World c'ships a race for post-doping credibility

PORTLAND • The World Indoor Athletics Championships get under way today with the integrity of track and field on the line as the sport grapples with the fallout from the worst doping scandal in its history.

The four-day meet is the first global championships to take place since Russian athletes were banned from competition last year after a devastating World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) report which detailed evidence of systemic doping.

Five other nations - Ethiopia, Morocco, Kenya, Ukraine and Belarus - have also been given a stern warning by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) that they need to clean up their acts or face suspension.

Months of tumultuous headlines have left the IAAF chiefs battling to restore credibility as more than 600 athletes from around 200 nations gather in Portland.

Russia's ban means the country will not be able to defend the three titles won at the last World Indoor Championships in Sopot, Poland two years ago - the men's and women's triple jump and the women's high jump.

Another gold medallist from Sopot - Sweden's Abeba Aregawi - will also be missing, after testing positive for the newly banned endurance-boosting drug meldonium - the substance involved in tennis star Maria Sharapova's case.

It will be left to some of the biggest names to provide respite from the gloomy off-field headlines.

France's reigning Olympic pole vault champion Renaud Lavillenie gets the ball rolling when he attempts to win back the crown he last won at the 2012 Indoors in Istanbul.

The world record holder arrives in Oregon in good form, having cleared the six-metre mark twice in recent weeks.

On the track, Dutch sprinting queen Dafne Schippers will be out to lay down a marker in the women's 60m as she builds towards the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in five months' time.

The battle to find the fastest man in the world over 60m will feature Jamaican veteran Asafa Powell, 33, who holds the event's fastest time this year posted by athletes competing in Portland, clocking 6.49 secs.

Olympic decathlon champion and world record holder Ashton Eaton of the US is chasing a hat-trick of indoor golds in the heptathlon, after victories in 2012 and 2014.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2016, with the headline 'World c'ships a race for post-doping credibility'. Print Edition | Subscribe