The Results Are In: World Record Holders “Dirty” Or “Clean” Doping Poll Results

February 14, 2014

*For detailed athlete by athlete cross tabs click here
*Now Available: “Clean or Dirty” Results for Current Female Stars
*Male Track And Field Stars Doping Poll Results

Without further ado, we present to you the results of our world record doping poll.

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If you’d like to read our intro on why we did this, click here. The results for our current female stars and current male stars will be published starting next week.

At the start of the year, when a visitor visited the homepage of (LRC), they were given a list of the world record holders, the record they hold, the country they are from, the year of the record, and then two choices, “Clean” or “Dirty.”

As we write in our data section on the poll methods, “No, this is not a scientific poll (i.e., one that provides an unbiased estimate of a population’s view on something with a quantifiable margin of error). The respondents are not representative of the general population, but only of readers who chose to vote. The poll tells us about LRC readers’ perceptions of who achieved their accomplishments while clean. Our aim was not to determine whether someone doped…”

Instead of talking about the results, let’s present 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.

% of Audience That Thinks the Following World Record Holders are “Dirty”:


click for larger image

The most interesting thing to us is to see the cluster of six athletes around the 90% mark. Those athletes all represent the oldest female track and field records on the books.

One thing that was apparent was a strong correlation between the age of the world record and the likelihood the LRC audience thought the record holder was dirty.

To us, that’s a positive development. It means that drug testing is getting better and better, so any records set recently have more credibility. (Of course cynics will say it just means the most drug induced world records are so untouchable they’ll last forever.)

Below is a scatter plot of % Dirty vs Year of World record.


Another thing that shows up in the scatter plot above, is people are more likely to believe a recent world record in the distances is clean than a recent record in the sprints.

This type of distance bias might be expected since the LetsRun audience first and foremost is interested in distance running, and 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.

And Brits are more likely to believe American Michael Johnson is clean. Why is that? Johnson is the announcer of track meets on the BBC in Great Britain.

Don't miss out our detailed athlete by athlete cross-tabs

Don’t miss out our detailed athlete by athlete cross-tabs

We said we weren’t going to pontificate too much on the results ourselves. We really want you to take a look at them yourselves: The full cross-tabs are here.

When you do look at the athlete cross-tabs, you’ll see a lot of interesting results.

One that caught our eye was the most frequent visitors, people we argue are the most hard core track fans in the world (and predominantly male), are more likely to believe than the general LRC population that recent world records are clean, especially world records by males in the distances, and to a lesser extent world records by Americans.

Look at David Rudisha for example. Rudisha just set his 800m world record in 2012 and only 5.0% of frequent LRC visitors think he is dirty, whereas more than three times as many more casual LRC visitors (18.4%) think he is dirty.  The next likely clean world record holder according to frequent LetsRun visitors? Wilson Kipsang who set his world record in the marathon in 2013 and only 9.9% of frequent visitors think he is dirty vs 23.9% of more casual LRC visitors.

Why is this? Going in, we might have thought the more die-hard the more jaded you are, but the opposite seems to be true. Why is this? Any ideas? Is this more of the ‘familiarity bias’? It might make sense that the most hard core fans of the sport are biased towards people they root for. Or do the die-hards have more knowledge – perhaps the are students of The Sports Gene and are less cynical of all world records being dirty?

Another interesting tidbit that we did not expect was that the most skeptical visitors were those who self-identified as being age 35-44. For every world record on the books except a few where 80+% of the LRC audience thought the athlete was dirty, the 35-44 year olds were most likely to think the athlete was dirty. We need some help in explaining that one.  The most optimistic people? Those under 18. They were way more likely to believe a world record was clean. In addition to having youthful optimism, they have grown up in an era of much better drug testing, and do not have the direct knowledge of those older than them of how dirty the sport used to be. Those that came of age in the sport in the 1970s and 1980s remember seeing the Soviet Bloc women that looked like men and perhaps even had teammates that doped. It seems very logical to us.

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.

Be sure to email us or post in our forums any interesting results you find.

Do Not Miss: The Detailed LRC “Clean” or “Dirty” World Record Doping Data Broken by Age, Sex, Education Status, Race, Country and More (link fixed)
*Now Available: “Clean or Dirty” Results for Current Female Stars

Click for our athlete by athlete cross tabs

Click for our athlete by athlete cross tabs

More: “Clean or Dirty” Results for Current Female Stars
*Male Track And Field Stars Doping Poll Results

Update: January 2023 Doping Polls Version 2.0 Here

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