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World Athletics changes the rules regarding lane infringements

At the 2020 World Indoor Championships, there were 21 disqualifications related to lane violations

World Athletics has announced that there will be a change of the rules regarding lane infringements during competition. Athletes and relay teams get a second chance if they step on the line, described in the new World Athletics clauses. If they are repeat offenders, the violation will result in disqualification.

Lane infringement rule changes have been on the agenda of World Athletics since January 2018. At the 2020 World Athletics Indoor Championships in Birmingham, U.K., there were 21 disqualifications related to lane violations, including four DQ’s in two races – since then there has been an ongoing debate about a change in these rules.

Here are the new rules, per World Athletics: 

“Athletes racing in lanes shall continue to be disqualified if they are judged to have fully stepped inside the inner borderline or curb, even only once. Or if either of the acts described in 17.4.2 or 17.4.3 are judged to bring positional advantage or impede another athlete. The one-off lane infringements are now permitted but shall result in disqualification if they are repeated by the same athlete or within the same relay team at any time during the rounds of the same event.”

“Athletes racing in lanes shall continue to be disqualified if they are judged to have fully stepped inside the inner borderline or curb, even only once. Or if either of the acts described in 17.4.2 or 17.4.3 are judged to bring positional advantage or impede another athlete.”

At the 2017 World Championships, Canada’s Aaron Brown raced to a season’s best 20.08 seconds in the 200m heats. His time would have been the second-fastest time on the night, behind the eventual 200m champion, Ramil Guliyev of Turkey. Brown was all smiles when he went through the media interview area, later to learn he was disqualified due to a lane infringement for stepping on the line. Athletics Canada challenged the ruling, but the decision was upheld resulting in his disqualification.

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2021 Diamond League champion Francine Niyonsaba was disqualified in the 5,000m heats at the Tokyo Olympics for taking one step inside the rail. Niyonsaba was a contender for a medal in the event after World Athletics testosterone rules forced the 2016 800m silver medalist to move up distances for Tokyo.

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Under the new rules, Neither Brown nor Niyonsaba would have been disqualified. Brown could’ve reached the podium at the 2017 World Championships and Niyonsaba would’ve competed for a medal.