11th January 2016

Analysis: UK Athletics ‘Manifesto for Clean Athletics’

UK Athletics today proposed a number of radical changes in its 14-point ‘Manifesto for Clean Athletics’, which it said should be adopted in the UK and worldwide so that ‘honest athletes and the watching public can enjoy clean athletics’. These include: extending bans to eight years for ‘serious’ doping offences; requiring athletes to hold a valid athlete biological passport (ABP) to compete in World Championships; the requirement for member federations to reimburse prize money to affected athletes in the case of anti-doping rule violations; public records of drug tests and missed tests; criminalisation of the supply of performance-enhancing drugs; and more.

It also called on the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to explore the idea of drawing a line under all pre-existing world records, commencing a new set of records based on the ‘Clean Athletics’ era; called on sponsors to withdraw support from any athlete found guilty of a ‘serious’ doping offence; called on governments to ensure national anti-doping organisations (NADOs) are independent by handing over their management to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). UK Athletics also committed to exploring how best to implement a rule that would ban athletes convicted of a ‘serious’ doping offence from representing Great Britain for life.

Response

The UK Athletics media statement was keen to emphasise that the purpose of the document was to stimulate ‘a wide-ranging debate about measures that could be introduced to achieve a new era of clean athletics’. Although it only called for the IAAF to investigate the option of wiping out world records, this proposal has already caused much consternation amongst athletes and coaches, who argued that the proposals punished clean athletes. Toni Minichiello, who coached Jessica Ennis to gold medal success at the London 2012 Olympics, said he didn’t agree with the proposals ‘in any way, shape or form’.

Others pointed out that if world records are to be wiped, then national records should perhaps also be wiped, and the UK should take a lead. ‘If world records in athletics were to be wiped, then every nation’s national & area records must be too’, tweeted Kelly Sotherton, heptathlon gold medal winner at the 2006 Commonwealth Games. Olympic 400m bronze medal winer, Katharine Merry, was also critical of the idea of wiping records, as was BBC journalist Ed Harry.

“Without doubt you are going to punish innocent athletes and why are you going to do it again when they have already had to compete against cheats during their career?” marathon world record-holder Paula Radcliffe (pictured) told The Guardian. “I feel that innocent athletes have suffered enough at the hands of drugs cheats”. However, others were more welcoming.

The IAAF has already agreed to review UK Athletics proposals. ‘We welcome this framework from UK Athletics and look forward to engaging in their processes for moving it forward’, read an emailed statement. ‘The IAAF is currently driving some of these changes forward such as increasing out of competition testing and devoting commercial revenue to anti-doping as outlined earlier this year. The IAAF registered testing pool will double, as will its testing budget, which represents over 50% of participants in the IAAF World Championships and all potential medal winners. Each of these athletes tested will automatically have an ABP profile created. We look forward to reviewing the recommendations in full over the coming days.’

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