I had shared that, upon my entrance into the NYRR media center on Friday, a reporter that I respect asked me a very thoughtful question. The reporter noted, ” What was the agenda of those who confirmed your story?”
In my mind, the agenda of the people who confirmed my story on Rita Jeptoo was a shared, sincere interest in cleaning up the sport.
It is probably the most positive information from this sad story. I do believe that many involved at many levels in the sport want to see a clean and popular sport.
I know that there are those out there who want only to destroy and devalue our sport. Their agenda may be to discredit another brand, another training group, a competitor of some sort. I believe that is the minority opinion and set of actions. It does make any such action that much more deplorable.
There is a minority, I believe, that see our sport as only a business. Those in that group see doping as merely a means to an end of making more money. That also has been reaffirmed to me with the research on this story.
I believe that, over the next several years, we have an historic opportunity to change our sport on the global stage. New leadership, which will come to the IAAF in the near future, will be of paramount importance.
An anti-doping policy that is enforced in Kenya, Ethiopia, just as it is in UK and USA, is of key importance for the sports success. Paula Radcliffe spoke about that concept to one of our writers, Cathal Dennehy, on Sunday.
World Marathon Majors has been at the forefront of testing, and quite frankly, without their financial support of testing in Kenya, Rita Jeptoo would most probably never been caught or tested.
A reappraisal of the mediocre way in which many of our events are presented in the media is probably next on the list. We destroy any interest in young fans with our inability to provide them key events that are responsive on all media platforms. This need holds especially for mobile products, which is where 71 percent of those under the age of 35 get most of their news, entertainment and sports on a daily basis.
Non-paid cable TV is key to providing Europe, Asia, Africa and especially the US with major athletic events. Streaming video is important, but terrestrial TV would gain a larger and wider audience and should be a beginning point for media coverage of our sport, not some add-on in 2014. The coverage of our sport, around the world, should be free to those who watch it. At this time, much of the world only has access through paid cable television.
Telling stories that engage the reader and viewer is paramount. Showing the breaks in marathons, which was missed in both Chicago and New York coverage of the events in 2014, just kills any chance of legitimate viewership. What if you saw a marathon broadcast that built up the tempo as the 30k approached, and from 30k to 42.2k, no commercials, sponsored by the major sponsor? What if, night of the broadcast a ten to twelve minute highlight was available for mobiles courtesy of major sponsor? And what if, anti-doping was so draconian and successful, you knew that the men and women you watched were more than likely clean and if they were caught in the next ten years, they were giving back all of their monies won?
The truth about doping is this: it affects us all. When an athlete dopes, they are stealing money from the global running community. If you do not think some part of what you pay for those $150 running shoes is not part of the money that supports elite marathoners or the $200 you pay for your entry fee is not part of that support, through sports marketing, then I have swamp land to sell you.
Doping devalues your sport and it also steals from you, the runner who supports the sport.
I will be as curious as you to see if Rita Jeptoo and Athletics Kenya request a B sample test. If I were to hazard a guess, I believe that she will turn down the B sample test and accept a two year ban.
Athletics Kenya needs to understand that blaming foreign agents, managers, coaches and doctors is not a solution. New leadership may be required in Kenya for the sport, as the current leadership does not seem to appreciate the severity of what is happening to their athletic community. The problem lies within Kenya. Drugs that are accessible and cheap, and medical professionals who want to line their pockets are a part of the issue. Out of competition testing, used on all athletes, and monitored by the global sport, will take the odor of cheating off one of Kenya’s greatest exports: distance running.
But we must also educate that doping is both unethical and dangerous. A complex problem requires a complex response. Just say No never works.
My agenda? I want to see the sport that I love and write about to be the leader in effective doping measures. I want to see sports fans check out the highlights of the NY marathon because ESPN noted that the two second difference in the finish was amazing and the lead changed twice with 400 meters to go!
And I dream of a day when, Sports Illustrated puts several track and road running athletes on their covers each year, understanding that like Football and Baseball fans, road racing and track and field fans buy with their credit cards just like other sports fans.
I hope that answers your question.