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Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Drugs, Sex and Rock n Roll (Well almost)
July 13, 2005

Our semi regular installment of the winners and losers in the sport. In this installment we take on drugs, sex (well parties) and the Olympics (which are better than Rock N Roll). Ok the statement before was a lie as we haven't been doing Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down regularly or semi-regularly, but we're hoping to make this once again a regular part of LetsRun.com so we ask for your forgiveness.  

But this week's episode covers a few months in time span.

Thumbs Up
Maurice Greene

Mo Greene may no longer be the Olympic champ, and may have pulled up lame in the men's 100m at the 2005 USATF nationals with a bad hamstring, but that doesn't mean that Los Angeles is still not his town. When people were introduced at the nationals, he got the biggest cheers. In the world of the general public, there still is Mo Greene and then everyone else. Asafa who? People on the street have never heard of Asafa Powell.

So since LA is Mo Greene's town, he did what any gracious host does; he threw a party, at the Hollywood night club, Forbidden City. The place was a who's who of the track and field sprint world. In terms of our name dropping, we'll just stick to the individual Olympic gold medallists that were there (since contrary to what many of you seem to think we don't come anywhere close to writing about everything that goes on in the track and field world, and don't like to mix the personal side of things with the letsrun.com side of things without permission) Mo Greene, Michael Johnson, and Jeremy Wariner (sorry if we left any individual gold medallists out). And I guess we have to mention that the best young announcer in track and field, Ato Boldon (who should be announcing every track and field meet there is), who gets his own THUMBS UP (see below) for his announcing job at the NCAA meet, was at the party.  And lastly, we should certainly mention that we were especially impressed with hurdler Larry Wade who was the most stylishly dressed guy in the place. This has to be the first time in the history of this website that we've given props to someone facing a drug suspension as is Wade, but if anyone is going to get off it's someone busted for nandro as was Wade.

Not too late in the evening, the DJ announced how Mo Greene was excited to have everyone out at the club and to show his appreciation it was an open bar for the next hour and a half on Maurice Greene's tab. All we know is the club was open more than another hour and a half and the open bar never stopped.

The most embarrassing part of the whole evening, was the pathetic number of distance runners from the meet in attendance at the club, two. Can you say big-time Thumbs Down? And to add insult to injury to the predominantly male viewers of this site, there were zero male distance runners in attendance (LetsRun.com's Wejo does not count since he was not competing at the meet).

Now the club was a long, long way from the official meet hotel, so we thought that people perhaps did not have transportation to the club. This was quickly put to rest, when we were told to go outside at the end of the night, and there were huge chartered full length coach busses sitting there. Supposedly some busses left empty, and others with 4 people on them.

So Mo Greene throws a party, arranges for transportation, (ends up picking up the bar tab), and no distance runners show up. Perhaps distance runners are really cheap, as maybe the talk of a $20 cover charge put them off, but we didn't pay anything to get in the club. And don't tell me they had to get ready to go race in Europe, because the people who are going to make a name for themselves in Europe this summer were at the club. The moral of the story is when Maurice Greene throws a party in Los Angeles, you show up. Thumbs up to Maurice Greene for hosting the party, and a double thumbs up for "giving back" to the track community by picking up the bar tab.

Richard Caborn
We're sure most of you have never heard of Caborn. First off, he's from Great Britain (we understand that 90% of our international viewers believe Americans are unaware that there are other countries besides the United States, they are correct.) Secondly, he's a minor political figure. But if there ever was a politician everyone should like it has to be this guy. First off, he's Sports Minister, in the UK. Now, that sounds like a cool job.

But we're not praising Caborn for his cool sounding job, but for his proposal to combat the doping problem in sport. And they way we see it, once sports actually implement year round random testing overseen by an independent body (the pro sports in the US have not even met this basic prerequisite yet, so the US Congress is holding hearing after hearing just to get to this prerequisite step), the anti-doping crusade then comes down to one thing, money. Drug cheats' lawyers love to say when their clients get busted that their client have passed hundreds of drug tests before and come up clean. The dirty secret of the anti-doping world is that the drug tests are not very good, and many drugs can't be detected. Drug users are not stupid, generally the sophisticated ones are using drugs or methods (old fashioned blood doping) for which there is not currently a test.

The big Balco drug scandal is primarily about THG, a designer steroid that the testers were unaware of and did not have a test for. With their limited resources, the anti-doping researchers do not have time to come up with tests for unknown designer steroids, when they do not even have the resources to come up with tests for drugs they know about. It has taken 10 years to come up with a test to detect HGH use (and there is still debate as to whether it can be detected). Why so long? Sure the science is complicated, but America put a man on the moon in this amount of time. The problem is a lack of resources. Anti-doping researchers, like scientists throughout the world, need money to conduct their research. And the budgets for anti-doping research are a joke and deserve a big Thumbs Down. The Olympic movement claims to be serious about anti-doping, yet the world anti-doping agency has spent $14 million total ($3.5 million a year) over 4 years on anti-doping research. The US anti-doping agency (which receives US government funds) spends $2 million annually on research. Before you get too critical of them, look at the US pro sports, where the money allocated on an annual basis to anti-doping research (not testing) we believe is $0 (we know the NFL did help fund a lab to actually carry out drug tests in Utah, but that doesn't count as research in our book).

Pro sports, Olympics sports, and drugs are trillion dollar industries. Between the pro sports (economists Jordan Rappaport and Chad Wilkerson estimate that in just 5 years, 2000-2004, $4 billion in public (taxpayer) money has been spent on taxpayer subsidies for pro sports stadiums in the United States alone), Olympic sports (it's estimated the bid committees for the 2012 Olympics spent $150 million just to bid for the Games, yet just $3.5 million a year from WADA goes to drug research), governments (some would argue governments don't need to be wasting tax payer dollars on the anti-doping business, but even ignoring the public health component involved we'd surely think most people would agree that at least a few million in anti-doping research should come before the billion of dollars in subsidies that are currently given to already wealthy owners), and drug companies, there is plenty of money to fund a serious anti-doping research program if the public would just clamor for it.

It is with the drug companies that Mr. Caborn comes into play. Caborn has been in talks with drug companies for them to help in the anti-doping fight. His proposal is for them to contribute up to £12m ($20 million) a year towards anti-doping research. This is a step in the right direction. It makes sense that those who profit directly from doping in sports, should be among the first who (are forced to) pay money to try and combat it. The drug companies, definitely profit off of doping. Italian anti-doping director Sandro Donetti claimed that just Italians spend $810 million a year (slightly more on HGH than EPO) on doping drugs.

So thumbs up, to Mr. Caborn for realizing that drug companies not only have deep pockets, but they should not be profiting off the illicit trade of their products, just like beer companies should not profit off the sale to minors. Sadly, it appears it may take Congressional arm wringing and perhaps a public outcry to get the professional sports owners to pay their fair share for anti-doping. We'll save that topic for another day, but if you are interested in helping combat the doping problem in sport please contact us.

Jon Rankin
Rankin emerged as a bright American hopeful in the mile for the next few years running 3:57.89 (mile) and 3:40.39 (1500) this year, but what we were most impressed with was his triple at the UCLA-USC dual meet. First up was the 1500m, where he ran his 3:40.39 for a pr (in a dual meet, nonetheless). Then the 800, where he ran an impressive, 1:47.54. Finally, he came back to top if off by running the 5000m. As a freshman, he had been nipped at the tape in the 5000m, causing UCLA to lose its first dual to USC since 1977. This year, Rankin gutted it out, and surged at the end to run 15:00.78 and get one point in third place. UCLA ended up winning the meet by 3 points so they would have won by 1 without his points in the 5k, but this was not known heading into the race.

Some of you on the message boards, criticized Rankin for tripling at a "dual meet", saying it would harm his future career. And we're against college kids over racing and doubling for points in inconsequential meets. However, this isn't just any dual meet, it is the UCLA-USC dual meet (2,235 fans) and it is a huge part of both teams seasons. It means a lot to the teams involved and we commend Rankin for being willing to do so much to get the needed points necessary for his team to win. If a college runner is not willing to double or triple for his team at a meet like this one, or at the conference meet when his team has a chance to win, then they might as well quit the team, and run open meets. While nearly everyone is impressed with what Galen Rupp did this year as an Oregon freshman (2nd at NCAAs in the 10k), we were most impressed when he doubled at the Pac10 meet. That to us showed, he really wanted to be a Duck. So thumbs up, Rankin.

Ato Boldon
The quality of track and field broadcasts is a frequent discussion on the message boards. And generally the reviews aren't too good. That's why it was refreshing to see a new face, Ato Boldon, who did a great job on the NCAA broadcast. Boldon was a world class sprinter who believe it or not has won as many Olympic individual medals as anyone else in the history of the sprinting, so he is knowledgeable, and articulate. He clearly did his homework before the NCAA meet, as he didn't make mistakes, and rookies don't broadcast like he did. Hopefully, the networks will begin to use him because some of the old stale talent (you can fill in the name(s)) they have been using is not up to par.

LetsRun.com Readers and Welch Suggs
Convicted steroid offender, Steve Mullings of Mississippi St, didn't run the NCAA meet because of two reasons. First, LetsRun.com viewers raised a ruckus and contacted Mississippi State to express their views. So, thumbs up, to everyone who placed a phone call, signed the petition or sent an email. Your collective effort resulted in a victory for clean sport. Secondly, Welch Suggs wrote about the issue in the Chronicle of Higher Education which put even more attention on the issue. Thumbs up to him as well.

Thumbs Down
New York Olympic Bid

We've already criticized the distance runners for not showing up at Maurice Greene's bash in LA, but we've got to criticize someone else. And the New York Olympic bid is an easy target.

New Yorkers bid leaders wanted to convince everyone they had a serious shot at the 2012 Games. It's easy to say now after they were the 2nd of 4 cities knocked out, that they didn't. But bookmakers around the world took bets on the Olympic bidding, and with one day to go New York was a 50 to 1 long shot. 50 to 1, yet New York bid leaders went into the bidding acting like they weren't a long shot. Perhaps, they did not want to go in with a defeatist attitude which some may say is commendable, but we're not sure if these people realized they were a long shot from day one. But when you've been working on the bid since 1996, spend an estimated $35-$100 million on it, and then at the 23rd hour have to alter the plans for the centerpiece of the whole bid, the Olympic stadium, and move it from Manhattan to Queens, you are nothing but a long, long shot.

So thumbs down to the New York bid leaders (not New Yorkers, most of whom were never behind the bid anyway, perhaps because they saw it as a land grab or a chance to possibly redistribute wealth to the rich) for spending so much time on the bid process, without having its details in place. The stadium is not a minor detail. In the future, no US city should be able to submit an international bid until all the major plans for the Games are in place. And if you are an underdog to begin with, your stadium plan falls through in the last few weeks, and you're 50 to 1 in online betting, don't act surprised when you lose, even if you got that New York attitude (update for our international visitors, while Americans don't know of any countries outside of America, New Yorkers are unaware of the world outside of their city).

To all collegians who aren't world class, go pro early with zero NCAA titles and to the shoe companies that sponsor them
Look, Rojo is a college coach so I'm sure many of you will say we're just old-school jerks. But really we're not. We have no problem with guys like Kerron Clement going pro early. He has done just about everything in college track and has nothing else to accomplish. But we do have a problem with the shoe companies acting like vultures and getting guys with zero NCAA titles (again we'll be nice and not mention names as these guys are young and there were several) to go pro.  

I mean don't they still have a lot more to accomplish? You can't even win an NCAA title and you're ready for the big-time? Try again.

Not being world class with Zero NCAA championships should equal zero sponsorship offers before graduation.

Note: Rojo will of course take the opposite view when it's one of his guys getting offered the big-time cash.

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