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August 12, 2009

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IAAF says 'jump the gun and you're out'

THE world governing body of athletics is expected to change its false-start rule this week to a clear-cut: "Jump the gun and you're out."

Currently, one false start is allowed per race. A second one results in the automatic exclusion of the guilty sprinter regardless of who caused the first false start. The new rule would mean an immediate expulsion for any offender.

"You had people cheating and playing tricks," said IAAF spokesman Nick Davies.

As a result, the IAAF Council pushed for a new, clearer system. The new proposals will likely be approved by the rule-making Congress today.

Some athletes deliberately committed a false start, the first of a race, and went unpunished. These sometimes delayed the often crowded programs of big meetings and created awkward dead time during live transmissions.

The new rule would not apply to the World Championships which start in Berlin on Saturday and would only take effect from next year.

The rule allowing one false start per race has been in force since 2003.

The Congress will also have to approve the proposal to limit the annual cross country world championships to a biennial event.

Cross country has lost popularity to road racing over the past few years and top distance racers often disregard the traditional event.

"It is quite a historic change," Davies said. "Everything else in athletics is every two years."

The event was downgraded when the short-course race was cut in 2007.

The cross country championships have been dominated by Ethiopian and Kenyan runners over the past twenty years. The arrival of African runners broke the long domination of Europeans and Americans in the sport.


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