Runners Pledge to Never Dope, Except for Really Big Races

 istockphoto.com

istockphoto.com

When Gloria Estefan, a 2:43 marathoner for Ecuador, turned pro four years ago she was aghast at what she calls "the culture of doping."

"So many runners were cheating, so often, it was astounding," she said. "It was almost like, If you want to compete at the highest levels, you need to do this."

She is ashamed to admit, she says today, that she made some poor choices herself back then.

"I was using EPO, Clenbuterol, ephedrine, blood transfusions, superfoods, you name it," she said. "I am not proud of what I did. But hopefully this makes up for it, a little bit."

 Gloria estefan: "Am I brave? Yeah, I suppose I am."

Gloria estefan: "Am I brave? Yeah, I suppose I am."

The "this" she's talking about is taking the "Run Cleanish" pledge.

Run Cleanish began as a hashtag on Twitter, used by a handful of track and field athletes who are vowing, in the words of an official statement, to "compete pure, using only my own natural ability, without the aid of performance enhancers, unless it's a really big race where there's a lot riding on the outcome."

Since it began about a month ago, the #runcleanish campaign has exploded, attracting hundreds of runners promising in a highly visible and shareable way never to dope except when they really and truly need that little extra something.

Anti-doping officials are applauding the initiative.

"It's very encouraging to see athletes finally taking a proactive step like this," said Frank Drebin, president of the Global Anti-Doping Network.

"For too long, even mediocre competitors felt pressured to use drugs, blood doping, or other banned performance-enhancing techniques," he continued. "Now, finally, they're realizing that they really don't need to, except on a few rare occasions where the results are simply too important to leave to chance." 

 A "Run cleanish" temporary tattoo.

A "Run cleanish" temporary tattoo.

Others are taking notice, too.

"I think it's a good thing, because drugs are bad," said Andrew Jackson, 8, as he watched yesterday's New York City Marathon on Manhattan's First Avenue. "You should never, ever take drugs. Unless you really need them to level the playing field."

He paused.

"Mom says I can use Twitter when I'm a little older."