Wiping records ‘dishonours’ Flo-Jo – says Al Joyner, husband of late sprint champion
The husband of American sprinter vows to fight moves by international athletics chiefs which could erase her long-standing world records from history.
The husband of late sprint queen Florence Griffith Joyner has vowed to fight moves by international athletics chiefs which could erase her long-standing world records from history.
Al Joyner, the 1984 Olympic triple jump champion who was married to the sprinter from 1987 until her sudden death in 1998, said attempts to invalidate world records set before an as-yet-undetermined date were unfair.
Joyner, 57, told the Wall Street Journal he was frustrated “to see how someone with a stroke of a pen, can go change history”.
“That’s dishonouring my family,” he told the paper. “I will fight tooth and nail. I will find every legal opportunity that I can find. I will fight it like I am training for an Olympic gold medal.”
Under rules set to be considered by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in August, existing world records would only be recognised if achieved at approved international events and if the athlete concerned had been subject to an agreed number of doping control tests in the months leading up to the performance. A sample taken afterwards also would have to be available for retesting for 10 years.
European Athletics Council president Svein Arne Hansen said the move was aimed at removing “the cloud of doubt and innuendo that has hung over our records for too long”. IAAF president Sebastian Coe is also backing the proposal.
Griffith Joyner, known popularly as “Flo-Jo”, remains the fastest woman in history, holding the 100m best of 10.49 seconds set in 1988 and the 200m mark of 21.34 clocked at the drug-tainted 1989 Seoul Olympics.
Her brilliant career was touched by glamour, lucrative contracts, advertising deals but – despite no proof of any wrongdoing – was always under the shadow of allegations that it was fuelled by drugs.
She retired in February 1989 at the height of her earning power, just months after her record-breaking exploits in Seoul.
Griffith Joyner died in her sleep at her home in California in September 1998, at the age of 38 after suffering a severe epileptic seizure.
US athletics officials want to study the ramifications of the controversial proposal, given it would also affect those that have never failed doping tests.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the world governing body, did not start storing blood and urine samples until 2005, meaning records set before then could potentially be at risk.
“Any action pertaining to records, from ‘retirement’ of records to changing criteria for the record books, has the potential to affect records that are clean as well as those that are tainted,” USA Track & Field (USATF) spokeswoman Jill Geer said on Tuesday. “There is no perfect solution, just as there is no perfect anti-doping system.”
Apart from Flo-Jo’s records, the proposal could also potentially see British marathoner Paula Radcliffe, a vocal critic of drug use in athletics, and triple jumper Jonathan Edwards lose their records since performances not meeting the proposed guidelines would no longer be officially sanctioned but would remain on the “all-time list”.
Radcliffe, whose mark was set in 2003, has branded the proposal “cowardly”.
“I am hurt and do feel this damages my reputation and dignity,” she said on Twitter.
Mike Powell’s 1991 long jump mark and Hichman El Guerrouj’s 1500m record from 1998 also would be under threat.
There is no suggestion that any took drugs.
The IAAF is expected to discuss the idea at its August council meeting and Geer said they would also talk about the proposal with their athletes and other athletics bodies.
“USATF will vet the matter with our athletes, fellow federations and the IAAF,” Geer added.
“Ultimately, it is a matter for the IAAF family to examine and determine what is best for the integrity of the past, present and future of the sport on a global level.”
Agence France-Presse, Reuters