The World Marathon Majors Introduce Tougher Anti-Doping Penalties – LetsRun.com’s Analysis

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Move Is A Nice Symbolic Step – Shoe Companies Need To Follow Suit ASAP

By LetsRun.com
February 23, 2013

Yesterday the World Marathon Majors (WMM) came together and announced they’ve changed their contracts with agents and athletes and they’ll retroactively go after dopers who have their results invalidated due to doping and try to get their money back (if you haven’t seen the official news, you can read the full press release at the end of this article).

After the announcement was released, LetsRun.com received an exclusive statement from Virgin London Marathon elite athlete co-ordinator David Bedford (who used to run the whole marathon and is currently also the IAAF Road Running Commission Chairman as well as a former 10,000m World Record Holder), which read:

“The fight against doping is not just a fight that IAAF, WADA and national Anti-Doping bodies should make. This is the time for all events in athletics to take a stand and impose a strict no doping policy. The announcement today will reduce the financial benefits to people who cheat. If other athletic events and indeed other sports introduce a similar statement into their elite contracts, then I believe our wonderful sport will have taken a step forward.

The World Marathon Majors will be happy to assist other events (big or small) that have the same Anti-Doping ideals as ourselves!”

We certainly 100% agree with this statement. LetsRun.com has always said that anti-doping fight has to be led from within – from the athletes themselves and the organizers/agents – not just the authorities or WADA.

Additionally, a source tell us that others are soon expected to join the WMM in changing their contracts as a source told us – “Eindhoven, Toronto, Houston, Austin, Nova/ Great North Run, Competitor Group marathons say they will follow suit and introduce this into their contracts.”

Now a little bit of LetsRun.com analysis.

1) This is a great first step. However, everyone in the sport needs to follow suit – particularly the shoe companies. 

Imagine if Nike – who sponsors by far the most athletes in the sport – also included similar clauses in its contracts with agents/athletes. It would greatly increase people’s fear of cheating. Do you think Lance Armstrong‘s agent would look the other way if he knew Nike might come back at both him and Lance if Lance was ever busted? In fact, we have been told by a source that the Lance Armstrong case was the inspiration for yesterday’s announcement. The facts are Lance may have been disgraced worldwide but he’s still worth tens of millions.

It works even as a bigger deterrent in running than cycling, since most agents live by their athletes’ shoe contracts. If Nike or adidas refuse to do business with an agent until they pay back money, they will pay it back or leave the sport.

2) Today’s announcement doesn’t mean someone loses all money they’ve earned – only the money associated with results that were invalidated (due to advances in the Biological Passport or criminal investigations).

To be truthful, when we saw the initial statement, we didn’t quite understand how the announcement really was news at all as we assumed if a runner had their results invalidated, their payment wouldn’t be made. But what we’ve come to realize is the announcement today and the change in contracts isn’t really about the current year’s results. It’s mainly about past year’s results. It is going to make it much easier to try to get money that was paid out for a previous year’s results that were later reversed due to the Biological Passport.

For example, look at someone like 2010 London runner-up Inga Abitova, who was banned by the Russian Federation for 2 years in October but also had all of her her previous results from 2009 onwards annulled thanks to the Biological Passport.

This means that she no longer finished 2nd in London in 2010. Today’s clause would mean she would lose money she earned for 2010 London.

We do want you to understand one thing, however. Imagine for a minute if Justin Gatlin were a marathoner. Since Justin Gatlin is still officially the 2004 Olympic champ, he could keep money associated with that. That is unfortunate.

3) Pragmatically speaking, the WMM understand that it might be hard to claw back the money that’s already been paid out and possibly spent, particularly in certain countries, but the announcement will make it easier and is a step in the right direction.

As Dave Bedford’s son, Tom Bedford, wrote us via email:

“I speak for London Marathon when I say we will also go after the athletes aggressively to reclaim money. Of course, there will be holes and athletes will disappear but this is definitely a step forward when previously nothing was done and no athlete or agent was reprimanded for a doped up athlete. It is obviously easier to disappear in certain countries than it is in the US. This is life but you need to support the intent (which is actually sadly what anti-doping is all about).”

Athletes may disappear but agents generally don’t.

4) We aren’t lawyers so we don’t know if what WADA said – “If you ever are banned for a major offense, all of your lifetime earning are retroactively wiped out” – would hold up in court. That’s our dream and would be the best dis-incentive ever.

If you are a lawyer and have a thought as to whether that might hold up in court, please email us.

The full press release from the World Marathon Majors appears below.

World Marathon Majors Introduces Tougher Anti-Doping Penalties For Elite Athletes

TOKYO – World Marathon Majors (WMM) members Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York have collectively revised their elite athlete contracts to include stricter anti-doping penalties. New provisions will include the right for the events to suspend payment and to demand repayment of prize money, appearances fees, and performance bonuses for any athlete found in violation of a criminal offense involving drugs, anti-doping rules, or if for any other reason the athlete’s result has been nullified by a relevant governing body.

These new penalties are part of WMM’s continuing effort to be a leader in the anti-doping movement, having gone above and beyond standard drug testing at its events. WMM has supported increasing the number and frequency of out-of-competition drug tests in Ethiopia and Kenya. The events aim to ensure the integrity of the athletes competing in their races, with the majority of top male and female competitors hailing from these two countries. Additionally, WWM has previously agreed that any athlete found guilty of a doping offence will not be invited back to its races.

“This is a great initiative and a very positive and strong move by the World Marathon Majors, which is once again leading the field by example,” said Paula Radcliffe, the current women’s world record-holder in the marathon and past winner of the London, Chicago and New York City Marathons. “I would love to see all major events follow its lead. The cheats need to understand that they are not welcome in our sport and will be caught and made to pay. This is a step forward in increasing the deterrent and showing athletes and managers that cheating won’t be tolerated. Having to pay back all money won while cheating is common sense and a logical element that has been missing for a long time. It is clear that any monies won while cheating are tantamount to fraud and should be returned.”

New anti-doping provisions in WMM elite athlete contracts will include the following:

  • The athlete acknowledges that his/her right to receive payment is conditional upon remaining fully compliant with all applicable anti-doping rules
  • If the athlete is found-before, during or after the term of the agreement-to have committed a criminal offence involving drugs, or an anti-doping rule violation, or if for any other reason the athlete’s result in the marathon is later nullified by a relevant governing body, then the marathon organizer will have the following rights:
    • The right to reduce or suspend payments due to the athlete, or to terminate the agreement with immediate effect
    • The right to repayment from athlete of all or part of the money paid to the athlete under the agreement

About World Marathon Majors

Established in 2006, World Marathon Majors (WMM) is a race series comprised of the Tokyo, Boston, Virgin London, BMW Berlin, Bank of America Chicago, and ING New York City Marathons. In the years in which they are run, WMM also includes the IAAF World Championships and Olympic Marathons. At the conclusion of a two-year cycle, WMM offers a $1 million prize purse to be split equally between the top male and female marathoners in the world. The inaugural 2006 – 2007 series launched at the 110th Boston Marathon on April 17, 2006 and concluded at the ING New York City Marathon on November 4, 2007. The 2013 – 2014 series begins with the Tokyo Marathon on February 24, 2013 and will conclude at the ING New York City Marathon on November 2, 2014.

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