Drugs in Ultrarunning – Deeper Analysis and Insights

Following the release of our study results yesterday, a few questions came my way as to where specifically people were from who were using PEDs both in and out of competition, along with whether or not they were confused as to what is and isn’t banned.

So I decided to do some deeper analysis. Now before we get into the specifics, clearly the vast majority of data of the data comes from Australia/New Zealand (201 responses), North America (116 responses) and Europe/Russia (48 responses). So I’ve only decided to run data for those three regions (bar the total number of respondents admitting to taking PEDs), but even then I would be highly cautious about the 48 responses from Europe/Russia as that still doesn’t represent a good enough sample of respondents. Ideally 100+ is desirable to fall within an acceptable margin if error range. We’re also dealing with small percentages too, so the same margin of error reporting applies as per the article yesterday.

Where were people from?

The sample of each of our three regions is represented below:

Percentage of respondents by region (ANZ = 50%; US = 29%; EUR/RUS = 12%)
Percentage of respondents by region: ANZ = 50%; US = 29%; EUR/RUS = 12%

Total number of people using PEDs in relation to our sample size and where they are taking them

Another way to look at the data is to ascertain how many respondents admitted to taking PEDs ‘in and out of competition’, and those who did it just ‘in’ and then just ‘out of competition’ in isolation of each other.

First of all, the number of people who admitted to taking PEDs in both situations was 14. Overall, 15 people admitted to using in competition. Here we have a situation whereby of the 15 people taking PEDs in competition, 93% of those are doing so in training too.

Of the total number of respondents who admitted to taking PEDs out of competition (21) that leaves 7  who are doing so in isolation. And of course we have one respondent doing it in isolation in a race. That’s a total of 22 respondents in our sample of 401 admitting to taking PEDs.

Percentage of respondents taking PEDs in three different scenarios
Percentage of respondents taking PEDs in three different scenarios

How do you read this data? Well to be frank, it just reads that people are taking the piss. 66% of those who take PEDs in training then go on to take them in races too, perhaps knowing they won’t be caught because of lack of testing, particularly in ANZ.

This of course, is just my interpretation of the data and does not represent fact.

Of those who are taking PEDs, how many feel there is confusion about what is and isn’t banned?

For me, this is where things get very interesting and I feel supports the opinion above. Of the 22 respondents that admitted to using PEDs in our sample (in all three of our scenarios), a staggering 20 of them said there was no confusion about what is and isn’t banned, with one respondent agreeing there was confusion and another not sure.

That means that as a percentage of that group, 4.5% feel there is confusion, compared to 31.5% of the national average. The takeaway I get from this is that those who are using PEDs fully understand what they are doing. They take the risk in races and they know full well what is and isn’t banned.

Do you feel there is confusion about what is and isn't banned? YES = 4.5%; NO = 91%; NOT SURE = 4.5%
Do you feel there is confusion about what is and isn’t banned? YES = 4.5%; NO = 91%; NOT SURE = 4.5%

What’s the breakdown of those using PEDs by region?

For our three regions, let’s firstly look at the percentage breakdown ‘in competition’. Just to remind you the question here was: “Have you knowingly taken a banned substance or substance you believe to banned to enhance your performance during a race”

Percentage of respondents using PEDs in a race, or 'in competition': ANZ = 4.4%; US = 1.7%; EUR/RUS = 4.2%
Percentage of respondents using PEDs in a race, or ‘in competition’: ANZ = 4.4%; US = 1.7%; EUR/RUS = 4.2%

The results here remain pretty consistent with what we saw from a national average perspective, bar the US, which is significantly lower. Now, we don’t know the reason for that, perhaps because of the greater prevalence of testing at races in the US, but the message is pretty clear in Australia/New Zealand. I don’t know of any races in our two countries that currently test for PEDs in a race, and with nine of our 15 respondents admitting to using them in competition coming from our region – this is a big concern.

Looking ‘out of competition’, the question asked here was: “Have you knowingly taken a banned substance or substance you believe to banned to enhance your performance during training?”

Percentage of respondents using PEDs 'out of competition': ANZ = 4.9%; US = 6.9%; EUR/RUS = 4.2%
Percentage of respondents using PEDs ‘out of competition’: ANZ = 4.9%; US = 6.9%; EUR/RUS = 4.2%

Here we have the opposite occurring whereby there’s a greater prevalence of PED users in the US out of competition, while those numbers in ANZ and Europe/Russia, remain fairly consistent with what we see at a global average.

I hope the data above gives some deeper insights and perspectives. As mentioned, some opinion is added to the facts of the research and readers can make their own judgements too about what’s presented here in light of the statistics and study sample.

My biggest takeaway from this is that despite knowing the rules, those taking PEDs are doing so because they know the chances of being caught are very minimal and are happy to take them in both a training and racing environment. I appreciate that the introduction of testing is hard, particularly from a financial perspective for many races.

Invariably, it’s joe public, the 95% of people who are trustworthy, that have to pay for the 5% of scum. There’s no easy solution here, but it’s a collective effort. As more money enters into our sport, how about we set aside some of that for keeping it clean. Most people do not race for prize money, our sport is too immature for most to be earning a living from it. How about we start setting aside some of that for increased testing?

If organisations and our sporting bodies create an environment for competitive racing, perhaps a greater emphasis needs to be placed upon catching those determined to cheat us. My fear however is that the problem isn’t big enough in many eyes to warrant the investment right now. We can choose to continue to pay lip service to it all, or we can take a bigger stand. I’m just going to keep on highlighting the trends with more and more commentary.

All constructive comments welcome of course!

 

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Dan
I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

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