Hansen: Today's athletes were behind proposal to rewrite records
By Callum Murray
A controversial recent proposal to scrap European and even world records set in athletics before 2005 was prompted by some of today’s athletes objecting that they will never be able to better those records because some of the performances were boosted by doping, according to Svein Arne Hansen, the president of continental governing body European Athletics.
While there has been some backing for Hansen from former athletes, there has been a backlash to the proposal from record-holders and their supporters who believe it would be unfair to strip them of their accolades without proof of doping.But in an exclusive interview, Hansen told Sportcal: “We have to give a good possibility to today’s athletes. They can go to the Olympics and win European Championships but some are saying they can never make a world record. The report [on rewriting records] is only a part of big reforms, but it’s painful; athletes that got former records, of course they are not so happy. But we have the good support of today’s athletes.”
Perhaps shaken by the strength of the reaction to the proposal, European Athletics last week issued a statement in which Hansen acknowledged that “reactions have been mixed” and added: “The most controversy comes from some of the current record-holders who, of course, would be personally affected by the proposed reassignment of record recognition. We must be aware of and sympathetic to their concerns.”
In the interview published in full today in Sportcal Insight, he explained: “We need more consultation, more work on this. We have our recommendations, three main principles on which everyone agrees - but they don’t like their own records to be taken away. We’re proposing consultations with the IAAF and then hopefully we’ll be ready to take a decision in our council meeting in London in August [at this summer’s IAAF World Championships].”
With just two years of his presidency remaining (the 71-year-old has said he will not stand for another term), it is questionable whether such a controversial consultancy process will reach a conclusion before his departure, but Hansen said: “Many records will completely fulfil the criteria: everything from the Olympics, for example. We will have debate and consultation in the next month. I am quite confident this will go through in council. We wanted to do something to make it better in sport. I’m glad there has been a lot of discussion about athletes who would lose records. If there are tainted records, that means there are other [clean] athletes who didn’t get a record; no one is speaking for them now.
“So many athletes cheated that we can’t be sure that it is a world best performance. We won’t say the record will go to number two or three on the list. It has to be a new record; we have to start with a clean sheet. Everybody has self-interest, but our thinking is: no individual is bigger than the sport.”
European Athletics has said that during the consultation period, feedback from all stakeholders will be collected and analysed, and that new contributions are welcome at the email address - firstname.lastname@example.org.
The findings of the consultation will be forwarded to the IAAF Council to inform its own discussions.
Hansen concluded in last week’s statement: “Our hope is that in the end the selection of the way forward will be based on calm consideration, rational arguments and a consensus on what is best for all athletes and the sport as a whole.”
The full interview with Hansen can be found here.