Doping Top of Mind for New IAAF Chief

The International Association of Athletics Foundation named a new chief this week, Sebastian Coe, British track and field star and former Olympic athlete.
Coe swears he’ll tackle the doping problem pervasive in the sport.
Last week, another 28 athletes were ban from the sport for doping allegations that went back to 2006 and 2007. Most of them have retired, so the ban has no impact on upcoming events.

We define winners as the first to cross the finish line, but these days we seem to confuse winners with those willing to cross the line first.

And what’s left in their dust? Often, the ones who played fair and square, the true winners who are left in obscurity.

We’ll see how this plays out in the 2016 Olympics in Rio with Coe at the helm.

Funny, in my youth I was more interested in following the rule breakers. Now, it’s those who win by following the rules that have captured my heart – and my pen.¬†Those who are willing to win by defeat if necessary.

Their characters are more solid, more durable, and more fun to write about and until now, their story has remained unwritten.

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What Does It Take To Be A Winner?

So we’re still a year away from the Olympics in Brazil and already the doping allegations are starting to swirl.

First, Turkish runner Asli Cakir Alptekin, who got a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics, agreed to chuck her title, after admitting to doping from July 2010 until October 2012.¬†She’s now banned from competing for eight years.
And in Oregon, where the Olympic trials are held, noted track and field coach Alberto Salazar and his top runner Galen Rupp are under scrutiny for doping.

According to the BBC, former athletes and a coach say that Salazar approved usage of banned drugs, including testosterone and prescription medications, to increase performance. Rupp, a reigning Olympic silver medalist in the 10,000-meter, is accused of using testosterone and testosterone medication in the report.

Currently there are 50 athletes and coaches serving doping suspensions, with seven handed a lifetime ban, according to the USATF website.

Obviously it’s a problem. I don’t know a lot about running, and maybe even less about winning. But It seems to me that to consider myself a winner, I’d want to play by the rules.

It’s hard to get into the mindset of elite athletes who think differently. As a writer, I find them flat as characters. To me, the more intriguing character is the one who sticks to winning by adhering to the rules, even if he or she knows it’s a losing proposition. That’s the head I want to climb into.

Those are the ones who win by defeat.

Two + Two = More

British cyclist Chris Froome made an impressive showing last week in the 14th stage of the Tour de France, leading to accusations of doping.

So sure are some fans, that at least one of them threw urine in his face during Saturday’s leg.

“Times have changed, everyone knows that, ” Froome said when questioned. “This isn’t the Wild West that it was 10 to 15 years ago. Of course there are always going to be riders who take risks in this day and age but they are the minority. It was all the other way around 10 to 15 years ago. There is no reason for that suspicion to continue.”

Funny, wasn’t that sort of what Lance Armstrong said a few years ago? Armstrong won seven Tour titles between 1999-2005 but was stripped of them after proof of his doping became irrefutable. He finally admitted it, following years of denials.

What’s worse, doping was so pervasive in the sport, that the Tour de France refused to name a winner for any of those races.

That got me to wondering. What if you were the person who did play be all the rules, who truly did win the race on merit and never saw that day of glory? What would that do to your life and how would it develop your character?

That’s the premise of my novel Win By Defeat, which follows Magna Laud, a runner who is an Olympic hopeful favored to win a Gold, but robbed of the chance when a dark horse beats her. It later comes to light that the dark horse is guilty of doping and Magna, who has chosen another field to make her Blue Ribbon mark, must decide what lengths she’ll go to win.

I promise, though, no one throws urine on her.