Sonia O’Sullivan could lose world record under new criteria

Irish runner set outdoor 2,000 metres mark back in 1994

Sonia O’Sullivan could lose her outdoor world record for 2,000 metres after the European Athletics Council accepted a project team’s recommendations that would lead to the rewriting of the world and European records lists.

Though not an official championship distance, O’Sullivan’s 5:25.36 for 2,000 metres – set in Edinburgh back in July 1994 – is recognised by the IAAF for official world record purposes, and indeed by now it is one of the longest-standing.

It was actually bettered indoors in February of this year, when Genzebe Dibaba from Ethiopia ran 5:23.75 at an indoor meeting in Sabadell, Spain, which is now listed as the world indoor best, with O'Sullivan's time still considered the outdoor world record.

However, O’Sullivan’s time will remain on the all-time list, it may now be replaced by a new world record.


The project team’s report calls for higher technical standards, increased doping control measures and new personal integrity requirements for record holders, and will be forwarded to the IAAF with the recommendation that the two organisations co-ordinate the implementation of new record ratification rules.

Current records not established in accordance with these agreed standards will remain on the all-time list, but recognition will be transferred to performances that meet the criteria.

The standards proposed by the project team include that world and European records can only be recognised if

1: the performance is achieved at competitions on a list of approved international events where the highest standards of officiating and technical equipment can be guaranteed

2: the athlete has been subject to an agreed number of doping control tests in the months leading up to the performance and

3: the doping control sample taken after the record is stored and available for re-testing for 10 years.

The storing and availability of re-testing of samples for 10 years wasn’t carried out in 1994, and would therefore suggest O’Sullivan’s time will no longer be recognised as the outdoor world record, should the recommendations meet final approval.

Dibaba's more recent indoor time, however, has already raised some eyebrows, mainly because Sabadell is the same town Dibaba's then coach, Jama Aden from Somalia, was last summer arrested in by Spanish police on suspicion of possessing banned performance enhancing drugs, including EPO.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics