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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Drug Testing in Trail and Ultra Running

We all know it is there. Cheating, doping, whatever you want to call it. It is everywhere around us. It is present in pretty much every major sport out there, baseball, football, soccer and yes, even in running. It seems like almost every day there is a news story about an athlete that has failed a drug test. And we all jump in shock, and say “How could he/she? That is cheating?” We all want to believe that our athlete or our sport is immune, but the truth is, it is not.

What compels people to dope? For the most part it is performance, the ability to better the competitor, results, but most important of all it is money! “But there is no money in trail racing! Doping is for the big leagues!” Sure, there might not be much money in trail racing, but money is not just the prize purse. It is sponsors, endorsements and fame. While you may not get a fat pay check, like our road counterparts do, you will get all of the above. 

It is interesting to read interviews with athletes that have been busted for doping.  They often talk about how everyone was doing it, and how they needed to do it to get the competitive edge. More often than not it always boils down to I, and my ego is what made me do it. With modern advances in drug research and accessibility of various drugs, you better believe that there is a huge number of athletes that are doping right now on any level of competition. 

So should we drug test in trail and ultrarunning? In short yes, at least the top 10. At the same time, enforcing something like this is close to impossible. There is no one unified body that oversees all the races. Thus, testing would need to be up to discretion of each race director. With SkyRunning emerging as a new trail running circuit worldwide, as well as UTWT, we might not be that far off from having a sanctioning body overseeing particular race series. While testing at some smaller races and independent races might be hard to do, due to logistics, money and other reasons, testing at these big sponsor backed events should be easy. There is no need to test the whole field. 

Without one sanctioning body who will decide what is legal and what is not? Does taking various supplements pre/during/post racing constitutes as cheating? There are so many angles and so many unanswered questions. There will always be opponents to drug testing, but we can’t just deny and ignore it. We all train hard, and we all want to see our training pay off. Not all of us are fast enough to win, but at same time we want to know that people that do win did it in a same way as us – with lots of hard work and dedication. As trail and ultra running grows in numbers and popularity, so do numbers of sponsors and races, and so will the amount of money offered as prizes. More money, more problems. 

We as trail runners, ultrarruners, and hopefully dope-free athletes, deserve to know if our fellow racers, or even runners we look up are cheating. Denying the fact that there are drugs in trail running is just lying to ourselves. As long as there is something to be gained, cheating will always be there. It is up to us to speak up, get it implemented, and demand drug-free competition in our sport. 


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