An New Athletic Cold War?

Instant athletic success?
Instant athletic success?

photo by prashant_zi

Update-don’t worry about the Russians, take a look at the horses!

Hey. It wouldn’t be a good Olympics without talk of doping right?

Despite years of training and competing in qualifying events all over the world, whenever groups of elite athletes gather you often hear whispers of this runner or that gymnast doping. When a runner breaks the tape several strides in front of his nearest competition, when a cyclist “comes out of nowhere” to ride well, or when a group of athletes from a given country begins to win an unusual amount of events, fans, and sometimes vanquished opponents, begin to ask questions and point fingers.

Remember the East German swim teams of yesteryear?

So, while I’ve watched these Olympics, I’ve tried hard to ignore suggestions of doping and drug use and instead enjoyed the simple pleasure of watching the best athletes in the world performing at the top of their games. As the Olympics draw closer to their conclusion though, a tendril of doubt creeps into mind courtesy of Amby Burfoot’s latest post from Beijing. In it he questions the disparity between the success of female Russian athletes and their male counterparts. Furthermore, he claims, “It’s easier to get significant improvement in women’s running performance through drugs than it is with men”. Given the skewing of the Russian running team toward women, Burfoot seems to suggest the Russians juiced their women then sent them to the games to win medals.

Does his hypothesis hold up? I don’t know, and I think he’s actually making a larger point about Russian doping in events outside the Games. However, if you look at the medal standing as of today, the Russian women have won only two medals in running events along with the gold in the 20K Walk to go along with the gold in the Men’s 20K Walk. And the American women? I count three medals plus the bronze in the heptathlon. Those results don’t contradict Burfoot’s assertions, and he does offer up past evidence of Russian doping. But for myself I’m going to sit back and enjoy the rest of the Games, and root for our team while enjoying the spectacle of it all.

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