Paula's PR skills need work
As most of you have surely read by now, marathon world-record holder Paula Radcliffe has been vindicated of blood doping by the IAAF and UK Athletics. Good news, right? I’m not so sure. While the IAAF—which has no shortage of its own issues to deal with—called the allegations against Radcliffe’s abnormally high blood values a “gross misinterpretation of data,” I think Radcliffe’s handling of the situation is somehow going to come back to bite her in the ass. Radcliffe, who has never failed a drug test, went on the record just a few months ago saying that her high “off-scores” were the result of altitude training and hard racing. Then, just this past weekend, the 41-year-old retired marathoner contradicted herself by saying that it wasn’t her intention to claim that altitude was directly responsible for her unusual results (with the exception of 2012). As Ross Tucker of the Sports Scientists Tweeted on Sunday, this contradiction doesn’t make Radcliffe a doper (and I’m not saying that she is) but it sure as hell doesn’t help public trust, which is something that track and field as a whole is struggling with mightily right now. Radcliffe, who has been cagey regarding having blood data released to the public, isn’t doing herself any favors with her lack of transparency and muddled messaging. "The key point is you can't prove you are clean,” she been quoted as saying.
I disagree with that statement. Not only do I think an athlete should be able to prove that he or she is clean, an athlete needs to be able to prove they’re clean given the current climate of competitive athletics. When nearly every extraordinary or eye-popping performance is cast into doubt, you need to ready to prove your purity, whether that seems fair to you or not. If you have abnormally high blood values, fine—there might be a perfectly legitimate reason for that—but you (or someone on your team) should be able to explain why that might be the case if those results are being cast into doubt. As Tucker wrote in September: “Those possible, plausible explanations could be made to look credible if they were openly discussed, and that would require maximum transparency.” If you truly have nothing to hide, don’t be hesitant to share information or answer tough questions by journalists, anti-doping officials, your governing body or anyone else. Manage your own messaging and keep it consistent. Otherwise, even if you’re innocent, it doesn’t appear that way in the public eye. Most elite athletes and coaches I know keep detailed journals of their training, racing, nutrition, recovery, etc., including record of altitude trips, time spent sleeping in a altitude tent, any and all supplements, vitamins, over-the-counter anti-inflamatories, etc., they’ve put into their bodies (whether self-inflicted or prescribed by someone else) and the list goes on. Even if you don’t record such things in great detail, transparency is not a complicated practice. To quote Mark Twain, “If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.”