Sally Pearson is reportedly poised to announce her retirement from athletics just a year out from the Tokyo Olympics.
The Turkish Athletics Federation and their Olympic Committee announced on Monday, August 5, they had banned 31 of their athletes for doping violations on the eve of the World Athletics Championships.
At least three of the athletes competed at the 2012 London Olympics, including hammer thrower Esref Apak, the 2004 silver medallist, and European hurdles Champion Nevin Yanit, who finished fourth behind Sally Pearson.
Marathon world-record holder Paula Radcliffe said she was shocked by the news.
“I would say that is abuse,” Radcliffe said. “Some of those athletes are 16 or 17.
“This is steroids and I think there needs to be some sort of sanction imposed on that country and something done about protecting the young athletes in that country because I don’t believe there’s a whole lot of choice.”
Of the 31, nine were teenagers, including a female hammer thrower as young as 16.
Most, if not all, are understood to have tested positive for anabolic steroids in raids carried out in Turkey in May.
The IAAF has chosen not to completely ban Turkey from the World Championships, since their Federation had imposed its own tough sanctions on the athletes.
In the wake of the positive tests returned by the second and third fasted men in history, Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, the IAAF announced stringent and in-depth testing regimes for the World Championships.
Some cynics may have suspected the timing of the announcement as perhaps a public relations exercise to salvage some public trust in the sport.
The tests now involve the continuation of the blood tests to be matched against the athletes biological passport, held at the IAAF headquarters in Lausanne.
In essence, a history of each athlete’s chemical and hormonal make-up is kept as a benchmark to measure all new tests against.
As a lot of the performance enhancers are synthetic versions of the body’s own, elevated levels of a hormone like testosterone can be explained away as being natural, as everyone has different levels of it, even women.
However, now if there is a significant change in a substance or even red blood cell count compared to athletes’ benchmark levels, it will raise suspicion and require further testing.
Maybe there is a lesson there for the AFL considering the current issue rocking that sport.
The IAAF may have salvaged some pride with the PR spin but it appears to have all come crashing down again with the Turkish team bans.
However, it could be said it is better they are banned now than after they win a medal in Moscow and thus further destroy any credibility of the sport of athletics and many others.
The World Championships, in the year immediately following an Olympics, have in the past been sometimes anti-climatic, with post games retirements and injuries following a heavy workload depleting the stars from the event.
The major drawcards of Olympic 800 Champion and world record holder David Rudisha of Kenya, and defending 100 metre champion Yohan Blake, will not be in Moscow due to injury.
Apart from performances by Mo Farah in the distance events and Kerani James in the 400 metres, the track events may be overshadowed by those in the field for records and highlights this coming week.
The clash between defending champion Sally Pearson and new kid on the block Brianna Rollins of the USA, in the 100 metre hurdles, may be the women’s track highlight.
Usain Bolt, the man who transcends the sport of athletics, steals the limelight in any case.
He may have to carry the mantle of the legitimacy of the performances in Moscow, not only for Jamaica, but for the whole sport. He declared himself clean on the back of teammate Powell’s positive test.
Bolt has admitted also suffering a post Olympic slump and said he had been quite “lazy” with his training during the winter months.
His times at the beginning of the Diamond League were pedestrian by his lofting standards and he suffered a surprise defeat to 2004 Champion Justin Gatlin.
However, this may have stung him into harder training as he bounced back to his best with a win in the London Diamond League meeting on July 27.
The 14th IAAF World Championships commence Saturday 10 August, Moscow, Russia.