Drugs in Track & Field

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.

It’s been a rough summer for T&F fans, especially sprint fans. First, the news in June that Veronica Campbell-Brown and Yohan Blake failed tests. Two of Jamaica’s three most popular athletes busted. What could be bigger than that? How about what we got about a month later? Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell, Nesta Carter, Sherone Simpson and a so far unnamed 4th Jamaican sprinter.

I’m a little behind the story because I was out camping and barely checking news when this weekend’s news broke. I’ve been trying to figure out what to write about this story or whether I should just let it go. Obviously, I decided not to let it go.

Instead, after all the discussion about how T&F is going to die because of this and counter arguments explaining why T&F is not going to die, largely based on the fact that the Tour de France didn’t die because of far more severe revelations of widespread drug use, I’d like to explain why I’m going to continue to be a T&F fan. I’m going to try to keep it short and to the point.

First, this doesn’t change the equation. Ben Johnson. Marion Jones. Justin Gatlin. Those are just three high profile names. The list is almost endless. Any T&F fan who has been paying attention to the sport should not have been surprised by the news of the past month. When I heard this past weekend’s news, I honestly didn’t flinch. Even though Tyson Gay was the type of guy who would not raise suspicion with his personality, the signs were there. A past training partner had been caught doping. His coach doesn’t have a squeaky clean record. He came back from very difficult injuries and, at an age where most sprinters are in decline, has been having a stellar year. None of these prove guilt but they create a situation where one shouldn’t be surprised if the worst is confirmed, as it now has been. As difficult as it can be to be this cynical and as much as I want to believe in everyone’s innocence, it’s just a fact of life now. Is there any professional athlete who, if you saw a headline saying that athlete has tested positive, you would be truly shocked? This leads to my second point…

The bottom line is all sports are dirty. If you don’t believe drugs are a problem in your favorite sport, you have your head in the sand. Drugs exist in every sport. In any pursuit, some people are going to try to cheat. In pursuits where cheaters don’t get caught, the cheaters will take over the pursuit and force honest competitors to the second tier. This happens in business, politics, every walk of life. In sports, the ones where you don’t hear about drugs are actually the most drug riddled. Drug testing is so lax or even nonexistant that anybody can cheat with impunity. T&F is not one of these sports. While exposing drug cheats may look bad, at least you’re doing something to make it harder to cheat. This is the angle T&F has taken, at least in some countries like, as we see this year, Jamaica and the United States. So this doesn’t change the equation for me. T&F is no more dirty than any other sport. As a fan of sports in general, why would this change my interest in T&F?

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