Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Doping in Sport Article in the New York Times

I was reading an article about a client in the New York Times. In case you were curious, the company's name is Daptiv and the article can be found here: (

After I read Stuart Elliott's article on Daptiv's rebranding, I noticed an article titled "Old Story, Updated: Better Living Through Pills." (

This normally wouldn't have grabbed my attention, but beneath this headline were pictures of Sir Roger Bannister (the first human to run a mile in less than four minutes) and Marion Jones (who recently tested positive and then confessed to years of doping and is being forced to return her ill-got Olympic medals. All five of them!).

Needless to say, I was shocked.

Rather than recapitulate my feelings here, I'll simply post the email I sent to the New York Times.

My Letter:

New York Times Editor,

As an avid runner and former collegiate track and field athlete who ran the 1500-meter race (the metric mile) I was shocked and upset to see a picture of Sir Roger Bannister prominently displayed beneath a headline regarding athletic drug use. Thinking that there may be substance to the story, I immediately opened and read the article to find that it did not claim that Sir Bannister doped. Nor did the article suggest that Sir Bannister was suspected of doping. Rather, Professor Wailoo's article cites the slew of runners who broke the four-minute mile barrier in the three years AFTER Bannister's monumental achievement as evidence of potential doping.

I do not believe that Professor Wailoo's article was meant to suggest that Sir Roger Bannister made use of performance enhancing drugs. I believe that the New York Times' presentation of the article misrepresented both doctors.

First, by placing that picture of Sir Bannister - one of the most famous in track and field history - next to the story's headline and above the picture of a proven doper, the New York Times effectively imbued the article with the message that Sir Roger Bannister used performance enhancing drugs - something for which there is no proof. A subscriber who neglects to fully read the article will simply assume that Sir Bannister doped.

The second and far more vociferous method by which the New York Times skewed the subject was by the photo's caption, "Drug questions clouded the feats of Roger Bannister in 1954 and Marion Jones in 2000." Beyond the fact that Wailoo's article makes no such claim, there is no evidence that Sir Bannister doped. Even allowing for the flexible nature of the verb "clouded" there is an enormous difference between casting a cloud and obliterating the sun. Evidence has proven that Marion Jones is a dirty athlete. No such evidence tarnishes Sir Bannister's athletic accomplishments and the New York Times should not use misleadingly placed photographs and overstating captions in an attempt to do so.


3:56.44 Personal Best time for 1500 meters. Drug free.

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