Track & Field shoots itself in the foot again

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    • #53244

      The indoor World Championships is going on in Birmingham England right now. With no outdoor World Championships this year (why not???) this is the showcase event of the year.

      So how is it going? It’s been a mess.

      In the men’s 800, Drew Windle finished second. Then he got a DQ for impeding another runner (even though the replay showed the other runner grabbed his arm). An hour or so later, upon appeal, he was reinstated.

      In the men’s 400, the first and second runners across the line got DQ’d for running out of their lanes. I haven’t heard of any reinstatements. I haven’t seen a replay of this so I can’t say whether or not this was legitimate but, if two runners in the race went out of their lanes, we need to ask why. Earlier in the meet, there was an entire heat of the 400 where every runner in the heat got DQ’d.

      In the men’s 3000, Paul Chelimo stepped inside the rail. Seems like an easy DQ to call but many people have pointed out that, in the 2012 Olympics in London, Mo Farah did exactly the same thing in a very similar situation and went on to win the gold. How about a little consistency?

      Track & Field, I love you. Sadly, though, you make it hard. Please stop shooting yourself in the foot.

    • #53247

      Though I would have liked to have seen Donavan Brazier and Paul Chelimo racing in the finals, I don’t feel that I can really complain about those DQs. They and several others broke the rules and the officials enforced those rules. Per Colleen Quigley’s comments, it may have been more challenging to stay on the track with the steeply banked curves, so, I think that athletes should have had access to the track prior ot race day to familiarize themselves with track conditions. As for Farah, perhaps he should have been DQd. It does suck though when outcomes are decided by officiating.

      Perhaps instead of a DQ, they could assess a penalty in the results. The simplest method would be to asses a fraction of a second penalty and then adjust their finish time and place by that amount and disallow that performance for any record consideration. They could also assess a distance penalty (maybe 1m? how much advantage could really be gained with 1 step?) and apply it using finish line photos. A distance penalty would scale better across different running velocities.

      I also thought that athletes could maybe have one free step inside during each race, but then I imagined everyone taking a step inside as they come out of the final turn and that seems ridiculous.

    • #53248

      Honestly, I think the Chelimo DQ was legitimate. He stepped inside the rail, that should be a DQ. What bothers me is the inconsistency. Why was Farah’s step inside the rail in the Olympics not a DQ? Neither went inside the rail due to being pushed or cut off. Neither used going inside the rail to gain a better position or for any competitive advantage other than the minuscule distance saved. So why the different outcome?

      As for the men’s 400, I saw Seb Coe respond to someone that athletes should in the future be allowed to get on the track before the meet to preview it. Apparently, the banking was challenging and causing even highly experienced professional athletes to run out of their lanes. I saw an interesting chart on Twitter (I’ll see if I can find it and share) on DQs by year in the men’s 400 at World Indoors. The number is generally low, with two big spikes this year and the last time Indoor Worlds was on this track.

      As for the idea of a penalty in the results, I get where you’re coming from but I don’t like it. One of the great things about track and field is that it’s black and white. First across the line wins. Beat your opponent to the line. That’s all that matters. If we start assessing penalties, then you lose that.

      I’m not quite sure how IAAF rules are but, when I was in high school, the rules were clear. A single step completely inside the line is a DQ. Three consecutive steps on the line is a DQ.

    • #53263

      It has been awhile since you responded, but I think that I agree with you. When I typed my response, I was thinking primarily of qualifying rounds. Really, asking that athletes stay on the track and within their lanes (if applicable) is a minimal requirement. Most sports have some sort of “field of play” that athletes need to stay within. The penalty in track and field may be harsh, but it is not unreasonable.

      Still, a race where the end results are decided by anything other than the sequence in which people cross the finish line will always feel unsatisfactory unless the DQ’d runner clearly impeded another runner or gained an clear competitive advantage.

      Do they use age grading to allocate masters awards in your area? I find age grading to be similarly dissatisfying when it alters the results from the finishing sequence. Fortunately at the race I ran this weekend the guy who won the masters award also was the first over-40 runner across the line, but that’s not always the case.

    • #53264

      Yeah, I could see some method for qualifying rounds making more sense than finals. Still, my personal feeling is that, even in qualifying rounds, first X across the line should qualify. Unless someone is automatically thrown into the time qualifiers field for a minor infraction that results into a time penalty.

      If nothing else, I’m finding this an interesting thought experiment.

      I understand the situation for officials. When do you DQ and when do you not? Where do you draw the line if there is some jostling, which is common on indoor tracks? Stepping out of your lane or inside the track seems like a no brainer but there is something about that Birmingham track. At the very least, athletes should be granted access to the track before competition starts so they can get a feel for it. Not all tracks are the same, especially indoors.

      I’ve never run a race where any awards are decided by age grading and I think I would avoid any that did if I knew before signing up. I’m not at all a fan of that idea. I don’t even like when chip timing changes the order of finish in the results.

      • #53268

        I’ve given some more thought with regards to age-graded races. I’ve ended by realizing that it really doesn’t matter how a race allocates awards whether it be gun time, chip time, age grading, raffle, costume judging, or some other method. I have been disgruntled in the past when the raffle prizes were better than the winner’s prize or when a prize that I thought I had earned went to someone else via age-grading, but now I see it as a problem with my perspective rather than a fault on the part of race organizers.

        Right or wrong, USATF also awards masters awards based upon age grading at some of its races. Given that is the governing body of our sport I can accept that as the standard.It is not a perfect solution, but it does provide some incentive for older runners to keep training to run fast.

        For the races that I remember most, I don’t recall what, if anything that I may have won. The things that I remember are how I ran, the runners who I competed with on that day, the tactical decisions that I made, and satisfaction of having given my best effort. Some of those races I won. Some I did not. In one case, I was injured, but came within 150m of winning a tight race after having finally created some space between myself and the competition. Prior to catastrophic hamstring failure, I had been experiencing feelings and situations that I had not enjoyed since college or maybe even since high school. Even the injured hamstring couldn’t completely dampen my euphoria on that day.

        So, I have come to the conclusion that I should not concern myself with awards when scheduling races. I’ll just look for races of the desired distance with good competition and let the awards fall where they will. I am sure that that is a healthier attitude that reflects what I think is important in racing.

        • #53271

          Interesting. Apparently you’re not the only one who came up with a time penalty idea.

          To be honest, I’m still not sold on that idea. In fact, the conclusion of that article, in my opinion, argues against the time penalty itself.

          Right now, track and field needs every fan it can get. It should bolster its image as a sport that’s beautiful because it is so simple: no esoteric rules or insider jargon. The first person across the line is the winner. At least that’s how it should be.

          Going back to my fear of time penalties the author seems to be promoting, implement them and the first person across the line may not be the winner.

          However, he does bring up a point I do think we should keep in mind:

          It was a contentious decision since, per IAAF Rule 163.4, an athlete should only be disqualified in such an instance if “material advantage is gained” from the infraction, which hardly seemed true in Chelimo’s the case.

          I hate rules that create a gray area of subjective judgement. However, if that’s what the rule currently is, then enforce it that way. Chelimo gained a material advantage? I don’t think so.

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