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Molly Huddle urges lifetime bans for doping

Multi-US national champion Molly Huddle and others are publicly advocating for lifetime bans for a first infraction

2016 New York City Marathon

Multi-US champion and Olympian Molly Huddle is urging members of the running community to sign a petition calling for lifetime bans on athletes who fail doping tests. At the time of publication, the petition had upwards of 250 signatures.

We reached Huddle by phone today. “It’s something I’ve been saying for a long time,” she says. “I know a petition can only go so far, but the least I could do was to sign something like that. I definitely support… that.”

The petition was started by Mark Sanders of the UK. Huddle saw it on Twitter and decided to get behind it. Fellow American distance runner Kara Goucher has also shown her support, as have Canadian runners Sasha Gollish and Catherine Watkins.

NYC Half
Photo: Courtesy NYRR

Sanders decries the current rules, which allow athletes who fail drug tests to return to competition after serving bans of as little as a season or two, a situation that came up recently in the ultra-trail world, where several top finishers at the Sierre-Zinal 31K race were athletes who had served doping bans. “The current rules only enforce a temporary ban. This allows athletes to return to competition, and therefore to cheat again by doping… The reasoning behind this is everyone deserves a second chance. Well, everyone has a choice. A choice to compete clean or not. If you choose not, you don’t deserve a second chance, ever. You have no integrity if you choose to cheat… Permanent bans will send the message that neither athletes nor fans will tolerate this…”

RELATED: Doping issues cloud Sierre-Zinal results

Christian Coleman. Photo: Instagram

The petition also comes in the wake of USADA’s case against sprinter Christian Coleman, who missed three drug tests in a 12-month period, being dropped because his first missed test was backdated, according to USADA’s own rules. (The rules distinguish between two different types of “whereabouts failures,”–filing failures and missed tests–and are different for each.) However, Coleman has never had a positive test despite being one of the most tested athletes in the world, and Huddle declined to comment specifically on his case.

RELATED: The Christian Coleman loophole

Not everyone supports lifetime bans for positive drug tests. Several commenters suggested a lifetime ban is too harsh, given the number of false positives in drug testing. This was Huddle’s response: “I think we need to get to the bottom of how common those accidents are, and separate them from the excuses people use to get out of cheating… you hear about steroids in meat and such, and as a clean athlete you need to ask, do I really need to be afraid of that or are those stories fabricated? A true false positive would be a nightmare scenario for a clean athlete, and I’d hate to see someone removed from the sport because of it, but there are a lot more people who aren’t caught…” Huddle added that she views elite competition as a privilege rather than a right.

RELATED: American sprinter blames tainted meat for positive drug test

If you agree with Huddle, you can sign the petition here.