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The Red Ribbon

I got involved in athletics because I loved it and wanted to see how good I could be. If you used drugs, how could you ever truly know this? It was also time, as athletes, to accept that we had a responsibility to our sport, too; we had to do something, and work with the authorities to do something about it.

Before the 1999 European Cup meeting in Paris, I read an article about the French 5,000m and cross-country runner Blandine Bitzner-Ducret. She raced with a red hairband around her arm. In an interview she explained that it was her protest against the lack of adequate testing in athletics and a plea for blood tests. The day before we raced at the European Cup, I spoke to her about it.

“Blandine, I think what you’re doing is right. Would you mind if I wore something like this as well?” “No,” she said. “I don’t mind at all. The more people that do it, the better.”

I thought an armband would be restrictive, so I opted instead for a red ribbon on my running vest. Not having time to get some proper red ribbon for the next day’s 5,000m, I found a red card, cut a piece from it and pinned it to the vest. Blandine was pleased to see someone else making this show of support for drug-free sport. People ask me now would I mind if they wore a red ribbon. I tell them to go right ahead. What I don’t do is preach to people and try to persuade them to make this stand. It has to come from the heart of each athlete. The red ribbon is now part of my racing uniform. It’s my small statement of what I believe in.


Taken from 'My Story So Far'.



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