Paula Radcliffe and Jonathan Edwards to lose world records after rules tweak

Sean Ingle
Paul Radcliffe’s marathon world record of 2003 will no longer be seen as official due to new rules around testing. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

Paula Radcliffe and Jonathan Edwards are set to be stripped of their world and European records under new rules that will require anyone breaking a major record to have been tested numerous times in the months beforehand – and to have the sample taken after their record performance still available for retesting.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has stored blood and urine samples only since 2005, which means that Radcliffe’s world marathon record of 2hr 15min 25sec, set in 2003, and Edwards’ triple jump best of 18.29m set in 1995 will no longer be seen as official European or world records, along with Colin Jackson’s indoor 60m hurdles world record of 6.30sec set in 1994.

The proposal would also mean that historical world records, including Mike Powell’s extraordinary world long jump of 8.95m, from 1991, and Hicham El Guerrouj’s 1500m time of 3min 26.00sec, from 1998, would be stripped from the books. Others that have long been seen as dubious, such as Florence Griffiths-Joyner’s 100m and 200m world records, set in 1988, and numerous world bests set by eastern bloc athletes during the Cold War, when state-sponsored doping was rife and there was no out-of-competition testing, would also be deleted.

However, Usain Bolt’s 100m and 200m records, David Rudisha’s 800m best and Wayde van Niekerk’s 400m are likely to remain on the books because they were set more recently – provided they pass the new criteria. The proposal was discussed and accepted at a European Athletics council meeting over the weekend and, crucially, also given the backing of the IAAF president, Seb Coe, who also attended.

The European Athletics president, Svein Arne Hansen said: “What we are proposing is revolutionary, not just because most world and European records will have to be replaced but because we want to change the concept of a record and raise the standards for recognition to a point where everyone can be confident that everything is fair and above board,” he said.

The IAAF is expected to approve the proposal in July and it is likely to come into effect within 12 months. As Coe explained: “I like this because it underlines that we have put into place doping control systems and technology that are more robust and safer than 15 or even 10 years ago.

“There will be athletes, current record holders, who will feel that the history we are recalibrating will take something away from them but I think this is a step in the right direction and, if organised and structured properly, we have a good chance of winning back credibility in this area.”

Under the new rules world and European records will be recognised only if three criteria are met: the performance is achieved at competitions on a list of approved international events; the athlete has been subject to an agreed number of doping control tests in the months leading up to the performance, which the Guardian understands is likely to be six; and the doping control sample taken after the record is stored and available for re-testing for 10 years. The European Athletics project team, led by Pierce O’Callaghan, also recommended that record recognition be withdrawn at any time if an athlete commits a doping or integrity violation.

O’Callaghan told the Guardian that he was surprised just how much agreement there had been on the need for change. “This has been discussed for years but there has never been a way to get through the legal issues before” he said. “But we have tested this and it passes the legal tests.

“It’s important to stress that we are not casting doubt on the previous records at all, just saying the criteria have changed. In order for the sport to move forward we needed to take a radical step to regain the public’s trust.

“Athletes can’t hide from the drug testers up a mountain in Ethiopia or Kenya or Russia – we want people out there being tested and competing. This is a chalk and cheese difference from the previous regime.”

The Guardian understands that Radcliffe and Edwards were informed of the new proposal last week. Neither has yet commented publicly but last year Radcliffe said she was against the idea of stripping world records, saying: “I’ll never agree with the records being wiped because I know 100% that at least one of those records was achieved clean and that means more were too.”

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