Friday, November 7, 2014

Jeptoo’s Secret Race

Jeptoo tracks Flanagan in Boston

By Van Rensselaer Townsend

Now that the Kenyan red dust has settled and the New York race winds subsided, let’s step back, and perhaps forward, and look at the revelations and ramifications of Jeptoo’s alleged positive drug test for EPO.

First, we should look at what EPO does and examine what many say it doesn’t do. Let’s start with the latter claim that any super-talented Kenyan would win a marathon anyway without using the blood-boosting drug. Here, we hear the Kenyan Federation clamor that “outside forces” such as agents, coaches and doctors are taking advantage of naive professional runners. Note that appellation “professional.” Yes, these athletes are pros. They are not some eager kids dreaming of winning a World Marathon Major. And, yes, I’ve been in Kenya and heard the “afraid of taking an aspirin” refrain, but an experienced professional runner who has flown across and around the world, bunked in luxury hotels, and been feted at celebratory banquets is not some rube or ingenue who can’t think for him or herself.

These pros surely know that even a small percentage increase in oxygen-rich red blood cells can give them an edge late in a 42k prize money race. I mention “late” because EPO appears to provide the power to throw down a ridiculously fast final 5k finish after 23 miles of already racing fast. It’s one thing to crank out one’s fastest 5k split after keeping the early pace dawdling for tactical or meteorological reasons. Witness Kipsang’s and Desisa’s breakaway after New York’s lead pack stuck to an historically SLOW pace as they battled the heavy headwinds. Now contrast that situation to what Jeptoo did at Boston. She blazed through her last kilometers on top of an historically FAST first 30k where Shalane Flanagan towed the leaders through successive 5k markers that broke every previous women’s race course record. So, for Jeptoo to lay down such a torrid 5k finish when her legs should have felt normal fatigue was surreal and suspicious. EPO can do that.

Way back in 2003, Outside Magazine ran a story by a writer, Stuart Stevens, who agreed to be a test-subject for the effects of PEDS. I’m not sure the pharmaceuticals were even nicknamed as such back then ! Here’s what Stevens had to say about an endurance cycling event while he was using EPO: “After the EPO kicked in (meaning his buildup injection regimen), I rode a 200-miler and I felt strong, ready to hammer. The next day I easily could have ridden another 200.”

It is clear that EPO is a drug that makes a significant difference in athletic performance for any individual. And now we also know what happens when EPO is used by an already gifted Kenyan runner.

TwitterFacebookGoogle+DeliciousDiggPrintRead It LaterRedditPinterestWebnewsEmailEvernoteShare

Comments are closed.