Cheaters never prosper?

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=Rashid+Ramzi&iid=3112050″ src=”4/8/5/5/f7.JPG?adImageId=7692190&imageId=3112050″ width=”380″ height=”245″ /]This past week it was released that 1500 metre Olympic gold medalist Rashid Ramzi had been stripped of his medal for doping during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Bahrainian Ramzi (born in Morocco) had his “b” sample tested last June, which came back positive for CERA (continuous erythropoietin receptor activator), an advanced version of the blood-boosting hormone EPO (erythropoietin).

Ramzi was one of five other athletes from the games who was later caught with positive results for the drug, leading to a wide variety of surprise, opinion and critique.

The chairman of the London 2012 Organizing Committee, Sebastian Coe (who is also IAAF vice president and a double Olympic 1500 metre champion) was quoted in the Telegraph as saying, “That was the right decision. Cheats cannot prosper in our sport and people will realize that sooner or later.”

From the reactions that I’ve heard this week, I’ve been thinking about what Coe said, and in this case, it would appear to be true. But the actions of athletic cheaters, like their white-collared counterparts, don’t just affect their own standing or accomplishments. Asbel Kiprop of Kenya and Nicholas Willis of New Zealand (pictured below on either side of Ramzi) came in second and third place respectively, and have been robbed of their experience of winning gold and silver, instead of the silver and bronze they received. Through Ramzi’s actions, they will never get that experience back.

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=Rashid+Ramzi&iid=1015329″ src=”8/e/b/a/Olympics_Day_12_c3a5.jpg?adImageId=7692273&imageId=1015329″ width=”380″ height=”253″ /]It’s easy to say cheaters never prosper, but in this case, that comes after Ramzi stood on the top podium, was crowned with the gold medal and offered who knows how many lucrative deals with athletic apparel companies. And I think that’s where the gut reaction of many runners to this sort of scandal comes in: it becomes personal.

Many (or realistically, 99.9 per cent) of us will never know what it is like to run in the Olympics or even to complete at an elite level. Watching the immense talent of these world-class athletes inspires and motivates us, showing us what heights the sport can be taken to given the right mix of training, determination and genetics.

We invest a little of ourselves in watching the elite runners, recognizing the shared passion and struggle, the investment and emotion inherent in what we do. So when one of the immortal elite fall, they fall far and they fall hard.

Coe is right when he says they won’t prosper (providing they’re caught). In truth, Ramzi will likely never regain the trust or credibility he has lost. In effect, his promising career is now over. And here is where I begin to find a sense of compassion for him on a human level. All the years, hours and countless miles he willingly sacrificed to the sport; all the effort and toil he went through has now been for nothing. I wonder what the moments leading up to him deciding to take the CERA were like; what situations, actions or words pushed him over the line of elite performance and into the realm of doping? It leaves one to ask the unanswerable question of, “why?”

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