Everyone who read the story of how the Danish Lawaetz Brothers managed to not only qualify for Kona, but how three of them even broke 9 hours on the Ironman distance in their first attempt – training only 9-10hours per week could suspect there was some fishy going on. Later we would find out that one of the brothers (Thomas) was caught in a doping test and banned for four years.
It’s easy to get upset about this, I know as I got extremely upset! I am not alone thinking that anyone cheating and using EPO should be banned for life, not only four years!!!
Doping is a real problem and no matter how much testing increases – it will always be people who decides that results and vanity is more important that honesty and values.
In an interview with Slow Twitch, Alex Taubers (German former Pro-triathlete) talks about the problem: “Whoever thinks that doping is only part of the elite world likely also believes in Santa Clause. A study conducted at Ironman Frankfurt and 70.3 Wiesbaden a few years ago showed that 1/3 of those age group athletes questioned admitted (anonymously) to have doped. But one has to think that it was and currently is likely more”.
But who are the biggest losers? Is it us – who are clean, who prioritize training, who makes the necessary “sacrifices” to be able to train three or four times more than the likes of the now infamous cheater Thomas Lawaetz, CEO at Å reknudeklinikken.
From a pure mathematical standpoint we are the loosers. We spend more time training and typically don’t get the result that dope heads get.
From an ethical/legal standpoint dopers are losers, as it’s wrong and forbidden to cheat and from a philosophical standpoint I would argue that it’s much worse than breaking laws – cheating requires you to compromising values and standards and often comes back and bites you in the ass.
Cheating or not cheating is a choice that every individual has. It’s up to each and every one to set the standards we wish to aspire to in life. The choice defines us and we will live with it for the rest of our lives.
We all have a choice to take the high road and avoid any kind of cheating – even if it compromises our results, for example doing intervals in races to get away from packs and carefully examining what we put in our bodies.
Or we can take the low road and claim, “It’s impossible to avoid packs, everyone else does it”, “I didn’t know that what I took was on the doping list” or “my doctor injected EPO, gave me growth hormones and topped me up with a few pints of my best shape blood – how could I know – I was asleep”
Bottom line is that if we decide to apply the highest requirements on our self – to always practice good sportsmanship and be honest – we will have the benefit of looking ourselves in the mirror, every day for the rest of our life, knowing that we have made our self the best we could be.
Once we realize that our ambitions to test our limits in triathlons are not about projecting an image of ourselves to the outside world and refuse to get absorbed in vanity, “likes” addiction and external approvals – and rather see racing and training as a step in our personal development journey, to further build our characters. Then there will be no need for drug-testing or even draft Marshalls.
I realize that this sounds like Utopia and moral preaching – but it’s really that simple – it’s up to each of us to make the choice. The desire to qualify for Hawaii or win will bring out the best and worst in people – we will always have temptations and we will always have the opportunity to chose right from wrong.
Personally, doping was a big reason I retired from racing Ironman triathlons in 1998.
After racing Hawaii quite well in 1997, finishing 74;th overall, several people that was ahead of me got caught for doping and I realized that to get to top 50 or 20 would be impossible if I would not go down the path of cheating and doping.
I had trained with a few of those who got caught. They were extremely good athletes with high training discipline and lots of talent but what really set us apart was their phenomenal recovery. After the really hard days I would need an easier recovery day to absorb and rebuild while they did another hard day, and another. Apparently, I learned later – the kind of recovery you get when you take growth hormones.
Before I knew that they were using drugs – It made me think I was weak and I started training even harder. It did not work – I trained so hard that I became anemic. Even if I was eating perfectly, my body could not handle the training load and I ended up in hospital.
I was put on in a room with cancer patients who also had their arms connected to a plastic bag above their head. The doctor gave me iron-infusion (IV) and B12 injections – which is the way they treat someone with close to no red bloodcells left in the blood stream.
Fortunately I responded well to the iron-infusion and slowly recovered. Meanwhile I learned about the unfair advantages that my opponents had taken, it threw me off, I lost my motivation and I decided to take a long break from racing. I realized that I was already training harder than my body could handle and could only get to top 100 in the world – clean. Getting on drugs to boost performance was always out of the question for me – I had reached my top level as a clean athlete.
The break lasted 18 years and when I now re-start – I do it purely for pleasure and to enrich life – the way the sport was intended. Now I focus on appreciating the motion, the mental challenge and finally – the test and proof of character in racing. It’s sad to know that many people in the races will be faster by doping and cheating but I chose to not let it affect me, knowing that I can look myself in the mirror every day and say, ”I’m clean!”.
Stay clean, race safe and be happy!