Sunday, January 17, 2016

Silver Linings!

Why the sport of track is still awesome.

The IAAF shit show had me asking, “What’s the purpose of running?”
The question started as code for “I want to complain about everything and care about nothing. Because I can. I’ve been wronged! I’m having a crisis.”
What do runners do when they have a crisis? Half of us—the weirder half—go out and hammer a long run in silence while trying to cope with feelings. The other half (Like me!) talk to any runner and every runner (plus non runners and/or pets) who will listen or not listen! By the end, I was asking “What’s my purpose for running?”

All month, I’ve been talking to different runners and listening to their stories. Every single runner ended up talking about his or her purpose for running. Funny thing, no one’s purpose was money or fame (HAHA! FAME IN TRACK! JOKE OF THE YEAR. Except you, Usain Bolt. But you had to race a cheetah and be, you know, the fastest man ever of all time ever to get fame).
From my observation, professional runners get into the sport because (drumroll please!): we are better than most at it. This is not a sexy of a reason to like something, but it really is self-esteem boosting being objectively better than average at anything.

What is sexy is why we stay in the sport.

“I get a lot of self worth from trying to master a skill.”

“This is a journey of self-discovery: What are you made of?”

 “I’ve been given the time, some funds, and people who want to help. Not many people get that in anything they care about.”

“14 years in the sport and I still learn something new every day.”

“It’s exciting to devote your life to something and not be sure it will work out. It feels so sweet when it comes together. Kind of like love?”

“Running has taught me more than anything else about life.”

“I love my teammates. Being with them and celebrating their successes and supporting them though the losses is a bond that is hard to find elsewhere.”

“I like putting all my energy and emotion into something because I’m passionate about it.”

"We run to challenge ourselves and to truly see how good we can be and to find our limits. There aren't many professions where you actually find where your limits are and where you rank among your peers."

(not to mention:
“I like candy. And the more I run the more candy I can eat guilt free.”
“I like being able to fart without people judging me.”
“I like new running shoes.”
“I like sports, and this is the one I’m good at.”
But those are more superficial reasons and do not belong in this serious blog.)

Even though the corrupt people at the top are being terrible, they do not have much authority. We runners run because we like self-improvement, and we like company of other people who also like self-improvement. And dopers or money or IAAF nonsense doesn’t take it away.

And for the fans,
Still be fans.
Track is one of the few sports where the average joes and superstars are going through the same struggles. Our stories prove that humans can become superstars. And that superstars are human. These stories connect people. And then make people into better people.

And that’s why I still love track.

(If you want me to add your reason to the list, let me know, and I’ll add it to this blog.)

Friday, January 15, 2016


Quick thoughts on the IAAF Scandal.

Previous IAAF President hires his family and friends.
Seb Coe is Vice President. And is conveniently blind and deaf to corruption?
IAAF President and staff (aka: friends and family) take bribes to cover up positive doping test. Staff parties in Monaco, probably.
The entire state of Russia (plus probably Kenya, Morocco, and Turkey) were all cheating (No surprise there).
Seb Coe becomes IAAF President and inherits a shit storm.
SHIT STORM HAPPENS—the IAAF can apparently be bought/track is a joke
Seb says (paraphrased):
            “This sport is in a good state.”
            “These allegations are false.”
            “I never knew about the corruption.”
            "I have been fighting the corruption I didn't know about since my first day as president."
            “Ok. I know. We have a failed organization.”
“These are the darkest days for the sport.”
            “I am the man to fix this sport!”

You can find the detailed story HERE and HERE

We all knew there was massive doping. We thought it was because athletes/coaches knew how to cheat the test. We thought the IAAF was partly corrupt, but for the most part was working with WADA to help protect clean athletes. The IAAF’s job is literally to protect athletes and the integrity of the sport. Did it cross my mind that the IAAF could be the ringleader of a doping scandal? No. I feel like a butt of a horrible, horrible joke. I feel stupid for trying so hard during my professional career. I kind of imaging the Diack family watching the meets, cheersing and laughing at all of us that are, you know, devoting our lives to an almost hopeless cause.
The IAAF has lost all trust. All of it.  The system as it stands should be burned to the ground and rebuilt.

Should Seb Coe be President?
Seb was not the problem, and Seb will not be the solution. He does field questions like a true politician, and has some public support, so sure, I don’t mind if he stays president—as long as he does not have a blatant conflict of interest i.e: being paid by a sponsor invested in the sport. Because that would be ridiculous.  
Blaming Coe for the downfall of the sport is the easy out. That is not a good solution. Right now, at least he is obligated to make change, and he has the spotlight on him to keep him in check.

What was the problem?
The system rewards corruption and cheating.

The IAAF creates an event—an athletics meeting. They pay the big names in athletics to participate. This draws in fans. Sponsors fund the events in exchange for exposure at said events.

What makes these events popular? The rivalries and the superstars.
What is the easiest way to make a superstar? Cheat.
Now the sport of track and field has become a freak show. The once-in-a-lifetime talents and drug cheats are the stars of the show. They draw in fans. These fans make the advertising space more valuable. Therefore the IAAF gets paid more.

Cheats are good for the IAAF’s pocketbook. Plus, the officials of the IAAF get a nice little Christmas bonus when the cheats get caught! The cheats bribe the IAAF officials and the IAAF gets to keep the main attraction alive.

For those who didn’t follow, the money goes like this: Sponsorsà IAAFà Cheatersà IAAF. The IAAF is sitting pretty. No where does the cash flow go towards the majority of athletes. 

Possible solutions?
     1.     Do the sponsors support dopers? Let’s hope not. If they value a clean sport, they should be privy to the knowledge of positive tests. The sponsors could issue a fine for meets that support dopers. The financial incentive to have cheaters is too high, and this is the only way I can think of to hit the IAAF where it hurts—swift kick to the wallet. (This could be bad for the athletes, though. No sponsor money=no sport. We must be careful.)

     2.     Make the public aware of all positive tests. WADA proves someone is doping? BOOM, that person is outed to the media. Ruining an image is powerful. If a meet director puts in a convicted doper, shame on them. The IAAF can’t afford that public shaming at the moment.

     3.     Create a system of checks and balances—WADAs tests were working. Which is actually encouraging.  WADA also had no authority. Which is discouraging. The IAAF paying more to WADA probably won’t help much, considering WADA wasn’t the problem. But it does help the public image of the IAAF, which is valuable to the IAAF at the moment. The IAAF has to give some power to WADA. IAAF cannot hold the IAAF accountable.

      4.     Harsher penalties for drug cheats. This could possibly deter cheating from the athlete side.

5. Burn the entire system down. Create a new system from scratch with more athlete involvement.