Thursday, June 5, 2008

The State of Track and Field

Spurred by a question posed by 12Kyle on my last post in reference to Usain Bolt's 100m world record, I have been thinking a lot lately about how sad it is that the sport that I have dedicated so much of my life to, which has also given me more than I could have ever imagined, has reached a point where every time someone does an outstanding performance, that performance is undoubtedly going to be questioned and scrutinized.

It's really sad actually. Track and field used to be thought of as the one true sport where you you used your raw talent, speed and power to compete and based on your natural God given ability and how refined your technique was, the best man would win. There are no plays to learn, no teammates to rely on (except in the relays of course), no trick plays, no ways to circumvent the clock, the measuring tape or the bar. You either run the time or you don't, jump the distance or sit down, clear the bar or it's going to fall on the ground and we don't get style points, as I think I mentioned on a post some time ago. We are measured purely on our output, day in and day out.

Even if someone does something fantastic in the middle or early part of the track season and then doesn't step up to the plate when the Big Dance comes, no one will care. In the sport that I love so dearly, it is often said, "You are only as good as your last race". Sad, but true! You'd be amazed at how many times an athlete who was running consistently well in the first half of the outdoor season or during the indoor season has to face the cut throat reality that if the Olympics or World Championships come around and you don't make the finals, all of a sudden those lanes that were open to you in Paris and in Rome in July are all of a sudden unavailable in Zurich and Brussels in August and September. Track is DEFINITELY a fairweather sport and the meet directors and managers make no bones about it. It is what it is as they say.

That being said, I am finding it increasingly disheartening to know that when an athlete does finally make a breakthrough and produces a magnificent result, instead of being rewarded solely with kudos and congratulations, the ominous eye of disbelief and scrutiny looms heavily. I have heard the comments and I have defended many. I am probably too ready to accept, to believe. Just because I NEVER would, I trust and believe that my friends and peers in the sport would never. I am an eternal optimist, almost to a fault. I am probably too trusting and gullible and that sometimes serves me negatively both on and off the track. I am always ready to give someone the benefit of the doubt and I hope against all hopes that my trust and faith will not be dashed. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't.

But I am choosing to still have faith in my sport. To believe that when hard work and talent and atmosphere and competition combine themselves, that anything is possible. I am choosing to believe that there are just some athletes that are more talented. There's a reason why 2 athletes can do the exact same workouts with the same coach for a year and one can produce results head and shoulders above the other. Those reasons often lie equally close to talent and technique.

I have made it to the Olympic finals. I have made it to the World Championship finals. I have competed against and beaten Olympic and World Champions and I have NEVER taken any illegal performance enhancing substance of any sort. Heck, I forget to take my multivitamin sometimes so I know what is and isn't possible. Notice, I did not say that I have never failed a drug test. There's a difference because it has become increasingly evident that you can NOT fail a drug test for years and be the dirtiest athlete ever.

Anyway, I am here representing all those of us who do it cleanly, who do it proudly, who do it the hard way - the blood, sweat and tears way, who survive the ups and downs of this sport and who at the end of the day look boldly into the mirror and see ourselves looking back and smile, knowing that our conscience is clear, our character never in doubt and our self-respect in tact.


anonymousnupe said...

Unfortunately, I've been corrupted into thinking like 12Kyle (if I read him correctly): I think the fact of the matter is that clean athletes--the good guys--just can't win! I believe that all the very, very top international track and field stars are juicing. I'm talking about, say, the top five in each event. But if you're not using, then how can you compete!? On an international level, I just don't think you can, sadly.

Yep, I'm one of the ones who thinks Flo Jo was hopped up.

This lamentable philosophy continues to be borne out time and time again as we continue to hear how the best of the best fall. And I don't think there's any solution in site. Testing can't keep up with the masking techniques (it's like trying to keep your computer's virus protection software current with every single pernicious bug out there, only worse in sports). Ultimately I think it's going to have to be an all or none proposition: Either all athletes have to be allowed to use whatever enhancers they want, consequences be damned, or...well, where we are now is the other sad alternative.

Marcus LANGFORD said...

I can admit that I more or less relate to this sport. We [as you and I Jackie] are both involved in competitive sports where performance enhancing drugs are the norm. However in competitive bodybuilding you have two realms of the sport. You have the NPC and IFBB; these are the sanctions where pretty much every guy on the stage is 'using'; I mean it is damn obvious. Then you have the second-tier sanctions like OCB, WNBF, and Muscle Mania; they promote drug-free bodybuilding.

Believe you me, the difference in physiques and the level of competition is night and day. I have competed on both levels, because I welcome the challenge, but I will admit that I am more attracted to the 'enhanced' guys more and this more likely because this is what I was first introduced to when I first become interested in bodybuilding. I didn't go into the store and pick up a natural bodybuilding magazine, I more or less accidentally picked up a magazine that showcased 250 lb muscle bound physiques that resembled the comic heroes that aspired to be when I was a kid [remember I love The Incredible HULK].

I will admit that I am as genetically blessed as they come [something that my competition has to unfortunately find out]. I come from a line of athletes ranging from pro football players to highly ranked boxers. I chose bodybuilding because it allowed me to tackle something individually. Sure I like boxing and football, but bodybuilding-I simply love it! I have been asked before if I was on "something" because most people couldn't believe I carried the type of muscle I did naturally, but much like you said before, when you dedicate your life to something, you take it that much more seriously than the average person. For God sakes Jackie, you are an Olympian and how many "regular" folks can say that!? So with bodybuilding I looked the way I did because I was dedicated to it. I ate, trained, and slept like an athlete that was on a mission and that is something most people can't understand or begin to comprehend; they'd just assume that I put a needle in my a** to get the results I did.

I said most of that to say this. I am very proud of you Jackie. As an athlete of color, you remained true to your passion and choose not to taint your accomplishments or imagine by putting some 'mess' in your body. In the end, it is never worth it because there is life beyond the track and in my case, life beyond the posing trunks and stage lights. Stay strong sista; we are all pullin' for you!
:::Marcus LANGFORD:::

Eb the Celeb said...

definitely keep faith in your sport and your passion... even though I don't run anymore and have been saddened by things that have happened in the sport in the past couple years... it will never die...

so keep living your dream

Mizrepresent said...

Great post Jackie. I admire your dedication and talent, and that you always keep your eyes on the prize.

dejanae said...

and that last paragraph says it all

Jackie Edwards said...

I just want to assure you anonymousnupe that there are clean athletes that win!! The thing is, you only tend to hear about the bad stuff and all those athletes whose careers have been stellar for years get overlooked and bypassed because that is not "news". For example, I would be willing to bet that Allen Johnson, many time 110m hurdle champion and Olympic champion has never taken drugs and he has been the best for many years.

I'd also be willing to bet that my training partner, who has the world's number one time for the year, only 7 one hundredths outside of the world record in the same hurdle event, is also clean.

You're just not gonna hear about those guys unless you're into track because they're not doing anything negative. They are the positive sides of our sport and they are the best at what they do so I'm going to have to respectfully disagree.

Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

u can never be too trusting - such is the sign of a kind heart

Jewells said...

I think it all boils down to the conscious and knowing that one day what's done in the dark will come to light.

Knowing that you have earned your credentials with your blood, sweat, and tears is far more rewarding than reaching your height with a vial of juice.

It is unfortunate that people give you all the side eye because of those who aren't honest and as hard working.

anonymousnupe said...

Jackie, frankly, I actually hope I am wrong.

Dana said...

I don't necessarily think that all athletes get doped up...but for me, it's not surprising when I hear that someone has and they've been caught. I can definitely empathize with your point of view Jackie because it's hard to shift those perceptions once they are set in the minds of those not in your sport...and it's totally unfortunate. BUT on the bright side of things, blogs like yours show how much hard work is really put into doing your best and being a champion without the, keep doing what you're doing!! =)

12kyle said...

good post jackie!

One of the reasons why I asked the questions was b/c of the way that I think other people perceive track and field to be.

When I heard the report of the new world record, they immediately said "we'll have to wait and see". And that's sad. That's where the sport is right now.

My thoughts are very similar to yours. Track and field is a great sport. There have been a few to spoil it for everybody. I believe that most athletes do it fair and the right way. Not just in your sport but in all sports. There are always gonna be a select few who will try to get over. That's just how life is.

The New England Patriots cheated by stealing signals from opponents...there was a major scandal in the NBA with a referee being caught betting on NBA games with ties to the is running rampant with problems with it's not just track and field. It's everybody. No matter what...i'm still pulling for you and the rest of our athletes this summer.