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A Geezer Jock Gets Busted. What Does That Mean For Us?

June 29, 2024 3 min read 5 Comments

A Geezer Jock Gets Busted. What Does That Mean For Us?

By Ray Glier

In light of the drug bust of middle distance runner Robert Qualls, 72, it was suggested several times that journalists like me do a better job vetting my Geezer Jocks. That maybe there are more of these "freaks of nature" or over-achievers, or regular people I write about who are on fertilizer like Qualls.

When I see the 99-year old Navy man Dixon Hemphill on Monday I'll ask him how he ran until 97. "Dixon, did you shoot yourself in the butt with a needle?" I'll check with 90+ Flo Meiler how she still does the decathlon.

The fact is plenty of Geezer Jocks are drug-tested and pass. I sat with the extraordinary sprinter Michael Kish, then 71, in 2022 as he was pulled in for urine. He passed. More should be tested, but it is expensive.

Qualls' bust shows the sport for older people is a legitimate sport. The people who run Masters track, usually without compensation, are vigilant.

Qualls said he cannot talk to me. The three-year sanction for doping for the middle distance runner could have been four years, not three, If he had stomped his feet and declared the drug testers got it wrong the penalty could be worse.

He did not challenge the ruling after it was passed down. Robert, a professor, might have a story to tell, but the evidence looks solid against him.

He dirtied the sport.

I wrote about Qualls in 2023 after he won the national 5k in Atlanta (M70-74). If I thought he was a miserable fellow the story would be taken down from this website and he would be scrubbed from Geezer Jock. After all, somebody, or somebodies, could have gone without a medal if Qualls has been cheating for more than this year.

The story stays up and here it is. It has been updated to reflect the news.

Do I feel misled? Yep, it happens all the time to journalists. But I don't know when Qualls juiced and you don't either. The 20:02 5k in Atlanta is still up at www.mastersrankings.com. If you have a drug test to show me, show me.

Predictably, two comments showed up under Qualls story on Geezer Jock and both were zingers condemning him

I wonder how his friends feel on the circuit. I bet some are still his friends. Here is Qualls' record on mastersrankings.com.

I have done my share of investigations for The Washington Post, USA TODAY, Gannett, The Los Angeles Times, and New York Times. It is not pleasant having Roger Clemens snarl in your face "Get a lawyer" when I asked him about steroid use. It was not easy going over a back fence because a group of dads was waiting for me in an empty parking lot at night because I wrote (with considerable proof) they had their kids fail the 8th grade so they would be 19 years old and be dominant by their senior seasons.

I don't know a lot about track & field, like I do baseball. I don't know what I don't know, but if race officials suspected Qualls doping at the 2024 5k championships and it was proved, that's damning.

This is why Masters track remains viable. You have to have guardrails. There has to be testing. It's a joke otherwise. 

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?

That would be abominable. My son quit JUCO baseball partly because of all the steroids and his arm blew out. 

That USATF has to drug test shows the competitiveness of Masters track. It shows the fervor of us older people and how we can get carried away and do wrong.

It's rare. I don't feel snookered. Journalists are duped...by politicians, athletes, teachers, CEOs. We try and look under every rock.

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


5 Responses

Richard Larsen
Richard Larsen

July 09, 2024

This was a bit of a shock to my system as a fellow 70 year old National Competitor. I won the Atlanta 5k in 2022 in 19:31. I train very focused with the hope of winning. A few months after my race Robert Qualls appeared on the National scene running similar times that I was. He went in to the Worlds later that year and went on to win the 70 year runner of the year award. I also ran in Atlanta this Spring but had a poor race the sting of my result made worse by how far I was behind Robert Qualls. Now for the first time it has entered my mind that perhaps others could be possibly cheating around me. I think this sort of selfish behavior in our sport should not be excused as we’re all in this together.

David Gutnick
David Gutnick

July 08, 2024

This is an excellent response to the original story, thanks so much for this serious look at a real issue.

An Ironman friend who is diabetic was asked by his doctor if he wanted testosterone, he said nope, can’t, illegal in triathlon.

The doctor was surprised and said that all kinds of male age grouppers come in asking for it …and get it.

Spider Rossiter
Spider Rossiter

July 05, 2024

A good piece on a bad dude. I would love to be pulled aside for testing. It would be a compliment!😱🕷️

Jonathan
Jonathan

July 02, 2024

Reporting on illegal, performance-enhancing drugs is the toughest task in sports writing. Easy to have an opinion, but much harder to have all the facts.

Patti Baker
Patti Baker

June 29, 2024

When I saw Robert was busted I was very disappointed. I am glad the US tests. WMA tests at worlds, but it is very random. Since many countries do not test at all I think the playing field is uneven. My one suggestion is that all medalists are tested. I dont see the purpose of random testing. Too easy to slip through the cracks, take the chance of not being caught and the vast majority who work and train hard but dont use PEDs are cheated.

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