Tag Archives: Running

Who’s the Cheat? The Athlete or The Company?

Written by: Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date: Monday, July 15, 2013
In recent news, Tyson Gay was reportedly caught using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). According to the article, Gay was unaware that he was taking PEDs. The supplements (or whatever) were said to contain traces of substances banned by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Far too many track & field athletes have similar stories. When stories like this surface, the world shines the spotlight on the athlete and asks why? Why did you cheat? What’s interesting about a spotlight is that when it shines, it shines on one area and the areas surrounding that light are left hidden in darkness.

So we are asking, what’s in the darkness?

Who manufactures PEDs? Who distributes PEDs? Why are athletes the target market for these companies? How lucrative is this market? Track & field appears to be a niche for PED companies. If this is truly a niche, why? Why are track & field athletes pursued, when most elites incomes are relatively low compared to so-called revenue sports (Football, Basketball, Baseball). Are there other markets?

During the Bush Administration, a scandal erupted concerning a company called BALCO. Hadn’t heard of BALCO prior to 2004. In 2002, the administration lead investigations to, “clean up the sport.” By the Summer Olympics of 2004, guilty US athletes were embarrassingly ousted in front of the entire world. If you are unfamiliar with this case, you can read about it here. That year I asked, “why is the President of the United States and his administration getting involved in track?” Yes, Olympic athletes are often viewed as ambassadors representing their home countries; still, the government’s involvement in the investigation presented more questions.

I later looked up this BALCO. Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. “Co-Operative.” What does Co-Operative sound like? What does it mean? Why not just Bay Area Laboratory? Victor Conte, formerly of the music group Tower of Power, was a co-founder of this technologically advanced biochemical company. He was a bass guitarist AND biochemist producing technologies the world only imagined. The purpose of these technologies were to enhance human abilities or in sci-fi terms, create superhumans. He sought to make people faster, stronger, and more agile. He enhanced people’s ability to heal and recover faster after experiencing extreme physical distress (i.e. practice). His platform: the athlete. He used his products on the world’s best as a measurement and recorded the effects of his products on the human body. Why? Did he and his associates simply want to know at what lengths the human body could be enhanced?

For the most part, his PEDs were virtually undetectable by the USADA. This allowed him to sustain convert operations for 20 years. BALCO’s was eventually shut down in 2004. Conte however was not. After serving a sentence in 2005, he established another scientific company called: Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning (SNAC).

At least this name sounds more athletic and nutritional.

If you want to know why athletes take PEDs, don’t look at the spotlight, shine some light on the darkness. BALCO was just one company known for “superhuman advancements” through biochemistry. To find more, follow who receives payment in exchange for the product. Research who funds the scientific findings of these biochemists. Most elite athletes are not biochemists, so why interrogate them with questions? Follow the money trail.

PEDs has a long history dating back to the 1930s and the World War II era. We’ll look into later. In the meantime, consider how these products come to be and you’ll find the answer is bigger than the athlete.

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What is a Runner? Who is a Runner?

Written by:  Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date:  January 7, 2013

What is a Runner?
The answer may appear obvious, but if you take into account target markets, products, literature, media, sociology, economics, and other non-athletic factors that define what a runner is, you’d be surprised at the complexities of such a question.

I know I was.

I consider myself a runner.  I’ve been involved in organized Track & Field for over 19 years.  I’ve competed all over the US among the best.  I have a cabinet full of trophies, medals, and plaques.  I can read a runner’s style and determine what areas of their body are weakest and how they can improve.  I coach track. I train people who run.  I am currently running on a team and plan to compete in the 2016 Olympic Games.  Yet, I am not considered a “Runner” according to business and socio-economics.

Apparently, the title “Runner” has been attributed to those individuals who run 5K or more.  Runners run long distances.  Runners do not have to be athletic, they just have to be willing to run for long periods of time.  Runners participate in competitive events like 5Ks or the Rock ‘N Roll Marathon, but never intend to win or compete.

Runners run for leisure and uphold the philosophies set back in 1896 by their Yale elitist forefathers who propagated sports are a leisurely and charitable activity.  Those who have leisure time are part of a unique prestigious group of upperclassmen.

Business loves to cater to this group.  If you go into a sporting goods store, most of the shoes are cushioned at the heel for long distance running rather than mid or short.  If you go into Barnes & Noble, most of the books featuring running are written for non-competitive long distance runners.  If you Google running, you’ll run into articles targeting the needs of long distance runners.  Leisure runners make up well over 90% of running.  Of the runners who compete in the LA Marathon only maybe 20 men and women combined actually compete for the gold.  The remaining 1,000,000+ run just to run.  As the powers that be say, the majority wins.  The majority defines who is and who is not a runner.

So what am I according to the Majority?  I am a track & field athlete that runs.

Sigh…

(No matter how much I study the leisure runner, I may never understand him/her.  The impact of the leisure runner is powerful and affects the composition of track & field.  Yet he/she does not understand his/her relationship to the sport or why he/she runs long distances under an ancient Ivy League philosophy.  My objective is to build spectatorship, increase athlete retention, and boost the marketability of track & field.  To meet these objectives, I need Runners- track & field or otherwise- to help build the sport.  The task ahead is great).  

Amateurism vs. Professionalism: A Surfaced Debate

Written By:  Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date:  August 25, 2012

If you lived any length of time in this world of sports stars and legends, you’re more than likely aware of the never-ending debate between amateurism vs. professionalism.  Advocates of amateurism generally argue that money taints the purity of sport.  Whereas advocates of professionalism argue that without an income, athletic performance cannot be sustained. Consequently, if athletic performance is not sustained, athletes must abandon their sport and seek income elsewhere.  Result:  No athlete.  No sport.

Instead of determining who’s right, we should consider this question:  How has sociology, politics, and capitalism impacted sport, particularly track & field?

Why focus on sociology, politics, and capitalism?

  • Sociology = human behavior
  • Politics = human emotion
  • Capitalism = human survival and preservation

At the root of nearly every issue concerning sport, especially track, lies these three elements. If we dig deep enough, perhaps we’ll discover:

  • Why track & field is under-marketed
  • Why some athletes are underpaid or not paid at all
  • Why certain athletes get the spotlight while others do not
  • Why track is rarely televised
  • Why spectators fill the stands every four years rather than every weekend
  • Why so many restrictions are placed on athletes (i.e. rules affecting the use of social media during the Olympic games)
  • Why so many athletes, passionate about track & field, suddenly become disenchanted with the sport and quit to pursue other interests
  • Why some athletes use performance enhancing substances
  • Why the number of youth athletes in USATF far out-weigh the number of masters athletes when masters has more age divisions
  • Why so many people flock to road running events leaving track & field almost barren

Perhaps then we will begin to understand the direction track & field is headed and the prohibitions affecting its growth.  Finally, we will see how the debate between amateurism and professionalism is fundamentally tearing the sport apart.

Act I: Scene V: It Was Fun While It Lasted

Written by:  Katrina M. Smith, MBA
Date:  August 21, 2012

Traditionally, once every four years, track & field opens its doors to the world and welcomes the masses to experience the splendor of athletics.  The world feverish with Olympic excitement waits anxiously for the unveiling of the world’s best.  Curiosity elevates.  Questions circulate.  Who’s competing?  Who will win?  Will records be broken?  Suddenly the theater lights dim and darkness falls to silence the crowd.  The curtain opens and the crowd bursts with great cheer and applause.   Nine spotlights illuminate a grand stage highlighting a track, long & triple jump runway and pit, pole vault, high jump, shot put, javelin, hammer throw, discus, and steeplechase barrier.  Seconds later athletes representing each skill step forth waving, acknowledging the crowd.  The excitement of the crowd intensifies.  Decibel levels rise to astronomical heights like thunder roaring among the skies.  As athletes perform their respective skills, the world watches in awe over this awesome display of skill and talent energizing the stage.  Through each act, athletes compete mercilessly to eliminate their opponents one by one.  Round after round they fight in a most epic drama filled with the tragedy of broken dreams and the romanticism of heroic feats achieved.  Until finally, a victor is decided.  Spectators sit nervously as they grab the edge of their seats to discover who crossed the finish line first, who threw the farthest, who jumped the longest and highest, and who vaulted the best.  An official raises his white flag.  Results pages fly across the field to reach the hands of an announcer.  Over a loudspeaker, a crier calls the first, second, and third place finishers of each event.  The stadium erupts with shouts of both triumph and uproar.  Though the audience reaction is mixed, somehow everyone in the theater still manages to rise in standing ovation.  For their valiant efforts, are brought center stage atop a podium to be awarded their medals of gold, silver, and bronze.  Wrapped in their nation’s flag, they wave at the crowd one last time to thank them for their support.  The spectators respond with sincerity and gratitude through applause as if to say, “No, athlete.  Thank you for allowing us to be part of this experience.”  The curtain closes and the theater lights are turned back on to usher out the crowd.  Once the final spectator leaves, track & field closes its doors.  As spectators look behind them hoping to catch a glimpse of an athlete possibly walking by, they see a poster mounted on the door.  It reads:  Will not open for another four years.  The spectator drops his head.  The world shrugs.  It was fun while it lasted.  Perhaps one day track & field will let us stay for good.  Football anyone?

Olympic Predictions- Sprinters

It’s July 25, 2012.  The sun has set.  The clock is ticking.  We are now in the final hours until that majestic Olympic torch is ignited to commence the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England.  What can we hope for in this year’s games for Track & Field?

One can only imagine.

Over the past four years, athletes have trained religiously, day after day exerting impressive efforts per run, jump, throw, and vault.  They have endured the treacherous hills of cross training, strengthened their muscles by weightlifting and resistance training, undergone exhausting pace work, sped through explosive sprint work, and more.   They worked through the pain and will soon enter the world’s stage to receive considerable gains consisting of recognition, admiration, and acknowledgement from their countrymen and fellow competitors.

Before the games begin, here are my predictions for this year’s Olympic Games.

Predictions- Sprint Picks

Men’s
100m- Usain Bolt of Jamaica: 9.4 world record
On paper, Bolts performance in Beijing can be considered epic.  However, visually, it appears he did not run to his maximum potential in 2008.  He coasted the last 40 meters which is unheard of in a 100m Olympic race.  9.7 was fast…and since running 9.7, he’s run a 9.58.  9.58 is amazing but his speed waned the last 20 meters as he looked over his shoulders to measure the distance between him and the other competitors.  Once he was satisfied with the idea that he would win the final, he celebrated for ten meters.

Bottomline:  Usain can go faster if he reserves his moment of celebration until AFTER he crosses the line.  He should have run 9.4 in Beijing.  I think he will in London.

200m- Usain Bolt- Gold
Bolt will no doubt win gold.  Will he go sub-19.19?  Based on his 100m time, he should.

400m- LaShawn Merrit- Gold
Although media continues to hover a dark cloud over Merrit, he should be able to break up the darkness with his shinning performance.

110m Hurdles:  Dayron Robles of Cuba- Gold & World Record
So incredible!  This performance says all:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DaUxXvl-uY.

400m Hurdles:  Javier Culson Perez of Puerto Rico- Gold
If he can keep his form, maintain his steps, and stay strong, he should do well.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syHRw7b26Nk

Women’s
100m- Carmelita Jeter- Gold.
The 100m is death defying race.  Any day, the greatest runner can get snatched, clipped, or falter at the start.  Jamaica has an outstanding lineup of sprinters that will definitely give Jeter a run for her money.  Their times this year have been arguably more consistent (around 10.8-11.1) compared to Jeter.  However, Jeter’s times have been progressive.  Each time she steps on the track, her time lowers.  I suspect she will come out on top in this event.

200m- Allison Felix- Gold
Felix performance at the Olympic Trials was dynamic and jaw dropping.  She devastated the field that day and will do the same in London.  Will she break Flo-Jo’s record?  Not this time.

400m- Sanya Richards-Ross- Gold
Would have been nice for Sanya and Allison to face-off in the 400m this year, but with Felix (and myself) out of the picture, Mrs. Ross has the track to herself.  More exciting than gold, we will have to wait and see what time she runs.  Will she go for a 48?  Will she PR?  She’s more than capable.  (I’ll see you in four years Sanya)

100m Hurdles- LoLo Jones- Gold
LoLo just needs to stay on her feet, run a clean race (no hurdles hit), and cross the line to seal her gold.  In Beijing, she suffered the “agony of defeat,” when she clipped the ninth hurdle, opening the door to the rest of the field.  Tragic!  Today’s a new day!   LoLo can win this.  Concentrate LoLo!  Concentrate!

400m Hurdles- Lashinda Demus- Gold
I’ve known Lashinda a long time.  Bantam year 1994 to be exact.  Since then, I have always said Lashinda is a wise runner.  She’s patient, focused, driven, strategic, and calm.  Her work ethic is impeccable.  Based on these attributes, I’m not surprised she turned to the hurdles and won gold in World Championships.  I pray she does the same in London.  Go girl!

I may be a little biased in my picks on the women’s side  (GO USA!) but what can I say?  The US, for the individual runs, is a force to be reckoned. 

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for our sprint relay.  Jamaica will win the 4x100m.

More predictions to come!