Nike: Back to the Future?

In the last few weeks I have had the opportunity to meet a few of the Nike contingency in London, who seem to be here to coincide with the Olympics. Understandable given the number of Nike sponsored athletes competing in the Games.

But Nike are also here to showcase some new products and this morning, at a breakfast hosted by Martin Lotti, Nike Olympic Design Director, I was able to get up-close to three new products and learn about one aspect of Nike’s business that I think many people do not know about and which I think is worth shouting about.

Skin in the game

The first new developement that was showcased by Martin Lotti and his colleague, Scott Williams, Creative Director Olympics and Innovation at Nike, was the new Nike Pro TurboSpeed suits which sprinters such as Alyson Felix will be wearing in London.

Cathy Freeman, Sydney 2000

Scott started off by explaining that the suit’s technology has been in the process of development since Cathy Freeman wore her amazing outfit in Sydney in 2000.

The idea behind the suits is that, compared to skin, the suits surface is ‘faster’ because it reduces drag and improves efficiency. There is clearly masses of technology that has gone into the suit (and if you want to learn more and satisfy your inner-geek, you can read more about the suit here) but as with Formula1 cars, the real interest for the majority of us, is finding out what all this technology will mean for us. After all, I can’t see too many people turning up to the local ParkRun in a suit that is designed to improve speed over 100m by 0.023 seconds and really leaves nothing to the imagination!

Alyson Felix, London 2012

The drip-down from the TurboSpeed suit, is more of a concept than a particular piece of technology: it is the idea of simplicity and ‘zero distraction’. One of the things that is very noticeable about the skin suit is that there is nothing fiddly to annoy the wearer. Indeed there aren’t any zips throughout the whole range of items. The sleeves are finished in a way that leaves a seamless end. The are no tags or buckles or clips.

And this is what every-day runners can expect from the range that is available to mere mortals in the future – fewer seams (and where there are, they will be flat-locked), neater finishing, less bells-and-whistles.

Super-fly

The next product we were told about was the FlyKnit shoe.

This is a product that I am really interested in trying (big hint there, Nike!) and so I hope that I will be able to post a review of the shoe from the point of view of having worn it soon. But in the mean time, having had a chance to talk to Martin Lotti about the shoe one-on-one and having seen a presentation of the shoe from Ben Shaffer, studio director for Nike’s Innovation Kitchen, I thought I’d let you have a look and describe why I’m excited about it.

Following the simplicity theme, the idea behind the Fly Knit is so simple that I can’t believe that it wasn’t thought up before – but then isn’t that true for all the greatest inventions in the world?

Put simply, the upper of the Fly Knit is knitted from fairly thick course yarn in one piece, which incorporates the super-strong, flexible Fly Wire strands that give the upper the strength it needs. That’s it! No waste, one piece construction and an upper that wraps the foot completely.

We were shown a few of the prototypes of the shoe, which I took some snaps of, and it seems like such an obvious development, especially when you see it in this context.

Fly Knit prototype one

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fly Knit prototype two

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the meeting this morning the question of whether the shoe can be work without socks and i must say that the answer from the Nike team was a little less than convincing, but without trying the shoe, I can’t comment. But I will definitely be trying a barefoot run because this shoe literally is seamless!

You can’t improve what you can’t measure

Having looked at some of the simplest bits of kit I have seen for a while, we then moved on to Nike’s fascination with gamifying activity and measuring every aspect of sport.

From what I can see Nike is building a spider’s web of technology.

There is the Nike+ tab for their shoes where data can be uploaded to an iPod or iPhone and on the Nike+ website.

The Nike SportBand and SportWatch GPS track runs.

The FuelBand tracks everyday activity.

And now the Nike+ Training range of shoes, with sensors built into the sole, track “every rep, step and drill”

I don’t necessarily feel a great affinity for all this technology yet – I think that the Nike+ interface is not quite right and the data available is not what I want for my training. But Nike are innovating fast and I think that what we are seeing in the market now is just the start as far as what Nike+ will be able to tell athletes of all levels in the future.

The big story

So there are the three developments that Nike showed me this morning. All good stuff. But the overarching message that was delivered this morning was not what I was really expecting and certainly something I am excited about – sustainability.

The arsenal of Pro TurboSpeed items that are available to elite athletes at the 2012 Games are all made from recycled plastic drinks bottles, with 82% recycled polyester fabric.

The Fly Knit – aside from the benefits that Nike suggests comes from a knitted upper – produces no waste. Unlike a traditional shoe where the panels are cut from a piece of material where all the excess is thrown away, the Fly Knit is knitted into a single ‘butterfly shape’ and glued onto the sole. No waste. And talking about glue…

Nike told me today that they are so committed to the environment that when they designed the Fly Knit, they wanted a glue that didn’t contain the toxins that are usually present in shoe glue. So they developed a non-toxic glue and then offered the secret recipe to all their competitors.

Of course, Martin was a pains to point out that Nike are a performance-first company, but it seems that they really are finding ways to produce products that will help runners – from the most elite individuals on the planet (most of whom are in east London right now) to the slowest jogger out there – whilst also trying to reduce their impact on the planet. If they can do that, then I really think they’ll deserve a gold medal!

 

Sub-4 minute mile… I don’t think so.

Some of you might remember that a while ago I posted that two of the New Balance Milers – Andy Baddeley and Nick McCormick – had qualified for the 1500m at the London Olympic Games. You can read all about that here.

When New Balance announced the news, I was told that I would also be sent a present from the good people in Flimby. Well, I am an unassuming chap, easily pleased, so I was not expecting much. What was delivered this morning was a wonderful surprise. A Union Flag version of the New Balance 890 v2s.

To be honest, I have been wanting to try a pair of New Balance road shoes for quite a while, but I have been asked quite a few times if I want to try some and nothing has materialised. I did, to be fair, receive a jacket and some tights which I really, really rate. But shoes have never appeared. So to get a pair that look amazing and feel great to run in, put a huge smile on my face.

Looks aren’t everything

So first of all, looks. Well, as I peeled back the paper in the box, I was immediately impressed and I decided there and then, that these are the shoes I will be wearing when I go to watch some of the Olympic Games in a months time. In this Olympic year, so many of the brands are producing Union Flag versions of their shoes. Brooks have a recognisable but at the same time subtle red, white and blue version of a few of their shoes. K-Swiss (despite the name!) have a very bold take on the flag. I have even seen a pair of Vibram Five Fingers that are fit for the queen. But I think that the New Balance shoes look really great – not too much but at the same time not too subtle either. But then I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

Feelings matter more…

The important thing, though, is how they feel on the run. Well, they are certainly comfortable straight out of the box. They immediately felt as though they have the right balance of cusioning and responsiveness for a tempo run or a quicker long run. Today I went for 10 miles this morning and 6 miles at lunchtime and they felt great on roads, trail and the canal towpath.

The only work of warning I would give is that there are not roomy shoes. They are snug around the midfoot and narrow in the forefoot. Luckily I was sent a UK9, although I usually take a UK8.5. I think that without the extra length from going up half a size, these 890 v2s might be a bit on the small size. Then again, I think these shoes fall into the trainer/racer category and I suspect many people will like the snug feel in a shoe they intend to race in.

The grip is really excellent (although today it was the first day it hasn’t rained in London in months, so I was running on dry surfaces for once) and I really like the feel of the heel and the collar around the ankle – cushioned without being restrictive. These shoes are also most definitely neutral and whilst I found that to be ideal for me, anyone requiring support in their shoes might want to look elsewhere (the Brooks ST5 trainer/racer for example).

So there we go. I think that the 890 v2 is a great shoe. So great in fact that I might buy myself another pair to actually go running in. What? You didn’t think I’d run in these and get them all mucky before the Olympics, did you?

Oh no, Paula

Always giving her all. Photo from Getty

I have spent more time than I care to reveal hoping and wishing that Paula Radcliffe would reach the start line of the marathon at the London Olympic Games, fully fit and ready to race. I am afraid that I think there are women now who are faster, stronger and more aggressive, so I didn’t really rate Paula’s chances of pulling off a golden finish to a really incredible and illustrious career, but I believed that she would be able to give it 100% and maybe, just maybe…

But today I read that she is carrying a foot injury – in fact a recurrance of a foot injury – and with six weeks until the race, there must be huge doubt that she will make it. I am a massive optimist and I love stories like that of Joan Benoit-Samuelson recovering from knee surgery to win the first women’s Olympic marathon in Los Angeles. But Paula seems so fragile. I guess we can only keep on hoping and Paula, if you ever happen to read this (not likely I know, but you never know…) I really wish you all the best and come what may, you are one of my absolute heroes.

Is it war or is it fun?

I have read two articles today which overlapped in my mind and created this blog post.

The first piece was from a recruitment consultant who was decrying the ubiquity of training programmes suggesting that ‘anything is possible’. The author of the piece wrote that this approach is hugely unhelpful – in her piece she was writing about the long-term unemployed – because it created false hope (delusion, even) that inevitably resulted in disappointment when the world-leading, epoch-defining achievements proved to be just out of reach. The consultant proposed instead that job-seekers took a more pragmatic and reasonable approach, doing their homework and making sure that they were pitching themselves at roles that the were capable of succeeding at.

That made me think about runners. How often do we hear about runners who have set themselves targets that sound, at least initially, to be completely unrealistic? With a head full of “Impossible is Nothing” and “Just Do It”, it can be tempting to over-reach. And the result? Well, it can be a very long trudge to the finish line as other runners hammer past or perhaps worse, a DNF.

Be realistic, have fun

Looking relaxed!

But then I read Charles van Commenee’s comments about the 18 year old sprinter Adam Gemili, who after finishing second at the UK Olympic trials last week, has decided he will run at both the world junior championships and at the Olympics. You can read more about his qualification here.

Gemili’s coach has been reported as saying that his young athlete is an emotional wreck due to the pressure of the two big events.

In stepped van Commenee and said something so wonderful and refreshing that I think every runner, at every level, needs to take heed:

I am not sending my 12-year-old niece to fight al-Qaeda. We are going to the Games. It’s fun. I didn’t see an emotional wreck, just a happy 18-year-old young man who’s very level-headed.

A lot of people in athletics make it sound as if they are living a hard life, as if they have to go to the coal mines in Azerbaijan every morning or maybe have to work for the Daily Mail every day. That’s what I call tough. We are doing sport, something fun. Sometimes athletes and coaches forget that.

Here, here, Mr. van Commenee. I think that many of us lose sight of the fact that the Olympic Games has the word ‘games’ in the title for a reason. One dictionary definition of games is “An activity providing entertainment or amusement; a pastime” and I think we could all do with remembering that from time to time.

So next time you toe the line for a race, remember the words of the head coach of UK Athletics and try to smile. After all, you are doing this for fun…

 

The British Milers start on the long journey

You may recall that a while ago I was invited to an event run by New Balance to introduce a programme they had created called the British Milers. The piece that I wrote after the event is here. This is a documentary series on Sky Sports following a group of British athletes trying to qualify for the 1500m at the London Olympic Games. Well now it seems that two of them have done enough to be selected for the GB squad and have started on the road to potentially fulfilling their dreams and emulating great mile and 1500m track stars like Coe, Cram and Ovett, to name but a few.

Here is the New Balance press release in full:

Andy Baddeley and Nick McCormick, two stars of New Balance’s ‘The British Miler’ series, have qualified for the London 2012 Olympic Games after sealing their places on Team GB during the Aviva 2012 Trials in Birmingham.

Andy confirmed his selection in the 1500m after claiming the British Championship, while Nick finished second in the 5,000m race to join his fellow member of Team New Balance on the British team.

Having already secured the Olympic A-standard time in April with a time of 3:35.19 at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational, Andy required only a top two finish to seal his place in the team, and took Gold in 3:47.99 at Alexander Stadium to confirm his credentials as Britain’s foremost 1500m hopeful.

Nick, meanwhile, opted to concentrate on the longer 5,000m course after sealing the A-standard with a personal best time of 13:18.81 in Huelva earlier in June, and clocked 14:00.61 in Birmingham to claim a silver medal, as well as the all important place on Team GB.

Andy’s success saw him qualify for a second Olympics after competing in the 1500m final at Beijing 2008, and he immediately set sights on achieving success in his home town of London. He said:

“It’s been a long road over the last twelve months and this is part two of three. Part one was get the time; part two was the trials; part three is the Olympics. I haven’t been able to think about the Olympics until today. Now I can train harder!”

After qualifying for the Olympic Games for the first time, Nick McCormick said:

“I’m absolutely over the moon. I’ve made my first Olympics at 30-years-old, so it’s been a long time coming. I’m delighted to run into the selection after achieving the qualifying time two weeks ago. I need to work hard now in training and I want to make the final in London.”

Andy and Nick’s success comes as they participate in New Balance’s ‘The British Miler’, a multi-platform documentary series tracking their journeys to London. Forthcoming episodes of the series, which airs each Monday on Sky Sports, will chart the inside story of the Trials, and more information can be found at www.thebritishmiler.com.

Having met both Andy and Nick at the New Balance event, I can tell you that they are both really charming, friendly and modest and I for one wish them all the best in the coming weeks as they finalise their preparations for the marathon. I hope they have an amazing Olympic Games.

Mo silences his critics, spectacularly.

There have been quite a few people – press and spectators alike – who have ‘worried’ about Mo Farah in his recent outings. Steve Cram’s comments in mid-March, were typical of the concern that was being expressed about Mo’s form when he failed to win four races on the bounce. You can read Cram’s piece here.

Back on form? Two wins in an hour suggests he is.

But at the USATF High Performance meeting in Eagle Rock, California, on Friday night, Mo ran two races that must have given those thinking Mo is struggling, something to think about.

He started with a very satisfying 1500m victory in 3:34.66, just half-a-second outside his PB of 3:33.98.

Then just 56 minutes later he won the 5,000m which he won in a 2012 European-leading time of 13:12.87.

Let me repeat that: he won the 1500m in 3:34.66 and then less than an hour later won the 5000m in 13:12.87 – the fastest time by a European this year.

What is more extraordinary still is that he won the 5000m wearing racing flats, not spikes, having only entered to help pace his Oregon Track Club team mates round.

After the race Mo was reported to say

“It felt good so I thought I would just finish it. I was just trying to help out my team mates. I feel good, it felt alright, I just hope Alberto (Salazar, his coach) gives me an easy day tomorrow”

All this comes just before Mo comes to London tomorrow to defend his title at the Bupa London 10,000 in the British capital, racing against our marathon hero Scott Overall.

So I for one think that Mo has proven that his losing a few races last year is not a sign of something more significant. As with many of us less super-human athletes, a dip in form is just that: a dip. There is always a way back and Mo has shown us how to do it in style!

Maybe the saddest story

I must admit that when Sammy Wanjiru really exploded onto the marathon scene and changed the way that Championship marathons were run by the way he attacked the Olympic marathon in Beijing, I didn’t know enough about the history of marathoning or the individuals who have played such important parts in making it such an exciting and awe-inspiring sport, to really appreciate what he had done. I’d only been running for a couple of years. Nevertheless I watched the race and delighted in Wanjiru’s speed and attacking style.

Sammy Wanjiru winning the Olympic marathon in 2008

I guess like most people, I expected to see Wanjiru dominate the marathon for years and years to come. On that day in the heat in China and in the Chicago marathon two years later in October 2010, that predicted dominance seemed to be coming true. But Wanjiru’s story was not to have a happy ending, although unlike that of Steve Prefontaine, Sammy’s end was to have very, very dark and sinister undertones that remain unresolved to this day.

This story is told most eloquently and movingly by David Epstein in his article about the life of Wanjiru that you can read here. It is well worth the time.

Whatever you believe about Sammy Wanjiru and the way that he met, his end, it is a remarkable story and let us never forget the way that he ran that marathon. Perhaps we will never see an approach to running a marathon that turns things on their head in the same way again.

 

New Balance and the new British Milers

Last week I was invited to a New Balance event, billed as a celebration of 30 years of domestic manufacturing and featuring the athletes that are due to appear in an upcoming television series called The British Milers featuring seven British 1500m runners hoping to qualify for the Olympic Games in London. The seven athletes are:

  • Andy Baddeley – Olympic and World Championship finalist, former Oslo Dream Mile Champion
  • James Brewer – 2009 World Championship Team member
  • Lee Emanuel – Two time NCAA Mile Champion
  • Tom Lancashire – Defending UK Olympic Trials Champion
  • Nick McCormack – Defending UK indoor 1500m Champion
  • Colin McCourt – 1500m Champion Euro Team Championships
  • Ricky Stevenson – Former UK junior 1500m Champion

After presentations from the managing director and sales director of New Balance, Richard Nerurkar introduced the British Miler concept and the TV show and welcomed the athletes to the stage. Then, whilst everyone was enjoying the DJ spinning tunes and guzzling New Balance’s wine and scoffing the food they had laid on, I had the opportunity to interview three of the milers – Ricky Stevenson (RS), James Brewer (JB) and Andy Baddeley (AB). Here’s what they had to tell me:

SF: What special preparations are you making in this Olympic year?

Ricky Stevenson at the Birmingham Alexander Stadium ©Adam Fradgley

RS: I’m being sensible and trying to not over-reach. What has been different this year is that I am not pushing it all the way in training and following the advice of my coach Steve Shaw

JB: I am getting back to consistency, which has been lacking since Berlin in 2009 [when James missed reaching the 1500m final of the World Championships by fractions of a second] and I’ve strung together eight months of consistent training including six weeks at altitude in Iten [Kenya]. This all allowed me to run 3’38 indoors at the recent championships in Birmingham

AB: My preparations are different this year only in that they are simpler. I have experimented in previous years but this year I know what works and I’m sticking to that.

SF: Does the Olympic year inspire you more than others and if so how?

RS: It is exciting and inspiring, but as I said, I’m not thinking about it too much, allowing myself to get over-excited and then over-training

JB: My main focus is not the Olympics yet – it is to continue training well and then do my best at the World Indoors championships.

AB: Yes! The Olympics definitely inspire me and I want to be on the start line of the final.

SF: What are your specific targets with regards to the Games

James Brewer at the Birmingham Alexander Stadium ©Adam Fradgley

RS: The primary target is to qualify by running the required 3’35 and gaining selection but I’m not seeing the Olympics as the be all and end all.

JB: Qualify first and then reach the final.

AB: Qualification is essential. Then I want to make sure that I’m there for the final

SF: In general, what inspires you to train and perform at your best?

RS: I want to be the best at everything I try. When it comes to racing, I always want to win when I step on the track. That’s what inspires me.

JB: For me it is curiosity about what is possible and what I can achieve. Because I have been injury-prone I don’t have a very high weekly mileage, so I’m interested to see what I can do with that

SF: What is your hardest training session?

RS: We run a 2km woodland loop on trails and one session consists of four reps of that. Each loop has two big inclines in it and the effort is relentless

JB: My hardest session is probably the stuff we do in the gym – rehab and strength and conditioning work

AB: I enjoy most of my sessions on the track so the session I probably find the hardest is the Sunday long run, especially when the weather is bad

Andy Baddeley at the Birmingham Alexander Stadium ©Adam Fradgley

SF: What is your favourite training session?

RS: I don’t have one – they all hurt!

JB: It’s changing for me – it used to be speed work but recently I have been doing 30 minutes continuous hills at altitude in Iten. That involves varied paces but up one long hill that you run up non-stop for 30 minutes.

AB: Anything short on the track is my favourite

SF: What would be your top tips for someone looking to improve their running at any distance?

RS: My top tips would be: never stop believing and never let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve what you set out to achieve. The other things that are crucial are consistency and staying injury free.

 

 

JB: I would say, go out and explore – wherever you go, you can find somewhere to run to get outside and experience the world, enjoy the seasons.

AB: My advice would be to never give up – I wasn’t the fastest at school but I stuck with it when others gave up. I also think that it’s important to have someone to answer to: a training partner that you have to meet for example. I’d also say that it is really important to eat sensibly and don’t worry too much about what you eat.

As you can imagine, this group of amazing athletes were very much in demand on the night and I was extremely grateful to them for their time. I hope you agree that they offered some really interesting insights into their preparations for the Olympic Games and some great advice for the rest of us! I wish them all well for the trials and for their future careers.

 

 

 

 

Despatches from the front line

I’d done my run this morning (actually my wife, who, being Swiss, is genetically programmed to forgo drink, food and sleep in the presence of snow, had me out running by 7am this morning in London’s first snow this winter) and I had settled down to write a blog post or two and check what the world was up to when I happened to notice that Ben Moreau (@ben_moreau) was online. Ben flew to Iten in Kenya a week ago for a few weeks’ training in advance of his attempt at Olympic qualification at the London marathon in April this year. So I jumped on the opportunity to ask him how things were going. He updated me on what was happening out there and I thought I’d pass on his news.

Ben said that he has finally acclimatised to the altitude and had “experienced one Kenyan training session”. How was it? “It was brutal”. Now coming from a man like Ben Moreau, who I have seen train and race on numerous occasions, when he says it was brutal, that means it must have been massively tough. Ben also said that he is being sensible, but that has to be put in the context of where he is and what he is doing – his sensible and most other peoples sensible are certainly going to be different!

I mentioned to Ben that I’d been out running in the snow and how hard I’d found it and he replied that whilst I was jogging in the snow he had discovered myth #1 about east African runners: that Kenyans always start runs slow. He told me about the long (erm, slow) run that he did yesterday where the 3rd mile was 5.28 min/mile and he was hanging off the back of the group!

Today included a well earned easy 45 minutes run after yesterday’s run and who can blame Ben for taking it easy. The long run was 16 miles in 95 minutes with the last 4 miles uphill.

Ben sent me his Garmin stats for Saturday’s run, just to give me an idea for what a long slow run looks like in Kenya:

Total time: 1hr 40mins
Average pace: 6:10 min/mile
Fastest pace: 4:59 min/mile
Elevation at highest point: 7,845 ft

Ben's splits for his long run in Kenya
It's not flat then...

But whilst those stats tell a story of running in a very different place, some things never change. Ben told me about catching another runner whilst out on that run who appeared to be labouring somewhat. As Ben passed him, the chap in question rushed back past Ben and shot off into the distance… until about eight miles later when Ben caught him again. This time when Ben went past there was no response! Sounds just like the people who hate to be passed on the canal towpath around Victoria Park in east London!

So we had covered training. And seeing as Ben was on Facebook, I think it is safe to assume that he was resting. So what about nutrition? How was Ben getting on with Ugali for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Well, who knows? He told me that he was having… wait for it… spaghetti bolognaise for dinner. What??? He did say though that he loves the chapatis that are served in Iten. At least that is authentic Kenyan cuisine!

Hopefully I will have the opportunity to catch up with Ben again and find out how he is getting on, but for now I think it is safe to say that he is in a great place to train well and come back in the best possible shape to make the Team GB selectors sit up and take notice. I hope you’ll all join me in wishing him luck.

Sympathy for the devil?

I don’t pretend to know what drives an athlete – any athlete – to cheat. But then when it comes to my own drive, all I am trying to do is be the best runner I can be. I will never try to make a living from running and I will never have the weight of expectations of a nation on my shoulders. I do know people who are in that situation and I know that the need to earn and the expectations of millions can weigh heavy. But I always feel sad when I hear that an athlete has been caught because I think they rarely turn to drugs for purely selfish reasons, or at least they don’t believe they are selfish reasons – after all, doing the best for your country, making your friends and family proud and so on can easily be twisted into altruistic endevours.

Troublesome guy

So an interview that was published recently in the Irish Times, really stuck a chord with me. Martin Fagan was recently caught, in an out-of-competition test, having taken EPO. Up to that point Fagan was an athlete that many hoped would make a mark in future international competitons, having run 2:14:06 in the Dubai Marathon in January 2008 to qualify for the Beijing Games (although he failed to finish that race and three subsequent races due to recurring injuries) and then ran 60:57 in the Fortis City Pier City Half Marathon in The Hague, Netherlands, breaking John Treacy’s national record. But that race reignited an injury to his left Achilles tendon which he was told would require surgery and up to 18 months rehabilitation.

Fagan found himself unable to compete and therefore unable to earn, single after his girlfriend left him, being dishonest with his coach about how much training he was doing (not much apparently) and depressed to the point of feeling suicidal. He was 28 years old and his life was falling apart. In the interview in the Irish Times, he says it was this state of affairs that lead him to order EPO online, fly to the US and self administer the drug and then receive a visit from the drug testers the very next day. You can read the full piece here.

No quarter given

At the time of the revelation there was quite an out-pouring of sympathy for Mr. Fagan. Sure, no one was suggesting for a minute that his actions could be condoned and everyone was in agreement that he needs to face the consequences of his choices. But I think that a lot of athletes, current and past, could understand the sorts of pressures that Martin was under and how they could have lead to irrational decisions. On Twitter there was some sympathy:

Scott Overall tweeted: Spent this mornings thinking aboutMartinFagan,no excuses he should never of taken drugs-but clearly a friend in need

Ben Moreau wrote: Reading Martin Fagan’s story, I pity the guy. To be in a situation where reaching an Olympics is the only way out…

But for every action there is supposed to be an equal and opposite reaction and today that has come from Eamonn Sweeney in the Irish Independent. He has decided that Fagan doesn’t really deserve any sympathy at all and finishes his fairly devastating critique of Martin’s position with the words:

I wish Martin Fagan good health in the future. But he’ll never really know peace until he accepts that it wasn’t depression or a lack of Athletics Ireland funding or injuries which made him take EPO.

It was the man in the mirror.

So what do you think? Is there a way that athletes can be forgiven if they truly seem to have taken rash steps out of pure desperation. Or is there no sympathy for the devil? Is it simply that the only valid path is the one where, without cheating, we all try to be the best runner we can be? Let me know your thoughts.