Mark English spoke out against a lack of transparency from athletics’ world governing body (IAAF) yesterday after the 26-year-old was denied a place at this year’s World Championships in Doha.
Having fallen just shy of the qualifying standard of 1:45.80 in the men’s 800m, the three-time European medallist was awaiting an invite from the IAAF via its dropdown system, which offers places to athletes just outside the qualifying standard in events where the athlete quota has not been reached.
In the men’s 800m the target number of athletes was 48 and on the closing day of qualification for next week’s championships in Doha, English was ranked 41st of those eligible. The 26-year-old had been training hard in the hope of receiving an invite but the door finally shut yesterday when the IAAF published its provisional entries.
“We don’t know anything and that’s the problem with this whole system,” said English. “It’s not clear enough, it’s not transparent enough and there’s just way too much ambiguity. It’s really frustrating.”
English missed out due to the places taken up by unqualified athletes, with the IAAF allowing each member federation to enter one male and female athlete who have not hit the qualifying standard. Eight such athletes — from Oman, United Arab Emirates, East Timor, Myanmar, Kosovo, Jordan, Equatorial Guinea and Andorra — elected to run the men’s 800m, meaning English will be forced to watch from home despite running several seconds quicker than those rivals.
“I think the unqualified athletes should be limited to six per event so then if you’re (ranked) 40th you at least know there’s a good chance you’ll be going,” he said. “But there could be 15 of those athletes or two and there’s no way of knowing.
“You’re left in limbo and it’s a big inconvenience for anyone on the borderline.
“The IAAF had all the information of those unqualified athletes since August 26th and they didn’t decide to share it with anyone so I was left waiting to hear about my fate. You can’t plan anything.”
English’s best this year was the 1:45.94 he ran to take victory at the Birmingham Diamond League and he had been rounding into form of late, dipping below 1:46 twice over the past month.
But with the door now shut, he commenced his end-of-season break yesterday. After completing medical research in the autumn the recent UCD graduate will commit to full-time athletics for the build-up to the Tokyo Olympics.
But he fears athletes could be left with the same issues next year despite the new world rankings system being in place for Olympic qualification.
“It actually does concern me because if they don’t change something, an athlete sitting 39th (on the rankings) could be wondering if they’re qualifying or not.”
Paul McNamara, Athletics Ireland’s High Performance Director, said he remains hopeful of a late invite from the IAAF for English but conceded that it’s now highly unlikely: “The official answer from the IAAF is that no more invitations will be issued.”