The Clean Sport Collective is a community of powerful voices comprised of athletes, brands, events, clubs, fans and the public to support the pursuit of clean sport and athletics through the absence of performance enhancing drugs.
With this podcast, we will celebrate clean athletes, educate you on issues in the world of clean sport, and bring hope that we can all believe in the power of fair play across all sports.
Episode #90: Zola Budd Pieterse, Two-Time World Cross Country Champion
Zola Budd Pieterse has every reason in the world to hate the sport of track and field, but she doesn't. Instead, she gives back to it in ways that will help today's young stars experience it in a much more positive way than she did. It has not, however, been an easy journey.
Zola grew up on a farm in South Africa before suddenly being thrust on the world stage at the age of 17 when she ran a world record time in the 5000m. That time would not be ratified by the IAAF because it did not recognize competitions in her home country due to apartheid policies there. Thus to compete internationally, she was sent to Great Britain to claim UK citizenship since her grandfather was British.
This move was met with great controversy as many meet organizers and fans protested her naturalization, making life difficult for Zola upon her arrival. In spite of the less-than-warm welcome, Zola still ran extremely well, claiming the official 5000m world record and earning a spot in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
In the final in LA, she was involved in a collision with Mary Decker Slaney that sent Mary to the ground and left Zola reeling from the boos that then filled the Olympic stadium, directed toward her even though the contact was incidental. Even with this disappointment, Zola went on to claim more European records, win the World Cross Country Championship in back to back years, and make another Olympic team in 1992.
In this episode, Zola joins Shanna and Kara to talk about it all including growing up as a running prodigy, how she dealt with the intensity of the negative spotlight often on her, and why she competed barefoot and always clean in the steroid era of the 1980s and EPO era of the early 1990s.
Zola then shares how she reclaimed her love for the sport as her own while also coaching the next generation of runners in her current home city of Conway, South Carolina. Zola is an absolute legend in our sport, and we are so honored to share her story.
Episode #89: Renee Anne Shirley, Clean Sport Truth-Teller
What price would you be willing to pay for telling the truth? What if you knew it would cost you your home, your livelihood, your security, and nearly your country? Would you still speak up? Would you still do the right thing?
Whether they know it at the time or not, that is the choice often faced by what the world calls "whistleblowers." We call them truth-tellers, and Renee Anne Shirley ("Anne") is one of those truth-telling heroes. In August of 2013, she spoke out via a Sport Illustrated editorial about the lack of testing being done by the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) in and around the 2012 Olympics in London. That editorial would change her life forever.
In this episode, Kara and Chris talk to Anne about her story including her background in sport growing up in Jamaica and the eventual combination of serendipity and strong will that put her in position to build the anti-doping infrastructure in Jamaica. She details the behind-the-scenes political gamesmanship that sits behind the anti-doping apparatus worldwide and how she maneuvered her way into the power structure before eventually exposing its flaws.
Anne discusses why the global governance structure needs to be re-built from the ground up while still giving us hope for a better future. In addition, she tells us what we can do as fans to make a difference for clean sport wherever we are. Anne is one of the clearest and most objective speakers on any issue related to clean sport, and we are excited to share her story and her insight.
Episode #88: Hillary Allen, Sky Runner
Hillary Allen is used to defying the odds. She did it in graduate school when her running career began, rising from a first-time marathoner in 2012 to the very top of the sky running world in just five short years. She did it again in 2017, surviving a 150-foot fall on the trails which nearly killed her to return to the podium in her sport just over a year later.
In this episode, Hillary shares her inspiring story with Kara and Chris. We start with her journey to becoming a runner evolving from a childhood sports-fanatic and tennis player who saw running as punishment to a graduate student simply seeking running as an outlet from her intense coursework.
From there, Hillary describes how an unlikely running buddy of hers helped her fall in love with the sport and discover her passion and potential on the trails, which quickly and almost accidentally evolved into an elite-level career. That career would take her to the top of the sport and the world, as she found global success in a niche area of trail running called sky running.
Then, everything changed with a traumatic fall from a ridge line in a race in Norway. Hillary gives us a moment-by-moment account of that life-changing step and recounts the painful and challenging recovery process that followed. She tells us how she found the strength to persist in rehab, how she overcame her fears to return racing again, and how her perspective on life is forever changed.
Of course, we also get her perspective on the clean sport culture in the trail running world, how the culture might be different in the US vs Europe, and whether or not trail running needs a more organized anti-doping program.
We walked away inspired from this conversation with Hillary and know you will too! To read Hillary's story in her own words, check out her new book:
Out and Back: A Runner's Story of Survival Against All Odds.
Episode #87: Anthony Famiglietti, Two-Time Olympian in the Steeplechase
You might know Anthony Famiglietti (nicknamed “Fam”) as the two-time Olympian in the steeplechase with an aggressive, front-running style on the track. You may not know his other side as the quiet, introverted artist who sees the world a little different than the rest of us, including a unique perspective on the world of clean sport.
In this episode with Kara, Shanna, and Chris, we get to meet both sides of him, Anthony and Fam, the artist and the athlete. Anthony grew up on Long Island and was first introduced to the world of sport with a skateboard on his feet, learning on his homemade half pipe to enjoy the journey toward a goal even through failure. He came to running in high school through a few mentors in his life who both died tragically. Running then became an outlet for his grief as well as a pure way to honor those who had believed in him. Not recruited heavily in high school, Anthony had to win the 3200m at the state meet to earn a scholarship to Appalachian State in his final high school race.
Anthony tells us how he discovered and fell in love with the steeplechase at Appalachian State and why he had to transfer to Tennessee in order to truly pursue the event. Once at Tennessee, he met the great US distance runner Todd Williams, discovered that you could make a living as a pro runner, and set his sights on beating Todd’s times and making an Olympic team.
From there, the conversation turns to doping and clean sport as Anthony asks us the question: “what is doping?” He then shares his own experiences being introduced to the gray areas of cheating from a place you might not expect – a doctor associated with the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. These experiences have informed his art including his interpretation of the Alberto Salazar case via a piece called “Death of Saladbar,” in which Kara is also depicted for her role as truth teller.
Anthony understands the impact of the system but still puts the responsibility for the fight for clean sport on the athlete who he believes should be protecting the sanctity of their pursuit at all costs. We appreciate his perspective and the deep dialogue.
Episode #86: Nick Willis, Two-Time Olympic Medalist in the 1500m
Nick Willis might be the fastest "amateur" athlete in the world. He hopes it is fast enough to help him qualify for his 5th Olympic Games in Tokyo this year.
In this episode led by Chris and Adam, we find out all about Nick's career, which now spans nearly two decades, from growing up in New Zealand to now joining the corporate world with Tracksmith. Of course, we cover the two Olympic medals in between too!
Nick's story is a fascinating one as he showed promise in running at a very early age, running a city record at the age of 7 in the 200m sprint. Even with the early promise, his path to his first Olympic medal in 2008 was far from a linear one. We discuss those twists and turns with Nick and then hear the play by play on his final race in Beijing as he passed 3 runners in the home stretch to earn bronze on the day.
That medal would be upgraded to silver just a year later to the surprise of no one as the gold medalist Rashid Ramzi was disqualified for doping. Later Asbel Kiprop, who still officially holds the gold for that race, would be banned for doping as well. In spite of all of that, Nick explains why neither Ramzi or Kiprop could ruin his memory of that experience.
On doping, Nick shares his first experience seeing it on the international scene. He talks about how he approached races knowing that certain competitors were definitely cheating and how speaking out against it can come with a price. He even details how drug testing works for an international athlete training outside his home country, as he spent most of his career training in the US. Plus, Nick gives his perspective on the future of clean sport and how he plans to give back to it in his new role with Tracksmith.
Nick has said, "Running is empty unless it’s about something more." In his new role as an "amateur" athlete, he is committed to building that something more in the sport, and we can't wait to see what comes next for him!
Episode #85: Dawn Harper-Nelson, A Follow-Up
With this episode, we release an important follow-up conversation with Dawn Harper-Nelson. In our preparation for our original interview with Dawn, we missed an important detail that should have been central to that first discussion. After posting episode 84, we learned that Dawn actually served a three-month suspension beginning in December of 2016 for unintentionally ingesting a banned substance.
In the fall of 2016, Dawn ended up in the emergency room with high blood pressure. The prescribed medication to get it under control contained the banned diuretic hydrochlorothiazide. Dawn attempted to check the medication, but the name on the bottle included an acronym that didn't match what was in the banned substance database. She documented everything about the incident (including a screenshot of her search) and was able to get all proof to USADA immediately after her adverse test result. That information led to the short, three-month suspension.
According to USADA, "Following an investigation into the circumstances of her case, including Harper-Nelson’s medical records, USADA has accepted Harper-Nelson’s explanation that her positive test was caused by a blood pressure medication she was prescribed by a physician to treat hypertension. Harper-Nelson further explained that she made efforts to determine if the medication contained prohibited substances; however, due to using partial search terms, those efforts were unsuccessful."
We sincerely apologize to you as listeners and to Dawn for this oversight. We absolutely still believe in Dawn as a clean athlete and are thankful to her for taking additional time to share the story of this situation. It's an important cautionary tale for clean athletes everywhere. If you are clean athlete and have questions about a potential medication, USADA encourages you to reach to their Athlete Express hotline at 1-866-601-2632.
Plus, if you haven't listened to episode 84 already, it's a must-listen as Dawn is such an inspiration.
Love💥Love💥Love💥Zola Budd!!!💗!!!What a legend!!! Love her genuine joy of running and how she’s helping to mentor the next generation... and still sneaking in goals of races to come! Looked up to her & to hear her speak now-is inspiring💥
What a great interview with Lee!
It was fascinating to hear about Lee’s incredible journey with running. I really appreciated the insights about clean sport in Australia. It was great to hear that new perspective on this podcast!
I really appreciate the guests who have legitimate experience with or have been directly affected by doping. Those other athletes who just give a five minute spiel/opinion about the issue but have no real or meaningful experience with or around it... just not the right podcast for them to be on!
Thanks for the good work