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Drugs in Sport- Is Track Screwed and how to clean it up



Today was drug Sunday.  If you haven't been living under a rock, the first big name to fall was American record holder Tyson Gay.  The man who was supposed to challenge Bolt tested positive for an unknown substance.  Following that up, 5 Jamaican athletes including former WR holder Asafa Powell will miss the world championships because of their positive tests.  Powell's was for a stimulant apparently.

It's too early to speculate on how long people will be banned for and to what degree certain stimulants will help.  What I want to do is look at what do we do from here.

Tour de France part 2?

This is a quick list of the top performers in the 100m all time.  I have crossed out any who have tested positive for any substance (including stimulants).  I also crossed off Mo Greene, due to the fact that he admitted paying $10k to a known steroid dealer, he just said it was for a friend and he didn't know what it was......sounds logical....


So here's your all time top 5 runners in the 100m:
1       9.58       +0.9    Usain Bolt                         JAM     21.08.86    1      Berlin                16.08.2009
        9.69       +2.0    Tyson Gay                          USA     09.08.82    1      Shanghai                     20.09.2009
        9.69       -0.1    Yohan Blake                        JAM     26.12.89    1      Lausanne                     23.08.2012
         9.72       +0.2    Asafa Powell                       JAM     23.11.82    1rA    Lausanne                     02.09.2008
         9.78       +0.9    Nesta Carter                       JAM     10.11.85    1      Rieti                       
        9.78       +2.0    Tim Montgomery                     USA     28.01.75           Paris                        14.09.2002
         9.79       +0.1    Maurice Greene                     USA     23.07.74    1r3    Athínai                      16.06.1999
          9.79       +1.5    Justin Gatlin                      USA     10.02.82    3      London                       05.08.2012
          9.79       +1.1    Ben Johnson                        CAN     30.12.61           Seoul                        24.09.1988
        9.80       +1.3    Steve Mullings                     JAM     29.11.82    1      Eugene                       04.06.2011
2          9.84       +0.7    Donovan Bailey                     CAN     16.12.67    1      Atlanta                      27.07.1996
3          9.84       +0.2    Bruny Surin                        CAN     12.07.67    2      Sevilla                      22.08.1999
4          9.85       +1.2    Leroy Burrell                      USA     21.02.67    1r3    Lausanne                     06.07.1994
         9.85       +1.7    Adekotunbo Olusoji Fasuba          NGR     09.07.84    1      Ad-Dawhah                    12.05.2006
         9.85       +1.3    Mike Rodgers                       USA     24.04.85    2      Eugene                       04.06.2011
5          9.85       +1.0    Richard Thompson                   TRI     07.06.85    1      Port of Spain                13.08.2011


That doesn't look too promising to say the least.  In fact, it is down right scary. But as I said, the problem is there.  Everyone is aware of it.  At least we are catching cheaters and having athletes test positive.  And we aren't like the major sports who just kind of turn a blind eye to it, have testing designed to comfort the fans and just go about their juiced lives.  I always get a kick out of fans of the NFL for instance, making fun of track's drug problem, but the point is how do you clean it up?

Clean Sport- Can we get there?

Attacking the Entourage
The current model of drug prevention is a bottom up model.  We attack the athletes, trying to drug test them and catch the cheaters, and if they test positive then we throw them out.  It's all about catching the athlete and punishing them, which of course it is the athlete who makes the choice and is responsible for what goes into their body.

The problem is that very seldom do athletes act independently.  If nothing else, the history of BALCO, the latest baseball scandal, Armstrong deal, Festina, etc. that a team of people are usually aware of the doping.  Yes, sometimes we get the lone wolf like Christian Hesch, but you're already going after those with testing.  What we need to do is attack the entourage.

Currently, if a coach or agent or physiotherapist has an athlete who tests positive, very little happens to them.  The athlete gets screwed, while the coach distances himself from that athlete. What needs to happen is the following:

1. Declaration - Make athletes declare the coaches, physios, massage therapist, doctors, etc.

This helps in two ways.  First, if they end up testing positive, you have leads to follow.  Secondly, it red flags anyone working with someone who has a prior "drug association" and can lead to increased testing.  Or put some rule that if you work with a known offender, you have increased where about responsibilities and standards.

2. Coaching Bans- Ban coaches.  3 strikes and your out program.  Have 3 athletes test positive and your banned from the sport for life.  Have 2 test positive and take away USATF privileges, credentials, etc.

3. Funding Loss-Coaches
If you look at USATF and see what groups they have given $20-25,000 training center grants to, it's appalling. (http://www.usatf.org/News/News-and-Notes,-Volume-13,-Number-13.aspx#grants).  Let me give you a hint.  On that list is one coach who has had 3 athletes test positive (Larry Wade, Torri Edwards, Mickey Grimes) and one (Mo Greene) who as mentioned paid a known steroid dealer $10,000... HOW IS USATF FUNDING HIS GROUP!?!  Secondly, on that list is a guy who helped coach Tyson Gay...

Look at Mike Young's (more on him shortly) tweets today:



Take the funding away.  No group or coach should get any sort of national funding if they have had an athlete test positive while they were coaching them.  If you have 1 athlete, ineligible for a year to receive any funding or grants.  If you have had 2 or more, ban for life from getting funding.

4. Funding Loss- Athletes
Discourage athletes from going to coaches with a trend of steroid use.  Have athletes who train in a group that includes a coach who has had 2-3+ athletes test positive or a known steroid association be ineligible for any usatf grant, support program, or anything.

5. Agent Bans
Agents are often more disconnected than the coach, so it'd be unfair to have a one and done rule, but I think it's reasonable to say if you have 3 athletes test positive, you are barred from conducting business for X years.  Maybe it will discourage agents from signing the questionable athletes in the questionable camps.

6.USATF
 You should never be allowed to hold a position at USATF if you had any sort of ban.  I'm not sure of the staff now, but I definitely know a few years ago there was at least one person who had been banned who worked for usatf (they've since left).  It starts at the top.  Stop condoning it.

Sponsors support
Mike Young had some interesting tweets today.  For those of you who don't know Mike Young has a PhD in exercise science from LSU and has done work with USATF for their sports science programs and coaches education as well as helping the Vancouver MLS team in their strength and conditioning.  He's a smart guy who knows track at every level.




I don't know if this occurs or not, but I'll take Mike's word.  But even if a sponsor doesn't push an athlete towards a group, tell your athletes that if they go to a coach who has had X amounts of positive or more, your contract is cut in half, not offered, or terminated.  Look, they tell athletes they have to go to certain groups all the time for performance reasons.  Well, do it for drug reasons.  Stop giving drug coaches top athletes to manipulate.

Sponsors have all sorts of crazy reductions and stipulations in their contract, and yes most have one that if you test positive, which is good.  But, the drug connections can easily be fixed if sponsors laid down the law when it came to working with athletes, coaches, doctors who have drug ties.


False Start Rule- one and done
For major offenses, make it a one and done.  Make the penalty incredibly harsh so that there is at least some discouragement.  And ban them from the sport.  That means no coming back and coaching, being an agent, , working for usatf, getting credentials, etc.  You screwed the sport, then you can't come back in.

The only way you get out of this one and done rule, spill the beans on everyone who assisted you, show some remorse, and have it reduced to 4yrs or an ability to reenter the sport as a coach if enough information and service towards anti-drug support is done.

Strip the Record- The ENTIRE record:
Get rid of everything the athlete has ever done.  Take away all medals and places, no matter how long ago.  It's too much of a joke to have an athlete test positive at a meet a few years later, yet still keep their Olympic title because we couldn't catch them at the games.

Tracers on Drugs-  This has happened before, and granted it is a costly option, but maybe there is a possibility of partnering with the FDA and give perks for companies that put a tracer on drugs likely to enhance performance.  Give them a small incentive too and then let USADA know the tracer and you have the problem solved.  Easily tested and detectable.

Clean athletes, coaches, managers, meet directors- stand up for yourself.  Don't enable it to happen.  If you have suspicions fight it.  Don't be an enabler.  If you are a meet director, bar them from entry.  If you are an athlete, report suspicious stuff.  Make them explain it.  Realize that all you clean athletes doing things the right way are getting screwed by drug users.  Yes, they take away sponsorship and prize money, but when they test positive they damage the sport, making people less likely to believe that YOU are clean.  Make sponsors less likely to pour money into track and field anymore.  They kill the sport.

The bottom line is this.  It's our sport and it's going to continue to fade to obscurity or become so tainted like cycling, that it's a laughingstock.  I don't want to have to tell my athletes that they can never make it on the pro level because everyone's juiced.  I don't want to have to tell a junior high kid who comes to our track camp that all the guys he watched at the Olympics are cheats.  The approach needs to be changed.  Drug users are always a step ahead of the testers.  We need to discourage use by athletes, but also add penalties for the entourage.  Maybe USATF needs to impart fines or prize money fines based on drug use.  I'm not sure what the answer is.  But something needs to be done.

Maybe there needs to be a doping roundtable.  Maybe these positives will cause a change.  Maybe their will be a groundswell of clean athletes deciding they won't take it.  I'm not sure exactly what needs to be done but something does.  Clean athletes, revolt...Change the system.

12 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:40 PM

    Didn't Justin Gatlin run 9,77?

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  2. Elite sport is a business, and a very good one. The governing bodies are on the top of this business and pocket a lot of money from it. Anything that diminishes the business aspect is not something that they are willing to do.

    Unfortunately this business needs heroes, and the heroes are generated by the ever better world records.

    If they would succeed in making a clean sport, would be very bad for the business.

    Far less people would be interested in an olympic 100m final if all the participants are in the 10.00 - 10.15 secs range.....

    As a result, governing bodies will always allow at least for a few participants to take drugs and become heroes. And it is their choosing whom they allow, depending on the business interests of the sport.

    Just like F1 helps those drivers coming from nations where most of the F1 fan money is, or the soccer teams that are helped by the body because they would like to enhance the sport in those countries (remember Korea World Cup, anyone?)

    I think we should just ultimately accept that drugs are part of the sport, just as engine tuning is part of formula 1.

    Then it would be easier to accept that the playing field is level: everyone can take drugs, and yes, there is some difference in how good doctors one can take, but same about coaches, apparel, everything.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Maybe ban some othright horrible and easy to detect stuffs, like anabolic steriods.

    And implement rules like the 50 unit of hemoglobin rule in cycling.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous11:33 AM

    Great article. Not sure why Nesta Carter has not been crossed off. He is one of the 5 Jamaican athletes (not widely announced yet) who was also caught along with Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson.

    ReplyDelete
  5. To concur, great to have more discussion on the topic.

    Just to add my own thoughts, I worry that sport drugs are being treated the same way sex and recreational drug education is carried out in American schools: Lots do it, nobody talks about it, and if/when you're caught, ostracized for life.

    Unlike the latter, there is something inherently wrong with cheating. But they all share the same property that genuine education is scarce. What outlets are there for athlete-based drug education? What drug-educated athletes or doctors speak with young athletes about using? My four years of varsity running taught me nothing about how drugs actually work for performance enhancement. Patrick Arnold's blog is enlightening, but how many are reading him? If an ignorant athlete is what we strive for, so be it.

    I'd be a fan of anyone who openly speaks about their past history of drug abuse in sport. How else do we learn from these situations?

    ReplyDelete
  6. I think going after the entourage is a great idea, but as far as sponsors go, I think it's naive to suggest that they aren't gambling on a doped athlete as much as the athlete and coach are. If anything, the sponsors are the driving force behind the drugs. Why do I say that? Well, who has the most to gain? Why pay a track and field athlete unless they are going to make you some money? Where there's money, there are drugs. Pro sports are worse, but we turn a blind eye. I'm not sure what it is about track and cycling that makes people moralise. I once had a coach who said, about drugs in sport, it's a losing battle, so why not have a "drugged world championshps" where you can take what you want, but leave the Olympics to amateurs, as it was meant to be (I know that's a bit naive, too). Then people could be entertained by the spectacle of super-human athletes, and athletes who want to see what they can do would have an avenue of clean competition in which to do it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous12:25 PM

    Where are all the whistle blowers? There must be hundreds of people like Mike Young who claim to have 'inside info'. Why are they keeping it to themselves? If they're so opposed to drugs in sport it would be easy to anonymously leak this info.

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  8. Usually there is claim that they took it by mistake as it was in some over the counter medication. Surely if they are not sure about some medication you leave it alone.

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  9. Anonymous8:50 PM

    I know he missed the 100m list by running 9.86, but what's your take on Carl Lewis?

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    Replies
    1. According to Dr Wade Exum, former USOC drug control director, 2000 Us athletes failed drugs tests but were allowed to compete from 1988-2000, most notably carl lewis.

      Delete
  10. Anonymous9:24 AM

    do you have a womens list and any thought about thier use?

    ReplyDelete