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A Geezer Jock Wants A Moment Of Your Time On Drug Testing Of Masters Athletes

July 06, 2024 3 min read 4 Comments

A Geezer Jock Wants A Moment Of Your Time On Drug Testing Of Masters Athletes

Bruce Kirschner (third from the left) wants a little civility for Robert Qualls (second from the left). Kirschner finished second to Qualls in this national championship race, but Bruce is not going to stomp around demanding the gold medal after Qualls was handed a three-year suspension for doping.

 

By Bruce Kirschner

Since you have personal experience with me (as a bona fide Geezer Jock you recently profiled) and with Robert Qualls as a fellow USATF Masters competitor, I thought it appropriate to weigh in.

You state: "After all, somebody, or somebodies, could have gone without a medal if Qualls has been cheating for more than this year...I wonder how his friends feel on the circuit."

Well, I am one of those "somebodies." In my debut USATF Masters national championship race as a freshly minted 70-year old last October in Boca Raton, Florida, Robert won the Men 70-74 age group (see attached photo of us, left to right, Rick Katz, Robert Qualls, Bruce Kirschner, Doug Chesnut, Doug Bell -- all my my Boulder Road Runner Men 70+ team members except for Robert).

I was a distant second place in the same age group. He wasn't tested there, so I don't know if he was the legitimate winner or not. Incidentally, my team won the team gold medal that day as top 70-79 men's team in cross country in the U.S...😄

Again you state: "Geezer Jocks do this for fun, but if you show up and get blown away by somebody using fertilizer what does that do your psyche? Do you say "I'm really not any good" and you quit?"

At least in my case, absolutely not. If anything, Robert's suspension only made me think I'm even better than I thought, perhaps being able to claim that I was the rightful national champion last October.

I've raced USATF national championships and lost to Robert (and others in the same races) twice since October. So I'm certainly not going to quit.

In fact, I might be training even harder to prove to myself that I am a true overall national championship contender and the best is yet to come. I'm clean (well, okay, except for my 16 oz. coffee the morning of a race) and believe the vast majority of the Masters racing community is too.

You say, "But the Qualls story stays up because not one of us knows if he won races at 70 with fertilizer."

Right on, Ray. As an aside, Robert Qualls is a super nice guy and certainly not worthy of the derogatory labels people are applying to him now, like "loser."

Maybe what USADA charged him with is true, but no one seems willing to accept the possibility of an alternative explanation. The buzz seems all about jumping to conclusions.

I believe in the American way, "Innocent until proven guilty." Robert hasn't been given that opportunity. USADA is judge, jury, and executioner in this case.

In any case Robert and others suspended for similar transgressions don't deserve the derogatory labels and other verbal abuse regardless of what they have been accused of. More of a foreign notion these days, it's still called "civility."

In your recent profile of me you state, "...chill Bruce is the best Bruce on race day."

Others could be angry with Mr. Qualls. I for one am not, despite perhaps going without a first place age group national championship because of him. I don't jump to conclusions and always try to give my fellow humans (and competitive runners) the benefit of the doubt. We all deserve this in a tough world.

Anyway, just my two cents. Keep on keeping on, Ray!👍


4 Responses

Bruce Kirschner
Bruce Kirschner

July 15, 2024

I appreciate all of you weighing in on the subjective opinion I recently shared with Ray Glier in an e-mail and then he requested my permission to post on the Geezer Jock website.

To be clear, in no way do I condone the use of banned substances for performance enhancement. When I first heard about the Qualls suspension I was really shocked. Why would he do such a thing? I always figured us USATF Masters athletes were in it for the fun and camaraderie…and to train for a good reason: for competition with other Masters. A 72 year old using banned substances at his own physical risk was hard to believe. As Mike aptly points out, “And all for what?” I also agree with Kirk when he said, “If someone is using performance enhancing drugs, they are taking away from the dedication and hard work from the majority who aren’t.” Yes, truly deserving athletes are robbed of the recognition that is due them by others using performance enhancing drugs.

Kirk makes another good point, “Whether or not Robert is a nice guy—and I think he is—has nothing to do with anything.” I regret making that statement because it wasn’t directly relevant to what he did. That being said, I still believe no one deserves the derisive comments made about him online. When I first heard about the Qualls suspension I found the discussion thread on LetsRun.com in response to the Canadian Running Magazine article. I started reading the thread and had to stop because it was really troubling to hear what people were saying about Qualls. I cannot even bring myself to repeat how they referred to him. Okay, he was caught doing something very wrong and was only fooling himself while hurting others, but still not enough of a reason to go after him. I believe there is no good in kicking someone when they are already down. I was taught early in life that it’s important to step up and help individuals regardless of who they are or what they did and, if appropriate, help them to get back on their feet again. Certainly to treat them with the same kindness and respect that human beings are due. I think that’s what set me off and prompted me to send Ray my opinion.

Anyway, I appreciate the feedback from each of you. Thank you for taking the time to share your own opinions with me here.

Rick Hower
Rick Hower

July 11, 2024

Like commenter Kirk Larson, I too disagree with Bruce Kirschner’s views on the subject. And like article author Bruce, I am in the 70-74 age group and have raced against – and finished just behind – Robert (I came in 5th in the 2022 World Championships 70-74 800m in Tampere, Robert came in 4th). Re ‘innocent until proven guilty’ – well unless you don’t trust U.S. drug testing results, he’s already been proven guilty. (See the USADA announcement which describes the two levels of testing used on Robert, at https://www.usada.org/sanction/robert-qualls-accepts-doping-sanction/). However I don’t feel particularly angry, mostly I feel very sad for and disappointed in Robert, that he felt he needed to risk doping for such relatively inconsequential benefits (as Michael Anderson commented: ‘And all for what?’). And its also not a great look for USA Masters Track and Field that of 3 USADA sanctions on USA T&F athletes so far in 2024, one was for a Masters competitor, considering that pro-level athletes have way more incentive to use PEDs.

Kirk Larson
Kirk Larson

July 09, 2024

Bruce Kirschner is a friend of mine and I have texted to him on his comments, but I disagree with his views on the subject. Whether or not Robert is a nice guy—and I think he is—has nothing to do with anything. If someone is using performance enhancing drugs, they are taking away from the dedication and hard work from the majority who aren’t. I know the hard work and commitment that goes into racing at a national level into one’s 60s and 70s, but also the added rest and recovery needed, attention to diet, stretching and strength work, massage, PT, etc. Look at top 70s runners like Richard Larsen, Doug Bell, Doug Chesnut, Joe Reda, Reno Stirrat, John Barbour, Gene Myers, John Hirschberger, Jerry Learned, myself—and others. We are running great for guys in their 70s. But, also, we have been slowing down as we age, as one would expect, and that has been a continual process. We try to slow down “gracefully” so that our age grading stays the same or maybe even improves very slightly now and again. But when someone turns 70 and all of a sudden is running faster than previously, completely dominating the age group—including at the world level—and then they test positive for four banned substances—well what does that say to you? And criticizing USATF because they tested and caught someone makes totally zero sense from my perspective. Thank you for taking the time to read these comments.

Michael Anderson
Michael Anderson

July 08, 2024

Although I certainly respect Bruce Kirschner’s opinion as an experienced/long time competitive runner (and Facebook friend) I would disagree on a few points as it relates to Robert Qualls. I too raced the USATF Grand Prix circuit in 2018 and 2019 and was part of an Atlanta Track Club team that won the USATF National Grand Prix 60’s team award both of those years. In the 1980’s and 90’s as an open runner I was fortunate to win several marathons/other races and was drug tested multiple times. The last few years I haven’t been as active a racer due to geezer injuries/ailments, but I did run the USATF Masters 5K race in Atlanta where Qualls was nailed with a positive drug test.

True Qualls is innocent until proven guilty, but he had the opportunity to directly appeal the positive result and he chose not to or offer any explanation…acknowledging that he was guilty. And this was not just one item, but a cocktail of multiple banned substances that registered. In your original interview with him, he boasts of the time when his performances dramatically improved as he got to 70 which could be viewed as a timeline for when he started doping. And all for what? And at what risk medically to a Medicare aged body? 15 minutes of fame and another plaque? And he did take deserving awards away from other 70 year olds including Kirschner and one of my teammates Kirk Larson from our Atlanta Track Club 70’s team.

Bruce says Qualls is a nice guy and shouldn’t be the brunt of so many derogatory comments. I agree, but at the same time he is someone who broke the rules (cheated) and may always be labeled that way. I don’t feel badly for him quite honestly as he made his own bed and now needs to sleep in it. A few years ago I was with Kevin Castille following the USATF Masters 10K Championships in Dedham, MA. Kevin was a world class masters (40+) runner who set several records include a 1:03 Half Marathon at age 45. He also was a nice guy who I personally liked…..but he too tested positive after that race. Unlike Qualls he appealed and appealed…took over a year to sort out but eventually he received a four year ban. My good friend Ken Youngers waited a year to receive his deserving prize money (Age Graded Award) as the process played out…and he never go the accolades he should have.

Years (decades) ago, I lost a marathon by 8 seconds to a runner who later tested positive twice and was likely doping at the time. As I look back, I agree with Bruce, just made me want to train harder, should’ve won the race anyway….. and I’m certainly never going to quit either.

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