August 24, 2003 1:02 PM   Subscribe

False Start
How important is sportsmanship in the modern era? On Sunday afternoon at the IAAF World Championships, Jon Drummond false started in the 100m sprint and was disqualified. He refused to leave the track (initially prostrating himself in the middle of his lane) and ended up delaying the race by more than 50 minutes. In 1996, Linford Christie did something similar in the Olympic games 100m final.
Is it just 100m sprinters, or is sportsmanship going out of fashion?
posted by daveg (19 comments total)
2 incidents the the past 6 years. Yeah, those 100m sprinters are out of control! A black eye on the face of all things sporting, this is!
posted by pemulis at 2:54 PM on August 24, 2003

As a non-athlete who has a fine history of choking under pressure, I can certainly relate to some degree. It sucks when you prepare yourself to compete, only to defeat yourself in the end.

Anyway, sports are more than tolerant of winners who make a big show of it, without questioning sportsmanship (a two-way street), so I say cut the guy some slack if he blew his big chance. He at least admittted his mistake afterward, according to IAAF.
posted by troybob at 3:02 PM on August 24, 2003

The rule that disqualified him sounds pretty ridiculous. It sounds like you can be disqualified for a single false-start, if someone else in the race has already false-started. What was wrong with the old rule (that you would only be disqualified if you false started twice)?
posted by jpoulos at 3:06 PM on August 24, 2003

"I flinched, the guy next to me flinched and another guy flinched," .,,

posted by tomplus2 at 5:13 PM on August 24, 2003

What was wrong with the old rule (that you would only be disqualified if you false started twice)

Treating athletes equally interfered with timing schedules for meetings. (Of course, lie-down protests do the same thing: the stuffed shirts might think about that.) Welcome to the modern IAAF: leave sporting priorities in the changing room.
posted by riviera at 8:00 PM on August 24, 2003

As someone who was watching on TV, I can say that the false start was not a clear-cut call at all, as pretty much everyone (i.e. commentators, other spectators, etc.) agreed on. This is a really bad bad bad situation.

is sportsmanship going out of fashion?

Yes, talk to Samaranch if you want it back - he is arguably the individual who has put the most effort in driving it out of the Olympics and minority (i.e. track and field) sports in general. When there is money to be made, sportsmanship apparently looks terribly immature.
posted by magullo at 6:38 AM on August 25, 2003

While Drummond acted like a spoiled child, the rule is silly. An article I read on the incident in today's Washington Post said that it even looks as though it was another competitor who false started, but that Drummond shifting his foot in the starting blocks was enough for the sensitive equipment to register a false start. Even one of the harshest critics of Drummond's antics—who compared him to a 13-year-old spoiled brat—said:

"You cannot move," Collins said. "If you so much as pass gas, you get a false start."
posted by terrapin at 7:17 AM on August 25, 2003

From the US this may be a "minority" sport, but for much of the rest of the world it's second only to footbal (sorry soccer) as the highest profile sport.

Drummond's disqualification may have been marginal, but his behaviour was disgraceful. Imagine an NBA player fouling out of a playoff game in the 4th quarter and rather than sitting down he starts by shouting at the referees and then lies down in the centre circle and refuses to move.

I hope that he is suspended from competition and is not allowed to compete in the relays.

Starting block timings have been used for decades and the current 0.1s reaction time limit has been in place for about 5 years. The only thing that has changed is the disqualification of any athlete to false start after one false start (I believe that this is the same as the rule in swimming competition). The false start was clear cut as anyone who bothered to look at the start timings could see.
posted by daveg at 8:16 AM on August 25, 2003

but for much of the rest of the world it's second only to footbal (sorry soccer) as the highest profile sport.

Not to nitpick, but that's what they were saying about cycling a few weeks ago, during the Tour de France. Is track bigger than cycling in Europe?
posted by jpoulos at 8:33 AM on August 25, 2003

No, I think sportsmanship is suffering. Dunno if you follow golf, but Tiger Woods has lately been throwing micro-tantrums, swearing and slamming his clubs into the ground when he makes what he considers a bad shot.

It's not just track, cycling or football or baseball. It's rampant.
posted by TeamBilly at 8:39 AM on August 25, 2003

jpoulos: There are a few countries where cycling is big (France, Holland, Italy some times), but for most of Europe track is much more popular. For the rest of the world, track is certainly no.2 - the big advantage being that you need no equipment to run.
posted by daveg at 8:58 AM on August 25, 2003

Drummond's behavior is detestable, but he's a sprinter and the new rule change screwed him, so what do you expect?

The Afghani runner certainly didn't false start. I was going to do a FPP about her. She had never left her home until the fall of the Taliban and "competed" in the 100m World Champs.

I think the 10,000 was simply amazing. Bekele ran close to a WR time for his 2nd 5000.
posted by Frank Grimes at 9:23 AM on August 25, 2003

I think Drummond's behavior was just fine, personally. The new rule is outrageous and his reaction justified. How would you feel after putting everything you had into training for this one race - and then get DQ'd for something you felt you didn't do? I mean, he flinched, for god's sake. Even if he did have a false start (and that is certainly up for debate), the IAAF needs to go back to the old rule of DQ'ing after the second one.

Let's face it, he had the public's attention and used it to bring attention to his plight. If he'd kept his mouth shut and filed a written letter of complaint, do you think that would have half the effect his 'unsportsmanlike' behavior did? This is Drummond's career, not a fun hobby. IMO, he is perfectly entitled to express his dissatisfaction.
posted by widdershins at 11:10 AM on August 25, 2003

This is Drummond's career, not a fun hobby.

So the next time my manager gives me an unreasonable task at work; takes credit for an idea of mine; or criticises my work, I should lie down in her office, and/or scream at her? Afterall, it is my job and not a hobby.

Sorry, but rude behavior is never justified. The rules are the rules, whether we like them or not. If he doesn't like the rules in his career, perhaps like everyone else, he should switch careers... or work within the boundaries of the rules.

If I don't like what my employer says or does, I can either accept it or follow the rules in place to file a grievance. Anything else, as the adverts say, would be uncivilised.
posted by terrapin at 12:32 PM on August 25, 2003

I'll remember that the next time Safeway makes some unreasonable demands of its coworkers and they're all standing around outside, shouting and trying to disrupt things.

"Now, now," I'll say, "rudeness is never justified. Just file a grievance and forget this bringing publicity to an issue idea."
posted by obfusciatrist at 1:19 PM on August 25, 2003

Also, if I were a middle-of-the-packer at one of these competitions, I might consider intentionally eating up the first false start in the hopes that a couple of my superior competitors might DQ themselves.
posted by obfusciatrist at 1:20 PM on August 25, 2003

I believe the rule while allows only one false start is a good one. How many sprint finals have been blighted by false start after false start? It got ridiculous. The gun would go off and you'd actually expect to hear another shot calling it back. It's harsh, but fair.

As to Drummond's behaviour, I'm ashamed to admit I'd have probably done the same...
posted by salmacis at 5:00 PM on August 25, 2003

Drummond apparent is such the consummate professional in his "career" that he has quit the World Championship games. Which means, this professional has hurt the chances of his teammates in the 400 relay.

Class act this guy.
posted by terrapin at 11:49 AM on August 26, 2003

Because you don't like him, his sport doesn't rate a "career"?
posted by jpoulos at 1:05 PM on August 26, 2003

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