With Sunday’s running of the TCS New York City Marathon fast approaching, the fields are set, the course is ready, and the viewing parties have all been arranged. All that’s left is an unsullied journey through the five boroughs with worthy champions awaiting to be crowned.
Only once in 48 years has there been a positive drug test of real consequence at the NYC Marathon, that being Toni Niemzcak of Poland, who finished second in 1986 behind Italy’s Gianni Poli. Niemzcak failed a drug test which had discovered a banned steroid in his system. His position was vacated and prize money not awarded. There was one other drug positive in 2011, announced in 2012, of Ethiopian Ezkyas Sisay who finished ninth in his 2011 debut and later was found to have utilized the blood booster EPO. He, too, was DQ’d.
The problem of PED use persists, as New York’s Abbott World Marathon Majors partners in London, Chicago, and Boston have all been repeatedly burned in recent years by Russia’s Lilya Shobukhova and Rita Jeptoo of Kenya. In 2017, the AWMMs cut their athletic prize for the series title in half from $500,000 to $250,000, while only awarding a portion of that first prize award each year as a hedge against getting hit like they have in the past. But what else can be done to end this scourge on all sports? Here’s a tongue-in-cheek suggestion.
TD Beach to Beacon 10km start line
Photo: Victah Sailer@PhotoRun
We see a version of the honor system every weekend at road races across the globe where thousands of strangers align themselves into a solid grid behind posted pace signs. But while runners might consider themselves an honest lot compared to the general population, there are less than honorable types mixed in as well, ranging from small-time PR fibbers to major event thieves who utilize performance enhancing drugs to claim what others rightfully deserve.
Asking human beings to self-regulate is to welcome disappointment, as any IRS agent or local priest hearing confessions can attest. But from a purely physiological standpoint, bad behavior can in part be attributed to hardware. The area of the brain responsible for self-regulation is the frontal cortex, which is a late-bloomer. It develops gradually over adolescence, though in some cases never at all. Accordingly, we must protect ourselves against the lesser angels within.
From the Ten Commandments on down men have attempted to regulate behavior through laws and their consequences. But here we are again and again, and again and again, and maybe once more
THE DRIP, DRIP, DRIP OF SCANDAL
staring at a headline announcing another positive drug test that tears the guts out of this sport, leading us to wonder at what point does the insanity definition kick in: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?
It is with this question in mind that we absorb the news of Olympic Marathon champion Jemima Sumgong‘s positive doping test for the banned blood booster EPO announced this past week by the IAAF. Continue reading