Elite doping survey sparks another FB manifesto by Pete Magill

Pete’s friend Diana Hernandez and son Sean teamed on this shot.

Among masters, nobody is more eloquent on the topic of doping than Pete Magill. On Facebook this week, he posted a note that drew scores of reactions (including one from me, in which I note the lack of monetary incentive for masters T&F athletes to dope, but acknowledge the masters LDR cheating issue with prize money at stake). In case you aren’t on FB or have access to Pete’s feed, here’s his initial offering: “Generation Dope: I’ve never been more frustrated with my sport in the 46 years since my first competitive race. Doping has corrupted the sport completely on the open level & has begun to pollute the masters level, too. Until the sport gets as serious about protecting the rights of clean competitors as it is about protecting dirty athletes (not to mention extolling their fraudulent performances), I think you can count me out. I’ll stick to club runs, local races, and coaching athletes who understand that running is about witnessing the amazing transformation you can bring to your own body, mind, and spirit–not about the synthetic potential of pharmaceuticals to fill your trophy cabinet while robbing clean athletes of their moment in the spotlight. Doping is cheating. Competing against dopers validates that cheating. And while we learn to live with a lot of unfairness in our lives, that shouldn’t extend to the experience that exists between the start and finish lines of a running race. … Follow this link and weep.” He later noted a story in The Guardian that talks about the linked study and its “scandalous” delay in publication.

The study’s conclusion: “Doping appears remarkably widespread among elite athletes, and remains largely unchecked despite current biological testing. The survey technique presented here will allow future investigators to generate continued reference estimates of the prevalence of doping.”

The Guardian said: “Now published in the journal Sports Medicine, the research reveals how athletes were quizzed at the 13th International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships in Athletics (WCA) in South Korea and the 12th Quadrennial Pan-Arab Games in Qatar (PAG) – both of which took place in 2011.”

Other Pete comments:

Yeah, I have to admit that my own enthusiasm for big USATF masters races has waned. I keep telling myself it’s about competing with my clubmates, but at a certain point you become responsible for validating races that are nothing but big showcases for dopers.

It doesn’t matter in bodybuilding because no one in the sport cares–years ago, when they created doped and non-doped divisions, everyone was happy with it. In that sport, it isn’t about clean competition, it’s about what can be done with their bodies–it’s like an artist taking brush to canvas (no one cares if they used dope to enhance their ability to paint).

It doesn’t really matter in pro team sports, either, as those sports are tribal–identifying with a team, winning, and losing are all that matter. But our sport only exists because of the thrill of seeing what the human body can accomplish. We don’t have the best physiques, and cities and legions of fans don’t rally behind our individual wins. When we run well, people see the human potential within themselves–that’s what we have to offer.

When that potential comes out of a syringe, there’s nothing to marvel at, there’s no sense of wonder or accomplishment. How many of the medalists at those big championships are clean? … How about: None of them. None. Of. Them. Drugs confer an advantage of 5-8%. So if anyone in the Top 10 dopes, and anyone else in the Top 10 is within 5-8% of him or her, then that person is doping, too. If the Top 10 are all within 5% of the top athlete, then they’re all doping, too–or no one in the top 10 is doping. You decide….

(Regarding his Cypress 10k when he ran 31:11):

That race, right after I turned 50, is what I consider to have been my best race ever as a master. And, like the 50-year-old master that I was, while I survived the race, it beat up my body so badly that I wasn’t able to race again for 8 months, LOL! Well, okay, I tried 3 weeks later, in a 5000, and ended up on the infield, barely able to walk, after 6 laps. Seriously, my Achilles just fell apart. I ended up taking almost 4 months off over the next 5 months to heal. Finally made it back to fitness just in time to run 15:01 for 5K a week before turning 51 … which once again put me out of commission! 😉

And you know what, THAT’S what makes those races so memorable for me. Because I trained 3 years with that 31:11 in mind, then spent almost another entire year of rehab and training to get the 15:01. The fact that I could have gotten both performances (and much more) out of syringe makes me hate doping MORE–because the memory of what I was able to get my body to do on both those days keeps me going these days, when it’s not quite at the same level.

And the thought of how meaningless those times would have been if they were synthetically produced–and how little the memories would mean at this point–actually makes me feel a little sorry for dopers. A little. Not much. Not enough to want them in the sport. At all.

One other point: That 15:01 was my last attempt at becoming the first 50-year-old ever to go under 15 minutes. I’d thought I was a shoo-in after that 31:11, but all the months off and then very few races available once I came back limited me to two tries. The first was sabotaged by a big blow-up at work the previous day with an IT guy that left me so angry I didn’t sleep a second all night–ended up running 15:05. Then I had this one last attempt, before there’d be no other certified races in the area until many months later.

I missed by two seconds. By the time the next round of 5Ks came around, I’d started my 50s slide, and I never ran faster than 15:27 again. When people ask me how I feel about that 15:01, about being that close, I say: “Are you kidding?! I ran 15:01 at age 50!!! I feel great!!!” Yeah, I could have doped up and run 14:45-14:50 … but it wouldn’t have meant as much as that 15:01–mostly, because it would have meant this: Nothing, nothing at all.

Can you imagine if you or I lined up 300 meters ahead of everyone else in a 5000 on the track. Then started on the gun, running the entire race minus the 300 meters (i.e., if we ran 4700 meters), then dared to take a medal for winning the race by, I don’t know, 5 or 10 meters?!! And then walked around discussing the training we’d used to approach the race, and our race strategy, and all that other BS?

And if we were treated by media and meet officials as if we were legitimate winners of the race? And if the other athletes were considered poor sports if they complained–you know, because we’d taken a 300 meter head start!!!???!!! Yet that is exactly the advantage a doper has. And we’re supposed to just pretend that’s okay, or to enjoy the race anyway. Or be scolded by someone, “You take it too seriously.” Yeah, I wouldn’t play pick-up basketball at the local high school with someone who always cheated, and I’m done racing against cheaters, too.

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September 1, 2017

10 Responses

  1. Michael D Walker - September 1, 2017

    Are people cheating? It seems likely that a good number of the top runners cheat. That said, to say that all of the medalists at the championships are cheating without providing proof is irresponsible and unfair to those who are clean and win. I do agree that we need to address the situation but the solution may be pretty complicated especially for us masters athletes. Any thoughts on how to address the use of PEDs?

  2. tb - September 1, 2017

    Are people cheating?

    All of the top runners except for him, if I’m reading his letter correctly. All of them.

  3. Michael D Walker - September 2, 2017

    tb #2, It sure sounds like Pete Magill believes that he is the only clean runner out there. certainly there are cheats and even one is too many but his complaints sound like he is trying to blame others because he isn’t winning.

  4. Wade Sorenson - September 2, 2017

    I won’t give up the sport I love because others cheat. I’ll do the best I can and live with it.

  5. JStone - September 2, 2017

    USADA suspending an M40 cyclist for using 7 different PED’s is a prime example of just how rampant doping is in all sports worldwide.

    https://www.usada.org/kayle-leogrande-receives-second-doping-sanction/

    You can talk about it, increase & improve testing, and throw out cheaters all you want, but sadly, doping always has and always will be with us.

  6. bill harvey - September 2, 2017

    I used to get the same uninformed bs that Pete is being given when I would express my version of basically the same thing Pete is saying. And, yes, to be less controversial, I will say that the number of PED users is much higher than anyone who has not been in a position to really know might think. When I won a first world championship, I did not get the gold medal, stand on the top step or listen to our anthem. But, I was given first place a couple of months later when the “winner” tested positive for “drug A, B, et cetera” (a plural). So, at least four illegal substances. Even though others suggested it must be disappointing to have to be thought second at the meet with no recognition, I was glad. Those who thought I was whining about widespread drug use had to acknowledge a guy who had cheated. Too bad we cannot afford to do more drug testing. The only good news is that as you get older the people using blow up their joints, or worse, and fall out of contention. The older you get the risks increase exponentially from PEDs. So those that feel “it did not kill me then so it will not hurt me now” will eventually pay an unfortunate price. Bravo, Pete, for telling the truth. But it is still fun to go to all the meets even though the field is definitely not level and you will sometimes lose to PED users. But in the end, you might just outlast them.

  7. Michael D Walker - September 3, 2017

    Bill, that I might outlast the cheaters is good news. Unfortunately, I know the top guys in my event and I am pretty sure that they aren’t cheating.

  8. tb - September 3, 2017

    If I lose- and it happens- I wasn’t good enough. That’s all.

  9. Sad - September 3, 2017

    Only issue with Pete’s logic is that doping would not have helped his chronically bum Achilles. Probably would have ended his career sooner.

  10. SimonM - September 7, 2017

    A couple of points:

    1. The study publication was delayed because of VALID concerns about methodology. It is a sensation-seeking bit of work that is essentially meaningless. As an example, any athlete who had used cannabinoids (not even THC) would count as someone “doping”.

    2. The hypocrisy among masters athletes continues to amaze. I am regularly lining up against pharmaceutically-enabled athletes – people who would not be able to train, let alone compete, without their regimens of anti-hypertensives, statins and who knows what else.
    2016 stats show 48.9% of Americans using one prescription drug; 23% using THREE OR MORE; 12% using FIVE OR MORE.
    If you need drugs to perform , you are a doper.
    And yet…I am not even allowed to know who among my competitors is racing with a TUE.
    Anyone who has been issued a TUE should have an asterisk by their name in results.So we know.

    3. Until that (2) happens, please stop bleating about alleged dopers infesting our sport. You are massively exaggerating the problem.

    4. Directly to Pete Magill: doping is about the glory, not the money, so if you think you can avoid dopers and pharmaceutically-enabled masters by sticking to local events – think again. International events – where at least there is the threat of testing – are a cleaner arena.

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