An examination of anti-doping efforts made during 2016 in the trail and ultrarunning community.
Concerned athletes, organizations, and events are finally throwing down the gauntlet—drug testing has arrived and will be coming to more races near you. Spurred by ever-increasing popularity, large prize purses, salaried sponsorships, and the reality that known drug cheats are racing, the trail and ultrarunning community has taken a big step in legitimatizing itself as a professional sport. 2016 marked some of the most significant advancements in national and global trail and ultra anti-doping action.
Serious Dialogue Begins
iRunFar.com reported that The North Face Endurance Challenge Series (ECS) Championships added Italian mountain runner Elisa Desco to its elite starting field. “From 2010 to 2012, Elisa served a two-year ban from the IAAF after she tested positive for EPO at the 2009 World Mountain Running Championships.” This informational tidbit set off great debate among athletes and other news outlets about whether a previously sanctioned athlete should be allowed to compete for awards, prize money, and status. In this case, it was the ECS’s call since they had no PED (performance-enhancing drug) policy in place. In a release from Runner’s World’s Justin Mock, Katie Ramage, The North Face sports marketing director, shared, “…and while we’d like to have a solution readily available, we believe it’s more important that lasting change is created by doing it right, which takes time. Rest assured that as soon as we have something to share, we will.” To the chagrin of many, Desco was allowed to compete, though she did not finish the race.
Sage Canaday, outspoken PED opponent and elite ultrarunner, stated matter-of-factly in a December 2015 blog post and again in 2016 why dirty runners, like Desco, shouldn’t be allowed to participate. “Money, fame, and greed brings the real heavy-hitting and big-time threats,” says Canaday. “I think our best bet for the future is to try to do what we can to discourage new, competitive MUT (Mountain Ultra Trail) runners from using EPO to gain an edge and compete for prize money and sponsorship perks. The lack of drug testing, bio passports (blood-work history), and out-of-season testing in MUT running is a huge barrier that we must address in the future.”