Fri | Jun 18, 2021

Alternative to no false start rule

Published:Sunday | June 17, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Truth be told, Usain Bolt may not have represented Jamaica at the last Olympics in the 200 metres because of the No False Start Rule, if he had been disqualified from the National Championships for what appeared to have been a breach. And the same holds for Veronica Campbell-Brown and the last World Championships, given what appeared to have been a similar indiscretion in the 100 metres at the preceding trials.

The entire world would have come down on us if we were crazy enough to disqualify the 'super heroes' for their perceived human errors. I have no doubt that the same is practised in other countries, where it concerns their top athletes.

This problem (false start) has mainly affected the sprint events, which means Jamaica is among those mostly affected. This is so as we have a large concentration of world-class athletes in these events. We therefore need to find a way to satisfy the athletes, the media and the fans.

None of the three methods (false start) used in the last decade have been satisfying. Let's look at the three rules used in recent times.

  • 1 The No False Start Rule: This is the most recent and the fairest of them all. This, however, is like the death penalty with no room for mistakes. Imagine, after training all year for the big event and reaching the finals, one mistake and you would be thrown out of the race never to return.
  • 2 The One False Start Rule: This rule allows ONE athlete to get a chance - the first athlete that false starts. So, you false start, then I false start but only I am disqualified. Doesn't seem fair to me. This can easily be manipulated as one could pick the start intentionally to throw off the best starter and making the entire field tense.
  • 3 The One False Start per Athlete Rule: This rule that had been used for decades, its main drawback being the length of time it takes to get the race going. A 100-metre could take in excess of 20 minutes since the entire field, knowing that they each have one chance before disqualification, tries to get a best start by just anticipating the gun rather than listening for it.

This, no doubt, has caused problems with frustrated fans and more importantly the media and scheduling of races.

Two suggestions

As a consequence of the limitations of the three rules mentioned above, a suitable alternative is required that is more acceptable to all stakeholders. I have two suggestions.

1. Increase the guilty athletes' time by 1 percentage. This would roughly be 0.1 seconds for a 100-metre race since the race takes approximately 10 seconds.

Similarly, 0.2 secs for 200m and 0.4 secs for 400m.

It means that you could cross the line first and have your time adjusted to second or third, etc. when the penalty is applied. This I believe is a reasonable deterrent or penalty, but not a death sentence. So if Bolt had false started before setting the world record of 9.58 secs, his time would have been adjusted to 9.68.

2. Retract the guilty persons' starting position by one per cent. This would mean that for 100 metres your blocks would be retracted one metre and for 200m, two metres, etc. (This may also increase the interest of spectators, just imagine Bolt starting at the back). Surely, the track would have to be pre-marked for these false start eventualities. Each athlete would only be given one chance to be adjusted.

Floyd Payne

fpayne@cwjamaica.com