With news that disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong may have designs on competing in the grueling 100-mile Western States Endurance Run, the race’s board of trustees met Saturday to draft a new policy that makes clear how welcome Armstrong is to enter the race.
Not now. Not ever.
That policy, Performance Rule 18, also could be called the Armstrong Amendment. It essentially bans the ex-cyclist and others like him who have been caught using performance-enhancing drugs from competing in Western States. That race travels over mountainous, heavily wooded terrain from Squaw Valley to Auburn and is considered the most prestigious event in the niche sport of ultrarunning.
Rule 18 says the race has a “zero-tolerance policy” on the use of performance-enhancing drugs. It also declares ineligible for entry any athlete caught cheating by the International Association of Athletics Federations, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency or any other national sports federation.
When the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency imposed a lifetime competition ban on Armstrong in August 2012, its written decision said his seven Tour de France victories and other achievements “were accomplished through a massive team doping scheme, more extensive than any previously revealed in professional sports history.”
That’s just the kind of thing that Tim Twietmeyer, a five-time Western States champion and now a member of its board, said has no place in ulrarunning. While the sport is not part of the same sanctioning body as professional cycling and doesn’t necessarily subject athletes to standardized worldwide anti-doping policies, the race has the right to craft its own standards.
“We wanted to draw a line and say, ‘Hey, if you’re someone who has been banned, we don’t want you coming to our event. Go somewhere else,’ ” Twietmeyer said Tuesday.
The unanimous board vote came only days after it became public that Armstrong would be attending a 20-mile training run Saturday organized for Western States participants slated to run the full race in late June.
Armstrong said he planned to serve as a pacer for a running pal, retired Major League Baseball player Eric Byrnes. Shunned from officially sanctioned cycling and running events throughout the world, Armstrong has shown an interest recently in ultrarunning, even winning a low-key December race in the Bay Area.
Twietmeyer said Rule 18 will not prevent Armstrong from doing the training run or pacing Byrnes during the race.
Asked if the board’s ruling was tailored to the fallen cyclist, Twietmeyer said, “Nah! This has been discussed for a long time. We just never did anything about it.”
Bob Crawley, an avid ultrarunner, said the board’s new rule is “important to the integrity of the sport and that event, which is all about fair competition.”
As for Armstrong’s plans to pursue ultrarunning, Crawley said, “There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ultraruns around the world.”
Armstrong has said through his publicist that he does not wish to discuss his ulrarunning plans for the time being. On Twitter last week, as The Bee was publishing a story about Armstrong’s plans for the training run, he took the high road: “I’m just psyched to be there supporting @byrnes22 (Eric Byrnes) and many others who love suffering as much as I do.”