World Indoor Athletics Championships: Officials worried about absence of big names
With no Russians, few stars and the sport engulfed in a doping crisis the world indoor athletics championships begin this week with officials holding their breath and eager to put the spotlight back on the track. That, however, could be a tall order for an event routinely brushed off by athletics' biggest names and with one of the top track and field nations banned from international competition for widespread doping and corruption.
Doping scandals involving Russian, Kenyan and Ethiopian athletes have left a dark cloud hanging over the sport and will likely weigh heavily on the March 17-20 competition that will feature 600 athletes from 150 countries.
The absence of Jamaican sprint king Usain Bolt - who does not race indoors - along with Americans Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay and rising Canadian Andre De Grasse will take much of the sparkle out of the meeting's glamour event the 60-metre dash.
American world and Olympic champions Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards-Ross and Britain's double Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah will also skip the event, creating concern organisers will be unable to fill the modest 7,000-seat temporary facility.
The no-shows leave American heptathlon world record holder Ashton Eaton as the marquee attraction at the largest athletics meet held in the United States since the event's 1987 edition.
"Hopefully people will embrace it," Vin Lananna, president of the TrackTown USA local organising committee, told Oregonlive.com. "We'll see."
Russia, which traditionally battle with the United States to be the sport's dominant force, will not be in Portland having been banned by the IAAF after a World Anti-Doping Agency probe uncovered evidence of what it termed state sponsored-doping.
The absence of Russian athletes will be felt during the first day of competition as the women's pole vault will take place without Russian double Olympic champion and outdoor world record holder Yelena Isinbayeva.
Isinbayeva's absence denies the championships a showdown between the Russian and American world indoor pole vault record holder and Olympic champion Jenn Suhr.
The world indoors have already been hit with a doping casualty as Ukraine's former European indoor 800 metres champion Nataliya Lupu withdrew after testing positive for Meldonium, the same banned substance that Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova admitted using.Published 17 Mar 2016, 17:00 IST