Sat | Dec 5, 2020

Dalton Myers | False-start fiasco deeper than Doha spot

Published:Saturday | June 29, 2019 | 12:00 AM

As a sports fan, I felt disappointed in the way the JAAA/Supreme Ventures National Athletics Championships ended on Sunday. As a sport administrator, I was left feeling sad for the amazing athletes in the women’s 100m hurdles. The truth is, no event should have ended that way. It now leaves the athletes angered by the process, and not trusting the system which is supposed to be fair.

I will spend less time on the false start itself as there are rules in place to deal with false starts, faulty starts, and so on. The application of those rules, however, has come into question, and you get the sense that there is little uniformity in how several rules are applied at our championships at times. This includes seeding of races, disqualifications, timing of races, lane assignments or even lane violations. If you talk to most coaches and athletes, they express a lack of trust in the overall system as it relates to transparency.

In that 100m hurdles, there were eight ladies with eight different goals, stories and dreams.

Each went into that final knowing that a positive result could change her life – from the athlete just returning from injury, to the one who knows that a good time could land her an apparel contract and/or sponsorship. You may also have that athlete who is not in good form and could lose her contract.

Then, there are those who would have been gunning for the national title and impressive times which could land them in the IAAF World Championship, the Diamond League, or other athletics meetings.

The rewards can be significant as some deals allow for bonuses for certain times or distances, as well as placings at national championships and major events.

So it’s not just the title of national champion that was at stake in what seems to be a ‘simple’ race. Additionally, with hurdles, you can never be too sure that the top-seeded athletes will come out on top because of those 10 obstacles in the race.

The JAAA issued a statement indicating that “three of the seven competitors with the highest ranking [as of August 16, 2019] in the 100m hurdles for women at the time will therefore represent Jamaica”.

While I can understand this decision, you can also appreciate that the new IAAF rankings can prove to be problematic. Additionally, not all seven women will have the same opportunities to travel overseas and compete in quality meets to improve their ranking, as the system is not just based on times recorded, but a number of other variables.

There were various options available to the officials, and I am never a fan of decisions like these being decided in the boardroom. In my opinion, that race should have been run the same evening. You want to have your top athletes vying for positions competing under the same conditions to select your team. I am also yet to hear any of the athletes’ handlers indicating that they asked for the race to be abandoned. While I know the various camps sent their medical teams to attend to the ladies, at least seven seemed ready to compete 45 minutes later (which was the first announcement they received).

Sports a business

I will forever mention that sport is a business, and every event/competition must be treated as such. I have no problem if an athlete who violates either the false start rule or any other rule is given a red flag or card.

What I have a challenge with is when there does not seem to be uniformity in the application of the rules. If you have been around as long as, or longer than, I have, and have watched our major events here, you can count the many times we have seen athletes ‘false start’ but were not disqualified, or were allowed to run ‘under protest.’

In moving forward, there should be a lot of introspection from all stakeholders, including athletes, officials, administrators and patrons about how we treat these events.

The display at the weekend left a lot to be desired, but hopefully we learnt some valuable lessons, and hopefully all eight ladies will get another opportunity soon to showcase their talent and realise their dreams.

Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to daltonsmyers@gmail.com or tweet @daltonsmyers.