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Would Lance Armstrong’s Suspension Happen In Running?

Susan Lacke takes a look at the rules and regulations regarding suspension during a doping inquiry in running.

Susan Lacke takes a look at the rules and regulations regarding suspension during a doping inquiry in running. 

Lance Armstrong, banned two weeks ago from participating in Ironman triathlons pending investigation by the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA), has caused many athletes, including track stars and endurance runners, to review their own sport’s rulebooks regarding doping allegations.

Armstrong’s current debacle with the World Triathlon Corporation is a preemptive measure of the organization, where athletes “under investigation” for alleged doping offenses are suspended from competing in WTC-sanctioned triathlons. WTC races include Ironman, Ironman 70.3, and the 5150 Series of triathlon races. At the time Armstrong’s WTC eligibility was rescinded, he was pursuing a qualifying spot for this year’s Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

The investigation is a result of allegations made regarding his performance as a professional cyclist. To this point, Armstrong has not been found guilty of allegations by any investigative body, including USADA.

Doping Scandals in Running

Though the sport of cycling has experienced multiple doping scandals, including Armstrong’s, running is not exempt. Only last week, the Comrades Marathon announced its most recent winner, Ludwick Mamabolo of South Africa, tested positive for the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine. In January of this year, Ethiopian runner Ezkyas Sisay was found guilty of using EPO and was disqualified from his most recent races, including the 2011 ING New York City Marathon, where he placed ninth. Sprinters have seen numerous doping convictions in their ranks, including Marion Jones, Ben Johnson, and Justin Gatlin, who returned from a four-year suspension to win the 100 meters at the 2012 Olympic Trials, securing a spot on this summer’s Olympic team.

RELATED: Comrades Winner Faces Possible Drug Ban

However, sanctions for the aforementioned athletes took place after the competition had already taken place. A situation such as Armstrong’s, where an athlete is banned simply for being investigated, would not take place at most running events, says Marc Davis of the Boston Athletic Association:

“We basically take the same steps as any event, track and field or road racing, to keep the sport clean,” says Davis, “We follow the guidelines set forth by the IAAF in accordance with the statutes listed in the IAAF Rules.”

Rules & Regulations in Running Events

The International Association of Athletics Federations, or IAAF, is the world governing body for track and field. Their anti-doping guidelines can be found in Chapter 3 of the IAAF Competition Rules. Their rules, particularly Rule 37, lays out information regarding suspension during a doping inquiry. Athletes under investigation, but not yet convicted, are still allowed to compete in sanctioned races. The IAAF also tries to take “reasonable steps to maintain confidentiality” of the athlete under investigation until sample analysis is concluded.

Though the IAAF attempts to keep athletes under wraps until there is sufficient evidence to ban one from competition, Davis says the release of information can and does happen, “either by human error, or by the virtual fact of rumor becoming reality through media pressure.”

However, as in Armstrong’s case, an investigation alone would not be enough to bar him from competing in a USA Track & Field event or other road race. Only an atypical finding, with a second analysis to confirm, would be enough to enact a ban.

The Boston Marathon, as with many other races, is committed to maintaining the integrity of endurance running while still allowing athletes the right to a complete  investigation. Says Davis:

“We are obligated by the IAAF in order to be sanctioned, but also I feel we do so, like many events out there, because we want a clean and fair outcome of our races.”

For more information:

IAAF List of Prohibited Substances

Athletes Currently Under Sanctions for Doping Violations


About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke