Doping cleanup may have helped US track team be more successful

From left, Americans Wilbert London III, Gil Roberts, Fred Kerley and Michael Cherry react after taking silver in the men’s 4-by-400 final during the World Athletics Championships in London on Sunday. (AP photo)

LONDON — For years, athletes from the United States have quietly wondered how they might have fared if they had been competing on a level playing field. This year, they may have found out.

Final figures from the medals standings at the world championships that wrapped up Sunday offered evidence that track and field’s attempt to crack down on a global doping crisis could be making a direct impact on the results themselves.

Exhibit A: The United States won 30 medals, while athletes from four countries that have been under the doping microscope — Kenya (11), Russia (6), Ethiopia (5) and Jamaica (4) — combined for 26.

Two years ago, the results looked like this: U.S. 17, Kenya 16, Jamaica 12, Ethiopia 8, Russia 4.

Four years ago, with Russia competing on home turf and in the midst of what investigators have determined was a state-sponsored doping conspiracy, they looked like this: United States 26, Russia 14, Kenya 12, Jamaica and Ethiopia 10 each.

“Maybe the only good byproduct of the past corruption and scandal is that it forces sport to make sure it never happens again,” said Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. “Ultimately, that’s good for clean athletes.”

Among the changes that have taken place over the last two years, the suspension of the Russian track federation. Only 19 Russians competed at this year’s worlds, 100 fewer than were present in Moscow in 2013.

Five countries, including distance-running powerhouses Kenya and Ethiopia, have been placed on a doping watch list — meaning they are being closely watched because of evidence that has surfaced about less-than-robust anti-doping procedures.