Unless you have been cut off from society and headline news lately you probably have heard about scandals in the world of pro cycling involving illegally using performance enhancing drugs. It's a pretty hot topic right now and there has been cases of athletes we look up to as role models in various different sports getting busted for cheating that pop up into the news every now and then.
Ultra running is a sport that has mushroomed by leaps and bounds especially in the last ten years. Some races are now offering substantial prizes and/or cash purses. Recently I was talking with a person who is not familiar with the sport of ultra running and I had mentioned that I was planning on heading down to San Francisco for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler this December. I also mentioned that this was not a typical race and one of the reasons for that was because of the large prize money dished out. First prize is $10,000 and two and three for male and female take home a nice chunk as well. So the person then asked me if the winners are tested for performance enhancing drugs. I said, "uhhh...ummm....I don't know....I don't think so."
For me I have always felt that the sport of ultra running goes much deeper than collecting some prize or money for winning. In fact I have a bunch of very comical memorabilia at home from different ultras in my career that I wouldn't trade or get rid of. I always thought it was kind of cool that it's a sport where the spectator gets in free and the participants pay! Anyway, one of the things that drew me to the sport was it's simplicity, purity, camaraderie amongst competitors, volunteers/crew, etc., and detachment from the modern world.
So my question for the blogosphere and people involved in ultra running is this:
Now that substantial money has trickled it's way into the sport of ultra running do we need to be testing the top runners who take home thousands of dollars for illegal use of performance enhancing drugs?
I know that one of the most popular 100-mile races in the world (Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc) sponsored by The North Face does test the top runners for certain illegal substances. Do we need to follow suit for races here and at what point do we test (i.e. if prizes exceed $1,000)???
Just to be clear I don't suspect that anyone is using performance enhancing drugs nor do I necessarily think that the testing should be done. It is also not my intention to offend anyone with this blog post and sorry if I did.
What do you think?
Please at the very least vote for what you think in the poll in the column up on the right. Peace....