23 comments, 65 points
One of the things that most turned me off of competitive running in my personal life is when I realized that the lighter you are the faster you can run long distance. It just turns into an unhealthy feedback loop where all your training can be superseded by someone that just weighs less. I don’t want to do a sport that rewards anorexia and unhealthy body weights. Better to just run for fun and the health benefits.
Years ago, when I was an avid cyclist, I was turned off my first local race, a meaningless city race. Three guys, and two girls were doping in the parking lot. To this day I have yet to be at a single race where people aren't doping prior.
Are you aware that winning is itself a payoff for certain people? And they want to win at everything, at every level?
You may not sympathize with these people, or agree with them, but they are not difficult to understand. In fact, they are easy to understand.
When people ask me why there is doping in masters bicycle racing, I quote: "Why are University Politics so vicious? Because the stakes are so small."
People's desire to "win," and the lengths they will go to "win," are not tied to economic or power rewards.
Well, naturally if you look at it like that, then why cheat except possibly because you are curious about how far you can take your body with assistance?
But we are not the ones cheating, and the people who cheat do not look at amateur sports they way we do. To them, there is a top dog in everything, And it's meaningful to them to be the top dog.
No matter how small the pond, there's always somebody who cares very deeply about being the biggest fish.
I should add, not everyone dopes though. My sport was relatively clean due to the amateur nature and the limited efficacy. Those of us who leaned toward technical competency were usually able to take on the roid-dudes without too much difficulty.
Since everything is monitizible, we'll probably see cheating in many places we dont traditionally see it. It reminds me of the movie limitless, everyone successful was doing the drug
Wow. Surprised someone's willing to "go there" so to speak.
Yeah, a lot of these athletes are doping. And, well, let's just say that I think Mary is putting forth a narrative that renders herself in the best light possible. Everyone knows what NOP is about vis-a-vis drug use. Mary knew too, which tells you a lot about her.
But I also think this can be a cautionary tale for young athletes. (Though I'm not naive. I realize that very few will pay it any heed in the run up to Olympic trials.)
That wasn't known back then when she started the program in 2012. Per the NYT article on the NOP, Salazar didn't actually begin the illegally doping NOP athletes until late 2010 or 2011 (though he had begun experimenting on himself and his son by then). [https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/19/sports/nike-oregon-projec...]
I guess I'm saying: you need a source for this or at least a cogent argument or STFU.
And this has, in fact, affected actual (not merely theoretical) XX females:
And while some rules (such as those governing the size of a basketball or the height of a volleyball net) could be adjusted to include some groups, other groups will be likewise disadvantaged.
I would also argue that notwithstanding your values, there are probably different optimums to achieve between the peak pro level and the community and youth level, but unfortunately people worship pros so much that at some point they would likely feel insulted if they had to continue with metaphorically shorter basketball hoops.
Relevant TED talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8COaMKbNrX0
Is there a running-related sport that doesn't care about who gets there first, but instead measures success like a gauntlet, where the last person to drop out of the race for just not being able to run anymore, wins?
Not quite like a multi-day ultramarathon, where the running is segmented. I'm talking more about something that measures who can muster the longest single-segment run, with most people being expected and encouraged by their trainers to drop out once their muscles start to fail them, lest they incur permanent damage.
I imagine light weight would serve no advantage in this kind of "race."
> The format is simple: Runners must complete a 4.16667-mile loop every hour until only one hardy soul is left. Whatever time they bank before the next hour begins is theirs. So it’s not a race of speed but rather a war of attrition where all but the winner DNF. Last year, a duel between Guillaume Calmettes and Harvey Lewis ended with Calmettes running 245.835 miles in 59 hours. The feat drew considerable attention for the race and attracted a highly competitive field for 2018.
It's a 30 hour race through the woods if I recall correctly.
EDIT: I wasn't 100% correct, but this looks like what I was talking about: https://www.outsideonline.com/1924491/60-hours-hell-story-ba...
The actual count is 16 finishers and it is a 60 hour race so I am assuming it is done in legs.
There is a good documentary about it called "The Barkley Marathons: The Race that Eats its Young" currently available on Amazon Prime streaming. There are also some smaller pieces on YouTube about some other years.
Bonkers but utterly brilliant...
Note I'm not saying "being fat is okay" or "exercise is bad for you".
NOP is well known for their athletes doping. This woman was basically as close to Salazar as an athlete gets, so I'm about 99.99% sure she was doping. Once PEDS get involved, all of the normal rules go out the window. So being lighter would not really give you any advantage over an athlete with a few pharmaceutical enhancements.
Mary Cain was a teenager when she started running the NOP in 2012. Based on all available reporting, Salazar didn't begin trying to dope the NOP athletes until 2010 or 2011.
Her performance at the NOP demonstrates emphatically that she didn't dope--she was much slower under NOP coaching than she was in high school.
I suppose it's possible that she was doping, though considering the circumstances, if I was an official, I might be a bit more lenient.
Article link: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/07/opinion/nike-running-mary...
Everyone has an optimal weight for them (oversimplifying).
The best in the world tend to be very effective at very low weights. E.g. say 114 lbs at 5’7 for the sake of argument.
It does not follow that lowering a 5’7 runner’s weight to 114 will always cause improvement. MC is a counterexample.
Yes, I’m saying Salazar fell to a basic misconception. He’s had success, but he’s obsessed with dumb things. When you have insanely talented and durable athletes who actually do run best at e.g. 114 you start thinking your system works for everybody.
Instead of focusing on the issue at hand, broad strokes across the women's movement do not help (in fact that masks the truth). The issue here is specific knowledge that the coach needs to train a woman. There are male gynecologists and urologists, so this is not an issue with Alberto's sexual orientation or his team mates. This was a good ol' boys club of high profile coaches and teams, when they're given large number of resources (Nike), they'll do anything and everything to be successful.
However, I do see it as a chance to raise awareness that women in running (and likely other sports) face more challenges than men in regard to pressures to lose weight, health impacts of the sport (psychiatric and physical), bullying or such treatment by coaches, etc. And much of this can be improved at the coaching level.
So, I don't see why this is a special case in Sports except for just the lack of competence and perhaps they were deluded, malicious or just fogged by their egos. This can happen to a womens team of coaches as well.
I can totally see a group of competent, well educated and professional men teaching a young girl how to be the best at any sport.
In high school football there were guys who with the same amount of training could squat/bench/deadlift considerably more than everyone else. They were stronger/faster and when applied to the right sports they were on another level.
Sure, those less gifted in those areas could train hard to make up some of the difference, but not as much as you'd imagine. If you are short, no matter how hard you train you will be at a disadvantage playing basketball. If you are tall and bigger/overweight, you aren't going to win at cross country distance running.
Humans tend to overvalue magical training and undervalue the existing potential that training reveals.
It not only goes into the doping, but also the training and diet necessary to get the athletes weight to a level so they can achieve the necessary power to weight ratio to compete to win. It's crazy. But when you consider the investment teams are making in these athletes, you can see their motivation to cheat the system.
Take the 'winning' mentality to its logical extreme of killing all the competition, and the absurdity of it all becomes obvious.
At this point, the virtuous aspect of sports have taken a nearly complete back seat to power, prestige, and pecuniarum. Universities, for example, ought to be the epitome of pursuing sport for the sake of virtuous self-development.
And yet, what do we see there? A system so corrupt it is a miracle it doesn't collapse under the weight of outrage. Athletes who ruin their bodies for nothing except the hope of being drafted to play as professionals, while their coaches are paid millions of dollars a year,
We can choose to pursue sport for virtue's sake, but we're kidding ourselves if we believe that this is how sport actually works as an industry within capitalism, or as practiced by flag-waving nation-states.
Two comments -
First, althetes are already tough and demanding to themselves. The kinds of tough coaches that need atent the same kind of tough I'd need to get my unmotivated self moving. Equating these kinds of "tough" is inaccurate. They need coaches that have insight and cover their weaknesses, not assholes.
Second, I completely understand your logical approach - I've done it myself so many times. But I've started realizing that in doing so I'm supporting the status quo without evidence. I'm defending current injustices because of potential, hypothetical problems.
What IF "this lead to weaker coaches that don’t push the atheletes but now are afraid of abusing and crossing the line"? While that's not the ideal, that sounds better than inducing eating disorders that destroy quality of life (and potentially, the lives themselves). I dont think that's a risk - my first point covers that - but if that is a risk, it sounds worth the risk. Certainly better than accepting the status quo because change MIGHT not be better in every measure.
I was more curious from a new athelete's standpoint. Say, I am 14 years old, and say I want to become a world class athelete. Objectively, how does a new young athelete know if they are being abused or just "working hard"? There is literally no way to know if some authoritative figure as Coach is telling me to do something I don't like.
The central question I have is how does a new comer sense and detect abuse so that they can take action?
There is a lot of bullshit in Sports and Nutrition fields of study - partially because the data just isn't there but also because the lack of scientific method employed by people in this industry. Try searching for help on the internet for a sports related topic and you'll get everything and anything from tabloids full of bogus claims to rarely an linked journal from Johns Hopkins.
Furthermore, we need to also think about this from a Coach's perspective. There are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of coaches around the world. What credentials and authority do they have to make their students do something, especially if there is not scientific or objective backing up the claims? On the other side, Coaches that are now in the business would be completely taken aback and question everything that they do to avoid potential unintended abuse.
I have empathy for abused athletes and it has no place in the society. Just that it is important to understand both sides of the coin and not be riled up by emotions.
You said, yourself, that Alberto "clearly has crossed the line". He didn't cross the line by pushing her, as an athlete; he crossed the line by fostering a culture of emotional and psychological abuse, in the name of athletic performance.
So which is it?
Put another way: how did you know that in this case Alberto crossed the line?
In general, I am not answering, but questioning - how does one know if they are being abused if "that's how sports is, it is hard and coaches are tough?" I am postulating that, in general, a new athlete has no idea if they are being abused or this is the way to become a world-class athlete. I hope you can see the question I am asking (not answering).