Virtually unknown just one month ago, Christian Hesch has become perhaps one of the most controversial figures in athletics. With his teammates at a regional Nike-sponsored racing team threatening to out him for EPO use, Hesch came clean, so to speak. But he did so in a very public way — reaching out to the New York Times for his confessional. Now, the 33-year-old is serving a two-year ban for his drug use, and it seems that punishment was just the beginning.
EPO-cheat Christian Hesch stripped of Blue Mile title
Hesch attempted to seem transparent in his interview with the Times, indicating that he’d won roughly $40,000 (U.S.) by cherry-picking more modest races across North America with the best bang-for-your-buck winnings potential. But he also made one very bold claim that many feel is deceptive and driven by ego: that he did not dope for races.
As Canadian Running previously reported, Hesch won the Edmonton Blue Mile last May, and now is at odds with the organizers over the winnings. Athletics Alberta, which puts together the race, has disqualified Hesch’s win, banning Hesch from competing in any other race that they will put on in the future. One of those races is the Donovan Bailey Invitational, an annual marquee track and field event.
In a series of emails obtained by Canadian Running from an agent involved in organizing the 2012 Donovan Bailey Invitational field, it appears that Hesch was willing to make lofty promises in order to gain an invite into their prestigious 1500m race. Those promises seem to contradict Hesch’s claims that he would have never doped in order to perform come race time.
In late May, after winning the Blue Mile race, Hesch tried to gain entry into the 1500m race at the Donovan Bailey Invitational. The race was to feature Canada’s two fastest runners at the distance, Nate Brannen and Taylor Milne. Brannen had already secured a spot on the Canadian Olympic team and Milne was hoping to run the “A” standard of 3:35.50. The race was looking to bring in a premier field to facilitate such a pace.
Hesch requested a flat payment of $1,500 to run in the race and that he himself would cover travel costs and other expenses. He concluded the initial email by proposing performance based compensation. “I would be agreeable to a $500 reduction if I fail to place top 3 in the race, I think that’s fair that you pay less for a lesser performance.”
Hesch does have a personal best in the 1500m of 3:40.73, but that was run more than 10 years ago, in 2001, when Hesch was 22-years-old. His 2012 best at the distance was a 3:47.32, more than 13 seconds off the proposed pace of the Donovan Bailey Invite.
Organizers, obviously weary of Hesch’s request, pointed out that his season’s best was far off of the sort of race they were looking to put together, but gave the runner the benefit of the doubt, asking if he’d run any other races that would suggest that he was able to perform at the level of the international class race in Edmonton.
Hesch responded by outlining his race plans leading up to the Donovan Bailey meet, which included races in St. Louis and New York City in late May and early June. He then suggested a compromise:
if you’d rather, we can do a “if-than” procedure, say a minimum commitment of $750 as I stand now, with the $1500 figure only reached if i run say, sub 3:38 between now and jun 16th?…..i would be open to that, more fair than asking you to go off of last years results/name recognition (which isn’t much outside of boardshorts and road miles 😉 I can assure you that i’ll be ready for a 3:34 race in 3 weeks time, no question~
If a 9- to 13-second improvement in the 1500m in just three weeks sounds next to impossible, especially at that level and at that age, it’s because it is.
“It’s kind of ridiculous for anyone to suggest that they can make the jump from 3:47 to 3:34 in three weeks unless they have a history in the event that suggests they have approached the mark before,” Canadian record holder Kevin Sullivan told us on Monday. “Hesch has never shown that he was capable of approaching those kinds of times even when running at his best over 1500m. So, it’s quite ridiculous that he was making those claims at that time.”
Hesch maintained in his very public confession to the Times that he did not use PEDs to improve race performance, and only injected EPO to recover from injuries. One question then lingers in lieu of this revelation that Hesch was promising a “3:34 race” in such a short period of time: how was he planning on achieving such lofty goals in such a short timeframe?
Hesch was defiant when it was suggested that he would not have been able to run the times that he did if it weren’t for his EPO use, telling the Times, “Maybe this is my cue to walk away, but I’m real tempted to make a real clear point that I can and have run all those times perfectly clean. It’s not that difficult to run these times, and it doesn’t take any outside help.”
Hesch’s proposal to the organizers of the Donovan Bailey Invitational suggests otherwise. But it appears that even doping can get you only so far. In the St. Louis meet that Hesch was hoping to use as a benchmark for getting an invite to Edmonton he ran just a 4:07.69 mile, with a 3:50.70 1500m split.
In the end, organizers opted to decline Hesch’s proposal and he didn’t race in the 1500m at the Donovan Bailey Invitational. Hesch also did not do better than his 3:47 1500m best from earlier in the season before being banned from the sport for two years by USADA earlier this month. Perhaps it was a blessing for the disgraced runner, as he would have no doubt come dead last in race, which saw all but one finisher go under 3:40.