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.