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World Athletics amends rules governing shoe technology, Olympic qualification system

World Athletics amends rules governing shoe technology, Olympic qualification system

World Athletics today announced further revisions to its rules governing shoe technology, which are designed to give clarity and certainty to athletes preparing for the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and preserve the integrity of the elite competition.

These amendments, approved by the World Athletics Council and introduced with immediate effect, are based on significant ongoing discussions with the Working Group on Athletic Shoes, established this year, and with shoe manufacturers.

They include changes to the maximum height of spiked shoes for track and field events and the establishment of an 'Athletic Shoe Availability Scheme' for unsponsored elite athletes. The maximum height for road shoes (40mm) remains unchanged.

The purpose of these amendments is to maintain the current technology status quo until the Olympic Games in Tokyo, across all events, until a newly formed Working Group on Athletic Shoes, which includes representatives from shoe manufacturers and the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI) have had the opportunity to set the parameters for achieving the right balance between innovation, competitive advantage, universality and availability.

The amendment includes clarification of the position for new shoes that have been approved to date. The maximum height of the spikes on track shoes have been amended as set out in various events.

World Athletics CEO, Jon Ridgeon, said the previous rule changes, announced in late January, were designed to give the athletes clarity before the Tokyo Olympic Games, which were originally due to take place in July-August of this year.

However, the postponement of the Olympic Games for a full year, due to the global pandemic, had given the governing body more time to consult with stakeholders and experts to develop amended rules that will guide the sport until late 2021.

"We have a better understanding now of what technology is already in the market and where we need to draw the line to maintain the status quo until after the Tokyo Olympic Games," Ridgeon said. 

“In developing these rules we have been mindful of the principles of fair play and universality, maintaining the health and safety of athletes, reflecting the existing shoe market in these challenging economic times, and achieving a broad consensus with the shoe manufacturers who are major investors in our sport.

Working Group on Athletic Shoes

The new Working Group on Athletic Shoes (WGAS) met for their first meeting last Wednesday (22 July). It is tasked with overseeing studies around shoe technology, exploring definitions to provide clarity to athletes about the shoes they are able to compete in, creating a robust certification and control process and provide expert advice and recommendations to the World Athletics Competition Commission on the future direction of World Athletics’ Rules and Regulations concerning elite athlete shoes for the long-term which may or may not be different to the current rules.

Olympic qualifying system to recommence for road athletes from September 2020

World Athletics will lift the suspension of the Tokyo Olympic qualification system for the marathon and race walk events from September 1, 2020, due to concerns over the lack of qualifying opportunities that may be available for road athletes before the qualification period finishes on May 31, 2021.

The original suspension period, from April 6 to November 30 2020, was introduced due to the competition and training disruption caused by the global pandemic, and remains in place for all other track and field events.

Road athletes will be able to register Olympic qualifying entry standards from 1 September 1 to November 30, but only in pre-identified, advertised and authorized races being staged on World Athletics certified courses, with in-competition drug testing on site.

The accrual of points for world rankings and the automatic qualification through Gold label marathons /Platinum Label marathons, remains suspended until November 30, 2020.

World Athletics President, Sebastian Coe, said it had become apparent that marathon and race walk athletes may have very limited opportunities to register Olympic qualifying times in 2021 due to the uncertainty around staging mass participation events over the next year, which relies heavily on cities around the world agreeing to stage them.

“Most of the major marathons have already been cancelled or postponed for the remainder of this year and the evolution of the pandemic makes it difficult to predict if those scheduled for the first half of next year will be able to go ahead,” Coe said.

“That situation, combined with the fact that endurance athletes in the marathon and race walks can only produce a very limited number of high-quality performances a year, would really narrow their qualifying window without this adjustment.

“We have also been assured by the Athletics Integrity Unit that the anti-doping system is capable of protecting the integrity of road races during this period and will put in place strict testing criteria for all athletes.”

Competition opportunities

The Virgin Money London Marathon, due to take place on Sunday, October 4, is committed to working with World Athletics to promote this opportunity to athletes around the world and assist with their travel challenges so they can participate in London and achieve their Olympic qualifying time.

World Athletics will also work with the ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon to see if they can offer similar opportunities.

In addition, it is expected there will be at least two major race walking events staged between September 1 and November 30, 2020.

Both the Athletes’ Commission and Competition Commission were consulted prior to this decision and approved the proposal.

The Athletes’ Commission noted that this decision does not assist all athletes, given the travel restrictions still imposed by some countries, but will support the majority of road athletes in the particularly difficult circumstances they face, to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

In making the decision, the World Athletics Council also noted that the conditions for making the Olympic standards at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 were challenging for road event athletes, whereas the conditions for in-stadium events were excellent, as the results showed.

World Athletics will also work with its Member Federations and meeting organizers to ensure that there are sufficient pre-Olympic competition opportunities for all track and field disciplines, particularly those that traditionally have fewer meeting opportunities, from December 1, 2020 onwards.

(World Athletics)