The day started off as a normal enough day: dogs walked, coffee consumed, and off to work.
The day starts when Beau says he's ready
We were finalizing some new designs and working on some new products when the emails, alerts and texts started pinging in. Many of them had a headline that said something to the effect of “thought you’d want to see this” and showed the headline of an article that said “Sponsored Athlete Disqualified from Raleigh Ironman 70.3”.
We had more curiosity than concern when we opened the link. Then our hearts sank. Right there at the top was a big picture of an athlete wearing a Coeur Ambassador kit and the company name was called out in the secondary headline. We knew it was an ambassador and we knew it was going to hit close to home.
The article was posted by Marathon Investigation, a site with a lot of credibility and respect for its research into race cheaters and course cutters. It presented a pretty compelling case that this athlete had not completed the whole 70.3 miles.
This pretty much brought the office to a stop in the middle of a busy day. We sort of couldn’t believe it. Our team is hugely special to us and is at the heart of what we try to do with our mission. So the thought that one of our own may have cheated really hurt.
If you know us at all, you know we want to do more than make amazing clothes, we want to do good in our little part of the endurance sports world. We support and blog about clean sport. Cheating and doping is a deal-killer for us. There is NEVER a good excuse to cheat.
We also know there are two sides to each story. Nobody from Marathon Investigation had reached out to us for comments or statements or information so we wanted to be sure we had info from all parties to make an informed decision on what action to take next.
It’s hard to be patient at such a time, especially with loads of people on social media calling for the athlete’s head and ragging on the companies she was associated with. But we wanted the facts. After hearing from most parties involved, and with a heavy heart, Kebby released the following message:
We want to get you all an update: after learning from marathoninvestigation.com yesterday that one of our ambassadors was DQ’d from Raleigh 70.3 recently. We reached out to all involved parties to get the full scoop. Just for the record, she maintains her innocence. However, for us, the athlete will no longer be a part of our ambassador team, effective immediately, and we are looking to come up with additional vetting methods to prevent something like this happening in our team selection process again.
I want to make two statements that I hope would be obvious but I think bear pointing out:
First, Coeur has never and will never condone or support cheating and doping in any way. We never have. We never will. We have actively written and spoken out against these exact things as they are in direct conflict to our core (Coeur!) values. We’ve always tried to promote clean, positive, inclusion and encouragement in endurance sports so this really stung. I hope everyone out there following this situation knows that we're confident the other sponsors* are against cheating too. There is no reason to assume they support cheating because of the actions of one bad team egg.
Second, we have reached out to the athlete and offered to find any resources that will be helpful to her in dealing with this. While it is right and mandatory to speak out against cheating and doping ALWAYS, we also recognize this is a human with feelings. We can all shame her mercilessly on social media and drive her deeper into a hole, or we can try to help her resolve any issues so they no longer hurt her or anyone else around her in the future.
As our sport grows, there will be more and more instances of cheating and doping, and we athletes are lucky we have folks like marathoninvestigation and others doing oversight. Let’s do more than just hate though, let’s try to learn, help and fix so the future is better for it.
So now, we’re at a stage where we’d like to find the good in this and use this situation to create positive change. We distilled our thoughts down into three messages.
The first is one we’ve always had: that endurance sports can be life changing, and we want to be part of that change. Our team is our main vehicle for this. When selecting our team, it never made sense to us to pick only fast athletes. We know the majority of athletes finish off the podium and love racing anyway. Because of the community, opportunity for improvement and friendships. If you are super-fast but also a jerk, then you are just a fast jerk so why would we want you to represent our brand? That’s not being a role model in our mind. So we look for athletes of all abilities BUT they have to have a voice, a platform for that voice, and the ability to reach out and inspire and help other athletes. While we have some serious speed stallions in our stable, our women don’t just race, they are supposed to train and race with integrity and be encouraging even if their own race day doesn't go according to plan.
We ask these wonderful athletes to race hard, but to also smile & be helpful
The crazy part is that it really isn’t a hard thing to do. Let’s just help people get past that first hump – whether it is a first sprint tri, first Ironman, first open-water swim, first time in clip-in pedals. We’ve all been there. Get someone inspired and rolling and just watch what they can accomplish!
Second, we want to applaud the work done by groups like marathoninvestigation.com. While we would have preferred to have discovered them some other way, there is no question that this work is valuable.
We believe that Race Directors work hard to ensure a fair, clean race, but there’s nothing like having support of the race community itself. Derek Murphy who founded the site believes in the ethos of endurance sports and knows (as we do) that cheating is not a victimless action. Frequently others are robbed of podium positions and slots to championship races and that just can’t be allowed to happen. So, we have donated to the site and we encourage you to support groups like marathon investigation and the Clean Sport Collective in any way you can.
Lastly, we believe in solutions and trying to make things better. Social media can be fun, informative and connecting. It can also be an anonymous, venomous pile-on of hate and shame. We love the former and loathe the latter. The fact that someone made a bad decision doesn’t mean that it's ok to bully. Before joining such a scrum, we’d love folks to ask themselves what would be helpful in the situation. Don’t get us wrong, cheating and doping should be called out. But at what point does social media stop being helpful?
So now, we plan on moving forward. At the end of our team meeting, we did come up with a few things that we’d like to modify related to our Ambassador program, but our and the team’s mission will not change. We’ll continue to try and make the best clothes in the market and we will definitely continue encouraging athletes to get involved, get healthy and have fun.
Happy Training and Racing!
Your friends at Coeur
*note: we edited the original response for clarity and to remove company names as we understand it is not our place to speak on their behalf.