Peace Race officials don’t fret doping

Youngstown 10k does not drug test racers

By charles grove

On March 31, the Associated Press broke a story about many African distance runners who travel the country entering smaller-town marathons and half-marathons in hopes of winning prize money. The issue being a number of these athletes have now been caught doping.

These races have taken place at marathons in locations like Frankfort, Ky., Carmel, Ind. and South Bend, Ind. — places large enough to offer enough prize money to make it worth their while but small enough to not test for doping.

Could this be happening at the Youngstown Peace Race? Peace Race President Al George isn’t aware if it has.

“We don’t test for banned substances,” George said. “We have not had an issue with doping or anything like that because we don’t test for it. It’s not something we’ve ever focused on.”

The race has had African competitors in the past and has subsidized travel expenses to have elite runners compete in the past. But according to George, eyebrows haven’t been raised because those athletes don’t always win.

“There are years where the African runners don’t win, local people do,” George said. “I’ve never heard of anything foul or any complaints.”

George said the largest single payout the Peace Race has offered is $2,000 for first place, which is in the ballpark of the $2,500 in prize money Kenyan runner Lilian Mariita won in Frankfort before being busted by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Runners like Mariita would attempt to win as many of these races as possible to support their families.

According to the CIA, 43.4 percent of Kenyans live below the poverty line and the GDP per capita in Kenya is $3,300. That makes a $2,000 payday 60 percent of what an average Kenyan makes in an entire year.

The Peace Race has another method in place to combat dopers — multiple prizes that focus on local runners.

“We try to segregate our prize money so there is no double dipping and there’s an equal distribution to local runners, Ohio runners, female runners and so on,” George said.

And the vast majority of money isn’t in play for the competitors, as money is raised for local charities and other events.

“We want to have a good athletic event but the main purpose is to put money back into the community,” George said. “Over the past 10-12 years we’ve given about $100,000 back and that money goes to things like Mahoning Valley Rescue Mission, St. Vincent de Paul Society, the Special Olympics and others.”

If doping runners have won prize money in years previous, it was one of the times they got away with it.

“I’m not sure if our prize structure has been compromised,” George said. “If it has we’re not aware of it.”

George said the race does not feel the need to test winners but could afford to do so if they felt it was necessary to test.

When asked if testing athletes in the future would potentially keep any participants away George said, “Only the cheaters.”

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