Google+ Running in Cork, Ireland: The Confessions of Eddy Hellebuyck...The dark side of distance running

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Confessions of Eddy Hellebuyck...The dark side of distance running

I came across an article some time ago on the Runners World website called 'The Confessions of Eddy Hellebuyck'.

Who is he?

Eddy Hellebuyck was born in Belgium and was one of the main Marathon runners from that country in the 1980's and 90's. Aged just 23, he ran a 2:13 Marathon in 1984. In the late 80's and early 90's, he ran Marathons all over the world, running most of them under 2:30 (PR 2:11:50) and collected a lot of prize money as a result.  In 1996, he represented Belgium in the Marathon at the Atlanta Olympic Games. By the year 2000 and aged 39, his times were beginning to drop and his racing career was going into a decline.

By the late 90's, the illegal performance enhancing drug EPO was making it's presence felt in the running world. 'EPO....A hormone produced by the kidneys that stimulates the production of oxygen-bearing red blood cells, EPO appears naturally in the body. The pharmaceutical version was developed in the late '80s to boost the red-blood-cell counts of patients suffering from anemia associated with kidney disease. An increased level of EPO in the body can enhance the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood and, hence, a runner's endurance.'

While operating a training camp for runners in the USA, Hellebuyck claims he was introduced to the drugs then. By 2001, he had started to take EPO and his times and career got a new lease of life. Running now as a veteran athlete, he could earn serious prize money again. In 2002, he ran a 2:19 Marathon before going on to run 2:12:47 in 2003 at 42 years of age. In that year, he earned $55,300 on the race circuit.

In January 2004, all of that came to an abrupt halt. In his own words............"Then one morning, all of a sudden, just before breakfast, the guy from USADA was knocking on the door. He said he had missed me when he came by the week before. I had been away from the center working out at Balboa Park, and he wanted to test me now. He had his credentials and everything. He was from the UCLA lab, I think. He took my urine sample. I think I had put down a unit of EPO two days before. I was probably just inside the 48 hours. I didn't really think about it. Probably since 2001 when I started EPO, I must have passed 10 or more tests. I wasn't too worried. I was just focused on my workout that day."

Except he didn't pass. Hellebuyck received notice of his positive drug test in late March of 2004 and was banned from competiting. With his career and reputation in ruins, he initially denied everything and appealed the decision but to no avail. Eventually in 2010, he confessed and told his story to the Runners World magazine.

The full 9 page story can be seen HERE.

It gives an insight into the world of those cheating in the sport and the cat and mouse game they play with the authorities as they try to evade detection. According to the World Anti-Doping Agency, one in ten elite athletes are now using drugs to cheat.

In response to this problem, there will be a record number of tests at the next Olympics coming up in London in 2012. Whether this weeds out the cheats in the sport remains to be seen.

No comments: