Will erasing world records cure athletics or just bury the past? | Sean Ingle

British athletes Jonathan Edwards and Paula Radcliffe are among those who will have their longstanding world records wiped under new rules but is it simply window-dressing?

When Lionel Messi slaloms away from three, four, five players, before dabbing a shot past the keeper with the cool nonchalance of a movie star stubbing out a cigarette, millions of jaws go into freefall. It is the same when Ronnie OSullivan machine-guns around a snooker table, or Roger Federer whips his wrist to slap a scudding cross-court winner. Their genius stimulates us giddy.

Yet when a trail and realm star renders something equally extraordinary, our inner detective moves to high alert. We have been deceived, misled and played for clowns so many times now that a world record no longer becomes a moment of pure rejoice and exhilaration but a potential misdemeanour scene.

But on Tuesday, as the full implications of the radical plan to wipe out all world and European records before 2005began to sink in, there were plenty in the athletic who believed it was the start of a necessary sea change.

One British coach told the Guardian it was possibly the best bit of reform ever before citing, with acceptance, the plan to strip anyone who defrauds of their world and European records. Another administrator conveyed his revel at the news. I have invested 10 times being amazed how little my counterparts care about doping, he mentioned. So hats off to European Athletics president Svein Arne Hansen for showing he has bollocks.

It was also a tacit but welcome acknowledgement of the sports barrel-aged problems with performance improving drugs. You didnt require a GCSE in bio-chemistry to know that female athletes from eastern bloc countries and elsewhere during the Cold War era were get assist. You realized it in their giant-oak thighs and baritone voices and, in a number of cases, even read about later it in the Stasi files. Yet the best law PhDs could not get those records struck off the books. Now they will be.

As the dust began to settle, there were those who were less comfortable with the news. Jonathan Edwards, whose 18.29 m triple jump world record has stood since 1995, admitted he would like to the authorities concerned had not hidden the old records together, as if they were all radioactive.

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Paula Radcliffe criticises new rules that will wipe athletics records audio

In a sense what European Athletics and the IAAF do is not going to make any difference to how I feel about what I achieved in my job, he told the Guardian. It was always about my appreciation of pride in my performance and doing it the right way. I cant speak for Christian Taylor, or any of the triple jumpers, but my guess is none of them doubt my 18.29 m is clean. And that is more important to me than what a bunch of sports administrators decide. The irony is they are not mentioning my record is dodgy, but they are by their actions.

Paula Radcliffe, the womens marathon record owner, said she understood the reasoning behind scrapping records, but reckoned the answer was flawed. It would be better to remove all records where there is sufficient evidence of doping to stand up in a court of law[ Stasi files, later failed exams etc ], and put in place stringent conditions for records going forward, she added. But dont punish athletes just for the epoch they were born and performed in.

Yet how can we be certain that this epoch is any cleaner than the past? Especially committed what has happened in Russia lately, and with anti-doping agencies warning of problems in places like Kenya, Ethiopia and Turkey. And this might be the tip of the iceberg. In 2013 Dick Pound, the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, suggested that if 10% of athletes were cheating it would be a conservative number. Yet according to official figures, percentages per of positive doping exams around 1% has barely changed since 1985.

Something clearly does not add up. Meanwhile in 2011 Wada commissioned an anonymous survey of over 2,000 athletes, and estimated that 29% of athletes at “the worlds” championships that year and 45% at the Pan-Arab Games admitted they had knowingly violated anti-doping regulations by using a proscribed substance or technique in the past 12 months. The research is heavily disputed, but it elevates another obvious trouble: is it worth wiping the records if there are question marks about the ones that supplant it?

Behind the scenes, reformers acknowledge that if there is to be more confidence in trail and realm, this has to be the first step in a wider bundle including looking into the misuse of Therapeutic Use Exemptions, thyroid and asthma drug, and corticosteroids out of competition to lose weight.

A more zealous policy of store, and retrospective testing of samples would be no bad thing either, while there are still far too few examiners to hunt down defrauds. If Hajo Seppelt can expose serious wrongdoing in Russia and Kenya, what would two dozen more of his ilk reach?

And while more testing is far from being the answer, it probably wouldnt hurt if leading athletes not only had their blood and urine samples taken more regularly but ever had them tested for specific performance-enhancing drugs like peptides, human-growth hormone and EPO.

Yet as Pound threw it bluntly four years ago: “They dont have” general appetite to initiate the effort and expense of a successful effort to deliver doping-free athletic. Perhaps a bit more honesty from senior figures wouldnt go amiss either. We all yearn for the working day when we live in a clean athletics epoch, but there will always be people who defraud and cheaters who get away with it. Why not be open about some of their own problems in the system?

For now , none of us truly know whether the latest proposals represent a new broom that will start to clean things up or simply a blanket lobbed over the remnants of trail and realms embarrassing past.

As Dave Bedford, who broke the 10,000 m world record in the early 1970 s, wisely throws it: It is clear something radical has to be done to regain soundnes in our athletic. Whether this is the right move only time will tell. But it will simply work if it is part of a far wider set of measures. Otherwise this is just PR.

Read more: https :// www.theguardian.com/ athletic/ blog/ 2017/ may/ 02/ jonathan-edwards-paula-radcliffe-erasing-old-world-records