The CHill Zone of T&F: Conway's View From the Finish Line

Better Track Reporting

May 24th, 2015
10:04 pm PDT

Sprinter Shadow2014 was an off season in the world of track and field. There was no major championship of any kind at the elite level, and that translated into rest and time off for many of the sports major stars.

It also translated into time off from writing for me, as I focused more on coaching my high school athletes (state runner up in the 300H); watching the sport and keeping my opinions to myself; and dealing with a major health issue (had an aneurysm in January). So, after about a year away from writing I’ve decided a) I love coaching and the sport needs good coaches filling the pipeline of talent for the future, b) the sport needs bold writers, that will speak up or the status quo will kill it from the inside out, and c) life is too short not to do the things you love, because it can all be taken from you in an instant!

So, here I am at the end of my high school season, a couple of Diamond League meets in the book, and the elite season ready to start the march towards the World Championships. Seems like a good time to start running my mouth! One change you will see here is more conversation on the high school level. In part because in some parts of the country we’re seeing some tremendous talent emerging – and they will be the names carrying us forward into the future.

Today, however, I’m going to ask a question: why is the media, and the sport, still targeting Americans to pick on? I get it that BALCO may have been the biggest scandal to ever hit the sports world. But that was well over a decade ago now, and everyone involved has taken their punishment. In the meantime we’ve seen the rise of other nations/athletes performing at levels not even seen during the "designer drug" era of BALCO. We’ve also seen athletes from other countries go through their own suspensions – most notably the Russians in large numbers as well as the  Jamaicans who supplanted the Americans at the top of the sprinting food chain.

A Jamaican program whose rise occurred while it’s anti doping agency was not up and running, was without testing capability of its own, and therefore did not conduct random of of competition testing. A program that has seen the majority of its top athletes receive suspensions of various lengths, including Asafa Powell, Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce, Yohan Blake, and Veronica Campbell Brown, among others.

Yet, I can’t turn on a broadcast on TV or log into an Internet stream without hearing about the "controversial" Justin Gatlin or Tyson Gay being in today’s race and being reminded of their suspensions. And the worst proponents are AMERICAN broadcasters who seem determined to make sure that no one forgets – even as they line up side by side with others that have also had their own "time outs" from the sport!

First of all, shame on all of you! You claim to love the sport yet you insist on publicly giving it a constant black eye. This is no way to PROMOTE the sport, especially in a country that suffered for years from the fall out of BALCO.

Secondly, the sport has rules regarding doping, which involves the suspensions you so eagerly tout publicly. What you seem to overlook – at least when it comes to Americans – is that once you’ve served your time you are allowed back in the sport to compete freely after the sport has rigorously verified that you are a CLEAN upstanding citizen! There is no controversy. They are not "controversial". None have pulled a Ben Johnson and re-tested positive and been expelled for life never to return. Hell, they may be the most tested athletes in the planet – certifiably clean. As I said earlier, there are those not getting tested so much.

Finally, however, if we’re going to point out that there are athletes in the field with a "history", then in fairness shouldn’t we point them ALL out? In lane four is Asafa Powell who did a year for this and lane five Yohan Blake who did a reduced three months for that and so on! Now THAT would be fair right?

It also would be stupid! Just as the constant pointing to Gatlin and Gay is stupid. My point is simply if you’re going to point out one, point them ALL out. Either way is damaging to a sport that for whatever reason seems to gravitate towards its own negativity like a moth to a flame. Damage control is NOT what this sport does best.

So my suggestion today is this. You assumed the sport was correct in suspending athletes, so assume the sport was also correct in welcoming them back. Assume that the athletes that are stepping onto the track to compete ALL belong and promote the events and call the meet/races accordingly. Then perhaps the audience that we are so desperately trying to attract will feel good about coming to watch these awesome performances. Instead of being the skeptics you teach them to be!

This sport needs to focus on getting its best in the track to compete against each other outside of Championship events instead of tearing it’s athletes down. No successful sports do to its athletes what we do to ours – which just might be why we’ve struggled building audience share over the past decade and a half or so. Food for thought.

US Sprint Future on Display in Eugene

Jul 29th, 2014
1:04 pm PDT

The World Junior Championships closed out a near week long run Sunday in oft rainy Eugene - yes rain struck yet another big meet here. And while I continue to have my own thoughts about making this remote northwest corner of the country the focus of the sport here in the US, one thing that did become clear is that US sprint fortunes look better than they have for a couple of decades! First my two biggest beefs of the meet Read More...

Events I’ll Be Watching at US Nationals

Jun 25th, 2014
7:41 pm PDT

Typically Nationals is one of the two hottest meets of the year behind only the World Championships or Olympics. This is an "off season" however, that once every four years non championship season. So the full complement of elites looking to make a global team is a bit lighter than usual. My biggest disappointment in this regards is the Men's 100 which is missing Justin Gatlin and the new kid on the block Trayvon Bromell,  as neither of the year's two fastest Americans is entered in the competition Read More...

My Thoughts on the World Relay Championships

Jun 21st, 2014
4:21 pm PDT

Focusing on coaching my high school kids, I missed discussing the early season to date, primarily the Diamond League and the World Relays Championship. That's a lot of action/discussion, so will tackle one then the other and will start with the World Relays Championships since the subject has already come up Read More...

NCAA Championships

Jun 17th, 2014
10:46 am PDT

This was a very busy week of track and field for the true fan of the sport. Oslo, the NCAA Championships, and the New York Grand Prix were all contested within a four day period, with some form of media broadcast available for all four days of action! Finally, technology and track providing fans with serious coverage of the sport Read More...

Perhaps the Youth Will Lead

Jun 11th, 2014
10:28 pm PDT

It's early June and the "elite"  track season is about to hit high gear. Pre last week; Oslo today; NCAA Championships started today; and the New York Grand Prix on Saturday. It doesn't get much better than that if you're a track fan - or does it? Well, on the flip side of the coin, the high school athletes here in California are just winding down their season Read More...

Saturday, A Day of Track and Field

Apr 28th, 2014
10:39 am PDT

In the year 2014 we finally got what I've always known TV could give us -  a full day of track & field! The thought of watching track all day on television has been a dream of mine forever.There is an old saying however, be careful what you ask for, you might it. and my day of sitting in the comfort of my home watching track and field had it's moments Read More...

Florida’s Dukes Up at Florida Relays

Apr 12th, 2014
12:26 pm PDT

Two weeks ago, the sprint world got to see young Trayvon Bromwell, come ever so close to the 10 second barrier with sizzling runs of 10.02 and 10.01 at the Texas Relays. In the process becoming the first "breakout" sprinter of the young season. If the question on the table was "Who's next",  it was rapidly answered by the host Gators at last weekend's Florida Relays, as their sprint corps put their "Dukes" up and delivered an answering blow to the early season sprint wars Read More...

Young Sprinters Starting to Step Up

Mar 30th, 2014
10:07 am PDT

The indoor season got started with records falling week after week. As hot a start to a new year as I can remember. Then like a snowstorm it got very quiet. The World Indoor Championships were missing the electric performers and performances of the early season. And while the team competition at the NCAA meet gave some excitement to the end of the indoor season, January was much more exciting Read More...

USATF Champs (The Guard is Changing)

Feb 28th, 2014
7:25 pm PDT

We're getting close to the debut of the outdoor season. As entertaining as indoors has been so far, it's merely the prelims for the real show outdoors. That said we still have a few weeks of indoor action left - what should be the most exciting part of all, championships. Last weekend's USATF meet, set the stage for  collegiate conferences, the NCAA's themselves, and the World Indoor Championships Read More...