Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Scathing Indictment of Track & Field by the Washington Times

Dan Daly of the Washington Times offers a scathing indictment of the sport of Track & Field in his latest article, one that focuses on Tyson Gay's recent achievements. Titled On a Fast Track to a Life of Doubt, Daly's contention is that, "Track has never really recovered from 1988. Every year, it seems, it loses a little more of its credibility, a little more of its relevance — and Gay is a prime example of that."

What? "Gay is a prime example?" What does Daly know that we don't know? Apparently nothing except for unsubstantiated claims and rumor-mongering. Daly goes on to say that, "with track these days, there's always an "except." We may want to believe Gay's times are genuine, ungoosed by performance enhancers, but experience tells us to beware."


Shouldn't we be more concerned about a supposedly-objective journalist's sweeping generalizations than about Gay's remarkable performances? Shouldn't experience tell us that there's something wrong with Daly trying to besmirch Gay's character when he has absolutely no evidence to back up his claim? Daly goes on to say:
"Right now, Gay's only guilt is by association — association with track people. He has absolutely no points, so to speak, on his license. But when a guy blows away the field the way he did Friday and Sunday — in events often decided by nanoseconds — it's only natural to wonder what Magic Undetectable Elixir his chemists have stumbled upon."

"Association with track people?" Daly makes it sound as if the entire sport were some sleazy, smoke-filled, backroom pitbull-fighting contest. Newsflash: Michael Vick is in the NFL, not a track & field athlete.

Daly concedes that, "it's not that other sports are much different. Baseball and football certainly have their rogue elements. It's just that track can't afford to behave like this. It doesn't have the following — or to put it another way, nobody has Tyson Gay on his fantasy team."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Daly seems to be saying that a sport is given a free pass as long as it's a featured sport on ESPN's SportsCenter. If ticket sales are high, then the athletes within that sport can do whatever they please, and nobody will notice or care that what they're doing is illegal.

Perhaps Daly doesn't understand that it's the other way around: track doesn't have as good a following precisely because it does hold itself to a higher standard than do the other sports. If the other sports were to have cheating and doping policies that were half as stringent as track and field's and cycling's, so many "rogue elements" would be exposed in those sports that people would begin to realize that the sport of track and field is part of the solution, not part of the problem. Ironically, now that so many of the NFL's athletes have become so sociopathic that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's admirable efforts to finally hold them accountable somehow makes the NFL come across as credible. We're talking murderers, rapists, addicts of illegal narcotics, drug dealers, dog fight owners and promoters, the list goes on. And Daly says track has become less credible and relevant with every passing year?

If track and field were as lax in its policies as other sports are, it would come across as squeaky-clean in comparison to most other sports. Unfortunately, since the governing bodies of track and field aren't in denial like the governing bodies of other sports are, track and field ends up losing credibility with every passing year precisely because the sports holds itself to a higher standard!

Ultimately, Daly proves that he has little understanding about the sport when he suggests that, "[p]erhaps track could improve its image if it took NASCAR's approach to punishment. Whenever a runner is nabbed cheating, don't ban him from competition, make him race — beginning from the back of the pack. Waaaaay back. And if that doesn't work, outfit him with a restrictor plate."

On the contrary, perhaps track could improve its image if an incompetent journalist like Dan Daly would stop covering a sport about which he knows so little. And if that doesn't work, outfit him with a muzzle.

You can read what the track aficionados at the Track & Field Message Board are saying about the Washington Times article by clicking here.

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