There’s no need for drugs cheats

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What is happening with 2013? After the legacies created in so many different sports only last year, this year seems to be playing a whole difference game. We’ve had the tragic story of Oscar Pistorius, arguably the greatest ever Paralympian, shooting dead his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day, the British London 2012 silver medalist sailor Andrew Simpson being killed when his yacht capsized in May, and then there are the drug scandals. Now one of the oldest but unfortunately more common stories of the lot, the drugs game has sadly come to the fore of the sporting world’s attention once again.

In January, Lance Armstrong, the most famed cyclist in history and winner of seven Tour de France titles after beating cancer, admitted to arguably the biggest doping scandal in sporting history. He admitted that throughout his career and in winning all seven of his TDF titles, he had been using performance enhancing substances in order to gain an advantage on the other cyclists. In doing so he was stripped of all of his Tour de France titles and went from being the world’s most decorated cyclist to the world’s most shamed cyclist.

After this it was hoped that the major impacts of doping were at an end, after losing one of the world’s greatest sportspeople, why would any others do it again?

On June 14th it was reported that Veronica Campbell Brown, Jamaica’s most successful female athlete, had tested positive for diurectics, performance enhancing drugs. She has since been suspended by the Jamaican national federation, for how long though is uncertain. Once again the steroids door had been opened, but unfortunately it hasn’t yet closed…

Exactly one month later, yesterday, July 14th 2013, it was reported that six athletes had failed drugs tests, three are so far unnamed, with one suspected to be the Jamaican 4×100 metre Olympic gold medalist Nesta Carter, but three have been confirmed as Sherone Simpson, Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell. Simpson was part of the Jamaican women’s silver medal winning 4×100 metre team in London last year, Gay the equal second fastest man in history with a personal best of 9.69 seconds, and Powell the 100 metre world record holder before Usain Bolt. All three were unassuming, light hearted people with, especially Powell and Gay, huge followings with plenty of respect for them. Gay said he put his trust in others who let him down, Powell and Simpson both say they were completely unaware of the substances, but as things stand they are only words.

There’s plenty of history of doping in athletics, the dark side of the sport. Gay should have thought better or learnt from when his American team mate Justin Gatlin was found to be doping in 2006 and was subsequently banned from athletics for four years. Another American, Marion Jones, at the time regarded at as one of the greatest,if not the greatest, american female athlete, had to surrender all five of the medals she won at the 2000 Olympics after finally admitting to doping accusations and failing tests.

The world of athletics would like to think that this is the end of the doping scandals and no more will appear in the future, but unfortunately that isn’t likely. If the substances weren’t available then they would never be thought about, as long as they are available then there will always be someone trying to get to them. Any athletes who dope, take steroids etc. are taking an unnecessary risk which with better technology and testing systems less and less athletes are getting away with, as proven in the last month or so. By doping, these athletes, no matter how big the name or successful they are, are tarnishing and tearing apart the validity and heart of the sport and people they represent. Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell are two athletes who are idolised by millions of people, but have potentially thrown everything away and left those people with nothing.

It has been suggested that the only way for athletes and any other sportspeople to learn from this is to impose a lifetime ban for any drug cheating athlete, that way an athlete will know that if they dope then their whole career is at risk, not just four years or so. I agree that it is the only way athletes will learn.

In the end, the athletes who are clean will reap the rewards.

Thanks for reading everyone, feel free to leave a comment on the blog or tweet me @N_Marshy93, all responses are welcomed whether positive or negative. Thanks again!

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Should sporting celebrities be worshipped as heroes?

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Right so this blog has a slightly different twist to my other ones, but I would be glad if you read it all the same!

Everyone has a sporting hero, right? Even people who aren’t so interested in sport quite often have one sportsperson who they would like to meet or be like. What happens when these sportspeople shed themselves in a bad light though? Are we wrong to put our hopes on an individual, when it only takes one moment of madness for them to make us look like the fool?

For those who aren’t so bothered, the simple answer to that question is yes. For example let’s take Lance Armstrong, a former sporting icon. As a human being and sportsperson he was seen as inspirational to all, on a personal and sporting basis. Having battled testicular cancer from 1996 to 1997, he then went on to win a record seven straight Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005, the highest accolade for a cyclist. He wasn’t clouded by fame either, setting up his Livestrong charity in 1997 which provided support for people with cancer. He was the people’s sportsman, it was almost as if it was wrong not to see him as some sort of idol with the various life experiences he had gone through.

Then it all fell apart. Armstrong was accused time and time again of using performance enhancing drugs and finally admitted the deed in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, he was given a lifetime ban from competition and stripped of all seven of his Tour de France titles. It seemed that everything he had stood for had in fact been a lie, leaving all of his fans and those who idolized him lost. Everything he had ever achieved had been due to wrongdoing and trickery, he let everyone down. He was no longer a hero, now a villain in the eyes of many, and those who had worshipped him as a hero no longer had the man as someone to look up to.

Another case is that of Oscar Pistorius. The greatest Paralympian of all time and a true inspiration in the world of athletics, undone by the shooting of his girlfriend and the ongoing court case and trial. What happens is yet to be seen but it can be assured that much of the good Pistorius stood for with his incredible athletics achievements, being the first Paralympian to run the in Olympics, and the way that so many people looked up to him, will change forever and he will never be seen in the same light again. Many who saw him as a hero now don’t want to think about him, seeing him as the man who shot his girlfriend dead, not as an athletics legend.

But all is not lost. The sportspeople who let others down are an extreme minority, there are a majority who never put a foot wrong and are seen rightfully as heroes. Some only get highlighted if they do something wrong, such is the media spotlight. Across all sports there are a huge amount of individuals who are worthy of their hero status, plus nobody is perfect! Sportspeople are idolized and seen as heroes as a way of appreciating what they do and as a way of self inspiration. Everyone involved in sport has an individual who they aspire to, whether it be in athletics, football, rugby, cricket, or any sport at all! With having someone as a hero there always come a risk that it could all fall apart, but it is a risk which is needed to be taken. I will admit that I idolised Oscar Pistorius, and everything that has gone on with him recently has been shocking, but in a sporting aspect he was and will always be a hero of mine. Many people have problems in life and having a hero means they then have a release, sometimes people choose heroes who have been through similar problems.

So finally, should sporting celebrities be worshipped as heroes? Whatever potential unseen problems there are or could be… of course they should!

Thanks for reading everyone, feel free to leave a comment on the blog or tweet me @N_Marshy93, all responses are welcomed whether positive or negative. Thanks again!

The Jamaican Revolution: How the Jamaicans brought the 100 metres back to life

Powell Bolt Blake shels

The 100 metre race is and has always been the prime event of the Olympic and athletics World Championships events, there is no doubting that, but there was a time when the race seemed to be losing its fandom and was surrounded by negativity. The 100 metre event had become swarmed in controversy which came to a peak when Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic and 2005 World Champion over the distance, was given an 8 year ban due to doping. The race was in need of a change of face and personality, which was exactly what happened.

The 100 metres had gained a personality of steeliness, a race in which only the toughest man could enter and no emotion could be shown. There were no smiles at the start line, no cheery looks or happy waves to the crowd. A snarl or nod of acknowledgement was the most a camera or crowd could hope for in the lead up to these races. This wasn’t about fun, it was about being the best. The 100 metres was becoming an event which was all about the winning and nothing else, but then came the man with the smile…

Asafa Powell was different to the other guys in his races. When the rest of them stayed stern, the Jamaican smiled and acknowledged the people who had come to support. The world leader at the time, Justin Gatlin, was a stereotypical hard man at the start time, but come June 2005 the life of the men’s 100 metres changed for the best. Powell ran 9.77 seconds and set a new world record, interestingly breaking Tim Montgomery’s record which was wiped from the history books six months later due to admission of drug use. Young sprinters now had a new hero, a man they could truly aspire to be. A man who based his performances around happiness and concentration rather than anger and frustration and who always put others first, including his supporters. He may have never won a world championship or Olympic gold in his career but otherwise for the next two years Asafa ruled the 100 metres, improving his own world record to 9.74 seconds in 2007. The Jamaican dominance over the distance had been started by the master, but the real change in personality of the event was about to be made by the apprentice.

Enter Usain Bolt. Could the much-hyped youngster carry on from what Asafa Powell had started and keep the Jamaicans in the spotlight? More importantly, could he carry on the newfound legacy and personality of the 100 metres created by Powell? The answer to both of those questions was, and still is, a definite yes. Carrying on from Powell was a big ask and many still had their doubts over Bolt as he finished second to Tyson Gay in the 200 metres at the 2007 athletics World Championships. In 2008 though, everything changed. Bolt entered the year wanting to become the best in the world, the best ever, and on the 31st of May he broke Powell’s 100 metre world record, running 9.72 seconds over the distance. The Jamaican dominance was continuing, but would only really be asserted if they brought home the holy grail of the 100 metre gold medal at the Olympics.

The 2008 Beijing Olympics. Reputations were at stake due to the reigning 100 metre Olympic champion serving a drugs ban, therefore someone new had to step up to the plate. The difference this time though was a new atmosphere, with the likes of Bolt and Powell making sure that the event was more ‘one for all’ than ‘all for one’. Bolt wanted to make the event his own and that’s exactly what he did, running a new world record 9.69 seconds in the final in one of the most memorable athletics moments in history, with the ever famous slowing down early and chest slap on crossing the line. The legacy was made certain, Bolt wowed the crowds whilst playing to them too, giving them an involvement when so many athletes in the past has ignored them. Not just the paying crowd either, but those at home watching on television as well. The best thing of all was that he was completely clean, his times were run on pure talent and training without the needs for drugs, giving hope to everyone.

Over the last 3 years the Jamaican dominance over the 100 metres on the world stage has continued to thrive with Bolt taking the world championship crown in 2009 with a huge world record of 9.58, Yohan Blake stealing the same crown in 2011 after Bolt’s disqualification and then with Bolt defending his Olympic title in London last year under pressure from Blake. The women too have been dominant on the world stage with the same ethics and stage performances as the men, for longer if anything! Veronica Campbell-Brown became world champion over the distance in 2007 and Shelley-Ann Fraser Price took the Olympic 100 metre titles at the Beijing Olympics on 2008, the 2009 World Championships and the London 2012 Olympics. In fact the only time the Olympic or World 100 metre gold wasn’t taken by a Jamaican since 2008 was when the American Carmelita Jeter took the prize in the women’s 100 metres at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu.

What also must be remembered is that it isn’t just the Jamaican sprinters’ track exploits which have set them apart from everyone else in creating this new era and atmosphere, it’s their interactions elsewhere too. Always seeming happy to give interviews, talk about anything and for any length of time. Another big part is their actions on Twitter, where they take their time to respond to tweets and messages from fans, from ‘good luck’ to ‘how are you?’, trust me I know, I’ve had a few responses myself! This constant openness to their fanbase and followers gives the public a much more insightful look into their lives and the athletes never seem to disappoint.

The 100 metre event is no longer the drugs hell hole it looked as if it was becoming, it has resumed its position at the top many people’s athletics agenda for all the right reasons. The new found personality and era of the event is brilliant and loved by the majority, and it’s mostly down to those boys and girls from the land of Reggae.

If you’ve got this far, thanks very much for reading my blog on how the Jamaicans have brought the 100 metres back to life, it means a lot! If you have anything to say or have feedback then please feel free to comment or tweet me @N_Marshy93 as I m still very new to this blogging business, everything helps!

P.S apologies of you are from the countries where ‘metres’ is spelt as ‘meters’, this is just how it’s spelt in the UK!

My 10 breakthrough athletes of 2012 I tip for world domination, who you may not have heard of… yet!

Welcome to my first ever blog post! I thought I’d start off with a topic which I think could hold a decent amount of interest, and if not which was a fun piece to write anyway. So I introduce to you my 10 breakthrough athletes of 2012 who I believe could take the world by storm during their careers. My initial focus is on track and field athletes as they are what I’m most familiar with, with Olympic and Paralympic athletes both covered. Bear in mind that this is completely my own opinion.  With that, in no particular order, let me introduce the athletes!

 Richard Browne

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For those of you who watched the T44 100 metre final at the Paralympics, you would have noticed that all the pre-race talk was of the ‘Battle of the titans’, the biggest head to head of the Paralympics, the legendary Oscar Pistorius against the 19 year old starlet and current world record holder Jonnie Peacock. Surely these would contest the gold medal? Wrong. There was one athlete who the media hadn’t picked up focus on, who had also breezed his way through the qualifying rounds, the 21 year old American Richard Browne. Whilst Peacock rushed to the gold medal, Browne ran strong and picked up the silver in a new personal best of 11.03 seconds. What’s most incredible about Browne’s story is that he lost his leg in 2009, meaning that compared to the other athletes in the field he was a relative novice. With massive gains of experience and large personal bests year on year, there is no reason why Peacock and Browne will not contest the gold medal in the same event at the 2013 Paralympic World Championships in July, just perhaps with a different outcome in the gold medal position. Browne trains with the aim of becoming the greatest, there is the distinct possibility that he could become exactly that.

Katarina Johnson-Thompson 

Katarina Johnson-Thompson

Katarina Johnson-Thompson, or KJT for short, burst onto the senior world stage when she competed in the 2012 Olympics in the heptathlon. The event was memorably won by Jessica Ennis, but KJT put in a strong performance to finish 15th out of 39 competing athletes. A month earlier she won the long jump at the World Junior Championships and then fitted the Olympics into a year in which she was only 19. Add to this that she holds the British women’s under 20 record for the heptathlon, beating Ennis’ tally from at the same age, and Johnson-Thompson really does show all the makings of a world beater. The 2013 World Championships will really give her a chance to show what she’s made of, but 2012 may have seen the first world stage appearance of another British athletics superstar.

Warren Weir

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Before the Olympic 200 metre final, all the focus was on the battle between the Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake to see who would gain the title of the best in the business. No-one was really bothered about who came third, that was until Warren Wier popped up to take the bronze and create a historic Jamaican 1-2-3 which had never been seen before on the world stage. Look at Weir’s stats and times though and you’ll suddenly realise why he should be taken seriously. He trains at the same club at Bolt and Blake, the formidable Racers Track Club, under the guidance of coach Glen Mills. His 19.84 seconds ran in the 200 metre final at the age of 22 is far faster than Michael Johnson, the ex-200 metre great, was running at the same age and he ended up with a 19.32 second world record! The focus on Bolt and Blake means Weir can carry on his business quietly without interruption, and with everything seemingly on his side there is no reason why he cannot cause a stir in the 200 metre world rankings in the future, starting with the World Championships in August.

Dyan Buis

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For anyone with an interest in T38 sprinting, my own event in fact, you may know that since 2008 it has been a completely one man show. The Australian Evan O’Hanlon has lit up the world with his performances in the 100 and 200 metre events but hasn’t had much real competition to take his titles. That is until now. Let me introduce Dyan Buis, a 22 year old South African who may just be about to show O’Hanlon his match and create a brilliant two horse race. Buis entered the 2012 Paralympics as an unknown quantity to most, but left it with stirling performances with silver medals behind O’Hanlon in the T38 100 and 200 metres and a bronze in the T38 long jump. Whilst doing this at the tender age of 21, he showed an aggression in his running which could in a few years prove to be what overtakes O’Hanlon and puts him on top of the world. The 2013 World Championships could be a major career moment for this young South African. Who knows, maybe in the future I’ll get to run against him too!

Nijel Amos

London Olympics Athletics Men

Out of these 10 athletes I’ve chosen, Nijel Amos is without doubt probably the most exciting prospect. In fact the young man from Botswana could be one of the most exciting prospects in athletics history. Having already become the World Junior Champion over 800 metres in July, Amos entered the 2012 Olympics on a high, but how he performed was to set many a mind whirring. As David Rudisha sped away to record an incredible world record and gold medal in the 800 metre final, Amos claimed the silver only 0.82 seconds behind to set a new World Junior record. The big deal? David Rudisha is 24 years old, Nijel amos is 18. Amos is running the 800 metres SIX seconds quicker than Rudisha was at the same age, an outrageously fast time for someone so young. This boy is the real deal and there is no doubt that he has the potential to become the greatest 800 metre runner in history. The 2013 World Championships could be massive for Amos, and he could cause Rudisha, and the rest of the world, a huge surprise. Unless….

Timothy Kitum

Kenya's Timothy Kitum reacts as he wins

Timothy Kitum also ran in the Olympic 800 metre final and took the bronze medal. He also took the silver medal behind Nijel Amos in the World Junior Championships. Kitum, a Kenyan, is a year younger than Amos, taking these medals at the tender age of 17. He only turned 18 in November, and his Olympic final time of 1 minute 42.53 seconds was only 0.6 seconds behind Amos in second place. So maybe Amos isn’t the heir to David Rudisha’s throne and Kitum is in fact the young pretender? What is for sure is that the 800 metres is going to become arguably the biggest event of the Olympics in the future with all these athletes in the balance. Kitum and Amos could create a rivalry which could be fought out for more than the next decade, which will only bring the best out of the both of them. Watch out world, the middle distance runners are coming!

Adam Gemili

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Adam Gemili is one of the best prospects British sprinting has ever had, it’s not hard to see why with the incredible 2012 he had. Bursting into the spotlight with a 10.08 second 100 metres in Germany gave him the British A qualifying standard for the Olympics, he followed this up by finishing second in the qualifiers behind Dwain Chambers to earn himself a spot on the British Olympic team. He then proceeded to become the first ever British winner of the 100 metres at the Junior World Championships in with a new personal best of 10.05 seconds. With that time he also set himself as the fastest ever British 100 metre runner for the under 20 age group. He then ran into tthe semi finals of the 100 metres at the Olympics, running against Asafa Powell in his semi final race. His 10.05 ran at the age of 18 is faster than Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake at the same age, but in order to keep up the momentum and fulfill his potential then he needs to keep performing. A sub 10 second 100 metres isn’t out of the question in 2013, and it may well be needed with the World Championships coming up. If this prospect goes in the right direction, in Gemili we could have the best British sprinter we have ever seen.

Brigetta Barrett

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For those of you who haven’t heard of Brigetta Barrett, she is an American high jumper who leapt onto the world stage with a silver medal in the women’s high jump at the 2012 Olympics with a new personal best of 2.03 metres at the age of 21. The field events had lately started to become a bit of a recluse, with major focus being put on the track events combining with a sort of shortfall in world class/record breaking performances in the jumps and throws. Barrett could start the change in this, especially in the women’s sector. With 2012 giving her a seven centimetre increase on her personal best, from 1.96 to 2.03 metres, there is no reason why the now 22 year old can’t become a world beater in 2013 and future years. With age on her side and a huge amount of experience to come, there is no reason to say that Barrett can’t challenge the women’s high jump world record of 2.09 metres in the future. A gold medal at the 2013 World Championships would be the perfect way to set off this potentially world beating career.

Ola Abidogun

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What would this list be without a British Paralympian? Ola Abidogun is a 19 year old with a lot of potential and character. Competing in the T46 classification due to an amputation of his lower right arm, he took the bronze medal in the T46 100 metre final at the 2012 Paralympics. In the final he ran 11.23 seconds, but with a personal best of 11.05 which would have tied him for the gold medal, there is a lot of expectation with the knowing that he could go much faster. The 2013 World Championships in July could be the best stage for him whilst still only being 19 years old, excel there and a glittering career could really start to take shape. The european record of 11.03 is already very much in his sights, but I’m sure he will run much quicker than that. The T46 100 metre world record is 10.72, there is no reason to say why Ola cannot break this in his career.

Olivia Breen

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Last but not least I have chosen Olivia Breen, who competes in the women’s T38 category in the 100 and 200 metre sprints. She shot into focus with a 5th place finish in the 100 metre sprint and then helped the British women’s team to a bronze medal in the 4×100 metre relay. What’s so special about Breen then? She’s 16 years old! She competed in the 2012 Paralympics barely a month after her 16th birthday, hopefully it will prove to be the start of a long and successful career. Her personal best times rank her 2nd and 3rd in the world for the T38 100 and 200 metre sprints respectively, and she will only improve with age. Expect to see much more of Breen on the podium in the coming years with a gold medal around her neck, maybe even starting at the 2013 World Championships in Lyon in July. At which time she will still only be 16 years old.

Thanks very much for taking the time to read this, it is very much appreciated. I hope you have gained some valuable facts or information and haven’t just fallen asleep at the screen! Feel free to leave any feedback or suggestions here or via my twitter @N_Marshy93.