Running in the park yesterday morning I spotted a squad of teenage girls warming up for football* practice. It made me smile cause you just know how many stressed out mums n dads were behind getting them there just after 9am. It was inspiring to see.
But later in the morning I read an expose done by the Sunday Times UK on doping in athletics. Grim and grimmer is all that can be said. If you missed it a whistleblower handed over a database of over 12,000 blood tests from 5,000 athletes and shockingly so many are positive for doping but nothing was done about it.
The last time we had such a huge doping scandal it was men’s cycling and it had a terrible impact on women's cycling. But this time women have to put their hands up too. The pic above is from the 2005 1,500m when Ethiopian Maryam Yusuf Jamal lost out to a suddenly accelerating Russian pack. She now knows she should have won.
British runner Helen Clitheroe (10th in that race) told the Sunday Times team: ‘I didn’t think there was any cheating going on. After that race I just thought well, maybe I’m just not as good as them. It’s disappointing because perhaps I was as good as them after all. That’s the disappointment. But that race is something I can never change.’
And there it is. No matter how many acres of newsprint are given over to this scandal, women like Yusuf Jamal lost out. Their names are not written in the annals of the sporting greats, but the cheaters are.
It’s a wakeup call for women’s sport. We are not as pure as the driven snow – women want to win in just as many devious and nasty ways as men. We can point the finger at the athlethics body for not acting on these tests but we also need to start asking ourselves – how badly do we want to win?
(*that’s women’s soccer for some of you!)