From The Sunday Times
December 23, 2007
A report claims that no world records will be set after 2060. Could this be the year athletics shakes off its dodgy past?
Hoberman’s reservation about scientific studies and the contribution of intellectuals to sporting questions is that they often don’t understand the extent and the impact of doping; consequently, they underestimate its influence. “I would question using Florence Griffith-Joyner’s 10.49sec as a valid data point. And there is no doubt that doping has allowed athletes to perform beyond their natural physiological capacities. Three of the five men who have run under 9.80sec in the 100m [Ben Johnson, Tim Montgomery, Justin Gatlin] have tested positive for anabolic steroids. Look at the all-time performance list in the shot put – it’s virtually wall-to-wall dopers at the top.”
World records were once considered the crown jewels of sport, especially in athletics and Olympic sport. From Roger Bannister to Sebastian Coe, generations of British sports followers were nurtured on world-class performances by the country’s middle-distance runners. When Bob Beamon smashed the world long jump record by almost 2ft at the 1968 Olympics, those who witnessed the feat had a memory that could never be forgotten.
With the widespread doping of the past 3½ decades, records have been set that puzzled as much as thrilled, that led to questions rather than celebrations. Sport has picked up the tab for its inability to deal with doping. “Doped record-holders have devalued the world record list,” says Hoberman. “In athletics, the IAAF hasn’t lifted a finger to do anything about it.”
More at the Times Online
My opinion: many sports have become too focused on records, and less on real racing, which is tactical, and often slower, but for the purist, much more exciting than many athletics records which are often artificial paced time trials. In addition, the focus on records has contributed to the doping "arms race", by pushing the limits of performances higher and higher.