Update means results recorded at the rescheduled London Marathon can count for Tokyo 2020 qualification purposes
World Athletics is to lift its suspension of the Olympic qualification system for marathon and race walk events from September 1, meaning results recorded at the rescheduled Virgin Money London Marathon in October can count for Tokyo 2020 qualification purposes.
In April athletics’ global governing body announced that the qualification period for next year’s Olympic Games had been suspended until the start of December, ruling out any results which might be achieved from April 6 to November 30.
While that is still the case for all other track and field events, road athletes will now also be able to register Olympic qualifying standards in September, October and November “in pre-identified, advertised and authorised races being staged on World Athletics certified courses, with in-competition drug testing on site”.
World Athletics added that the change in qualification system dates is “due to concerns over the lack of qualifying opportunities that may be available for road athletes before the qualification period finishes on 31 May 2021”.
The original suspension period was introduced due to disruption to competition and training caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
World Athletics president Seb Coe said it had become apparent that marathon and race walk athletes may have very limited opportunities to register Olympic qualifying times in 2021 due to the uncertainty around staging mass participation events over the next year, which relies heavily on cities around the world agreeing to stage them.
“Most of the major marathons have already been cancelled or postponed for the remainder of this year and the evolution of the pandemic makes it difficult to predict if those scheduled for the first half of next year will be able to go ahead,” Coe said.
“That situation, combined with the fact that endurance athletes in the marathon and race walks can only produce a very limited number of high-quality performances a year, would really narrow their qualifying window without this adjustment.
“We have also been assured by the Athletics Integrity Unit that the anti-doping system is capable of protecting the integrity of road races during this period and will put in place strict testing criteria for all athletes.”
The London Marathon had originally been scheduled for April 26 but was moved to October 4 and on Monday organisers said that plans for the postponed event will be confirmed no later than August 7.
Following the cancellation of marathons in Chicago, New York, Berlin and Boston, the London event is now the only remaining Abbott World Marathon Majors race on the 2020 calendar.
Last month London Marathon event director Hugh Brasher said organisers had been looking at logistics and coming up with “innovative ways” to socially distance the event, adding: “While some may think what we are trying to do on Sunday 4 October is impossible, we will not give up hope.”
In an April interview, Brasher explained how scenarios for the rescheduled race were ever-evolving and when asked about options such as elite-only races, he said: “There are so many scenarios and, in reality, nothing is off the table.”
It its announcement on Tuesday, World Athletics said: “The Virgin Money London Marathon, due to take place on Sunday 4 October, is committed to working with World Athletics to promote this opportunity to athletes around the world and to assist with their travel challenges so they can participate in London and achieve their Olympic qualifying time.
“World Athletics will also work with the ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon to see if they can offer similar opportunities.
“In addition, we expect there will be at least two major race walking events staged between 1 September and 30 November 2020.”
In June, British Athletics announced that the London Marathon in April 2021 will be the GB trial race for the Tokyo Olympic Games, coronavirus permitting.
The full press release from World Athletics can be found here.