Sometimes an outstanding win really is the result of hardwork and an athlete at their best, says Steve Trew
These days the absolute shame of it is that if an athlete in any sport posts a superlative performance, then the almost certain accusation that follows is, “He’s on something! Not possible without!”
You only need to open a newspaper or switch on the news to see the latest disgraced athlete’s name being discussed. What this does is take away our total enjoyment of an incredible sporting performance along with our love of competition. We’ve seen the disgraced athletes who have posted unbelievable performances eventually found out to be drugs cheats.
Take Lance Armstrong in cycling and Ben Johnson in athletics, for example. However, it took seven Tour de France victories before Armstrong admitted to doping and that length of time is as unbelievable as his performances.
When Johnson took that Olympic 100 metre title in 1988, which quickly became known as the dirtiest race in history, at least it was just a couple of days before the truth was out. Currently the man whose sporting performance is being thrown into question is the uber cyclist and all round good guy,
Chris Froome. The disgraceful insinuations are sadly understandable. Froome stands at the very pinnacle of his career right now.
He’s up there with athletes such as Michael Phelps, Serena Williams and Usain Bolt, whose names transcend their individual sports and become known everywhere. The amazing Froome (and it has to be said all the Sky team) have dealt with the accusations admirably. The old cliché of “I’ll let my performance speak for me” is fine, but many foreign media outlets refuse to accept those performances, resorting to lies and incredibly poor research to attempt to dirty Froome’s rides.
Although in the current climate, even the British public have deep down wondered at least once if he can really be that good. How sad is that? It is of course the legacy of Armstrong and so many other cyclists who have admitted the illegal use of performance enhancing substances that makes us doubt Froome’s success. We need only to look at the list of previous Tour de France winners to see so many names with the asterisk next to them that denotes issues with drugs to understand how prevalent the use was.
So what can we do to wipe out this drug use and doubt surrounding our top athletic performances? Should we have biological profiling and drug testing without any notice being given? Should we have a lifetime graph of performance improvements? Should every professional sportsperson give up all privacy? Perhaps even that would not be enough.
The drug industry is now so big that masking agents are being prepared to go alongside any new drugs that are available. The good guy drug testers are therefore almost always one step behind. Improvement graphs seem to be a good option at fi rst glance, but if an athlete makes a substantial year on year improvement that is unlike any previous step ups, does that immediately make them guilty? Surely not, but the doubters would still be there.
Two international athletes that I was privileged to coach made amazing progress from one year to the next and, hand on my heart, they were not succumbing to illegal stimulants. One made an improvement of over one minute on her 10,000 metre time over a 12 month period.
Fantastic! You could immediately suspect drug use but the truth was as she had previously competed at 800 and 1,500 metres and the substantial increase was achieved by changing her training programme. This way her natural speed was enhanced and increased along with more specific work towards 5,000 and 10,000 metres. Her progression was due to bloody hard training and nothing else.
The other was younger and just getting into the international cycling scene. She made such an improvement in one winter that she won the senior national time trial championship and for a period of time was the leader of the junior BAR (British All Rounder) and that was the Junior Men BAR!
Again the improvement was due to a change in emphasis in training and extremely hard work. Blessed with natural strength and the ability to push a big gear, we worked on cadence (rpm) throughout the winter, including sessions of up to 130 revolutions per minute. Couple this with strength and a natural maturity in body strength and the results came through.
Hard work. No drugs. Sounds like a mantra, doesn’t it?
Steve Trew is a coach and commentator for TriRadar.
Steve is an advisory coach for Speedo, he can be contacted for all things triathlon on firstname.lastname@example.org
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