BBC Sport athletics

Related BBC sites

Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Thursday, 25 September 2008 17:46 UK

Records 'hurt' women's athletics

By Matt Slater

Veronica Campbell-Brown
Campbell-Brown's Beijing personal best is only the 7th fastest 200m ever

Female athletes are at a "disadvantage" to their male counterparts because many of their world records are out of reach, says Veronica Campbell-Brown.

The Jamaican star defended her Olympic 200m title in Beijing in a personal best of 21.74, 0.4 seconds slower than Florence Griffith-Joyner's 1988 record.

"Everybody wants to watch a world record," Campbell-Brown told BBC Sport.

"The men enjoy all the glamour because they're capable of breaking world records. Women don't have that luxury."

In Olympic track and field disciplines, the only women's world records to have been set in the last 20 years have come in modified or recently added events. Today's competitors, in fact, are not even threatening the majority of records from the 1980s.

This has led many observers to suggest those records are suspicious and may have been achieved with the use of illegal, performance-enhancing drugs.

Campbell-Brown said it was not for her to decide if any of the world bests were tainted by doping but acknowledged that serious doubts exist over the legitimacy of many women's records.

It's just a little disappointing to me that I'm not in a position to go into a press conference and promise a world record

Veronica Campbell-Brown
Perhaps the most suspicious, and iconic, of those records is Griffith-Joyner's 10.49 for the 100m.

The American smashed the previous mark by a staggering 0.27 seconds in the quarter-finals of the US Olympic Trials in 1988. It was also a half-second faster than she had ever run prior to that season, and it came after a three-year break from the sport.

Aged 28 at the time, she would quit athletics two months later, shortly before the introduction of out-of-competition drug testing. Ten years later - the 10th anniversary was on Sunday - "Flo-Jo" died when she suffocated in her sleep following a brain seizure.

Her tragically early death fuelled the rumours of doping - rumours that have never been substantiated and have always been denied by her family and friends.

But there was another suspicious element to her remarkable 100m time, the long-held belief a faulty wind-meter failed to record a strong tailwind that would have ruled out her time.

Despite showing a helping wind of more than three metres per second for the rest of the day - a metre more per second than the legal limit - the anemometer recorded a wind of 0.0 m/s for Flo-Jo's race.

"When I look at my personal best for 100m it's 10.85," said Campbell-Brown, the reigning 100m World champion.

"The world record is 10.49. For me that is very difficult to break. Rumour has it that (the world record) could have been wind-aided.

"The people in authority have the power to look at it. It's been 20 years now and the closest anybody has come to it is 10.7 (the disgraced Marion Jones ran 10.65 at altitude in 1998).

"So it's very difficult and I know a lot of people would like to see women break world records like the men do."

Florence Griffith-Joyner
Griffith-Joyner dominated the women's sprints in Seoul but retired soon after
Since 1997, the Association of Track and Field Statisticians (ATFS) has listed Griffith-Joyner's time as "probably strongly wind-assisted, but recognised as a world record".

And in the 2003 edition of IAAF World Records, ATFS member Richard Hymans wrote, "this is a world record which should not have been ratified".

Chryste Gaines, who returned from a two-year ban for doping in 2007, raced against Griffith-Joyner in the first round of the trials in 1988. Only 17, Gaines was in the lane next to Flo-Jo and was beaten by almost a second.

"I don't think anybody is going to break her 100m record - the 200m record, maybe," the 38-year-old told BBC Sport.

"But if you look at the 100m record it was questionable due to the wind. That's the first thing they need to look at.

"Somebody got close to a world record in the triple jump but didn't get the distance because of the wind. It was right next to the 100m, same direction.

"But I don't think they want to look at it again. They don't want to erase 20 years of history.

"And it was a fabulous race. Imagine running in a race like that and setting a personal best, as a lot of those ladies did, and still get beat by five metres."

The 26-year-old Campbell-Brown is less happy with the status quo, although she knows it would be incredibly problematic for the sport's governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, to do anything about it now.

"If (female athletes) were in a position to break more records it would be more fun for people to come out and watch our events. It would be better for us and the sport in general," she said.

"It's just a little disappointing to me that I'm not in a position to go into a press conference and promise a world record.

"All I can do is promise a track record or personal best. So it's a bit discouraging."

  • For more on Florence Griffith-Joyner and the controversy surrounding her world records listen to BBC Radio 5 Live Sport from 1900 BST on Thursday, 25 September.

  • see also
    Campbell-Brown takes 200m gold
    21 Aug 08 |  Athletics
    Fraser leads Jamaica 100m sweep
    17 Aug 08 |  Athletics
    Conte labels Olympics 'a fraud'
    06 May 08 |  Athletics

    related bbc links:

    related internet links:
    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites