For many pro triathletes the news that Collin Chartier tested positive for EPO has been devastating. Not because they believe that triathlon is a completely clean sport. It is because they do their best to shut out any thoughts that others might be doping as they strive to be among the best in the world.
“In order for me to pour my life into this, day after day, to be in my grind of self-betterment, you almost have to cultivate a level of naivety about doping,” Canadian Cody Beals, who finished third behind Chartier and Australian Josh Amberger at Ironman Mont-Tremblant last August, said in an Instagram post (see below). “Obviously I know that dopers exist. But, if I’m stewing every single day and wondering if everyone who is better than me is for real, it’s too soul crushing to continue. It drains my will to continue in the sport. It makes me bitter and cynical and depressed. And, at the very least, it makes me want to avoid the highest levels of competition. Because maybe it’s easier to believe that the lower levels of competition are clean. I wonder how many pros have washed out of the sports because of these doubts.”
One of Beals’ training partners, Jackson Laundry, finds himself in a similar position.
Fair sport is key
“You go about your day assuming that things are fair and that if you do the work you can reach the highest level,” Laundry said in an interview earlier this week. “When something like this happens, it makes it hard to trust that it’s a fair sport.”
American Ben Hoffman’s Instagram post about Chartier’s positive test (see below), asked his countryman to “give back stolen prize money and sponsorship dollars, contact fellow athletes with personal apologies. And work to make a meaningful difference in anti-doping efforts, and for damn sure tell the whole truth. How did you do it, who helped, who else is involved, and give the full story of why.”
“I don’t want this to be a lynch mob against Collin,” Hoffman said in a follow up interview “He has a microphone right now, even if its not for the right reasons, and can actually put this to be in a way that’s meaningful. This deserves a harder look.”
Reaction leads to hope
The huge reaction to Monday’s news gives both Beals some hope that doping isn’t completely rampant in the sport.
“I still have belief that our sport is clean – the visceral reaction that people have is proof of that,” Beals said. “By and large people share my experience that the sport is clean.”
While Laundry applauds the efforts Ironman is making in terms of testing, he thinks there is more that triathlon organizations can do.
“So I think there are a lot of people doping who are getting away with it,” Laundry said. “And I do think that the testing they are doing is pretty significant. I’ve been tested 10 times out of competition over the last three years. I think the organizations could institute harder penalties.”
One of those penalties Laundry would like to see is that athletes caught doping should be forced to return prize money earned over the previous 12 months.
This article was originally published in Triathlon Magazine