Beyond the financial gains that might prompt an athlete to use performance enhancing drugs, there is the prestige and social status that comes with a podium finish among the sport’s tight community of elite runners.
“People dope because they want to cement their position in the tribe,” said Mark Johnson, author of “Spitting in the Soup: Inside the Dirty Game of Doping in Sports.”
The early rounds of drug testing in ultramarathons have begun to snare cheaters. The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc and the Comrades Marathon have both disqualified top finishers because of positive drug tests. But the vast majority of ultramarathons don’t have doping policies or drug testing.
The Western States board began discussing a doping policy and drug testing a few years ago after elite runners urged the race to ensure the integrity of their results. A few events prompted the concern. In 2015, participants in the North Face Endurance Challenge, an ultramarathon with $10,000 in prize money, were upset that an Italian athlete who had previously tested positive for a banned drug, was allowed to compete because the event didn’t have a doping…