THERE may not have been too many good news stories throughout the course of 2020, but there was a reason to be happy last week.

World Athletics released their shortlist for their athletes of the year, with Laura Muir the only Briton to merit inclusion.

The 10-strong women’s list also includes the likes of Letesenbet Gidey from Ethiopia who set a world record over 5000m last month, as well as Kenya’s Peres Jepchirchir, who won the World Half-Marathon title in October and has twice broken the world half-marathon record this year.

Muir is, then, in exalted company, but she is by no means out of her depth. The 27-year-old from Milnathort in Kinross-shire is unbeaten this season over 1500m, with her victory at the ISTAF Berlin meet in September seeing her record a world-leading time of 3 minutes 57.40 seconds.

The finalists for the award will be named in two weeks with the winner being announced on December 5 and irrespective of whether or not Muir wins, or even makes it on to the list of five finalists, her inclusion on the shortlist is testament to how impressive her rise has been over the past few years.

Her recent performances bode well for next year’s Tokyo Olympics, with Muir aiming to win a medal in what is widely considered one of the most competitive events in world athletics at the moment, in one of the few sports that can be considered truly global.

Were Muir to get on to the podium next summer, it would be a remarkable achievement which would put her right up there with Scotland’s greatest athletes.

The Scot should be lauded for more than just her on-track achievements though. In a world in which female athletes are rarely given the spotlight with the same regularity as their male counterparts, Muir has ensured she has become a household name, and one which hundreds if not thousands of young girls in this country aspire to emulate.

That she became a world-class runner while simultaneously graduating from veterinary college two years ago says much for her work ethic and makes her an even more worthy role-model. Muir has proven that becoming a top-class athlete need not be as a result of the sacrifice of all else in one’s life.

The Scot's tale is also one of overcoming hurdles. Early in her career, she was forced to confront suggestions she did not have the mentality for the big stage; at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games she was in contention for a medal in the 1500m final before falling back after a collision in the closing few hundred metres. And just a few weeks later, she failed to even reach the final of the European Championships despite being touted to win a medal.

However, Muir was never deterred by those disappointments and has emerged as one of the faces of the GB athletics team.

There is a long time before the Tokyo Olympics and much can happen, but Muir has certainly positioned herself as being one of Scotland’s brightest medal chances.

We are a country which is continually crying out for sporting role models and in Muir, there are few better. There is no hint of arrogance from the middle-distance runner, despite the fact she has joined the superstars of the athletics world these days.

Muir may, or may not, become Female Athlete of the Year at the World Athletics’ ceremony next month but whatever the outcome, it is a fair bet the Scot would give up any accolade between now and Tokyo for an Olympic medal.


THE comments last week from GB internationalist Jess Judd highlighted a major challenge the Covid-19 crisis has thrown up for sport.

The 5,000m British champion expressed her concern about the reduction of drug-testing since the pandemic began, saying it is “really worrying” and that it has created a “free-for-all” for cheating ahead of the postponed Tokyo Olympics.

The stats back-up what Judd is saying; so far in 2020, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) has conducted 1532 tests compared to 5155 in the same period last year. It is quite a drop and although understandable it could prove to be monumental in the fight to keep sport clean.

While anti-doping began just testing athletes in competition, it is now widely accepted that it is out of competition the majority of athletes dope before arriving to compete in their event with nothing detectable in their system.

The drop-off of out-of-competition tests then is understandably worrying for clean athletes as it seems to have given any potential cheaters a clear window to dope while the pandemic was in full swing.

Judd compared the situation to “a company saying they are not going to have security cameras for the weekend”, with one of her major concerns being that UKAD is making public the reduction in tests.

Certainly, there has been no better opportunity in recent times to dope and get away with it.

The hope is the number of out-of-competition tests quickly gets back to pre-Covid numbers but unfortunately for athletes and the public alike, we may never know the extent to which this drop in tests has been exploited.