Entering The Gray Zone

By Mario Fraioli

“But then you have these half-milers, and I don’t want to say names of the ones I’m thinking that are tainted until I know for sure, but they’ll talk crazy, they run crazy. The cadence don’t look right. Everything they just do stuff that doesn’t look right and you can tell,” American 800m record-holder Johnny Gray told letsrun.com recently. “And it sounds asinine if you were to listen to me because I don’t have no proof of what I say, but my experience throughout the years and knowing what it takes to do certain things when it comes to 800 meters, I can tell the ones who have cheated.”

I’m not totally sure what to make of this interview, but it’s a provoking read nonetheless and certainly generated some chatter around the interwebs last week. Gray, who set his still-standing record 32 years ago, talks candidly about cheating, front running, weight training (or lack thereof, rather), his own breakthroughs, and much more. I found his answers to the last two questions the most interesting, as he went out of his way to re-address the drug problem in the sport and specifically called out Agee Wilson and other athletes who have “weak excuses for why I failed this test.” Gray’s responses were somewhat inconsistent, however, given the excerpted quote above as well as the fact that he refused to name the names of his own competitors who “didn’t have no shame in letting me know they cheated.” I applaud Gray for his honesty and wish more athletes—former or current—would speak so openly about the doping problem in athletics, but if you’re going to name names, why not name them all?

+ If you’ve been reading this newsletter long enough, you know I’m skeptical of many global governing bodies, including the World Anti-Doping Agency. This most recent revelation certainly doesn’t help that organization’s cause. “The World Anti-Doping Agency has come under fire for taking five years to begin investigating allegations of systematic doping in China that were first made by a whistleblower in 2012,” Sean Ingle writes for The Guardian. “On Sunday the Chinese doctor Xue Yinxian told the German broadcaster ARD that more than 10,000 Chinese athletes had used banned substances during the 1980s and 90s, including every medal winner in every major championships – claims that Wada has now referred to its intelligence unit for scrutiny.”

+ Is there a sport that hasn’t dealt with a doping scandal in recent memory? Champion Iditarod musher Dallas Seavey gets thrown under the bus, I mean, sled.

A version of this post first appeared in the morning shakeout, my weekly email newsletter covering running, writing, media and other topics that interest me. Sign up here to get it sent to your inbox first thing every Tuesday morning.