- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 13, 2004

Sadly, most recent coverage of track and field has concerned the drug reports about some of the sport’s marquee names as we build to the final months before the 2004 Olympic Games.

This is just the latest wave of drug-use controversy. In the 1970s, it was the East Germans who suddenly rose to domination in the sport. Many years later, when there was no longer an East Germany, the participants in that human lab test admitted they did it with the aid of illegal drugs.

The Chinese women of the 1990s long have been suspected of drug use under the tutelage of famed coach Ma Junren and his turtle blood potions. The fact that the Chinese women own nearly all the distance world records has largely fed the suspicions.

Although a few years ago there was a motion from a German delegate to the sports’ world governing body to purge all the world records of the 20th century and start over again, the only way these suspect records will fall is by breaking them.

Enter Elvan Abeylegesse. The 22-year-old Turkish runner decimated the field in the 5,000 meters at the Evergood Bergen Bislett Games in Norway on Friday and in the process wiped out Jiang Bo’s 7-year-old world record. Abeylegesse, the former Ethiopian who recently gained citizenship in Turkey, ran 14:24.68 to surpass Jiang’s 14:28.09 by more than three seconds.

China still owns the world marks at 1,500 (Yunxia Qu at 3:50.46), 3,000 (Junxia Wang at 8:06.11) and 10,000 meters (Junxia Wang at 29:31.78), all coincidentally set in September 1993.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Abeylegesse isn’t questioned, too. Less than a year ago at the World Championships in Paris, she ran a then-personal best 14:53.56 to place fifth in the 5,000 meters. That is nearly a 30-second improvement, or 3.5 percent, in 10 months.

Kastor smokes field — It was a 2004 U.S. Olympic marathon trials reunion in New York City yesterday at the Circle of Friends Mini 10K in Central Park. Trials runner-up Deena Kastor dominated the 32-year-old event that once was called the Leggs Mini Marathon and was the original women-only race.

Kastor, America’s most versatile and successful distance runner, ran a personal-best road 10K in 31:44 to win ahead of 4,300 other women. Her performance was the fastest by an American in the Mini, eclipsing Anne Marie Letko’s 31:52 in 1994.

Sensational Kate O’Neill, who should make the Olympic team in the 10,000 meters at the trials in Sacramento in four weeks, spoiled the reunion for Jen Rhines and Colleen De Reuck by placing second some 54 seconds behind Kastor and six and 12 seconds, respectively, ahead of Rhines and De Reuck.

Rhines was third at the marathon trials while De Reuck, a 40-year-old who broke Ruth Wysocki’s American masters 10K record by 32 seconds yesterday, was the trials champion.

Two Virginia women scored well. Kathy Newberry, the 25-year-old Williamsburg resident and 2000 graduate of William & Mary, was seventh in 34:09. Late entrant Heather Hanscom, a 26-year-old Alexandrian who won the 2003 Marine Corps Marathon and placed sixth at the Olympic marathon trials, was eighth in 34:34.

Coincidentally, the up-and-coming Hanscom just signed to be represented by Rich Kenah and his Global Athletics & Marketing agency.

Run for the roses — Some 24 years ago, the first Women’s Distance Festival was held in the United States as a rallying point to create races for women in the Olympics of distances greater than 1,500 meters.

Of course, you know how it ended. In 1984, women ran their first Olympic marathon and within years, the 5,000 and 10,000 meters were added. The WDF series still thrives, and on Saturday, the Montgomery County Road Runners Club will hold its 3.1-mile version of the national series at Wheaton Regional Park. Register at www.mcrrc.org.

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