Pan Ams, Berlin, Doping, AC HOF
Once Athletics got under way at the Pan Am games I was feeling a little left out, as I thought I probably would. I thought the Pan Ams was a great success for Toronto and Canada. I enjoyed being in Toronto and seeing all the stuff going on and had a great time at the gold medal soccer game.
When distance runners started to win medals I wanted to get out there and run the marathon. Looking over the men’s start list I would have had the fastest PB but there were two guys on the start list who beat me at the Olympics in similar hot conditions. Raul Pacheco, who I figured for the marathon win, finished second to a surprise performance by a Cuban. The times weren’t fast but given the hill they had to run four times and the heat it looked like a tough race.
As much as I would have liked to race Pan Ams I’m happy with my decision to focus on the Berlin marathon this fall. Berlin is known as the fastest course and if all goes well next year I’ll be racing Rio in August. I wouldn’t race Berlin 4-5 weeks after Rio and I’d like to race Berlin while I still feel I can PB. It’s too hard to predict how I’ll be going in 2017.
A hard-hitting documentary on doping out of Germany aired last week. (You can watch the English version here) The reason why this documentary has been the talk of the athletics community is because it presents some very compelling evidence. I thought I was about to watch a lot of heresay but there’s quite damning information presented.
The first half of the documentary focuses on Russia and the second half on Kenya. The section on Russia didn’t faze me as they’ve had a very dirty history. The section on Kenya hit me much harder as I recognized many of the places in the film. I’ve been aware that Kenya has a doping problem but I didn’t expect to see how easily athletes there can dope. It makes me feel uncomfortable knowing how close I’ve been to a doping problem.
The ease at which athletes can dope in Kenya combined with the lack of effective testing makes the whole situation look like a dopers paradise. Athletes often get a weeks notice before they are to be tested. I think this is partially due to not having proper addresses in rural Kenya. Without street signs and house numbers I doubt athletes have to fill out their whereabouts* with the same accuracy many other athletes do.
I still believe it’s a small percentage of athletes who are doping in Kenya and that the country’s success largely comes from hard work, genetics and culture. However, since the majority of Kenyans are running for monetary gain and how competitive it is just to get a break (race abroad) it doesn’t come as a huge surprise there are cheats given the risks and rewards.
The rewards are pretty obvious for a Kenyan who grows up in poverty where prize money can completely change their life. And the risks aren’t too grim. They don’t seem to have to repay money, no risk of incarceration and they can resume racing after four years (used to be two years). On top of that the chances of getting caught in Kenya are slim to none.
In my opinion the punishment for drug cheats isn’t harsh enough, not even close. The consequences have to be such to deter more athletes who are still choosing to cheat.
At the very least you cannot reward dopers! Athletics Canada keeps inducting drug cheats into their Hall of Fame. This is something that has bothered me for a while and since I’m on the subject I might as well rant about it.
Drug cheats Mark McCoy and Molly Killingbeck were inducted in 2014 and 2015, respectively. They were both sprinters under Charlie Francis and were both implicated in the Dubin inquiry (just like Ben Johnson). Athletics Canada is sending the wrong message by rewarding these athletes. They are basically saying that doping is an acceptable avenue to reach Hall of Fame level performances. It’s like awarding a Pulitzer Prize to someone who plagiarized a book.
*whereabouts refers to a website/app where athletes in the drug testing pool have to input where they will sleep, train, do regular activities and have a one hour slot each day where they can be sure to test you.