February 28, 2014
If you’d like to read our intro on why we did this and why we think it leads to a cleaner sport, click here.
Earlier this year, when a visitor came to the LetsRun.com (LRC) homepage, they were given a list of top athletes in the sport of track and field, the country they were from, some prominent info about their accomplishments, and then two options to vote on, “Clean” or “Dirty,” which our visitors used to state whether they thought the athlete had used performance-enhancing drugs or not.
Today in part II, we reveal the results about the female stars of the sport.
Below is a graph of aggregate results. For those of you who want detailed athlete by athlete cross tab results broken down by age, sex, country, race, education status and more, click here.
Just a reminder to everyone, the polls don’t prove anything. As we wrote in our intro, “A number of message board posters and emailers have noted that this poll doesn’t tell us whether someone actually doped and is speculation. That’s true – we agree.” We do believe that the polls and acknowledging public opinion can lead to a cleaner sport.
% of LetsRun.com Audience That Thinks the Following Women Are “Dirty”:
Want People to Think You are Clean? Don’t Test Positive, Associate with Dopers, or Be From a Country and Distance with a Lot of Recent Positives
The vast majority of LRC nation thinks today’s female stars are clean. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as in the world record poll results, there was a strong correlation between how recent an athlete competed and what percent of you thought that athlete was clean. Extending the voters’ opinions to today’s non-record holding stars, and today’s American distance favorites, it is consistent that most voters think they are clean.
However, four athletes tipped the scales with over 70% of our voters thinking they are dirty. Two of them, Mary Slaney (two year ban for high T/E ratio) and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (6 month ban for Oxycodone), have drug suspensions on their record.
Then there are two more athletes who top the charts in the voters minds as being “dirty” even though they don’t have doping suspensions on their record. 83.8% of our voters thought 2011 World and 2012 Olympic 800m champion Mariya Savinova is dirty. That is not too surprising to us that the LRC voters voted that way as there have been a host of doping positives by Russian female middle distance runners recently. The athlete the highest percentage of voters thought was dirty was Carmelita Jeter at 89.4%. Once again not too surprising, as Jeter has a long-time friendship with convicted doper/agent Mark Block (the guy in the Nike VIP tent at the Olympic Trials) and improved tremendously at a later age.
Only two other athletes were over 50%. Olympic 400m champ Christine Ohuruogo who served a one year ban for missing three out of competition tests, and Jearl Miles Clark who competed in the 1990s (time bias.).
Many of the same biases that we saw in our world record polls held up for the women stars as well. As we wrote in our world record poll results, “the polls consistently show us that people are prejudiced in favor with those whom they are most familiar – a ‘familiarity bias’. People indeed are biased and it’s almost always in favor of those most like themselves. For example, there is a strong country bias in the voting. Americans are more likely to think Americans are clean. British people are more likely to think Brits are clean. Similarly, whites tend to be more likely to think whites are clean, and blacks tend to be more likely to think blacks are clean.”
Women Are More Likely to Think Women Are Clean
As might be expected, women generally were more likely than men to think the women athletes were clean (we should add that women were generally more likely to think all of our world record holders including men were clean). However this female bias did not hold for seven athletes in our female poll: Carmelita Jeter, Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce, Mariya Savinova, Mary Slaney, Treniere Moser, Morgan Uceny, and Eunice Sum. Interesting to note, that the above list of athletes includes our four athletes most likely thought to be”dirty”. If you’ve got an explanation for this one email us.
The 35-44 Year Olds Aren’t the Most Skeptical
One interesting tidbit in our world-record polls was that people in the 35-44 age group were nearly across the board the most likely to think an athlete was dirty. Possible explanations were these people were in their formative sports years when the Ben Johnson scandal hit at the 1988 Olympics, and then witnessed the EPO era of sports, the Balco Scandal and more. However, with voting for our current female stars, the self-identified 35-44 age group was not universally the most skeptical, so there is hope for the co-founders of LetsRun.com who fall in this age demographic.
With the world record holders, the viewers who self-identified as under 18 were the most likely to vote clean. That wasn’t always the case here and the under 18 year olds were actually the age demographic to most likely think Joan Benoit Samuelson was dirty. We talked of the “familiarity bias” and this demographic is the least likely to be familiar with Joan Benoit’s accomplishments.
Tirunesh Dibaba Included in Both Polls
We included world record holder Tirunesh Dibaba in both polls to see if people’s opinions on athletes were consistent. When included on our world record poll, 79.4% of our voters thought Dibaba was clean. However, when included on our current stars poll, only 71.0% of you thought she was clean. There are two possible explanations we can think of for this. 1) Contrast bias- when paired with world record holders that overall more voters thought were dirty, the tendency of undecided voters may have been to think Dibaba was clean as she was perceived cleaner compared to some of the other world record holders. However, when paired with many current American distance athletes that many of you thought were clean, the tendency could be to perceive Dibaba as relatively dirtier. 2) Voter fatigue- in our second poll, people who thought athletes were clean could be less likely to vote.
We strongly encourage you to look at our detailed athlete by athlete cross tab results broken down by age, sex, country, race, education status and more.
Men’s results will be revealed next week.