- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 17, 2006

Three years ago, USA Track & Field adopted a Zero Tolerance policy. This policy called for, among other things, increased penalties for doping offenses, more drug tests administered to American track and field athletes, the creation of a whistle-blower hotline (866/809-8104) and the establishment of a quarterly anti-doping newsletter.

Earlier this month, at its annual convention, USATF broadened that policy by extending its reach to coaches and support staff like medical personnel and agents who work with athletes.

“While the original Zero Tolerance was athlete-focused, this new program recognizes the reality that very few athletes dope on their own,” USATF chief executive Craig Masback said. “USATF continues to analyze ways in which we can shore up the fight against drugs, and this new policy is just one example.”

The new policy stipulates that all coaches seeking benefits from USATF — including credentials to national championships, stipends and positions on national team staffs — must apply for a “registered coach” designation. Those coaches working with sanctioned athletes may be refused USATF benefits and, in addition, athletes who work with ineligible coaches will not be promoted to the media and sponsors.

The policy does have its intended teeth for rogue coaches and support staff, but now it puts much of the onus on them to monitor their athletes. You could forfeit your entire career as a coach or agent or masseuse if one of your athletes gets stupid and gets caught cheating, whether you were aware or not.

There could be problems ahead with this policy. It seems akin to charging parents with the crime if their teenage child, unbeknown to the parents, shoplifts.

Harvesting shoes — Ever wonder what benefit it really is to give up your old worthless pair of running shoes to some shoe drive?

I have, so I dropped by Pacers’ Clarendon running store in Arlington yesterday for its shoe drive with the National Marathon to benefit Perpetual Prosperity Pump Foundation, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Millersville, Md.

Last week the store collected approximately 500 pairs of shoes, according to Pacers spokeswoman Kathy Dalby, whose father from Colorado dressed as Santa to greet customers.

So what significant impact did my old running shoes make on the world?

The 500 pairs of shoes helped one family in Ghana receive the supplies and training necessary to pull itself out of poverty. The supplies include a new water well and Miracle Pump irrigation system installed on each farm, a quarter-acre vegetable farm, training, seeds and livestock to allow a family in poverty to enjoy a perpetually sustainable income.

Here’s how it works. The shoes are collected and shipped directly to Africa where they are sanitized and refurbished with new laces and insoles. Then they are given to local street vendors to sell. It costs $1.50 to ship a pair of sneakers to Ghana, and the shoes are then sold for $3 to vendors.

Along with supplies and training, each family receives free eye and dental screening, free malaria medication and HIV education.

Let’s be frank — In an era of athletes frequently changing teams and the rest of humanity frequently changing jobs nearly as often as they change socks, I find it amazing sportswriter Frank Litsky has been with the same newspaper — The New York Times — since 1958. That’s 48 years!

But I also am glad Litsky was honored last week for his dedication and solid work in track and field reporting. He received the inaugural Stan Saplin Media Award that “will be presented annually to a journalist, public relations professional, executive, filmmaker or broadcaster who has made a significant contribution to the promotion of the sport.”

Litsky’s phenomenal career as a sportswriter and editor has spanned 60 years, and he began covering track in 1964. The award is named for a sportswriter, track and field historian and publicist who died in 2002.

Help wanted — E-mail me at [email protected] your most creative, unique and unusual holiday gift request, and I will print the best few in next Sunday’s column.

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