Two of the road races slated for Nigeria next year are among a record 238 road races included in the 2023 World Athletics Label Road Race calendar.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the calendar was released on Friday by the sport’s world governing body, World Athletics (WA).
The races are the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon slated for Feb. 4, a Category A event in the Gold sub-group, and the Okpekpe Road Race of May 23 in Okpekpe, Edo.
The latter race is a Category E event and in the Label sub-group.
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The number of races for 2023 is an increase of almost 20 races from the 2022 schedule.
According to World Athletics, the increase will allow the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) to extend the registered drug-testing pool for road-racing.
This is due to the extra funding provided through the Label race programme.
The 238 events which have registered for the Label programme include 14 Platinum Label races (14 marathons), 38 Gold Label races (25 marathons and 13 other distance races).
There are also 66 Elite Label races (41 marathons, 25 other distance races) and 120 Label races (59 marathons, 61 other distance races).
They are spread across 53 countries and all six geographic areas.
The series begins with the Xiamen Marathon, a Platinum Label race, on Jan. 2 and concludes on Dec. 31 with New Year’s Eve races in Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, Bolzano in Italy and Hainan in China.
The schedule remains subject to change given the ongoing uncertainty created by the global coronavirus pandemic.
“The road running industry continues to rebound strongly from the pandemic, as evidenced by the growing demand for Label race status,” World Athletics Road Running Manager Alessio Punzi said.
“Race directors have had to show considerable resilience and ingenuity to survive and thrive in such a challenging climate and we’re delighted to see so many races on this year’s calendar.
“The variety of road racing options represented by this schedule will give elite runners around the world even more opportunities to race.”
Meanwhile, the AIU has confirmed it will conduct a full-scale, robust integrity operation throughout the road-racing season.
NAN reports that this will encompass testing, investigations and intelligence and case management.
It is anticipated that a registered testing pool of approximately 300 professional athletes will be created, around 2,000 tests will be conducted out-of-competition and over 1450 tests in-competition in 2023.
Additionally, the AIU will continue to ramp up its education programmes within the road-running community in an effort to reduce doping and to promote clean competition.
“After two years of operations limited by the pandemic, the integrity programme will be back to full strength, underwritten by a budget that doubles to nearly three million dollars (about N2.4 billion).
“This shows the remarkable commitment of the road running industry to clean sports,” AIU Head, Brett Clothier, stated.
Clothier added that it was crucial to assure all stakeholders that they could have confidence in the integrity of the World Athletics road-racing circuit.
This was in view of the recent spate of anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) in Kenya,
“Road running has become lucrative for athletes, which is very welcome. Through this increased funding, we can put in place a proportionate programme to protect clean athletes and help create a fair and doping-free environment in which to showcase their talent.”
The World Athletics Label is available to all officially-sanctioned road races that have taken place for at least two consecutive years prior to 2023 with an international measurement certificate in place.
For first-time Labels in 2023, a World Athletics technical consultant may be appointed to ensure compliance with rules and regulations.
World Athletics Elite Label races must have a prize money structure in place that awards at least the top five or eight finishers (based on race distance), with minimum winner’s prizes of 15,000 dollars (marathons) and 5,000 dollars (other distances), per gender.
In World Athletics Gold Label races, minimum prize money for winners is 30,000 dollars (marathons) and 10,000 dollars (other distances), per gender.
Additionally, Gold Label races must have at the start at least five athletes per gender with “Gold Status”.
This means, some of the top-ranked athletes in the sport, who are part of a rigorous out-of-competition anti-doping testing programme.
The World Athletics Elite Platinum Label is only available to races that either had been granted Platinum before, or that are upgrading from Gold, and had an outstanding elite field in 2022.
Platinum Label events need to have a certain number of “Platinum Status” athletes.
These are the very best in the sport, and only 38 men and 38 women carry such “Platinum status” in 2023.
Through choosing to have a World Athletics Label, race organisers show a tangible commitment to clean sport by funding a dedicated road running integrity programme, managed by the Athletics Integrity Unit.