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The second-fastest woman in history
August 29, 2011 6:15 PM   Subscribe

"When I go to heaven, they're going to tell me where I really finished in the world." Ted McClelland suggests that women's track and field records be abolished to "give today's runners realistic times to chase." An As It Happens (CBC) interview with McClelland begins around 11:40 of this link.
posted by kneecapped (38 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
To be clear, we are talking about records that deserve an * for suspected drug use.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:22 PM on August 29, 2011


I don't have any strong opinions on McClelland's point (maybe not a bad idea to distinguish, uh, androgenically enhanced times?) but I do have 'em on the way he chose to open the article. In the first two paragraphs we get a) a chiropractor (?!) cited as a medical authority and b) the implication that broad-shouldered flat-chested women aren't, y'know, women.

On reread: OK, so the chiropractor thing's on Sports Illustrated in 1983, we can let that one slide. But I still have big problems with spending that much time on female athletes' appearance when it's not about appearance, it's about doping.
posted by asperity at 6:35 PM on August 29, 2011


Taking away someone's world record without evidence does not seem warranted to me. Should someone have expunged Jesse Owen's long jump record just because it stood for 25 years? It does seem like women's athletics in general doesn't get as much credit as it deserves, but I'd like someone to dig up more proof before that kind of action.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:47 PM on August 29, 2011


In the first two paragraphs we get ... the implication that broad-shouldered flat-chested women aren't, y'know, women.

...

But I still have big problems with spending that much time on female athletes' appearance when it's not about appearance, it's about doping.


I get this, I do, but the more charitable reading is that the athletes' appearance is considered evidence of doping -- not of the fact that they're not women. I agree that the conversation often takes on a tone that suggests the latter, and that's regrettable, but I don't think McClelland is particularly guilty of it, and it seems unhelpful to start off on that note.

I'll also cautiously mention that this is an area where men are treated similarly -- Barry Bonds' gigantic head, etc.
posted by eugenen at 6:49 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


At the University of North Carolina, a young cross-country runner did a double take when she saw Kratochvilova's photo on a newsstand. "You had no idea it was a woman," recalls Joan Nesbit Mabe, who would go on to compete in the 10,000 meters in the Atlanta Olympics and, later, become a critic of drug use in athletics.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:49 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Judging from the evidence resetting the women's track records seems fair.
posted by zzazazz at 7:02 PM on August 29, 2011


But there isn't any good evidence.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:04 PM on August 29, 2011


This New Yorker article about Caster Semenya (PDF) was really interesting.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 7:05 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Barry Bonds' gigantic head

I dunno, that example makes me think more of Ken Griffey, Jr.'s adventures with nerve tonic than of way-too-common nastiness directed at female athletes' looks.

I do take your point about giving it a charitable reading. And I'll readily admit that charity's easier to come by on days when I'm not trying to find women's athletic clothing that fits properly (and doesn't make me want to quote Sojourner Truth inappropriately at its manufacturers.) Ahem.
posted by asperity at 7:35 PM on August 29, 2011


Many people think Maria Mutola was on something but I happen to believe she is the fastest female 800m runner in history if you took away all the drug tainted times from the others ahead of her.
posted by tarvuz at 7:54 PM on August 29, 2011


That list of women's track and field records it pretty incredible. Basically none of the power type events (sprinting, long and high jump, all of the throws) have had their record broken since 1988 when random drug testing was introduced. I was surprised that the hammer throw record was recent, but checking Wikipedia, it wasn't done by women at the top level prior to 1988.
posted by markr at 8:04 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


This whole notion of resetting world records is laughable. Were athletes clean in the past? No. Are they clean now? No. Will they be clean in the future? No.

The IAAF has gotten smarter, but they certainly aren't anything better than they've always been - a vile bunch of corrupt bastards. The IAAF manages athletes like the puppets they are. They ensure that they're getting fast performances and doped stars without the drug busts provided that the athletes do as the IAAF says. They attempt to maximize world records with the appearance of cleaner athletes. The days of completely obvious horse steriod users like FloJo and Kratochvilova are over, as it's just too obvious that drugs are involved.

The only reason for these pricks to wipe the slate clean is to maximize track's profile, and thus their own. They don't give a shit about athletes. They only care about their own skin. These freeloading assholes are being carted around the world in first class, openly taking huge bribes, on the backs of sport federations using public money for dubious 'economic development' masquerading as high-profile sporting events.

The whole thing makes me want to vomit.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:49 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I too am perturbed at this whole "She's flat-chested, muscled, she looks like a MAN" business. And frankly, even if she was on steroids she's still a woman. Women get a lot of crap in the athletic world if they don't stay feminine and it's all bullshit.

The dude does have a point about the records though. A good rule of thumb on which countries have instituted doping practices is how their female athletes do on the international stage compared to men. If the female athletes are blowing everyone else out of the water and the male athletes are merely competitive, then that should raise suspicions that there's PED use since women respond so much better to it. The Chinese's stellar performance in weightlifting is a good example of this. Their men's and women's teams are fantastic, but in terms of how much they dominate the international state the men aren't on the level of the women.
posted by schroedinger at 8:51 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


"But there isn't any good evidence."

Sorry, that's nonsense. After the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe the mass doping of athletes, particularly female athletes and particularly in East Germany, was clearly exposed despite the best evidence of those involved to destroy the evidence. The Stasi supervised "State Plan 14.25" from 1971 onwards as part of the D.D.R.s desperate and inevitably doomed attempt to prove itself a legitimate country and superior to the west. Sport Club Dynamo was especially notorious but it wasn't just the elite athletes who were doped to the gills, thousands of young girls were pumped full of steroids and testosterone and cast aside if they failed to bring glory to the state. Some officials were eventually brought to book years after unification, including Manfred Ewald, leader of the East German sports program and President of East Germany's Olympic committee from 1973 to 1990 and Manfred Hoeppner, a medical director, but their punishments were derisory while thousands of women still suffer from the side effects.
posted by joannemullen at 8:52 PM on August 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also, resetting world records isn't that foreign . . . in Olympic weightlifting, the records have been reset numerous times as weight classes have changed and events have been slightly modified. It sucks because there are some fantastic lifters from the 80s and before who don't see that recognition because they happened to set them before weight classes were modified. There's some talk of changing classes AGAIN and that would cause all the records to be reset once more. Can't imagine what it feels like for the person whose record is getting erased.
posted by schroedinger at 8:53 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only reason for these pricks to wipe the slate clean is to maximize track's profile, and thus their own.

I'm all for cynicism about athletic federations (especially FIFA and the IOC), but this strikes me as a bit too much. The IAAF has not, to my knowledge, made any meaningful push toward eliminating old records, and it seems unlikely that they would, as it would just strengthen the association of the sport with doping in people's minds. The push, such as it is, comes from fans, who understandably don't like seeing today's sprinters fall far short of FloJo's (likely wind-aided) time, or distance runners half a minute behind China's "turtle blood" aided times from 1993.
posted by dsfan at 9:12 PM on August 29, 2011


There's plenty of evidence of doping in general, but I'd like to see specific evidence regarding the world record holders themselves. I agree that it's unlikely that someone from East Germany managed to avoid doping and turn in world record times in their event, but if it did happen they would definitely not deserve to have that accomplishment wiped away.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:35 PM on August 29, 2011


Should someone have expunged Jesse Owen's long jump record just because it stood for 25 years?

Bob Beamon bettered it in Mexico City and his record stood for 23 years.

It was always noted, however, that Beamon may have been "assisted" by the thin air in Mexico City. That fact (fairly or unfairly) followed his record like an asterisk.

Also Owens' records are barely mentioned with the asterisk that he was a black man running in Nazi Germany under the gaze of Hitler. That would enhance anyone's performance.
posted by three blind mice at 9:56 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought this was gonna be about Anna Nicole Smith in a Beverly Hills nursing home.
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 10:12 PM on August 29, 2011


You know what else should be reset, high school GPAs. YEAH!
posted by hal_c_on at 10:34 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


They can abolish the records without abolishing them. Just start recognizing new records, with no dope as a required part of them. Like: "Mary Lee McFree set a new record today in the Dope Free 100 Meter Dash." Make dope testing as one of the qualifiers. The old records still stand, but without testing, can't use the qualifier. That way Mary Jane McDope still keeps her record in the 100 Meter Dash, but there's still an attainable record out there to break.
posted by BurnChao at 11:49 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


>But I still have big problems with spending that much time on female athletes' appearance when it's not about appearance, it's about doping.

Sorta to elaborate on what eugenen said. You do realise drugs like steroids have an amazing effect on a woman's outward appearance? Deep voice, hair, physical size, large clitoris. This isn't the time for some PC bullshit "judging a woman by her looks" which I feel a few of you want to take this argument.

>Also, resetting world records isn't that foreign . . . in Olympic weightlifting, the records have been reset numerous times [...] Can't imagine what it feels like for the person whose record is getting erased.

Uwe Hohn was throwing the javelin so far that officials were worried he would spear an athlete on the track. So they redesigned the javelin and wiped the records. "Sorry 'bout that Uwe. Shit happens. Signed, IAAF officials."

>A good rule of thumb on which countries have instituted doping practices is how their female athletes do on the international stage compared to men. If the female athletes are blowing everyone else out of the water and the male athletes are merely competitive, then that should raise suspicions that there's PED use since women respond so much better to it. The Chinese's stellar performance in weightlifting is a good example of this.

Spot on. I guess a lot of you don't remember the scandal with successful female Chinese swimmers of about 20 years ago? They had lats that would make Arnie green with envy. It was an absolute farce - which included a swimmer being CHASED by officials after a World Championship event for not wanting to give a mandatory urine test. *insert the Benny Hill theme song here*
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:51 AM on August 30, 2011


Uwe Hohn was throwing the javelin so far that officials were worried he would spear an athlete on the track.

A former coworker I knew had been hit in the thigh with a javelin at track practice, so good call on that one IAAF.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:58 AM on August 30, 2011


Sorta to elaborate on what eugenen said. You do realise drugs like steroids have an amazing effect on a woman's outward appearance? Deep voice, hair, physical size, large clitoris. This isn't the time for some PC bullshit "judging a woman by her looks" which I feel a few of you want to take this argument.

Are you suggesting that women cannot naturally have those attributes? If they can then how do you make any distinction as to whether to cancel records held by what would implicitly be a mixed group of cheats and non-cheats without doing so solely on the basis of their looks?

Do they record the size of athlete's clitorises?
posted by biffa at 4:16 AM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you suggesting that women cannot naturally have those attributes?

Nope. It's all just a piece of the pie, sizzlechest.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:19 AM on August 30, 2011


You do realise drugs like steroids have an amazing effect on a woman's outward appearance?

I'm not that naive. But thirty-year-old opinions from a chiropractor who never met the woman in question are all the "medical" evidence we're presented with in that article, and there's sure nothing about body hair, etc.

It's not that I don't think this topic should be addressed, it's that I'd prefer it to be discussed in a way that doesn't reduce a large group of physical effects to a superficial vetting of women athletes' appearance by unqualified strangers via photograph. At least that part is largely a relic of a 1983 article and not original material.
posted by asperity at 4:31 AM on August 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do they record the size of athlete's clitorises?

Is this a new competition I hadn't heard of yet?
posted by mikelieman at 5:26 AM on August 30, 2011


I too am perturbed at this whole "She's flat-chested, muscled, she looks like a MAN" business. And frankly, even if she was on steroids she's still a woman. Women get a lot of crap in the athletic world if they don't stay feminine and it's all bullshit.

One word: Ponytail.

uggh.
posted by Theta States at 6:59 AM on August 30, 2011


While we're talking about appearance, the photo of Carmelita Jeter, the current leading sprinter, also has her looking pretty buff. Those biceps are enormous.
posted by zipadee at 10:12 AM on August 30, 2011


uncanny hengemen: You do realise drugs like steroids have an amazing effect on a woman's outward appearance? Deep voice, hair, physical size, large clitoris. This isn't the time for some PC bullshit "judging a woman by her looks" which I feel a few of you want to take this argument.

If you do not want this to become an argument about PC bullshit, then you should probably not be offering up the same shit that opponents of women's sports offer up every time women get too good at sports.

Barry Bonds is not widely accepted to have used steroids because his head got bigger. Two journalists spent several years conclusively connecting him to people that made and sold steroids. If you want drug-free track and field records (ahahahahahahahahahaha! ha. haha.), you should start with actual evidence, like the evidence joannemullen cites for doping in the East German programs. Otherwise, it just looks like you grabbed onto a convenient excuse for gender policing.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:59 AM on August 30, 2011


Just start recognizing new records, with no dope as a required part of them

No dope? Seriously?
posted by Chuckles at 12:23 PM on August 30, 2011


I've always wanted to see side-by-side events where one race is pure and natural, no drugs allowed, and the other is a free-for-all with drugs, plastic surgery and biomechanic implants and prosthetics not just allowed but encouraged. Swimmers with fins, runners with those springy stilts, etc. The records would be completely different, but so would the events be, each one fulfilling a different need. The spectacle of the human body at it's finest, and the spectacle of technology pushed to new limits. I think it'd be fun to watch.
posted by harriet vane at 5:19 AM on September 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


It could be the Freestyle Mutagen cateogry.
posted by Theta States at 5:50 AM on September 1, 2011


I've always wanted to see side-by-side events where one race is pure and natural, no drugs allowed, and the other is a free-for-all with drugs, plastic surgery and biomechanic implants and prosthetics not just allowed but encouraged. Swimmers with fins, runners with those springy stilts, etc. The records would be completely different, but so would the events be, each one fulfilling a different need. The spectacle of the human body at it's finest, and the spectacle of technology pushed to new limits. I think it'd be fun to watch.

The scary part of the free-for-all wouldn't be the augmentations, it'd be how much was cut away to reduce weight. Between one kidney, the spleen and appendix, cutting off the arms and replacing them with prosthetics (for counterbalancing: longer arms with a denser weight at the very end) maybe a floating rib or two, and about half the small intestines, I'd guess that you could drop 5-10% of your body mass at least.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:03 PM on September 1, 2011


I'd like to amend my earlier comment:

"I think it'd be fun to watch, in a dystopian sci-fi kind of way."
posted by harriet vane at 6:59 AM on September 5, 2011


Barry Bonds is not widely accepted to have used steroids because his head got bigger. Two journalists spent several years conclusively connecting him to people that made and sold steroids. If you want drug-free track and field records (ahahahahahahahahahaha! ha. haha.), you should start with actual evidence, like the evidence joannemullen cites for doping in the East German programs. Otherwise, it just looks like you grabbed onto a convenient excuse for gender policing.

Crikey!

Nothing wrong with speculating on the Metafilter. I love these people who randomly demand EVIDENCE! on this forum. And what's with the persecution complex? OK, watch me speculate about male athletes to make you happy. Here goes:

1980s / 1990s USA track stars who had bad acne and suddenly needed to get braces on their teeth. Hmmmmmm.

Steroid and HGH use has symptoms. People notice symtoms. Symptoms are not evidence.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:15 PM on September 5, 2011


Technical question. Are anabolic steroids and HGH sooo 1990s? Has cheating moved on to the next-gen of drugs? Maybe improved "masking" is the cheating way of the future?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:18 PM on September 5, 2011


At the 1993 World Short Course Swimming Championships in Majorca, Spain, rival teams could not believe their eyes when Le Jingyi, who'd won the women's 100-metre freestyle, was substituted on the gold medal podium with another swimmer who didn't even look like her, arousing suspicion she did so to avoid a compulsory urine test. At the same meet, Chinese swimmers were seen clambering over walls, apparently to elude drug testing officials. Ian Hanson, the media director for the Australian Swimming Team, was there to witness it: "The pandemonium it caused, with FINA [swimming's international ruling body] officials chasing the Chinese swimmers around the corridors, was extraordinary."

Then it goes on to say how China has cleaned up its act. Alas, no more Benny Hill antics.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:24 PM on September 5, 2011


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