As some readers are aware, earlier this year an athlete supported by SKINS, Rob Young of the UK, attempted a record Trans-America run attempt. He didn’t make it, pulling out of the attempt after 36 days citing an injury.
That attempt attracted attention. On a totally unrelated subject, I was presented with a lot of passionate posts from people about Rob Young’s run on my blog. Some of the comments accused Rob, as well as a SKINS staff member, of colluding to falsify his running times.
As a result, I commissioned an investigation into the run from two independent experts, Professor Roger Pielke Jr of the University of Colorado and Professor Ross Tucker of the University of the Free State. Their report was received last week. You can find it here.
Roger and Ross found that they could identify “no alternative explanation” for the data that had been presented and examined to them other than Rob Young received “unauthorized assistance” in his run attempt.
This saddens me greatly. As a brand, SKINS stands for all that is good about sport – integrity, fair play, level playing field, the true spirit of competition. Obviously, ‘unauthorized assistance’ doesn’t fit with our brand values.
The conclusion reached by Roger and Ross is one I accept.
However, it’s also the case that Rob continues to vigorously defend himself. He maintained to Roger and Ross that he ran every step of the way, but he made mistakes with the collection and handling of data.
Nonetheless, we have terminated our relationship with Rob Young.
Another part of the report concerns the management of the run.
I accept the Pielke/Tucker findings that SKINS, as a company, could have managed this better by having an appropriate level of management and coordination of the run.
This is not a reflection on the lone SKINS staffer who was present, because it is clear now that it is unfair to expect one person to perform social media duties, support crew and run management and monitoring activity alone, all whilst driving the support vehicle.
We have learned our lesson from this and will ensure that any future attempt is staffed appropriately.
There is one more matter to mention.
We also had a look at the tenor and pathology of the many comments I received over three blogs in relation to this matter. While I’d love to think my musings on Watercooler are widely read, they don’t generally attract huge numbers of commentary.
Some of the comments posted were genuine. They dealt with the issue at hand – the run attempt – and presented, or pointed to, data in support of the commentary. Some of the same people who commented on the blog contributed submissions to Roger and Ross for their consideration.
Funnily enough – considering I would never dare attempt to try ultra-running and wasn’t in the USA at the time, let alone the support vehicle – most of the comments were directed at me personally.
An analysis showed that they were largely sourced to two IP addresses, one of which was geolocated to the principal marketing agency of a major sports brand competitor.
Of course this may be sheer coincidence, but if it’s not, it’s actually quite flattering.
It tells me that SKINS and I are getting cut-through in our advocacy of better governance in sport, in a drug-free sport, and some actual leadership in sport – and that can only be a good thing. It encourages me to keep going!
Ultimately, I believe all parties entered this endeavour with the best of intentions. I am sure it is disappointing to everyone involved that it has finished in this fashion.
However, it doesn’t alter my belief that sport has the power to achieve great things for individuals and for society. My passion for this remains undiminished and we at SKINS will continue to support those who share this belief.
In closing, I want to say thank you to Roger Pielke and Ross Tucker for their willingness to conduct this investigation, the quality and comprehensiveness of their report, and the clarity of their findings. I really appreciate their analysis, fine minds and professionalism.
My thanks also to the members of the running community who contributed to the investigation with their submissions, some of which were extraordinarily detailed. I appreciate your commitment to being part of the process to conduct, and report on, an independent review.