JOHANNESBURG – The effects of the disastrous African Athletics Championships has left a lingering bad taste in the mouth almost a month after it concluded in Asaba, Nigeria.
Now one of South Africa’s top coaches this week expressed his doubts over the legitimacy of the results from the continental championships.
It is also anyone’s guess whether the wobbly track had indeed been certified by the IAAF or whether the timing systems were correctly calibrated and rubber stamped by the world governing body.
The track had reportedly only been resurfaced a week before the start of the meeting and it was a terrible job.
Then it is also an open question if the officials that oversaw the meeting were IAAF qualified.
Statistics taken from the IAAF website suggest some of the results may have been unreliable, and track queen Caster Semenya is among the athletes who have possibly been adversely affected by the bungling.
Semenya's 49.96 seconds for the one lap sprint supposedly broke the SA 400m record Heide Seyerling set at Sydney 2000, so becoming the first South African woman to break through the 50-second barrier.
She therefore theoretically became the first woman in history to dip below 50sec, two minutes and four minutes respectively in the 400m, 800m, and 1500m.
But her list of personal bests does not have the African time behind her name in the 400m - instead a recent 50.06 seems to be considered her fastest 400m. That is 0.01 slower than Seyerling.
The IAAF will introduce a new ranking system starting this month which will serve as an extra mechanism to qualify for major championships and the Olympics.
One of the prerequisites to earn points is that all competitions comply with IAAF regulations. This will go a long way in ensuring that countries from around the world meet the same standards.
Credit to Athletics SA which is in the process of standardising all the country's tracks by appointing an engineer to ensure existing and planned tracks are IAAF approved.
The ranking system faces a few challenges with some of the big athletics agents influencing meeting organisers when fields are assembled.
Track and field results irregularities are not limited to this continent, with some horror stories emerging from elsewhere. Even meet organisers have ways of manipulating results to avoid taking a massive dent in their pockets.
Semenya’s former coach Jean Verster uses the example of Cuban long-jumper Ivan Pedroso’s world-record leap that was overturned after he set a new global mark of 8.96m at a meeting in Italy in 1995.
“I was competing, and that year they had a Ferrari as a prize for a world record,” Verster recalls. “I was sitting next to Sergey Bubka (pole vault world record holder) and we were watching the pole vault.
“Pedroso was jumping and the pit was next to the pole vault and there was no wind to speak of.”
Pedroso was ultimately denied the record as the Italian federation refused to submit the mark for ratification, claiming an official stood in front of the wind gauge during the jump.
Rumour has it that the organiser could not get anyone to sponsor the Ferrari, and it would have ultimately come out of his own pocket, which led to Pedroso’s record being invalidated.
Athletics simply cannot afford these self-inflicted blows to its credibility.