British athletes up in arms over plans to erase records

Steve Cram, Paula Radcliffe and Jonathan Edwards could lose their place in history under plan to wipe the slate clean

Paula Radcliffe 2003 marathon world record
Paula Radcliffe celebrates breaking the women's marathon world record in 2003
(Image credit: Ian Walton/Getty Images)

A controversial plan to "rewrite" the athletics record books by erasing best times and distances set before 2005 will see British legends lose their place in history.

The plan is designed to "create new household names and expand the sport's appeal after decades of doping", reports Josh Burrows of The Times.

It is the brainchild of Pierce O'Callaghan, the director of operations for London 2017 and chairman of the European Athletics taskforce who has been charged with ways to create a new set of world records free from the stain of doping.

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"The onus is on European Athletics to take the lead because a large number of controversial records were set by East German and Soviet Union athletes in the 1980s, when use of performance-enhancing drugs - or even sex-changes - is thought to have been widespread," says Burrows.

O'Callaghan has apologised to retired athletes affected by the changes, but said record-holders such as Paula Radcliffe, Jonathan Edwards and Colin Jackson were "collateral damage", reports the BBC.

"Apologies to the athletes, we never intended to damage their reputation and legacy. It is intended to give the public belief and credibility in what they are watching in the sport," he says.

Steve Cram, who would also lose his records, he was scathing about the idea, which he described as an "easy route out" and a "PR exercise".

"It lumps us all in with those cheats," said the BBC commentator, who still holds the European record for the mile and 2,000m.

"It's not our fault that over the years the sport did not police itself properly. It's not our fault they didn't do their job. I don't think it's going to change anything. It's not going to stop people cheating.

Radcliffe and Edwards "reacted with incredulity and dismay", says Sean Ingle of The Guardian.

Marathon record-holder Radcliffe says she was "offended" that her time would be erased, while Edwards, who has held the world record in the triple jump since 1995, said the idea was "wrong-headed and cowardly".

Ingle adds: "The plan, which is strongly backed by Seb Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, will not only require anyone who sets a world record to have been tested numerous times in the months beforehand but also to have the sample taken after their record performance still available for retesting.

"The IAAF has stored blood and urine samples only since 2005, which means the records by Edwards and Radcliffe are at risk of being struck from the books, along with Colin Jackson's indoor 60m hurdles world record of 7.30sec set in 1994."

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