2006 Female Indoor Performance of the Year

Story written by EPelle

The stories poured in and stuck faster than the time it took her to react to her historic achievement.

Headlines spread throughout the world at such a frenzied pace, one had a difficult time finishing one article before the next bold summary flashed beneath the screen:

Bergqvist Jumps 2.08WR.

If you have ever been mesmerised by one single athletic performance that nothing else short of the second coming could awaken you from the awe which struck at your physical and mental faculties, then you know what it's like to be stuck in your tracks worried that if you blinked, the replays would change the original outcome.

Kajsa Bergqvist demonstrated a tremendous resolve in returning to the world's high jump elite when she returned from a career-threatening achilles tear she suffered in Båstad, Sverige in May 2004.

She won every competition in which she entered in 2005 - including the IAAF World Championships in Helsinki. Riding an emotional roller coaster on an overcast day, she was nearly flawless throughout the competition, clearing 2.02m on her first attempt for the win. A first-attempt miss at 2.00m was her only set-back in the competition.

Having been crowned champion among her peers, Bergqvist rode out the wave to an attempted 2.10m WR. The world record would have been the brightest crown adorning Bergqvist's career, but she failed on each of her three chances to manage this height. Breaking Stefka Kostadinova's 18-year-old world record would have placed Bergqvist on a pedastal among the all-time track & field athletes of all-time.

Bergqvist was left wanting, however, too emotionally charged to gather herself to give the record her undivided attention. She took some time to recover, went back to her rigorous training and strength routine, and looked forward with great optimism to the opening of the 2006 season.

Bergqvist mentioned last winter she had three main goals in mind for 2006: competing for the IAAF Golden League jackpot, winning the European Championships on her home soil here in Göteborg and etching her name next to the world record. (See SVT video discussing Bergqvist's world-record ambition).

She failed to translate her 2005 outdoor dominance into mastery over her competitors outdoors in 2006, but her defiance of the odds indoors on day in February set her apart from any and all of her peers - age, rank, nationality and generation notwithstanding.

I don't specifically remember what I was doing on Saturday, 4-February-2006. The skies outside were miserable, and the only thing I do recall was that television reports were busy discussing how Iran had curbed inspections of its neclear power plants.

The fourth of February had been historic on several other occasions - notably the the Battle of Stalingrad ending 63 years before Bergqvist laced up to jump in Arnstadt, Germany, and the French abolishing slavery throughout its territories 149 years earlier.

It was fitting that Bergqvist was able to end the reign of one long-time record-holder, Heike Henkel, in front of Henkel's home crowd - with Henkel in attendance.

Bergqvist woke up that morning with a feeling that something special could happen. She went through her normal routines, checked into competition, and tried containing her composure. She had the added pressure of competing against fast-improving Blanka Vlasic, who would wind up second with a 2.01m clearance, and four more athletes with bests at 2,00m or higher.

"I was really motivated", Bergqvist said to reporters after her jump. "I am sure that was worth a centimetre or two extra." (See her record jump here).

Bergqvist's agent, Daniel Wessfeldt, put the performance into perspective, saying: “By beating a 14-year-old world record, with Kajsa's injury background, she will be recognised as one of the biggest track and field athletes ever.”

No doubt.

Bergqvist's magical jump - a personal best clearance by four centimetres - is my personal selection as Female Indoor Performance of the Year. She netted 1281 points on the IAAF Scoring Tables of Indoor Athletics, a points mark which led all female indoor world-record setters.

The Russians were especially strong indoors in 2006, with Yelena Isinbayeva setting the last of her 2006 pole vault records - indoors or outdoors - of 4,91m in Donetsk nine days after Bergqvist lifted off for a postal code in the elite neighbourhood; Lilija Shobukhova set a 3.000m world record (8.27,86) in Moscow at the Russian Championships two days after Isinbayeva's achievement; and Yelena Soboleva set a world record time of 3.58,28 in the 1.500m final the following day.

The Russian Women's 4x400m team began the indoor record-haul with a world-record - 3.23.37 - in Glasgow on 28-January.

Isinbayeva has had her share of world records, having amassed an incredible combined 18 individual ones indoors and out. She has had the figurative bar set higher than any athlete currently competing in athletics. Isinbayeva is expected to make world record attempts every time she competes in a meeting.

Shobukhova suprised the world, to say the least, with her 3.000m performance. In any given year where Bergqvist had not stolen the spotlight, Shobukhova would have been at the tip of the iceberg in consideration, having translated 4.03,78/8.34,85/14.47,07 personal bests into the single fastest indoor 3.000m time ever - a time which equals 8.14,17/14.22,17 outdoors - or a hint above 2,06/5.01 indoors. She eclipsed Bergqvist's old personal best on the IAAF indoor tables, and was far ahead of Isinbayeva on the same chart.

Soboleva was second in all indoor world-record holder scoring with a 1273 scoring - a tally which fell short of Bergqvist's 2.08, landing at an equivalent 2.075. Isinbayeva would have to vault just under 5.04m and Shobukhova to run 8.25,20. Soboleva competed twice indoors at 1.500m, running her world-record time, and a 4.05,21 the following month for 2nd at the World Indoor Championships. She also ran a 1.000m race in 2.32,40, a time which would still beat Bergqvist's previous indoor personal best by 2cm, and an 800m in 1.58,53 - or 2,03i on the Bergqvist scale.

I grappled with this for a short while, deciding how I could categorically declare Bergqvist's performance the better of the two considering Soboleva competed in three separate events in which she set near to Bergqvist's single effort.

One part of the deciding factor for me was the combination of IAAF points from the top-two finishers in each of their world-record events, compared with the margin of victory points over their respective runners-up.

The Bergqvist-Vlasic combination had a 2485 total (1281+1204), with Kajsa's margin of victory 77 points ahead of Vlasic.

The Soboleva-Yuliya Chizhenko combination netted a 2521 (1273+1248), with Yelena's margin 25 points ahead of Chizhenko.

Soboleva appeared to have more push at the end than Bergqvist was afforded by her runner-up, but the IAAF tables closed the book on that thought. Vlasic cleared 2.01m, passed 2.03m, and took an attempt at 2.05m - fouling out at this height. Bergqvist made this height on her 2nd-attempt. The equivalent would have been Chizhenko pushing at 4.01,28 pace before Soboleva made her last drive for home. Chizhenko ran 4.01,26 - or 0,02 seconds faster - than that comparison. Bergqvist had the same push and drive as did Soboleva.

So how did I come to my conclusion apart from Kajsa having more point value worth than Sobolova?

Bergqvist had the world-record purposefully in mind on her last attempt. Soboleva ran a world record after pushing home for the victory. Bergqvist had three attempts to knock Henkel off the charts, and did so in her first attempt. Had she failed once at the height, I would have rolled out the honorary red carpet to Soboleva.

However, in as much as Bergqvist specifically sought to break the world record outright after clearing 2.05m, and did so on her first attempt, I gave the nod to her. Her points chart total told the rest of the story.

I look forward to 2007 with much more enthusiasm than I did in 2006 - despite the European Championships being contested in my own backyard.

Bergqvist is a world-record holder, Soboleva has run as well outdoors as she did indoors, and Isinbayeva is always a threat to set a record in any competition in which she decides to participate. The thrill of being crowned world champion is on the line for Soboleva, with Bergqvist and Isinbayeva both defending their respective titles.


Mathematics Gone Wild

Story written by EPelle

Man must be smarter than a computer. God help us if he's not.

Scientific "studies" - many of which have been no more than a waste of time - have been abundant on what the capacities man can expect to reach in athletics.

Today, a new predictive analysis was introduced to the world, and Paula Radcliffe ought to beware.

Dutchman John Einmahl, a mathematecian and professor at Tilberg University in Germany, predicted that Radcliffe can expect to have her world record ultimately lowered by eight minutes 50 seconds in the future, though no date was provided as to when the miraculous breakthrough could occur.

"For a lot of athletes it is probably depressing when they are confronted with our extreme values," Professor Einmahl is quoted as stating. "But this is a very serious study -- the extreme theory as a part of mathematics and statistics is an accepted science."

The men, on the other hand, stand to stagnate within the near future, as Paul Tergat's 2003 marathon world record time of 2.04.55 - set in Berlin - should ultimately only be lowered by 49 more seconds. Haile Gebrselassie, who has made public his attempt to win the Beijing Marathon and set the world record within the next two years, may be the last person alive to ever etch his name into history.


Asafa Powell, meanwhile, stands to be followed by a long list of suitors or one incredibly wild freak of nature insofar as his world record - shared by a steroid-aided Justin Gatlin - should be lowered from 9,77 to 9,29.

Canadian Ben Johnson once stated that no human being could ever legally run 9,79-seconds for the 100m dash. His prediction is nearly true as the first under 9,80, Tim Montgomery, was found to be a drugs cheat, and his performances have been erased. Gatlin, the current co-world record-holder, has tested positive for steroids. That leaves Powell in rarified air.

Powell is a terrific specimen of an athlete, and runs smoother and easier than any current straight-dash sprinter on the circuit, but he will never run under 9,70 - even with a maximum allowable wind (+2,0 m/s).

Professor Einmahl computed - by studying world records in 14 disciplines and feeding the best marks of 1.546 male and 1.024 female athletes into a computer - that Michael Johnson's 200m world record - 19,32 - could lower to 18,63.

Nike athlete Xavier Carter, who ran the second-fastest 200m ever in this, his inagural season at the professional level, 19,63, has only one full second left to tick off before this prediction comes true. Fascinating stuff.

The professor apparently acknowledged that there is room for extraordinary performances that will turn his results upside down, so Geb may yet have hope to extend beyond 2.04.06. Mr. Einmahl said his field doesn't recognize the impossible, but accepts the unbelievable.

"Who would have thought Bob Beamon would jump 8.90 meters on Oct. 18, 1968?" he said.

What the good professor fails to state is that the mark came at a humid location at altitude - an aide which Track & Fields News differentiates when denoting records.

The Associated Press author was practical enough to state that Beamon's record was not touched for another 23 years. No athlete, including Beamon, himself, ever got within the same time zone as Beamon's 1968 Olympic Games mark set in Mexico City.

Mathematics and statistics can be a great deal of fun to twist and turn to see what athletes are capable of, but, without any brainwork being applied to the answers computed by the machines, one will wait an entire lifetime hoping a woman will run her first 10km of a marathon in just over 30.00, repeat this four more times, and then have enough energy left to run 2,2km more at that pace. Better yet, the lucky female capable of this feat will need to run 105 times around the track in 71,96 seconds/lap without stopping.

Jesus Dapena, an Indiana University biomechanics professor, said in June that there must be a limit to how fast man can run. He stated that a man will never run 100 meters in three seconds, for instance, but that limit can't be defined. Mr. Einmahl basis his assumptions on a predictive model a computer has generated.

Mr. Einmahl's facts and figures have been stated to have been included to study extreme stock market prices as well as the required height needed in dams to control huge floods, and he's said to have performed a study funded by the insurance field over the highest possible damage claims possible to file.

Stock markets may use his numbers as a boundary marker, and insurance carriers may touch base with him for redline values, but his analysis of athletics performances fails the grade in the human capacity course.

If - and when - you ever witness a female athlete who runs 20km in one hour, and says she can continue for another at the same pace, check to see that she is not hallucinating. If she insists, and is able to stay the course, you'll have to do the honarary thing and for EPO and other performance-enhancing drugs - including gene doping.

Alas, if she succeeds and, indeed, makes it to the finish line under 2.07.00, feel free to drop me a line. I'll be first in line at the Guiness Book of World's Records eating my shorts.

Further reading:

Are Athletes Role Models?

Story written by EPelle

Did you ever look up to an athlete as you grew up, that is to say a person whom you idolised for their contributions to this sport? Have you ever been influenced positively or negatively by what that athlete - or those athletes - did off the field?

My idol was Saïd Aouita, as he was in the business of winning Olympic and World Championship medals and setting world records when athletics was most interesting to me: once upon a time as a teen.

Aouita was all things I wasn't, and everything I desired to be: swift, fast, famous and versatile.

I looked up to Aouita until I finally had my own teen groupies following every step I took, every workout I ran, every extra-curricular course I studied, and every book I read.

I realised how fragile that glass house really is when mis-stepping along the way, and seeing one of those fans, my sister, find another hero to worship.

Aouita never took any wrong turns, nor did he throw me off course during the four years his results were planted in my scrapbook, his photos cut from magasines and he kept on winning, winning and winning.

A guy named Noureddine Morceli took over the chores after Aouita, and he in turn was replaced by Hicham El Guerrouj.

I don't recall the day I stopped caring what these guys did off the field. I am not really sure I ever knew in the first place; the internet hadn't connected me to cyberworld during those years.

Justin Gatlin has been caught up in a quagmire - a doping scandal which stinks of corruption, lies and blind accusations made by his coach, Trevor Graham.

Gatlin's doping hearing should begin in the next four to six weeks, and his fate should be decided soon thereafter. He has his own bed in which to lie, and whatever entanglement he has been caught in seems to be his own doing. The IAAF have a strict liability rule when it pertains to doping cases, meaning that athletes are completely responsible for whatever is applied to their skins, whatever they eat, drink, inhale or inject.

Today's blog entry isn't a question of whether or not Gatlin is innocent, rather a question of whether Gatlin should coach high schoolers before his own fate is set.

The Associated Press reported yesterday that Gatlin will be a volunteer coach at his high school this spring, the final six months of the school's existance.

"At this point, his future is uncertain but it could resolved in the next year or so," Woodham AD Paul Bryan told The Associated Press. "In the meantime, we're in the last six months of this school's existence, and he has got the opportunity and time to spend a little more time with these kids."

Should Gatlin, who is likely to have a tremendous amount of influence on 14- to 18-year-old kids, step into a role where he is admired, trusted, respected and influential when his doping status is not yet cleared?

I've read debate by hard-core, die-hard fans of the sport on the subject of Gatlin leading high schoolers - debate by folks with very generous amounts of forgiveness available to people like Gerry Lindgren, Seb Coe, Marion Jones, Angelo Taylor, Amy Acuff and Kelli White to name a few. These writers, located in America and Europe, appear to demonstrate a starker shunning of Gatlin than I would have imagined from them.

Lindgren was a purported bad man, bad father and bad husband. His listed failures at manhood have nothing to do with my appreciation for his abilities and acomplishments.

Coe is said to have had encounters outside of the marriage one could deem inappropriate. Again, what he does behind the scenes has no bearing on his gold medals or his world records.

Jones has had relationships with two former lovers who have been snarled in drugs scandals which thwarted their careers. She has been implicated as a drugs user by her former husband, C.J. Hunter, and was indirectly implicated by the father of her baby, Tim Montgomery, when he spoke on record in private proceedings regarding Chryste Gaines and BALCO.

Taylor was arrested for having sex with a teenager in his SUV. Had he decided to coach teens, I'd have raised a red flag. His judgment is clouded, despite his having stated he believed the minor was older than her actual age.

Acuff has continued fighting for championship medals in the Olympics and on the world scene, and has kept her nose out of major scandal. She has posed virtually nude in FHM and Playboy magasines, but has not been known to have encouraged teens to follow suit. Kajsa Bergqvist and Carolina Klüft have spoken out against posing sexually for any magasine, but the question is of moral character, not whether or not an athlete can be trusted.

White did prejudicely and willfully take performance-enhancing drugs, and since left the sport. She made a conscious effort to speak out about the performance-enhancing drugs epidemic in BALCO, and helped the United States Senate enact tougher steroids laws.

Gatlin falls into a category similar to Regina Jacobs and Remi Korchemny, insofar as each has been linked to drugs and coaching - albeit Gatlin is attempting to coach.

I believe Gatlin should keep away from the spotlight until his case clears, because he's in a "do as I say, but not at I do!" position at this point - a time when his future career in the sport as an athlete is directly proportional to any deliberate ties he had with his offense. Teens - young adults (or overgrown children) - are influenced by coaches, and having Gatlin volonteer time in any direct capacity with the school kids can have a negative impact on them.

White stated before the Senate that she felt betrayed by Korchemny, a person who had coached her in high school, and who coached her after her college graduation and move back to the San Francisco-Bay Area. She stated she had been offered drugs at one point in time, but had passed up the offer. She broke down and took drugs once she was injured and could not regain her form. I would sincerely hope Gatlin never finds himself in a similar position as Korchemny.

If Gatlin is subsequently cleared of the gross accusation against him, that he is a doped athlete, and he is exonerated with a special circumstances warning, he can then volunteer time to his alma mater, Woodham High School in Pensacola, FL. It will be then, and only then - when kids see Gatlin accept his fate as an adult - that the greater lesson will be learned.

In the meantime, I wish Gatlin the best as he takes one step at a time toward clearing his name.

For Further reading:


Powell Considering Osaka Double

Story written by EPelle

Eurosport announced today that Asafa Powell may consider doubling up at the 2007 IAAF World Track & Field Championships in Osaka, a move which, if it comes to pass, can provide more fireworks and excitement than a potential 100m final against the strong Americans and our best Europeans.

Powell has single-handedly shot up and away as the premiere athlete in the sport's most glamorous event, the 100m dash.

He may take on more than he can chew up next year in the 200m, however, with a world championships final likely featuring Americans Tyson Gay, Xavier Carter and Wallace Spearmon along with Powell's Jamaican countryman, Usain Bolt flanking him on either side on. Portugal's Francis Obikwelu - the 2006 European Champion - and France's Ronald Pognon - the European Junior (2001) and U23 (2003) 100m champion, and a member of France’s World Championship winner 4x100m squad in Helsinki 2005 - could also be part of what can conceivably be the greatest sprint final in the history of any championship event.

When Michael Johnson set his world record time of 19,32 in Atlanta 10 years ago, many of the most long-time, hardcore fans swore no athlete in their lifetimes would ever come close enough to even see the mountaintop upon which Johnson's mark was perched. It was outer-worldly, and bordered on absurd. Johnson smashed by 0,33-seconds his own previous best and newly-minted World Record of 19,66 he ran on the same track five weeks earlier at the USA Olympic Trials. That mark had eclipsed the 19,72A Pietro Mennea ran in Mexico City some 17 years earlier. Frank Fredricks (19,68), the only other athlete at the time to ever break 19,70, did so in finishing a distant second to Johnson in Atlanta, running the third-fastest legal time ever recorded.

Johnson never approached that god-like status again, but did set a 400m World Record the following year in Sevilla. Johnson ran a 19,71A in an altitude-assisted race in Pietersburg in the next Olympic year.

Fast-forward your clocks 10 years from that magical night in Atlanta when the world stood still.

This year was a phenominal year for 200m sprinting by the Americans, as collegiate standout Carter ran history's 2nd-fastest time, 19,63, in his first professional effort over the distance in Lausanne. No fewer than four times did his countryman Gay break 19,86, capped by his =5 All-Time 19,68 in Stuttgart in September. A third American, Spearmon, wound up the 2nd-fastest athlete of the season with a 19,65 in Daegu, the 3rd-best ever over the distance, and a race he won by more than a second!

Bolt set a personal best with a 19,88-second clocking in Lausanne, finishing behind both Carter and Gay, who turned in a 19,70.

Powell would like emulate over 100m in 2007 what he did in 2006 - a feat which will be a very tough act to follow.

Powell put together what could be seen as the most impressive sprinting ever in the history of the sport in 2006, and intends on running exceptionally consistent at 100m, and using his base over 400m to contribute to faster 200m times next season.

If he can remain healthy and overcome what could possibly be tired legs after his double heats and rounds, he can push, pull or run even with I believe will be the greatest group of athletes ever assembled for any race - distance notwithstanding. The result could be one or several of the top eight times ever recorded wiped away from the record books.

Powell ran no fewer than 10 times under 10,00 seconds in 2006 - a season which saw him twice equal his 2005 world record of 9,77 seconds, and dip under 20,00 with a 19,90 victory in Kingston. He was undefeated over 100m/200m, and was a co-winner of the 2006 IAAF Golden League $1.000.000 jackpot. Powell has amassed 25 sub-10,00 clockings in his brief career - all of them set after 2003, and is in sole possession of the number of sub-9,90 times ever recorded with 11.

The USA's Maurice Greene tops the list of all-time sub-10,00 clockings at 52, and is 2nd to Powell in the sub-9,90 category at 10. Powell is the 14th entrant on the famous sub-10,00/sub-20,00 club - a comparison to an MLB 40 HR/40 SB list. Carl Lewis was the first entrant, accomplishing the feat in 1983.

One great means of measuring a man's success on the track is how many medals he was won despite his swift feet or strong hands.

Powell has one major individual championship medal to his name - a Commonwealth Games gold he picked up in the spring. He has one monkey off his back, and, by winning every single Golden League competition in front of all comers, he can finally be seen as the threat to claim championship gold.

Should Powell be able to stay aboard a course which doubles his duties in Japan, he - along with Gay and Spearmon (provided they make their USA squad) - will have an off-day before having four 200m races in three days. Powell will need it insofar as he has never before demonstrated he has the strength to last six races - three of which are double-day racing schedules - before a 200m final. If he makes it through the rounds and is in the final with any sense of hunger left in his body, his presence alone could help this race be one for the ages, and one to rival the last World Championships held in Japan.

Japan is no stranger to the history book, with Lewis running a WR 9,86 in the 100m and Mike Powell jumping a WR 8,95 (+0,3 m/s) the last time the IAAF World Championships were held there (1991).

All eyes will follow Powell up from the blocks and down one straight away for the right to be declared the world's fastest man. Should he successfully gain that crown, expectations for the world's fastest sprinter will double as he seeks to out-duel the hungry Americans.

Stay tuned for plenty of updates from now through August 2007.

From Threads to Riches

Story written by EPelle

Have you ever considered what it may be like to spiral down the totem poll?

Dwain Chambers and Justin Gatlin find themselves there at this very moment - and have actually for some time.

They were once enamored with praise, showered with money, and fed monstrous amounts of respect for being the quickest down a small piece of real estate, 100 metres to be exact.

Now, each has his sites set on performing in front of other crowds, for more money, and for a different type of esteem, namely that of being an NFL star.

Chambers was caught up in the BALCO affair, and accepted his two-year banishment from the sport in 2004. I caught up with him in Göteborg in August - his first major championship since his return this season, and had two very good conversations with him.

I like the guy. He's personable, he's funny, he's approachable, and he's shown an interest in not just continuing to explain the same old story he's told for the past 30 months, but to face the fact that people look at him differently than before.

Steroids talk didn't get old with Chambers when I brought up the subject in August after stopping him a second time for a quick photo along the service road between the warm-up track and Ullevi Stadium where the European Championships were taking place. I kept the focus off of his expulsion, and asked him questions about Gatlin and the entire drugs mess within athletics. He was honest about his situation - so honest, that he signed an autograph for a fan who stuck her program in front of him during our discussion with his name, and "9,96" under it. (Read further: Chambers comes clean)

"It is now," he said of his personal best, and chuckled.

Gatlin is traveling down a similar road.

He's been on top, over the top, and has fallen beyond the extended public grace extended for certain crimes of conscious. He's been busted for performance-enhancing drugs.

Friends and family have stood by his side since his inner circle decided to reveal the positive testosterone - or precursor - in July, but the public has grown faint and weary of another story of good guy turned bad through his own fault or not.

Gatlin, as is Chambers, is on the bottom of the list of influentials - those notable somebodies the rest of us had no business pretending to be. He was once perched so high up in his own postal code that the only person who was even in the neighbourhood was Asafa Powell - an athlete who had already occupied space there, and had twice tried kicking Gatlin off the block, so to speak.

Both athletes face their own athletics hurdles, though in the absense of the Gatlin verdict, it is noticeably Chambers who will have the easier ride should he continue to steer his athletics course.

Chambers faces a very formidable foe in having to repay the IAAF a substantial amount of prize money (thought to be £180,000) he collected while competing as a doped athlete - a period between the beginning of 2002 and his positive test in August 2003.

He was welcomed back to compete for England this year, and made waves at both the Super League and European Championships. He's taken some lumps, however, from teammates who have continued to express bitterness over losing out on the 2003 IAAF World Championships 4x100m silver medal.

He will never be allowed to participate in a future Olympic Games, and he will always carry with him a stigma as a cheat in other athletes' minds.

Gatlin has kept his athletics profile as low as it can go - nearly obsolete - as he has prepared his defense of his second positive drugs test in his career. You know the story well. He may (or not) gain a special circumstances exception to his drugs test, and it seems he has kept his options open to other earning potential - the NFL being the most lucrative opportunity should he find a suitor willing to take a gamble on a man who hasn't played the sport since high school.

Chambers and Gatlin are two men who have burned up the track, collected a share of high-value medals, and have either been world-record holders or in races where world-records were set. Chambers, oddly enough, was in the world-record race when Tim Montgomery ran 9,78 in Paris three years ago - a time which would later be annulled from the record books due to Montgomery's drugs use and connection to the same BALCO mess which snared Chambers.

It seems fitting that both athletes have turned over one leaf for the prospect of gaining attention and a roster spot in an even higher-profile sport, the NFL.

Gatlin has worked out for the Houston Texans and the Arizona Cardinals, though neither team has been thought to be considering him for service.

Gatlin may have to continue shopping his talents around, and perhaps hope his agent, Renaldo Nehemiah, can utilise any remaining influence he may have remaining in the sport he played from 1982 - 1984.

BBC Sport on Thursday, 2006-December-14 that Chambers had toughed it up, worked out hard, and showed a lot of determination in front of coaches at the NFL Europe training camp in Cologne, Germany, and may have considerably more opportunity as he is invited back to a second round of workouts.

If Chambers makes it through that he will join a six-week camp in Florida which could see him drafted to one of six teams: Amsterdam Admirals, Berlin Thunder, Cologne Centurions, Frankfurt Galaxy, Hamburg Sea Devils or Rhein Fire.

Whether they are here or there, going deep or slanting to the right, two grown men are at crossroads in their lives, and are entertaining sports which may give them excellent salaries, but much shorter careers.

Any career at this point in time would be longer than the prospect of waiting eight years to walk like an Olympian in Gatlin's case, and never again setting in the Olympic blocks for Chambers.

Though Chambers will never wear the Union Jack at an Olympic Games, UK Athletics Performance Director Dave Collins insists Chambers could still have an international athletics career.

Regardless of which paths they choose to take, I wish them both the utmost success as they climb back up the wooden pole to a place where they both feel comfortable with their free time activities. With any luck, Gatlin may get picked up as a reserve. Even better, I'd like to see him up and move to Europe where an NFL Europe game featuring two of the fastest sprinters in the league lay down historical receiving numbers which will only be exceeded by their next meeting. And next. And so forth.

That woman who snuck in that arm during my conversation should keep that autograph in a safe spot. Chambers may light it up on the field here in Europe, and the next time she sees us talking, she can stick the other arm in there and ask how fast Chambers can run a 40.

Alas, I can then say more positive things about that young man who took time to chat with a complete stranger about some very personal Fort Knox feelings and gave me some feel good stuff to hang out there on the internet.

Further reading:


Black December

Story written by EPelle

Christmas is soon upon me, as it is every year at this time. I'm unprepared as usual, but I know exactly what I want to purchase, for whom, how many, and hope to God those products are still on the shelves as I make my way down the street to the electronics stores.

I'd like to have been ahead of the game this year, but, once again, I am on the sofa, the money is still in the wallet, and the ears have yet to ring from any holiday store music attempting to stifle my resistance to purchase more.

So I find myself today spending a couple minutes pondering the meaning of athletics - trying to make sense of a season which began with a bang (Kajsa Bergqvist setting an indoor WR of 2.08m), endured two large drugs scandals in Justin Gatlin and Marion Jones, and ended with headlines of the same nature.

Peculiar turns in Gatlin story; Landis, Gatlin lead the way in year of doping; Another year rocked by dope; and so on down the list of doping headlines have popped up the first 19 days of December in attempts to provoke me to read further. The latest, one which just alerted me from the bottom of my laptop screen minutes ago, states that Germany's Grit Breuer is seeking IAAF compensation for being unfairly banned in 1992. Read story.

The convenience I appreciate with RSS feeds is astounding. I receive information on anything and everything athletics-related from sources around the world, and in some cases, as soon as the author has pressed the enter key.

It's a great feeling to sit at the helm with such information, knowing I can leak interesting stories to message boards and blog spots as quickly as they develop. The ease of providing this information has also meant I have pounded out my fair share of doping stories, and have inundated fans with headlines declaring this to have been a year of trials, testings, sabotage and secret results made public by still unknown sources in the know.

I never thought I would get tired of reading news, as news is what moves blood through my message board veins; it is the lifeline by which I have been perceived as a hunter and gatherer for a small number of fans around the world. The contents of the news provided to me this year and passed on to others varied considerably - from an all-time, burst with excitement level, to a fastboll down the plate, struck-out looking with the bases loaded one.

I was as inspired as the next guy - probably more than so - when Bergqvist shocked the universe with her outer-worldly performance in Arnstadt, Germany. I knew she had it in her. She demonstrates the epitome of what it means to be resilient, and her unsinkable drive and determination have taken her to places no woman has ever before discovered in an indoor arena anywhere. Ever.

However, the fanwagon rolled up to such a high place, that it was inevitable the news equal and opposite her excellent addition to the athletics world would be in an athlete tying a world record, but being subsequently stripped of that merit.

Gatlin kept the rollercoaster going with the frenzied speed of his 100m heat and final in Qatar bringing excellent hope in the form of a Gatlin-Asafa Powell showdown with no slowdown. They never raced head-to-head, instead competing in different heats in Eugene at the Pre Classic, and at no more meets together the remainder of the season.

The RSS feed covering doping topics beeped late on Saturday, 2006-July-29, causing my passion for sprints to take an alarming dive. Gatlin had tested positive for testosterone or precursors to it.

I was filled up to the ears with information - much of it incomplete - by the major editors around the world. Smaller, lesser-known papers carried syndicated stories of this foul event, with some adding their own feelings of contempt this could occur after the BALCO headlines seemed to have died out.

I contributed a number of posts to Track & Field News following the controlled information Gatlin's team disclosed. That message board has been recipient to more than 11.500 of my thoughts on track, field, history, and everything neither track nor field for the past three years. I felt like I ate, drank and slept all things Gatlin, and everything doping the entire month of July.

Powell continued running 9,77-second sprints as though he was on autopilot, netting him IAAF Male Athlete of the Year, and Jamaican Athlete of the Year. He won so many times - he never lost - that he split a share of the $1.000.000 Golden League jackpot for his efforts.

When news wasn't on Gatlin or Powell - or Sanya Richards breaking the USA 400m record, it was on the European Championships held in my own backyard. Names like Tia Hellebaut, Susanna Kallur, Francis Obikwelu, Johan Wissman, André Silnov and Tatyana Lysenko filled the airwaves and newsposts.

Then drugs were introduced into the mix, right smack at the end of what is considered to be a fantastic championships experience.

A bag of what seemed to be used doping products with Russian labels was found outside of the hotel the Russians, Poles and others were calling home during their one-week stay in Göteborg. It turned out to be a dead-end chase for those seeking a hot story about doped athletes. The polis, who investigate drug-related issues, dropped the investigation, and no one was suspected or charged.

The second newsworthy item which found its way to writer blogs was suspicions athletes have of a certain female high jumper who rarely seems to compete outside of her home country, and has found a new stride and height in her aging body this year. Our papers here don't shy away from stating they have suspicions of such athletes, and their mentioning drugs-testing and athletes in August was only an omen of things to come.

Marion Jones did the rest.

Everyone jumped on the bandwagon in August, and in September, when she was declared not guilty, everyone jumped on the system which allowed for leaks of such information.

Jones' great escape from Zürich overshadowed several other names in the news.

When push came to shove, those with the news - myself included - found it juicier, tastier and more concrete to follow a story of possible corruption and cover-up than to talk about a white kid who began threatening Africans; a black kid running the 2nd-fastest 200m of all-time; a Texan who found a will to win ever time he stepped on the track for his same-lane interval run; a Belgian who wound up not being a one-meet wonder; and to minimise Powell's streak of sub-10 performances as ho-hum, when on any given day, one - or all - of his performances would have been headlines elsewhere.

The season ended last week in Qatar with the conclusion of the Asian Games. Liu Xiang ran a meet record 13,17 in capping off what had been a fantastic season for the newly-crowned world-record holder (12,88). December should have been pure, keeping out talk of drugs and anything drugs-related.

Yet, despite talk of Xiang's victory, I was fed stories on Asian athletes doping and being disqualified, and of one who failed a "sex" test. Tammy Thomas, an obscure cyclist from who knows where - I don't follow her sport - was indicted by her US government last week for having lied to federal prosecutors, and for obstructing justice.

Graham, Jones and Gatlin - who all should be elsewhere off my December radar - each find themselves thrust in the middle of the news again. Graham is fighting similar charges as Thomas; Jones has to fend off accusations she may have lied to those same authorities, while simultaneously considering whether to retire; and Gatlin, who is mentioned any time Graham does, may be up for review next month to fight off his drugs-related offense.

One thing I wish for Christmas is a single, solitary day where the world stands still, drugs stories get stuck on a server, and I have no reason to feel an hourly need to click on that small rotating white cube on the lower right of my icon tray. For everything else there is a bank card.


Wishes For a Successful 2007 Season

Story written by EPelle

Good riddance 2006.

Marion Jones bugs me. Trevor Graham annoys me. BALCO won't go away despite how long people try keeping their heads in the sand. Drugs and performance-related issues about drugs have filled up the headlines for the greater half of the year, that I wish that one could put a lid on the media and go one about his life.

But then the skurks would get away with it, having fallen from grace, and slipped from the spotlight to live in obscurity.

My Christmas wish for this year involves opening next year (wow, check that, can it really be only 13 days away?) with a clean slate across the boards. No "Made Marion" filling up my RSS feed, no more conspiracy theories from Trevor Graham, and please, no more athletes who didn't have a clue about their sleeping medications/nasal sprays/Ben Gay/etc. They've ruined the honesty of the sport, and have forced fans to lock the doors behind them at night.

Considering dreams and wishes are only gossamer mind fiction, and this thing I really want is at one moment right at my finger tips, and the next minute, it's gone, here's my top-five wish list for 2007:
  1. Clean sport. We're far from it, but seem to be closer to it all the while. If any athlete decides he wants to get caught for performance-enhancing drugs in 2007, please sign up by the grace period ending 31-December. A special cocktail party will be held in your honour, and you won't have to worry about where you got spiked. Great alibi for the WADA/USADA folks, and IAAF may decide this special circumstance actually works in your favour. You'll be able to hold one-on-ones with news reporters, and you can leave with a clear conscious - instead of amnesia and a later recollection of murky waters that Jesus, Himself, would have trouble turning into wine. Exiting quietly away will be unnecessary press conferences by bewildered athletes who want to get to the bottom of their inadvertant positives, and athletes having troublee keeping dibs on their whereabouts can relax as well.

  2. This is a long stretch, but I do certainly hope that Alan Webb stays injury-free in 2007. I feel for the kid. Make that man. He's tough. He's got iron lungs and a powerful will. He doesn't compete for "also ran"/"also competed" showings. He's there to lay it all down on the line from start to finish, over two laps to 25 laps. Key for this young lad will be to stay away from the long stuff just yet. He proved in 2006 that he is capable of running 6x1.600m and change without stopping at a very good clip. His workout at Stanford early in the year netted him a 27.34,72 ahead of his old high school nemesis, Dathan Ritzenhein, who set his own PB with a 27.35,65. Webb got his revenge over his long-time battle buddy in 2005 with his AR 2-mile run at the Pre Classic. He needs to keep things tightened under the belt for a bit longer, and keep focussed on the 800m/1.500m/mile distance a good two more years before spreading his talents over the longer distances. I'd like to see Alan Webb, the high-priced NIKE miler, put out some great efforts next summer in the mile (or 1.500m) - right where he left off before the great experiment which was 2006. Let him live and learn from this season and focus back on getting race-smart, developing late-inning stretch wheels, and knocking placers off their goals in Osaka come World Championships time.

  3. I am very excited that Stefan Holm has decided to stay with the sport through Beijing in defense of his Olympic title. The man will hit the 100 marker for 2,30m or higher jumps this indoor season. Stefan Holm has a fighting chance of being the superstar of 2008 if he can get over his injury-woes from 2006, translate his strength (he had never felt stronger in any season as he did in 2006) from the training track in Karlstad to a field near you in 2007, and find that little extra which he has commanded this century to stay in the high jump mix. The high jump is a terrific event which is regaining its world-wide popularity. Russia always has an oiled machine awaiting Holm at every juncture, and a André Silnov-Jaraslov Ribakov/Holm-Linus Thörnblad team battle could challenge for the highlight reel of any meet. Stefan Holm has once jumped 2,40m - at the 2005 European Indoor Championships. He has international competition knocking at the door in the aforementioned Rybakov and Silnov, who have taken attempts at some very high, respectable marks, and who both have beaten Holm in 2006 on good occasion. His backyard competition has sprouted up like a bad weed in Thörnblad - a kid who refuses to give up or lose no matter how much one tries to keep him out of the medal hunt. I'd like to see Holm loaded from his self-studies, away from the media pressure which often portrays him wrongly here in Sweden, and injury-free in 2007.

  4. The world won't see Kenenisa Bekele run in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, but that doesn't stop one from hoping he wins a double/double at the IAAF T&F World Champs. This kid has commanded my total respect for disabling competitors, yanking their chains, and playing catch with fire upon demand since his initial double-double IAAF Cross Country World Championships victories in 2001. He had a tougher time in a altered focus 2006, running miles and 1.500m events indoors and out to work on his basic speed. He fared poorly in his professional debut - an over-four-minute loss to Bernard Lagat in New York, and he took lumps along with a victory on the European Circuit during the summer. I love watching this kid surge 60-second lap splits during the middle of his races, churning lap after lap in a pre-meditated, first-degree assault on his competitors' will and drive to keep stride. He has been rewarded with two of the top-five fastest outdoor 5.000m times ever, including his 12.37,35 world record from 2004, and, in 2006, he became the first man to ever record six sub-13.00 times in one season. Bekele lacks some discipline in his races, however, having twice allowed faster sprinters to stay within striking distance over 5.000m during the past two championships. Bekele kept Eliud Kipchoge in striking distance in 2003, and Hicham El Guerrouj, the most decorated miler in history - as well as the WR-holder and 2nd-fastest 3.000m runner in world history - in the mix at the 2004 Olympics. He skipped the event two seasons ago in Helsinki in favour of winning his 2nd-straight 10.000m title (27.08,33). I'd love to see Bekele develop a kicker's kick to twice sting, hurt, bug, trample and trifle his opponents at the IAAF World Outdoor Championships.

  5. The final golden moment of 2007 would be Kajsa Bergqvist jumping over 2.09m either indoors or out. I grappled a bit with the thought of including two Swedes on my top-five list, as so many other athletes come to mind whom I would pay a great many a kronor to watch any one time during 2007. However, Bergqvist gets my hope button alive with talk of improving her world record. She made it clear in no uncertain terms last winter that she was going to make an assault on the 16-year-old world record of 2.07m held by Heike Henkel. She eclipsed that mark with Henkel in attendance, jumping 2.08m in Arnstadt on 2006-February-4, and then made a pact to give a go at seriously attempting to take down Stefka Kostadinova's 2.09m from Rome set 19 years earlier. That perfect-day, best-ever jump was not to unfold outdoors in 2006, leaving Bergqvist even more loaded and focused from having missed nearly a year-and-a-half following her ruptured achilles injury suffered in the spring of 2004. Bergqvist jumped 2,00m and higher eight times in 2006, with her top-two marks, 2.05m and 2.04m respectively, leading the world. Her competition has also duly risen to the challenge, with Tia Hellebaut the latest to make a breakthrough (2.03m in Göteborg at the 2006 European Championships) and elevate the status of the event on par with the men's. My goal for 2007 is to see Bergqvist, Blanka Vlašic, Hellebaut, Chante Howard, Anna Chicherova and Yelena Slesarenko all on their "A" game at the World Championships, with 2.04m yielding only a bronze to the third-best of the group.

I may get an early wish granted, as the IAAF announced today that Hellebaut will take on an all-star cast of athletes indoors at the Golden High Jump Gala in the Belgian capital on 27 January 2007. Five 2,00m jumpers will participate: the European silver medallist Venelina Veneva, 32, of Bulgaria, Vlašic, 23, who was fourth in Göteborg, and has bests of 2.05m indoors/2.03m outdoors; Spanish and Hungarian recordholders Ruth Beitia and Dora Gyorffy, who both hold personal bests of 2.00m outdoors, respectively; and Chicherova, the reigning indoor European Champion who has twice jumped 2.04m indoors (=7 all-time), and has a 2.00m outdoor PB.

In case I am in a sportsworld coma in 378 days- shocked over the fact that drugs found their way into 2007 mainstream discussion groups, have my digital television programme recorder set for 21.40 Japanese time on Monday, 2007-August-27, when the first finalist of the above five events should start his medal chase.

The Great European Champs Highlight of 2006

Story written by EPelle


There were so many excellent events which occured in the athletics world in 2006 - from Asafa Powell twice equalling his 9,77-second 100m WR to finally meeting two of my favourite athletes - including Stefan Holm - while they were competing here in Göteborg. This week was single-handily the most spectacular week I have ever had in athletics, trumping any and all of my favourite races and events in which I have participated as an athlete and a spectator.
I was around and about Göteborg during the one-week European Championships, and would like to give you an idea of what occured behind the cameras.

  • Drugs tests:

Some surprise, out-of-competition drugs tests sprung on folks at odd hours (during breakfast, for example). Have gone to two different hotels this week, and surprised a soon-to-be medalist during breakfast. Took blood (the second time during a six-day period we'd done that, apparently) from this person, and headed to the next hotel with the same goal. Went on the field during competitions, and shadowed athletes like a hall monitor does when kids are supposed to get out of the corridors after the bell rings. Fun stuff, and only one athlete who turned out to be rather cranky about the process. Most prestigious place? Mixed Zone where they get interviewed. We took a blood sample on the out-of-competition tests, and if those tests showed abnormalities, we took a urine test (which toolk 8-9 days to get back from the lab in Norway).

  • Athlete warm-up area:

For those fans who truly want to get a close-up look at the stars and competitors of these games, this is the place to hang out. Not much one can do prior to the events, but afterward, the athletes walk from the back of the stadium down a small service road, and back to the warm-up track. It is there that autograph-seekers have hung out since Monday. It is well-guarded, but the scrutiny applied to credentials differs from one official checker to the next. I:ve used my credentials once to walk in off duty with an athlete with whom I was having a conversation, but foto taking was not allowed. Most of the fotos you have seen this week have been in this general area.

  • Athletes:

The most accomodating athlete in terms of autograph signing and picture taking both before and after their competition thus far has been André Silnov. Second must go to Jaroslav Rybakov. Conversely, other Russians - even coaches - have held a long, straight arm out against any foto-taking or name signing.

Speaking of Russians: None of them have used any VIP status to get to the stadium by any means other than walking on their own two feet. Spotted Yelena Isinbayeva the other day as she walked down the service road well ahead of every one of her competitors, and snapped her foto. She tried being inconspicuous, but her drawn-down hat over her face gave her away. All of the Russians - after their events - have been ecstatic, elated and willing to pose with everyone.

Prior to the competitions? Olga Kotlyarova had been most unwilling to even crack a simple smile; she stayed focused. Had a chance to talk to a prominent woman athlete on the Russian team for an extended period of time both on Day 2, and again on Day 4. She provided me astounding info on the team. She competes in a high profile event, but knows absolutely zero about one of her main team competitors - a woman who has struck it big on the world scene; all she knows of this person is what she sees on tv. Though exaggerated, the Russians seem to have one coach per athlete, and all of them continue to remain silent about their roles.

Apropos VIP status: Even Carolina Klüft has been seen jogging on the road between stadiums on her warm-ups and warm-downs, and I got a chance to snap a photo of Christian Olsson on Day 4 while he was walking up the service road presumably back to the hotel. The only Swede who has been iffy about any photo-taking had been Jenny Kallur, who got a bit snippy when I approached her while she was playing with her mother's dog. She didn't know me from the next guy, and had no idea where the photos would end up. Understood.

Britons were excellent ambassadors during the championships. Every single one of them have been great to speak with, and have taken opportunities between races to pose for photos. Rebecca Lyne was the only one who was most pressed for time, but even so, she took a photo before her Round 1 warmup. Dwain Chambers and Mark Lewis-Francis had been two gold mines during the Euro Champs. They had spoken to me much about everything, and seemed genuinely interested in my being able to comprehend what they are saying on the magnitude to which they are saying.

  • Ullevi Stadium:

The stadium atmosphere has been electric. There is a tie between the two best crowd-pleasing moments: when Klüft was presented the gold medal by Kronprincessen Victoria, and the national anthem was sung; and when Johan Wissman snuck up for the silver in an =PB, =NR in the 200m - our first sprint medal on the men:s side in 44 years. Athletes, themselves, have stated to me both during duty and privately, that the atmosphere here is inspiring; we know our stuff when it comes to who:s who, and can appreciate good performances and great duels.

Then there is the stadium's history. Michael Johnson - who was in attendance as a BBC reporter - was the first to win the 200m/400m double in a major championships. Inessa Kravets and Jonathan Edwards set WRs in the triple jump the last time we held any major event here (save Finnkampen).
  • Accessibility:

I briefly touched on this above with the athletes. Most everyone is an arm-length:s distance from the regular folk, and this nearness to those elite athletes has inspired many a fan to continue having hope in this sport. So many kids have run wildly around the back of the stadium in search of an autograph - anyone:s autograph. Fans from specific countries have had their clothes signed by their national team members on the way to the warm-up track, and those types of memories for those kids will last a life-time.

  • Communication:

Göteborgs-Posten has been prepared for this since 1995. More than 11 years of waiting has payed of for the newspaper. We are treated to so much information - overkill in some senses. Fans - no matter what language they speak - are provided stats and information - fotos - on the key players in this EC competion.

  • Nordic Nice:

Spoke with both Lívia Tóth (9.31,50 steepler) and her trainer on 2006-August-11 while printing out select fotos from an Epson centre. Her trainer stated that all the Nordic countries have been exceptional, with Sweden topping the list in terms of living accomodations, spare time activities and quality of meetings. Tóth didn:t qualify for the steeple final after injuring herself near the line in qualifying.

Asked Silnov about Sweden, and he stated he really enjoyed it here - and it had nothing to do with his having won the EC high jump medal. Polis had been out in extra full force, but nothing about their presence is threatening. As a matter of fact, two of them posed with Ukrainian 1.500m athletes Tetyana Holovchenko and Nataliya Tobias on Day 4 in a photo which had the cops on their knees, and the two 1.500m athletes jumping over the cops heads! I'd spoken to a few cops, and they are very happy to be here for the possible historic evening which is tonight (Kajsa Bergqvist attempt at the WR). They were here from all over Sverige, and had become better colleagues as a result of the true teamwork involved with working with different (sometimes far away, like Malmö) districts.

  • Fans:

They make this championship truly historic. I was outside the stadium when Francis Obikwelu won the 200m final, and Wissman tied his newly-set 200m record (20,38) by placing 2nd. The noice was deafening some 200m from the stadium. Kids make up a great deal of the fans here. Athletes have been more than willing to ensure the kids have something by which to remember these games. Fans have clapped for - and cheered on - rivals to the Swedes, and embraced every athlete as their own. Great performance has been justly rewarded from the people paying the tickets to be a part of that atmosphere.

More on the athletes...

  • Yelena Isinbayeva:

Yelena Isinbayeva is, in my opinion, very generous with her time, and appreciates fan support - and interest in - not only her jumping, but the pole vault itself. Snapped some fotos of her in the mixed zone after the vault, and she stood in front of the reporters for 30 minutes answering questions in russian and english. This was after her tv interviews, and prior to her one-on-one tv special interview. Her smile was golden - not because she had added the trifecta (World, Olympic, Euro title) to her medal count, but because she put forth a good performance in a season of adjustments.

Isinbayeva, like one other Russian (Olga Kotlyarova) during the week, avoided fan contact at nearly every venture. Isinbayeva tried being inconspicous during her walk from the hotel to the warm-up track (500m around a bend and down the service road) prior to the prelims, having drawn down her Nike team hat over her face, and looking down at the ground. She avoided looking up in the tunnel between the warm-up track and the private area where athletes were escorted to the track via a 300m athlete-only service road.

However, once the final was contested, and she had given her all - for the fans, she stated in the interviews, she was relaxed, down-to-earth, and happy her competition was finally over. Isinbayeva demonstrated a certain flair and grace in the Mixed Zone yesterday - one which is difficult to articulate without short-changing her.

She was asked some tough questions, and she answered each one without hesitating - or thinking of a pc way to talk about her 1-year WR drought.



Marion Jones in Belize, Considering Retirement

Story written by EPelle

Marion Jones arrived on the island of Belize - previous home to her expatriate mother, Marion Toller - on 7-December to play catch up with family on her mother's side, visit close friends and to give her son, three-year-old Monty, a glimpse into his grandmother's previous homeland. It was also a trip planned to greet her hard-core fans in Belize, and wish them a prosperous new year.

Jones held a short press conference on Wednesday, 14-December at the Belize Chamber of Commerce to greet Belizians for the Christmas season.

The Reporter quotes Jones as stating, “I would just like to wish all Belizeans out there a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year! I also brought my son along with me because he loves his family and this is his first visit. Also, I wanted him to see where his mommy originated from.”

It also quotes Jones as stating that in two years' time, her son will be attending school, and her life's focus will change.

“My son will be attending school in two years time, but this does not mean that I will stop running. I will just have to know how to prioritise my time to drop him off at school and at the same time handle my workout sessions.”

This differs from statements she made during the summer on “Good Morning America” and to The New York Times, indicating she had first planned on retiring after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but the controversy surrounding her leaked “A”-sample positive test at the USATF Championships last June led her to contemplate leaving the sport earlier.

This was to be a holiday away from the discussions of drugs usage, and the bad media air circulating in the United States around BALCO, Justin Gatlin, Tammy Thomas, Barry Bonds and Trevor Graham.

However, Jones has made the timing of her news conference very odd.

Her “A”-sample was released just after Gatlin's camp went public of his testosterone positive.

Thomas receives a USA federal indictment during BALCO/Phase III for lying to the Grand Jury in BALCO/Phase I in stating she had never used performance-enhancing drugs and/or that she did not get illegal drugs from Patrick Arnold.

Jones nearly simultanously - the same day - states she is unsure what direction she will head in 2007, then admits that she is not currently in training, and will work with her family on a position surrounding further competition in the future.

One can imagine the statement was more of a journalist asking at the news conference if Jones had recovered from the leak and has a goal in mind, and Jones having said "not yet". The timing of the question and the answer is odd, however.

In the event that there is more to this sudden sense of not knowing if - and when - she may again compete, it seems to be in connection to Graham's federal indictment, and for Thomas' indictment on perjury and obstruction charges.

“I've moved past it a long time ago,” Jones told the reporters when asked about the BALCO scandal.

However, the media have a long memory, and are pointing the finger back at Jones, who has had her 2003 Grand Jury testimony contradicted under oath by her previous husband, C.J. Hunter III. The U.S. federal government has been working on a long churning process of identifying falsehoods in testimonies - lies, rather - provided to them by athletes under oath in 2003. Jones name has surfaced in media in the United States this past week, and the timing of this news conference in front of friendly, non-hostile “friends” is suspect.

Hunter, as you know - along with Victor Conte, both stated that Marion Jones took performance-enhancing drugs back when the BALCO era ushered in sneaky relevations of athletes gone bad and scientists there to cover-up for them. Jones has vehemently denied on all possible occasion that she has never taken performance-enhancing drugs.

She kept up this game plan until she was broken down in Zürich in August.

Then she fell off the face of the earth, was nowhere to be found, and let out a simple statement through her attorney that she was going to get to the bottom of that leaked result, a positive "A"-test for EPO. She remained silent until the "B"-sample could not provide positive confirmation of the "A"-sample, then let out a few words about being ecstatic. From there she appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" with Robin Roberts.

“I hope really that this whole situation with me is used as a catalyst, a catalyst for more research and testing, a catalyst for better confidentiality,” she said.

“I was just totally devastated that a mistake like this can happen. I’ve always said and I will continue to say I believe in a drug-free sport. I have never, ever taken a performance-enhancing drug. I am just quite pleased, happy, ecstatic that this ‘B’ sample proves that I have never taken a drug.”

She had then decided to attempt competing in Athens for the World Cup team, but backed out near the start of the two-day meet citing lack of training.

From there life for Marion Jones has been rather secretive sans the report in The New York Times in which Jones stated she was unclear where she would head in the future.

Perhaps she should heed to the advice Michael Johnson provided in a column in the Telegraph upon learning of the "A"-sample positive:

“I don't believe Jones will ever be able to repair her image or get back to the type of performances that made her one of the highest profile women athletes in the world. There has been far too much damage done to her reputation due to, if nothing else, the people she has surrounded herself with the last several years – some of whom have been involved in some of the largest drug scandals in the sport.

“Jones also has passed her prime as an athlete and lost several good years dealing with these scandals and allegations which have surely made it difficult to focus.

“For the sake of her own well-being, and the sake of the sport, it would be best if Jones just went away quietly to raise her son.”

At this point in time, she appears to be giving that more consideration than competing again in the stars and stripes of her home country, the USA. She would be unable to compete for Belize for three years had she considered it due to IAAF rules on nation-switching borne from the great Kenyan escapes to Qatar and Bahrain.

Perhaps Jones may know more than we do in terms of what the next couple of years may hold. The finger-pointing may turn into an indictment, which, in its turn may boil into a possible prison sentence.

Or perhaps all of this is just one long, drawn-out sick game two people are playing to get revenge for deals gone bad.

Trevor Graham's Memory Improves

Story written by EPelle

Trevor Graham has been healed. His memory - faded and jaded from unnecessary federal agent phone calls, trips to the San Francisco Bay Area to plea for charges of which he says he is innocent- has come back clearer than ever, and he has been blessed by Google in his search to bring to justice the criminal who wrecked his main man, Justin Gatlin.

According to the Washington Post, Trevor Graham insists he recalls more than ever what happened to Gatlin, and that a plot by attackers was underway to get back at Graham for turning in the THG-tainted syringe which ultimately brought down the wall on the undercover BALCO affairs.

Amy Shipley quotes people to tell a story which seems to lend credibility to Graham. However, in the context of what was previously stated by Graham in august, these proponent quotes only make Graham look all the more palpable and even sillier than he had appeared to be.

The best thing for Trevor Graham at this point is to simply zip it up, call it a career, and turn off the light after he leaves. Neither Gatlin's attorneys nor Gatlin have spoken on Graham's interpretation of the april 2006 events, nor have they offered any more information on the initial claim Graham made this past summer. They actually distanced themselves from Graham once he opened up the world to the conspiracy by masseur story. The masseur's attorney claimed that Graham was not speaking on behalf of Gatlin.

Shipley gives us a warm-fuzzy by bringing in Bob Beamon's wife to speak good will of Gatlin.

"I have no doubt in my mind he didn't do anything," said Robin Beamon, the ex-wife of legendary long jumper Bob Beamon and a friend of Gatlin's who is involved in youth track and field in Miami. It just goes against everything this kids stands for. Once you wade through all the craziness, what did he stand to lose or gain? It was the Kansas Relays. He was . . . at the top of the world."

Several of the world's top doped athletes have been reported to test positive in march and april, Tim Montgomery the latest of the "big" names which comes immediately to mind prior to Gatlin. What Gatlin stood to gain was sole possession of the world record it would later show, as Asafa Powell attempted to shove his way (nicely) through, but couldn't knock Gatlin off the =WR list. If doping provides 0,01-seconds of improvement over 100m, the risk to an athlete whose bonus money included WR performances could be worth it in lieu of not being discovered.

She (Bob Beamon's wife) concluded above that Gatlin was at the top of the world. There appears to be a reason why he was at the top of the world.

Later, Graham speculated that he -- not Gatlin -- might have been the target because of anger in the track and field world surrounding his decision to send the syringe filled with steroids to USADA in 2003. The federal investigation that Graham launched resulted in five criminal convictions and more than a dozen athlete suspensions. According to that theory, Graham's enemies wanted to take him down by implicating Gatlin, his star runner.

Wow. How smart is this guy, Trevor Graham?

If this was really the case, that the masseur wanted to get back at Graham, one simple way would have been to plant evidence on Graham's possession, in his vehicle or at his home, call the authorities and say that he had seen Graham take with him a prohibited substance. Busted, and no one would ever doubt again that Graham had any connection to doping athletes.

Instead, we get this ridiculous story - which has gotten much more interesting and more detailed as time has gone along (what recollection Graham has) - about a pink coloured "s" swiggle, and a recollection that Gatlin told Graham to basically back off when the commotion started. First we learned that it was Graham who wanted to intercede, but the tube was quickly put away in Christopher Whetstine's pocket, and Graham didn't think anything more of it. Now it has changed and become more elaborate with Gatlin stating, "Let him do his job, man!"

Something strange I would like to acknowledge here is that if Graham had any concern for Gatlin, who apparently went through every conceivable precaution as to not ever test positive (including locking his luggage, ordering room service when away), he would have stopped everything right then and there, and told Gatlin he was concerned with what had just occured; he would have rushed Whetstine and forced his hand into the pocket. He didn't. What neatly disappeared in this version of Trevor Graham's Looking Darn Good story is the portion where Graham apparently told Whetstine that Gatlin didn't need a massage in the first place.

"All I saw was the massage therapist go into a bag and bring out something else," Walker said. "He rubbed something else on Justin. . . . It was right there in front of me. It wasn't what he used on Shawn."

Indeed, I had to chuckle over this one. Would one athlete necessarily have the same treatment as another one? Would they complain if Gatlin ate a Snickers and Crawford was offered a Twix instead?

Shipley continues by quoting Cedric Walker, USA Track and Field's former relay program manager, who said he observed Whetstine working on sprinter Shawn Crawford and Gatlin after a training session in Lawrence.

Another scratch your head statement. Ask yourself why this is important after the fact. Why? Because Graham's little corner of henchmen need to provide some basis that proves that Whetstine was in contact with Gatlin more than once.

However, as the article states, Gatlin had only tested positive in april at the Kansas relays; he had been clean on six other occasions. Graham, in an ESPN feature article written by Michael Fish in the summer, stated that the testers had seemed to be on a stalking mission, so to speak, and had been tipped to head to his camp several times in one week. If Whetstine was using an illegal cream on Gatlin, and he wanted to get back at Graham, it would have been easier to call USADA, tell them Gatlin was using, spread some cream on him, and have them show up on an agreed upon day for an out of competition test. The one-application, one-test positive seems impractical for Kansas relays as far as a setup is concerned.

The pink "S" version of this drug is made for women. It is purported by its manufacturer to be a "special Bio-identical USP Micronized transdermal formula to deliver DHEA, Pregnenolone, Chrysin, and Progesterone for those who have low testosterone and male or androgen hormone levels. DHEA contains the hormones known to enhance memory, energy, stamina, resistance to stress, strength, well being, workouts, sexual function, libido, and provides the hormones the body must have to make Testosterone." The pink middle portion of the bottle reaches around the back side.

I'm unsure if Whetstine is supposed to be made out to look incompetent, or if he wanted to turn Justin into a Justina.

I personally wouldn't state that I saw a white tube rushed into a pocket in this case. I'd easily remember it had a pink band around it - unless Whetstine, if he is culpable for this action - immediately put his palm around the lower middle of the tube, and flipped it around while supposedly putting this exact product in his lab coat. For those who want to argue that it was placed in a jacket pocket very quickly, and Graham couldn:t have seen the colour, then he couldn:t have seen the "s", either.

Alas, Mr. Whetstine must have been a silly goose in this case. According to Graham, Whetstine so badly wanted to get Graham through Gatlin, that Whetstine is to have doped him with a women's product when there existed a men's product with a black band and a black "s". Whetstine must have been in such a hurry that he inadvertantly grabbed the wrong bottle, or been such a goof that he didn't know the pink from the black.

Ladies and gentlemen stay tuned to for the next episode of Trevor Graham Gone Wild at this exact blog spot soon.