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Athletics Notes: Post Beijing Clash of Titans Set

5 August 2008

By Dave Ungrady

Sprint stars Tyson Gay of the United States and Asafa Powell of Jamaica have committed to running the 100 meters at the Aviva British Grand Prix in Gateshead, England on August 31, meet organizers announced Tuesday.

It will be the first time the two will have raced against since the 2007 world championships.

Powell equaled his then world record of 9.77 the last time he ran in Gateshead two years ago. Gay, the current world champion, was due to meet Powell for the first time this season at the recent Aviva London Grand Prix but had to withdraw due to an ongoing hamstring problem. Gay has not competed since injuring the hamstring at the U.S. Olympic trials in early July.

UK Athletics chief executive Niels de Vos admitted it was a major coup to get the sprint pair together in the same race. “For such high profile athletes to commit to returning to the UK so soon after Beijing clearly demonstrates that they love competing here and I know Powell will be looking for a repeat performance of his last trip to Gateshead when he equaled the then world record,” de Vos said in a statement.

The only time Gay has beaten Powell occurred at the 2007 world championships, which Gay won and where Powell finished third.

USATF CEO Logan says U.S. 4 x 400 world record no good - Last week, the International Olympic Committee took away gold medals from the entire U.S. men's 4 x 400 meter relay team that competed at the 2000 Olympics because of doping rulings against two of the team’s runners, Antonio Pettigrew and Jerome Young.

That means the IOC wants Pettigrew, Jerome Young, twins Calvin and Alvin Harrison, 400-meter world record holder Michael Johnson and Beijing Olympian Angelo Taylor to return the medals.

USA Track and Field CEO Doug Logan wants to further punish some of those runners. Young, Pettigrew, Johnson and Tyree Washington ran the world and American record in the event, 2:54.20, in 1998. Logan on July 31 requested that the USATF men’s track and field committee reconsider the record at the group’s 2008 Annual General Meeting in Nevada in early December.

"Removing this record is the right thing to do, pure and simple," Logan said in a statement. "We have no interest in a record that the facts - not rumors - have exposed as being achieved by fraudulent means by at least one athlete on the team. Obviously, Tyree Washington and Michael Johnson played no part in the doping activities of others, and it is a shame that they may suffer as a result. But our message is clear: compete clean, win clean and break records clean. Or, get out of our sport and out of our record books."

If the team loses its world record, U.S. athletes will still reign as world record holders. Another team of Andrew Valmon, Quincy Watts, Butch Reynolds and Johnson ran the second fastest time in history, a 2:54.29 to win the 1993 World Outdoor Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.

Pettigrew in May admitted to engaging in doping activities dating back to 1997. As part of his penalty issued on June 3, 2008, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) invalidated all of Pettigrew's results beginning in 1997. He has given up his gold medal and has retired from the sport.

Johnson has already said he was giving back his medal because he felt "cheated, betrayed and let down" by Pettigrew's testimony. Johnson still holds world records in the 200 and 400 meters and has four Olympic medals.

Young in 2004 was banned for life from the sport for a second doping violation. After he admitted to more comprehensive doping on June 17, USADA retroactively invalidated his results back to January 1, 1999.

Alvin Harrison accepted a four-year ban in 2004 after admitting he used performance-enhancers. Also in 2004, Calvin Harrison was given a two-year ban for using a banned stimulant and was suspended for two years. Neither of the Harrisons have competed since 2004. It is unclear if Young and the Harrisons will return the medals.

It is also unclear what Taylor will do with his medal. Taylor, who is in Beijing preparing for the Olympic 400-meter hurdles, will evaluate the IOC’s decision “at a more appropriate time”, his agent, Kimberly Holland wrote Monday in an email.

The IOC has put off any decision on reallocating the U.S. medals until later this year when it takes into account all the files from the BALCO investigation in the United States. Nigeria finished second in the men's 1,600-meter relay, with Jamaica third and the Bahamas fourth.

World leader Soboleva denies manipulating drug sample - Russian runner Yelena Soboleva denied Friday that she had manipulated her doping samples as the IAAF, the world governing body for athletics, claimed last week. The world indoor 1,500 meters champion and six other leading Russian women athletes were dropped from the country’s Olympic team after the IAAF said they switched their urine samples during a doping control process.

"I call what is happening now a provocation staged deliberately to knock out the potential medalists right before the Olympics," Soboleva was quoted as saying in the Kommersant business daily. "All of us had the best chances to win medals in Beijing. I stress once again that I reject the accusations brought against me by the IAAF. I also ask my fans to forgive me for being charged with what I am actually not guilty of."

The Russian media have alleged the athletes' samples had been manipulated by a western company. Kommersant called the provisional ban "the biggest blow to Russia's Olympic team ... which is now sure to lack the golds it sorely needs to compete against the U.S. and Chinese teams".

Russia had originally expected to win about 90 medals in 20 events. It hoped its squad would trail only the United States and that host Olympic nation China would finish third in the medals table.

Soboleva, 25, has run the world's best times this year in the 1,500 and 800-meter races.

Romanian runners accused of doping retire - Elena Antoci and Cristina Vasiloiu, who were both dropped by Romania's Olympic team on suspicion of doping, have retired, the athletes said Saturday.

The Romanian Olympic and Sport Committee said tests on the 1,500 meters runners showed a suspiciously high concentration of oxygen in their blood. The committee is awaiting the result of a second sample before making a final ruling over the athletes' ban.

"We've taken this decision (to retire) because our competitive and private lives became impossible after the media scandal erupted," Antoci and Vasiloiu said in a joint letter sent to the Romanian Athletics Federation. "We are very confused as nobody officially told us anything clear about the doping suspicions.”

In July Liliana Popescu of Romania, the fastest women's 1,500 meters runner at one point this year, was also dropped from the Olympic team for suspected doping.

London marathon champ to miss Beijing Games - German Irina Mikitenko, the women’s 2008 London Marathon champion, will miss the Beijing Olympics because of a back injury, the German athletics federation said on its website on Saturday. Mikitenko was preparing for Beijing at a training camp in Switzerland and decided to pull out after an injury to her back and pelvis spread to her foot.

German high jumper Eike Onnen, ranked eighth in the world this year, is also doubtful for the Games because of a foot injury.

Beijing-bound Brits bare all for beverage company - Triple jumper Phillips Idowu, the 2008 world leader; cyclist Rebecca Romero and swimmer Gregor Tait have all been photographed taking part in their individual sports while naked as part of an Olympics advertising campaign for a sports drink.

"Everyone is used to seeing athletes in competition or winning, but we wanted to give people the chance to see the real make-up of an athlete and their muscle and power," said Cathryn Sleight, marketing director for Coca-Cola Great Britain, which launched the Powerade campaign.

Idowu said the photo shoot was "definitely one of the more unusual shoots I've taken part in, but also one of the most enjoyable."

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