MOSCOW, July 15 (R-Sport) - Positive doping test results for two of the world’s fastest men have piled further problems on the already flagging world athletics championships, to be held in Moscow next month, one of the organizers told R-Sport on Monday.
Former world champion Tyson Gay of the United States, and Jamaica’s former world-record holder Asafa Powell will both miss the championships after testing positive for banned substances, as will another Jamaican, Sherone Simpson.
“The non-arrivals of Gay, Powell and Simpson make the world championships in Moscow less attractive from a sporting point of view,” said Valentin Balakhnichev, head of the All-Russian Athletics Federation. “The whole situation, as a whole, is completely unattractive for athletics.”
The championships, which run from August 10-18, had already been struggling before news of the positive drug tests broke. Last month, organizers said fewer than 45,000 tickets had been sold for the entire nine-day competition. This amounts to less than a tenth of capacity at Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium, which has been reduced to 450,000 for the duration of the event (or 50,000 per day).
“It’s actually more accurate to talk not about spectator interest, but about its absence,” Balakhnichev said. “For us it’s a problem and a serious challenge to fill the stadium," adding: “And it’s not a matter of big names or the disqualifications of Gay, Powell and Simpson, the issue is the interest the people of Moscow have for athletics.”
Buying advertising for the championships was prohibitively expensive, he suggested.
International Association of Athletics Federation chief Lamine Diack caused a stir in early April when he pointedly criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev for inadequately promoting track and field’s second-biggest stage after the Olympics.
He said he had noticed a dearth of television commercials advertising the competition, compared with the number touting the World University Games in July, held in the Russian city of Kazan, and the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Since then, advertisements have popped up on billboards and at bus stations and, as a sign of good faith, Diack personally invited Putin and Medvedev to the championships. Tickets, ranging from $6 to $37, went on sale March 1.
Powell and Simpson both tested positive after last month's Jamaican championships. Powell said in a statement he has never "knowingly" doped and is not "a cheat."
Gay's positive result dates back to an out-of-competition test in May. He has reportedly accused unnamed third parties of betraying his trust.
Gay is the second-fastest 100m runner of all time behind Usain Bolt and has a personal best of 9.69 seconds, while Powell is the fourth-fastest man in history with a personal best of 9.72 seconds.
Bolt and third-fastest man Yohan Blake are both set to compete in Moscow next month.
Updated with clarified wording in headline and paragraph about stadium capacity.