The Lance Armstrong Defense?

The Lance Armstrong Defense?

Posted by Latif Thomas

This past weekend we had our major State Invitational. Only the top 24 relay teams in the state were accepted to compete.

The directions on the entry form, clearly stated in bold and underlined, were:

Do not enter athletes or relays that have not achieved the performance standards listed above.

Of the 24 teams accepted into the girls 4×200, eight schools entered fabricated times. And this isn’t about those particular schools/coaches. I just happened to look up that particular event. But, as a microcosm of the whole, one out of three coaches is a big fat liar – cheating.

In calling attention to this blurring of ethics, a coach told me that I was making a mountain out of a molehill. That it would all wash out in the end.

"It's not cheating if everyone else is doing it"

“It’s not cheating if everyone else is doing it”

I’m sorry, friends. But, the Lance Armstrong Defense (It’s not cheating because everyone else is doing it) is not an acceptable reason for inventing entry times to get your team into a meet.

Our sport is already considered bogus by the mainstream as it is. It doesn’t help when coaches justify lying.

Yes, you’re right. You didn’t inject steroids into your athletes’ asses. And you didn’t sneak a boy into the girls relay.

But, you told yourself it was OK to cheat because ‘everyone else’ was cheating.

As coaches, we regularly fancy ourselves role models and teachers of life lessons. Bastions of morality and righteousness in a world of voyeurism and ‘me first’ selfishness. Of ‘team first’ and ‘fair play’ above ‘individualism’ and ‘winning at all costs’.

And I’m sure it’s all true…

Except when we need to get our team in the seeded heat. Or make sure our team gets accepted into the meet.

Then those central tenets of our coaching philosophies get temporarily pushed aside because, well, everyone else is doing it.

When we only follow the rules when they’re convenient, we might as well not follow any of the rules.

We can’t expect ‘those other coaches’ to do better if we’re not willing to do better ourselves. Lying is lying.

Just because you pour syrup on shit, don’t make it pancakes.

Get it together track and field. You’re a dying sport.

Rant over.

-Latif Thomas

Follow me on Twitter: @latif_thomas

Want to tell me how right I am? Want to tell me how right you are?

Do so below.



Latif Thomas owns and operates Complete Track and Field and serves as the Co-Director of the Complete Track and Field Clinic, the largest track and field clinic in the United States. A popular speaker and presenter at some of the largest coaching clinics in the country. Over the past 15 years, he has coached more combined League, Division, All State and New England Champions in the sprints, hurdles, and jumps than he had the emotional strength to go back and try to count. Follow @latif_thomas on Twitter

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  • John Sipple

    I completely agree with you!!! Entering fabricated times is very problematic and coaches who do it are cheating!

    • Jon C

      Hats off for calling these other coaches out. As a person who does things ‘the right way’ and has been screwed so many times by others that take ‘short cuts’ to get ahead, I have no tolerance for people who cheat.

      I also love your reference to ‘The Lance Armstrong Defense.’ Lance Armstrong is one of the biggest bums to ever walk the planet. He’s a liar, a jerk, a sociopath, etc. He has destroyed the lives and financial livelihood of numerous competitors by way of his lies and strong arming tactics. Then of course hides behind this ‘Livestrong’ nonsense (talk about a wolf in sheep’s clothing). Lance is the type of person who wouldn’t have donated a dime to cancer research had he not had the disease personally….and his cancer was probably caused from all of the garbage he was pumping into his body!

      Track has certainly experienced its share of issues in recent years, but hopefully it never becomes the farce that is cycling all because of someone like Lance Armstrong. I applaud people like yourself and Tyson Gay who actively promote integrity and doing things the right way!

      • Mike

        @Jon C: Jon,
        Great point on Lance – many people have been pointing to his ‘Livestrong’ work to minimize the questions about his character, but I think you’ve hit it right on the head!

    • Jerry

      You guys are really getting carried away with this. This is not cheating. it might be better termed an exaggeration. It all depends on the degree that it is not accurate. No one puts down the exact time. NO ONE. It is an educated guess. Using a previous time for an event means nothing and is equally unfair. The only impact it has is in seeding a heat. The Millrose Trials for the mile used the best time ever as the criteria not a current time. Two runners in the unseeded heat beat four runners in the seeded heat. Those times may have been accurate for last year. Since so many people make up the times anyway how do you police it. A previous bad performance should not be used against a runner. At the New Balance games the second unseeded heat produced the 2nd fastest time with 18 teams in the first heat. The coach wanted to run in an uncongested heat so he used a slow time. That is strategy. Football, basketball, baseball and every sport has coaches that cheat in some form or another. It is not only track seed times. Coaches recruit in high school. Grades in school are adjusted. We can go on and on. Stop crying and just work your team better.

  • Chris

    See this is something I never understood about MA. Having coached in both MA and CT I always questioned how the MIAA ran their championship meets. The separate meets for relays, no need to certify seeds. Still having seed meetings. In CT they tried to stop the lying but make coaches enter all qualifying times on a central website with the meet the performance was attained at. It still has its issues but it has really cut down on the lying. If your athlete is not listed on the website they can’t be entered in the state meets, and you can only select the seed time that you had entered into the website.

  • Cameron Doroshuk

    You’re bang on, dude! I’m glad that someone said what was needed to be said.

  • Rod Robison

    You go Latif. You are talking about something called “Ethics”, which I feel less and less coaches seem to possess. Just because its a little lie, doesn’t make it any less dishonest. I don’t care if Lance Armstrong used steroids once or the whole time he was competing, he is still a cheater.

  • Al Berardi

    It’s about time we air this issue out…to many coaches lie about times, qualifying heights etc. The rules of our sport our clearly laid out, the question is why do we not follow them. We make “adjustments” to rules just to fit the bill; as an example the 6 jump rule we have in NJ for the pole vault. I’m still looking for it in the rule book. This modification is because the officials want to go home early, well so do the coaches but, not at the expense of our athletes and their shot at competing well. Lying about performances or cheating on pole weights is just another way of saying, “yeah it’s alright if you don’t get caught”. Is this what we really want to teach our kids about fair play and sportsmanship? Latiff, you keep on ranting my friend somebody got to!
    Al Berardi

    • Dolores OlguinTrevino

      Amen to your comments on cheating! Lying about times on entries is one of the most irritating things I’ve run across with the coaches in our schools. Why not let kids prove themselves on the track!

  • Lorne Terichow

    Latif, Again… absolutely bang on! Love your stuff and have been following it for several years. However, if my son or daughter came home and looked at the dinner I made and said, “Just because you pour syrup…” it just wouldn’t sit right. It’s truly funny, but… just saying… your writing (in my opinion) is possibly becoming a little too bold to make the same point and if nobody says anything, I’m just wondering how far it’s going? Keep up the great work.

  • B.J. Ogata

    I totally agree with this column. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a relay stuck in a slower heat, only to see them get 3rd or 4th because the teams in the fast heat clearly weren’t able to run the times they used for their entry, and wondered “what if we were running against first or second? Would we have been pushed to an even better performance?” I also agree with one of the other posts. We should do a better job as a track and field community of holding coaches accountable if they fabricate times.

  • Bernard Gant

    I agree with you 100%, but at the end of the day you still have to produce. Runners do the same thing in Masters Track only to end up getting scorched during the race.

  • Geoff Hennessy

    The MSTCA is in the process of creating a written instrument to stop the cheating. We are currently creating a list of the “cheaters” because we know that certain schools have a trend toward that activity. Each league also has a rep on the MSTCA Executive Board. The process of vetting seed times should begin there. The Brown Interscholastic relays (under Bob Rothenberg) used to have a committee, of which I was a part, to certify whether a team or kid was legit to get into seeded events. I covered Mass. Suffice it to say, the BS disappeared. All it takes is a hearing by the MIAA on a dishonest track coach, and a possible firing (which has happened in the past) and that should do it. These meets have hundreds of entries and checking involves a lot of paperwork and man-hours. Dishonest coaches know that and hide under the radar. But the noose it tightening Latif. Trust me on that one. Maybe just not fast enough for you. Geoff Hennessy, member MSTCA and MTFOA Executive Boards.

    • Len Harmon

      @Geoff Hennessy: Dear Geoff, I agree that coaches should submit legitimate performance marks and they should be held accountable to do so. However, would the MSTCA consider an undrsize/oversize or flat/banked conversion ratio similar to the one the NCAA put into place this year? Some schools don’t have regular access to RLC or BU, etc. and compete mostly on flat 150 or 133m tracks. Historically my better runners run faster on the better/longer surfaces (and not just because they are running against better competition). This may eliminate some (certainly not all) of the problem with coaches feeling less compelled to guesstimate a performance.

      See link.

      • Matt

        @Len Harmon: @Geoff Hennessy: As a coach that spends his time on the same tracks as Coach Harmon, I completely agree that it would be beneficial for the MSTCA to consider a conversion system. There aren’t a lot of people that can run fast times on a 133m track. The sharp turns kill the sprinters. Meanwhile, the 12 laps to a mile means the leaders spend half the race in Lane 2 lapping the slower runners. Junior/Seniors in our league have had two chances to run a distance race at Reggie – one of which comes in Mid-December. Hitting those standards is tough. I know I personally asked the meet director if I could enter a talented runner at the minimum qualifying seed for Coaches Invite. The runner proceeded to dominate their heat and was told by officials/MSTCA members at the finish that her coach should have seeded her better. Tough to do when we’re being honest.

        • W.E. Price

          @Matt: Agree with you here Matt. I’ve seen that validation process work quite well where teams were coming off undersized tracks and borderline compliance surfaces (in flats).

          By the way, Geoff did a masterful job in his capacity for the Brown HS Inv. IMO, that process should be considered for the majority of elite MSTCA games.

  • Patrick Osborne

    I would just like to order your sprint training DVDs I like your passion when it comes to integrity. Your legacy, when complete, should be a good “Real Sports” with Brian Gumble. 😉

  • Scott Glaspey

    Hey Latif, I like your rants. They’re mostly right on. In the case of the relay times, it’s quite possible that said teams have never had the chance to get to a relay meet so had no team times. I know – not really a good defense, but likely true.
    I’d like to reply to the rant regarding the imminent death of T&F. We DO need shorter meets if we don’t want spectators to die of old age while watching. Also, have we ever considered making some of the field events more spectator friendly. Why is it that the HJ and PV attract spectators? It’s because of the easy to see success/failure of the bar. Consider having an ever increasing line in LJ/TJ/SP etc and athletes can choose to jump/throw or not. Spectators get immediate feedback. When I was in HS we even had field event relays ( total distance for 3 or 4 shot putters , etc ) It was pretty coo.
    Thanks, keep on rantin’

  • James Holmes

    That was a good thing U did coach.I am a former 800m runner.That coach should be a shame of himself.Cheating to get a good lane to get a better time or not.That’s not a coach!

  • Jay Miller

    Last year, I entered a real time for a large invitational at the beginning of the year and ended up in the 2nd fo 4 heats. My 4×100 team won their heat by over 1.5 seconds and finsihed 3rd by less than a tenth of a second. Three of the 8 teams in the fast heat did not place. It was the only race that kept us from being undefeated the entire season. A couple of coaches remarked to me that it sucked to see my kids not win, when they clearly should have been in the fast heat.

    Fast forward 2 months to the District, state qualifying meet, and one of those same coaches submitted 5 seperate bogus times or distances. Unbelievable!

  • J. Sanderson

    Student athletes need models they can trust; integrity is a solid foundation for decisions throughout life. Coaches have the responsibility to “be” a models of integrity; they have a responsibility to influence their athletes today and throughout their lives. Thanks for standing and being counted for “integrity”. Thanks for being a coach of champions.

  • Tim Fagerson

    Hi Latif, great post as usual. I’ve come across age group dishonesty in youth soccer (including coaches who’s day time jobs were Attorney and MD). It’s disheartening! Sadly the honor system can’t be relied on and tournaments/leagues need to do a better job at verification and policing. A root problem, IMHO, is one’s philosophical view on the concept of truth. What is truth? Does truth matter? Is truth absolute or relative?

  • Jackie Hibbler

    You were completely in the right to raise a fuss! Right is right….. “Honor” and “integrity” are becoming more and more scarce in today’s society. I’m glad to see you’re not in that number! The coach accusing you of making a mountain out of a molehill was probably one of the cheaters!

    Keep standing on the truth!

  • Ingrid Kern

    I so one hundred percent agree with you Latif. It is sad to see what the world has been accepting and “Integrity” seems to become a word without meaning from a long lost language.
    Keep up the good work!

  • Greg R

    Point well taken. If points cannot be fabricated in football, basketball, and baseball…then what makes coaches think they can fabricate times and that it is acceptable?

    I do take one exception with you, though, Latif, and that is the language. As a high school coach, I try to emulate a good example in all areas, honesty, integrity, morality, and decent language.

    Wonder how many kids will read this.

  • Eva Martin

    Shameful behavior from those that are supposed to be helping shape young minds, and unfortunately, they are. Agree with you Latif, 100%.

  • Jay

    You are soooo right about this!!!! Last spring NY State Qual Meet, my boys 4×1 ranked #1 on the leader board for sect 2. Still, not in the prefered lane!!!!! It gets better a team in our heat, who we crushed 3 wks earlier lines up next to us! They tell my boys, we don’t belong here. Our coached shaved 10s off our best so we could race here! He wants this not us!
    Some coaches don’t get it!!!!!
    Stop LYING people!!!!!!!
    Ok, I’m done!

  • sandra hoopes

    I agree with you 100%. Coaching is more than teaching skill, it is molding young women and men to be decent human beings. We need to lead the way and set good examples for our athletes. Being honest on entries is one of the ways we can be good role models. Glad you spoke up. Sad that a coach thinks “your making a mountain out of a mole hill.” Shame on him!
    Keep up the good work Latif! I love and respect our sport and hope those coaching feel the
    same. If they need to cheat then they need to get out of coaching!

  • Kevin Maloney

    Latif, there is no question that coaches who submit false entry times in meets is a problem, and as Geoff Hennessey indicated the MSTCA is addressing this issue. Coaches have been called down out of the stands when it is obvious that an athlete was not capable of meeting the entry standard based on their performance. We certainly don’t want to embarrass the athlete(s) (the coach has already done so with the false entry), but we have no problem in speaking to offending coaches. As Geoff indicated we are now authorizing meet directors to address these issues with a letter to the offending coaches principal and AD with a warning that future offenses will result in a denial of entry in a future MSTCA meet from that coach. The problem is that there always seems to be individuals who don’t follow the rules, and since we can’t prevent them from securing coaching positions we have to deal with those issues as they come up and as we become aware of them. However, there is no evidence of this issue with the girls 4×200 relay in yesterday’s meet, nor with the girl’s 4×400 and 4×800. The standard in the 4×200 was 1:55 and the last place team ran 1:52.67; the standard in the 4×400 was 4:35 and the last place team ran 4:21.53; and the standard in the 4×800 was 10:50, and the last place team ran 10:22.46. Every girl’s relay team entered ran under the entry standards. On the boy’s side three teams in the 4×200 were above the standard, two of them under 2 seconds with the third team 7 seconds from it; in the 4×400 again three teams were above the standard with two of them being less than 2 seconds and the other 4 seconds above it; and in the 4×800 only 1 team was above the standard. Coaches lying is a problem, a big problem that the MSTCA is painfully aware of and we continue to take steps to deal with it to help prevent it from happening in the future. The more we call out these offending coaches the more likely we’ll discourage recurrences in the future. We certainly welcome the efforts of all to stamp out this issue. Fortunately, it was not an issue with the girl’s entries at yesterday’s meet. All the girl’s teams met the entry standards and performed as advertised. And as we do after every MSTCA meet, the meet director examines the entries vis-a-vis the results and takes appropriate action where warranted. Let’s hope for the benefit of the athletes and the integrity of our sport that we can all work together to eliminate this problem.

  • Kathleen Newton

    I totally agree, normally I don’t respond to these but this one hit a cord. I have been coaching high school and college for 15 years and I don’t understand what a coach is doing when they fabricate times, throws or jobs. What they are doing is 1) setting their athletes up for failure 2) making themselves and their program look unprofessional 3) keeping an athlete or relay team out of the correct heat that deserve to be there. Most importantly you are a key role model for your athletes they look up to you more than you may realize. Teaching the values of good, honest sportsmanship and integrity are life lessons they will use on and off the track.

  • Lance M. Mangham

    As a high school science educator and track coach I find that your your comments are well past due. I have been involved in this sport since the early 1980’s and I have always known coaches to do this. Lying is lying – that cannot be argued with. Those coaches that consistently falsify their athletes performances in effort to draw better seeds and optimum lane positioning insults us all. Here in Colorado, however, I see this sort of thing disappearing as HS performances are well known on the internet due to the controls of milesplit. No longer can coaches falsify performances as their most updated times and distances are now a matter of the record on milesplit. Your a good man Latiff – I admire how you express yourself on these issues. keep up the good my work my man!

    • Keith

      Well said. While I am not involved with track and field, my daughter plays soccer. The basic tenets of coaching remain in all sports. Kids need to learn that if they want to succeed they need to work to earn that invitation. If all that is required to gain entry is a flick of the pen then why train? Youth athletics is about life lessons that will stick with the kids into adult hood not the wins and losses as a youth.

  • derek

    Let’s go to POP Sheets…. For big meets, make them enter where and when the mark was achieved. If it’s a 4 x 200 based on conjecture because your team hasn’t run it yet, then enter the open 200 times of each runner as rationale… State doesn’t run open 200’s, then figure out some other simple alternative that forces accuracy in reporting.

    Is it a pain in the ass? yup. Is it worth it? Yup.

    • Will Buckley


      As usual you get more responses for your rants. Ethics are a huge part of our job. I try to live by and instill integrity and respect in my actions with or without the kids. One other factors is the diservice to the kids. For example, last year an athlete was timed in the 3200 a lap earlier then he actually did. The coach let it stand and he ran in the championship. How embarrasing for the athlete to finish 2 laps behind the rest of the field. The coaches argument was it gives him experience at this level and will motivate him. Really?

      • Coach Steve

        As a former professional athlete I am not a proclaimed “Lance Hater”. Nor do I condone the use of PEDs in sport. I do agree with you on all fronts in the sense that Lying and Cheating are one in the same. If the role model, “the coach” selectively is Lying and Cheating the so will some of your athletes. Unfortunately the use of PEDs is rampent at the top levels of manys sports including track and field. This will not change until the culture of elite level sport changes. Example: In the NFL or Professional Baseball for what 1 top player is paid, every athlete on a pro roster or farm program could be tested weekly or 2x per month. What would we find???? There is your answer as to why they are not.

        • Mark

          Amen Coach, You can not shine a turd!

    • Roger Pedrick

      As I live in Australia I’m not across these particular issues, but I fully support your feelings and opinions. And please be as non PC as you you like–keep ranting!

  • OKtav

    I think this is a little bit more complex than that… first sorry for my English… and for the length of my comment…may be an article itself :)

    Theoretically we could resume it in one phrase: “because if he wouldn’t make it , he would not stand a chance”. More than that, the “compensation doping” is almost a necessity for these riders, they could literally die because of the testosterone insufficiency in their system. If we want to stop this, we have to reformulate the whole concepts (and mentality) in this sport – tours features – schedule, itinerary, rhythm/frequency – stages; media, sponsors and public/fans expectations and of course training sciences.

    …More than that the debate or this “coming out” has been led by Oprah.. Nice lady but not an initiated person in sport sciences. The big question is when did he started to use banned substances…His disease clearly obliged him to use steroids in cortisones. In this case “Tour de France” and it’s “doping culture” (if I can say so) can not be incriminated, but a whole culture of steroids using so widely spread in USA which also invaded the rest of the world during last 3 decades.

    In Lance’s case we have to face another ethic problem; should we let people who followed specific medication to compete in regular circuits? The case is not unique; same pathology, similar medication an at the end exceptional performances.His pathology’s medication opened wide the door to steroid and cortisones medication… But this is just supposition even less ethical than what he did… assuming the cause of a such terrible disease.

    I think this case should be considered on different bases ; all endurance cycling discipline should be considered on different bases. There were many previous cases , declarations, statements, similar huge scandals but still nothing changed… The big cheaters in this sport are organizers, sponsors, managers; runners have to make a choice – to do it or not no be…You can not blame them for that(!); only if they made it very early without being obliged by contracts and realities of the job. I’m afraid that’s Lance case, because it’s hardly to explain his disease at such a young/early age.

    Regards form Europe

    • Marc

      I agree with you Latif. When working with young kids integrity is so important. But what if we started from the perspective that as inherently flawed beings we cheat. And that if cheating is happening within our peer group it increases the incidence of others cheating (coaches), and the further we are removed from getting caught the more likely we are to cheat, and that the more indirect the cheating relative to the reward (coach writing times for athletes who are participating) the more likely. If we accepted this perspective we would quickly move to more comprehensive rules around timing and verification techniques. The TED Talk video link below points to our flaws and suggests that we need to work more on improving our checks and balances and not taking so much for granted. Be patient it gets very interesting at around minute 10.

  • jane brown

    What has happened to integrity?! Thank you for standing up for what is right and exemplfying sportsmanship and character. Athletes will model what we do as coaches. It’s a pity that there is no recourse to get rid of unscrupulous ones. “Mountain out of a molehill’? It’s the little foxes who spoil the whole vineyard. Keep doing what’s right, Latif – you have worldwide support!!

  • Coach

    Out of the top 15 places in the 4x200m only 3 teams did not run better than thier seed time (Latifs team being on of them). The entry rules state that coaches can only enter teams that have met the standard. It doesnt mention that they can’t enter a seed time that is faster than what they ran. It does mention that if you enter a seed time and the performance is way off you will be spoken to. As coaches we should have the choice to enter our athletes the way we see fit. Who should tell us that “their” way of doing things is so much better? Stay within the rules and if you know that your athlete can produce, then seed them where you want them. This was an invite, not the state meet. Your team was in the fast section. Also clean up the language- role model

    • Mario Gomez


      “Coach” have the integrity to at least put your name on your comments. Once you start justifying the reasons as to why you’re allowed to fudge the numbers and finding loopholes,then you know what you did was wrong. Pointing fingers (“Latif’s team being one of them”) doesn’t make it right. I am extremely happy I coach in the southwest and in a state (TX) where the majority of the coaches don’t lie about times and that we have a governing body (U.I.L) that makes sure this doesn’t occur, especially during championship season. Man up next time “Coach”.

  • Ron Grigg

    It is a problem in the college ranks too. Everyone wants their kid to “have a chance to run a little faster,” so they “fudge” the entry performance. Well, once one person does it, then so does everyone else. Soon you have to “fudge your fudge” so your kid can still “have a chance to run a little faster.” It is insane that this is allowed, especially in a sport where performances are both verifiable and absolute.

    There will always be the following arguments:
    1. It is early in the season and we haven’t run that event yet.
    2. We run on disadvantaged tracks or against inferior competition
    3. (my favorite) the workout times indicate they can run……..(insert time).

    Unfortunately, while each of those arguments may be truthful, they do not outweigh the “good of the whole.” If everyone enters their personal best, then just about everyone should end up in the correct heat, or correct flight. If the coach is a good coach and the athlete is intelligent and competitive, then they should be able to run well against similar competition, even if they are the BEST ones in their heat. Then when the EARN a new personal best, they have also earned the right to run against faster people.

    There should be NO reason for a guessing game. And granted, relays are somewhat different because the personelle is never guaranteed. has helped create a comprehensive database that allows times to be checked. The problem is, that creates work for meet management, and who wants to check hundreds or thousands of performances?

    Until this entry fudging becomes a badge of dishonor for coaches, there is no incentive to stop. I have always said, our university basketball team can’t tell the NCAA committee that we are 27-4 and that we belong in the NCAA tournament, when in fact we are 16-15, with a justification that in practice we “look like a tournament team.”

    In track and field, the procedure for advancing to state meets usually eliminates the ability to “fudge,” but why should we diminish the integrity of our regular season competitions? Everyone is working hard toward the same goal of achievment, so why can’t we all show up with integrity and let the kids compete fairly?

    Latif, from your lips to the track gods’ ears, I hope!

  • DP

    I agree with you Latif, coaches need to stop falsifying performance lists with ‘fake’ times and marks.

    I somewhat disagree with you regarding your position on dual meets. Yes, it can be stated that Track is a dying sport, as you have recently been quoted. However, back in the ‘hey-day’ and I am old enough to remember the latter stages of T&F’s hey-days of the 60’s. Dual Meets were exciting, generated considerable school and league-wide interest. The meets were quick, when compared to the weekend marathon meets, and afforded various levels of the team to compete, when this was not always the case on Saturdays. I believe that a return to stature and prominence of the dual meets may be a piece of the puzzle in terms of restoring the general public and casual student/parent/fan interest in Track and Field in general.

    • Matt Zankich

      You’re comments were spot on! It’s nice to see a coach stepping up and calling out the cheats! Unfortunately it’s the road society is headed down. Whatever happened to coaches concerned about creating better people not just top athletes? Latiff your work is much appreciated!!! Keep it up!

  • coach mac

    In a meet I used to direct,there was a space on the entry form asking in what meet your time was run and what place did you finish ? It made it easy to root out “ringers”.

  • Mike Miller


    I like what you wrote about keeping integrity high in our sport. I don’t think T&F is dying like you said, but I do think changes should be made. Warmup procedures at the Reggie come to mind- why even bother having an athlete warm up just to sit in the gym for 45 minutes.

    However, I do think there’s more to the story on the cheating issue than is being reported. First off, the MSTCA meets are not MIAA State meets- anyone cheating at the State level should be thrown out of coaching, and those who are caught have been. That is our state’s governing body, and they have the right, working with building principals and AD’s to do exactly that. MSTCA meets have traditionally been more lax on qualifiers. Until this winter (or last, I forget), the form actually said “submit times run this year or last track season”. I don’t know why it doesn’t anymore, but it’s still very much the ruling from the MSTCA. That hasn’t changed. Relatively speaking, state relays and coaches are early meets, and if you as a coach have a kid that ran 4:25 in 2012 who hasn’t raced a fast mile yet, that time is very much valid.

    Further proof of this point comes with the Direct Athletics entry. When submitting entries, coaches MUST submit a date and meet location. If you put in 1/31/2012, it goes through, 1/31/2011 does not. Therefore, a good coach with INTEGRITY, has to assume that the rule has not changed, and that last year’s times are not only within reason, but acceptable to be in the meet. If that has changed, the meet director wasn’t aware of it, because when I asked him prior to submission, he said enter last year’s times and if DA takes the dates, they’re good to go.

    Now, I will agree, the relays are a different story. If you haven’t run your best team by the time of State Coaches, and not all of your members are back from the previous year, what do you do? The only meets you could make a Q time in state (not everyone can travel out of state, as I understand) are in December, or Frosh-Soph (not your full squad unless you’re very lucky for the next 3 years), or State Relays (a meet with many other events, shuttles, hurdles, medleys) that might not allow a coach to enter that time. That coach might choose to use his best judgement and estimate a seed time. If he’s wrong, gets in, and the team underperforms, he should be called out as you are doing. If he’s right, then good for him and his ability to estimate his relay. In our case, I took last year’s 4×200 time, the last time we ran a varsity team in ANY meet, and added one second. Same girls were on the team, but I wasn’t totally confident we could get back to that exact time. We did in the end, so I feel justified in my seeding.

    Every meet essentially has entry standards. The Holiday Challenge, for example, stated that no team under 1:55 (using the girls 4×200) should be entered. Of course, at that point, few teams had run 4×200’s (unless leagues do, or you went to the Winter Festival) so coaches guessed. Of the 18 teams, 11 made that standard. I don’t think those other 7 coaches are cheaters or lack integrity, they just guessed wrong.

    So, we agree on many points, but interpret others differently. Life is about having civil disagreements and carrying on. Questioning coaches’ integrity, coaches you don’t know and have never spoken to, is a slippery slope. You’re right, some might have had alterior motives and wanted their teams to bump out others’. But, in the end, I think it’s about making sure the 24 best teams race, and I think that they did.

    Mike Miller- WHS girls

    • Richard Dawson

      Reading Latif’s follow-on email this morning, I’m struck by the paragraph:
      “The only time this is acceptable is, as Len Harmon pointed out, when you are forced to compete on crap flat tracks shorter than 200m. I spent the first decade of my coaching career (and all of HS) competing on a 160y flat track where fast times were nearly impossible. As an example, I coached the MA D4 Championship Meet Record holder in the boys 300m (34.82) and the MA D3 Championship Meet Record holder in the boys 300m (34.98). The fastest time they ever ran around the basketball court they competed on during dual meets was 36.9h and 37.1h, respectively. It’s not fair to expect coaches/programs/athletes in that situation to enter kids with non converted times, especially, for example, when running against athletes competing on the rocket ship known as the BU track…”

      Ok, so it’s not ok for anyone to fabricate a time unless you compete on a track where “fast times are nearly impossible…” And this is in the view of everyone who knows anyone, so it’s now OK to make stuff up in this case but not every case? How about throwers who compete in inferior painted rings to uphill landing areas? Should their coaches make adjustments based on what they could have thrown in ideal situations? What about adjustments for wind, certainly a right quartering wind is favorable in discus, but what if it’s a left head wind?

      Let’s not negate your entire argument while making a glaring exception to the rule in the middle of your hypothesis. The “It’s never OK except in this fairly common occurrence…” is not a defense-able position, now is it. You want black and white behavior, then act in a black and white way. You want your kids to perform optimally? Get them on the rocket ship! Where are those opportunities?

    • Latif Thomas

      @Mike Miller:

      As you said: We agree on many points, but interpret others differently.

      I *do* agree that the ‘warm up’ situation at The Reg has become ridiculous. Now I tell my kids to warmup comically early because I know they’re going to sit in a pile for 45 minutes and get screamed at if they move. (And I warn them not to piss off a particular official involved in the clerking process who is well known for being, let’s just call it ‘not very nice to people’.)

      Yesterday after the 4×2 at Last Chance my girls swore up and down that a girl, to be blunt, peed herself in the gym because she was afraid if she got up to go to the bathroom she would get yelled at and her team wouldn’t be able to run.

      I guess my main ‘difference of interpretation’ is that I think it is the job of the coach to schedule the running of relays knowing the situation. I still haven’t run my ‘A’ 4×2 team this year and it is going to cost us a better lane at the D3 meet, but that is the choice I made and I have to live with it. I don’t have nearly as much of a problem using a ‘last year time’ because it is an actual time run by that athlete.

      I don’t think all coaches invent times out of a lack integrity. Some misinterpret the rules. Some do it out of true ignorance (to be uninformed or unaware). Others do it because they know everyone else is doing it. But, some know they’re being dishonest and just don’t care because they know there are no repercussions.

      I’m glad we can have a civil disagreement and then carry on. And I appreciate your taking the time to construct a well written opinion *and* sign your name to it. See you at The Reg!

  • A C

    Finally someone willing to speak out on this issue. The reality of an athlete losing an earned lane to an athlete and cheating coach is never right. For those who take issue with your tone, veracity and the language used to communicate then that is unfortunate because it is a pathetic excuse to not pay attention to the content and truthfulness of your statements. This is an adult forum of coaches so come on we have all heard worse. Character, accountability-a lost art in the sport we all love that is losing followers and relevance because many lack the courage to do the right thing and they allow institutional ignorance and tradition to rule the day. Good luck with your crusade.

  • James Rooney

    First off I apologize for not posting my name to the anonymous post by “coach”. I had no real reason for doing that except that it was a quick response to a rant. I hadn’t been to the site in a long time and when this rant was forwarded to me, I fired off a quick and very poorly written response. I responded with more animosity than intelligence. It felt like you were attacking MA Track Coaches on a personal level and I am better than my original response. I feel like we all try to coach with integrity and honesty and having someone question that that has no idea what goes on at our schools or tracks on an everyday basis is wrong, however I was wrong for not writing a more thought out response.

    My take when first reading the rant was that it was attacking all coaches and calling them liars. As many coaches had commented, most coaches do work with integrity, and I felt the comments were a blanket statement. My post wasn’t meant to be an attack, more of a defense. Like I said it was poorly written. The elitist tone of the rant seemed like an attack against Massachusetts coaches. I now see that the purpose of the rant was to stir up discussion and it surely did so.

    My opinion has slightly changed on this since reading all the comments and your response. My problem with the seeding issue was with the absolutist stance that was taken, as others have also mentioned, there are other reasons for putting in estimated seed times, like a flat 160y track, not having run the event before, sickness/injuries, etc. I think the system the MSTCA has set up for INVITES works well. If a coach is way off on their seed time then they get reprimanded. If a coach falsifies a time in the state meet than that’s a different story. I agree with you on that one. There is no place for that as everybody has had enough time to get his/her marks. I do not think the problem is a mountain, but rather a molehill. Looking at it as a larger reflection of the state of track and field I feel like is incorrect as well, I feel most coaches are honest and always do what’s best for the kids. The ones that aren’t don’t end up coaching very long.

    Also in regards to the language, I know that a lot of HS athletes visit your site for information and training tips. You do a great job providing a lot of valuable and FREE information. The language should be age appropriate. I like that you said you would be keeping it more Cosby.

    Thank you
    James Rooney
    Pembroke Track

    • Latif Thomas

      @James Rooney:


      You could have remained silent and no one (that you didn’t tell directly) would have ever known who wrote that post. The vast majority of people would not have had the maturity to come back and post their name, let alone acknowledge any degree of fault or wrongdoing. So I truly and genuinely commend you for that.

      Additionally, I respect your taking the time to step back and take another look at my post/s, consider that my intent was not to simply bash MA coaches and help further the discussion with civil dialogue.

      I certainly did not mean to imply MA coaches are all liars and remorseless cheats. Far from it. I should have clarified that up front, as well as my larger point which, ultimately, isn’t even about MA or MA coaches. And I agree with you that most coaches are honest and do what’s best for the kids.

      I still think we have some philosophical disagreements about which system for meet entry works best, but, again, there is no reason we can’t disagree without being disagreeable.

      Of course, I didn’t appreciate the way it was stated, but I did think about the fact that a lot of kids do come to the site and that I do have a responsibility to maintain a certain standard of presentation and language, just as I do at practice.

      Thanks for taking the time to post and show others (including those same HS kids that visit the site) the type of positive example and accountability we try to instill in our programs.

      See you next Thursday.


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  • Donnie Herneisen

    What was the penalty for entering faulty times? Who was in charge of verifying times? Of course, coaches should follow the rules because “those are the rules”, but if there is a rule there should be a penalty for breaking it, right?

  • Dan Ivy

    You are spot on with this one. I am going to be new into coaching this year, and have been watching your stuff to learn about the sport and I understand your passion for the sport. As coaches we must teach our athelets right and wrong on and off the track. These are fundimental life lessons we must teach these kids (athelets).

    Keep up the good work and I enjoy your stuff.

  • Ron Kamaka

    Completely agree. Ethics in our sports culture is in major trouble. Thanks for being clear in your position.

  • Darrell Yount

    Well, while I agree with your general comments, I take issue with your assertion that track & field is a “dying sport”. It may be dying in the east in your eyes, but it is doing quite nicely here “out west”. I coach in the state of Washington. Our sport is flourishing, as it is in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah and California. But now you have got my curiosity going. Just what is the problem with the sport on the east coast? You would love it in Washington.