The state of athletics track and field/running worldwide: Can it get any worse? |

The state of athletics track and field/running worldwide: Can it get any worse? |

Jeff Benjamin, left, and Sebastian Coe are all smiles at the 1991 Runners World Magazine 25th Anniversary Awards show where Coe was honored as the greatest runner of those 25 years. Benjamin is hoping Coe can fix what is wrong with Athletics. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Benjamin)

By Jeff Benjamin/Special to the Advance

The end of the year is fast approaching and many sports fans, particularly in New York, are lamenting the problems facing not only their teams, but their sport as well.


From Major League Baseball to the NFL, NHL and NBA, potential problems, some perennial and some new can, and have, aggravated fans. They may be the lucky ones.


They could be, like me, fans of track and field/running (the rest of the world calls it Athletics).


Since many American sports fans don’t know or care (a major problem) here’s an update about the many goings on which is making the sport run around in countless circles, which is not the style of running it wants to be known for:


Drug Test Failure


Kenyan female marathon star Rita Jeptoo, who has won the Boston Marathon three times, including setting the course record at 2:18:57 in 2014, was reported to have failed a doping test this past fall.


So, as the track world awaits the results of her “B” sample, stories are being reported about alleged Kenyan drug use on a large scale, even systematically where athletes are being given the drugs by coaches and/or agents.




As if Jeptoo and Kenya wasn’t enough, how about  the French newspaper L’Eqippe (the first to proclaim Lance Armstrong as a doper) and a shocking upcoming German documentary.


In it, eyewitness sources implicate the ENTIRE Russian sports program with allegedly providing athletes with systematic doping plans to improve their performances. Star marathoner Liliya Shobukhova is not only accused of doping, but to keep her secret quiet, the 37-year-old allegedly paid Russia’s athletics federation $550,000 to help her cover up a positive test when she was busted!
So what should we do?


Ban Russia and Kenya from the Olympics?




Speaking of the Olympics, where it looks like the U.S. is serious about hosting the 2024 Summer Games with Boston, L.A., D.C. and St.Louis mounting serious bids, another story recently came out where Olympic officials discussed getting rid of some longtime events to make way for the crowded athlete participants (some say overcrowded) as well as new events, such as golf.


Supposedly on the chopping block are synchronized swimming, the 10K, the shot put, the men’s race walks (likely the 20K), the 200 meters, shot put, and triple jump. Many of these events have been around since the first modern Games in 1896 with legendary performers.


Rumor or fact? We shall see.

U.S. Track and Field (USTA)


The group which runs track and field and road running in America is called United States Track and Field (USATF). Last week the organization held its annual convention in Anaheim, Calif.


Membership voted 392-70 to recommend the group’s board renominate veteran leader Bob Hersh over USA Track & Field president Stephanie Hightower for election to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Council, the association which governs track and field and road running worldwide.


When the 12-member board met, they had other plans. Hightower was able to secure the positon in the IAAF council with a vote of 11-1, thereby ignoring the majority and creating a general outcry from the membership.



If you think the USATF has issues, take a peek at the IAAF!


The world leader of the sport, Liamme Diack, will be retiring soon. But not before reports of alleged bribes from cities that want to host track championships with Diack’s own son being accused.




Did all this make your head spin like feeling winded from an all-out sprint?


The IAAF now holds in its hands the rise of a new leader who can somehow shake the sport out of its doldrums, perhaps bringing a piece of the past to the present.


A past that includes inspiring traditions of Americans Jesse Owens, Wilma Rudolph, Carl Lewis, Jim Ryun, Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers to name a few.


His name is Sebastian Coe.


In 1979, Britain’s Coe, a product of all-inclusive grass-roots running clubs and his father’s scientific and meticulous training, shocked the world by setting four world records on the track over 41 days!


His youth and genuine enthusiasm (which will soon be portrayed by actor Daniel Radcliffe in an upcoming BBC movie) ushered in a new era for the sport where great interest was shown by America and the world towards Athletics.


Coe went on to set more world records, particularly in the mile and come home with two golds in the 1980 and 1984 Olympics. An adamant fighter against doping, Coe, was knighted in 1995 and has served in various capacities in the sport. Most notably he was instrumental in capturing the 2012 Olympic Games for London over New York and Paris.


Last week, Lord Coe announced his candidacy for the IAAF presidency in 2015, issuing a manifesto addressing all challenges presently facing the sport.


Can Lord Coe help resurrect the dying sport, which is plagued by doping, scandal, disinterest and reportedly has a world fan base with an average age of 49?


With the sport’s all-ever inclusiveness for participants of all ages and abilities and with some positives happening this past year nationally, such as American Meb Kflezghi’s Boston Marathon win, as well as the town of Eugene, Oregon (nicknamed Track Town USA) almost getting to host a track world championship, it may be possible.

Lord Coe, if elected, would once again be on the edge of possibly ushering in a new era for the sport so desperate to rise up to awareness that one of the hottest news reports is the possibility of suspended NFL star Adrian Petersen retiring from the NFL and coming over to track to compete in the 100 and perhaps the 200, if it’s still around!

Can it get any worse?

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