By Jonathan Gault
April 13, 2018
BOSTON — For several years, Desi Linden has been the face of the Hansons-Brooks Original Distance Project. With two Olympic appearances and seven top-five finishes in World Marathon Major events (including a runner-up finish at the 2011 Boston Marathon), the 34-year-old Linden is easily the most accomplished female runner to ever don the group’s distinctive red, yellow, and black racing kit.
Last summer, Linden got some famous company when it was announced in July that three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein would join the Michigan-based Hansons-Brooks team, which is operated by brothers Keith and Kevin Hanson. While the signing of Ritzenhein, a Michigan native, brought some name recognition to a group that usually relies on developing overlooked prospects, Linden was not thrilled by the decision. And it wasn’t because she’d have to share the spotlight.
Rather, it dealt with Ritzenhein’s past as a member of the Nike Oregon Project, a group with whom he trained from 2009 to 2014. Specifically, the interim USADA report leaked to Flotrack last year in which it appears that Ritzenhein may have committed anti-doping rule violations while a member of NOP.
Today, ahead of her appearance in Monday’s Boston Marathon, I asked Linden, an outspoken anti-doping advocate, if she was supportive of Ritzenhin joining the Hansons-Brooks team.
“Not especially,” Linden said, noting that she was not consulted on the decision and found out about it on Twitter. “It’s hard to say ‘It’s hard to get excited about these performances when you’re under investigation’ but the same thing’s happening in your house. But my name’s not on the jersey. We can talk ‘team, team, team,’ but ultimately two guys (Keith and Kevin Hanson) make the decisions. It’s not really my call. And hopefully it all works out and no lines were crossed, but until that’s kind of cleared, [I] can’t be super supportive…
“It puts me in a tough spot. It’s hard to be vocal about anti-doping when someone can say, ‘But what about you? What about this?’”
Ritzenhein, who has never failed a drug test or been sanctioned for any anti-doping offense, was scheduled to run Boston on Monday but withdrew earlier this week citing a sacroiliac joint injury.