Devon Allen walks off as a judge shows him a coloured card at the start line of a hurdles race.

Why you don’t have to jump the gun to get disqualified for a false start

Devon Allen did not jump the starting gun in the 110m hurdles final at the World Athletics Championships but was still disqualified for a false start.

The 27-year-old was hoping to win a world title before signing a three-season contract as a wide receiver with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

He qualified fourth fastest for the final but was too quick out of the blocks. Here’s what that means in the world of athletics.

Did Allen really leave the starting blocks too soon?

Yes and no.

He didn’t leave before the starter gun was fired, but the sensors in the blocks measure “reaction time”which is the time it takes for the runner’s foot to leave the block after the gun goes off.

Devon Allen signed rookie contract with Philadelphia Eagles.(AP: Ashley Landis)

Obviously, leaving the starting pad before the weapon explodes is not on, but the rules say so if the runner leaves within 0.1 second, it is a false start after weapon — the idea being that no one can react that quickly and they simply predicted when the shot would be fired instead of hearing it and then taking off.

According to the rules of world athletics:

“The start of the start is defined in the case of a crouch start as any movement by the athlete that involves or results in the loss of contact of one or both feet with the flat foot.[s] starting blocks, or one or both hands lose contact with the ground.

“If the starter finds that before receiving the signal from the weapon the athlete started a movement that was not stopped and continued until the beginning of his start, it will also be a false start.”

Coincidentally, this is quite similar to the rules surrounding linemen moving too early at the line of scrimmage in the NFL.

What happened to Allen?

His reaction time was measured at 0.099 seconds — one thousandth of a second too fast.

After receiving the red card, he lingered near the starting line, spread his arms and watched the feed on the infield monitor.

But rules are rules and Allen returned under the stadium to watch compatriots Grant Holloway and Trey Cunningham win gold and silver.

Allen’s reaction time in the semifinals was also just legal, clocked at 0.101 seconds.

What did Allen and others think of the disqualification?

Allen’s status as an NFL player aspiring to become a world champion in track and field has caught the attention of many, so his disqualification has predictably sparked outrage on social media.

NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III was adamant that Allen was robbed, tweeting:


But after the initial disappointment and watching the race develop, Allen was quite gracious.

“I was very surprised when I was tagged … because I know for a fact that I didn’t react until I heard the gun,” he said.

Allen took it in stride, retweeting NBC Olympics’ tweet about Holloway’s win and sending a message of his own congratulating his teammates:


Griffin clearly wasn’t done, replying, “There should have been a PURPOSE. You shouldn’t have been disqualified.”

Shouldn’t he have been warned?

The first false start resulted in a caution for the entire field, then another false start resulted in a disqualification.

However, officials changed this rule in 2010 primarily because false starts were rampant and slowed the pace of the meet.

One of the most notable victims of the new rule was Usain Bolt, whose false start at the 2011 World Championships cost him his chance at the 100m title.

The good news for Allen is that he can once again focus on his upcoming NFL career with Philadelphia Eagles training camp in a week.


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