© Copyright – 2015 – Athletics Illustrated

The worldwide sports media is talking about athletics right now. This is somewhat unusual and it is happening for the wrong reasons.

The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs, Women’s World Cup of Soccer and Major League Baseball are sharing headlines with a 120 pound man with a grin and a grimace so animated that Disney graphic cartoon artists at PIXAR must have drawn influence for a new loveable character from him by now. My guess is the next PIXAR movie will have a Farah lookalike. I bet my money on a bob-tailed nag.

Farah is a lightning rod for attention in a country known for its media madness. He makes headlines for the right reasons, he is likeable, animated, quotable, a family man and multi-time champion. He is charming in a media scrum. He also happens to be Britain’s representative that has come to save the flagging nation’s athletics dreams.

The belief that making the news in any way is a good thing for promotion, does not apply in situations like this one, unless of course innocence can be somehow indisputably proven. If that verdict – without a doubt – was to come to pass, it would be a bad day for the media – a reckoning day? Perhaps it would be time to look inward, grow up and act like professionals who serve the community they provide news to. No wonder citizen journalism, with all of its warts and cankers froths beneath – and not far below – the surface of the traditional media’s digital pawn.

The media are chasing the Mo Farah story-as-human-drama like a beacon to the promised quote; he’s a proverbial white Ford Bronco on the digital freeway.

Dropping out of the Birmingham Diamond League meet sent the world’s media into a frothing, headline spewing spasm; or some other “asm” – fill in the missing prefix. You know a sure-fire method to draw flies, yes?

Farah, for very different intentions is drawing the attention away from a few people that are worth discussing, The Gouchers and Steve Magness. These are the people that are pointing fingers at the Nike Oregon Project (NOP), not Farah. Perhaps he is correct in that his name is being dragged through the mud, something he doesn’t deserve at this point. He is angry, fair enough.

Kara Goucher was one of the top distance runners in America over the past decade. She earned a bronze medal during the 2007 IAAF World Track and Field Championships in the 10,000m event. Her personal best at that distance is a solid 30:55. She won the USATF Half Marathon Championships in 2012 and owns a personal best at the distance of 66:57. The Gouchers were both athletes that trained with the NOP under Salazar’s direction, as Farah currently does, but they left.

So did Magness, who is a popular sport scientist, famous blogger and NCAA Division 1 Coach at the University of Houston. Magness worked for NOP for a short period of time leading up to the 2012 London Olympic Games. When he left it was eerily quiet; crickets, not a good indication of things.

Both Magness and the Gouchers have said that Salazar has provided his star athlete Galen Rupp, the London Olympic silver medallist in the 10,000m, with testosterone or other drugs that ordinarily require a prescription. Apparently, there were other questionable doping accusations, such as applying for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for an IV drip during the Olympic Games for Rupp – IV’s are strictly verboten. Apparently several NOP athletes happen to have low-performing thyroids, therefore need TUEs for medication to function on a fair playing field.

Many former athletes from the days of Salazar’s reign as a marathon champion (NYC x 3), have come out to say that he would do nearly anything and push himself almost too far including to near-death to win. He did have his last rights read to him after one NYC Marathon. Apparently he is meticulous about his records and detailed in his training data. If so, good luck finding fault in the apparent obsessive compulsive over-achiever.

But isn’t that what it takes to win? In a world where we place sport champions, movie stars and pop stars on the highest pedestals, we somehow claim the right to rip them off the dais the moment we are not satisfied, visa a vis a competitive and sometimes irresponsible media crucifixion.

Salazar is known to push the boundaries of ethics and fair play in his pursuit of winning. Apparently, he will seek the absolute maximum limit of legality with USADA or WADA and push that line, but not pass it. Taking any banned performance enhancing drugs is cheating, but there are benchmark limits that can be straddled via micro-dosing or rolling off of dosing early enough as well as taking masking agents. If he is so meticulous, as said, he is probably very carefully walking the line between good ethics and cheating. Legally-speaking, my bet is he is “legal”.

Caveat: unless there is a massive closet so full of skeletons just waiting to stagger forth clattering with jaws a flapping while accompanied by a mountain of evidence. Typically what happens next is, the hordes come forth ala Bill Cosby or Tiger Woods or the whole affair is back under the Nike welcome matt. Will there be a dogpile on Nike?

His conundrum has taken the attention away from Russian athletics, which is currently being investigated by a team from WADA including the founder and Canadian lawyer Dick Pound, who will be no-nonsense and brutally frank in his assessment. It is asserted that an entire nation’s collection of athletes has been subject to brazen systematic doping and one man in one company, Nike and one little, animated man in England have taken the heat off the Russians.

Nike is Goliath.

But why would Kara Goucher – as did Magness and apparently several others go to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to report Salazar? And speak in front of cameras accusing Salazar of maleficence? It’s the Gouchers against Goliath, its Magness against Goliath. It is USADA or USATF against Goliath. They have everything to lose. Goliath can afford the ultimate dream team of lawyers; fire up the proverbial Ill-fitting gloves and dramatic haikus.

Any cheating is wrong, yes, but 31 Turkish athletes were suspended last year for taking anabolic steroids. Hundreds of positive tests were reported to happen during the London Olympics of which no one has yet been implicated.

Three of the world’s super powers in sprinting and distance running, Jamaica, Ethiopia and Kenya still do not have localised out-of-competition testing in place.

There are dozens of world-class athletes set to perform at the Birmingham Diamond League meet tonight. Surely, they deserve a line or a story.

Is Gatlin competing? At least he has proven to take banned performance enhancing drugs, dogpile on Gatlin!