Drugs cheats and cleaning up our sport… a long journey ahead

Recent revelations have shocked the athletics community – Stephen Burgess from the British Athletics Supporters Club offers his views

Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell (Mark Shearman)

As I travelled home from a glorious weekend of athletics at the British Championships I then decided to ‘follow’ my sport on Twitter.

As I leave Birmingham I read that Tyson Gay has been caught drug taking, then by the time we reach Coventry I read Asafa Powell has also been named. Then by Milton Keynes more Jamaicans emerge as cheats and a ‘list’ of other Americans is said to be confirmed.

When I then arrive into London I’m left wondering what’s happened to our sport at the elite end. Add the fact that The Mail on Sunday investigation in the Russian drug testing irregularities was also staring at me throughout the journey, I am shell-shocked but not surprised.

With so many wonderful results achieved in Tampere at the European Under-23 Championships and Donetsk at the IAAF World Youth Championships from our budding youngsters I so hope our sport is indeed cleaning itself up for their future. After the recent IAAF ‘bust’ of Turkish dopers and a steady stream of Russian athletes being disqualified, I offer a clear message to the IAAF to start showing real leadership and solidarity with WADA ahead of next month’s World Championships.

Firstly, I ask them to come out and make a clean statement of intent to tackle this growing problem by committing more funds and stricter bans immediately and secondly, in the 48 hours preceding the World Championships, undertake 100% testing of every athlete entered for the event by a team of independent testers.

It is also time to start naming and shaming federations, time to address the darker side of tainted coaches and time to ask the cheats two questions; ‘why?’ and ‘how?’

The IAAF seem to sit on the fence and hope the problem will go away. I’m planning on going to Moscow to watch the World Championships but I worry many unknown athletes will suddenly appear winning medals whom don’t appear on the circuit. Goldie Sayers, like Paula Radcliffe before her, argues the case for stricter punishment.

I fear for our sport and that the journey ahead does not look as rosy as it did after London 2012 but we’ve time to stop the rot if leadership and decisive action is taken.

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