August 30, 2011 11:04
Cuba's Dayron Robles became the second high-profile sprinter to get dumped out of his signature race at the World Championships in Athletics in as many days when the Beijing Olympics champion was disqualified from Monday's 110-m hurdles final.
One day earlier, sure-thing Usain Bolt of Jamaica failed to defend his title in the men's 100 m due to a false start, handing the title to compatriot Yohan Blake.
Robles was stripped of his gold medal shortly after winning the race when IAAF judges in Daegu decided that he interfered with China's Liu Xiang, the 2005 world champion, in the final 20 m of the race.
After clearing the ninth of ten hurdles, Robles' right arm brushed against Liu's left arm, which the Chinese athlete later claimed had put him off-stride. This interference happened again, in a more aggravated fashion, as they landed from the final hurdle, causing Liu to lose his balance.
Although Liu said the interference was accidental, he was convinced it had robbed him of the gold medal. Indeed, video footage of the race showed Liu accelerating until he was neck-and-neck with his Cuban rival, then suffering a major wobble after landing from the 10th hurdle and falling back to place third.
The Chinese camp immediately lodged an appeal and was rewarded for its efforts, while a counter-appeal by the Cubans was later rejected.
Liu, who was running in lane six, got a revised silver medal for his time of 13.27 seconds, while the title went to Jason Richardson of the United States for clocking 13.16 seconds. Robles was two-hundredths of a second faster.
The men's 110-m hurdles was one of the most anticipated events of the championships as it featured three hurdlers who either currently hold (Robles), or who previously held (Liu), the world record. American David Oliver, who also competed, ranks as the third-fastest hurdler in history.
Their personal bests are separated by a mere 0.01 seconds. Robles has the lead at 12.87 seconds -- which he set in 2008 at a meet in Ostrava, Czech Republic -- followed by Liu’s 12.88 seconds and Oliver's 12.89 seconds.
After the race, there was no immediate indication that the results would be contested, however. The three walked around the stadium with their flags aloft and took celebratory photographs together. But this all changed within 30 minutes, as the IAAF reviewed the race and charged the Cuban with "obstruction" according to its strict competition rules.
The ruling moved Andrew Turner of Great Britain, who originally finished fourth, into bronze medal-winning position with a time of 13.44 seconds. Oliver got off to a bad start by knocking into two hurdles -- which cost him a medal as his time was the same as Turner's.
Cuba has right to lodge a formal appeal against the IAAF's decision, which would take the matter to an arbitration committee at a later date.
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