DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?

So far in this first week of the 2016 Rio Olympics they’ve raised the red, white and blue of the American flag more than any other. But by the end of the Games it may well be that the red flag of WHAT!??! could flutter most high and most often.

It’s getting harder and harder trying to keep track of the Olympic eye rolls. The minute you try to wrap your head around one thing another one pops up to replace it. Just when the focus was on the Kenyan official attempting to peddle advanced warnings on drug testing, we learn he got a row mate on the flight back to Nairobi when another Kenyan coach got booted for taking a random drug test under the name of 800 meter man Ferguson Rotich.

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But that was all off the field, along with the dirty green water in the Olympic diving pool. Now we’ve got Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia smashing the women’s world record in the 10,000 meters by 14 seconds (29:17.45) on day one in the Olympic stadium without as much as a furrowed brow or reliance on a turtle-based concoction of any sort.

The 10,000 world record, we recall, was set in 1993 by the Chinese runner Wang Junxia, a member of Coach Ma Junren’s Army who claimed his runners were fueled by turtle blood and caterpillar fungus until Wang later copped to being doped.

John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful asked in the bright summer of 1965, “Do You Believe in Magic?” Well, actually I did then, but I don’t now. And how could you?

It is the sad state of our most cynical world (THE NEW AGE OF GUILT). There is no automatic, wide-eyed belief in the transcendent anymore. And that is a shame for Ms. Ayana and any others who may be falsely suspected. But we have been taught too well over too long a period of time. We have been burned too often. Approximating Breaker Morant, “this is what comes of empire building.” Or, in this case, from IOC empire saving, for this is the bitter harvest of the IOC’s own fallow field plantings.

The economy collapsed in 2008, because for years we were told by financial predators “we can save you money”, “everyone can afford a house”.  It wasn’t true, and without proper oversight bundled sub-prime loans crashed the economy. So when the promises come now, it’s caveat emptor.

One of the beauties of athletics is that it’s a sport of effort, rather than skill. It is a very close ordered sport where differences are paper-thin at the world-class level, because everyone does variations of the same training.  Vivian Cheruiyot and Tirunesh Dibaba are historic figures in women’s distance running. Today, they were made to look ordinary until you looked at their times in silver and bronze positions behind Ms. Ayana.

Training harder than everybody else is one thing, but destroying a world-class field and smashing a drugged-up world record without the semblance of effort or fatigue is a mortgage rate that won’t hold.

So when will the next red flag be raised?  I know one thing, its anthem will be played in a decidedly minor chord.

END

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22 thoughts on “DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?

  1. Pingback: TOP 10 POSTS OF 2016 « Toni Reavis

  2. Pingback: The Calculus Of Enjoying Almaz Ayana's World Record | View the latest breaking news

  3. I see some major hypocrisy here. When Mo Farah and Galen Rupp went 1 2 in the last Olympics nobody said anything. They destroyed Kenyans and Ethiopians. They worked with a coach that pushes the envelope. It’s not speculation..it’s a known fact exposed by former athletes.

    But this is the straw that broke the camel’s back.? It seems like this is just a bunch of talk from sore lousers

    One more point. Toni’s point that she looked fresh after breaking the world record and that was the red flag is embarrassingly funny.

    Go back and take a look at footage of the past world record runs. Unless they are going eye balls out at the end. This is a controlled pace for them. Almaz stepped on the gas and could only manage a 68. Claiming an athlete is doped because of how they looked while arguing that the time is within the realm of other times ran by men and women is just pathetic.

    The people on this forum that claim they stopped watching are also full of it. Trust me they are watching. They are just mad that Africans rule!!!

    • I don’t agree with that at all. The East German swimmers were doping. Chinese runners were doping. Russian runners and weight-lifters and skiers and perhaps swimmers were doping. Lance Armstrong and other white cyclists were doping. As MLK said: “It’s not the color of the skin but the content of the character.”

  4. Hi Tony and everyone. I, like you all watched the race today in disbelief. Truthfully I was absolutely rivited. Like I couldn’t sit down or take my eyes off of the tv(well besides the commercials). But watching the race was fun, and exciting, and I kept hoping against fate for a blow up and a Molly Huddle miracle.

    What does all this mean? Nothing really…except I’m not a big time runner or expert, I’m just a fan. I was just fast enough in high school to appreciate the ability and fall in love with the sport. But I could run 20 miles a day for the rest of my life and i wouldnt ever sniff the ability of these endurance monsters.

    And I think it goes without saying that this race was a million times better than jog fest championship races that we tend to see on the men’s side (and unfortunately will probably see tomorrow).

    So yes PEDs are bad, and yes I want to believe that my heros are clean as a whistle, but this race was extraordinary.

    AND IT’S RACES LIKE THIS THAT GET NORMAL GUYS LIKE ME TO PAY ATTENTION (and normal fans are probably what track and field needs to survive). So are these athletes doped to the gills? Maybe, maybe not. But these ladies were fast and racing from the gun. And in my narrow perspective; not an expert, just a fan…that’s ok by me.

  5. I’ll post this again so it’s not missed:

    Women’s Olympic 10,000m – A Transformational Race for Women Running Long

    37 athletes – produced:
    1 World Record
    2 Area Records
    8 National Records
    18 PRs
    5 Season Bests
    4 Women under 30 minutes
    2 Just 2 runners DNF

    What we witnessed was what can happen when women run in fast, in-line competition and company, where from 200m into the race the WR was under threat – thanks to Nawowuna’s assumption of the lead and pace.

    Only a cynic would suggest that all these women must be doping but instead this amazing 10,000m race reflected the still relatively undeveloped nature of women’s distance running on the track. Today, was a celebration of women’s potential achieved. Were all the athletes clean? Let’s leave that to the testers and accept that the vast majority, if not all, of these women were achieving clean and let us recognize and celebrate that.

    • Hi, Peter,

      Don’t disagree with much of your position. And we certainly don’t believe the entire field is doping. Of course, it is easier to get towed to a fast time, as Ayana was herself through 5K. That helps explain why everyone else could produce such quick times.

      What’s more, the new 10,000 WR falls right in line with the the rest of the women’s vs. men’s WRs in percentage terms. In fact, Ayana’s 29:17 is only fifth best (of 8) in the 100, 200, 400, 800, 1500, 5000, 10,000, marathon list at 89.7% of Bekele’s 26:17. The best women’s mark is Flojo’s 10.49 100m, which is 91.32% of Bolt’s 9.58.

      So it isn’t the time so much as the effort. Perhaps, as you suggest, that is what magic looks like. But It still looked way too easy and untroubled to my eye.

      Best, as always,

      Toni

      • Event Men Women %

        100 – 9.58. 10.49. 91.32%
        200 – 19.19 21.34. 89.92%
        400 – 43.18. 47.60. 90.7%
        800 – 1:40.91. 1:53.28. 89.0%
        1500 – 3:26.00. 3:50.07. 89.52%
        5000 – 12:37.35. 14:11.15. 89%
        10,000 – 26:17.53. 29:17.45. 89.7%
        Mara. – 2:02:58. 2:15:25. 90.8%

      • When you look into the 5000m progression of 25 year-old Alma Ayana

        2011 15:12.24
        2012 14:57.97
        2013 14:25.84
        2014 14:29.19
        2015 14:14.32
        2016 14:12.59

        – 14:46/14:30 becomes possible and understandable – we simply must naively trust until we know 100% otherwise.

        Also, Toni, ‘Peak Performance’ approaches ‘Peak Experience’ at certain times and “action follows upon without conscious thought.” In these altered states of consciousness, there can be the outward appearance of ease while the individual has unified the mind and body to answer in this moment the paradox of ultimate effort with ultimate ease.

        How many times have world record holders said, since time immemorial, after their WR performance, “It felt so easy, it was like total relaxation. I can’t believe I ran that fast, threw that far, jumped that far”.

        Certainly, as a young, inexperienced coach I said to an athlete I coached, “Wow, you’ve just won the National Championships with a record time – just think what you can do when you really try.” In my ignorance, I had not realized that this immensely gifted athlete could already at a young age answer ‘The Paradox’ of ultimate effort and ultimate relaxation and had reached as deep into themselves at that time.

      • Peter,

        I am well aware of and have experience of the Axis Mundi theory of peak performance, finding that place, like the axis of the world, where motion and stillness become one. But perhaps the key phrase in your last reply was “we must naïvely trust until we are 100% certain.”

        In ithis day and age naivety is a fool’s game. I rather see it as Reagan did Gorbachev, “trust but verify”. And as we well know, out of competition drug testing in East Africa is minimal at best, while rewards remain great, and punishment not nearly punitive enough to serve as a deterrent.

        As young men we could afford such a casual approach. But if the last 50 years have taught us anything, it is that human nature and naivety are not training partners of the soul.

  6. This, the Chinese walkers (coached by drug pusher Sandro Damilano who got out of Italy when Schwazer failed his 1st test) and Phelps/Ledecki in the pool are the ultimate in absurdity. Absolute BS.

  7. TONY, Almost everyone ended up breaking their PR in this race, both Vivian Cheruiyot and Tirunesh Dibaba just had a baby and are past their prime. When was the last time a women’s 10000 meter went out at 2:55 for 2000m?. If Dibaba and Cheruiyot can ran this fast now, how fast do you think they would have run during their prime? have you taken all this in to consideration?

    • Anon,

      Thanks for the reply. First of all, you run faster being towed from behind just like Ayana was through the first 5K by Nawowuna. And it wasn’t even so much the fact that she ran the time that is raising these red flags, it is the manner in which it was done. No strain, no fatigue, no seeming reduction in energy stores after finishing. Maybe it is just cynicism, but when past Olympians who know a thing or two about training and racing these distances raise concerns, it tells me there may be something here. Plus, as others have pointed out, drug testing in Ethiopia is quite limited.

      So I certainly don’t wish I felt this way, as Ethiopians are wonderful people and it’s a place I’ve visited numerous times. But one sees what one sees, and feels what one feels. Thanks for reading.

      Toni

  8. Tony,

    I love your commentaries, but I hope you are wrong this time. I relished the performances in the women’should 10,000m. Please keep up your great work. We need your intelligent, articulate and knowledgeable sports and political commentary.

    Hey, I improved from a 4:02 first time marathon to 2:57 ( unlike Paul Ryan, who lied about his marathon time – sub 3- by over an hour) with 5 1/2 years of
    hard racing and training without drugs, so almost anything is possible (32 years ago).Now I swim and cycle at 69 to stay fit.

    Thanks again for your wonderful contributions to the running community all these years.

  9. Toni:

    It was also just very hard for me to believe what I was watching this morning on TV. Approximately 14:31 for the 2nd 5K of the race… and she broke it open huge by 6K…. and just kept rolling! I truly love a fast and aggressive race pace… instead of the old “sit and kick” Olympic finals of yesteryear…. but I couldn’t help questioning what I was seeing! Even while I was still watching it!

    The most amazing and unbelievable part of her race was the apparent lack of any sign of physical strain whatsoever in her face, neck, shoulders, etc…. I was looking for some sign of growing fatigue…. but there was NOTHING! Then, she recovered like it was simply a mild interval effort just moments after the race. Check out what Molly Huddle looked like physically in her 2nd half and especially after her finish for a clear contrast and comparison… and you will realize what I am talking about. I know that winning… and getting an Olympic Gold medal & new WR… would surely be a wonderful elixir for most all of us and give us all greatly enhanced recuperative powers….. but it just looked too good to be true… and, sadly, my older self now realizes…. that when things look or sound… “too good to be true”…..they usually are!

    Even if her urine sample passes today’s tests… I hope they save many samples from today for future testing… as technology attempts to catch up with today’s leading edge cheaters. I once read an article online written by a decent journalist/cyclist…. and he wrote about his personal observations as he tried several PED’s and journaled what it did for his own cycling training and time trials. The most significant improvement that he personally observed was with his utilization of EPO… and the perceived as well as measured improvement of performance in his long, hard rides and heightened recovery afterwards for the next day of riding….sadly, it exactly mirrors what I witnessed today.

    I hate this new world of top performance cynicism but I have to go back to 1984 and blame it all on my old friend, Finland’s Marti Vainio, who got DQed from his Olympic 10K silver due to both blood loading as well as taking steroids during his “heavy winter training.” He tested positive because he stored blood taken earlier in the year that still carried faint traces of steroid usage…. and then “loaded” the stored blood in his body the week of the race. It was sniffed out by the newer LA anti-drug testing lab. Sadly, he had to plead guilty to both illegal activities…. and my innocence with international distance running regarding steroid usage was gone forever after that transgression. The usage of EPO today makes blood loading obsolete in most respects. It will be interesting to observe the men’s 10K tomorrow. Will it be as fast?

  10. Ayana ran a 14:30 second half – quicker than Olympic 5000m record & the first half would have won 3 of the 5 previous Olympic 5000m finals – in a 10k! Now I don’t take credit for doing this research myself so please feel free to confirm or correct – but I did watch the race & rediculous effortless run – & seeing Molly red-lining off the back of the front group in the first 1/2 while they looked like they were out for a stroll spoke volumes…

  11. Well said, Toni. It’s sad that we can’t fully enjoy Olympic track and field without questioning whether or not the winners are doping. Strategically, Ayana ran the type of race that I’d love to see more of in championships. But of course, it’s suspect. Many women got pulled to fast times today, including Molly Huddle. My question is: how far down the results board do we go until we stop questioning whether an athlete is doping? I’m not insinuating anything about her, but if we suspect Ayana, do we also suspect the other medalists? Those who set new PRs today?

  12. Toni: I don’t believe in magic but I do believe in doping. As I’ve posted on FB, I’m done watching the games. What’s the point?

    Claudia

    • I believe in magic, Toni. Here’s my comment –

      Women’s Olympic 10,000m – A Transformational Race for Women Running Long

      37 athletes – produced:
      1 World Record
      2 Area Records
      8 National Records
      18 PRs
      5 Season Bests
      4 Women under 30 minutes
      2 Just 2 runners DNF

      What we witnessed was what can happen when women run in fast, in-line competition and company, where from 200m into the race the WR was under threat – thanks to Nawowuna’s assumption of the lead and pace.

      Only a cynic would suggest that all these women must be doping but instead this amazing 10,000m race reflected the still relatively undeveloped nature of women’s distance running on the track. Today, was a celebration of women’s potential achieved. Were all the athletes clean? Let’s leave that to the testers and accept that the vast majority, if not all, of these women were achieving clean and let us recognize and celebrate that.

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