TIME athletics

World Athletics Governing Body Denies It Blocked Publication of Doping Study

Lamine Diack, Thomas Bach
Joshua Paul—AP An image of International Association of Athletics Federations President Lamine Diack speaking is shown above International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, center, and others on the stage during the 128th IOC session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Aug. 3, 2015

The IAAF says it has "never vetoed publication of this article"

(MONACO) — The governing body of track and field has denied accusations that it suppressed the publication of a study in which a third of top athletes surveyed admitted to using banned performance-enhancing techniques.

British newspaper The Sunday Times claimed that the authors of the survey say the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) blocked publication of the study, conducted at the 2011 world championship in Daegu, South Korea. The newspaper says the survey concluded that 29-34 percent of 1,800 competitors at the championships had violated anti-doping rules in the previous 12 months.

The IAAF says it has “never vetoed publication of this article” and that it had “serious reservations as to the interpretation of the results made by the research group,” which was from the University of Tubingen in Germany.

TIME athletics

The IAAF Says Recent Doping Allegations Are ‘False’ and ‘Disappointing’

It says it has conducted over 19,000 blood-screening tests since 2001

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has expressly denied many of the recent doping allegations published in a report by the Sunday Times and German public broadcaster ARD. In a statement released on Tuesday, the global athletics governing body accused the news organizations of producing “false, disappointing and misinformed journalism.”

The Times and ARD stories published on Sunday allege that many athletes who won medals and recognition at international events since 2001, including the Olympic Games, had suspicious test results but went unsanctioned by the IAAF.

The organization says it has followed all prescribed rules and regulations as implemented by the World Anti-Doping Agency and that it has conducted over 19,000 blood-screening tests since 2001, claiming that it always followed up on abnormal test results.

The IAAF does admit, however, that the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP), considered the most recent and sophisticated anti-doping method due to it’s prolonged monitoring of biological indicators, did not exist at the time when much of its data was gathered. This, the IAAF says, could have hindered some of the efforts to adequately determine whether athletes were, in fact, cheating. But it emphasizes that “Suspicion alone does not equal proof of doping.”

Read the IAAF’s full statement here.

TIME Athletes

Leaked Drug Testing Data Suggests Pervasive Cheating in World Athletics: Reports

Michael H—Getty Images

The World Anti-Doping Agency will investigate the test data further

Doping in athletics is much more pervasive than previously believed, according to a recent investigation disputing the accuracy of drug tests carried out by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

The British Sunday Times newspaper and German broadcaster ARD hired scientists to look over test results of 12,000 blood samples gathered from 5,000 athletes competing in international sporting events between 2001 and 2012. The files were provided by a whistleblower from within the IAAF, the BBC reports.

Leading anti-doping experts Robin Parisotto and Michael Ashenden, who were hired to carry out the investigation, found a marked increase in doping and blood transfusions to boost athletic performance in the last decade since 2001. The findings are detailed in an ARD documentary, Doping Top Secret: The Shadowy World of Athletics.

Ashenden said that the data shows “a shameful betrayal of [the IAAF’s] primary duty to police their sport and to protect clean athletes,” comparing the current doping problem to that of cycling in the time of disgraced seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who was subsequently stripped of his titles for taking banned substances.

The findings suggest that over a third of the athletes who won medals in endurance events between 2001 and 2012 allegedly had suspicious test results, including ten athletes at the London 2012 Olympics. None of these have been stripped of their medals, according to the BBC. The report also alleges that 80% of Russian medalists tested showed dubious lab results. TIME has not been able to independently verify these allegations.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) will create an independent commission to investigate the test data shown in the ARD documentary further. Wada president Sir Craig Reedie said the allegations “shake the foundation of clean athletes worldwide,” the BBC reports.

The International Olympic Committee has also since announced that they will punish any Olympic athletes that are found guilty of doping upon WADA’s review of the data, the AP says.

The IAAF has responded to the investigation by claiming that the allegations “are largely based on analysis of an IAAF database of private and confidential medical data which has been obtained without consent.” They have promised a detailed rebuttal to the leak.

Read the Sunday Times investigation here and watch the ARD film here.


TIME People

The Case for Allowing Transgender Athletes in Youth Sports

Students don't always get to pick their team

In a poignant speech at the ESPYs Wednesday, former Olympic athlete Caitlyn Jenner called for transgender youths to be “given the chance to play sports as who they really are.” That was not something that Jenner, who competed as a man, was able to do.

It was a high-profile moment that may help a broader movement to allow transgender athletes to compete on the teams where they feel most comfortable, a policy that has been pushed at the state level by proactive lawmakers, activists and students lobbying state athletic associations.

Transgender boy athletes—students assigned the female sex at birth who identify a male—don’t tend to cause as much of a stir as their counterparts. Critics often argue that transgender girl athletes might have unfair advantages because of the strength or height that comes with testosterone. But supporters say that’s not really relevant in youth sports. And they stress that the benefits to transgender youths struggling to find their place far outweigh concerns about a slightly taller-than-average girl on the volleyball team.

One of those youths is Mac, a 12-year-old in Washington state. Before and after coming out as transgender, he suffered through bullying, pushing and shoving and name-calling. Some of the bullies’ parents didn’t even make an effort to stop the behavior, his mother says. Mac’s transition hasn’t been easy on his family, including a father who was stationed abroad in the military when he found out, or two older sisters, one of whom said at one point she doesn’t “believe” in being transgender.

But both his family and school officials have supported him on the basketball court. When Mac wanted to play on his middle school boys’ team, school officials were thoughtful and accommodating, even though the state’s policy allowing transgender athletes to play on the team that aligns with their gender identity only officially applies to high school sports.

“You have to have an outlet. Mac’s outlet has been sports,” says his dad Joshua, “To let oneself go and let it out. Because on playing fields, basketball specifically, everybody’s equal and there’s no pointing and name-calling. It’s all about teamwork. And Mac’s embraced that.” His coach says that he’s sometimes a step behind the bigger kids, that he has to work harder than they work. “He always persevered. He never gave up, no matter if he was dead-beat tired. He’d still keep going,” she says. And she saw No. 23 getting camaraderie in return: “The whole family-feel, like, I’m in this with these guys. We’re in this together.”

Once Mac gets to high school, he’ll have to go through a “Gender Identity eligibility appeal process” set out by the Washington state athletic association if he wants to continue to play. That involves appearing at a hearing before a committee—which must include a mental health professional—to prove with sworn statements that he “has a consistent gender identity different than the gender listed on [his] school registration records.” The committee will decide if he gets to play, though he can appeal if they don’t come down on his side.

Many states still don’t have policies, but at least a dozen others have some process on the books. In Colorado, for example, a student doesn’t have to sit through a hearing but is advised to submit documentation so the school can “render a decision,” like written statements from parents or friends or evidence of hormone therapy. In California, the language of a law passed in 2013 suggests the student need only say what their gender identity is and which team they want to play on, an approach that has drawn controversy. (Conservatives who believed this would give boys’ license to sneak into girls’ locker rooms tried and failed to repeal the law that makes this the policy for all K-12 students in the state.) In New Mexico this week, a transgender student was told she could not play on the girls’ volleyball team because her birth certificate says she is male.

Opponents also sometimes voice fears that more lenient policies will be abused. In a speech earlier this year, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee argued that the country was “forcing little children to be a part of this social experiment.” He added, in a mocking tone: “I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in P.E. I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today.'”

Despite these claims, there has been no evidence of foul play in locker rooms or bathrooms in the school districts that have had such policies on the books for years. And, on the other hand, there are abundant stories to be heard from transgender adults about they often found it traumatizing to be forced into the girls’ line when they felt they belonged in the boys or pushed down the pink-toy aisle when all they wanted was a truck. Affirming students identity by allowing them to play on the team where they feel they belong, experts say, can be one of the earliest feelings of acceptance they get as “one of the boys” or “one of the girls.”

When it comes to the competition question, experts say the Olympics and ninth-grade basketball need to be considered separately. Such levels of competition can hardly be compared in terms of demands, what a win means, what people are getting out of it, or how much a small advantage or disadvantage matters. At elite levels, officials may need to set out strict rules to account for genetic or hormonal advantages.

But Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a former Olympic swimmer who leads Champion Women, an advocacy organization for girls and women in sports, says the debate over hormones misses the point when it comes to kids. “We have tons of research that looks at what the benefits of sports are, and what we find is for both boys and girls, that it provides this lifetime of benefits,” she says. “They’re going to be more likely to employed full-time. They’re much more likely to be in STEM activities. And the health benefits are enormous and not just for this person, but when you think about big-picture society. Sports are a social good and we need to make sure there’s inclusion.”

Hogshead-Makar argues that it simply isn’t a material consideration—especially given the natural variety in height that males and females can have. “High school sports are high school sports,” she says. “What you want is as many kids as possible to be doing this endeavor. … It’s like math class. This offers too many benefits to keep people out.”

The first openly transgender NCAA Division I athlete, Kye Allums, played on the women’s basketball team at George Washington University after coming out as a transgender man. He argues that being athlete transcends gender. “Strength is not a measure of hormones or testosterone. A lot of the strength comes from your heart and what you work for,” he says. “Sports is about winning. It’s about competing. It’s about respect. It’s about heart. It’s about teamwork. And it’s about playing the came. It’s not about what’s underneath your jersey.”


Alberto Salazar, Famed Athletics Coach, Accused of Doping Violations

Alberto Salazar, the 1982 Boston Marathon winner, speaks to the Associated Press prior to joining John Hancock employees for a "Chat with the champions" event on Feb. 2, 2012, in Boston.
Bizuayehu Tesfaye—AP Alberto Salazar, the 1982 Boston Marathon winner, speaks to the Associated Press prior to joining John Hancock employees for a "Chat with the champions" event on Feb. 2, 2012, in Boston.

Salazar is currently the head coach of the world-renowned Nike Oregon Project

A former long-distance runner who became one of the world’s most successful athletics coaches will be investigated under allegations that he violated anti-doping rules.

According to the BBC, Alberto Salazar has been accused of breaking anti-doping regulations by at least seven athletes and staff at the Nike Oregon Project, the running camp Salazar heads. One such claim alleges that Salazar was involved in doping 2012 Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp back in 2002.

The allegations came to light due to a joint investigation between the BBC and ProPublica. Salazar told the BBC the “allegations your sources are making are based upon false assumptions and half-truths in an attempt to further their personal agendas”.

Read more at BBC News.

TIME Aging

This 92-Year-Old Is the Oldest Woman to Ever Run (and Finish) a Marathon

Harriette Thompson, oldest woman marathon runner
Paul Nestor—Competitor Group/AP Harriette Thompson starts the Suja Rock ‘'n'’ Roll Marathon in San Diego on Sunday, May 31, 2015

A two-time cancer survivor, Thompson has raised more than $100,000 for charity over 15 years

Finishing a marathon is difficult at any age, but if you want to know how hard it is at 92 you’ll have to ask Harriette Thompson. The Charlotte, N.C., resident completed the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon on Sunday with an unofficial finishing time of 7:24:36, making her the oldest woman to run a competitive 26 miles and 385 yards.

Thompson took up running at age 76 and has been tackling marathons annually ever since, Runner’s World reports. She’s only missed one since then, while she was undergoing cancer treatment.

Cancer has affected Thompson’s life deeply. She lost her husband of 67 years to the disease in January and now struggles with painful wounds on her legs resulting from treatment for squamous cell carcinoma. It’s fitting, therefore, that Thompson runs her marathons to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In the 16 years she’s been running, she has raised over $100,000 for the organization.

Thompson’s son, Brenny, often runs with her, but this year she had more well-known company. Starting up front with the elite runners gave her the opportunity to meet Meb Keflezighi, the New York and Boston marathon winner. But during the race, Thompson herself became the celebrity. “Since I’m so old, everbody wants to have their picture taken with me. Brenny says, ‘Don’t stop her, just take a selfie,’ rather than stop and take pictures all the time, because I’d never get to the end,” Thompson told Runner’s World.

Thompson’s new record breaks the one set by Gladys Burrill, who ran the Honolulu Marathon at 92 years, 19 days old. Thompson is nearly three months senior.

[Runner’s World]

TIME Athletes

Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers Scored on Celebrity Jeopardy!

The quarterback won $50,000 for his selected charity

An astronaut, an entrepreneur-TV personality and a football player walking into a room sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it happened on Tuesday’s Celebrity Jeopardy!—and the athlete came out on top.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers bested Kevin O’Leary of Shark Tank and Mark Kelly on the trivia game show with a final score of $8,399, which means $50,000 will go to the charity of his choice, Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, Yahoo Sports reports. (Kelly and O’Leary won $10,000 for their causes.)

Rodgers’ victory wasn’t without a few missteps: he missed questions involving his college (the University of California, Berkeley) and Harley-Davidson (one of the most well-known companies in the state he now plays for). But without his participation, we wouldn’t have this Vine of Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek doing his finest Rodgers imitation.

[Yahoo Sports]

TIME Athletes

U.S. Ranks Worst in Sports Homophobia Study

Will gay athletes find acceptance on the field?

Throughout most of high school, Michael Martin—a senior at Musselman High School in Inwood, W. Va.—kept his sexuality hidden from his soccer teammates. “I was afraid I would get harassed, tormented, made fun of a lot,” said Martin, who knew he was gay since middle school. “I wasn’t afraid of physical abuse necessarily. But I thought guys would do stuff like throw the ball at me. On purpose.” Martin says he heard the word faggot all too many times.

According to new research released on Saturday, Martin is far from alone. The study, entitled “Out On The Fields” and billed as “the first international study on homophobia in sport,” is a survey of nearly 9,500 people, mostly from six countries (the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand). The researchers found that 80% of all participants and 82% of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) participants “said they have witnessed or experienced homophobia in sport.” Of those reporting personal experience with homophobia, 84% of gay men and 82% of lesbians said they had received verbal slurs like faggot and dyke. Also, 81% of gay men and 74% of lesbians who were under 22 at the time of the study reported being completely or partially in the closet to teammates while playing youth sports. Nearly half of gay men and 32% of lesbians hid their sexuality while playing youth sports because they feared rejection by teammates. Only 1% of all participants believed LGB people were “completely accepted” in sports culture; 78% said that an openly gay, lesbian or bisexual person would not be very safe as a spectator at a sporting event.

“Unfortunately,” the authors wrote, “the study found few positive signs in any country that LGB people are welcome and safe playing team sports.”

(Participants in the study were not asked whether they identified as transgender, as experts consider transphobia and homophobia distinct forms of discrimination in sports, and the researchers decided to focus the study on sexuality rather than gender identity.)

The study found the U.S. had the highest percentage of gay men reporting that they had received verbal threats in a sports environment, and the highest percentage of gay men who heard slurs. In fact, of the six countries surveyed, the U.S. ranked worst in sports homophobia and discrimination, as measured by the “inclusion score” developed by the researchers. (Canada had the highest score, followed by Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., Ireland and the U.S.) “It’s sad that the U.S. fared so poorly,” said Pat Griffin, professor emerita in social justice education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a member of the academic team that advised the study authors. “It feels like we’ve made a lot of progress with the acceptance of homosexuality in sports. But going by these results, we have a long way to go.”

The “Out On The Fields” report comes with caveats. Though the project’s academic consultants insist that they reviewed the survey methodology and results, it’s not a peer-reviewed paper published in an established journal. The lead author is a former journalist who’s a member of the Sydney Convicts Rugby Union Club, Australia’s first gay rugby team. Joshua Newman, a sports sociologist from Florida State University who is unaffiliated with this project, reviewed the document for TIME. “The recruitment and sampling technique used likely resulted in a significant over-representation of higher-earning, racial- and ethnic-majority, pro-LGBT respondents to the study,” Newman writes in an email. “Are those representative of the broader populations in the English-speaking world more generally?”

Despite its flaws, Newman wrote, “I am inclined to say that the findings are important and the study holds the potential provide a significant contribution. This is the largest study of its kind yet to be undertaken. The results illustrate the extent to which LGB sport participants across multiple nations share common experiences of harassment, bullying, and even physical violence. It reaffirms what most LGB and straight athletes in these contexts already know, that homophobic language and action remain effective techniques for normalizing heteronormative masculinity in the sports domain. If we are going to take issues of (in)equality and civil rights seriously, this study reminds us that there’s no better place to start than on the sports field.”

Jason Collins, the first openly gay active athlete in the four major U.S. sports, has witnessed the power of sports firsthand. As more athletes come out, Collins thinks attitudes and behavior will change. “When I was in the closet, I would hear homophobic language in the locker room,” said Collins, who came out in 2013 and spent part of the 2014 season with the Brooklyn Nets. “However, when I came out, not one of my teammates ever used homophobic comments. It’s hard to change habits, it’s hard to change people’s language. But it is possible.”

Collins believes that sports homophobia would decline if Michael Sam—the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team, now a free agent—got a shot. “We need Michael Sam to play in the NFL,” said Collins. “I know he’s been training hard. We just need an owner, a coach, one of the NFL teams to give him an opportunity.” Why is Sam so crucial? “The NFL is very popular in this country,” said Collins. “Just to have his example, as an openly gay NFL player, going out there making plays, helping his team win—it’s another example of somebody living their authentic life. And hopefully it would encourage other NFL players who are in the closet to come forward.”

The study found that many gay athletes chose to stay in the closet because they fear rejection from teammates. Arizona State backup offensive lineman Chip Sarafin, who last year became the first active college football player at a major program to publicly announce he was gay—Sam only told his Missouri teammates—found acceptance. “As long as you put forth the effort,” said Sarafin, “people won’t care about your sexuality.”

What advice do gay athletes have for younger players struggling with their sexuality in sports? “Don’t quit,” said John Fennell, an Olympic luge athlete from Canada who came out to teammates in Russia, of all places, during the Sochi Games. “All too often I hear about talented gay athletes who leave sports because they don’t feel welcome. But they do belong. If I had given up sports, I would have wound up on a very different path. Sports shaped the person I am. My tenacity, ability to set goals and achieve them—I attribute that to my success in sports.”

“My advice is that there’s a lot of love and support waiting for you when you live your authentic life,” said Collins. “I understand everyone has their own path. Trust me, it took me 33 years of my life before I told another human being the words ‘I am gay.’ I hope all of them get to that point of self-acceptance.”

Michael Martin, the high school soccer player from West Virginia, arrived there this fall. He finally told his teammates he was gay—and danced with his boyfriend in front of the school. He has no regrets. “I feel like I played completely better with that weight off my shoulder,” said Martin. “It’s an uplifting feeling. I’m so glad I did it.”

TIME Athletes

Watch Snowboarder Billy Morgan Land the World’s First ‘1,800 Quadruple Cork’

We're dizzy just watching

Olympic snowboarder Billy Morgan has pulled off an amazing feat, achieving the world’s first “1,800 quadruple cork.”

On the slopes of Livigno, Italy, the Brit did four flips on a snowboard while spinning sideways or downwards during five full rotations. The never-before-seen aerial is the world’s first use of the maneuver, but it’s also not an unsurprising trick from the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics athlete, who’s been shredding on the slopes since he was a teenager.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 4

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. We’re measuring family poverty wrong. We should measure access to opportunity to find out what’s really working.

By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

2. Anxiety, depression and more: “Four to five times more” high school athletes struggle with mental health issues than concussions.

By Gary Mihoces in USA Today

3. They provide social order and an economic structure. What if prison gangs actually make life better behind bars?

By Shannon Mizzi in Wilson Quarterly

4. Scientists have released the genetic sequence of the 2014 Ebola virus to crowdsource solutions to future outbreaks.

By Fathom Information Design

5. If new technology really cut jobs, we’d all be out of work by now.

By Walter Isaacson in the Aspen Journal of Ideas

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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