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Great Britain has run away from Australia since 2000

By Chris Lewis - posted Friday, 11 July 2014

All is not well with Australian running.

Sure, we can point to global medal success by a few Australian runners since 2000. Since the Olympic Games 400m win by Cathy Freeman in 2000, Australia has produced a number of global medalists: Jana Pitman (400m hurdles), Steve Mongehetti (marathon), Craig Mottram (5000m) and Sally Pearson (100m hurdles).

But, table 1 (IAAF data) indicates that the performance of Australian runners has declined substantially since 2000 in terms of the number of top 50 individual performers. Whereas 31 Australians made the top 50 lists in 2000, the figure had declined to 11 by 2013.


In terms of the number of events where Australia had more than one individual amongst the top 50 world performers, Australia achieved this feat 10 times in 2000 but zero in 2013, thus highlighting a severe lack of depth in Australia's running stocks at present.

Table 1: Number of Australians amongst top 50 world individuals for running events 2000-2013 (excluding 2001); Number of British athletes for years 2000 and 2013

Table 2, which examines the top 100 world performer lists, also indicates a decline in the number of Australians from 59 in 2000 to 30 in 2013. More dramatic in terms of decline, the number of events per year where Australia has three or more individuals in the top 100 has reduced from 13 to just two in 2013.

Table 2: Number of Australians amongst top 100 world individuals for running events 2000-2013 (excluding 2001); Number of British athletes for years 2000 and 2013


So why the decline of Australian running?

Is Australia's decline the result of a tougher stance by ASADA towards drugs? After all, WADA data indicates that there is still a long way to go before it can be claimed that all national IAAF affiliates have the same stringent level of testing.

Perhaps, but Great Britain has demonstrated that significant running success can still be achieved despite tougher national testing. In 2012, the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority conducted 245 drug tests on Australian track and field athletes, and UK Anti-Doping conducted 507 tests.

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About the Author

Chris Lewis, who completed a First Class Honours degree and PhD (Commonwealth scholarship) at Monash University, has an interest in all economic, social and environmental issues, but believes that the struggle for the ‘right’ policy mix remains an elusive goal in such a complex and competitive world.

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