By Chris Chavez
Watching people run in circles or on the roads for an extended period of time is certainly not the most conventionally enjoyable activity, but it has brought me plenty of excitement over the years and I’m lucky to do it as part of my job. The wonder of a fast times and the artistry of great tactical races have left me without words and yet in recent months years, it’s hard to not let doubt creep in, when you hear the latest story of someone who has tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in the sport.
I’ve learned that it’s good to appreciate performances in the moment but subconsciously keep in mind that some day the news could come that what you thought was figuratively unreal, was literally unreal instead, having been aided by PEDs. (Kids these days, including my 23-year-old self, call it ‘staying woke’) Yet, if you approach every race with a skeptic’s mindset, there’s no way to enjoy the sport.
It’s out there and people within the inner circle of the sport know. Millions of dollars have been poured into cracking down on the cheats and yet they always seem to remain at least one step ahead in not getting caught.
The call for a clean sport is one also a call for more transparency in the current anti-doping and re-testing systems at work. One of the most recent anti-doping stories to surface is the call from European Athletics to re-write the track and field record books, essentially wiping any record set before 2005, on the basis that testing has improved tremendously since. It’s much different from when the International Olympic Committee called to crack down on the collective responsibility and individual justice that was a problem with the Russian doping scandal. How far back do you go when this is the case? Why not focus on the current doping problem of track and field? It’s cliche but the past is the past and those records and marks can serve as lessons that we can learn from.
Spend the time, money and focus on providing independent and reliable anti-doping programs, listening and communicating with athletes and remaining open about the process. While it’s nice to stay on top of the news cycle and it feels good to break a story, athletes like Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan shouldn’t be hearing about potential medal upgrades for the first time from me or discovering the news on Twitter.
If we can learn anything from other Olympic sports and their efforts to move past doping, it’s that it doesn’t happen in one day, or from a one stroke solution like wiping record books clean. It takes time and a collective effort to let the athletes, coaches, agents and supporters of clean sport to reach a consensus on what is and isn’t okay in sport, and make that abundantly clear and actively enforced. The larger the anti-doping camp, the less room there is in the sport for those who cheat.