Terra Sigillata

I’m not a competitive athlete but there are just some drugs I *must* take because of my asthma. I expect that as I continue to age, I will have to take more drugs.

But what if I were an elite master’s track & field athlete? John Leland takes on this topic in yesterday’s New York Times:

Mr. Levine, who is 95 and has had operations on both knees, in June set the American record in the 400-meter dash for men ages 95 to 99, only to see it broken at the U.S.A. Masters Outdoor Track & Field Championships a few weeks later. “Nothing counts unless you’re first,” he said.

Mr. Levine belongs to a generation of track and field athletes who are breaking records for speed, distance and endurance at ages once considered too old for competition. In a sport tarnished by doping scandals, the older athletes raise anew the question of what constitutes a natural body for people who are at an age when drugs are a part of life.

“Who’s 75 years old and not taking medications?” asked Gary Snyder, national chairman of U.S.A. Track & Field’s masters committee, which will oversee more than 100 competitions this year for athletes over age 30.

Most drugs like Mr. Levine’s are not banned for competitors, but some common treatments for asthma, menopause and inflammation contain steroids that can disqualify athletes if they do not get written medical exemptions.

Yes, there is a 95-99 age group at the master’s track and field competitions. My only question is why there is a cap at 99? Does that mean there is also a 100+ age group? I’ll be happy to just be breathing at 95, much less run 400 meters.

In any case, Leland describes cases where questions have arisen regarding use of required drugs and disqualifications despite competitor claims of necessity.

As Ms Rosalyn Katz, a 67-year-old hammer thrower from Queens, was quoted:
“I don’t think anyone taking asthma medication is going to throw or run any better,” Ms. Katz said. “I think they’re doing it because they can’t breathe.”

Comments

  1. #1 D. C. Sessions
    August 19, 2009

    “I don’t think anyone taking asthma medication is going to throw or run any better,” Ms. Katz said. “I think they’re doing it because they can’t breathe.”

    I beg to differ. There is some data (perhaps unconfirmed) suggesting that not breathing can have an adverse impact on athletic performance.

  2. #2 Ken Stone
    August 19, 2009

    Yes, Virginia, there is an M100 (and W100) age group in masters athletics. Check out my photos of 101-year-old thrower Alfred Proksch at the World Masters Athletics Championships this month in Lahti, Finland:
    http://www.masterstrack.com/gallery/main.php?g2_itemId=41474

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.