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February 28, 2017 | Issue 68
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Oiselle
Yolanda Trail
It's been raining here all winter, I swear. | Marin County, California
instagram.com/mariofraioli

Good morning! Lots to get to this week but first a huge thank you to Oiselle for sponsoring the morning shakeout this month. I’m proud to align myself with this incredible company and am extremely appreciative of their support. If you’re a woman looking to spruce up your spring running wardrobe or a guy just hoping to stay on your girl’s good side, please consider patronizing the brand that kept your favorite email newsletter firing on all cylinders in February.

And now, onto your weekly dose of insight, inspiration and interestingness. Enjoy!  

Clean up in Lane 9. 

If I were a betting man, I’d put money down that athletics is on the verge of its next major mess. 

While none of the accusations that came out over the weekend against coach Alberto Salazar are new, surprising or conclusive, they were, however, indicative that the investigation into Salazar’s questionable supplementing practices are far from over—and, if anything, might even be a step closer to showing that ethical (and even legal) lines may have been crossed on multiple occasions.  

The purported evidence—a 269-page draft of a USADA report leaked by the hacker group Fancy Bears—was not yet meant for public consumption, but USADA did not deny its existence, or accuracy. Salazar, along with Mo Farah and Galen Rupp, of course denied everything, but what else would you expect them to do at this point?  

None of the information in the leaked USADA report is official but it’s damning enough—along with what we already know—to make me believe that something messy is about to go down. Here’s why:

— At a minimum, it’s clear that Salazar is willing to push right up against the boundaries of what’s legal—and ethical—in regard to supplementation for his athletes. This type of calculated behavior in competitive, high-stakes environments doesn’t typically stop short of said boundary; instead, offenders will usually try to see how far past it they can go before it becomes noticeable.

— Along those lines, when Salazar emails the most disgraced drug cheat of all-time about the performance gains of an experimental IV he’s been testing, it paints the gray area solid black for me. “Call me asap! We have tested it and it’s amazing,” Salazar wrote to Armstrong in 2011. “You are the only athlete I’m going to tell the actual numbers to other than Galen Rupp. It’s too incredible. All completely legal and natural! You will finish the iron man in about 16 minutes less while taking this.”

— If there’s nothing to hide, why not let USADA look at your medical records? I’m all for protecting an athlete’s privacy, but for the protection of sport itself, this important information should be easily accessible by international anti-doping organizations, especially during an investigation.

— Along those lines, I think it’s Salazar’s relationship with Dr. Jeffrey Brown that’s going to be the undoing of this entire thing, and potentially have ramifications that extend beyond the Oregon Project. “USADA has found substantial and compelling evidence that Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar and Houston endocrinologist Dr Jeffrey Brown conspired to collude together in order to employ risky and untested alternative and unconventional (and sometimes potentially unlawful) uses of medical procedures and prescription medications (including both substances and methods prohibited and/or potentially prohibited under the rules of sport and those that were not) to attempt to increase the testosterone and energy levels and the recovery capacity of NOP athletes in order to boost athletics performance,” the report said. “USADA found that at least seven runners were prescribed thyroid medication after joining the project. The medical records of some of them, reviewed by USADA, indicate no need for the medication.” You could debate the use of L-Carnitine all you want—hell, you could throw it out of the argument all together—because if there is evidence that prescription drugs were being used unlawfully, and on a wider scale than just the NOP, the sport has a cycling-like collapse on its hands. 

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations.” I’ve always felt there’s quite a bit of truth to this statement. It’s worth keeping a close eye on how the various parties involved respond to the media as this situation continues to unfold and more news comes out that Salazar and company will surely not want printed. Salazar decried the initial ProPublica reports as “inexcusable, irresponsible journalism” and Farah recently posted that he is “unclear as to the Sunday Times’s motivations towards me.” Sound familiar?

— Tangentially-related shadiness: Finally, and not mentioned in Sunday’s reports, but worth including in this conversation: Salazar and Farah’s relationship with coach Jama Aden, who was busted for supplying his athletes with EPO in Spain last summer, remains largely unresolved. I wrote about this in Issue 32 and again in Issue 43. Letsrun provided a solid rundown last June but it hasn’t been written about much since, to my knowledge. I’ll be interested to see if any chatter about this resurfaces anytime soon. 

Quick Splits

I’m ashamed to admit that I had never heard of Mira Rai until I saw her pop up in Knox Robinson’s Instagram feed last week but I’ve been completely captivated by her story ever since. The 29-year-old Rai, who was recently named “Adventurer of the Year” by National Geographic, grew up in a remote village in Nepal, served as a child soldier in the Maoist Army and now tears up ultra-distance trail races around the world. It’s as unlikely a story as you’re ever likely to read. I had no idea—but now that I do, I can’t get enough. Even though she regularly finds herself atop of race podiums, running for Rai is far more than a competitive pursuit; it’s the vehicle that led her out of hardship and provided a platform for her to inspire so many people through her incredible journey. “[The people back home] said this is not a sport. Why do you run?" Rai told NPR. “I wanted to do new things. In the village there's no chance, every day watching goats, planting corn or millet, and then working in the fields every day.”

Michael Gervais continues to kill it on his Finding Mastery podcast. He recently interviewed one of my favorite writers, Cal Fussman, who I’ve mentioned once or twice previously in this space. The third time might really be the charm as Gervais dives deep into Fussman’s past and unpacks the events that influenced his unique interviewing style and helped hone his unmatched storytelling abilities. If you’re a writer who wants to become a better interviewer, or you’re just a sucker for a good story, don’t miss Part 1 or Part 2 of this ridiculously compelling conversation. “Because ‘Why?’ makes a person who knows something about a subject think deeper about it,” Fussman says of his favorite question to ask an interview subject. “It nudges them to think deeper. Just the word why. It makes you stop and look inward. And it’s very difficult to give a one word answer to ‘Why?’”

 The things a cheater will do to cover his or her ass never ceases to amaze me. And I’m not even talking about PEDs this time! Get a load of this story from the Fort Lauderdale A1A Half Marathon. “In this day of age, it is nearly possible to get away with cheating at a race—if anyone is looking,” Derek Murphy writes for the excellent marathoninvestigation.com blog. “It is 100% impossible to get away with it when you resort to circus like attempts to cover it up.” Seriously, what the hell is wrong with people? (Also, save the second half of Murphy’s quote for future reference.)

Bob Hodge, my soft-spoken friend and first post-collegiate mentor, recently relaunched his running-themed website. It’s still a work in progress and rather plain-looking but chock full of timeless running knowledge, information and inspiration—all of which I’ve been reading, revisiting and absorbing for the better part of the last 15 years. There’s training logs from legends like Bill Rodgers, former marathon world-record holder Steve Jones, Kenyan Rogers Rop, Hodgie himself, and others (if you like geeking out over those sorts of things), not to mention an awesome series of remembrances from various contributors, and plenty more to dig through over the course of an inspired afternoon. Hodgie, for my money, is one of the most under-appreciated American marathoners of all-time, with a third-place Boston Marathon finish and a 2:10:59 PB sitting atop his resume his resume. More than anything else, Hodgie taught me that running is a perpetual pursuit of enjoyment and training is an exercise that isn’t meant to be overcomplicated. “Everything we need to know about training was discovered many years ago through the ultimate science: trial and error,” Hodgie writes. “The exercise physiologists merely explain (perhaps correctly, perhaps not) why they think these methods work, and many write books suggesting they themselves invented the best methods. When you begin to believe, that is when you will be on the right track to try and accomplish whatever you have set out to do.

 This is easily the most exciting race I’ve watched in the past week: 99-year-old Orville Rogers and 92-year-old Dixon Hemphill neck and neck in a sprint finish. This is what the spirit of competition is all about! (Anyone else think Hemphill could take him in a 100?!)

Lastly, I’ve got some fun stuff on tap for the shakeout next month, including a couple new longform interviews, a training-themed webinar with a three-time Olympian, and a few other surprises. Stay tuned!

That’s it for Issue 68. If you like this newsletter and want to support it, please share the shit out of this thing with your inner and outer circles. And of course, you can always send your thoughts my way by replying to this email or shouting at me through the many layers of the Twittersphere.

Thanks for reading, 

Mario

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