Last year after Usain Bolt false started out of the 2011 WC, I predicted the IAAF would be under pressure to change the rule.
And yes, it appears the rule is now changed, 3 days before the Opening ceremonies.
Click here to download the IAAF Staring Guidelines (PDF document 271kb).
Athletes can now to move and twitch in the starting blocks without being disqualified so long as their hands do not leave the ground or their feet leaving the blocks. (see Section 5.2 in the rule book) The starter and the Head Official now have some leeway in determining who false started, or if no one gets charged with the false start (which would be an automatic DQ and you go home).
However, someone else’s twitch can cause you to flinch and whoever sets the pressure sensors in the blocks first under 0.100 seconds gets charged with the false start. Just don’t leave the ground and blocks.
Most of the time, it’s the athlete’s fault for the false start, but sometimes the fault can be blamed on the starter who holds the athletes longer than 1.89 seconds in the SET position. Any “hold” longer than 2 seconds is too long in my opinion, and if that is the case, the starter should simply say “stand up” and restart the race. Properly.
Even if you guess the start, and your reaction time is under 0.100 seconds, you will be charged for a false start. But reaction time is another story… read my rant on Changing the IAAF Reaction Time Rule (Part 2).
Prior to 2003
Prior to 2003, the rule was a disqualification after 2 false starts. You could have several false starts before the actual race started, which meant delays for both the paid attendance as well as TV viewers.
Then the IAAF changed the rule copying the Swimming rule. First false start charged to the field, then the next false start gets you disqualified. This was dumb because any poor starter would intentionally false start to prevent anyone from getting a “flyer” start. You make everyone wait for the gun this way. We saw this in swimming at several meets.
We all remember the 2003 World Championships in Paris when Jon Drummond drew major attention when he lay on the track for more than 15 minutes in protest after being disqualified for a false start he said he did not commit.
“I did not move”, he would repeat. Famous last words.
But in 2010, the rule was changed again copying the NCAA rules. One false start, and then you go home.
We saw what happened in 2011 in Daegu, right?
So here it is in 2012 just days before the Olympic Games in London, and we now have the new “Usain Bolt rule”. The 3rd rule change in 9 years.
I’ll bet a lot of people are breathing a sigh of relief, especially the TV and Advertising Executives.