By Ken Stone
Updated at 7:50 a.m. Oct. 23, 2017
Track and field fans and officials are debating a European proposal to remove all pre-2005 marks from the world-record books, presuming them to be doping-tainted.
But now USA Track and Field is apparently going in the opposite direction — listing marks of a drug cheat as new age-group records.
Between 1999 and 2003, when she was in her late 30s, three-time Olympian Regina Jacobs of Los Angeles ran amazing times at distances from 800 to 5000 meters. She won national titles and a silver medal in the world championships.
At age 39, she set a world record in the indoor 1500 meters — becoming the first woman to run the metric mile sub-4 indoors with her 3:59.98.
In late-September, after a 14-year delay, that 3:59 was posted as an American record for the 35-39 age group.
But in July 2004, Jacobs accepted a four-year suspension after testing positive for the “designer steroid” tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) associated with the same Bay Area lab that led to the falls of sprinter Marion Jones and slugger Barry Bonds. In fact, Jacobs retired from the sport.
Jeff Brower of Austin, Texas, is chairman of the USATF Masters Track & Field Records Committee.
He says he posted the Jacobs records after being informed she had one worth record consideration.
“I ….started researching all her performances after she turned 35,” Brower said. “I’ve done this for MANY elite athletes, as many are apparently unaware that records are kept in five-year age groups for ages 35 and older.”
Brower noted that Jacobs’ four-year sanction by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency took effect from the date in June 2003 when she tested positive for the banned performance enhancer at the national championships in Stanford, her alma mater, where she won the 1500-meter run.
Brower says any records she ran before then are eligible for American record consideration.
“Her doping issue was considered and performances on or after 6/21/2003 for a four-year period were not considered for records,” he said Friday via email.
Echoing Brower was Jill Geer, chief marketing officer of Indianapolis-based USATF, who said: “In accordance with the WADA code, any mark posted by any athlete during a time in which their performances have been nullified are not eligible for record consideration. Any performances taking place outside of the window of ineligibility or nullification are record-eligible.”
Track & Field News, the self-described “Bible of the Sport,” wiped from the slate all Jacobs marks from 2003, however.
“T&FN invoked its protocol, which negated all her marks from calendar ’03, so she had no world/U.S. ranking positions that year,” said Garry Hill, the magazine’s longtime editor, in a message-board post.
Besides the indoor 1500 record, USATF now lists Jacobs as the W35 age-group record-holder indoors in the 800 (2:01.71), mile (4:32.13) and 3000 (8:39.14). Outdoors, she is listed as the age-group record-holder in the 1500 (4:00.35) and 5000 (14:45.35).
Jim Rorick, who helps Track & Field News with its annual world and U.S. rankings, made clear: “T&FN tossed Jacobs from 2003 rankings (she won USATF 1500m). But not for any years prior to 2003.”
Jacobs, now a Realtor based in Oakland, did not respond to requests for comment.
In January 2004, before USADA announced its suspension, Jacobs said through her lawyer “that she never knowingly took banned substances and that the arbitration process established by the anti-doping agency lacks neutrality,” according to The New York Times.
Alisa Harvey of Virginia, who held three indoor records displaced by Jacobs, said Friday that the “records are hers with a heavy dose of speculation.”
Before 2003, she said, she had heard rumors of Jacobs doping.
“I did not know Regina personally,” she said via email. “I don’t believe we have ever had a conversation. We only raced each other at the Olympic Trials or national championships back in the ’80s and ’90s.”
Harvey — who at 39 set indoor records in the 800 (2:06.62), 1500 (4:27.00) and mile (4:48.52) — still competes in her early 50s — and holds seven American records in other age groups.
She recalls Jacobs as one of the best runners in the world in her late 30s.
“I recall watching her run on TV during this time,” Harvey said. “I was stunned at how fast she ran at that age. She did not even look tired when she finished.”
Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton wasn’t rattled by the record news.
“It’s so far removed from the things I care about these days,” she said Saturday. “I’d honestly care more about what yoga pants I’m going to wear to yoga class later tonight.”
Having suffered through the ordeal of mental illness, which led to her working as a high-priced Las Vegas call girl, Hamilton said: “When you’ve been through what I’ve been through the past several years, it does tend to put things in greater perspective.”
She said via email: “Whether one of my former rivals cheated, deserves records, how far back she was cheating, how much suspicion was out there going way back just does not matter anymore.”
If Jacobs cheated going way back — before 2003 — “that’s something she’ll have to live with the rest of her life,” Hamilton said. “Just as I have to live with mistakes in life I have made. I think it’s how we handle those mistakes that define our character.”
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: