Athletics News

A hard price to pay for anti-doping vigilance

A hard price to pay for anti-doping vigilance

Recent doping cases are not a great look for athletics, writes Katharine Merry, but there should be pride taken in how proactive the sport is in punishing those who break the rules

Plenty of headlines have been created around our sport lately in relation to doping and, whenever one of these stories comes out, it produces a complex melting pot of emotions for me. 

There’s the concern around how this news – whether it’s the spate of Kenyan distance runners testing positive or 2012 Olympic 400m hurdles champion Natalia Antyukh being set to lose her gold medal – makes the sport look, plus there’s that sinking feeling of “here we go again” and a deep sadness of, unfortunately, not being surprised. You want to be shocked, you want to be appalled but, with Russian athlete Antyukh, that wasn’t the case I’m afraid. 

There are encouraging aspects to it all though, too. I’m disappointed for the sport but I’m also very proud that we’re the ones being so proactive with these issues. The more you test, the more positive cases you are going to find and the better systems you have in place, the more people are going to fall foul of it.

I still think we could do more when it comes to anti-doping and it would benefit massively from more funding, but athletics does deserve a lot of credit for being on the front foot when some other sports perhaps don’t do enough in this area, simply because they don’t want to. 

There’s no doubt at all that anti-doping is a lot different from when I was running. The whole process seems a lot more relentless, which is a very good thing and obviously the reason why more athletes are being caught. 

We did have to do the whereabouts process and tell people where we trained, where we lived and when we were going away, but it has stepped up in terms of how regimented that is and being narrowed down to specific hours in the day. 

Natalia Antyukh pips Lashinda Demus (Getty)

I was a very organised athlete and I’m still a very organised person – I’d be the one sorting out all the details for our training camps, for example – but the more lackadaisical athletes out there soon discover there really is no margin for error.

I have no sympathy for anyone who doesn’t take this side of the job – and it is a key part of the job if you want to be a professional athlete – properly seriously. Ultimately, the responsibility has to sit with the individual. 

In years gone by, if you’d written a job description…

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