The doping fire has been re-ignited.

Gonzalo Calisto at the 2016 TCC. It was later we found out he had tested positive for EPO at the 2015 UTMB.

Trail, mountain, and ultra-running is booming and it’s clear to see. Circuits have increased, prize money has increased, ‘pro’ runner numbers have increased, and it must be accepted, with the potential rewards both financially and egotistically, there will be some tempted to dope.

Mark Kangogo at Sierre-Zinal an example. And now, Esther Chesang!

Trail running, unlike athletics, be that on the road or track, is unpredictable; tough and varied, with ups and downs, rocks, scree, and technicality, it draws comparisons to mountaineering, not road running. It’s the experience, the doing, the completing that brings the rewards. Take a marathon, on the road you may be able to complete in say 3-hours… On trail, the same distance could take, 4,5, 6-hours or even longer for the same runner. Road running rules don’t apply, a trail runner’s needs are different, except maybe for the sense of fair play, truth, and integrity.

Well, times are a changing

Look at cycling, athletics, and other financially lucrative sports. Doping has been a problem. Trail has been relatively void of positive cases. Note, I say positive cases, not void of doping. It’s fair to assume that doping has happened, but it’s impossible to confirm at what levels. The 2015 case of Gonzalo Calisto testing positive for EPO at UTMB was the writing on the wall. I wrote at length about the case and issues.  Read HERE.

It was a call to awareness with the #cleansport tag being used on social media and many prominent trail runners backed up the call. It all got a little muddy with the blanket of the Quartz Program which effectively was/is as useful as a chocolate teapot.

Now, the iconic Sierre-Zinal has had to suffer and endure two positive tests for the respective male and female winners. Ridiculously, the female positive was announced January 2023! She was confirmed positive in May 2022 after a road marathon! Oh, my word, we have a long way to go.

Is now the time to act, before the sport we love heads in a southern direction? If left alone, we may not be able to turn the tide.

But how prevalent is doping in trail, mountain and ultra?

A research paper published August 2017 (HERE) stated that : ‘estimated prevalence of past-year doping was 43.6%’ (from one event) – from a survey of 2167 athletes at two sporting events. That’s an horrendous statistic. The conclusion, ‘doping appears remarkably widespread among elite athletes, and remains largely unchecked despite current biological testing.’ Now this wasn’t trail running, but, one has to maybe assume, the situation is worse than maybe we think…

Skyrunning in many ways paved the way with testing, admittedly not at all events due to cost. But at key events, World Championships for example, WADA tests were conducted. Here is a quote from 2014:

 “In compliance with the WADA protocol, 11 anti-doping tests were carried out across the three disciplines, which included two for EPO (Erythropoietin). The tests were based in part on arrival order and in part random which included several members of the podium in each discipline. All results were negative.”

UTMB incorporated testing in 2015 and look what happened, Gonzalo Calisto was caught.

Trail runners are effectively hippies. We are on the outside, a weird and wild bunch of adventure and adrenaline seekers who do not want to be confined by rules. This rings true for well over 90% of us, but for those at the top, the pinnacle, who are now becoming professional, this is a business. In any business, corruption can take a hold and doping steals rewards, glory, and recognition.

ITRA, IAAF, WMRA, USATF, Skyrunning and the list goes on. Is it time for trail, ultra and mountain running to be incorporated within one Global Federation where rules and regulations could be imposed? Until now, the answer has been no, the excuse being trail running would lose its freedom and spirit. Many are opposed that a ruling body should not only dictate rules but also profit from ‘our’ sport. Look at the current divisive arguments on the growth of the ‘by UTMB’ and Ironman merger, they only reflect and affirm these thoughts for some. 

Do we want in-competition and out-of-competition rules that includes comprehensive random drug testing?

Pro-runner or not, at the end of the day, I think it’s fair to say that you (we) got into the sport not for rewards, glory, and money but through heart. First and foremost, we had a need for nature, adventure, freedom, and open spaces, this was the motivator, not a podium and a cheque.

Of course, rules do already exist, ‘no doping’ is a rule for all sports, mandatory kit (for some races) is a requirement, and the list goes on. But the list in many cases is left to the RD, race organization and more importantly, budget. There is no one set of rules that should be adhered to worldwide and this can be part of the problem, which is why the IOC had the Lausanne Agreement.

Is it time for this to happen?

The fear of cheating, being ‘found out’ and the ongoing disgrace, public humiliation and shame may well have served as a deterrent in trail, until now.

The IAAF finally stepped in to suppress the ever-growing problems of doping with a set of rules to help control a rising problem. The IOC then took this one step further at the Olympics with one set of codes, rules and regulations that blended all anti-doping restrictions in one with the Lausanne Declaration. This was a pivotal moment and within one year, WADA (World Anti-Doping Association) was created.

WADA oversees testing of several hundred thousand athletic blood and urine samples annually: ‘…of which 1–2% test positive. Measures using the Athlete Biological Passport suggest a higher mean prevalence of about 14% positive tests. Biological testing, however, likely fails to detect many cutting-edge doping techniques, and thus the true prevalence of doping remains unknown.’ – August 2017

It was like the Lord of the Rings – One ring (rule) to rule them all.

Simple huh, WADA produce a list of banned substances. You, as an athlete, look at the banned list and DO NOT use anything that is listed.

Argh, but there is always a loophole. The wonderful TUE – Therapeutic Use Exemption. Amazing how many asthmatic runners are out there. Yes, WADA had to accept that some athletes have a legitimate medical condition that allows the use of a TUE.

The TUE has been used to gain an advantage, no question.

And what about NSAID’s? Read a report HERE about Parkrun. Running 5km is a long way from trail and ultra, but it shows a trend. Now WADA do not list these on the banned list, but, UTMB have gone one step ahead HERE.

Should we just relax? After all, if the winner of Sierre-Zinal takes drugs, it doesn’t really impact on me or you, the slow guy or gal who is out running for fun and adventure, does it?

Well yes, it impacts on the core and the ethos of the sport, the sense of fair play.

So here we are, 8-years on from Gonzalo Calisto at UTMB, a pivotal moment, and now we are once again fuelled by discussion of the two positive cases at Sierre-Zinal. Of course, there have been other positive cases in this interim period.

But the doping fire has been re-ignited.

Update, just hours after this post, Kilian Jornet posted THIS on IG.

There is much talk, opinion, and discussion, for me, it’s time to seize the momentum and move in to 2023 with some new impetus.

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Join STEVIE KREMER in London for a run and talk

©iancorless.comStevie_Matterhorn

Meet Stevie Kremer

Freestak on behalf of Ian Corless and Talk Ultra

Wednesday, 15 October 2014 from 18:30 to 22:30 (BST)

London, United Kingdom

Stevie Kremer has had an exceptional 2014, the highlight of which has to be winning the Matterhorn Ultraks 46K in a new course record, her third win in the Skyrunner® World Series SKY distance. This victory along with wins at Zegama-Aizkorri and Sierre-Zinal has secured another Skyrunner World Series title for 2014 which will conclude at Limone Extreme on October 11th.

Stevie will join us for a run, talk and Q&A opportunity just days after Limone Extreme on route to the final Skyrunning UK event in 2014, the Mourne Skyline MTR which will take place in Ireland on October 18th.

Stevie has had a whirlwind couple of years, in 2013 she was crowned Skyrunner® World Series champion after securing victory ahead of Emelie Forsberg at the final race of the year in Italy. This year, in addition to three victories at Zegama-Aizkorri, Sierre-Zinal and Matterhorn Ultraks, Stevie won the combined title at the Skyrunning World Championships in Chamonix.

©iancorless.comStevie_Zegama

Ian Corless, photographer/ writer at iancorless.com and creative director/host of Talk Ultra, has set up the opportunity for a group of runners to join Stevie for a run on Hampstead Heath followed by a Q&A session over a few drinks. This event has been set up in collaboration with freestak Ltd and Like the Wind magazine.

Logo

The run will last between 45 and 60 minutes and will just be a social event at an easy pace. Afterwards there will be a chance to order dinner at the pub where we will be retiring to catch up with Stevie and ask all the burning questions we have for her.

©iancorless.comStevie_Portrait

FAQs

What are my transport/parking options?

The nearest tube to the pub is Kentish Town or Gospel Oak on the Overground. For more informationclick here.

Can I leave bags at the venue?

You can leave bags at the venue and someone will stay with them while everyone goes running. We can’t take responsibility for any loss or damage to items left however.

Will there be food available?

The pub cooks fresh dishes which can be ordered in advance. Everyone who books a ticket will be contacted before the event to see if they want to order some food.

What do I get for my money?

Everyone who pays for a place on the run will get a drink after the run. Food will be extra and can be paid for at the bar.

PLEASE NOTE – This is a ticket ONLY event and numbers are very limited (just 30-places). You can purchase a ticket HERE for £5.00.

Location:

The Dartmouth Arms
35 Dartmouth Park Rd
London
NW5 1SP 

United Kingdom

Wednesday, 15 October 2014 from 18:30 to 22:30 (BST)

Sierre-Zinal 2014 – Race day images and summary

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Another incredible day on the trails and mountains between Sierre and Zinal. The 2014 edition of the race was always going to be hugely competitive with an incredibly deep field both for the ladies and the men.

Kilian Jornet rallied in the closing stages of the race and pulled back race leader, Jo Gray and then used his blistering downhill ability to open an incredible gap of just over 1-minute. His time of 2:31:54 was a personal best for the Catalan on this course but was outside Jono Wyatt’s 2003 course record of 2:29:12.

Stevie Kremer made it 3rd time lucky and finally topped the Sierre-Zinal podium after placing 2nd for the past 2-years. Stevie took the race on from the front and held off Sierre-Zinal ever presents, Maud Mathys and 2012 winner, Aline Camboulives.

Race Results:

MEN

1. Jornet Burgada Kilian (ESP) 2:31.54
2. Gray Jo (USA) 2:32.58
3. Costa Cesar (SUI) 2:34.07
4. Gonon François (FRA) 2:34.56
5. Simpson Rob (GBR) 2:35.13
6. Zinca Ionut (ROM) 2:35.44
7. Schneider David (SUI) 2:36.32
8. Wyatt Jonathan (NZL) 2:38.54
9. Bostrom Marten 2:39.26
10. Pivk Tadei (ITA) 2:40.23

LADIES

1. Kremer Stevie (USA) 3:03.12
2. Mathys Maude (SUI) 3:03.59
3. Camboulives Aline (FRA) 3:06.42
4. Dewalle Christel (FRA) 3:06.59
5. Orgue Laura 3:13.04,4
6. Enman Kasie 3:13.18
7. Dragomir Denisa-Ionela 3:16.10
8. Lafaye Celine 3:16.44
9. Rampazzo Silvia 3:17.44
10. Mihaylova Milka 3:19.10

Mountain Man – Robbie Simpson

Pg1 Men's Running

 

Photography by iancorless.com

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Sierre-Zinal 2013 Race Summary

©copyright .iancorless.com.iancorless.orgIMGP0638glacierdezinal

What a race the 2013 and 40th edition of Sierre-Zinal proved to be. It was an exciting nail biter in the men’s race with a new star and the old guard shining. For the ladies, we had a new lady on top of the podium, a repeat performance for second and third and the UK showing how to be consistent and perform at the highest level.

Men’s race

Marc Lauenstein (Suisse) 2:32:14 took home the win from Juan Carlos Cardona (Colombia) who was Kilian Jornet’s pre race prediction by just 16 seconds in what proved to be a fitting climax to an incredible race. Cardona looked as though he had the race won but Lauenstein pulled something special out of the bag in the closing stages. Very little is known about Marc, however, he is a Swiss orienteering competitor and he won silver at the 2005 and 2006 World long distance orienteering championships.

Mountain running legend and Sierre-Zinal course record holder, Jonathan Wyatt (NZL) proved that experience and pure class can outwit the competition for a 3rd place in a time of 2:33:44.

Although entered in the race for some time, Kilian Jornet decided to run only in the days before the race. He was already at the Matterhorn and preparing for his next ‘Summit’. The temptation to drive from Italy to Switzerland was too great, and although he may very well have raced for ‘fun’ he placed fourth in 2:33:59. After the race he tweeted, “Super, super, happy today with Sierre-Zinal. I was here to enjoy the race and I feel super good. Finished in an unexpected 4th with my best crono!”

Robbie Simpson from the UK proved what an incredible talent he is, running for inov-8 he placed 5th in 2:35:32. It’s a world-class performance in a world-class field. A star of the future!

As you will see from my pre race summary, the 40th edition of Sierre-Zinal was such a tough race to call. Stars like Tofol Castanyer (7th), Rickey Gates (9th), Sage Canaday (17th); all proved that predictions are a fickle area to delve into, particularly in a relatively short and tough mountain race like Sierre-Zinal.

Sage Canaday runs a 2:16 marathon and has had repeated victories in 2012 and 2013. Many of those victories have come with course records. Just recently he won Speedgoat 50k ahead of runners like Anton Krupicka, Max king and Timothy Olson. Now of course here at Sierre-Zinal he may well have been running on ‘jaded’ legs. It is a distinct possibility. Post race he said, “Total muscle failure. Mountain racing in Europe is totally different from the US ultra-trail scene.” It does beg a question, are some of the top guys racing too much or do they need to be more specific in training? Certainly Rickey Gates has proven here that US male runners can perform in Europe, as did Anton Krupicka at Cavalls del Vent in the latter part of 2012. What are your thoughts?

On a final note, Cesar Costa (Martigny) has placed second at Sierre-Zinal three times before. For sure, many of us thought that 2013 may well have been his opportunity, however, he finished in thirteenth with a time 2:42:11.

iancorless.orgIMGP0584glacierdezinal

Ladies race

Placing 2nd at Sierre-Zinal in 2012, her first European race, I firmly placed my prediction on Stevie Kremer taking out the win after a stunning twelve months racing. At the finish line, Stevie didn’t disappoint, however, the top spot was not hers. In a repeat of 2012, Stevie placed second, 3:03:12 and Maud Mathys placed third, 3:04:13. It was like déjà vu.

One thing that did change though was the top slot on the podium. Unnoticed by me on the start sheet, Elisa Desco produced a career enhancing performance and she once again proved that after some time away from the sport that good things come to those who wait. Marc De Gasperi (2012 Sierre-Zinal winner) summed it up when he tweeted, “No words enough to say how much YOU deserve this victory! Brava, brava, brava!!!”

Kenyan, Hellen Musyoka set the early pace but in the end placed 4th with a time of 3:04:47 and GB mountain running legend, Angela Mudge proved that experience is what really counts when it comes to Sierre-Zinal with a great fifth place in 3:07:21.

Victoria Wilkinson from Bingley Harries in the UK produced a sterling run to place sixth overall and this was ahead of some sterling competition. For example; 2013 Speedgoat 50k winner, Stephanie Howe placed 11th, Lizzy Hawker 14th (admittedly training for UTMB), Zhana Vokueva 15th and Celine Lafaye 18th.

Without doubt, it was an exceptional weekend of racing and of course, from a UK perspective, it is great to see Robbie Simpson, Angela Mudge and Victoria Wilkinson flying the flag at the front of the top European races.

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You can actually watch all the action from the 2013 Sierre-Zinal here:

http://www.rts.ch/video/sport/athletisme/5125770-revivez-la-40e-edition.html