Doug Logan, former CEO of USA Track and Field, has kicked up controversy with his latest Shin Splints Redux column for SpeedEndurance.com.
According to Logan, it’s time to “give up this fight and bring the troops home,” and he’s not talking about Iraq or Afghanistan. The war he’s describing is the one against performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), substances that have tarnished the reputations of superstar athletes in numerous sports, among them track and field.
As Logan sees it, our efforts to test for—and ultimately punish athletes for using—PEDs amount to a war “without the possibility of victory.” For starters, he writes, anti-doping attitudes are hypocritical, since ours is a society “where there are medical solutions to just about any physical problem.” Logan himself has used prescription steroids to overcome injuries, and in his column, he calls the erectile-dysfunction drug Viagra “the greatest performance enhancer of them all.”
What’s more, Logan says, professional athletes already benefit from numerous legal scientific innovations that assist them with their training. For example, distance runners able to train at high altitudes or use altitude-simulation chambers have a leg up on the competition, and yet no one criticizes them for capitalizing on such advantages.
Logan is quick to point out that his Shin Splints missive represents a change in philosophy for him, and that while he was at USA Track and Field he worked hard to promote drug-free competition. During his two-year tenure, he says, he “used tough language to criticize drug cheating,” took on the supplement industry for not doing enough to eliminate tainted products, and “created a pathway for rehabilitation that required public statements of remorse and community service.”
Unfortunately, he says, “dirty” overseas labs always manage to stay ahead of testers, and it’s become extremely difficult, if not impossible, to catch dopers in the act. In the coming years, he writes, the “ominous development” of prophylactic surgery will make things even worse, as parents of preteen athletes are already asking doctors about elective procedures that will make their children stronger and less prone to injury.
Logan’s solution is to simply “let everyone compete and use their best judgment as to what is, or is not, good for them.”
“Stop treating athletes like children or even animals,” he adds.
Not surprisingly, the column has elicited strong reactions from those in the running community, and in a piece for OregonLive.com, Ken Goe says Logan “has gone completely off the rails.”
“Giving up the fight against cheaters punishes those who have made a conscious decision not to cheat,” Goe writes. “Worse, it further pushes the non-cheaters into even more difficult decisions that could have complicated and far-reaching implications for the health of themselves as individuals and the overall health of their sport.”
Interestingly, Logan’s views hit the web on June 13, just days before Saturday’s news that Jamaican sprinter Veronica Campbell-Brown—an athlete with 16 Olympic and world championship medals to her name—has tested positive for diuretics, banned substances that can be used to mask PED use.
VCB, as she’s popularly known, has already pulled out of the Edmonton International Track Classic, where she was scheduled to run on June 29, and the IAAF is expected to rule on the test results early this week.