Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Drugs and Running

The latest drug bust in big time marathoning has got me thinking about drugs in ultramarathon running. As much as I want to believe our sport is totally clean, I think the time has come for us to prove it.  There are simply too many examples of Performance Enhancing Drugs being used in running and by amateurs in other sports to ignore.  I do not, in any way, have evidence to suggest there is doping in ultrarunning but as a long time participant and fan of the sport I think it's time we figure out a way to institute testing in our sport not as a means to catch the bad guys but rather to prove we're clean.  I hate to say it but the rumblings about drug use in trail running continue to get louder.

Now, of course, the problem is the cost of a testing program.  I am pretty sure that the large events like Western States and UTMB cannot afford to implement a full-scale testing program and the racer confederations (SkyRunning and UTWT, for example) may not have the resources for a testing program either.  Therefore, I suggest we turn to the sponsors and companies that are currently investing in ultra trail running.  Could some of the larger shoe companies work together to create a testing program?  Could they partner with Garmin, Strava, figure out a way to bring the drug issue to the forefront? The whispering about drugs has been around for a while now and I think such a program could go a long way toward either quieting to critics or exposing the cheats.

From my perspective the time for change is now.  What do you think?


Corey Singletary said...

I agree Andy. I've had similar nagging concerns for a while. I'm just a back-of-the-packer but I'd hate for this sport that I've come to love to become marred by doping.

One thing that I've been wondering, long term, is if there's a third way. Certainly, in this day and age the technology exists to lower the cost of testing and make it so that it isn't such a monopoly service with a high cost. If the technology exists to rapid DNA type malaria from a portable testing device , then surely there's a way to break the economic and logistic logjam and bring testing down to those sports and events that currently can't afford it. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be stringent enough at this stage to make cheating harder than it's worth when weighed against the paltry rewards in our sport. This sounds crazy, but maybe the ultra/trail community would be willing to crowdfund such an enterprise. And given the diversity in our community, maybe one/some of our own could lead the charge. I know I'd be interested.

sharmanian said...

Andy, drug testing is very expensive and generally not very effective - Liliya Shobukhova presumably passed the drug tests at each event she won but was caught by anomalies in her biometric passport. Lance Armstrong got through the most expensive and comprehensive testing out there for a long time too. So wouldn't drug testing just provide a false sense of security for a large price tag?

Note I'm completely against cheating of any kind, but I don't think there's currently a solution to this problem as currently defined (arguing what performance enhancers should be banned is a separate and even more complicated debate).

Brett said...

Wow 16 out of 19 in your poll think there is doping in ultrarunning.

I agree with Ian. I think the best option is to thine own self be true, and keep your training partners straight too.

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