“Clean” or “Dirty” Doping Polls Version 2.0: Why Are We Doing Them?

By LetsRun.com
January 5, 2023

From Ben Johnson to Marion Jones to Asbel Kiprop, doping has unfortunately been a part of elite running for decades. Back in 2014, we wanted to get an idea of how you — the LetsRun.com readers, the most passionate running fans in the world — felt about doping in our sport. We conducted polls about a series of athletes, from world record holders to current stars, and asked one question: do you believe that athlete was “clean” or “dirty”? Our aim was to get a sense of how diehard fans of track & field perceive their favorite sport — and put some pressure on the power brokers in the sport to step up their anti-doping efforts. We also wanted people to question their own biases.

You can find the results of Doping Polls Version 1.0 here:

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LRC The Results Are In: World Record Holders “Dirty” Or “Clean” Doping Poll Results
LRC Female Track And Field Stars: “Dirty” Or “Clean” Doping Poll Results
LRC Who Do You Think Is “Dirty”? Who Do You Think Is “Clean”? Male Track And Field Stars Doping Poll Results

A lot has changed in the world of track & field since we conducted those polls. Lamine Diack, the disgraced former president of the IAAF, was revealed to be part of one of the most notorious doping scandals in history in which the IAAF covered up positive tests by Russian athletes for cash bribes. The Russian federation was suspended by the IAAF in 2015 for its role in state-sponsored doping and remains suspended now. Alberto Salazar, the world’s most famous distance coach, was banned by USADA for multiple anti-doping rule violations in 2019, leading to the dissolution of the Nike Oregon Project. And a number of the sport’s biggest stars have been convicted of doping offenses, from Olympic champions Asbel Kiprop, Jemima Sumgong, and Ruth Jebet to American record holder Shelby Houlihan. The IAAF also beefed up its anti-doping efforts by establishing the independent Athletics Integrity Unit in 2017 to police the sport around the world.

So, nine years later, we’re bringing the doping polls back. Have the presence of the AIU and a number of high-profile recent busts resulted in more confidence that the biggest cheats are being caught? How clean do the world’s most passionate track fans perceive the sport to be in 2023 versus 2014? That’s what we’re hoping to find out with this project.

The last time we embarked upon this project, it was not without criticism. A number of readers told us that, because the polls were based on perception and not fact, they could not tell us whether someone actually doped. And of course that is true. That doesn’t mean that the polls aren’t useful.

For example, there are secret police files on East German world 400m record holder Marita Koch where she says her drugs weren’t potent enough. 89.4% of our readers in 2014 thought Koch was dirty. That is not surprising. Yet for other athletes in that poll, there was no direct evidence of doping but 90% of our readers thought they were dirty. What does that mean? At the very least, it means the sport needs to look long and hard at its record book. There were quite a few world record holders roughly 90% of the fans that voted thought were dirty — and some of those records have been broken since we last conducted the polls.

A number of others felt the results of the polls had the potential to degrade athletes’ reputations, even if they had done nothing wrong. Our belief is in line with former Supreme Course justice Louis Brandeis‘ famous line, “sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

That has always been the LetsRun.com attitude on all things anti-doping. We allow our message board posters to speculate whether athletes are on drugs. Some of you don’t like that, especially when that speculation centers around an athlete you like (we got a trove of emails in the 2000s from people blasting us for even entertaining the possibility Lance Armstrong could have been dirty). We see no harm in allowing the speculation or in this case polling and aggregating your views on which athletes you think are clean or dirty.

For better or worse, doping speculation is part of professional running. It is something fans think about, and it is certainly something athletes, coaches, and agents think about. If you are a follower of the sport, you likely already have an opinion about who you believe to be clean and who you believe to be dirty. We are just taking the next step and bringing that discussion into the sunlight.

If a clean athlete dislikes people thinking they might be on drugs, then they’ll be more likely to push for better drug testing, more transparency, etc. We’ve always thought that. And those type of actions lead to a cleaner sport. Similarly, if World Athletics sees that 90% of LetsRun poll participants think a slew of world records are drug-induced, maybe they’ll consider being even more vigilant and perhaps starting anew with the world records.

These polls can provide other data as well. Are we more or less likely to believe athletes from a certain country are doping? And if so, what does it say about that country — and our own biases? Does an association with a certain training group or agent make it more likely for our readers to believe that athlete is doping? And if so, what does it say about athletes who choose to associate with that group or agent?

We also hope that this exercise can help you, our readers, think more carefully about your opinions on the sport. That is one of the reasons we are forcing people to pick “clean” or “dirty” with no room for ambiguity. Why do you think one person is dirty but not another? Hopefully we can get a better understanding of not just what you think, but why you think it.

If you still have thoughts you’d like to share with us about this project, feel free to reach out to us at letsrun@letsrun.com.

Start Voting – World Record Holder Doping Polls V 2.0

First, like last time we are doing all the world records on the track. You can vote on this page or on our homepage. We will reveal the results later this month. Then we will do similar polls for current stars.

Women’s World Record Holders

Flojo W 100 (10.49) and 200 (21.34)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

Marita Koch W 400 (47.60)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

Jarmila Kratochvílová W 800 (1:53.28)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

Genzebe Dibaba W 1500 (3:50.07)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

Letesenbet Gidey W 5000 (14:06) and 10k (29:01)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

Brigid Kosgei W Marathon (2:14:04)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

Tobi Amusan W 100h (12.12)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

Sydney McLaughlin W 400h (50.68)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

Beatrice Chepkoech W Steeple (8:44.32)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

Men’s World Record Holders

Usain Bolt M 100 (9.58) and 200 (19.19)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

Wayde van Niekerk M 400 (43.03)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

David Rudisha M 800 (1:40.91)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

Hicham El Guerrouj M 1500 (3:26.00)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

Joshua Cheptegei M 5000 (12:35) and 10k (26:11)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

Eliud Kipchoge M Marathon (2:01:09)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

Aries Merritt M 110h (12.80)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

Karsten Warholm M 400h (45.94)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

Saif Saaeed Shaheen M Steeple (7:53.63)

Results are hidden until the poll is closed.

Your vote has been counted. Thank you!

*2014 Doping Poll Results

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