Usain Bolt’s disqualification from the 100 metres final at the World Championships today is the best example so far of the utter absurdity of the IAAF’s new false-start rule. The rule – introduced last year – is that any false-start is immediately punished by disqualification, unlike the previous rule where a second chance was allowed. Christine Ohuruogo suffered yesterday and Dwain Chambers went the same same way this morning, but Bolt’s premature exit is the highest-profile casualty imaginable.
Put simply, the rule ruins highest-level sporting events for the very fans and spectators for whom professional sport even exists. What’s more, the rule has most impact – as we’ve already seen – in the most popular events, such as the sprints where every hundredth of a second counts. Even last year, Tyson Gay – quite presciently – predicted that the rule could ruin sprint events. That’s just what’s happened. Now what we’re more likely to see is athletes holding off marginally at the start, and world records becoming less common.
The World Championships are the second most important competition in the athletics calendar. For the most anticipated event at the championships to be ruined in this way is a great shame. The IAAF now need to seriously reconsider the ruling in advance of the single most important competition – next year’s Olympics in London. To potentially deprive some of the world’s greatest athletes of sport’s greatest prize because of a bureaucratic ruling from people who apparently don’t truly understand sport’s raison d’être would be an utter travesty.