Should Sifan Hassan Have Been DQd for Impeding Laura Muir?

March 1, 2018

BIRMINGHAM, England —  The official results of the women’s 3000m at the 2018 World Indoor Championships will always show 1. Genzebe Dibaba (Ethiopia) 2. Sifan Hassan (Netherlands) 3. Laura Muir (Great Britain). (Recap of the race here).

After the race was over, one of the first questions was whether Laura Muir be elevated to silver. Coming around the final turn, Hassan was running in the inside of lane 1. But midway down the home stretch, with Muir (who was running in the outside of lane 1) closing the gap, Hassan began drifting out, forcing Muir to go wide. During the final 10 meters, Hassan began drifting even more dramatically, finishing the race in the outer third third of lane 2 with her arms out wide, forcing Muir into lane 3.

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Here are two angles of the finish:

Hassan was asked why she began drifting out after the race.

“I don’t know,” Hassan said. “I have no idea. I was just running. You know when you [inaudible], you just do. I mean, you don’t think, you just run. I even don’t know someone was behind me until the last meter…I have long legs…When I’m tired, I can’t control my body.”

Muir had not had a chance to see a replay when she came through the mixed zone and did not want to speculate.

“I was so tired at the end of the race,” Muir said. “I don’t know what happened. I just ran as hard as I could to that finish line and I came away with a medal.”

British Athletics did not file a protest.

Here’s the deal. It’s natural, in a close race, to want to protect your lead. But what Hassan did was not legal. She went from the inside of lane 1 to the outer third of lane 2 in the span of 30 meters, plus she threw her arms out and in doing so forced Muir wide. By the letter of the law, she should have been DQ’d.

The rule, for those interested, is IAAF rule 163.2(b), which reads:

If an athlete is jostled or obstructed during an event so as to impede his progress, then:

(b) if another athlete is found by the Referee to be responsible for the jostling or obstruction, such athlete (or his team) shall be liable to disqualification from that event.

It is pretty clear that Muir’s progress was impeded by having to move out to lane 2.

The question is whether Hassan was totally responsible for it. Hassan’s defenders will point out that Dibaba veered into lane two to make sure she didn’t run into the back of a lapped runner. Hassan could argue she moved into lane two just following Dibaba.

The problem is, if you DQ Hassan, she goes from silver to no medal at all, and that’s unfortunate because she was clearly one of the three best women tonight. So the options are either DQ her and reward Hellen Obiri — who was four seconds back and not impacted by the foul — with a medal, or keep Hassan in the results but prevent Muir from earning the silver she deserved.

The IAAF rulebook needs to be rewritten. Ideally, the IAAF would just be able to flip the official results and give Muir the silver and Hassan the bronze. That would be the fairest thing for all involved. It’s hard to add a rule like that without making turning incidents like these into judgment calls, but in this case, it seems like a common-sense solution. You could keep the current rule but write the rule to remove judgement and say, “If one runner impedes another runner near the finish but no one else is affected by this, then the runner that did the impeding will not be DQ’d but simply exchange places with the runner that was impeded.”

Laura Muir Comments

Photos of Finishing Straight

Dibaba drifts wide of lapped runner

Dibaba drifts wide of lapped runner

Hassan goes wide as well

Hassan goes wide as well

Hassan Finishes at edge of lane 2

Hassan Finishes at edge of lane 2

More: Tell us what you think about the controversial finish on our world famous messageboard.

MB: Should Sifan Hassan be DQd? 
Race Recap: Genzebe Dibaba’s Mastery of the Indoor Oval Continues – Dibaba Wins Thrilling Women’s 3000, Hassan 2nd, Muir 3rd