Drug testing will take place inside this tent after Saturday’s TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race. Glenn Jordan/Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH — Among the tents sprouting this week inside Fort Williams is a square white structure behind a larger one designated for elite athletes.

On Saturday morning, following the 22nd running of the popular TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race, several of the top finishers will be escorted to that tent and asked to provide a urine sample to test for performance-enhancing drugs.

Race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson, the Cape Elizabeth native who won the inaugural Olympic women’s marathon at the Los Angeles Games in 1984, said that, “as one of the premier running events in the United States, it’s our obligation to do the best we can to keep the sport as clean as possible.”

Race founder Joan Benoit Samuelson: “It’s our obligation to do the best we can to keep the sport as clean as possible.”. Glenn Jordan/Staff Writer

Beach to Beacon is joining a growing trend among major U.S. road races that have instituted drug-testing in the wake of high-profile runners from around the world testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

This year will be the second time for drug testing at Beach to Beacon, which was selected for scrutiny by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in 2006. At that time, USADA paid for the costs associated with the testing at races it selected. Now, it’s up to individual races to foot the bill, which usually runs between $5,000 and $10,000, Beach to Beacon Race Director Dave McGillivray said.

A year ago, on a hot and humid morning, New Zealand runner Jake Robertson threatened the course record before finishing in 27 minutes, 37 seconds. His time ranked third in race history and his 50-second margin of victory was unprecedented. His first-place prize money was $10,000.

Ben True, the North Yarmouth native who in 2016 became the race’s first non-African winner, placed third and marveled at Robertson’s time in such challenging conditions.

“No insinuations,” True said, “but there’s enough prize money and this race is old enough now that there’s no excuse why there’s not drug testing here. I definitely think that’s something this race needs to have at this point.”

Less than a month ago, at the Peachtree 10K Road Race in Atlanta, unusual heat and humidity prompted race organizers to issue a “red flag warning” to runners. In addition to the normal prize purse, a bonus of $50,000 was offered to winners who broke course records in honor of the 50th running of the race, the largest 10K in the world

Despite the conditions, four course records were broken: men’s, women’s and both genders of wheelchair athletes.

“In those days leading up to the race, I thought the likelihood of a record at Peachtree was very low,” said Rich Kenah, executive director of the Atlanta Track Club, which puts on the race. “So I was pleasantly surprised and in awe of the performances of the athletes. Athletes can perform at a very high level regardless of the conditions.”

Kenah said Peachtree has been drug-testing  for longer than his six years of his leadership under protocol set forth by his predecessor, Julia Emmons. Bonus money is not paid out until tests results come back clean, a process that takes four to six weeks.

“We live in an age when in many sports, athletes are presumed guilty until found innocent,” Kenah said. “That’s unfortunate, but I think the only way to address that is to continue to strengthen the drug-testing programs both in competition and out.”

McGillivray said each sample costs roughly $500 to test. Typically the top three men and women are tested, as well as two more runners of each gender who win prize money. There’s also the cost for a crew chief to collect the samples as well as travel and lodging. Plus, testing requires a separate tent and bathroom area.

Road races with prize purses of a few thousand dollars aren’t likely to spend $10,000 for drug testing, but larger events including major marathons with bigger budgets and significant payouts are finding it increasingly necessary. Beach to Beacon’s total prize money is more than $90,000 this year.

McGillivray also directs the Falmouth Road Race on Cape Cod and the Mt. Washington Race Race in New Hampshire, along with 30 other similar events. Mt. Washington added drug testing in 2018 and Falmouth will do so this year.

He said Beach to Beacon organizers have been discussing the possibility for a few years, and that True’s comments may have “brought it to light more.”

“It was time to do it anyways,” McGillivray said. “What testing does is, in some cases, it could catch cheaters. In some cases, it deters cheaters from coming. And in many cases, it gives non-cheaters more of a reason to come.”

Rita Jeptoo, a Kenyan who finished fourth in the 2012 Beach to Beacon, tested positive for the blood booster erythropoietin (EPO) two years later and was stripped off her 2014 Boston and Chicago Marathon victories. Eddy Hellebuyck, a Belgian-born runner who placed 15th overall and third among masters in the 2003 Beach to Beacon, was suspended for two years for a 2004 positive test for EPO.

Robertson, last year’s winner, has never tested positive for doping. He has not raced at all this year after recovering from an injury and will not compete at Beach to Beacon on Saturday.

According to the results published by the World Anti-Doping Agency for 2017, the most recent year available, only three of 120 samples taken from in competition and zero of 10 taken from outside of competition resulted in “adverse analytical findings” among road racing participants. The banned substances found were anabolic steroids, cannabinoids and glucocortico steroids.

The USADA has issued 44 sanctions against athletes from 11 different sports so far this year, with the majority coming in mixed martial arts (19), weightlifting (9) and cycling (5). Paralympic track and field and triathlon, with two instances each, are the only sports on the list that involve running.

A USADA spokeswoman said the agency performed drug testing at 38 road races in 2018, including the Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago and New York City marathons, at least five 10K events and eight USA Track & Field championships.

Two years ago, the New York Road Runners expanded its testing to include top runners in local races and not just those elite athletes at major events.

Participants in this year’s Beach to Beacon may not be aware of drug testing until the elite athletes gather Friday morning for a news conference beneath a tent at Fort Williams. Larry Barthlow, the event’s elite athlete coordinator, said he has not mentioned testing but that, “they’re all starting to get used to it. If you run fast, you’re going to get tested.”

Last week the International Association of Athletics Federations, the sport’s world governing body, announced new regulations beginning in 2020 that will label both road races and elite athletes as either platinum, gold, silver or bronze, and require contributions to fund out-of-competition testing.

The IAAF also is placing a 1.5 percent levy on prize money and appearance money.

“You can see there’s some effort being made,” Barthlow said. “Races, managers and athletes, they’re all going to have to contribute. The only way they’re going to control this thing is through more testing.”


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