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Posts Tagged ‘dwain chambers’

Over the last few weekends, I’ve been ridiculously excited for reasons my friends cannot comprehend – live athletics has been on the television.

Okay, so it’s the Aviva Indoor Athletics which aren’t the most important events in the world, even if they are used to get qualifying times for the World Indoors next month. And granted, the Indoors aren’t vitally important, and many great athletes won’t be there. But it’s very good preparation for London 2012 and I enjoy watching athletics. I don’t care who’s competing or where it is, as long as it’s on the TV.

Both the BBC and Channel 4 have been covering these qualifying events. The BBC covered Glasgow’s event and Channel 4 broadcast from Sheffield where Jessica Ennis got her season off to a brilliant start. This Saturday, the BBC is moving to Birmingham.

Those that read my blog will know I have been very critical of Channel 4’s athletics coverage previously. They were, and will be next time around, the broadcasters for the Athletics World Championships. There was one occasion where I was sitting watching the 2011 Worlds, when Channel 4’s coverage ended before the pole vault final had concluded because they felt they had to show Three In A Bed instead.

Channel 4 will be the broadcasters for the Paralympic Games and their promotional programmes have been nothing short of excellent. One fine programme made use of sport science technology to show how these incredible athletes use their bodies and disabilities to excel in their sports. The Paralympic Show has provided insightful interviews. The other day, I watched a ten-minute segment on Eleanor Simmonds.

Channel 4’s actual live coverage, however, is still lagging behind the BBC’s.

First, is the issue of the presenter. Channel 4 opened the Worlds with Ortis Deley, who proved to know very little about athletics and struggled with the live presenting. He was eventually dropped and exchanged for Rick Edwards.

Edwards is better than Deley. He copes with questioning his very knowledgeable guests, including Dean Macey and Kelly Sutherton and is much better at providing segways between interviews and live action. But something still feels amiss. He simply is not as natural as John Inverdale. I haven’t yet put my finger on what’s missing, but something is.

Channel 4’s coverage also struggles because of its adverts. The BBC’s programming excels because of its expert analysis from Denise Lewis and Colin Jackson between events. Channel 4 does not have time to do this because it cuts to adverts between events. Indeed, Channel 4 leaves very little time for interviews with the athletes unless they are particularly famous. They chose to interview Jessica Ennis and Dwain Chambers, but seemed to feel others were unworthy of screen time.

Channel 4’s coverage last Sunday involved the finals from a two-day event. It attempted to highlight the main action from Saturday and from Sunday morning, but actually showed very little of it. At one point, it seemed to cut suddenly from its highlights to live action because the highlights were almost shown over a race. The BBC’s programming tends to last longer than the athletics itself, allowing time for an interesting interviews and conversations between the presenters before the live actions starts, and some time at the end to sum-up.

Some of these problems will be hard for C4 to rectify. It will have adverts during the Paralympics and this may still leave insufficient time for analysis. Analysis is something athletics watchers enjoy. It’s amazing to watch in slow motion the moment in a race where Mo Farah suddenly accelerates, where you see a hurdler knock one hurdle and lose the race on the line, where you can see the 100m again, because its too fast to fully appreciate the first time around.

There is still time for Channel 4 to improve. It will be hosting the Indoor Worlds in Istanbul next month and promises over 20 hours of coverage screen across Channel 4 and More 4. It will definitely have learnt from Daegu last year, where it struggled with poor presenting. Hopefully it won’t cut out any live action to make room for repeats this time.

Ultimately though, Channel 4 has a long way to go if it wants sport coverage to rival the BBC’s. But there is still time.

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A number of years ago, I remember hearing a debate on the radio. The question was whether they should have two separate Olympics: one for ‘clean’ athletes and one for those who openly took drugs.

Even as young as I was (this may have been ten years ago), I thought it was appalling that this was even considered. The drug-filled tournament would not be about breaking records. It would instead be a competition between drug companies on who could make Athlete A run faster, jump higher, throw further. And this assumes that every single drug an ‘athlete’ put into their body wouldn’t be damaging them for the rest of their lives. Drugs always have a price.

I have always had an anti-drug policy in sport, as, I hope, the majority of people have. Nonetheless, you can never completely keep drugs  away from competition. It has been present for as long as drugs were available, and I’m sure there have been one or two fortunate enough to never get caught.

Even the IOC (International Olympic Committee) President, Jacques Rogge, believes London 2012 will not be free of drug cheats. Certainly, a clean games is probably something we can only ever dream of. Rogge says “To say there will be no positive cases would be naive and misleading. I hope it’s the case, but reality tells me that there may be positive cases.” This implies that although there will be cheats, they will be caught. Rogge seems to believe there is enough testing. And so there may will be.

In April, the British Olympic Assocation (BOA) will challenge the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). WADA says that the BOA should not indefinitely ban all of its drug cheats from the Olympics after they have already served a ban, since this would be punishing the athlete twice. The BOA says it is a selection policy rather than a second punishment.

I don’t actually care if it is a second punishment. They deserve it. Let me make it clear, I’m not talking about athletes who take drugs  innocently from their food or without realising the ingredients of Aspirin had changed. I’m talking about those who knowingly and willingly took drugs to enhance their performance.

They should be indefinitely banned from the Olympics. I don’t care if it’s their livelihood and if they’ve already served a five year ban. The Olympic medal is the highest honour an athlete can hope to achieve. Drug cheats do not deserve an opportunity to win one.

The BOA’s policy is a good one. It means that the athletes that represent Great Britain in the Olympics are clean, have always been clean and therefore deserve all the accolades that come their way. I don’t want to see Dwain Chambers win a medal. I don’t even want to see him run at Commonwealth or European or World level, but unfortunately, the BOA don’t see that as a selection issue in these events.

Drug cheats keep rising youngsters off the track. Every time Dwain Chambers has an opportunity to run for a place in the Europeans, a drug-free British youngster is losing out on that chance.

They broke the rules and should face the consequences.

No drug cheats in the Olympics. It’s just not right.

Therefore, I am standing alongside the BOA and hoping that the Court of Arbitration in Sport will agree with them too.

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This year, the IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) decided to change the rule of false starts. Previously, a false start would result in yellow card against the whole field. If anyone else then committed a false start, they would be immediately disqualified. Now, the rule is far less tolerant; one false start and you’re out.

Last June, Tyson Gay spoke out against these changes, arguing that “If Usain Bolt had false-started in New York everyone would have been upset, and they’d have been booing, and wanting him to be let back into the race. It takes something like that to happen and I think it would be a wake-up call. If it happened at the Olympics or World Championships next year – without Usain Bolt the race is going to have an asterisk to the side. It just doesn’t make sense.”

It is as though Gay had a crystal ball, as today, Bolt was disqualified from the World Championship final after a false start.

A false start is defined in the following two ways:

  • A runner leaves the starting block before the starting gun sounds.
  • A runner reacts to the starting gun in less than one-tenth of a second. (A reaction time of faster than one-tenth of a second is believed to be impossible and it is then supposed the runner jumped the gun.)
After watching an apparently frustrated and angry Usain Bolt leave the track, it became clear the IAAF may have to re-think its policy once again. Already, British fans have had to watch the immediate disqualification of Christine Ohuruogo (400m) and Dwain Chambers (100m), but watching Bolt will undoubtedly shock athletics fans and administrators alike.

Barring injury, it is unthinkable that Bolt cannot compete in a 100m final. The idea of an Olympic final in 2012 without Bolt is beyond disappointing. In World Championships and the Olympics, you want to see the very, very best compete. Bolt is, undeniably, the best. But because the new rules, Bolt had to stand aside and watch someone else take the title of 100m World Champion, even though, in everyone else’s eyes, Bolt would almost definitely have claimed that title himself.

It is wrong that someone who is not actually the world’s fasted 100m runner now claims the title of 100m World Champion.

False starts must be punished somehow. The IAAF changed the rule because they felt that the system favoured cheaters who may commit a false start on purpose in order to put their opponents off their own races.
A world, though, where every athlete runs under a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ policy could lead to a growing number of false starts where the sport becomes farcical.

It is a very delicate, and important matter, but after watching Bolt walk away from the field today, it is hard to believe the IAAF have made the correct decision regarding the new false start regulations.

Re-thinking may be necessary before next year’s Olympics. After all, we all want to watch the world’s fastest man break another world record.

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