Emanuel A.M.E. Church
Both the state of South Carolina and the sport of athletics (track and field) are going through a particularly trying patch right now, though hardly on a par with one another.
In the Palmetto State the issue at hand has been the status of the Confederate Battle Flag, a polarizing symbol that has come under renewed scrutiny in the wake of the tragic shooting of nine at Charleston’s Emanuel A.M.E. Church by racist provocateur Dylann Roof.
In athletics the sides-divider it isn’t nearly as important, which is not to say that the allegations of rules bending, substance manipulation, and counter charges that continue to circle the Nike Oregon Project and its coach Alberto Salazar at the USATF Nationals is inconsequential within the realm of its own limits.
Through it all, opposing sides have been divided, opinions cemented, and reputations tarnished. Of course, due to the already significant loss of interest in the sport over the last 25 years, the mainstream press has yet to shine its blinding light beneath our particular little rock. No, there are way too many worms wriggling beneath Tom Brady’s Deflate-gate appeal and analyzing who did well or ill at the recent NBA draft. Continue reading
New York City 1981
At long last Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar has come out with his response to the allegations made by a joint BBC/Pro Publica investigation regarding performance enhancing drugs and the misuse of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) at the Nike Oregon Project. I urge you to read both David Epstein’s original investigative piece (linked above) and Alberto’s two-part rebuttal here and here.
But what has always been a head-scratcher to me as I followed the story over the last three weeks (and after knowing Alberto for most of our adult lives) was how so many people knew about the Androgel, the testosterone cream that was one of the main contentions of the investigation and follow up stories.
According to a Letsrun.com headline linking to a Daily Mail story out of England: “The AndroGel was so prevalent”
But that’s my point. Seems Alberto was telling anyone and everyone about it, not hiding it or making it all secret. He told massage therapist John Stiner to clean out the Park City, Utah apartment that the NOP team used as a high-altitude training camp, all the while knowing there were needles and vials and a tube of Androgel there? That is who you tell to clean up your drug pit, an independent contractor who is not in on the cabal? Continue reading
Like so many other athletics fans world-wide, I note with sadness the passing of Australian great Ron Clarke, who died earlier today of kidney failure at a private hospital on the Gold Coast, where Clarke had served as mayor from 2004 — 2012. He was 78.
In memoriam I re-post a column from November 2013 that featured Mr. Clarke.
“DON’T TRAIN TOO HARD, DON’T MAKE IT TOO EASY”
When is a man not a man? Whoever thought such a question would have any currency? We might have chuckled at the campy 1970s TV series The Six Million Dollar Man, starring Lee Majors, or chomped through several over-priced buttered popcorn boxes watching Arnold as the Terminator, but with technology rapidly replacing worn out parts — or, in the case of Caitlyn Jenner (nee Bruce), unwanted parts — we are reaching the point where man and machine may soon be indistinguishable, and ethics will once again be sorely tested.
Rules and regulations are instituted with the goal of establishing an even playing field where fair competition can be conducted. How else to determine a true champion? But it is only when we all agree upon and adhere to those rules and regulations that such a goal can be achieved. The minute there are competing interpretations is when we come into existential conflict.
Periodically, as today, there is a school of thought which throws up its hands, and in frustration declares, “just give in and let performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) be allowed in sport.” After all, goes the argument, although there are health risks involved with PED use, by their nature sports are inherently risky, and PEDs would simply be another risk associated with participation. Plus, with medical supervision those risks would be largely eliminated.
And there is some logic behind that frustration and its corollary suggestion, as the best efforts of the testers have been consistently behind the users since PEDs began coming into wide spread use in the 1960s. But since there is not a clear boundary between “safe” and “unsafe” PED use, the line would only be shifted, not erased. So is it ever as simple as just turning the page? Continue reading
ExxonMobil Bislett Games, Oslo
Many of the past stars of the ExxonMobil Bislett Games glorious first 50 years were in attendance in Oslo yesterday to celebrate the Golden Anniversary. And the fields were so strong and the hopes so high, but did anyone else feel a little Bleh! with the results?
I texted my pal Jack Waitz whose late wife Grete’s statue stands out front of the historical oval, and even he came back with, “Boring!”
But as steeplechase pacer Haron Lagat posted on his Facebook account, “Oslo windy and humid”. And sometimes when attempting something special that is all it takes to throw off our high expectations. Continue reading
Good news — Bad news on this National Running Day 2015. The bad news comes from the BBC investigative show Panorama, which, in conjunction with Pro Publica raised disquieting questions about alleged drug use and unethical practices by Coach Alberto Salazar at the Nike Oregon Project. I won’t retrace the allegations. You can read the complete story at the Pro Publica link above. *
Suffice it to say that performance-enhancing drugs have been the bane of sports for over sixty years. How many of the current track records do people really believe were achieved on the up-and-up? Today, it is damned if you do run fast, jump high, or throw far (see Justin Gatlin), and damned if you don’t (everybody else).
I’m no apologist for drug use, but with the political conflagration at FIFA, soccer’s governing body, and the corruption everyone knows to be endemic in athletics, where does the concept of fair play even begin to come into consideration for the lowly athletes of this world? Kris Kristofferson wrote about such displacement with “freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”. Continue reading