By Robert Taylor, Special to Trackalerts.com
With the ending of the 2015 season, and the preparation for the 2016 season, we are seeing another drug scandal brewing in track & field.
There is WADA recommendation for the banning of Russia from the sports and so far a provisional banning by the IAAF to go with an Olympics ban. What if the IAAF in the next three months’ time come out and state that Russia has fixed their problem and is no longer banned? Would the Olympics committee also lift their ban? This would be something unprecedented and frankly, as I write this, I do not believe we will see an Olympics without Russian athletes; but what do I know. The problem I see down the road is what will happen to a weaker economic nation who finds some of its athletes testing positive and experience a wave of over the top negative press from the Western media.
It is a shame to see such a great sports getting tainted so often. This only diminishes the great qualities of the sports in the eyes of many. When it comes to ridding the sports of drug cheats and exposing unscrupulous behaviour, I am all for it. However, I cannot agree with any and every drugs accusation and innuendo taking precedence over the great performances of the sports. Come to a conclusion, provide punishment and move on from there. The way things are being done on a consistent basis, it seems more like an attack on the sports than trying to rid the sports of drug cheats. Unscrupulous behaviour is a fact of life; and, if we are to dwell on the negative all the time and every time, then one will never watch any sport, believe in politicians, lawyers, the stock market and any myriad of things involving human behaviour and interaction. Thus, this time I will write on things I see as uplifting the sports.
As I am looking on life with a more beautiful tinted glass, my views are a lot different. There is the waiting to see if Bolt can continue his championship trend of victories. If Gatlin will be as dominant as he was in the 2015 season. Will Yohan Blake find the form he had before his two devastating injuries and which young athlete will rise to challenge the old guards. At the London Diamond league before the world championship we saw Kemar Bailey-Cole close the gap on a field including Bolt, something we have never seen happen since Bolt became dominant. Unfortunately, Bailey-Cole got injured in the race and never recovered to run in the world championship. The question is, will he recover and continue his upward trajectory to the point where he can hold his own and finish in a medal position.
There are many questions to go with the fact that the end of the Usain Bolt era is upon us in a matter of one year or two. Who or what event might take charge of the spotlight is anyone’s guess. It is almost impossible for me to think who will take the spotlight. The 100m will always be the marquee event in my view but I think the 400m could be an event that gives some amount of challenge. The quality is there but finding the personality that will draw fan interest will be the catch. Wayde van Niekerk, Lashawn Merritt and Kirani James could be formidable opponents that push the event to another level we have not seen since Michael Johnson.
When we see 44.11 not medalling and the many 43 seconds that were recorded in the preliminary rounds of 2015 world championship, it causes one to think of who will be the surprise quarter-miler of the 2016 season. If all those 43 seconds preliminary runners find a way to manage their rounds better, we will likely see the semi-finals be as challenging for the participants as the finals. It was great to see a final with the top three running 43.48, 43.65 and 43.78. It would be even more astonishing if a couple of the other 43 seconds athletes can have their best performance in the final.
When thinking of 2016 being an Olympic year one wonders what will happen when taking into consideration the fact that the Olympics is athletics premier championship and athletes tend to be at their very best at that time. On the women side there are many anticipations, questions and expectations. Alyson Felix 400m leg at the 2015 world championship was one for the ages. I am wondering if this will give her the platform and the confidence to go after the sub-48 seconds next year. Though I know a relay leg is never an indication of an athlete fastest possible time, one dares to wonder regardless. This era has seen the female athlete stuck in the 49 seconds range with Sanya Richards once running 48 seconds. If Felix tries the 200m & 400m double would she be able to match speed with Daphne Schippers and Elaine Thompson both a few years younger with times of 21.63 and 21.66 with room for improvement?
The sprint relays of both genders will be between the USA and Jamaica and this should be thrilling and exciting to watch. As for the 4x400m, the US women will be coming for revenge. They did not expect to be beaten in the 2015 world championship but now learned the valuable lesson that in track & field nothing is given, you have to earn it. The question is what will be the makeup of both teams and will the Jamaicans continue to improve in their quarter-mile program. As for the men 4x400m, the USA will not forget that loss at the 2012 Olympics but with the Caribbean expecting to produce quality teams, the next Olympics won’t be easier. Trinidad has a young and improving team and I would not be surprised to see them win it all. The Bahamas has a history of producing quality 4x400m teams which culminated in 2012 Olympics victory. Jamaica with a young core and with the relay beast, Javon Francis, should be in the medal mix. Grenada has a quality group but never able to get them all fit and ready to perform. Kirani James has not found the fortune of having Rondell Bartholomew fulfilling his potential and this has hampered Grenada from fielding a quality team.
The 2016 Olympics year have far too many questions, intrigue and expectation, it is a disservice to dwell on the Russian and IAAF drug scandal. Moreover, the way things are, whether the Russians enter or not, they will not have any effect on the marquee events. If 2015 is an indicator and the scandal surrounding the team is anything near the truth, the chance for Russia to field a formidable team on the track will be at a very low probability level.
**The views expressed in this article are those of the author (Robert Taylor) and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, trackalerts.com.