My father is an amateur cyclist and, as a result, I grew up spending every July watching the Tour de France. Each time a doping or corruption scandal rocked the sport, I was thankful I competed in a cleaner sport: athletics. We had dealt with our doping issues in the 1980s, I naively thought. Sure, there were still dopers in athletics, but we were ahead of the cyclists. I even wrote an anti-doping editorial for the Seattle Times as a young athlete in 2000, and was convinced by those in my sport that the doping problem was improving. Read more
Over the past week new Olympic medalists were crowned in track and field. We’ve seen dramatic performances, amazing back stories, and new stars emerge. But while the competition on the field has finished, unfortunately the results have not yet been finalized. Read more
As the games begin I run the gamut of emotions from the excitement of seeing the best of the best go head to head to deep despair and disappointment. As young coach in 1972 and 76 the Olympics was pure excitement, it was in my mind the pinnacle of athlete excellence. I trained with some Olympians and getting to see them in the big show was special. I got to go to Montreal as a spectator. It was so exciting I was like a kid in a candy store I was oblivious to the politics going on. I was there, I went to the practice track every day from day literally from dawn to dusk until track & field competition began. When the competition began I would watch the warm-ups at the practice track and run to my seat in the stadium for the competition. What an inspirational learning experience. It was heady times for a naïve young coach who thought it was all about technique and training and good coaching. Little did I know what was to come? Read more
We are less than a week from the start of the Olympics. But rather than talking about the athletes, the main story continues to be doping. More specifically, the topic is the failure of the current anti-doping systems. On this week’s podcast we bring on guest Pierre-Jean Vazel. As both a journalist and elite sprinting coach, Vazel has a unique perspective on the topic. We discuss how we got into this current mess, issues with the current system, and what hope we have for moving past these mistakes. Read more
Man, it’s been a long time! I’ve spent many months focused on making another Olympic team. I’ll sum up my experiences at the Olympic Trials quickly, and get to my blog. Read more
Imagine a sprinter ran 9.58 seconds at an obscure all-comers meet, then shows up in Rio running 10.10 seconds. You would be an idiot not to ask questions about a performance drop off like that of more than 5%. Perhaps the track was short; maybe the wind gauge was faulty; or even that the athlete was not subject to rigorous out-of-competition drug testing. There could be legitimate reasons for the drop off too: the athlete could now be injured, or just choking more than anyone in history. Either way, such a deviation requires some type of explanation. Unfortunately, these types of performances happen all the time in our sport and no one asks about them. It is the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. Read more
Tomorrow the World Anti-Doping Agency will release the McLaren Report, which will provide a detailed look at allegations that arose in May regarding systemic cheating by Russia to win medals at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. While the main focus is on winter sports, it is expected that the report will take a broader look at Russian doping practices across many sports. These allegations will no doubt be used by the IAAF in defending its decision to ban Russia track and field team from the 2016 Olympics. Russia no doubt is doing things wrong, but don’t let us be distracted from the fact that the IAAF is equally culpable. The IAAF needs to implement major changes if track and field has any chance of being cleaned up. Read more
Earlier this morning Sergej Litvinov was informed by the IAAF that his application for exceptional eligibility to compete at the 2016 Olympics was declined along with 66 other athletes. (The rejection did not address all of the grounds for exception raised in Litvinov’s 13-page application, and we are in further communication with them to clarify these points.) In reading through the decision, some initial social media reactions, and media reports it is clear that the big picture is being overlooked. With that in mind, I’ve put together a primer on the topic that helps put the Russia doping issue in context. Read more
Editor’s Note: Earlier this week we published an open letter from Sergej Litvinov to Lord Sebastian Coe. Many view all Russian athletes as hiding behind their federation. However some athletes like Litvinov do not want to hide. Below is an email exchange between Litvinov and the IAAF.
After the IAAF removed him from their doping pool last year, Litvinov requested inclusion in the pool and asked why he, as a world-class thrower, would no longer be subject to any effective anti-doping systems. The IAAF pointed out to him that he would still be subject to RUSADA, although at this time RUSADA has already been suspended for more than two weeks by WADA. Litvinov has continued to voluntary submit his whereabouts to the IAAF since leaving the doping pool last year.
Editor’s Note: Last week the IAAF announced that the Russian athletics team will not be eligible to compete in the upcoming Olympic Games due systemic doping issues. Sergej Litvinov is the Russian champion in the hammer throw and placed 5th at last year’s World Championships. This week he wrote the following letter to Lord Sebastian Coe, President of the IAAF, asking what he can personally do to compete again.
Dear Lord Coe,
When it was announced that the Russian team will be banned from the upcoming Olympics last week, the common reaction here in Russia was denial mixed with anger. Many top athletes and officials continue to deny the scope of the problem and are angry that Russia is being singled out while similar issues exist in many places across the world.
I am not in denial. Read more