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.