Female athletes feel they are at a disadvantage to their male counterparts because many of their world records are out of reach, says Veronica Campbell-Brown.
The Jamaican star defended her Olympic 200 metres title in Beijing in a personal best of 21.74 seconds, which is 0.4 seconds slower than Florence Griffith-Joyner’s 1988 record. That is a huge margin in women’s sprinting, equivalent to around three metres. Many women athlete consider Flo-Jo’s times to be ‘men’s’ records.
‘Everybody wants to watch a world record,’ Campbell-Brown told BBC Sport. ‘The men enjoy all the glamour because they’re capable of breaking world records. Women don’t have that luxury.’
In Olympic track and field disciplines, the only women’s world records to have been set in the last 20 years have come in modified or recently added events.
Today’s competitors, in fact, are not even threatening the majority of records from the 1980s.
This has led many observers to suggest those records are suspicious and may have been achieved with the use of illegal, performance-enhancing drugs.
Campbell-Brown said it was not for her to decide if any of the world bests were tainted by doping but acknowledged that serious doubts exist over the legitimacy of many women’s records.
Perhaps the most suspicious, and iconic, of those records is Griffith-Joyner’s 10.49 for the 100m.
The American smashed the previous mark by a staggering 0.27 seconds in the quarter-finals of the US Olympic Trials in 1988.
It was also a half-second faster than she had ever run prior to that season, and it came after a three-year break from the sport.
Aged 28 at the time, she would quit athletics two months later, shortly before the introduction of out-of-competition drug testing.
Ten years later, Flo-Jo died when she suffocated in her sleep following a brain seizure.
Her tragically early death fuelled the rumours of doping – rumours that have never been substantiated and have always been denied by her family and friends.
But there was another suspicious element to her remarkable 100m time, the long-held belief a faulty wind-meter failed to record a strong tailwind that would have ruled out her time.
Despite showing a helping wind of more than three metres per second for the rest of the day – a metre more per second than the legal limit – the anemometer recorded a wind of 0.0 m/s for Flo-Jo’s race.
‘When I look at my personal best for 100m it’s 10.85,’ said Campbell-Brown, the reigning 100m World champion.
‘The world record is 10.49. For me that is very difficult to break. Rumour has it that the world record could have been wind-aided.
‘The people in authority have the power to look at it. It’s been 20 years now and the closest anybody has come to it is 10.7 (the disgraced Marion Jones ran 10.65 at altitude in 1998).
‘So it’s very difficult and I know a lot of people would like to see women break world records like the men do.’