CONSIDERING CHICAGO 2017

People have been asking why I hadn’t written anything on the outcome of this year’s Chicago Marathon after the historic win by Galen Rupp in the men’s race, and the third place finish by Jordan Hasay for women, whose 2:20:57 represents the second-fastest marathon time ever by an American woman.  Well, it has taken me a while to write, because A) I wasn’t there to talk with the principals, and B) there are conflicting emotions at play.

On the surface, it’s a wonderful thing; two American runners achieved a truly impressive outcome against world-class competition in one of the major marathons of the world.  Both athletes are likable and humble with careers of excellence going back to their high school days now coming to full flower in their professional years.  Both have loving support systems and are coached by another all-time great American runner, Alberto Salazar of the Nike Oregon Project. Together, these results are worthy of grand celebrations, all things being equal. But, of course, all things are not equal, which is what leads to the conflicting emotions.

In the same sense that special counsel Robert Mueller’s closed-door investigation into possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election continues to shadow the Trump administration, so, too, does the unresolved USADA investigation into the Nike Oregon Project shadow any result coming out of that camp. That’s just the way of the world, irrespective of which side you may choose to believe.

Now it is true that Coach Salazar has never courted public approval, didn’t as an athlete, hasn’t as a coach. As such he never built up a reservoir of goodwill to help support him through challenging times. But that’s just who he is, no quarter asked, none given.

So when an investigation drags on ad infinitum (regardless of the reason), and media leaks of an interim USADA report suggest a more likely than not negative outcome, what would normally be the best news since Meb Keflezighi‘s win in Boston 2014 instead falls like an unheard tree in the forest. And no matter how many denials Alberto makes, or drug tests his athletes pass, the taint of suspicion never completely leaves. That’s also the way of the world.

But isn’t there also a question of how long is too long for an investigation to take when “the good of the sport” is an organization’s raison d’etre? At what point does an investigation without end hurt the sport as no subsequent result will ever be seen as clean?  How long before justice delayed is justice denied?

Two Americans run historically well in Chicago and it’s tainted cause the coach is under a perpetual cloud?  Where do you go from there? Yet earlier this week we saw how Italian coach Claudio Berardelli was acquitted of any wrong doing in the Rita Jeptoo EPO drug scandal in a Kenyan court after three years of being a suspect and litigant.

But will that finding fully resurrect Coach Berardelli’s reputation, or restore the lost opportunities that attended that three year-long case?

If that is the road ahead, then this sport is truly damned, whether anyone did anything or not. That’s what I think about Chicago 2017.

END

 

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24 thoughts on “CONSIDERING CHICAGO 2017

  1. Wow. Do you guys like listening to the same song over and over again? With this NOP accusation, it seems so. I remember reading an article here a few years ago about the suspicion of the NOP and you came to the same conclusion that you present now: “we suspect Galen is cheating, but we wont come out and actually say he is cheating. We will write our suspicions and imply that he is cheating, so that just in case if he is found to be guilty, we can let the world know that we were right and we can say ‘I told you so'”.

    Do you think he is cheating?

    Yes or no?

    I would argue that my position has strengthened since the last time you wrote about this topic. More time has passed and still, there is no evidence. No evidence of EPO. Of any wrongdoing whatsoever. Galen was clean then and he is clean now.

    Maybe he is simply a great runner?

    Maybe rich people earned their wealth through hard work and smart investing? The simple explanations and the truth hurts. We all know it takes 15 years of hard work and training to become the best US distance runner ever but we dont want to admit it. We want to believe that there were shortcuts. We want to believe that people like Sam Walton, Bill Gates, Phil Knight somehow bypassed hard work and achieved their success through mere luck or worse through cheating and sabotage. But they didnt. They had innate leadership qualities, humility, and focused diligence.

    The real answer to Galen’s success is a combination of superior genetics, rigorous diet control, abstinence from alcohol and social leisure, strength training, and, here comes the big one…17 years of focused running.

    How is that not a satisfactory answer for all of you skeptics out there?

    Your accusations and suspicions are quite similar to those that claim that we faked the moon landing. You believe that there is a massive coverup. That the only reason he hasnt been caught yet is because there are secret meetings behind closed doors and there is collusion going on.

    My question to you is: do you really believe that everyone is “in on it”? Could all of USADA be conspiring against us? Could they be accepting bribes? In that case your accusations imply that USADA is corrupt. Could they be missing key moments to do a drug test? In that case, your accusations imply that they are inept. And you insult their intelligence.

    Dont you think there would be some chubby, jealous employee of USADA who would love nothing more than to take down Galen Rupp? The beautiful thing is, they are on your side: they too want to see Galen Rupp get taken down. But they cant because, well, he is legit.

    You all say, out of political correctness, that youd like for the investigation to end. Well the reality that I live in, it has ended because Galen is still competing. If they had a shred of REAL evidence, they would not allow him to compete.

    Since you are an infuential voice in the running community, I ask that you err on the side of positivity. Lets assume people are innocent until proven guilty. Lets use some empathy and know that when we make accuasations they are serious, they can hurt, and they can last a lifetime. Lets be happy for someones success.

  2. Toni: I, too, wish that the USADA investigation would get completed and have a ruling… as long as it was truly fair and accurate. Two years is a terribly long time to cast a negative shadow on a coach, some of his athletes, and an entire program. It threatens to damage the whole sport because every time there is a big event or championships that certain NOP athletes compete in…. there is always the risk that the results will have to be scrapped and then revised later if there is a punitive finding against NOP. The more big meets/races that go by without a ruling…. the worse it is gonna be for the sport.

    Think if they have to go back all the way to the 2012 Olympic Games for results revision? Or, farther back than that? 2009 was the first time I really had any suspicions. This is just really getting out of hand. Only thing I have to compare it to is the investigation into Lance Armstrong…. and his shadow casts a pall over this whole group/issue due to his association with Nike and the fact that he went to Alberto Salazar for coaching guidance during his marathon endeavors….. where I am sure they might have shared “shop talk.”

    Anyway, both the Armstrong/US Postal Service and Salazar/NOP investigation were/are way too long! If I had to guess I would probably say that the delay in the NOP investigation might revolve around the good Dr. Brown down in Houston putting up barriers/delays to releasing some of his athlete/patient files….and then fighting making himself available to a deposition under oath. I have not heard that this has happened yet and my knowledge of law tells me that this is an essential step in the investigative process. The sooner this happens….. the faster this investigative process will go.

    If Salazar, NOP, Rupp, et al…. are innocent….then you would think they would move heaven and earth to eliminate any roadblocks to a quick and thorough investigation….. with a faster final ruling. If they are not (completely) innocent then it might behoove them strategically to stall for as long as they can…. even though it risks taking the sport down with them. Let’s get on with it, boys….the wheels of justice can turn just a little faster here. Improvise, adapt, and overcome .. in the legal approach. But, just get it “right”!

    However, I also agree with Nick Willis that the media coverage team was amiss in not at least mentioning the “600 lb. gorilla in the room” when it appeared that Rupp would win and Hasay would get 3rd. They didn’t have to dwell on it… but the ongoing investigation should have at least been mentioned/referenced during the Chicago Marathon TV coverage….. with what most everyone already knows anyhow…….

    • USADA/NOP investigation aside, I would be remiss if I did not salute both Galen and Jordan for a great job of race execution and getting every drop out of their endurance tank at Chicago. We have not always witnessed such good tactical success by American distance runners in a top international marathon major field… altho the depth of talent in Chicago 2017 was not what it has been in the past…. especially in the women’s field. But, the finishing times don’t lie and the appearance of both Galen and Jordan in the finish chute was truly indicative of the effort they put forth…. especially Jordan. It is really too bad that the investigation that keeps hanging over NOP prevents the results of Chicago 2017 from being a “national rallying event” for American distance running like when Meb and Deena did so well back in the Olympic Marathon of 2004. But, I believe there are things that all parties involved in the investigation could have done to speed things up…..and it would behoove all of them to remove the legal barriers ASAP so that the USADA could have full and unfettered access to finish the job and issue a fair and impartial ruling.

    • One tell tale sign is when a runner runs a world class time, at their very limit and when they cross the finish line they just walk away like they just took a stroll in the park. Usually a clean athlete will drop to the ground or slump over in exhaustion, some of the performances we have witnessed are very suspicious by the demeanor of the athlete after the race……as if nothing special just occurred.

  3. I know we have all been disappointed in the past by cheaters, not only in running, but cycling, baseball, football, on and on. All sports because whenever big money is involved people will cheat, not only in sports but in all endeavors. Nobody to date can definitively prove that a NOP athlete has taken illegal drugs, yet there is the big cloud over the organization. Some of their athletes have not been fan favorites based on the manner in which they connect with the fan base. I just wanted to say that I have know Jordan Hasay and followed her since her first race in Junior Olympics and she is clean, she is the only NOP athlete that I know. She is great athlete, and more importantly a nice person who conducts herself in a professional manner at all times.
    I just hope moving forward that people will not accuse any athlete of cheating until it is proven. This is a very tough sport, very hard on the body and these athletes only have a short window to perform.

  4. Never seen such a self destructive sport… more like junior high school theatrics than a profession. Have rules been broken? When? Any impact on 2017 performances?

    I enjoyed watching Chicago- no ambivalence re Rupp/NOP. The never ending investigation is for me background noise. Cheating etc. are all part of the game of life- just look around you…

    • I wholeheartedly agree with you John. This was a fantastic race and I was so happy that Galen won and Jordan ran so fast. Full disclosure, I am Canadian and have no skin in the game. I know I maybe wrong in believing innocent until proven guilty, but as a runner for almost 45 years, I love my sport and chose to be inspired by it, where ever I can.

  5. We cherry pick when it comes to Salazaars group and never question other American training groups. Kara, Adam and Dathan are good honest people even though they have never duplicated the success they had while training under Salazaar? And lets not forget-they trained under him for may years and Dathan stayed after Kara left. Now Jordan is suspect even though she has been a superstar since 9th grade? I mean, Emily Infeld who hasn’t been nearly as accomplished wins a medal at Worlds after years of bad performances and no one bats an eyelash. C’mon y’all. I’m not saying Salazaar hasn’t dabbled in the grey area with Galen-but if it’s legal-then let it go or change the rules. Some of the Bowerman guys have gone to see the same Dr. we crucify Galen for going to see and take some of the same medication. No one says anything because the very small world of T&F press has deemed them the golden boys. And lets not forget the Fancy Bear leak with Jager. You could create suspicion within the Bowerman Group if you changed the narrative as they are also a Nike training group with millions in funding. I’m a huge fan of both groups and admire athletes from each camp(Galen not so much)but we need to stop with the finger pointing of EVERY athlete in NOP. It’s gross and unfair. I mean-do you REALLY think Jordan would cheat? I doubt she’s even kissed a boy yet or said a curse word in her life. Plus, much like Centro-her Dad is so involved and protective-they wouldn’t let it get to the grey area.

    • The lack of logic in this post is amazing. It would be very hard for me as a journalist to swap Schumacher’s group and the NOP. The difference between NOP and Schumacher’s group is simple. 1) Schumacher never worked with Slaney when she was busted 2) Zero former members of the group have accused him/wondered if it all was legit 3) Zero former masseuses have accused him/wondered if it all was legit 4) Zero former assistant coaches have accused him/wondered if it all was legit. 6) While Schumacher’s son is a HS star, he doesn’t coach him and there are no pictures documenting that he is on ‘testoboost’ 7) Jerry also wasn’t email buddies with one of the biggest cons in history (LA) 8) Jerry wasn’t one of the original customers of Balco.

      Other than those things, yeah they are exactly the same.

      • So when you disagree you insult? I wasn’t snarky at all. Those were just some of the things I have been thinking about. I’ve been a fan of the sport since the ’84 Olympics and would love for it to weed out the cheaters-but I’m not privy to ALL the info that the courts are, and if it falls within the rules-who am I to judge? Also, I have an friend on NOP and they are clean, legit and a really good person.

    • she was great age 7 .HAsay went from being a top 10 to beating legends .GET OUT OF HERE !
      This like all the TRUMP republicans turning a blind eye because it fits your narrative. He’s on NIKE’s campus and his best friend is the CEO who just happened to be the biggest sponsor of USATF. BAN HIM NOW Let’s see who runs fast after that !

  6. I’m of the “innocent until proven guilty” school of thought. Otherwise, how can ANY athletic achievement be celebrated? This includes Meb’s 2014 win in Boston. This includes Joanie’s 1984 Olympic gold. This includes Sammy Wanjiru’s 2010 Chicago Marathon win.

    • None of the people you cite was in a controversial group. Do you remember them flaunting their drug use by running record times and PRs in events and following up the meet with unbelievable workouts on Flotrack ? Come on …2015 What a day for Cam Levins. The Canadian 10,000m man first turned heads by winning the men’s mile by a crazy comfortable 2.5 seconds in a huge PB of 3:54.74.
      He then came back 20 minutes to win the men’s 2 mile in 8:15.38 and, perhaps more importantly, beat his training partner Galen Rupp for the first time. or Mary Cain …..where is she now? why have the people who’ve left him accused him of so many wrongdoings? He should have been banned long long ago

  7. Well said, and said as diplomatically as possible. 1) There is way too much smoke for there not to be a fire, and 2) The running *industry* DOESN’T WANT TO KNOW that Rupp is dirty, if he is. Too much to lose for a lot of people. And Nike’s money will keep facts buried–or will just make evidence disappear–as long as possible. It’s just a sad time for the sport….any real faith I had in athletics died when I watched a woman run 29:17 and NOT get busted. Rupp/Salazar/NOP only serve to knock my faith down further.

    • Amazing.Every athlete that Alberto Salazar coaches is dirty.The woman that ran 29:17 is dirty.They are all guilty until proven innocent.It really is a sad time for the sport that every time an American wins a big race or runs a fast time they must be on drugs.Why would any young American distance runner want to get into this sport if they are constantly accused of cheating if they are successful.This really is a sad time for American distance running.

  8. Yes, Toni…DITTO!!! Why did it take you this long to write something (anything) about Chicago as an S.E.E. (Significant Emotional Event), and (b) when has controversy, trials or tribulations EVER given you any type of trepidation…just because you were not physically present at affected races!?! Just know that there are those of us who rely on your impartiality, thoroughness & forthright eloquence to influence our mind set!!!

  9. Interesting and surprising comment….being an Oregon grad the whole NOP project is unsettling…reminds me more of a big time football program than a normal track club like GBTC…the secrecy, the big money involved and a coach who acts more like Nick Saban than say Bill Squires. So I share your ambivalence….

  10. Toni, you summed up my feelings perfectly, albeit with perhaps a little more eloquence than what I would have written. Nonetheless, all of these achievements coming from the NOP cast doubt in my mind which I wish I didn’t have. But as I stated a long time ago, I can’t help but feel that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Too many reports, too many athletes, etc. stating the same thing. First Bill Cosby, then Harvey Weinstein; is the NOP next?

    • I agree the question I ask everyone is Where is USATF?Where is USADA I seem to remember Trevor Graham got a lifetime ban for being a whistleblower and yet Salazar is still among us.HMMM I wonder why?

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