- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 2, 2003

Has track and field in America become so boring that even its athletes need to take modafinil to keep from falling asleep during competition?

Just wait until they start busting track and field writers for taking the stimulant.

Three U.S. athletes have tested positive for the eugeroic drug, which in medical terms simply means “good arousal.” More positive tests may follow.

The drug’s revelation hit the track circuit shortly after the Track & Field World Championships in Paris in late August.

World 100/200 double champ Kelli White was the first athlete exposed, saying she took modafinil on prescription from her physician to combat narcolepsy. The International Association of Athletics Federations charged her with a doping offense.

True, modafinil, aka provigil, is used to improve wakefulness in people with excessive daytime sleepiness associated with narcolepsy.

But now we have two other U.S. athletes who competed at the worlds — Chris Phillips who finished fifth in the 110-meter hurdles and Calvin Harrison who ran the opening leg of the gold-medal 1,600-meter relay — who admitted they took modafinil.

While modafinil was not on the banned substance list at the time of the world championships, caffeine and amphetamines were. Just recently, caffeine was taken off the list.

An interesting question came out of research conducted in 1991 by T.J. Lyons and J. French for the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Human Systems Division at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas:

“The development of modafinil brings to light a crucial social question. What would be the impediment for its use, if a compound such as modafinil is more like caffeine than amphetamine in terms of safety, and yet, as effective as the amphetamines?”

Marine Corps magic — No performance in the 28-year history of the Marine Corps Marathon was as dominating as Heather Hanscom’s triumph this year.

The 25-year-old Alexandria resident’s margin of victory last weekend was 20 minutes and 47 seconds over runner-up Lindsey Gannon. The next largest win, including both the men’s and women’s 28 races, was approximately six minutes, according to historian George Banker.

Only Olga Markova of Russia had a faster winning time for women at Marine Corps, covering the 1990 course 59 ticks faster than Hanscom did a week ago.

Even more significant for Hanscom, in her marathon debut, is that she qualified with an “A” standard for the U.S. Women’s Olympic Trials in St. Louis on April3. Her time has her ranked in the top 20 of nearly 125 American women to qualify thus far for the trials.

That “A” standard — a time of 2:39:59 or faster — will get her travel expenses to the trials paid by the race organizers. And this is just the beginning for Hanscom.

The Marine Corps win launched Markova’s career. She traveled from Russia as an unknown, had lodging arranged with a couple living on Capitol Hill and went on to triumphs at Boston in 1992 and 1993.

The Marine Corps Marathon also spring-boarded a career in the marathon for 1987 titlist Mary Robertson. The then-Richmond resident’s 2:44 qualified her for the 1988 U.S. Women’s Olympic marathon trials.

Today, she is Mary Wittenberg, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the New York Road Runners Club, organizers of today’s New York City Marathon.

Olympic marathon trials fever — When the Chicago Marathon had a few last-minute cancellations, a chunk of money was freed up. So organizers offered cash incentives of $2,500 and $3,500 to each U.S. athlete running a “B” or an “A” Olympic trials qualifying standard.

The marathon paid out $115,000 to 39 U.S. marathoners in its Oct.12 event. There were 21 men, including area runners Edmund Burke of Burtonsville and Nick Gramsky of McLean, as well as 18 women. There goes your amateur status, boys.

Today for the first time at New York, organizers have hired U.S. marathon record-holder Deena Kastor (formerly Drossin) to pace, for at least 25 kilometers, a group of approximately six American women to break the 2:40 Olympic trials “A” standard. Meanwhile, 2003 USA Marathon champion Sara Wells will lead a large group of athletes toward the 2:48 “B” standard.

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