Does Chris Froome Have Asthma? More Questions Than Answers…

Does Chris Froome have asthma?

If so, when was it originally diagnosed?

How often does he need to take medication to keep his asthma under control?

How much did he take on the day of the 2000ng/ml salbutamol reading (before adjustment for dehydration)?

Did Chris Froome know about the threshold for salbutamol?

What reasons have Team Sky given for the excess salbutamol?

These are all questions that have been asked repeatedly since Froome was first seen using an inhaler at the Criterium du Dauphine in 2014. So, I have decided to look back through the archives to find out as much as I can about Chris Froome’s chequered history with the respiratory condition. The relevant pieces from news articles are divided into the year they were published, for clarity, and important segments are underlined.

2011- 2013:

There are no Google, Yahoo (or even Bing) results for “Chris Froome asthma” or “Chris Froome inhaler” or  “Froome asthma” or “Froome inhaler” or “Froome Ventolin.” Despite his rise into the big leagues in 2011, Froome made no mention of his asthma, nor was he seen using an inhaler, despite this being a racing period during which he finished second both the 2011 Vuelta a España and the 2012 Tour de France and won the 2013 Tour de France.


2014:

June 5, 2014: Chris Froome’s autobiography is released (ghostwritten by David Walsh). The book details his childhood in Kenya, his early years as a pro, his rise to prominence in 2011 and his Tour de France victory in 2013. Despite being a tale about all the obstacles he has overcome in order to achieve success as a pro rider, the book contains no mention of asthma.

June 9, 2014: Five days after the publication of his ghost written autobiography, Chris Froome is seen using an inhaler while winning the Col de Beau stage of the Criterium du Dauphine

June 92014: “No TUE required, he has asthma, hence the coughing after exertion #duh #trolls” (Michelle Cound tweet)

June 10, 2014: “Chris Froome has used an inhaler for his asthma since he was a teenager, said Team Sky in response to a Twitter storm that brewed overnight.  (www.cyclingweekly.com)

June 10, 2014: “I do have exercise induced asthma.” Froome said after stage three. “I don’t use [the inhaler] every time I race, normally only when I have a big effort coming up. It’s a bit of a surprise everyone is talking about it.” (http://www.cyclingweekly.com)


2015

Dr Steve Peters, “We agreed as a team that if a rider, suffering from asthma, got into trouble with pollen we would pull him out of the race rather than apply for a therapeutic use exemption on his behalf.” (‘Inside Team Sky’ by David Walsh)

July 19, 2015: Froome had been struggling with a chest infection and applied for the TUE when his doctor noticed him coughing after the opening stage. No rules were broken but many observers were alarmed. The abuse of glucocortisteroids has been rampant in the sport for years and Sky had earned plaudits for their policy of withdrawing sick riders from competition, rather than apply for the TUE’s.  (www.independent.ie)

July 26, 2015: All of these arguments have been countered by Froome and Team Sky… the asthma was not mentioned because Froome did not want to alert his rivals to a perceived weakness, the TUE was legal and the only one he has ever taken in competition. (www.telegraph.co.uk)


2016

September 15, 2016:  That Froome had permission to use prednisolone for the 2013 and 2014 Tour de Romandie confirms his previous statements about having had “two TUEs inhis career”…“In nine years as a professional I’ve twice required a TUE for exacerbated asthma; the last time was in 2014.” (www.guardian.com)

It is strange, if you believe that Chris Froome genuinely has asthma and needs to take medication daily to treat it, that given cyclists needed a TUE for salbutamol up until 2010, Froome never applied for, or received, a TUE for his inhaler.

October 18, 2016: Former Team Sky team-mate Froome, 31, said: “Questions remain over his symptoms, the choice of treatment and the related performance benefits from that treatment.” (After Wiggins Fancy Bears Leak, http://www.bbc.co.uk)


2017

Dec 13, 2017: Chris has had asthma since childhood and uses an inhaler to take a common medication, Salbutamol, to prevent and ease symptoms brought on by exercise. (Team Sky statement)

Dec 14, 2017: “My asthma got worse at the Vuelta so I followed the team doctor’s advice to increase my salbutamol dosage. As always, I took the greatest care to ensure that I did not use more than the permissible dose,” Froome said in a team statement. “There are complex medical and physiological issues which affect the metabolism and excretion of salbutamol. We’re committed to establishing the facts and understanding exactly what happened on this occasion,” Brailsford said in the team release. (www.cyclingnews.com)

14 December 2017: “I have been a professional cyclist now, treating my symptoms and racing with asthma, for 10 years,” Froome said. I know what those rules are, I know what those limits are, and I have never been over those limits.(www.bicycling.com)

December 17, 2017: After Stage 18 when he was “stronger” compared to the previous day, he took several puffs of his inhaler, says Walsh. “That evening, wanting to show he was healthy, he took two or three puffs from his inhaler hoping he would cough less or not at all through the post-race interview.”  (www.thetimes.co.uk)

Dec 17, 2017: A cycling fan recalls listening to a special edition of Richard Moore’s podcast about Froome’s experiences of the Vuelta. He contacts Moore to ask if Froome mentioned his asthma being particularly bad on the day of the elevated salbutamol levels and if so, was it edited out of the finished podcast. Moore replied “He didn’t mention it on or off tape.”


2018

July 2, 2018: Team Sky said in a statement that Froome suffered from ‘acute asthma symptoms’ during the final week of the Vuelta. A team doctor advised Froome to take an increased dose of salbutamol – still within the permissible doses – to help alleviate his symptoms. (www.cyclingweekly.com)

July 2, 2018: The Team Sky rider has always maintained his innocence, claiming he only ever ingested the permitted dosage of the bronchodilator, with Sky sources understanding that part of Froome’s defence was that the elevated concentration of the drug was a result of kidney malfunction. (www.news.sky.com)

July 3, 2018 (about the Vuelta): Chris Froome ”I climbed off and immediately just started googling to learn what I could about salbutamol, about thresholds (www.thetimes.co.uk)

July 3, 2018: From Froome’s urine samples at La Vuelta, they could measure fluctuations in excretion even when only taking two daily puffs of his inhaler, never mind ten in the final week of the race. (www.thetimes.co.uk)

July 3, 2018: Chris Froome I’ve been an asthmatic all my life. I know the rules. There is no way I would go over the limit.” (www.thetimes.co.uk)

July 8, 2018 (about the Vuelta): According to the rider, his use of the inhaler was constant. Four times per day when healthy, up to 10 times each day when he got sick in the final week. (www.thetimes.co.uk)

July 8, 2018 (about the Vuelta): Froome told his lawyers that when he was healthy he used his inhaler twice in the morning and twice in the evening, increasing his usage only when dealing with colds or chest infections… his inhalations never exceeded the eight puffs permissible over a twelve hour period. (www.thetimes.co.uk)


So, what have I learned that will help answer the questions posed at the outset?

Does Chris Froome have asthma?

Yes… well, probably! There’s no definitive proof but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he very well might have some form of exercise-induced shortness of breath that has plagued him since some obscure point in time (see next question & answer). Froome contends that he didn’t mention his asthma until absolutely necessary because he didn’t want his rivals to see any perceived weakness.

Or maybe not… Claudio Corti, Froome’s former boss when he rode for Barloworld, has no memory of Froome’s asthma. It must also be noted that cyclists needed a TUE for salbutamol up until 2010. It is strange therefore that Froome never applied for, or received, a TUE for salbutamol, despite the fact that he was riding in Europe at that time. (One of his teammates at Barloworld during this period, Steve Cummings, did have a TUE for salbutamol).

If so, when was it originally diagnosed?

This is not at all clear from the numerous statements he has made, or Team Sky have made on his behalf since 2014. Depending on which one you choose to believe, Chris Froome has had asthma:

  1. Since he was a teenager  (Team Sky statement 2014)
  2. Since he was a child (Team Sky statement 2017)
  3. All of his life (Chris Froome, The Times 2018)

How often does he need to take medication to keep his asthma under control?

Again, the information on this is contradictory.

  1. In 2014, Froome claims “I don’t use [the inhaler] every time I race, normally only when I have a big effort coming up,”  whereas,
  2. On the 3rd of July, 2018, we are told his daily use at the Vuelta was two daily puffs of his inhaler, until he got sick in the final week, whereas,
  3. On the 8th of July 2018, he claims that his use of the inhaler is constant (At four times per day when healthy, up to 10 times each day when he got sick in the final week), and not reserved solely for big efforts.

Sometimes, he even takes it when he is feeling strong, or for post-stage interviews:

After Stage 18 when he was “stronger” compared to the previous day, he took several puffs of his inhaler, says Walsh. “That evening, wanting to show he was healthy, he took two or three puffs from his inhaler hoping he would cough less or not at all through the post-race interview. (December 17, 2017)

How much did he take on the day of the 2000ng/ml salbutamol reading (before adjustment for dehydration)?

By this stage I am sure that it will not surprise you at all to discover that contradictory statements have been made in relation to this question too. What may shock you though, is that these two contradictory statements were made on the same day, by the same journalist, in the same paper.  Depending on which statement you choose to believe he either:

  1. Used his inhaler twice in the morning and twice in the evening… never exceeding the eight puffs permissible over a twelve hour period, or
  2. Used his inhaler four times per day when healthy, up to 10 times each day when he got sick in the final week.

Did Chris Froome know about the threshold for salbutamol?

Yes… well probably. He made numerous statements claiming that he did know about the threshold, and that the doctor advising him did also. But he later backtracked on this and claimed to google it after being told about his Adverse Analytical Finding.

  1. Team Sky said in a statement that Froome suffered from ‘acute asthma symptoms’ during the final week of the Vuelta. A team doctor advised Froome to take an increased dose of salbutamol – still within the permissible doses – to help alleviate his symptoms. (July 2 2018)
  2. Chris Froome “My asthma got worse at the Vuelta so I followed the team doctor’s advice to increase my salbutamol dosage. As always, I took the greatest care to ensure that I did not use more than the permissible dose” (Dec 14, 2017)
  3. Chris Froome “I have been a professional cyclist now, treating my symptoms and racing with asthma, for 10 years. I know what those rules are, I know what those limits are, and I have never been over those limits.” (Dec 14, 2017)
  4.   Chris Froome ”I climbed off and immediately just started googling to learn what I could about salbutamol, about thresholds” (July 3, 2018)

What reasons have Team Sky given for the excess salbutamol?

This one we may never know the answer to, as UCI president David Lappartient is claiming that Froome has to give his permission for the reasoned decision to be published, while Froome has stated that he would welcome the publication by WADA of the scientific studies that they used to exonerate him. After years of faux-transparency from Team Sky, and claims of not wanting to assist dopers from WADA, I imagine that we will never see this information. Here are some of the possible reasons given so far:

  1. There are complex medical and physiological issues which affect the metabolism and excretion of salbutamol. We’re committed to establishing the facts and understanding exactly what happened on this occasion,” Brailsford said in a press release in 2017. If they do understand exactly what happened on this occasion they are keeping it under wraps.
  2. Sky sources in July 2018 claimed that part of Froome’s defence was that the elevated concentration of the drug was a result of kidney malfunction.
  3. That Chris took a few extra puffs before his interviews so he wouldn’t cough during them. Presumably in his dehydrated state these could have led to the high reading. David Walsh has repeatedly wrote that Chris told him so, but it does not appear in any other articles or Team Sky statements.
  4. Chris Froome succeeded where many others have failed, bypassing the pharmacokinetic test with WADA’s permsission and being allowed to adjust his sample for dehydration, bringing it down from 2000ng/ml to 1429ng/ml at the exact same time as WADA decided to increase their permitted level of salbutamol. As UCI president David Lappartient put it:  “Team Sky’s wealth helped them fight case in way other teams could not.” 

So after reading over 100 articles, and finding more contradictions than would fit into this piece, I think we can safely say that the Chris Froome & Asthma situation is… as clear as mud!

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This Isn’t About Chris Froome, It’s About Justice…

Lady Justice is often depicted as blind to represent her impartiality. Why? Because justice is not supposed to depend on power, or wealth, or who you know. And justice is definitely not supposed to depend on whether or not you have the ability to bury the UCI and WADA under mountains of paperwork. But as we know, this isn’t always the case – both in life and in sport. The Chris Froome case once again shows us that Lady Justice is not blind, she can definitely see green – the colour of money.

But don’t just take my word for it. The current UCI president, David Lappartient, has admitted as much saying: “Froome had more financial support to find good experts to explain the situation.” He went further, stating that although ideally the UCI wants to treat all cyclists alike in reality the big stars such as Froome, do get preferential treatment. He said that the Froome case provoked “a big battle between Team Sky, the test and WADA.” This was a battle that the UCI and WADA did not have the funds to fight. The UCI decided to let him off without so much as a warning, having already spent 750,000 Swiss Francs to achieve… the sum total of nothing. They have spent 750,000 CHF to undermine the credibility of their own organisation and of WADA. They are also conveniently blaming WADA and are refusing to release their reasoned decision because of WADA.

Understand?

No?

Me neither.

WADA is not exactly helping itself in this situation, actively undermining the credibility of one of its own tests, and then ignored its own rules in order to avoid sanctioning Froome. If the test is genuinely problematic then it is great that WADA has taken this stance and do not want to sanction a cyclist based on this flawed test. How moral of them. Where though, were these morals when other sportspeople were being banned for excess salbutamol?

Take Alessandro Petacchi for example. His sample showed 1320ng/ml of salbutamol during the 2007 Giro D’Italia. This figure is significantly lower than Chris Froome’s value of 2000ng/ml. But something amazing happened to Froome’s value over time, and it magically decreased from 2000ng/ml to 1429ng/ml (much lower of course, but still higher than Petacchi’s salbutamol levels). This reduction came about because WADA decided that WADA could adjust Froome’s value for dehydration. Unfortunately, this ruling came 11 years too late for Petacchi, who had requested the same adjustment for his much lower concentration of salbutamol in 2007, but was denied. Petacchi served a one-year ban. One rule for Froome, and one for the rest…

Let’s look also at Diego Ulissi. In 2014, he had a salbutamol level much closer to Froome’s at 1900ng/ml. Like Petacchi and unlike Froome, he was not given any adjustments for dehydration. Under WADA rules, a sportsperson can try to replicate their results after an AAF to show that the high levels of salbutamol found in his system occurred without exceeding the permitted dose. This is called a pharmacokinetic study. Ulissi tried and failed to replicate his salbutamol levels, and was subsequently banned for nine months. So, what were the results of Froome’s pharmacokinetic study, you ask? Funny story – WADA decided that WADA understood how difficult it can be to replicate a salbutamol positive, so they decided that Froome did not have to do it. Unfortunately that decision came three years and one ban too late for Ulissi. One rule for Froome, and one for the rest…

Salbutamol is an asthma medication that also has performance enhancing properties, particularly in large doses. Luckily for Chris Froome, he has had asthma since childhood… he just forgot to mention anything about it when he was writing his autobiography, which details his early life in Kenya, his early career, his rise to prominence in 2011 and his first Tour de France win in 2014. He goes into great detail about his struggles to overcome adversity, and talks openly about his other medical conditions, but just forgets to mention his asthma. For a smaller name, surely this angle would have been thoroughly investigated? But not for Chris.

So as it stands:

  • The UCI is not sanctioning Froome because of WADA,
  • WADA is not sanctioning Froome because it has decided to ignore its own rules,
  • No one is releasing a reasoned decision,
  • But, officially, Froome has done nothing wrong and we should trust him.

Justice? What justice…

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.