President of the All-Russian Athletics Federation, Valentin Balakhnichev, believes that the positive doping test results for two of the world’s fastest men, 100m runner Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell, add more problems on the already struggling IAAF World Championships, set for Moscow, Russia, August 10 to 18.
Former world champion Gay, of the United States of America, and Jamaica’s former world record holder Powell will both miss the championships as will another Jamaican sprinter, Sherone Simpson.
“The non-arrival of Gay, Powell and Simpson makes the World Championships in Moscow less attractive from a sporting point of view,” Balakhnichev, who is one of the organisers of next month’s competition, told R-Sport.
“The whole situation, as a whole, is completely unattractive for athletics,” Balkhnichev added.
Last month, organisers of the IAAF World Championships announced that fewer than 45,000 tickets had been sold for the entire nine-day track and field competition, less than a tenth of the capacity.
“It’s actually more accurate not to talk about spectator interest, but about its absences,” he said. “For us, it’s a problem and a serious challenge to fill the stadium.”
“And it’s not a matter of big names or the disqualification of Gay, Powell and Simpson. The issue is the interest the people of Moscow have for athletics,” the head of the All-Russia Athletics Federation added.
He suggested that buying advertising for the championships was prohibitively expensive.
IAAF president Lamine Diack caused a stir in early April when he pointedly criticised Russian President Vladmir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev for inadequately promoting track and field’s second biggest stage after the Olympics.
He said he had noted a dearth of television commercials advertising the competition, compared with the number touting the World University Games in July and the Sochi 2014 World Olympics.
Since then, advertisements have popped up on billboards and at bus stations and, as a sign of good faith, Diack personally invited Putin and Medvedev to the championships.
Powell and Simpson both tested positive after last month’s Jamaican championships. Powell said in a statement he has never ‘knowingly” doped and is not “a cheat”.
Gay’s positive result dates back to out-of-competition test in May. He had reportedly accused unnamed third parties of betraying his trust.
Third-fastest man Yohan Blake has also withdrawn from the championships due to injury. (AP)