The Top 10 Running Doping Scandals of All Time

In light of the recent news that (just about) every cyclist on the planet has either admitted to doping or accused someone else of injecting, ingesting or rubbing performance enhancing drugs into their bodies, we are sadly reminded that cyclists aren’t the only chemically enhanced athletes competing. Runners, too, have had their fair share of doping scandals. Below, the top 10 running doping scandals of all time:

1. Marion Jones

Marion Jones courtesy of PhotoRun.net

The 35-year old sprinter from Los Angeles won five medals at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, three gold and two bronze, becoming the American media darling of those Olympic games. But those medals were taken away after Jones admitted to taking steroids before the 2000 Olympic games, then lying to federal agents about her drug use. She was sentenced to and served six months in jail and a two-year suspension from competing in track and field. She retired from track and field in 2007, served her jail term in the middle of 2008 and traded track for basketball. She is currently a guard for Oklahoma’s WNBA team, Tulsa Shock.

2. Ben Johnson
The Jamaican-born Canadian became the pride of Canada in the mid-1980s after setting world records in the 60m and 100m sprints, often lining up next to Carl Lewis in the 100 meter event. After Johnson beat Lewis and set a new world record at the 1987 world championships in Rome, Lewis cried foul play. At the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Johnson tested positive for steroids. He also admitted to using the drug before he set his 1987 world record. He was stripped of both medals and suspended from competing for two years. An attempt at a comeback in the early ‘90s was unremarkable, and Johnson tested positive for drugs again in 1999.

3. Justin Gatlin

Justin Gatlin courtesy of PhotoRun.net

The 29-year old’s drug history started early. In 2001, he was banned from competition for two years after testing positive for amphetamines, but he appealed the decision, claiming that drug showed up in tests because of medication he had been on for attention deficit disorder since he was a kid. Gatlin won gold in the 100m sprint at the 2004 Summer Olympics, clocking in at 9.85 seconds. He also won bronze in the 200m and silver as a part of the 4x100m relay. In 2005, he won the 100m at the World Championships in Helsinki by the widest margin ever seen at that event. In 2006, he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and was sentenced in late 2007 to a four-year ban from athletics. He began competing again in 2010 with unremarkable results and can be seen regularly on SpikeTV’s reality show Pros vs. Joes.

4. Kelli White
The 34-year old sprinter from Oakland, Calif. won gold medals in the 100m and 200m events at the 2003 Paris World Championships. In 2004, her medals were taken away for testing positive for steroids, and she was banned from competition for two years. Like Marion Jones, White’s doping linked her to the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) scandal that implicated dozens of top US athletes in taking steroids, including fellow sprinters Marion Jones and Regina Jacobs, and baseball player Barry Bonds. White retired in 2006.

5. Regina Jacobs
The first middle-distance runner on the list! The former Stanford University runner from Los Angeles, now 47, represented the US at three summer Olympic games in 1988, 1992 and 1996, set the indoor world record in the 1500m and won 24 US championships in distances from the 800m to the 3000m. In 2003, she tested positive for using one of BALCO’s steroids and was suspended from competition for four years. She retired during that time and has since become a real estate agent in Oakland, Calif. Her silver medals in the 1500m from the 1997 and 1999 world championships were not taken away.

6. Rashid Ramzi

Rashid Ramzi courtesy of PhotoRun.net

The 30-year old Moroccan won both the 800m and 1500m events at the 2005 World Championships, becoming the first person to win both events at the competition. Running for Bahrain at the 2008 Summer Olympics, Ramzi took home gold in the 1500m—the first Olympic medal Bahrain had ever won. But that medal was taken away after Ramzi tested positive for an advanced version of the red cell boosting drug EPO. His two-year ban from competition ended on May 2nd.

7. Eddy Hellebuyck

Eddy Hellebuyck courtesy of PhotoRun.net

This 49-year old is the only Olympic-caliber marathoner from the US to have been found guilty of doping. In February of 2004, he ran a personal best of 2:15:36 at the Olympic trials in Birmingham, Ala. (Alan Culpepper won in 2:11:42; Hellebuyck didn’t make the team.) That same year, he tested positive for EPO in an out-of-competition test administered while he was preparing for the Olympic marathon trials. He was suspended from the sport for two years, but vehemently denied any wrongdoing during the suspension. During a 2010 interview with Runner’s World, Hellebuyck, who now coaches cross country and track teams in Tucson, Ariz., finally admitted to doping.

8. Mary Decker Slaney
Early on, New Jersey native Mary Decker was a running sensation. At just 14 years old, “Little Mary Decker” won the 800m event at a US-Soviet meet. By the age of 16 in 1974, she held the world record in the 1000m and 800m events. She suffered from compartment syndrome throughout 1975, but made a strong comeback in the ‘80s, setting six world records in 1982 in distances from the mile to 10,000m. She was heavily rewarded, recognized as the top amateur athlete in the US in 1982, and Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year in 1983. It wasn’t until 1996, at the age of 37, that Decker Slaney (she married British discus thrower Richard Slaney in 1985) got into doping trouble. She qualified for the 5000m at the Atlanta Olympics, but a drug test at the Olympic trials came up positive for testosterone. She was banned from competition in 1997. She fought the IAAF and the US Olympic committee, claiming the test was flawed and could’ve produced a false positive due to the use of birth control pills, but the ban was upheld. She’s currently retired and lives in Oregon.

9. Leonid Shvetsov
This two-time Olympian, Russian national record holder in the marathon and course record holder in the famous Comrades Ultramathon, was accused by none other than Hellebuyck (see #7) of using EPO. Not only of using the drug, but of supplying it to other marathoners training in Albuquerque for the ’96 Olympics. Shvetsov, who retired in 2009, denies any wrongdoing. He currently coaches Russian distance runners and operates an auto service business in Russia, Runner’s World South Africa reports.

10. Ma’s Army
In 1993, a Chinese squad of female runners coached by Ma Junren won six of a possible nine medals at the world championships in Stuttgart. Shortly thereafter, one of Ma’s runners took a 41.9 second chunk out of the 10,000m world record, though she ranked only 56th in the event a year earlier. Skeptics cried steroids, but before drug use could be verified, Ma’s runners mutinied, sick of his masochistic workouts and lifestyle demands. China withdrew six of Ma’s runners (in addition to 21 other members of China’s Olympic team) from the 2000 Sydney Olympics before they could compete, presumably because China feared the athletes would test positive for EPO.

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