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The Week In Sports: Events Off The Beaten Track

Aug 8, 2015
Originally published on August 8, 2015 12:52 pm
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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF HORN MUSIC)

WERTHEIMER: The track and field world has been rocked by doping allegations, just in time for the World Championships. Basketball season is over for the men, at least. Football has yet to start, although camp is going on. Athletes seem to get a bit of a break in August, but NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman doesn't. We make him work. Good morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Now, Tom, a British newspaper - The Sunday Times - has joined forces with a German broadcaster for an investigation into doping in track and field, and what they uncovered was not pretty.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, that's right. They got leaked data from the IAAF. That's track and field's internationally governing body. It's from athletes competing between 2001 to 2012, and it showed 800 suspicious blood test results from athletes who won 146 metals, including 55 golds, in running events at the Olympics and the World Championships.

Now, yesterday, the World Anti-Doping Agency said it'll urgently investigate the allegations and also look into how the data was leaked. WADA, as it's called, is angry about athletes potentially having their privacy compromised. Now, considering track and field's doping past, all this isn't a shock, but certainly not good PR as the sport prepares for its World Championships and then the Olympics in a year.

WERTHEIMER: Less than two weeks to go before the track and field championships in Beijing.

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

WERTHEIMER: What do you think it's going to mean for the competition there?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, the cloud we always talk about hanging over sports that have trouble doping histories - it'll be there in Beijing. And already you have murmurs about several of the top athletes in the glamour events of sprinting, none more so than Justin Gatlin of the U.S. He's the class of the men's 100 meters this year, especially with Usain Bolt dealing with injury. And Gatlin has served to doping suspensions in his career. His rivals, Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell, Michael Rodgers - they've all tested positive for banned drugs, as well. Now, are these athletes tainted and perhaps getting residual effects from doping? Or should we let them be, since they've served their time? Those are questions that'll come up in Beijing.

WERTHEIMER: Well, now, in the meantime, it seems like things really are slow in the sports world. Is that a fair assessment?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) It's the doldrums, Linda. Baseball? Get back to me in September. Although, how about those New York Mets in first place and winners of seven straight?

WERTHEIMER: (Laughter).

GOLDMAN: The NFL, the NHL, the NBA - all quiet, although the WNBA is red-hot and rolling. Next week's PGA championship in golf - the fourth major lost its luster when Jordan Spieth lost at the British Open, so no grand slam there. And we have to wait another three weeks to see if Serena Williams can win a grand slam in tennis at the U.S. Open. So, yeah, pretty slow.

WERTHEIMER: Well, so any sports that we could talk about that don't normally get our attention?

GOLDMAN: Well, absolutely, and I'm glad you asked.

WERTHEIMER: (Laughter).

GOLDMAN: Of course, we have to start with Josh Harris from Australia. Yesterday, he ran a world record - 4 minutes, 56.2 seconds - in the beer mile. That event entails chugging a beer, running a quarter-mile, then repeating that three more times. And, Linda, no throwing up is allowed.

WERTHEIMER: Oh, dear.

GOLDMAN: Then, on a more serious and momentous note, last night, Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team - he made his pro football debut for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. He didn't make a tackle - said he was nervous - but he's on the board. And finally, looking ahead to today, the top wake boarders in the world will be in Walker, Mich., for a big competition. That, of course, is athletes riding on a short, wide board on water, getting towed behind a motorboat, doing all kinds of cool tricks. So plenty going on. You just have to know where to look.

WERTHEIMER: OK, thanks. NPR's Tom Goldman, thank you very much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.