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The recent announcement that the European Athletics Council has proposed to disregard all athletics world records set prior to 20051 has caused considerable controversy and debate among the athletics community. It is a radical initiative with commendable aims to redress the consequences of past undetected doping violations that may have led to some of the least attainable world records. This proposal has now been put to the world governing body, the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), and its merits require discussion.
A major suggested justification for the proposal is that the IAAF has stored blood and urine samples only since 2005. As a consequence, there is limited recourse to disprove the legitimacy of performances prior to 2005 unless compelling new corroborative evidence emerges, as was the case for the cyclist Lance Armstrong. This seems unlikely when conclusive evidence of doping and admissions of guilt are not forthcoming despite widely known practices of state-sponsored doping.2 Therefore, the proposal has some merit for expunction of world records that may have been set with the aid of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Nevertheless, there are many …
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