Why all this? The betrayal of Damilano and IAAF Race Walking Committee

IAAF Race Walking Committee (IAAF RWC) wants to delete race walking 20Km & 50Km, reducing race distances to 10Km and 30Km. If this happened, our discipline would be destroyed, murdered. Many racewalkers all over the world are against this (see results of our survey about this) the IAAF RWC don’t represent us but only megalomania and the interests of  few people. The crazy IAAF RWC’s proposals  will be voted by the IAAF Council on March 10, 2019: we must protest and act so that these proposals are not approved. Race Walking has an identity, a discipline does not bend to presumed media needs. More than 100 years of racewalking Olympic history can not be ignored; racewalking is 20Km and 50Km, with reduced distances it would be another sport. Look at the results of our survey which show that the IAAF’s proposals are a big mistake.

The racewalking has long been a sport under observation by the IOC; despite its history, champions and racewalking lovers that follow it all over the world, there are also people who do not appreciate it and would like its elimination from the Olympic Games. You can find complete information about the fight to save racewalking 50Km during the years at this link (from Victorian Race Walking Club – Australia)

The IAAF Race Walking Committee (with Chairman Maurizio Damilano) should do the interests of the discipline, but instead for some years they has been trying to destroy racewalking with wrong and crazy decisions. After the last attempt in April 2017 (submerged by the protests of racewalker all over the world that put together 9706 signatures in a petition to defend racewalking 50Km) the IAAF RWC now is again proposing to remove the 50Km and 20Km.

Members of IAAF Race Walking Committee

An email from IAAF RWC  was sent on January 10, 2019 to the Member Federations of each country , claiming that now <<is the time for radical changes>> to make our discipline <<more attractive in the marketplace>>. The letter contains proposals for change racewalking and is downloadable from this link . This changes according to the IAAF RWC would make our discipline <<more attractive in the marketplace>>. Many answers was sended to IAAF RWC from athletes and coaches, for example from the Australian champion Jared Tallent and another 30 international racewalkers (here the joint answer). Most of the answers are contrary to the reduction of race distances, but IAAF RWC totally ignored this. In addition to challenge the absurd proposals of the IAAF RWC, you can read an accurate analysis of Tim Erickson (“Heel and Toe” n. 17A – 17 – 16A – 16) which also contains the answers sent to the IAAF by Stuart Cooper (President of Victorian Race Walking Club), David Sim (President of  Racewalking New Zealand) e Peter Marlow (former international RW judge and responsible for the RW commission of the UK Athletics Federation).

On February 6, 2019 the IAAF RWC officially announced its proposals despite everything; you can read all IAAF  RWC statement here. You must read the document well, especially these words <<This was accomplished in part through a worldwide bilingual survey (conducted in early 2018) that attracted input from over 1650 individuals and 100 IAAF Member Federations, as well as (more recently) through opportunities for input on a draft outline of proposals>> which that are a big lie; the number of participants in the survey is irrelevant because they launched it on the web without relying on a predefined sample of people, we do not know how long this survey lasted but we discovered that it was done on an online platform (SurveyMonkey) that allows people administrator to change the text of the questions or answers even during the voting. But most of all about the <<through opportunities for input on a draft outline of proposals>>, they lasted just over 20 days in january because in reality they had already decided everything and only had to pretend to be available for discussion.

So the distance reduction will be valid for the Olympics, World Athletics Championships and Race Walking Team Championships, for this completely shocked our whole sport, even influencing the programs of events taking place in the individual countries. They also expected a year of “transition” in 2021: a “genial idea” with races on 20 and 30Km, an even more ridiculous decision because everyone knows that they are 4 identical races that will have the same participants. It is clear that the IAAF RWC has very confused ideas, not worked transparently and not acting for the interests of racewalking.

We agree on the two individual events for men and women, but also because we remember the battle for the women’s 50Km, and we do not see why go back; the IAAF Race Walking Committee is the past, the 50 km women is the future. There is a particular ostracism towards women in 50Km, although it is clear that women in this distance may be the real driving force of our discipline because recently the results for women are surprising everyone and in the near future we will see the first woman to complete race of 50Km under 4 hours. Since last year, the number of women in the IAAF 50Km ranking has tripled, from 33 to 90, and in the future we can expect a further increase. Why deny this possibility to women? IAAF RWC hate women?

We want distances of 20Km and 50Km, this must remain unchanged and the same must also apply to women. The 50Km is historically the essence of racewalking, an epic race that characterizes us compared to other disciplines, we have seen a recent demonstration at the Rio 2016 Olympics (you can see a summary of that wonderful race on youtube). The 10Km alternative is ridiculous, since in the past had already been deleted from the program of Olympics and considering that by shortening the distance, the problems of judgment would certainly increase. On 30Km the same problems of judgment that we have for the 20Km will recur, it is not a great solution. The 30Km is too similar to 20Km, so can never be like 50Km; at a time when extreme endurance sports (such as Triathlon, Ironman and Trail Running) are becoming popular, the only hypothesis to replace the 50Km (strength of our discipline that obviously has not been sufficiently valued) is suicidal behavior. There are Ironman races made in cities that are totally blocked to allow the participation of 1500 athletes; so the problem can not be the length or the fatigue of the 50Km race, the big problem is only the promotion.

About judging problems I think that the greatest critical points in the judgment of racewalking are in 20Km and shorter distances, while in the 50Km, given the duration of the race, I do not see particular problems. I’m convinced that a jury of 8+1 judges of international level (selected no longer by the IAAF RWC but by an independent commission without conflicts of interest) and engaged in the judgment of a 20km race a good road of at least 2km circuit, is perfectly able to adequately assess the technical gesture of all athletes without using the technology; in the case of more than 50 athletes competing, for example on 1Km circuits with points of the path too narrow in width, it is clear that the judge is not in the optimal conditions to work good.  Therefore, while assessing technological solutions without establishing risky deadlines, the IAAF RWC should probably also consider more practical solutions that can help the judges work. None of racewalkers are opposed to electronic control, but there are many points to clarify and this “fantastic solution” is now kept secret by the IAAF RWC, while the athletes would have the right to try it for a few years before it is applied. And then this solution will be applied to all categories and to all races? Are you sure it will be applicable? What will be the costs for the athletes and the organizers of the competitions? Until now we received only evasive and insufficient answers, and in 2016 they were told that the electronic solution would be ready in 2019, while now postpone and impose the debut of technology to 2021 without the athletes have ever tried this.

You do not need the opinion of an engineer, a scientist or a biomechanical to understand what someone call the “crisis” of racewalking. Here it’s not just about flight times, but to understand that we are unknown to the world, and this is not the fault of athletes racewalk technique. The general public is often confused between racewalking and marathon, does not know our rules, our history and our champions because the informations is not adequately disseminated. It is simply the consequence of the inability to manage our movement (the IAAF Walking Committee and Maurizio Damilano, who has been Chairman for 20 years), without due promotion, without thinking that what really needs to change is the way to communicate. Reducing distances is a serious mistake, the result of some kind of ridiculous idea that believes that shorter races can attract public interest or perhaps increase the number of new racewalkers. Racewalking (especially the 50km) is an endurance sport, 100 years of Olympic history, so why should we distort or delete this? They really hate us so many, do we really bother at the IAAF RWC, IOC, TV and sponsors? If they do not want to “waste time”, they can give us the television rights of racewalking in Olympics, so the profit will redistribute to promote racewalking and pay the athletes. I mean it, let us handle everything with a dedicated streaming channel (we can do it, we can self-finance with TV rights), so we do not steal anybody’s time and racewalking lovers can finally see a whole race not on TV but in internet. The excuses about TV times are nonsense, racewalking has never stolen the time of anyone on television, who says this is a fuking liar. And the electronic control is what the IAAF RWC uses as an excuse to get rid the other crazy changes.

Imposing bizarre and convoluted decisions can only drive away potential new athletes. Imagine being a young athlete who has to choose between playing football or running 100m or jumping or getting involved in a discipline where the judges will control you (with a different jury meter between each countries), an electronic system will checks you every meter by vibrating a watch on your wrist (and naturally you’ll have to put a strange insole in your shoes), and if you make a mistake trap you in a strange cage 10mt X 4mt in size (called strangely “pitlane” without any logic) where everyone can see you going around in circles like a desperate person  waiting for penalties time end. What would you choose? We are trying the pitlane, the electronic control is fine only if it works and is applicable to all races, but the reduction of distances is madness.

Leave stunned the sentence in the IAAF RWC letter <<adapt to the changing world marketplace for participants, spectators, media and sponsors>>. In companies, when managers talk about this, means that soon there will be a flurry of layoffs, and therefore the company have already made their decisions.  It seems  instead that the approach of the IAAF RWC is that of the company that failing to sell the product to the world, then is convinced that is the product that is wrong. Racewalking is a hight quality product (with a strength of 50Km) that must be protected and enhanced without necessarily distorting it; if there are problems to “sell” the racewalking product , it may be also that the seller is not good enough in his work. The racewalking has been over the years insulted, more isolated, reduced, they have eliminated the arrival in the stadium, they have compressed in a single day of competition, in some nations the races on the track are done with the men in the first lane and the women in fourth, so as to save time. Going on like this we will be annihilated. Instead of defending racewalking, the IAAF RWC has sold its soul to a sports market that is no longer sport. If the problem in endurance sports is the time, we could even reduce the cycling races to 80 km, so it would be all “nicer and faster”… do not you think?

It is evident that there is no global communication/promotion project that can help the expansion of our discipline , in order to spread it adequately and have the interest of the general public and therefore of the sponsors and the media. We imagine that the Maurizio Damilano’s Committee has worked in this area over the years, so we wonder what the results are? We have had an exponential growth of athletes? Unfortunately, after twenty years of nothing, we do not think so.

Members of IAAF RWC are really able to help and defend racewalking? Look with your eyes:
– Maurizio Damilano (ITA) is the owner of a service company specializing in marketing
– Tim Berrett (CAN) is the owner of a company with experience in economic research, policy,  management, and specializes in sport and recreation policy
– Robert Korzeniowski (POL) is a Manager of Project Management
So this great professionals men, in many years what have managed to produce as a solution to promote and save racewalking? What have they done over the years to promote racewalking in the world and in small nations without a history of racewalking? The ridicolous reduction of distances, a manual for organizing the races (valid only for people in the sector), the pitlane rule (that at the moment has not brought new athletes and even not new fans), two web pages on the IAAF website and a flyer on A4 sheet…does it seem to you enough for the promotion?

And the ethical question? We talk a lot about the Russians but then … open your eyes:
– Maurizio Damilano (ITA) in the past was involved in a doping investigation, he came out unscathed but only because the offenses were prescribed. You can read here the sentence of the Italian sports court about Damilano (and others athletes), doctor Conconi and EPO treatments. Why this person with a nebulous past is Chairman of IAAF RWC from 20 years? Why should we rely?
– Maurizio Damilano (ITA)  even selects international judges. Remember also the italian judge Nicola Maggio, twice disqualified in 2016 and 2017 for violation of rules by the Italian sports court, and formerly the protagonist of events that damaged the reputation of our discipline. At the same time Maurizio’s brother (Sandro Damilano) is the coach of China racewalking team (one of the strongest in the world) and of course he is paid by the Chinese federation also for the victories of his athletes. Do you see the conflict of interest or is it not big enough?
– Jane Saville (AUS) won a bronze medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, and she was coached by her husband, the former cyclist Matt White, who confessed only in 2012 to using doping when competing for the Lance Armstrong team just in years in which trained his wife. Why should we rely on her?

The IAAF RWC will expire in October 2019, it will not be renewed; why should such important decisions be made by people who do not know if they will ever have a future in the IAAF? They do it for the sake of destroying everything?

What many racewalkers, coaches and racewalking lovers all over the world want is simple:

1. Keep the current 20km / 50km as the international racewalking distances until after the 2024 Olympics.

2. Use this extended timeframe to properly test the new shoe insert technology.

3. Work to enhance the current 20km / 50km events to make them more attractive to the general viewing public (see Phoenix Project).

4. Visit this issue (if it still exists) again in 2024 once the shoe insert technology has been deemed to work (or not!).


Written and translated from italian language
by Stefano La Sorda

For this we must protest, but also act concretely and give life to a new project for racewalking.