is 79 meters. Stats compiled by Ian Tempest.

The qualifying standards in nearly every field event were raised after the London Olympics, but no event was hit harder than the men’s hammer throw. The new A qualifying standard is 79.00 meters. The B standard is now 76.00 meters. To put that in perspective 74.69 meters was good enough to qualify for the finals in London and 78.71 meters earned a medal. Yes you read that correct: the A standard is higher than what was required for a medal at the Olympic Games. As a result of these high standards, it is not surprising that only five men have met the A standard this year, by far the lowest number amongst all track and field events. Even the B standard is much higher than the mark required to make the finals at the majority of major championships over the past 25 years, as shown in the graph to the right and discussed in a previous analysis. At the end of this post I have also compiled an analysis which shows how many individuals have met the A standard in each event and how high the A standard would need to be if just the top five athletes in each event had reached it.

The decision to raise the standards is having the odd effect of lowering the standard of competition in the hammer throw. It is doing this in two major ways: (1) by keeping potential medalists and finalists out of the World Championships; and (2) by inadvertently limiting the funding and sponsorship opportunities available to top throwers in every country.
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