Time to take a stand against the cheats and the spineless

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Here’s an interesting article from hurdle great, Edwin Moses.

Original Source: https://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/more_sport/athletics/article1816380.ece

 

Over the last two years I have watched in disgust as more and more “name brand” athletes have become ensnared in the omnipresent net that we have come to know as “testing positive” for performance-enhancing drugs. Whether each athlete implicated is guilty or not, the names form an embarrassing Who’s Who in the world of sport.

The braggadocio of Victor Conte – head of the Balco laboratory in California, who has admitted distributing steroids and who is practising his magic arts upon the weak-minded again after being released from prison – as revealed in the pages of The Times last week, tipped the scales of my silence: it is now time for me, and for other clean, world-class athletes from every sport, to speak out loudly against the claim that doping is simply “the way it is” and the only way to the top.

To advise (as Conte does so self-servingly and despicably) that parents of kids with dreams of elite-level performance should “steer [the kids]in other directions” if they don’t want to take drugs, simply because “at some point they’ll get to the level where they are told they have no choice but to use them”, is preposterous and spineless.

To reach the pinnacle of my event, the 400 metres hurdles – and to stay there without ceding victory, as I did, for nearly a decade – I did not need or want to use performance-enhancing drugs. Instead, I trained smart and hard to get to and stay at the top. Over more than ten years I logged a minimum of 15,000 miles on the track, beaches and cross-country trails, utilised a strict diet tailored to high performance and recovery (a regimen I maintain to this day) and focused my complete attention on the task at hand, living and breathing the entire training process every single day.

I invented a training regimen that included stretching, flexibility development and dynamic exercise techniques. And I was willing to deal with – for seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years – the intense and relentless discomfort that comes from training mercilessly, two or three times a day. Through sheer focus and willpower, I made sure that the harder and more painful it got, the faster I became.

By definition, the elite level of sport is not open to just anyone. Only the very rare individual will succeed. But to suggest that drugs are a de facto key to one, two or more world-class victories is a lie. I delivered 122 consecutive victories and four world records on the basis of sweat and refined skill, period.

Counsel to all would-be champions: in training, there are no short cuts. Anyone who tells you differently is selling pure compromise. Infuriatingly, Conte may be correct when he says that “the ineptness of the antidoping programmes contribute to the use-or-lose mentality that athletes are almost forced into”. It is true, the system that we initiated in the fall of 1988 is in critical need of reform – and, moreover, requires resources to design and sustain reform.

In the wake of the Ben Johnson scandal, along with other athletes from track and field, I helped to conceive, legislate, design and implement the world’s first out-of-competition drug-testing programme. From 1989-93 I served as chairman of the precursor to what is now the independent testing agency, USADA. It handled all aspects of the drug-testing operations for the United States Olympic Committee.

As one of the few active athletes with experience both in front of and behind the scenes, I can attest that the integrity of drug-testing operations has always been threatened by unscrupulous people in search of a fast dollar, an association with fame, a secure seat on a privileged board or an uncomplicated ride on the twisting back of a corporate sponsor. The appropriate response to corruption is not to exploit the problems for personal gain, but to insist upon and drive home significant and sustainable improvements. Both the public and private sectors need to invest in this effort. The public, too, needs to demand change.

Since 2000 I’ve had the honour to serve as chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy and associated Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. The core work of the academy is to use sport as a tool for positive social change, with a focus on the needs of the world’s most disenfranchised and vulnerable children. Tens of thousands of children have been supported by the direct involvement of the academy’s athletes in the programmes we fund and we have been privileged and humbled by the opportunity to meet and play with them.

The values of honest sportsmanship, a level playing field, clean competition and sheer passion for the game that Laureus represents are the values that must propel me and others like me to speak out against characters like Conte, his cronies, his clients – and the systems and stakeholders that enable their crooked work. If we fail to take a stand for sport as we love it and once practised it, our legacy will be mean indeed.

Edwin Moses won gold medals in the 400 metres hurdles at the 1976 and 1984 Olympics. Between 1977 and 1987 he achieved the longest winning streak in athletics history, 122 races.

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Mike Young

Mike Young

Founder of ELITETRACK at Athletic Lab
Mike has a BS in Exercise Physiology from Ohio University, an MSS in Coaching Science from Ohio University & a PhD in Biomechanics from LSU. Additionally, he has been recognized as a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) from the National Strength & Conditioning Association, a Level 3 coach by USA Track & Field, a Level 2 coach by USA Weightlifting.
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