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Page last updated at 21:57 GMT, Wednesday, 16 February 2011

2012 sprinter byes are nonsense says British hurdler

Andy Turner
Turner is the European and Commonwealth 110 metre hurdles champion

By Leon Mann

Qualifying changes to the 100m at the London Olympics have been labelled as "outrageous" by a top British athlete.

For the first time at an Olympics, byes are to be given to the world's top 100 sprinters - such as Usain Bolt.

The triple Olympic champion will run in only three rounds, while non-qualified sprinters will have to run four.

"Every athlete I've spoken to says it's nonsense," said hurdler Andy Turner. "It's pretty much hanging medals around people's necks before they've started."

Announced on Tuesday for the London Games and already approved for the World Championships in Daegu later this year, the new arrangement is designed to make the sport more dynamic and time sensitive.

One round of the 200m has been shelved completely for all runners - male and female - and only sprinters without a qualifying standard would go through four rounds of the 100m.

But European and Commonwealth 110m hurdles champion Turner, who found out about the change on Twitter, believes it goes against everything the Olympics stands for, even though it does not affect his discipline.

We are still respecting the concept of universality and everybody still has the ability to compete in the Olympic games

IAAF's Paul Hardy

"I just think it's outrageous," he told BBC Sport. "The Olympics is about giving people a chance to go to a major championships on a level playing field.

"Some of these athletes from smaller countries have different targets. They're not going there trying to win a medal. The biggest thing in their career may be racing someone like Tyson Gay or Usain Bolt.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) competition director Paul Hardy - the man behind the change - has defended the streamlined schedule.

"We think the overall concept makes sense having listened to coaches and athletes at the highest level," he said.

"Having to run four times in the 100m and then three or four times in the 200m is quite exhausting. So are we being fair? Yes, we think we are. We are still respecting the concept of universality and everybody still has the ability to compete in the Olympic games."

But Turner believes that athletics fans, as well as athletes, are being short changed because the number of opportunities to see their stars is being reduced.

I understand the pros and cons but we don't make the rules, we just follow them

Usain Bolt's agent Ricky Simms

"People want to see the likes of Usain Bolt and Tyson Gay", said Turner. "Bringing in the bye system is taking that away from them."

However, Hardy insists that fewer rounds for the planet's fastest men and women will ultimately lead to a better spectacle come the final.

"Yes, part of the thinking is three rounds means the athletes will be a little fresher for the final," he added.

Turner also argued that denying non-qualifiers the opportunity to face the big stars of the sport could potentially stunt their athletic development.

"When I lined up against Allen Johnson, Colin Jackson or Tony Jarrett for the first time, I knew fully well I wasn't going to run as fast as them as I was only young," he said, reflecting on his own development.

"But just the fact that I was racing them inspired me - and that's what it's about. The Olympics should be about giving them that chance."

Bolt's agent Ricky Simms was non-committal over the switch.

"I understand the pros and cons but we don't make the rules, we just follow them," he said.

The non-qualifiers gain their opportunity because of an IAAF rule allowing member federations who have no world championship and Olympic qualifiers to enter a male and a female in one event.



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see also
Athletics on the BBC
21 Apr 11 |  Athletics
2012 Olympics schedule revealed
15 Feb 11 |  London 2012


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