Association of International Marathons and Distance Races

The home of world running™

AIMS Congress

11 November 2016, 10am

Greek home of marathon running hears expert voices on doping scandal, sees election of new AIMS board

Running boom as millions around the world take up the sport

The growth of running is booming around the world, an audience representing over 400 cities in over 100 countries and territories heard this week in Athens, Greece, the home of the marathon. The ‘Athens Marathon, the Authentic’ Greece has seen growth from 5,000 runners to 50,000 in the last 10 years reported Athens Marathon, General Manager, Makis Asimakopoulos.

William Ko, Chairman of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon reported that his race has seen an increase from 1,076 runners in 1997 to 74,000 in 2016. Millions of runners around the world are enjoying the sport and the physical and mental health benefits it brings.

AIMS President Paco Borao commented on the considerable growth and success of the marathon movement around the planet and on its significance as the world’s ‘original and most affordable sport’. He highlighted that the growth of ‘the running movement has been increasing at over 16% per year for the last 10 years’.

While Carlo Capalbo – IAAF Road Running Commission Chairman and President of the RunCzech Running League – spoke about the positive effect of the global running movement that generates and displays ‘enthusiasm, energy, peace and encourages positive international relations.’

In addition to the health benefits of running as part of the marathon and distance race movement, the considerable, positive and important economic impact it brings to cities and countries was reported as millions of euro, Japanese yen and American dollars are generated in cities ranging from Athens to Tokyo to New York, Paris and Berlin.

The Association of International Marathons & Distance Races (AIMS) representing 415 of the world’s best races across 110 countries, such as the Boston, Chicago, New York, Athens, Berlin, Paris and Tokyo Marathons, is holding its 21st World Congress this week in Athens, Greece (10-11 November 2016).

The World Congress was co-organised by the ‘Athens Marathon, the Authentic’ and the Hellenic Athletics Federation (SEGAS), Greece’s governing body for athletics and held at the Crowne Plaza Athens City Centre Hotel. The weekend will finish with the 34th edition of the ‘Athens Marathon. The Authentic’ on Sunday 13 November.

It is especially relevant for the AIMS Congress to have been held in Greece, the birthplace of the Marathon, formed on the legend of Pheidippides, the Greek soldier-runner who ran from the town of Marathon to Athens in 490 BC to announce the Persians had been defeated in the ‘Battle of Marathon’. The legend became the inspiration for Pierre de Coubertin, Michel Breal and Dimitrios Vikelas, to establish the race from Marathon to Athens which was included in the programme of the inaugural modern Olympic Games of 1896. The Congress marked the 120th anniversary of the Olympic Marathon race.

There was a fascinating collection of experts who spoke across a range of subjects such as the challenge of combating doping in sport.

Kevin Dutton, a renowned research psychologist at the Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford spoke about ‘why do people cheat?’, a topical subject in world sport. Dr Dutton explained that throughout history there have always been people cheating and it is inevitable it will continue in the future not just in sport but across all aspects of life. He highlighted a study in the United Kingdom which asked students if they would cheat in exams if they had a low chance of being caught. In 1940 that percentage was 20%; when the same study was carried out in 2016 over 75% said they would cheat. Dr Dutton said there had been studies with comparable results around the world.

He attributed this increase over the years to different outlooks and focus in modern life, where too many people focus on what they can get rather than what they can be.

The Oxford professor highlighted that there is a combination of factors both internal to the individual and external factors in the environment that would make it likely whether a person will cheat or not.

He offered examples of internal factors such as:

  • A high need psychological need for approval;
  • A focus on goals/times etc rather than just being the best you can be and on education;
  • A reduced sense of morals.

He highlighted external factors such as:

  • When it is a perceived as a norm, that others are doing it;
  • Peer pressure from others being a very big factor;
  • Lacking any code of honour or clarity of rules;
  • When penalties are not severe enough;
  • Little chance of being caught;
  • Competition.

And when a strong number of these internal and external factors come together the likelihood of cheating is high. Most psychologists agree, Dr Dutton said, that the strongest component is of having cheated once there was an incredibly high chance it will happen again.

In terms of what can be done to address the issue Dr Dutton said, as well as having the best testing methods, it is important to seek to influence the minds of athletes through words and imagery that will not just appeal to the logical aspect of the brain but also to the emotional centre of the brain.

The race directors from around the world also heard from Diane Modahl, an Olympian British former middle distance runner and a three-time medallist at the Commonwealth Games and who was falsely accused of a doping offence in 1994. Diane spoke about her fight to clear her name which ultimately cost her two years of her career and where she and her family lost their home. Ms Modal said that the IAAF must look to protect athletes where possible from facing the emotional and financial torment of being falsely accused.

Prof Yannis Pitsiladis, (MMedSci., PhD, FACSM), Sport and Exercise Science, University of Brighton, UK gave a fascinating talk about the development of genetic testing methods that he feels can better detect doping particularly those using EPO where he believes his testing shows that EPO can increase performance by 6 to 7 percent.

Jean Gracia – Vice President of European Athletic Association in charge of Development and former General Secretary of the IAAF spoke about the complexity and the challenges of addressing not only individual doping but state sponsored doping and the work being done to address this.

Tom Grilk – Executive Director, Boston Athletic Association, Boston Marathon spoke powerfully about the importance of the corner stone of sport being ‘honesty and integrity’. Referring to Nelson Mandela’s belief that integrity is the core of human values as integrity is the quality that is the foundation of all other factors.
(Nelson Mandela ‘…the first thing is to be honest with yourself… ‘Those who conduct themselves with morality, integrity and consistency need not fear the forces of inhumanity and cruelty.’)

AIMS President Paco Borao commented: ‘Cheating in sport, as in life, will never be acceptable and we must do everything we can to address it through positive education, strong and efficient testing methods and deterrents. We must also remember athletes are firstly human beings with the same rights as everyone else and must to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty. With the right to appeal and if appropriate rehabilitation in any proper process.’

Makis Asimakopoulos, General Manager, ‘Athens Marathon, the Authentic’ gave a magnificent presentation on the development of the Athens Marathon from 5,300 runners to 50,000 over ten years and spectators from 5,000 to 100,000 over the same period.

He highlighted a 7 step plan ranging from defining and developing a USP (Unique Selling Point) for your event to the social development which now sees the Athens Marathon generate in the region of 800,000 Euros for community projects. As Mr Asimakopoulos stated ‘the marathon is not a destination but a social vehicle’.

The conference also heard from Marathon and Communications expert Alessandra Ramella Pairin who was integral to the Turin Marathon becoming one of the first in the world to use integrated new technology including broadcast over the 4G network (which had only been operating for 15 days at that time) and utilising drone technology for filming mass participation events.

Finally, the Congress heard about the importance of Building a Medical Infrastructure – From Budget to Deployment from Chris Troyanos, Executive Director of IIRM, International Institute for Race Medicine.

Election success

The congress saw the following people elected:

  • Vice President: Dave Cundy, Great Wall Marathon, China
  • Director: Gary Boshoff, 27KM For Freedom Race, South Africa
  • Director: Arpad Kocsis, Spar Budapest Marathon, Hungary
  • Director: Vaclav Skrivanek, Volkswagen Prague Marathon, Czech Republic

The full board being:

  • President: Paco Borao
  • Vice President: Dave Cundy
  • Vice President: Martha Morales
  • General Secretary: Hugh Jones
  • Treasurer: Al Boka
  • Board Member: Andrea Eby
  • Board Member: Fernando Jamarne
  • Board Member: Mitsugi Ogata, Ph.D.
  • Board Member: Gary BE Boshoff
  • Board Member: Arpad Kocsis
  • Board Member: Vaclav Skrivanek
  • AIMS HQ Administrator: Theo Livitsanos

The Congress is co-organised by the ‘Athens Marathon, the Authentic’ and the Hellenic Athletics Federation (SEGAS), Greece’s governing body for athletics.

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