Opinion

Ever the Olympic optimist, but…

by
September 13, 2016

It’s good athletics has rolled around, a genuine international sport – but well, where do I start...

The first final on the track was the women's 10,000m – 25 laps around the track, not the most exciting of events, but it was well worth setting the alarm to get up at midnight to watch it.

Yes, on Friday night I’m in bed by 9:30pm.

The only problem was after sitting up and watching it I went back to bed feeling sick in the guts.

What I saw almost seemed to be impossible.

Was I dreaming?

In a sport already damaged by recent doping scandals, I saw the Rio Olympics as the opportunity to save the sport.

Athletics only rolls into the mainstream media every four years and the opportunity to show genuine, exciting, believable racing needs to prevail to give the sport back a bit of credibility.

So when Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia absolutely smashed everyone and broke the world record – winning in her second attempt at racing a 10km – in 29 minutes and 17 seconds there was a sense of disbelief on every social media network I checked the next morning.

The syringe emoji was getting thrown around everywhere on twitter and there was a lot of analysing going on.

The basics facts read like this:

She broke a world record was set in 1993 by Chinese athlete Wang Junxia by 14 seconds (just under 100m). The 10,000m record set by Wang was the subject of numerous doping allegations and no one had even come within 22 seconds of it since it was set.

Watching the race on Saturday I realised just how easily she did it.

She absolutely destroyed everyone and made it look like a run in the park. At stages she even started dropping 67/68 second laps and didn’t look like she was breathing hard.

I know how hard it is to run 67 second 400ms yet she did it effortlessly, and after she crossed the finish line looked like she could have banged out a few more laps at that pace.

Maybe I’m just slow…

In the men's 10,000m the following day most of the athletes crossing the line collapsed to the ground exhausted – and they were nowhere near their world record.

Our Australian record holder, Ben St Lawrence, was in that race and finished in 28 minutes and 46 seconds – not that far in front of Ayana.

To put it into perspective, her time is nearly a minute quicker than my best of 30.05.

With that time she would have won outright the 2016 Gold Coast 10km – beating not just the women but all the men. First and second were both well-credentialled Australian distance runners.

I hope with all my heart she’s clean and in two years time we don’t read in some low-key running news blog they’ve re-tested her sample and it’s a positive.

When renowned sports scientists Ross Tucker was asked if he thought it was a clean time this was his response: “Who knows. You can’t condemn an athlete as a doper based on a stopwatch alone, wouldn’t be fair. However, the context matters – we know that Ethiopia has a non-existent testing program and that they warn athletes when testers are coming for samples”.

Earlier this year, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) threatened to ban Ethiopia from international track competition because of its substandard testing.

Chuck that information in with the Russian systematic doping cases and we’ve got a massive fluff up in athletics.

Tomorrow night the star of the Olympics Usain Bolt will race in the 100m.

If he’s gonna get rolled it’s going to be to the US’s Justin Gaitlin. Gatlin won the gold in the 100m in Athens in 2004 but served a four-year doping suspension from 2006 and 2010, as well as a prior one-year ban in 2001 for having traces of amphetamines in his system.

It will be Good v Evil. If the golden boy does go down to a convicted drug cheat it might really hit the fan.

It makes me think if all this athletics watching is worth getting out of bed for and where will the sport be in a few years time?

In conclusion, I can't accuse because there's no evidence and I can't believe because there's no trust anymore.

*Bloggers note: I’m not a sport journalist and didn’t really know how to write this blog. I guess I wanted to give the facts some light and vent some of the questions I ponder from the elite end of my sport. I’m not accusing anyone mentioned in this blog of currently being on performance enhancing drugs, just stating facts. I hope everything I am watching on TV is true, amazing human athletic performance, if so it’s amazing and it makes me look bloody slow. Thank God I’ve got a job!

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