Nobody knows how Pheidippides, the mythical herald who was history’s first marathoner, managed to run 26 miles to Athens after fighting the Persians all day. He dropped dead at the finish, and toxicology reports weren’t being done in 490 B.C.
But it’s no secret that Thomas Hicks took strychnine sulfate along with brandy and egg whites when he won the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis. Waldemar Cierpinski, the former East German steeplechaser who outran defending champion Frank Shorter in Montreal in 1976, later was found to have taken steroids, according to his federation’s records.
So it was no novelty this year when five Kenyan athletes were banned for using performance-enhancing drugs in the wake of Boston finisher Mathew Kisorio’s subsequent ban for steroids last year. “No question that doping will enhance performance in the marathon,” says Dr. Gary Wadler, the Long Island drug expert and former chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list and methods subcommittee. “Whether it’s running or cycling, people understand when the fruits of their performances are illicit.”
The six World Marathon Majors — Boston, New York, Chicago, London, Berlin, and Tokyo — now are determined to revoke those six-figure fruits with a stern anti-doping policy that will claw back prize money, performance bonuses, and appearance fees from athletes who test positive at or after their races.
“We’re not going to look the other way,” says Boston Athletic Association executive director Tom Grilk. “There’s not going to be a wink and a nod. No one’s going to be happy that someone became an immense public figure if they did it by cheating. We’d rather have 10 magnificent athletes winning races than one sweeping the landscape and becoming a worldwide hero only to find that perhaps he or she did it improperly.”
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