The World Champiopnships of Athletics were first held in 1983 in Helsinki, Finland. The dream of many track fans, the World Champs came about due to the diligence of the late Primo Nebiola. Twenty four years after its start, the World Championships have given the sport a place to appreciate the best of the best in our sport, and most importantly, to remember why we love track and field-the pure competition!
Osaka, Japan will be the host of the World Championships of Athletics in less than three weeks, and like all past championships, it will have its moments of pure poetry and its moments of frustration.
In a summer when nearly every day of the Tour de France was interupted by stories of drug cheating, while nearly every day, as baseball fans in the U.S. follow the pursuit by Barry Bonds of Hank Aaron's home run record, again clouded by drug accusations, track and field fans should note that their sport championed the most focused program to counter drug cheats in sports. While the sport, like most looked the other way at one time, track and field has caught drug cheats, big and small and punished them.
The announced new testing program increases at Osaka will continue to deter some athletes, but the out of competition drug testing is key in catching the cheats. Most of all, in this writers mind, would be a program that continually tests, out of competiton, all athletes in the top 25 in the world, as, in most drug experts' minds, to beat drug testing in this day and age would cost reportedly north of $50k a year. The other thing that WADA and USADA needs to look at are their protocals to make sure that the testing makes sense and will hold up in a court of law. Nothing justifies using questionable testing protocals or questionable standards.
In Osaka, there will be new stars that emerge as well as old stars. There will be some great races and some not so great races. Some great athletes will be lost in the heats, and some not so great athletes will surprise, round after round, all the way to the finals.
Will Asafa Powell show the talent many have thought he has and medal in these games? Will Alan Webb run smart through the rounds and kick his way to victory? Will Reese Hoffa continue his winning ways in the shot put? Will Yelena Isinbayeva, Svetlana Feofanova and Jenn Stuczynski duke it out in the women's pole vault? Who can challenge Meseret Defar over 5,000 meters? And Tyson Gay over 100 m and 200 meters?
The good news is that we are closer to even competition than we have been in decades, but there is always the question. Someone sets a record today and within hours, there are rumors of drug use, or some " new super drug".
The ancient Olympics were cancelled for over seven hundred years due to cheating. No period of history is perfect, but the World Champs in Osaka, Japan should be a great time to watch the world's best athletes run, jump and throw, and the current drug testing programs are making a dent in the war to find the drug cheats.