We haven’t done our weekly recap in nearly a month. We apologize. It was a partly a combination of the huge amount of work associated with the NCAAs and the Olympic Trials and also depression setting in thanks to the huge doping scandals involving Russia and Jama Aden.
We thought we’d just briefly say a few things about the last few weeks. There’s no way we can recap an entire month’s worth of action so we decided to think about a few key themes. In five years, what will people still be talking about? We figured they’ll still be talking about the doping, the Jama Aden raid, some superstars from NCAAs and hyperandrogenism. So we’ll touch on those subjects below.
**** The Doping Problem Was Way Worse Than We Imagined / Craig Reedie Should Resign
When LetsRun.com started, doping was something we didn’t shy away from. Doping was something we aggressively addressed (while others were still hungover from celebrating 70+ home runs in baseball) as it was personal to us as one of the site’s co-founders was an Olympic hopeful. What most infuriated us about the war on drugs back then is it was clear that most of the bureaucrats viewed doping as a bad PR problem. It wasn’t something they truly wanted to root out. They simply wanted to avoid news of positive tests coming out.
Governing bodies and the anti-doping agencies shouldn’t fear doping positives – they should celebrate them almost like prosecutors celebrate convictions. Evil is being punished.
We thought things had gotten a lot better over the years on that front but recent revelations have shocked us.
In the last month, we’ve learned that prominent Russians like Olympic silver medallist Darya Pishchalnikova went to WADA telling them they wanted to cooperate and expose a massive doping scandal. And what did WADA do? They sent that information back to Russians. Embarrassing.
Embarrassing isn’t a strong enough word to use – the actions of WADA clearly could have cost Pishchalnikova her life.
The only reason why the whole German ARD report came out — which led to the Russians going down — is because Jack Robertson, a former DEA agent who was WADA’s chief investigator from 2011 until 2016, leaked the information to Hajo Seppelt and ARD.
The ARD report led to an actual WADA investigation of the Russians. But as the investigation began, the head of WADA, Craig Reedie, wrote an email last April that said, “On a personal level I value the relationship I have with (Russian Sport) Minister Mutko, and I shall be grateful if you will inform him that there is no intention in WADA to do anything to affect that relationship.”
Then in August, he wrote a handwritten note to Sergey Bubka saying, “Hope no more damage will be done. Craig.”
For 15+ years, we’ve advocated that catching drug cheats isn’t damaging the sport. The illegal drugs usage is what’s damaging the sport – catching them is actually greatly helping the sport.
The fact that the head of WADA doesn’t realize this in the year 2016 is unacceptable. Craig Reedie should resign – immediately.
PS. If you want a good video summary of the doping scandal, take a look at the 20-minute clip below. If you are short on time, start at the 9:34 point as the next 10 minutes are a great summary.
***** Jama Aden’s Group Gets Raided
In spite of the inaction of WADA, a multi-year investigation of Jama Aden’s group has been going on. It will be interesting to see how many people end up going down (if any — remember everyone is innocent until proven guilty) but the number and quality of the athletes with ties to Aden is staggering.
The Spanish publication El Confidencialwrote a very lengthy piece on the Aden bust which we highly recommend (it’s in Spanish but here is a translated version). In it, they published a list of all of the athletes who were on the guest list for the track in Sabadell, Spain.
You don’t need to be able to understand Spanish to realize this is a huge scandal
It’s worth reminding everyone that even if Aden goes down, not everyone on that list may end up being sanctioned. There certainly can be an ‘inner circle’ in training groups. We saw an example last year when allegations were made against the Nike Oregon Project by ex-members of the team. Similarly here, American David Torrence, who used to be in Aden’s group, has come forward and said he never took drugs and has said that he left the group as he felt uncomfortable about being repeatedly pressured to take shots of ‘vitamins’ by Aden. Torrence left and took his suspicions to the authorities as a whistleblower, just as Steve Magness and the Gouchers did with the NOP.
Aden knew he was being investigated (many of us had heard so too), and yet Epo and steroids are found in the sting. #greed
Hyperandrogenism – Can Women’s Sports Be Saved?
All of the attention on doping has turned the attention away from the fact that the women’s 800 is being dominated by people believed to have elevated testosterone because they have internal testes.
Has anyone at the Court of Arbitration for Sport seen the three names atop the women’s 800 list for 2016?
1 1:56.64 Caster Semenya RSA
2 1:56.92 Francine Niyonsaba BDI
3 1:57.52 Margaret Wambui KEN
It’s kind of ironic that the women’s 800 – an event often dominated by doped-up Russians – has been temporarily cleared of women who artificially have a testosterone advantage but now is being dominated by women with a natural testosterone advantage.
**** 5 Athletes From NCAAs That We’ll Be Talking About in 5 Years
In this abbreviated version of the Week That Was, we only want to talk about athletes we think we’ll still be talking about on LetsRun.com in five years. Here are the athletes who fit that category from this month’s NCAA Championships, in alphabetical order.
Brazier made Texas A&M proud at the Trials
Donavan Brazier – Texas A&M, Fr (now with Nike) – When he ran 1:45.93 in his first collegiate race, we knew he was a monster talent. But after he bombed out of NCAA indoors and then ran 1:51 early outdoors, it seemed as if we’d have to wait a while to see his true potential come out, if ever (one prominent NCAA coach told us they thought Brazier couldn’t handle the pressure and might never be truly great). During his brief collegiate career, Brazier may not have ever scored a point indoors or won an SEC outdoor title, but he did set the collegiate record (1:43.55) and win NCAA outdoors.
Clayton Murphy – Akron, Jr (now with Nike) – The guy destroyed everyone to win the NCAA 1500 title after winning the 800 title indoors. With Nick Symmonds and Leo Manzano on the downsides of their career, he picked a great time to come on.
Courtney Okolo – Texas, Sr (Now with Nike) Sanya Richards-Ross won’t be a key 400 figure in 2020 (or, perhaps, even in 2016) and it’s debatable if Allyson Felix will be as well. Okolo could be a two-time Olympic medallist when 2021 rolls around.
Raevyn Rogers – Oregon, So – She won her second straight NCAA outdoor title in dominant fashion. We’ll be shocked if she’s not a 2020 Olympian and she very well could be a two-time Olympian when 2021 rolls around.
Sure there were a lot of other deserving athletes that could make our list with the most deserving probably being Arkansas’ Jarrion Lawson, who became the first athlete in 80 years (since Jesse Owens in 1936) to win the 100, 200 and long jump at the same NCAAs. But we decided to limit our list to five athletes and the way we thought about it was, “You either have to be a mid-d or distance runner or someone we view as an Olympic gold medal contender in 2020” to make the list. If 10k/5k winners Edward Cheserek and Dominique Scott are competing for the US, they likely will be getting mentions in five years as well.
One last comment about NCAAs: we finally learned that Jasmine Todd didn’t compete at NCAA regionals because she was academically ineligible. Would it have been that hard for Oregon or Todd to simply tell us that weeks ago?
#2 Jack Robertson, WADA’s chief investigator from 2011 until 2016, talking to the NY Times about Wada’s Craig Reedie’s note to IAAF VP Sergey Bubka saying that he hopes “no more damage will be done”
“This is extremely disappointing but not surprising. To me, this further illustrates his overall loyalties clearly rest with the national and international federations and not the protection of clean athletes’ rights. His mindset should have been an eagerness to learn if any further revelations were unearthed. Instead, this note shows he is more concerned about further embarrassment to an IAAF vice-president than discovering and seeking the truth.”
#3 Wouldn’t It Nice If Athletic Rivals Still Hated Each Other?
“There’s nothing [Katarina Johnson-Thompson] dislikes about [Jessica] Ennis-Hill, no locker-room habits she finds even slightly irritating about the woman she’s attempting to uncrown. Speaking in the Observer magazine recently she (Johnson-Thompson) said she doesn’t see her as a rival at all. Has it come to this? Have our liberal values and our none-more-professional coaching system created well-adjusted athletes who refuse to see their closest competitors as the enemy? Or are sporting rivalries simply more civilised in 2016? It’s all very respectful and mature and it shows a great humility to be able to be able to say, as another of the gymnasts did, that ‘ultimately, you’re competing against yourself, not each other.’ But it’s also a tad, well, dull.”
“I’ve been longing every day the last six years to be back here. I’m pain-free now and it’s a feeling of freedom. It’s indescribable.”
-Swedish hurdler Susanna Kallur, after competing in her first competitive hurdle race in six years. Kallur is the world record holder in the 60m hurdles indoors and the daughter of former NY Islander Anders Kallur.