On Monday, news broke that Collin Chartier has tested positive for, and admitted using, EPO.
Last year, Collin crossed the line first at Ironman Mont Tremblant and the PTO US Open in Dallas – one of the biggest races of the year.
I wasn’t going to comment initially. I wasn’t sure if I had the right. I felt like lots of better athletes had already commented, and commented well. Particularly Ben Hoffman whose statement appeared to, very eloquently, express how many people felt.
I’m brand new to the pro scene. I’m not yet competing at the front of the races. I wasn’t someone who had prize money or sponsorship opportunities stolen. It took me a while to figure out where my anger and disappointment was coming from.
I also feel cheated as a fan of triathlon, but that’s not quite it. I think I sit somewhere in the middle.
The thing is, performances like Collin’s in Dallas make me wonder what the fuck I’m doing with my life.
I’ve put a lot into my triathlon journey, and when I see how far I have left to go, it forces me to question things. That’s ok. Plenty of legitimate performances have made me doubt myself too. That’s part of sport – arguably the main part of sport.
As an athlete, impostor syndrome, insecurity, and self-doubt are inevitable. That is part of the struggle, and conquering those feelings is part of the journey. It’s what I believe to be one of the most rewarding aspects of sport. Overcoming the internal struggle is what builds us as athletes, and as people beyond our world of sport.
I’ve still got a long way to go to get to the top of the sport. It may well be that I have to step away from triathlon before I get there. But if that happens, I will be able to look back knowing I did everything [legitimate] I could to make it work. And that will be enough.
But what if I had succumbed to those feelings of doubt, and walked away already? What if I’d seen Collin’s race and lost all hope in my own ability? The thought that I, or someone else, could have given up on this dream based on a lie, makes me feel sick.
Doping robs everyone, in so many different ways. One positive outcome of this case, is the number of people who have since spoken out. I don’t like to encourage spreading anger, or negative emotion, but I think it’s great that so many have expressed the ways in which this news has affected them. It highlights the complexity of sport. Everyone has different motivations, and everyone gains different things from the journey. Whether people are pursuing the same goals or not, everyone deserves fairness.
On a more personal note… I’ve swum in the same lane as Collin in Girona. I’ve seen him doing efforts on the bike. I’ve waved to him out running. I’ve looked at him, and felt like I was on the right path. Fuck, man. I hate that.
I appreciate that he’s said he won’t return to professional triathlon. That is the right decision. If that wasn’t the case, his 3-year ban is not enough. If you have cheated in this manner, you have trained beyond the limitations everyone else is held by. Your body has made adaptations that no one else’s can make. If you have cheated in this manner, you have cheated for life. Moving forwards, the imposed bans should reflect this.
I’m not going to delve into the wider implications of this story. Plenty of others have done that. I don’t know whether Collin’s explanation is the full truth or just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve always maintained the belief that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. If I believe someone’s cheating, how can I stand on the start line and expect to beat them? How can I ever win with that mindset?
Until proven otherwise, I want and have to believe that the story stops with Collin.