I read the mind-numbing response by Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar to the scathing series of stories from the BBC and Pro-Publica which questions whether his group of elite distance runners use performance enhancing drugs. Salazar mounts a decent defense, but it is full of holes and out right lies. For me, as a fan of the sport, for the last 25 years I've operated under the assumption that they all cheat. I firmly believe that in one way or another, the vast majority of elite track and field athletes cheat.
Salazar's reputation was pretty hazy even back in the 1980's. My private coach, Tom Dowling, worked with elite athletes during that era. Tom told of how Salazar was known for experimenting with a lotion horse trainers used to reduce inflammation in their thoroughbreds. He was always looking for ways to gain an edge.
Still by and large I believe distance running was relatively clean through the 1980's but by 1988... the Olympics had become a showcase for doping. Ben Johnson got caught. Florence Griffith-Joyner did not, but anyone who had truly followed the sport knew that something about Flo-Jo was amiss. Then came Ma's Army and the string of stunning world records set by Chinese women in 1993. These ladies were doped to the gills.
Looking across the 1990's my suspicions only grew with the record setting by Morceli, El Guerrouj and Gebresallasie made me question everything. The world records at 5000 and 10000 meters were further taken down to ridiculous times by Bekele and all I could do is shake my head.
What we really need to take away from the BBC/Pro-Publica stories isn't what may or may not be happening with NOP. It's the fact that the BBC reporter showed how easy it is to micro-dose banned substance, reap the benefits of those drugs and still beat the drug tests. That's the real story and that's the real dilemma.
WADA is helpless to stop doping. The various governing bodies of the so-called Olympic sports that include track and field, cycling and swimming, need to take a very hard look at their drug rules. My takeaway is that doping is here to stay and the cheats will always be a step ahead of the tests. I hate to say drop the rules against doping but I see no reason to continue the charade.