Posted by: Joe English | January 28, 2008

Interview: Frank Shorter on drug use in running

Recently I had a chance to talk with running legend Frank Shorter. Shorter’s running career included gold and silver medals in the marathon at the Olympic Games (1972 and 1976 respectively). He also won the US National Cross-country championships four times and was the US 10,000 meter champion four times.

Frank Shorter
Photo: Joe English, Running Advice and News 1/11/2008

I spoke with Shorter on the day that Marion Jones was sentenced in her drug case earlier this month. She has admitted using performance enhancing drugs during the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games and has had her five Olympic medals taken away. Shorter encountered athletes using drugs in his own races, including Waldemar Cierpinski of East Germany who beat Shorter in the Olympic Marathon in the 1976 games in Montreal. He has strong opinions on the subject of drug use by athletes, which we discussed in the interview below.

Coach Joe: You’ve had many roles with running over the years, what are you doing these days?

Frank Shorter: I’m doing some coaching, but also I’m working with the US Anti-doping Agency. I was their first Chairman and I still work with them.

CJ: How is running different from other sports when it comes to the regulation of drug use in our sport?

FS: In many ways it’s the same situation. Running, or track and field, was a little earlier in trying to address the problem. And really it was a question of the Olympic sports, other than cycling, giving up drug testing to independent agencies. I’m not sure, even yet, that the Tour de France has given up testing to independent agencies. So I think the longer that it took for a sport to get to that the worse the situation will be for them.

CJ: And what will be next for running in terms of drug enforcement? Will there be more of it that we’ll see?

FS: Well, yeah. We’ve been moving up the food-chain. In the sentencing of Marion Jones today it was because the the Justice Department has gotten involved with the criminality of drug use rather than the moral or ethical issues reasons. We’ve understood from the start that when you’re doing something that is essentially a felony there are lots of people that are in on that felony – like doctors and agents and chemists – who if they start doing significantly more jail time maybe it will start attracting people’s attention. So that’s the process we’re going through now.

With Human Growth Hormone, for example, the only legitimate use is for children who are not growing and the only doctor that can legitimately prescribe it is a pediatric endocrinologist. So if they truly start clamping down on this and people start going to jail for the felony, that’s probably as much a way to cut down on the usage as catching athletes using it.

CJ: There’s a lot of controversy on this subject. It’s great to get your views. Thank you.

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA
Running Advice and News


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