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Olympic notes

New rules have some running in circles

By John Powers
Globe Staff / October 4, 2011

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The international track and field federation’s decision to recognize as women’s world marathon records only those set in all-female races has the road running community atwitter, especially because it applies retroactively.

The World Marathon Majors and Assn. of International Marathons called the IAAF’s new policy “confusing and unfair’’.

Confusing, no doubt, especially on the heels of last spring’s declaration that Geoffrey Mutai’s time of 2 hours, 3 minutes, 2 seconds in Boston didn’t qualify as a world record because the course doesn’t conform to IAAF standards.

Having both world records and “world bests’’, which records in mixed races now will be considered, wouldn’t be a distinction in most sports but marathoning is unique in that most races are mixed-gender and course layouts differ wildly.

At the heart of the IAAF’s ruling is the sense that elite women derive a substantial advantage in a mixed race, especially if they’re assisted by paid male pacers as Paula Radcliffe was in 2003 when she set the current global record of 2:15:25 seconds in London. That race now has a separate start for women, which is why the 2:17:42 that Radcliffe set there in 2005 will be the new world mark.

If all of the top races were female-only, as are the Olympics and world championships, there wouldn’t be any confusion. But even the World Marathon Majors aren’t consistent - three (including Boston and New York) have separate starts and the other two (Chicago and Berlin) are mixed.

While Radcliffe told Runner’s World that it was “a little unfair’’ to revise the record retroactively, she actually benefits since she now holds both the world record and world best. Since USA Track & Field has kept separate records for all-female and mixed races since 1984, it’s never been a domestic issue.

Fast times Could an “official’’ 2:02 marathon be coming sooner rather than later? Kenya’s Patrick Makau blazed to a 2:03:38 in Berlin last week, chopping 21 seconds off the world mark that Ethiopia’s Haile Gebrselassie (who dropped out at 35 kilometers) set there in 2008 and earning a spot on the Olympic team. Since 2007 the men’s record has been broken in huge chunks, from 2:04:55 to 2:04:26 to 2:03:59 to 2:03:38 . . . Ryan Hall will be looking to end a nine-year domestic drought at Sunday’s Chicago Marathon. Hall, who’ll be up against former champ Evans Cheruiyot and Boston runner-up Moses Mosop, would be the first US male to win since Khalid Khannouchi in 2002 . . . Add Boston champions Mutai and Caroline Kilel to the New York City field next month. Kilel will join a stacked women’s group that includes world champion Edna Kiplagat and London victor Mary Keitany.

Argument with merit? The Court of Arbitration for Sport will announce its decision on Thursday as to whether the International Olympic Committee should be able to keep any athlete banned for doping for longer than six months from participating in the subsequent Games. That will determine whether US runner LaShawn Merritt, the Beijing champion at 400 meters whose 21-month drug ban ended in July, will be eligible to run in London. The USOC says that the IOC rule, which was designed to keep cheaters from gaming the system, amounts to a double penalty for the same offense. The IOC, which decides who gets to compete in the Games, says it’s an eligibility issue . . . Barring a team meltdown at the global championships that begin this week in Tokyo, Winchester’s Alicia Sacramone should set the record for most world gymnastics medals by an American woman. Sacramone, whose three golds, four silvers, and two bronzes tie her with Shannon Miller and Nastia Liukin, would earn a 10th with a team medal and also could make the podium in the vault, where she’s reigning champion. While Sacramone and Needham’s Aly Raisman are the only veterans on the squad, US titlist Jordyn Wieber has a strong chance to win the all-around with Russian defending champion Aliya Mustafina rehabbing from a torn ACL. Olympic team berths also are at stake, with the top eight countries qualifying. That shouldn’t be a problem for the Americans - the women were second behind the Russians last year and the men were fourth.

Punching in If flyweight Rau’shee Warren, welterweight Errol Spence, and light heavy Marcus Browne win their bouts today at the world boxing championships in Azerbaijan, they’ll earn Olympic berths in those events for the US team. Still alive, too, are bantamweight Joseph Diaz (who beat former Olympic medalist Worapoj Petchkoom yesterday), middleweight Jesse Hart, and superheavy Lenroy Thompson. If Warren wins next year’s trials, he’ll be the first American fighter to compete in three Games . . . The international boxing federation, which has dealt with well-founded corruption problems for decades, is under fire again in the wake of a BBC report that said that an Azerbaijan donor had given millions of dollars to AIBA’s World Series Boxing to make sure that two Azeri fighters would win gold in London next year. While federation president Wu Ching-Kuo declared the allegations “totally untrue and ludicrous’’, it didn’t help that AIBA seeded every Azeri boxer in the top eight for the global tournament. The federation, which explained that it wanted to encourage smaller countries to bid for the event, said that special treatment for hosts is standard procedure in other sports. If AIBA has its way, next year’s Games will be the last for amateur boxers. The federation, which already is paying those in its World Series competition, would reinstate pros who wanted back in.

Going through hoops More than half of the countries that competed in the Olympic men’s basketball tournament in Beijing either didn’t qualify for London or will have to play in a last-chance event in July to make it. Lithuania and Greece, who were fourth and fifth in 2008, will be among the 12 hopefuls going for the final three spots, along with Russia and Angola. Missing out are Germany, Croatia, and Iran . . . US riders missed making the podium for the second straight time at the recent world road cycling championships in Copenhagen with former champion Amber Neben’s eighth-place finish in the women’s time trial the best showing. The sole bright spot for the men was Tyler Farrar cracking the top 10 in the road race, which no Yank had managed since 2004. The British, who are counting on the wheelies for a bunch of Olympic medals, earned their first men’s road title in 46 years with Mark Cavendish, while Italy’s Giorgia Bronzini retained her women’s crown as Dutch former champion Marianne Vos finished second for the fifth straight time.

Sharp competition Evan Lysacek, who hasn’t competed since he won gold at Vancouver last year, will start his Olympic comeback later this month at Skate America in Ontario, Calif. Lysacek, who’d be the first men’s champion to repeat at the Games since Dick Button in 1952 if he wins at Sochi in 2014, will be up against Japan’s Takahiko Kozuka, the world silver medalist, and France’s Florent Amodio, the European champion . . . USA Badminton’s best development program still is the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Since May three top players have become American citizens and thus eligible for next year’s Olympics. Most notable among them is Tony Gunawan, the former Olympic champion for Indonesia who won the 2005 world doubles title with Howard Bach. Halim Haryanto Ho, with whom Gunawan won the 2001 global crown, also was sworn in, as was Filipino emigre Paula Lynn Obanana. They’ll play mixed and women’s doubles with Eva Lee . . . The pool for next summer’s US Olympic swimming trials hasn’t yet been installed inside Omaha’s Qwest Center but its subsequent home has been decided. Charles River Aquatics, which now operates out of Boston University’s Case Center and will continue to have programs there, will have the Myrtha indoor tank reassembled somewhere in Greater Boston.

John Powers can be reached at jpowers@globe.com; material from Olympic committees, sports federations, personal interviews, and wire services was used in this report.