This week has been a big one for the running world with the release of WADA’s report which proved true the allegations of mass doping in high-level athletics. In case you missed it, WADA’s independent commission released their report on Monday. For the past year, serious allegations of doping in among Russian athletes have been circulating. Head of the commission, Dick Pound, investigated these claims and says they are true and that the issue is much larger than originally thought.
We reached out to some Canadian athletes to ask their thoughts on the issue. Charles Philibert-Thiboutot, Rob Watson, Reid Coolsaet, Evan Dunfee and Hilary Stellingwerff chimed in. Here’s what they had to say.
1. What were your first reactions to the report?
Rob Watson: “Not surprised, everyone knows that the Russians are dirty as hell.”
Hilary Stellingwerff: “I had mixed feelings about the report – in some ways I was surprised at the gravity of the issue, especially when someone like Dick Pound says it’s worse than they thought, but on the other hand it confirms suspicions we’ve all had for a long time.”
Evan Dunfee: “Impressed that the IC did not hold back in its recommendations. It is harsh but backed by a mass of evidence. Nothing in there was entirely surprising to anyone who had been following the story and even less surprising amongst the race walking community that has known about the systematic doping of its race walkers for years. The biggest thing that has to happen next is for the IAAF to take the IC’s recommendation and to provisionally suspend the entire Russian athletics team (which is well within their right).”
2. There have been murmurings of this kind of thing going on for quite some time. What were your suspicions before the allegations were proven to be true?
Reid Coolsaet: “I never suspected that there was such an expansive doping program that involved officials at the highest level.”
Charles Philibert-Thiboutot: “Well, we knew that a lot of Russians were doping, but for the corruption system to be so big, that is quite overwhelming.”
HS: “Our suspicions were exactly what has surfaced, that the doping problem in Russia is systemic and nation-wide. Russia is not the only country that has a doping issue. The surprising part comes from learning that IAAF officials have taken bribes to cover it up, that’s the really scary and disheartening side of it.”
3. Have you raced against someone who you suspected was doping?
HS: “Yes, many times. Also many athletes who have come off doping bans and are racing again. My case is no unique unfortunately, so many clean athletes on the world stage have experienced racing suspicious athletes who jump on the scene or who have been sketchy for years. It’s always frustrating to toe the line against these athletes. This is why the races and meet directors also need to take a stand and not let athletes in their races who have doped or who are under sanction because they take away spots and prize money from clean athletes.”
RC: “Yes. There are a handful of athletes that I still compete against which I’m suspicious of. Either because of their associations with known cheats or huge discrepancies in performance.”
C.P.T.: “Yes, especially in the last year where I was introduced to Diamond Leagues and World Champs. You can’t always be dreading over that fact though. You have to focus on what you can control to give the best you have and compete against the best in the world, whether or not they have doped.”
RW: “Oh yeah, many, many times.”
E.D: “Of course. Has it ever cost me anything? Not really. At the World Cup in 2014 I was beaten by Andrey Ruzavin who was subsequently suspended for doping this year and had results from 2011 – 2013 annulled but got to keep his World Cup result. That cost me a 10th place finish and a small amount of prize money. It shouldn’t matter though whether or not you’ve been personally affected because when drug cheats are allowed to compete the reputation of our sport is tarnished and we all lose out.”
4. How will this news affect your career going forward?
RC: “It won’t affect my career much. I’m more optimistic that the cheaters are getting caught these days. I can only focus on myself, otherwise it’s a distraction.”
C.P.T.: “As an athlete, I will do as much as I can to promote clean sport and cooperate as much as I can in the process of testing. I think Canadian athletes are very genuine and while countries like Russia choose to go on the darker side, we must take pride in our strong clean and ethic sport culture, continue to push forward more testing and lead the way for other countries.”
E.D.: “Not at all. I can hope that we can start to move towards an era where all athletes can be confident that they are on a level playing field. But it will be a long road ahead, other countries need to be investigated. WADA needs significantly more funding and the IAAF needs to clean house and get rid of its bloated private school diner club executive board of directors.”
5. How do you stay motivated/ keep spirits high while training and competing knowing that there are going to be athletes who could steal your position.
RC: “I’ve always been motivated to see how far I can go naturally. I’m not going to let cheaters take that away from me even if it does frustrate me.”
RW: “I’m not good enough to really be competing for top spots, but I feel so bad for athletes that were robbed of podium spots due to cheaters. That sucks so bad. My personal motivations are basically to get the most out of myself, and them cheaters are not gonna get me down.”
6. How do you feel when these athletes get recognition and international attention when running is a sport that struggles to attract fans already.
HS: “It’s unfortunate that the sport we love is gaining media attention for a doping problem, but hopefully the IOC and IAAF will do the right thing and clean it up: implement life-time and country-wide bans in extreme cases and take drastic measures to help deter athletes from doping.”
RW: “Gah, f*** em.”
C.P.T.: “I try not to think about it too much. If I do highly suspect someone, I will just get super motivated to try to beat him fair and square. That’s a good feeling!”