Month: January 2015

ROSA & ASSOCIATES TO CONDUCT INDEPENDENT DRUG TESTING IN KENYA

Claudio Berardelli & Federico Rosa 2011 (via PhotoRun)
Claudio Berardelli & Federico Rosa  (via PhotoRun)

As Defalate-Gate continues to be the lead story leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX in America, Inflate-gate (as in performance) continues to make headlines in Kenya.

With the case against discredited Kenyan marathon star Rita Jeptoo still awaiting final disposition, the IAAF handed down sanctions Tuesday January 27th against eight Kenyan athletes for doping violations (mostly marathon runners).  It was also reported by The Daily Nation that Ms. Jeptoo’s Italian manager Federico Rosa of Rosa & Associates has followed through with his intention of introducing blood testing for all the athletes in his Kenyan stable.

The technology used for such testing arrived in Kenya on Monday and was being cleared at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport’s customs department, according to The Daily Nation.

Two weeks ago Ms. Jeptoo gave testimony before an Athletics Kenya doping commission, and faces either a two or four-year ban after having produced a positive result for the banned blood-booster EPO in an out-of-competition test preceding last fall’s Chicago Marathon, a race she won for the second year in a row.  Jeptoo’s coach Claudio Berardelli and Mr. Rosa also gave testimony before the commission, as did her estranged husband Noah Busienie, who coached Jeptoo before Mr. Berardelli.

With three Boston and two Chicago Marathon titles Jeptoo is the biggest name caught up in the growing performance-enhancing drug scandal coming out of Kenya in recent years, a scandal that threatens to undermine belief in the entire scope of excellence that the world has come to
expect from the East African distance running juggernaut. (more…)

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DEFLATE-GATE & RUNNING

DeflateGateDeflate-Gate is another example of how out-of-step running is in today’s sporting world. In a classic example of “all publicity is good publicity”, the NFL is going to see the highest rated annual TV show now go through the retractable roof next Sunday in Arizona’s University of Phoenix Stadium for Super Bowl XLIX, all because some footballs had two psi too little air in their bladder last weekend at the AFC Championship game in Foxborough, Mass.  Or maybe running is just too pure for what the world has become.

You see, foot racing is really simple, point A to point B, first one in wins. No style points, no arbitrary ref calls (except for that indoor 3000 last year at the USATF Championship), and pretty much conscientious out-of-competition drug testing.  If you lose, it’s relatively easy to accept, because it’s all on you. It’s not because the coach didn’t put you in, or the guy didn’t throw or kick you the ball.  It’s start to finish, plain and simple. See you there. Obviously, there is cheating, but as we’ve seen with the recent Russian and Kenyan situations, the fight against it is ongoing.

Yet with its DeFlate-Gate kerfuffle the NFL has no one to blame (or congratulate, depending on your level of cynicism) but itself. It wanted it both ways, to seem to have a level playing field, while allowing the foxes to run the hen houses. So Instead of every team playing with the same footballs, like every baseball team plays with the same baseballs — a no-brainer in terms of an even playing field — the NFL caved in to the Dynamic Duo, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. 

In 2006 Brady and Manning lobbied for visiting teams to be allowed to bring 12 broken-in balls of their own to every away game, because God knows it wasn’t enough to strip defenses from playing, you know, defense – for heaven sakes, don’t breath hard on the wide receivers — no, with all those passing records making billionaires out of millionaires and millionaires out of everyone else, and the NFL rising above baseball to become America’s new pastime, a little wink, wink, nod, nod at how the game is played isn’t going to be noticed, is it?  Yeah, and all those home runs crushed by pharmaceuticaly enhanced head-swellers, where was the harm in that?  (more…)

INTERNET NO SUBSTITUTE FOR BROADCAST

Chris Derrick wins Great Edinburgh XC with teammate Jake Riley in 2nd.
Chris Derrick wins Great Edinburgh XC with teammate Jake Riley in 2nd.

Excellent BBC coverage of yesterday’s Great Edinburgh Cross Country featuring repeat wins by Americans Garrett Heath in the 4km and Chris Derrick in the 8km, along with American men’s 8km, women’s 6km, and two junior races in the team-scored competition. And thanks to USATF.TV for streaming the coverage to U.S. fans over the internet.

But as my long-time friend and cameraman Dale Wong said in December as we prepared to webcast the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon, “we are losing our minor sports due to the internet.”

Losing fans by having coverage? Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? But Dale, who has been shooting races since the mid-1980s went on to clarify his position.

“It is broadcast TV viewership that fuels the next generation of fans and participants. Station surfers will run across an event and say, ‘I gotta try that.’ What internet coverage does is maintain what you already have, but it doesn’t attract any new viewers.”

Besides NXN, Dale still shoots the New York City Marathon and Ironman Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii. He and I have been friends since the days of Running & Racing, the Salmini Films produced series that ran 26 weeks a year on ESPN beginning in the mid-1980s. We also traveled the world together for ESPN’s Road Race of the Month, which aired from 1989 to 1998.

Road Race of the Month crew:  (l-r) Dale Wong, Alex Simon, Ed Eyestone, Guatemala President Alvaro Arzu, TR, Mike Long, Rich Jayne - Coban, Guatemala 1997
Road Race of the Month crew: (l-r) Dale Wong, Alex Simon, Ed Eyestone, Guatemala President Alvaro Arzu, TR, Mike Long, Rich Jayne – Coban, Guatemala 1997

“Those shows promoted the sport to a wide-spread audience,” said Dale. “Today, there is nothing on broadcast or sport cable to get that guy who’s never seen a race on TV before, and now might want to see another.“

That isn’t to say internet coverage isn’t important and necessary. Flotrack and RunnerSpace do yeoman service for the sport. And the NYRR has promoted its top events quite well with its own in-house internet programming. But without a wider distribution channel, the sport will slowly continue to see an erosion in whatever base set of fans it now has as fewer and fewer new eyeballs run across performances like we saw yesterday in Edinburgh.

END

WHY ALTITUDE MIGHT DEFINE DIFFERENCES IN MARATHON PERFORMANCE

Dr. Michael Joyner
Dr. Michael Joyner

In response to my recent article, BILL RODGERS: SPEAKING OF ALTITUDE, I received an email from Dr. Michael Joyner, Professor of Anesthesiology and an exercise physiology researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.  Over the last 25 years Dr. Joyner has published hundreds of scientific papers, and in 2011 received a Fulbright Specialist Grant.

Dr. Joyner views on the reliability of exceptional performances have appeared in Runner’s World, and he has co-authored numerous papers concerning the sport of distance running, such as How Low Can Marathon Times Go in the journal Conversation and Modeling: Optimal Marathon Performance on the Basis of Physiological Factors.

After sending me a 2012 paper published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation that delved deeply into the subject of the body’s physiological adaptation to altitude, I asked Dr. Joyner if he could explain in more layman’s terms how altitude adaptation might help explain the current statistical gap between altitude-born and lesser or sea-level born in marathon performance.
(more…)

SHOWDOWN IN LONDON: HEAD TO HEAD

The Virgin Money London Marathon announced its 2015 professional men’s field today, and the gathering is already making salivary glands water among the faithful world-wide.  But though it is already being dubbed “Greatest Field in History” – and how many times have we heard that before? – what I found most appealing about the roll-out was how binary the London organizers made it.

Kipsang vs Kimetto clashofchampions

While former London Marathon champion and course record holder Emmanuel Mutai has also been signed, along with 2014 Chicago king Eliud Kipchoge, and the redoubtable Keninise Bekele of Ethiopia, any one of whom might well expect to see his name up on a race marquee, notwithstanding the presence of those other stars, it’s the current and former marathon world record holders who are primarily being touted. This is a welcome sign of marketing savvy, and takes a page from how boxing promotes it’s major fights. (more…)

BILL RODGERS: SPEAKING OF ALTITUDE

Moses Mosop wins Xiamen 2015 (Jiang Kehong photo)
Moses Mosop wins Xiamen 2015 (Jiang Kehong photo)

The 2015 marathon year began where 2014 left off with Kenyans and Ethiopians sweeping the top places at the Xiamen Marathon in China. Moses Mosop, the big-engine Kenyan who had such an explosive 2011 campaign — but who had been beset by injury and personal issues in the last few years — returned to form in Xiamen with a course record 2:06:19 win.
2. Tilahun Regassa (ETH) 2:06:54
3. Abrha Milaw (ETH) 2:08:09
4. Robert Kwambai (KEN) 2:08:18
5. Tadese Tola (ETH) 2:10:30

Mare Dibaba goes sub-2:20 in Xiamen (Jiang Dehong photo)
Mare Dibaba goes sub-2:20 in Xiamen (Jiang Kehong photo)

On the women’s side, Ethiopia’s Mare Dibaba continued her success from 2014 when she also began the year with a win in Xiamen before showing third in Boston then placing second in Chicago — though those places will likely move up one notch once the Rita Jeptoo drug positive has been adjudicated. Dibaba went 2:19:52 in Xiamen yesterday to destroy her competition & post the event’s first female sub-2:20.

1 Mare Dibaba (ETH) 2:19:52
2 Meseret Legesse (ETH) 2:27:38
3 Meriem Wangari (KEN) 2:27:53
4 Meseret Godana (ETH) 2:36:11
5 Cao Mojie (CHN) 2:43:06

At the end of 2014 I posted my analysis of the marathoning year.  Yesterday, I received a response from my old friend and oft-time running partner Bill Rodgers, the four-time Boston and New York City Marathon champion from the 1970s. Since I only lived two blocks from Bill’s old running center shop in Boston in those days, I would often tag along on Bill’s second run of the day as we spun the miles of Jamaica Pond beneath us in both foul weather and fair. Often during those runs we would discuss exactly the issues that continue to animate the sport to this day. With Bill’s permission, here is how yesterday’s back-and-forth went. (more…)