If you don’t think white privilege exists, you are already enjoying the benefits of it

We need to talk about what white privilege is, but let’s start by talking about what it isn’t. White privilege is NOT racism. Racism is prejudicial or discriminatory thoughts, words and actions against people from different races, based on the belief that your race is superior. It requires the active participation of the racist. Whereas white privilege is a societal construct that gives white people an easier path through life, at the expensive of people of colour. If you are white you may not have asked for it, you may not agree with it, but there from the moment you were born you have gained numerous advantages from white privilege. It exists whether you consent to it or not. It does not require any active participation on your part. It can almost be considered a hidden phenomenon as the benefits are so ingrained that often white people don’t realise the advantages it gives them, and people of colour, although they can see the injustice of it, often don’t openly discuss it.

White privilege is a term that encapsulated all of the benefits that being white gives you in a society that was founded by, and for, white people. There are some major examples, such as white people being looked upon more favourably for jobs, being more likely to be approved for loans and being less likely to be stopped by the police or security guards. The majority of the time people of colour experience the exact opposite. People of colour are less likely to get jobs even if they have the exact same qualifications as white candidates. They are less likely to be approved for loans and are much more likely to be stopped by the police or security guards, who are then much more likely to mistreat them or overact to them in non-hostile situations.  When a white person commits a heinous crime I am never asked to explain it because I share the same race as the perpetrator, or to apologise on behalf of my race. Yet Muslim people of colour are regularly asked to apologise for the acts of ISIS.  There are also more subtle hints that society is built by white people for white people. For example, I can turn on my television and see loads of people who look like me. I can read books, magazines and newspapers in which characters & people are described as looking like me. I can go into almost any pharmacy in the world and find make up for my skin tone. Although these subtle identifiers of white privilege are improving as society becomes more multicultural and multi-ethnic, white people are still significantly over represented and more likely to be represented in a positive light in popular culture and throughout society. Once we recognise what white privilege is and understand how we as white people benefit from it, we can act to change it to make a fairer world for all. It is best summarised by the saying “If you don’t think white privilege exists, you are already enjoying the benefits of it.”
Personally, I do not believe that white privilege is fair or just or right. I do not believe that I am superior to anyone because of the colour of my skin or theirs. I believe that affirmative action must take place to try to rectify and atone for the treatment of people of colour in the past. I believe that politicians, police officers, educators, celebrities, sports stars and all prominent societal figures must lead the way in making a fairer society for all. I believe that Tommie Smith and John Carlos were right to protest against a racially unjust America almost 50 years so, and that Colin Kaepernick is right to continue to do so today. I believe that we must raise our children not only not be racist, but to be actively anti-racism. I believe that we must demand this from our friends and family also. And because no one will ever say it better than the great man himself, I will borrow a line from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – we need to create a society in which “children will… not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  Dr. King said those powerful words in 1963, and we still have a long way to go before they are actualised. I am not racist, I am actively anti-racism, and I do not agree with white privilege… but I have benefited from it, and cannot avoid it, because I am white.

To illustrate in very simple terms what white privilege is I’ll tell you a story about my friend Bertha. I was 12, had just started secondary school and was so pale that I was nicknamed Casper (after the translucent friendly ghost). Bertha was 13, her parents were Nigerian, and that’s where she was born and had lived until she was eight. We shared the same bus stop and stood in awkward silence beside each other for weeks until I eventually told her shyly that I loved her hair (she had black and red braids that reached her lower back). She thanked me and told me that her mum sewed in it. I knew nothing about afro hair, cornrows or braids before that and bombarded her with questions. She obviously found my incessant questioning nice, or at least not too annoying, and invited me over to her house to watch her mum braid hair. And that was it, from then on we were inseparable friends, and I spent many evenings after school and weekends in her house. It was always her house. Not that I minded, her house was fun, she was allowed to play music and louder and stay up later than I ever was. Also, she was definitely the "cooler" friend and I would have followed her anywhere. One day her younger brother was being particularly annoying so I suggested we hang out in my house instead, after all, it was only 200 metres down the road. She suggested numerous other options – we could go to the beach, the community centre or walk around the village but I insisted that my house was a much better (and warmer) option. Bertha protested as we walked around and got more and more nervous as we approached the door. She put her hand out in front of my torso to block me from opening the door and said “Will you ask your parents if it’s okay for me to come in?” I laughed it off and told her it would be fine, I was allowed to have friends over. She asked again, this time phrasing it as “But just ask if it’s okay for me to come in, they do know about me don’t they?” At 12, I was quite naïve and oblivious to what she was trying to tell me and reassured that of course they knew about her – she was one of my best friends. She eventually had to spell it out for me, and I’ll never forget her shaking as she asked apprehensively “Do your parents know I’m black? Are black people allowed in your house?
My jaw dropped.

I realised then, and it has been reaffirmed repeatedly since, that there was a huge unspoken and unjust divide between us.

Being white opens doors, both literally and metaphorically.

I have never stood on a doorstep and wondered if I would be accepted on the other side.

And I will never have to…
… because I am white.


Mo Farah and the Muslim Ban

Earlier this morning Mo Farah released a statement about the recently enacted “Muslim Ban” which may affect his chances of returning to the US to be with his family. See the following tweet:

The Muslim Ban is wrong, on so many levels, however as I read the statement I couldn’t help thinking that it is not Mo Farah (or the Mo Farahs of this world) that we need to be worried about in this awful new age of American immigration. I posted the following two tweets to express my opinon:

“I really can’t get too upset about Farah, when other (non famous) people affected by the are going to be sent back to war zones” 

“I think the is morally wrong, but at least Farah & his family have money, options & are safe. Other people will die because of it”

Many people agreed, but some disagreed and thanked Farah for shining a light on this topic. But did he really shine a light on anything? As I pointed out on twitter, Farah’s statement was very Farah-centric. I really think he should be doing more to highlight the real and significant dangers upholding this ban will cause for many people. So, even though we do not get along, I’ve rewritten his statement, and I’d like to give him full permission to use it (with or without credit) going forward.

(His original statement is in black, my additions are in blue:)

On 1st January this year, Her Majesty The Queen made me a Knight of the Realm. On 27th January, President Donald Trump seems to have made me an alien. I am a British citizen who has lived in America for the past six years – working hard, contributing to society, paying my taxes and bringing up our four children in the place they now call home. Now, me and many others like me are being told that we may not be welcome. It’s deeply troubling that I will have to tell my children that Daddy might not be able to come home – to explain why the President has introduced a policy that comes from a place of ignorance and prejudice. However, I am one of the lucky ones. I am safe, both physically and financially, and could choose to make my home in many countries throughout the world. This should not be about me. I want to use my voice, my status, and my fame to highlight the real and terrifying danger that some people will face because of this senseless, profiling policy. I will not stand by silently as people fleeing Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen due to war, persecution and other horrors are refused access to the United States of America, and are set to be deported and sent back to almost certain death. I was welcomed into Britain from Somalia at eight years old and given the chance to succeed and realise my dreams. I have been proud to represent my country, win medals for the British people and receive the greatest honour of a knighthood. My story is an example of what can happen when you follow polices of compassion and understanding, not hate and isolation. I do not need your help, but thousands upon thousands of people do. Do not turn your backs on them.


So I’ll end this, as I so often do, with a plea:

It’s a plea to Mo Farah to use his status to do more…

It’s a plea to Mo Farah to use his statements to do more…

To think of other people who have much more to lose than a home in Oregon.

They could lose their lives.

Think outside of your own family,

Think of the wider world.

Nation Hopping Nonsense!

There are a huge number of important issues that need addressing in the world of athletics at the moment, including:

  1. Doping,
  2. Serious failures in anti-doping policy and implementation,
  3. Corporate governance issues, and
  4. Serious questions around conflicts of interest.

But one issue generated more chatter this morning during the Euro XC than all of these combined – the issue of nation hopping.

The main word that comes to mind when I think of this morning’s European Cross Country Championships is ‘farce.’ I tweeted it many times over the course of the two senior races, as first and second place in both the men’s and women’s senior races went to Kenyan athletes.

That’s right – Kenyan athletes!

Not ‘former Kenyans’ or ‘Kenyan born Turks’ as you may have heard them called on the television coverage. This is not an accurate reflection and here’s why:

  • Where were they born?                Kenya
  • Where did they grow up?             Kenya
  • Where do they currently live?      Kenya
  • Where do they train?                     Kenya
  • Where will they fly back to after the race? Yup, you guessed it, Kenya!

How then can they be considered ‘former Kenyans?’

How on earth can they claim to be Turkish?

The winner of today’s senior women’s race, Yasemin Can (aka Vivian Jemutai) demonstrated her proud new found Turkish-ness after winning the 10,000m at the 2016 European Track & Field Championships by telling the press that she hoped to one day win medals for Kenya too. She must really love and respect her newfound homeland and clearly plans to build her life there!

Now, this is not intended to be an attack on athletes, and Turkey is certainly not the only guilty country, but this morning they (rightly) dominated the conversation.

And the oddest thing about all of this nation hopping nonsense is that it is most certainly the easiest of of the IAAF’s current problems to fix. Most sports already have rules in place regarding change of nationality so it’s not like the IAAF needs to rewrite the rule book here. All they need to do is adopt more stringent guidelines and enforce them appropriately.


Here are my suggestions:

  • An athlete must have moved to his/ her adopted country before the age of 12/ 14 (unless he/ she moves later due to war/ persecution etc)
  • Once an athlete competes for one country there must be a long delay (e.g. 4 or 5 years) before he/ she can compete for another country.
  • An athlete must commit to living in his/ her adopted country for a certain number of days per year.
  • An athlete must commit to competing in his/ her national trials (unless injured).


It wouldn’t be difficult to implement. It wouldn’t be difficult to enforce. And most importantly, it would be a lot fairer on European athletes competing in European Championships.



Hello Block Button My Old Friend…

Until today I have only ever blocked two people on twitter – Justin Gatlin and Mo Farah. I blocked Justin Gatlin as part of @smokymozzerella’s #CheatsTurnMeOff campaign, so I would never see his tweets on my timeline (oh it was an innocent time!) I blocked Mo Farah mainly because he had blocked me, and I don’t see any reason to give someone who doesn’t want me to see their account unlimited access to mine. Blocking Mo Farah didn’t do me much good though, as he revealed to me at the Fairmont Hotel in Monaco in 2015 that he uses other people’s accounts to look at my page anyway. Which is totally normal behaviour for a 33 year old athlete with nothing to hide… :-/


So until now I have rarely used my block button. I rather engage in debate with people who don’t share the same views as me. And I’ve had some really interesting, thought provoking debates – particularly with people like @OlympicStatman, @EvanDunfee and @lambsenglish. Often I will cede some points, so will they, and we will all come out the other side with a better understanding of the other parties view and the reasons for it. I have changed some of their opinions on certain issues. They have changed mine. And caused me to reflect on some things that I took for fact. It is good, it is healthy, it is real debate. But recently there has been a slide from these worthwhile discussions into needless name calling. This morning, for example, I have been called a “cunt” three times. I was also called a “good girl,” condescendingly of course, by a man who has in his bio that he is a “proud father.” I sincerely hope his children are male, as I would hate to be a young girl growing up in his household. I will talk to anyone, that is the beauty of Twitter as a platform, we can debate, but keep it civil, as I have always done. Despite being called a cunt three times this morning I didn’t retaliate with any foul language of my own. And I have no intention to start. So I need a different way to react when someone is not making any valid arguments, but rather is engaging in a campaign of hateful abuse against me.


I have also been the subject of a bizarre, passive aggressive favouriting campaign, which has lasted over a year. Let me explain – there are three different men, all in their thirties, who search through all of the replies to my tweets and favourite only the ones written by people who disagree with me. Odd, no? They all follow me, yet none have ever agreed with anything I say on twitter. I obviously don’t follow them back, because a) we clearly don’t agree on anything and b) they are kinda creepy. I must admit that I do find it mildly amusing, yet at the same time downright bizarre. Given that I work in the autism field, I am very good at ignoring problem behaviours, and causing them to become extinct through this. However, my planned ignoring for over a year has not been successful so it is time for another course of action.


I try to talk to everyone who disagrees with me, because I too was once that naive person, who really wanted to believe that elite sport was mostly clean, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. However, from now on I am going to set some clear guidelines which will frame this discussion, and if people don’t adhere to them they will join a very exclusive club, with Justin Gatlin and Mo Farah as founding members. So here goes:

  1. No cunt calling –  In fact, no swear words directed at me of any kind. If you want to say “It’s fucking obvious” or “Bloody hell” go right ahead, but from now on you are staring down the barrel of a block if you call me a “bitch, dickhead, cunt, fucker, asshole,” or (in the vein of the WADA prohibited list) any other word which is linguistically similar or with similar meaning or effect.
  2. No “passive aggressive faving” – Guys, it’s weird. It is really weird. Especially coming from three men who are all older than me. You want to have a discussion – great, go right ahead. You want to unfollow me because we don’t agree on anything – great, go right ahead. But trawling through my replies, day after day, and favouriting only those replies which disagree with my point of view, or insult me.


3. No misogyny – Don’t call me a good girl, a little girl or anything else so condescending or offensive. I’m 27 and I’m the youngest headteacher/ principal of a school in Ireland, ever.

That’s it. Three rules. I’m not asking very much here, am I? And to the four men who inspired this blog, I have screenshots of everything. I have chosen so far, not to include these, or to identify you by name or Twitter handle. But if your bizarre and vile behaviour continues I will update this blog with my screenshots.


Athletes may not always play fair… But that shouldn’t stop us from playing nice in public debates 🙂


Why a Russian Ban Doesn’t “Level the Playing Field”

Anger was the first emotion i felt this morning after seeing this section of the official IAAF statement about Russian track and field athletes losing their appeal at CAS:

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has taken a strong stance on upholding the World Anti-Doping Code without fear and favour and is pleased that the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has supported its position.Today’s judgement has created a level playing field for athletes.”

A level playing field? A level playing field? Who in their right mind would believe that? It is ridiculous! After the numerous scandals that have rocked the IAAF in the past year you would think they might be a little less glowing in their self praise, and a little more realistic about the worldwide doping crisis that currently exists (in athletics and other sports). After all, Russia, home of the state sponsored doping regime, were only 4th on the London 2012 medal table, behind the United States, China, and Great Britain & Northern Ireland.

Over the past few days, weeks and months, I have been repeatedly saying that the doping crisis is a worldwide one. I have asked people to look beyond the binary, good vs evil narrative of Russia vs the rest of the world and insist that WADA take an in-depth look at other countries. Athletics loves a good vs evil story (see the media coverage of Bolt vs Gatlin at the World Championships last year), but in this instance this oversimplification cannot be permitted.


Let’s look at two other countries who have committed offences which provide identical outcomes to Russian state sponsored doping:

  1. Jamaica 2012: Jamaica engaged in almost no out of competition testing in the run up to the London Olympics in 2012. A WADA review admitted that there was a “significant gap of no testing” in the run up to the Games. Between January and late May WADA confirmed that no Jamaican athletes were subject to any out of competition testing. Renee Anne Shirley, who published this information, also raised concerns over the quality of the tests being carried out in Jamaica. It was said that due to the actions of the Russian government and RUSADA no Russian athlete living and training in Russia could be considered ‘demonstrably clean’ for the purposes of competing at the Rio Olympics. Why were similar steps not taken against Jamaica, as untested athletes could never be considered ‘demonstrably clean’?
  2. Kenya 2015: It was revealed last year n Kenya that athletes could pay bribes to their federation in order to make positive tests go away. This doesn’t sound too dissimilar to the “disappearing positive methodology” in Russia, does it? The Kenyan whistleblower said athletes would be approached by Kenyan officials who would threaten to expose a positive test unless the athlete paid them a percentage of their winnings. Joy Sakari and Francisca Koki Manunga said that Athletics Kenya’s CEO Isaac Mwangi asked for $24,000 to cover up their positive tests. When they said they could not raise the money they were banned. The message here is clear, doping is permitted in Kenya, for a fee. How can athletes in this set up be considered ‘demonstrably clean’?


I do not think that Jamaica and Kenya are the only other nations with doping problems, I chose them because doping issues in their countries have both recently been identified, yet neither was ever seriously under threat of an Olympic ban.


Does it really matter whether doping is permitted through action (state sponsored doping in Russia, a federation accepting bribes in Kenya) or inaction (lack of testing in Jamaica)? In my view there is very minor difference between the two. The outcomes are identical – doped athletes are being permitted to compete on the world stage. I actually feel more pity for the Russian athletes, who may have been forced by their federations to dope, whereas under the Jamaican or Kenyan systems the athletes can choose their own fate (while knowing that they are very likely to get away with doping). So I’m going to end this with a plea:

Please don’t accept this ruling in isolation as being good for the sport. Please don’t think that Rio will be significantly cleaner as a result of this decision. Please don’t buy the good vs evil narrative that you are being sold. This is not Russia vs the rest of the world. This could be, should be, a chance to clean up world sport globally. Don’t stop pushing for clean sport. 

Problems in Athletics & an Exercise in Cognitive Dissonance

I’m in the lobby of the incredibly beautiful Fairmont Hotel, Monaco, borrowing their WiFi and thinking about the state of the sport. It’s been the source of many, many Twitter discussions over the last year and my view is quite well known. It’s a mess. It’s a giant, ugly mess from the top down. The main four problems as I see them at the moment are:
1. Governance,
2. Doping,
3. CAS ruling on hyperandrogenism, and
4. Nationality hopping.

Diack may be gone…
Diack Jr. may be gone (and in hiding)…
Dolle may be gone…

But the uneasy feeling remains. Could Seb (or Sergey, in their time as VPs) really not have known? Wouldn’t you or I be sacked from our relative jobs for not knowing something as important as how the day to day running of the organisation was conducted? And particularly in Seb’s case, if the guys above him knew, and the guy who reported to him knew (Nick Davies), how on earth could he possibly have been in the dark? Here’s how the governance at the IAAF apparently worked, until recently:


Seb was meant to be ushering in a cleaner era for our sport, but will Rio 2016 be any cleaner? Maybe marginally, as the Russian team won’t be there. But that is mainly down to the excellent work of Hajo Seppelt and the German tv station ARD. IAAF were left chasing their tails on the Russia scandal, despite the fact that rumours about systematic doping in Russia have been around since before I was born. Hopefully Hajo’s exploits in Kenya will expose the huge doping problem that exists there, and then he can turn his attentions closer to home. He has recently set up a website https://www.sportsleaks.com to confidentially report information on possible doping in any sport. UKAD have a similar reporting service, but given their gross negligence and failures recently in the Dr. Bonar case, I’m not sure many people would trust them to act on the information they are receciving.

Another major issue, which will come to the fore in Rio, if not in the 800m here in Monaco, is the CAS ruling on hyperandrogenism. This season we have seen Caster Semenya look like her old self – faster, unbeatable in quick or slow races, and even capable of breaking the world record in the right conditions (yes, Kratochvilova’s insane 1:53.28!!!) I don’t think anyone is naive enough to think that this sudden improvement is related to anything other than the CAS ruling last year. This is not intended as Semenya bashing, after all there are several other athletes who are rumoured to be benefiting from the same ruling, but more as a lament on what the ruling potentially means for women’s sports. Surely women with (now unregulated) hyperandrogenism will become more and more dominant in women’s sport outside the 800m, in field events such as hammer, shot putt, javelin etc and in short sprints. As several athletes and journalists have commented – is this the end of women’s sport as we know it?

Every two years the European Athletics Championships remind us of another problem – nationality hopping. The most notable of this years championships was Yasemine Can:


Can, or Jemutai as the Eurosport commentators liked to call her, did herself no favours by talking about being “happy to win medals for Turkey, but also hoping to win medals for Kenya in the future” in her post race interviews. Of all the problems athletics currently has, this one is probably the easiest to fix, in two simple steps:

1. You have to run for a country that you are born in, or a close family member was born in, or where you have acquired refugee status.
2. You can only ever run for one country at senior level.

Similar rules already exist in many sports including football and rugby, they are easy to police and they will prevent the likes of the “Turkish” team at the European champs – which included athletes from Kenya, Jamaica, Azerbaijan and Cuba – from ever happening again.

Despite athletics’ failings in all of these areas, I know that tomorrow when I’m in the Stade Louis II in Monaco I’ll be able to enjoy the live athletics I see. This is because I’m capable of a form of cognitive dissonance. But while I’ll enjoy the performances for the spectacle that they are, I know not to believe that all of what I’m seeing is legitimate. And I also know not to believe that the IAAF or CAS are doing everything that they can to clean up and make fairer the sport.

Jessica Andrews / Dzessika Andreyeva – The Hypocrisy Around Improvements And Nationality


There is a British runner named Jessica Andrews and last Saturday she ran an eighty three second PB to become the surprise winner of the British Olympic 10,000m trials and qualify for Rio later this summer…

…But what if her name was Džéssika Andreyeva?

Or Dzhes Arzamasava?

Would we feel differently about an 83 second improvement over 10,000m if we had heard that it happened in the Luzhniki Stadium?

At the Russian track and field Olympic trials?

By an athlete that was not even expected to make the Russian Olympic team?

There would be a strong level of suspicion attributed to such an improvement if just one aspect of this performance was changed – the athlete’s nationality.

This is not intended to accuse or offered as proof of doping in a specific athlete, but rather as a way to highlight the nationalistic double-standards that, not for the first time, influence the anti-doping conversation. We know, thanks to the investigative journalists who have exposed it, that Russian sport is rotten with doping, at a state level, and this fits our narrative and preconceptions of doping.

However, in the aftermath of the performance on Saturday night, questions were (rightly, given the current climate of mistrust) asked of Andrews, and I encountered a great deal of obfuscation and misinformation, which only served to make me more committed to asking questions. So I’m writing this blog to get to the bottom of the following questions: How big was Andrews’ improvement really, and are some of the justifications and explanations for her improvement valid?

The point is that when performance is offered as proof or reasons for suspicion of Russians, as it often is, then the very same standard should be applied to any athlete. I want to look at that improvement, according to actual data, not self reported tales of time away.

So where do I start? Firstly, Jessica Andrews was not expected to feature in the Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m PBs, let alone win, and this is evidenced by the fact that she was not even mentioned on the England Athletics website’s list of athletes to watch out for in the race:

“The women’s race will be headlined by European 10,000m champion Jo Pavey (Coach: Gavin Pavey; Club: Exeter) as the 42 year old bids to qualify for her fifth Olympic Games.  Pavey will face a strong test however, as Kate Avery (Coach: Tony Simmons, Club: Shildon) and Beth Potter (Coach: Mick Woods, Club: Shaftesbury Barnet) have already achieved the qualifying mark for the Olympic Games with times of 31:41.44 and 32:03.45.

Further names to look out for will be Rhona Auckland (Coach: Joyce Hogg, Club: Banchory Stonehaven), Jessica Coulson (Mick Woods; Stockport) and Lily Partridge (Coach: self, Club: Aldershot Farnham & District), who are all within sight of 32:15, and Charlotte Arter (Coach: James Thie, Club: Cardiff), who has been in excellent form over the winter.”

Yet her improvement in this race was so great that she beat all of the aforementioned athletes, won the race and finished 17 seconds inside the qualifying time for Rio.

I have seen it argued repeatedly on Twitter that this 83 second improvement should not be considered suspicious as the time (31:58.00) is not overly impressive in the grand scheme of things, e.g. at an Olympic final. However I think that looking at Andrews’ time in the context of what other athletes can run is to entirely miss the point, for two reasons. First, because the important point here is the relative personal improvement, and second, because of the recent revelations which have exposed state sponsored doping in Russia and bribes to cover up positive tests in Kenya. These revelations, along with the ever growing list of countries that are non-compliant with WADA code mean that we cannot safely state what a suspicious or non-suspicious time would be. In fact, whether a time should be considered suspicious or not has nothing to do with the time itself and everything to with the ability, genetics, physiology and improvement of the athlete involved.

Therefore we need to look at Jessica Andrews’ time within the context of her own progression. Athletics is mainly an individual pursuit, and so it is much easier to judge an athlete’s improvement than it would be in football/ rugby/ basketball etc. Jessica Andrews’ drop from 33:21.53 in April 2016 to 31:58.00 in May 2016 indicates an improvement of 4.14%. The 10,000m time is significantly stronger, comparatively, than her outdoor 3,000m or 5,000m PBs (9:38.69 and 16:19.66 respectively). Andrews actually ran faster than both her 3,000m and 5,000m PBs during her 10,000m race on May 21st.

She has raced every year for the past eight years, which is inconsistent with her reported complete break (reported by her best friend to me on twitter as “pretty much taking a year out”) from track running. Power of 10 lists performances from her in late November 2014, April, June and July of 2015 and early January 2016. Therefore it cannot be said that she took a long break, no longer than a bad injury layoff. It is true however that she has only ever run two 10,000m track races so I am also going to look at her time in comparison to her results over other distances on the track, which she has raced more frequently.

If she had run her 3,000m track PB (set in 2014) for the entire 10,000m race she would have run 32:06, and,

If she had run her 5,000m (also set in 2014) track PB for the entire 10,000m race she would have run 32:38.

Therefore she ran faster than her 3,000m and 5,000m track PBs on route to a massive 10,000m PB.

Runner’s World prediction calculator (which can be found here: http://www.runnersworld.co.uk/general/rws-race-time-predictor/1681.html) estimates times of 34:30 and 34:01 for 10,000m using Jessica’s respective 3,000m and 5,000m PBs. If we take Jessica’s fastest ever 3,000m time (a 9:22.69 from an indoor competition in February 2016), that equates to roughly a 33:33 10,000m time. The “Running Ahead” website (https://www.runningahead.com/tools/calculators/race) allows users to insert two race times to predict a 10,000m time. Using her lifetime PBs – the indoor 3,000m and outdoor 5,000m – the estimated 10,000m time is 34:39. Clearly these times are not remotely near the 31:58.00 10,000m time she ran on Saturday. This marks the 31:58.00 out as a complete outlier in the context of her other track races.

10km is a distance that Jessica Andrews has raced much more frequently on the road, with her fastest time being 33:33 in Alcaniz in April 2016 (she has also recorded marks of 33:51 in 2015, and 33:55 and 34:17 in 2014). I cannot find any scientific studies comparing road to track times (some athletes never run faster on the track than road, others are faster on the track, I acknowledge this), but the IAAF offers tables (found here: http://www.iaaf.org/about-iaaf/documents/technical) for converting road performances to track performances which are helpful in this context. According to their scoring tables, her best road 10km time of 33:33 (1077 points) is the equivalent of a 33:12 over 10,000m on the track. To look at it from the other perspective, her 31:58.00 is worth 1141 points, equivalent to a 32:20 on the road.

There are other more generous conversions, including:

  1. 15-20 seconds slower on road for 5km and 40-50 seconds slower for 10km
  2. 3% slower for all distances on road compared to track
  3. 3.3% slower for all distances on road compared to track

Using these calculations Andrews’ time equates to 32:43 (using method 1), 32:33 (using method 2) and 32:26 (using method 3).

These road to track conversions bring us closer to the 31:58.00 that Andrews ran, which makes her performance improvement smaller (a converted 33:12 to 31:58 represents a 3.7% improvement, for instance) However it is still a major leap in performance in a very short space of time – especially for someone who has not shown much track pedigree in the past.

We don’t have to look too far into athletics history to find a similarly impressive performance in London. Russian runners have not been allowed to compete in recent months due to the well publicised revelations about state sponsored doping so instead let’s look at Volha Mazuronak (BLR), who ran 2:23:54 during this year’s London Marathon. This performance sparked debate from many sources, including Mara Yamamuchi who labelled the run “astonishing” and noted that she was “unable to understand her performance.” She pointed out that she “wasn’t accusing her of anything” but asked “If anyone with a good knowledge of women’s marathon running can make sense of this performance please let me know.” Mazuronak improved from 2:25:36 in London 2015 to 2:23:54 in the same marathon in 2016. This equates to a 1.17% improvement (much less than Andrews’ 4.14%, or the 3.7% improvement if you use the IAAF’s road conversion formula for Andrews’ best road 10km performance), yet Mazuronak was greeted with much more suspicion.

Also, many people were critical of the fact that Mazuronak broke her half marathon PB during the London marathon, pointing out how implausible it is to set a PB for a shorter distance race on route to a PB in the longer race. Which is identical to Andrews, yet similar complaints were not made when she broke her outdoor 3,000m and 5,000m PBs during her 31:58.00 run.

Mazuronak is thus guilty by nationality first, performance second. Or is it the other way around? Perhaps, most accurately, her performance is judged differently because of her nationality. That’s called profiling. Might this be fair given the ‘form’ shown by eastern Bloc nations? Perhaps. But it’s certainly not fair to imply that Athlete A’s performance is unbelievable, when Athlete B’s, even more profound an improvement, is simply dismissed because of her nationality and (untrue) explanations about time away from running.


I cannot say Jessica Andrews is doping. Similarly, I cannot say that she is clean. In the same way that I cannot speak with certainty either way about Volha Mazuronak. My point is simply that we cannot give certain athletes a free pass based on the country of their birth. Carl Sagan said that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof” and I feel that the same should be demanded of extraordinary performances, no matter who produces them.

I don’t think an assertion that one is now “in love with running” should be blindly accepted as the reason for between a 3.7% and 4.14% performance increase – the figures garnered from comparisons to her other track performances over a variety of distances and to her adjusted road performances. If we want clean sport we have to open our eyes, use rational and critical thought, engage our mouths and demand it – the time has long passed for believing everything we see without question or giving anyone the benefit of the doubt because of the nationality listed on their passport.