Last updated: 02-Jun-17
By Elsa Trujillo
Sadly, doping in sport never seems too far away from our daily news feeds. Sadder still is the fact that some sports and countries are now perpetually associated with cases of illegal drug-taking, like European cycling competitions or, currently in this week’s news headlines, alleged State-sanctioned athletics doping in Russia.
Historically, doping has not really been a big issue in the relatively small sport of ultra running. However, in December 2015 when disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong signed up for a small regional trail race in California, the subject shot into our collective consciousness. Armstrong won the 35km race and the race organisers got their fifteen minutes of trail running fame. A fiery debate ensued about whether or not athletes who have been found guilty of doping in one sport could happily transfer to other sports uncontested. You can read Alice Morrison’s article here.
Some months back Ian Corless wrote a piece for RunUltra about the emergence of doping onto the ultra running scene, following the news that an Italian runner, Elisa Desco, had signed up for a trail run in the USA following a 2-year ban for using EPO. You can read his article here. This time, a social media debate ensued about convicted runners being allowed to run after serving their “time”.
Today, what many feared has actually happened and doping has been uncovered at one of the world’s top ultra trail running events. Just weeks before UTMB, the annual iconic mountain running festival in the Alps, an ultra runner from last year’s edition has been suspended for testing positive on August 29th 2015 at UTMB’s finish line at Chamonix.
Following the publication of the IAAF’s recent infringements list, the UTMB organization has officially disqualified Gonzalo Calisto (Ecuador) from his 5th place and instructed him to return his trophy and finisher’s jacket. Subsequently, the organization will correct the 2015 results and notify the top 10 runners from last year’s edition.
Doping is not going to go away in the world of sport but the question for this community is whether it is going to start becoming an issue in ultra running and trail running. The temptation for athletes competing at the highest level to constantly push performance boundaries is enormous. But doping would endanger all the foundations that ultra running is built on: courage, persistence, simplicity, offering everything and then offering more. Is it something that is becoming a problem? What can be done? Or are we still safe and this incidence is very much a rarity?
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