Destroying a beautiful thing…

This morning I ran by a man that was wearing a Live Strong shirt , the slogan from the defamed Lance Armstrong foundation. My blood started to boil, and I would have given anything to have a stamp in my hand to add a “and Cheat” to that shirt. Then when I got home, I wrangled Livy into bed and checked Twitter before jumping in the shower. Another ban, and this time the female gold medalist in the 2012 Olympic Games from Turkey. I can’t remember her name and frankly, I don’t give a shit  about remembering it.

It’s taken about 15 years, but drugs are finally in the forefront of track and field. Sadly, when I got into this, I had no idea they were so prevalent here and abroad. Well, about 3 weeks ago, someone leaked the fact that the International Associated Association of Athletics Foundation had not reported dozens of suspicious tests dating back to the 2007. Slowly, people are getting stripped of medals and others handed new ones.

It’s heart-breaking to me to have this happen to a sport I love so much, but it’s high time things blow up and new penalties are established. I’m for life-time bans for first offenses. Hell, when you are talking about stealing large sums of money at the international level, I say there should be some jail time and lawsuits to try and return money to the rightful owners.

I just want to ask these people that cheated, “Was it worth it? Was the fame and glory you had for 5, even 10 years worth it, just to end up with nothing- not even your reputation in the end?” Surely, the answer would be “No.” God, I hope it is. I cannot even fathom having to tell my family and my children that my entire life and career had been a lie.

I have one bronze medal from the Pan-American Games, and several medals as part of a USA Cross Country Team, but I can tell you that standing on the podium in full USA gear is special beyond words. Often Quin wants “that baseball” song at night, meaning he wants me to sing him the “Star Spangle Banner.” Well, it isn’t pretty, but I happily sing it because it means so much to me. I am so sad that these podium moments have been stolen from clean athletes, and that many of my friends have been kept off of Olympic Teams by cheaters.

It’s not until the punishment fits the crime that things will stop. I hope the fear of having blood samples be re-tested will help deter people from cheating in a small way. The only solace I have in all this is realizing that these people are just not head and shoulders better than me genetically. They are not superior, they are just taking drugs that make them super-human for training and racing. Shame on them. Shame on those that help them cheat. You’ve taken a beautiful simple thing and destroyed it.


Blake Russell

Runner, Wife and Mom. Enjoying where the running world has taking me and looking forward to the journey.

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7 Responses

  1. Octavio Diaz says:

    Well said and thank you for saying…..
    It is time for lifetime bans.

  2. jimhutchins says:

    Well said.

  3. Jonathan Matthews says:

    Blake, thank you for your strong expression of the outrage I also feel about drug cheats! I placed 19th in the 50K racewalk at the IAAF World Track Championships in Stuttgart in 1993 and some East Germans who finished ahead of me are confirmed dopers. How many others who finished ahead of me had used banned performance enhancing drugs? And now I have a son who has won the Montana State High School Championship in the 400 meters, as a junior. As he continues to develop, to run in college and perhaps after college, how many cheaters will beat him, pretending to be better athletes with their immoral, lying, drug-enhanced performances?

    I hope for a moral revolution of fair play, but I also want a strong performance-enhancing-drug detection system that can really catch the cheaters. I want sports drug cheats to be subject to both criminal and civil penalties. I want to see lifetime bans for proven drug cheats. For this reason, it sickens me to see Justin Gatlin, with his pumped-up body that has benefited from past drug use, being falsely heralded as the fastest sprinter of the past track season (recent studies claim to show that past anabolic drug use leads to permanent, performance-enhancing effects). Using banned performance-enhancing drugs, or other drugs cleverly related to them that are not yet banned, is theft and is an immoral assault on other athletes, an assault that should be vigorously prosecuted criminally and civilly. Blake, I want you to get your share and I want my share of the prize money, with interest, from drug cheats who have beaten us in races. Also, I want punitive financial fines to be assessed, to compensate you and me for the pain of being pushed back in the finishing order by the drug cheats who finished ahead of us.

    My athletic life is not just an extraordinarily low paying job (I’ve earned about $40,000 in cash, goods, and services during my decades of racewalking). It is primarily a way of life, a way of being in the world, an expression of an important aspect of myself, an aspect that is physical, psychological, even spiritual. The training and competition that make up the athletic life are active expressions/manifestations of who I am. The crucible of competition is a primary place where I discover my true self. Drug cheats degrade and defile the crucible. To the degree that my athletic life can be considered a spiritual practice, drug cheats perpetuate a hate crime against me, violating a fundamental part of the athletic creed while pretending to honor it, doing spiritual damage to me as I am engaged in important moments of self-discovery, as I test myself in relation to my athletic peers.

    Drug cheats dishonor themselves, even if they are never publicly exposed. They also steal treasure and honor from those they fraudulently defeat in competition. I hope there soon develop ways to keep them from contaminating the athletic life.

  4. coachanthony79 says:

    I took my Livestrong bracelet off last year, still hanging on a bottle of BioFreeze, or something like that, in my bathroom. I’ve often thought of having a “burn your Livestrong shirt” party, maybe a shred your bracelet picnic!

    So, like you, I, too, cringe when I see people wearing Livestrong paraphernalia.

  5. Stu Swineford says:

    Superior? In fact, they are inferior. Cheats are not champions.

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