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Not just what's happening in and around the Olympic Movement and International Sports but what it all means.
DOHA, Qatar — After all the noise the past few days over Alberto Salazar, finally, Sifan Hassan was free Saturday night to run.
She ran hard, she ran fast, she ran angry. She ran to make a statement and history.
Wow, did she make a statement — that the four-year doping ban handed Salazar late Monday was not going to be a distraction, that she was here on a mission and, people, get out of the way.
What Sifan Hassan did here at the 2019 IAAF track and field championships may be nothing less than redefine the way we think about women’s distance running.
DOHA, Qatar — Like the sun rising in the east, some things are entirely predictable.
1. Some number of athletes, particularly those from Europe, bitching about conditions at a world track and field championships. Observation: ’It’s hot.’ (Captains of the obvious!) Followed by hyperbole: a ‘disaster.’
2. The see-saw relationship with the press and track and field’s governing body. A few days into a championship, the press writes sky-is-falling stories. (Empty seats! It’s hot! A catastrophe!) The authorities naturally feel compelled to push back, IAAF president Seb Coe telling Associated Press in a story posted Wednesday that the complainers need to move along.
“Can I just be a bit blunt about this?” Coe, elected here to a second four-year term as head of track and field’s world governing body, asked rhetorically. “The athletes talking about externalities are probably not the ones who are going to be walking home with medals from here. I have much, much bigger commitments and visions for our sport than to turn and head for home because we take an event into an area that poses problems.”
These 2019 IAAF world championships, now heading into the final weekend, seem destined to mark one of the most complex — and yet one of the most intriguing — legacies of any major championship from these first years of the 21st century.
DOHA, Qatar — It is a fundamental precept that everyone is entitled to due process, and as the mater of the United States Anti-Doping Agency versus Alberto Salazar makes plain, perhaps no one in the history of anti-doping litigation has ever exercised the process due him as did Alberto Salazar, tagged late Monday with a four-year ban.
The Salazar matter may come to redefine high-stakes sports-related arbitration as we know it. It sets a new bar for combativeness and litigiousness.
Now, meantime, we shall see whether — in the court of public opinion — all those athletes who over the years saw themselves in Salazar’s orbit will now be afforded the same fundamental fairness.
The preliminary verdict would suggest that having been anywhere near Salazar — much less been one of his disciples, like the Olympic champion Mo Farah or the silver medalist Galen Rupp — is going to make for a tough go.
DOHA, Qatar — It was 10 years ago already that Caster Semenya announced herself to the world. Just 18, a virtual unknown from South Africa, she won the women’s 800 meters at the IAAF world championships in Berlin.
Since, the Semenya story has captivated, educated, intrigued, inspired, enraged and so much more, a debate over on, the one hand, the worth of every single person on Planet Earth to not only be who she or he is but the best she or he that he or she can be matched against, on the other, the fundamental question of what is fair tied up with the obligation of international sports authorities to be fair to everyone, not just someone.
There is no right or wrong in the complex mosaic of issues presented by the matter personified by Caster Semenya and, as it turns out, others with what has come to be called “differences of sexual development,” including the two other medalists in the women’s 800 at the Rio 2016 Summer Games, Francine Niyonsaba of Burundi and Margaret Wambui of Kenya.
To reiterate, there is no — speaking figuratively — black or white here. This is a matter subject to interpretation. It is all greys. This is why the debate, the politics, the posturing has been — is — so ferocious, and from so many sides. Just to pick one of many, many comments on the matter, this from U.S. racer Brenda Martinez here in Doha: “I’d rather race against an intersex athlete than a drug cheat.”
It’s also why Monday night’s championship final at the IAAF 2019 world championships marked either the end — 10 years later — of the Semenya story in track and field or, perhaps, a pause, just another chapter, now amid a contentious legal process before next summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
DOHA, Qatar — The day after 23-year-old Christian Coleman became The Man, king of the 100 meters, the biggest deal in track and field, he was still the same guy he had been, always was, a grounded and sensible young man from a great American family.
As he made the rounds Sunday at the Team USA hotel, this was the Coleman ‘entourage’: his mom, Daphne, who holds a Ph.D. in education and is an instructional coach in the Atlanta schools; his dad, Seth, who is the media relations manager for the Atlanta public school system; an agent; and a manager.
Where was the wacky scene so long associated with Usain Bolt? Where was the commotion? Where was — all of that?
People, don’t misunderstand.
Christian Coleman is not Bolt, and the time has come for everyone to understand that is a good thing.
The time is also now for everyone to understand that Coleman has been nothing but a good dude, and that the media narrative that has enveloped him to a significant degree over the past several weeks — totally unfairly — needs to be recast, particularly because Coleman’s victory Saturday at these IAAF 2019 championships arguably makes him the face of track and field heading into the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.
DOHA, Qatar — There really wasn’t any doubt Saturday who was going to win the men’s 100 meters at these IAAF world championships.
Christian Coleman was it, in a runaway.
The only question, especially after Coleman came out blazing sub-10 in the prelims and went sub 9.9 in the semis and in that race ran hard for only 85 meters, was in what time and by how much.
Coleman, who burst onto the scene two years ago with a world championships 100 silver, dominated the late Saturday night final. He literally did run away with it, in 9.76 seconds, fastest in the world in 2019. It was his personal best time and the sixth-fastest in history.
Justin Gatlin, the London 2017 gold medalist, the man who dethroned Jamaica’s Usain Bolt in Bolt’s final championship 100, scraped into Friday’s final after coming in third in his semifinal. Incredibly, he then took second in the championship run, in 9.89. Andre DeGrasse of Canada got third, in a personal best 9.90.
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About Alan Abrahamson
Alan Abrahamson is an award-winning sportswriter, best-selling author and in-demand television analyst. In 2010, he launched his own website, 3 Wire Sports, described in James Patterson and Mark Sullivan's 2012 best-selling novel Private Games as "the world's best source of information about the [Olympic] Games and the culture that surrounds them." Read full bio.