Paula Radcliffe: calling for more effective global drug testing, by Cathal Dennehy

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I met Cathal Dennehy at the European Championships, I believe. An affable fellow, with a great love of athletics and a wry sense of humor, Dennehy keeps me laughing, even after a long day. His writing, however, keeps me thinking. 

Considered, thoughtful and packed with the emotion of someone who loves the sport and wants it to be properly promoted and protected.

This piece on Paula Radcliffe, the world record holder in the women's marathon is a case in point: Cathal writes on Paula's desire to not only speak about better doping controls, but, Radcliffe's desire to be part of the solution.

Paula Radcliffe also made it quite clear that she sees Sebastian Coe as part of the solution to take athletics to a higher global status and also to make athletics the gold standard in developing an effective global anti-doping campaign.  

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Paula Radcliffe makes history, photo by PhotoRun.net

By Cathal Dennehy

Paula Radcliffe has called for radical change in anti-doping structures in the wake of the latest scandal to rock the sport after it was revealed that Chicago Marathon champion Rita Jeptoo from Kenya has tested positive for a banned substance. 

Jeptoo, one of the world's leading marathon runners, returned a positive A-sample during an out-of-competition test in Kenya in September, reportedly for the banned blood-boosting drug erythropoietin, and if the B-sample confirms the finding she is set to face a two-year ban. 

Speaking in New York ahead of Sunday's Marathon - where Jeptoo was due to be awarded the $500,000 prize for winning the World Marathon Majors series - Radcliffe said the time has come for major change if the battle with doping is to be won. 

"We need better testing," she said. "It has to be everywhere. It needs to be the same in the US, in the UK, in Kenya. We need to make it more targeted. It's not good for the sport, for clean athletes who are going to race after race and being cheated.

"There have been rumours for a long time that testing hasn't been carried out properly in East Africa, and not just there, but in a lot of areas. It's not good for them either; there are a lot of athletes there that work extremely hard and train extremely hard, and they want to be able to prove they're clean.

"The evidence coming out of Kenya shows that [doping products] are not that difficult to get a hold of, or it's not the case that people have no access to doping; they obviously do. I don't want to single out East Africans, though. 

"It's a problem in our sport all over; there are certain areas where there are black holes in out-of-competition testing, and people can evade testing, and that shouldn't be the case. This doesn't need to be a witch hunt against Kenya, because I don't think the problem is just in Kenya.

"Better testing would protect the athletes and the people watching the sport and protect the Marathon Majors as well, because you don't want a situation like the Shobukhova case where they've paid out a lot. That was a lot of money robbed from the sport, and we need to protect our sport from that."

For the majority of her career, Radcliffe has become known as an outspoken anti-doping advocate, but she revealed today that she hopes to work in anti-doping in an official capacity once her running career comes to an end. She is currently training for one final marathon appearance in London in April. 

"It's absolutely something I'd consider as a follow-on career," she said. "It's something I feel passionate about, something I was outspoken about all the way through my career. That whole department of anti-doping needs people who feel passionate about it."

Asked what she would do if put in control of the IAAF, she said: "I would invest triple or quadruple the budget into anti-doping, and make sure there are labs are all over the world, and proper blood passport tests being carried out everywhere. The IAAF and WADA have a responsibility to put the testing in place so these athletes can say: 'yeah, I did the tests'.

"It's not fair on those who don't cheat and when they run a fast time their performances are looked on with suspicion. It really annoys me when things like this happen and people say: 'oh, they're all doing it'. That annoys me because there are a lot of athletes out there working extremely hard for the results they achieve, and they're not getting the recognition they deserve or they're getting their performances doubted because we don't have a system we can believe in."


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Sebastian Coe, Paula Radcliffe, IAAF Gala, 2007, 

photo by PhotoRun.net


Radcliffe extended her support to Sebastian Coe in his bid to become IAAF president when Lamine Diack steps aside next year. "I back Seb Coe to get in, and then I would be interested in going and working in the anti-doping department," she said. "I can't speak for him but I think the person he is, he'd be good for our sport. We need someone who would recognise the areas we need to invest in to protect it, not just anti-doping, but also for the promotion of the sport. 

"We're competing with so many other sports who do it better in terms of promotion, in terms of attracting kids into the sport, and in terms of protecting the sport in anti-doping and the athletes. There isn't enough investment in anti-doping and I think generally, it may be time for a change."

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