PARIS: Athletics’ governing body meets in London this week to assess Russia’s progress in stamping out doping and whether the 50km walk has come to the end of the Olympic road.
Also at Wednesday and Thursday’s meeting the IAAF wants to discuss ending the practice of African athletes switching allegiances.
The stamina-sapping walking event has been on the Games menu since Los Angeles in 1932 but is suffering from dwindling viewer interest and allegations of doping, especially among Russian competitors, leaving the discipline vulnerable for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
The 2016 Rio 50km walk winner, Russia’s Sergey Kirdyapkin, was stripped of his gold after he was found guilty of doping.
Despite the event’s endangered status three-time European gold medallist Yohann Diniz spoke out in its defence.
“The audience it pulls in is very good, it works better even than the marathon. The 50km walk throws up so many twists and turns, improbable scenarios.
“And it’s an event which truly represents the Olympic spirit in all its splendour, not the business that the Olympics has turned into,” the Frenchman told AFP.
The 1980 Moscow Games 50km walk champion Maurizio Damilano, president of the event’s body, hopes a compromise can be found for 2020.
And it has a friend in the Japanese, according to a source close to the Tokyo Games organising committee, which intends to fight to retain the discipline.
Irrespective of its fate the 20km men and women races will figure in Tokyo, but in the guise of 21.097km half marathon walks.
On Russian doping the IAAF in February extended its ban on Russia’s team to the world championships in London this summer — Russia has been barred from international track and field competition since November 2015.
On Tuesday seven Russian athletes including two world champions, hurdler Sergey Shubenkov and high-jumper Maria Kuchina were, were cleared to compete at London as neutrals.