I watched the Olympic Marathon Trials and was so impressed by Galen Rupp’s performance and then was so deflated listening to Kara Goucher’s claim that his success is due to Performance Enhancing Drugs. This accusation led me to the BBC special on this subject-focusing on Alberto Salazar and his Oregon Project and their purported use of PED’s. The whole thing makes me sad. Sad for the athletes, sad for the amateurs and sad for the sport of long distance running.
I am not a professional athlete. Far from it. I have never had a sponsor or paid a coach. Sure I earned a few bucks in the PA cross country series and one time won a race sponsored by Chevy’s and got free Chevy’s meals for a year. But even as an amateur I can understand how a professional might be tempted to partake in PED’s. Running is very hard. Training day in and day out, often twice a day, can be grueling. To keep this up over a long training cycle likely will result in injury, burnout or both. If a trusted coach suggests a pill or injection to aid your recovery and boost your workouts without compromising your promise to stay clean, I think we would all be tempted.
I was on steroids before and can attest to their power. I am going to sound like Maria Sharapova, Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong and a host of other professional athletes, when I tell you that I was “prescribed these drugs for a medical condition and had no idea that they were banned”. The difference is that unlike these athletes, I am not a professional and my steroids were NOT for athletic performance but were given for anti-nausea prior to chemotherapy infusions. And man, were they powerful! I took the drugs the 3 days leading up to my infusion and I would get so fired up (some may say wound up) these 3 days that despite the ill effects of chemo I was able to run, swim and/or cycle and feel pretty darn good.
So yes, I can understand how professional athletes who are relying on speedy recoveries from increasing mileage or demanding workouts would be drawn to the power of these drugs. But it makes me so sad to know our sport is tainted by cheaters. I wanted to believe that running was so pure and required such discipline that those capable of this could not stoop so low. I should have known from professional cycling that no sport was immune.
I would like to believe that the cheaters are the exception. Please pro’s, help me believe this. As we enter this Olympic season I want to watch you all glide around the track and through the streets of Rio with the confidence that you are clean and have earned your way to Rio through hard work, smart coaching and sacrifices alone. I will cheer for you and celebrate with you and sadly now have to question you.
Run on my friends.