The World Marathon Majors series, due to start its ninth running in Tokyo on Sunday (February 22), has today officially announced a radical new format under its first title sponsor, Abbott, including unprecedented anti-doping measures and related prize money payment.
As revealed first on insidethegames yesterday, the partnership with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the World Marathon Majors will create a pool of more than 100 elite runners who will undergo additional out-of-competition testing alongside blood testing for their Athlete Biological Passports (ABP) at each of the series marathons in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City.
The top men's and women's points earners of this global race series will be determined through a new one-year cycle.
But while they will continue to share the prize purse of $1 million (£649,000/€877,000), payment will no longer be made in a lump sum but over the course of five years - at $100,000 (£65,000/€87,000) each year - taking into account ABP readings which confirm the athlete's continuing clean status.
Under the series rules, no athlete who has been found guilty of any anti-doping rules enforced by the IAAF, World Anti-Doping Association or National Federations is eligible to win the championship title.
The new measures comes in the wake of unwelcome publicity for the marathon over doping bans imposed on top performers including Russia's Liliya Shobukhova, the 2010 London champion and three times Chicago winner, and Kenya's three-times Boston winner Rita Jeptoo.
"With a new title sponsor, a new series format and an increase in our anti-doping efforts, the Abbott World Marathon Majors begins a new era in marathon history," said Carey Pinkowski, executive race director of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
"The integrity of the Abbott World Marathon Majors championship title is our top priority, as our champions represent the hundreds of thousands of runners from around the world who participate in our races annually."
The new format features a rotating start and finish at each of the six annual series races.
Series IX begins this weekend at the 2015 Tokyo Marathon and ends upon completion of the February 2016 Tokyo Marathon.
Series X begins at the April 2016 Boston Marathon and ends upon completion of the April 2017 Boston Marathon.
Each subsequent series will begin and end at the next World Marathon Majors Series race on the calendar.
The Olympic marathon and IAAF World Championships marathon will serve as qualifying races and be included in the race schedule in the years they are held, but will not begin or end a Series.
The new title sponsorship of Abbott, the United States pharmaceuticals and health care products company, was announced last October at the Chicago Marathon.
"Abbott is committed to helping people around the globe live active, healthy lives," said Elaine Leavenworth, senior vice-president, chief marketing and external affairs officer at Abbott.
"We're excited to take on a leadership role within the global marathon community with the Abbott World Marathon Majors and look forward to celebrating the achievements of hundreds of thousands of runners in the years ahead."
In full, Series IX will kick off at the Tokyo Marathon and continue throughout 2015 with the Boston Marathon on April 20, the London Marathon on April 26, the Berlin Marathon on September 27, the Chicago Marathon on October 11 and the New York City Marathon on November 1, and conclude at the Tokyo Marathon in February 2016.
During each scoring period, points from a maximum of two qualifying races will be scored.
An athlete must start in two qualifying races over the Series cycle to be eligible for the overall title.
If an athlete earns points in more than two events, the athlete's highest two finishes will be scored.
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February 2015: IAAF's Kenya laboratory ready soon as new World Marathon Majors deal to boost anti-doping efforts launched
December 2014: Jeptoo set to be stripped of World Marathon Majors title after B-sample confirms EPO use
December 2014: World Marathon Majors names former Bank of America official as general manager
October 2014: World Marathon Majors postpones award ceremony after Kenyan Rita Jeptoo tests positive for EPO
October 2014: World Marathon Majors names healthcare company Abbott as first title sponsor