Monday, October 7, 2019

Dirt

The world of professional track and field is a world of doping.  But so is the world of professional football, baseball, cycling and soccer.  The problem is track and field gets a black eye because of the cheats while other sports, largely football, baseball and soccer get a pass.  As a fan of track and field the double standards frustrate me.

But what I find even more frustrating is track and field's reluctance to deal harshly with the cheaters who are caught.  Alberto Salazar has colored outside the lines for more than a quarter of a century.  USADA finally caught up him thanks in large part to Salazar coached athletes who didn't want to cheat and by a coach, Steve Magness, who Salazar used as a human guinea pig.

My first private coach had deep connections to the professional ranks.  I can remember our conversations from the mid-1980's about Salazar's questionable use of supplements and other performance enhancers while he was still a competitor.  Salazar was a win at all costs athlete.

Salazar's first high profile athlete to be busted was Mary Slaney in 1996 for steroids.  Slaney denies that Salazar was coaching her and claimed the positive was due to birth control.  USATF didn't buy it and the ban was upheld and Salazar somehow managed to escape punishment.

If you closely read the USADA report on Salazar's propensity to push the rules it's painfully clear that he was working hard at finding ways to use steroids in ways that were undetectable to testing.  It's called micro-dosing.

When the four year ban came out several high profile athletes including Olympic medalists Nick Willis and Jenny Simpson hailed his ban.  Simpson went so far as to call for a lifetime ban.

Meanwhile Salazar and the deep pockets of NIKE plan to fight the ban in the courts.  Remember NIKE was a major backer of doper Lance Armstrong until the mountain of evidence brought the biking legend down.  And the sport is heavily dependent on NIKE's support and dollars.

The worst of it is the money and medals that Salazar coached athletes have stolen from clean athletes.  What hurts the most is the string of championships and medals by the likes of Galen Rupp, Mo Farah and Matt Centrowitz, Jr. and most recently Sifan Hassan.  As a fan I want to think those medals were earned the right way.  Deep down inside I question their accomplishments.

We will likely never know how deep this scandal runs because unlike in Armstrong's case other cyclists came forward to tell his deepest, darkest secrets, those in the know will keep those secrets near and dear.  It's been that way in the sport since steroids first came on the scene in the 1960's.  And it will stay that way because somehow, some way, the science of cheating always manages to stay ahead of the tests to catch them.   

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