Olympic hammer man and a leader in the world of USA track & field, Kibwé Johnson shares his thoughts on the International Association of Athletics Federations’ recent decision to suspend the Russia Athletic Federation with immediate effect.
Since the announcement, I have toed the line between outrage at the Russian federation and athletes, to feeling sorry for the athletes involved. Partly because this is something long suspected but I never thought I’d see justice on such a mass scale in my career. Sorrow because I’m sure a great many of the athletes don’t have a choice. I’ve heard stories where athletes are given ultimatums. “Take the blue pill, or don’t come back”, so to speak. Lastly, because in my experience on the circuit, it is clear that people and athletes from certain parts of Europe just view doping differently. It just isn’t a negative thing. Good. Bad. Or indifferent. That is a fundamental difference and why, in part, there is such issue with doping at the highest level of sport. I used to hate dopers. And thought they should all be banned for life and thrown in prison and anything else you could ask for. However, I’ve learned the greatest tool for growing your perspective of life experience outside of your own bubble, is to experience life. It can be unnerving, but we’d all be better for it in the end.
To deal with the mess at IAAF, I think the answer lies in blowing the whole organization up from within. With so much already known about [Lamine] Diack‘s corruption, and I’m sure more on the way, it seems like the most logical step. Whether he was directly involved seems irrelevant, because the contrary means he’s a patsy and the ringleaders of all this mess are still in power. Yes, in my opinion that means Seb Coe is probably just as guilty.
The sport as a whole will survive. It may even grow more popular because those of us who are hellbent on competing clean will not go quietly into the doping doldrums. As much as I recognize the fundamental differences in how we view doping, as far as doping today, it seems like more and more stigma is being attached to it. Therefore, hopefully the sport will continue to grow cleaner still.
If the Russian federation is to remain suspended, I think the just action is to allow athletes to compete under the Olympic Flag. So long as they have no history of doping or cheating in any manner.
What seems lost on the Olympic movement is that not only is it about sport and competing, but it is about honor. Honor in sport. Honor in victory and more importantly, honor in defeat. This is where I wholeheartedly differ from those who feel doping “isn’t a big deal”. To me, regardless if you think doping is just another form of training or not, it is indisputably a short cut. A way for for you to reach results that otherwise you would not reach. It is not honorable. To me, if you can’t compete in the greatest Olympic sport on earth without cheating, well, go do crossfit or something.
I also have personal experience with a doped Russian as one placed 5th ahead of me in the London Olympic Games [men’s hammer results]. The results say I finished 9th, but were the doper not in the competition, I would have been afforded three more throws. I personally know I didn’t have much more in the tank that day. But how about the countless other athletes being cheated? Fellow NYAC team member, Alysia Montaño [Alysia Montaño Emotional at Thought of Medals] will potentially be awarded four more medals when the doping dust settles. FOUR! Can you imagine the lost earning potential? In a sport that’s already hard enough to earn great money, the clean athletes absolutely need to be rewarded for their performance.
Dopers will not deter me. They will not deter my resolve. Nor should they yours.
This is a mess. Can we just go back to being ignored by the IAAF when asking why our event is being excluded from the Diamond League? (But seriously…) ?