Johnson questions rewriting records

Michael Johnson (Getty)
Michael Johnson (Getty)

New York - Michael Johnson has questioned a proposal to wipe out all athletics world records set before 2005, voicing scepticism that the move will help clean up track and field's tainted image.

European Athletics has proposed that only world records that stand up to strict criteria should be recognised in order to make a clean break with the sport's doping scandals.

The plans are due to be considered by world governing body the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) later this year.

The proposal has been widely criticised by athletes who stand to see their own world records eliminated, with many complaining that they are being unfairly tarnished by association with the sport's doping era.

Speaking to reporters at the US World Championship trials in Sacramento, US sprint great Johnson - who would lose his 1993 4x400m relay record if the proposal is enacted - said he doubted how effective the move would be.

"I don't understand what problem that remedies," Johnson told AFP. "It doesn't make sense to me.

"If someone can explain to me, what - out of all the problems the sport has – that remedies, then I'll consider whether or not it's a benefit."

Johnson, the only man to win a 200m and 400m at the same Olympics, has already lost his world records in those events to Usain Bolt and South Africa's Wayde van Niekerk.

The 49-year-old meanwhile told reporters that Bolt's retirement - the Jamaican superstar is hanging up his spikes after August's World Championships in London - would leave a void at the top of the sport. However he said athletics should not be dependent on one personality to survive.

Asked if there was any athlete capable of filling Bolt's shoes, Johnson replied: "I think you have to ask yourself 'What would it take for someone to take his place?' You'd have to have someone who's dominating like he just has. Nobody's doing that. You'd have to have someone who has something special like he has in terms of personality or presence. You're not going to have that.

"I don't think there's anybody out there right now. There's been lots of people that have come into this sport over the years who have dominated one event. But that doesn't get you to the sort of status of a Carl Lewis, or a Usain Bolt. There's nobody out there right now that's doing that."

Johnson compared Bolt's looming exit to different eras in the NBA.

"When Larry Bird and Magic Johnson left the NBA it was a little while before Michael Jordan came along," Johnson said. "And then there was a void after that and then Kobe (Bryant) and LeBron (James) came along.

"But I don't think the sport should depend on that. At the end of the day there's a great sport in front of all of us if we would just promote that. But it takes work."

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