Kiwi running ace Nick Willis has declared it is easy for him to spot the cheaters before he gets near the track.

The Olympic 1500m silver medallist told the Herald that the information contained in leaked IAAF data, which is causing a new athletics doping crisis, was of no surprise to him.

He has called for the consideration of even tougher testing procedures, including what might be termed pre-dawn raids to scare off those who are micro-dosing. He also suggested pressure can be applied to countries who shun proper testing regimes by taking Olympic competition spots away as punishment after positive tests.

Speaking from his training base at Flagstaff, Arizona, Willis said of the IAAF files: "On a shock scale of zero to 10 it's a zero - the only surprise is that the information actually got leaked.


"It is always very pleasing when that sort of information comes to light, hoping there is a slither of a chance that some action might take place or at least the masses realise what is going on in our sport. Sweeping it under the rug is never a solution."

Willis, whose 2008 Olympic bonze medal was upgraded to silver after of a Bahrain runner's positive drug test, often walks out of stadiums rather than watch events he knows are heavily tainted by cheating.

It becomes obvious...the ones who don't want to be part of the conversation are the ones who have a lot of guilt surrounding themselves

"I suppose from a legal standpoint you can't say you know who is (cheating)," he said.

"The way it works though is that the athletes hang out together the whole time for three days before races and it becomes the number one topic of conversation for all those who aren't participating in it (doping).

"It becomes obvious...the ones who don't want to be part of the conversation are the ones who have a lot of guilt surrounding themselves. It would become obvious if they did try to join in because they don't have the same passion (against doping) as the rest of us.

It becomes pretty clear who is sitting at which tables."

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Athletics embroiled in new doping crisis

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has admitted it is "very alarmed" by the data, obtained by Britain's Sunday Times and German broadcaster ARD/WDR.


It covers 12,000 blood tests from 5000 athletes taken from 2001 to 2012.

According to the Daily Mail, New Zealand had the lowest number of abnormal blood tests at two.

Russia led the way with 30 followed by Ukraine (27), Turkey (26) and Greece (24).

Australia had three and Great Britain four.

The data showed, among other things, that:

• One third of medals in endurance events at the Olympics and World Championships were won by those recording suspicious tests, with none stripped of medals.

• More than 800 athletes, one in seven, recorded tests that were abnormal or highly suggestive of doping.

• Ten medals at the 2012 London Olympics were suspicious.

• In some finals, every medallist recorded suspicious results.

• Athletes are increasingly using blood transfusions and EPO micro-dosing.
The 32-year-old Willis said: "I genuinely think I've been competing in one of the better eras of our sport (yet) I would take these odds every day.

"To me it paints a better picture than I imagined. I've often wondered if there were even two clean people in a final, let alone on the medal stand.

"The truth is I don't watch half the races when I think the majority of the field is not clean. That is not entertaining to me. We just leave the stadium - and I'm one of the biggest supporters of the sport.

"If an athlete tests positive it just creates a vacuum for someone else (a doper) to take their spot and it's a never ending cycle.

"Perhaps there is a chance now with a changing of the guard but it's going to take a lot of money and cleaning house. From what I've seen of this report, there could be a lot of corruption from above."

Willis believes improved testing in 2009 greatly reduced "blatant" cheating, forcing cheats to use micro-doping which involves much smaller amounts of drugs being administered more frequently. These doses clear the system within six or seven hours, allowing an overnight window for cheaters.

"At the moment you have to be available for testing in a one hour window every day of the year between 6am and 11pm...enacting middle-of-the-night testing is much more sensitive and they have to have substantial proof," Willis said.

 Willis celebrates after winning the bronze medal in the men's 1500m at the Commonwealth Games. Photo / Greg Bowker
Willis celebrates after winning the bronze medal in the men's 1500m at the Commonwealth Games. Photo / Greg Bowker

"It is quite invasive especially if you have a race the next day. I don't want my door knocked on at those times but it would be a necessary sacrifice to really put the heebie-jeebies up people who are trying to skirt the system."

Willis said a huge problem was that many countries did not have proper testing regimes. He listed Russian, Ukraine, Kenya, Spain, Portugal and Turkey as among those .

Is he confident all New Zealand athletes are clean?

"The culture of our society is the biggest protector in stopping young Kiwis being tempted - in this information heavy age with social media it would be very hard to do those things without word spreading very quickly.

"But I'm never confident...I think sometimes we are overly arrogant about how non-corrupt we are. We get talked about as the least corrupt nation in the world, but there are plenty of examples where people in the business world etc. take advantage of systems for their own gain.


Willis says he can still beat the cheaters to claim major medals.

And he had a message for budding Kiwi athletes - enjoy achieving personal milestones and resist any temptation to cheat if the medals don't arrive.

The Wellingtonian said there were still many cheats in his sport and very few would test positive at major meetings.

Willis said: "A Peter Snell or a Seb Coe or dare I say myself have a chance of being as good if not better than anyone in the world on a once or twice or thrice a year basis. That is how I have chosen to fight my battles, and why I am excited for the World Championships this year.

"Improved recovery is one of the many benefits (of doping). Lance Armstrong's supporters said he trained so much harder than everyone else, and I would love to be able to train harder but there are limitations. There is only so much training you can do.

"When you hear of people who are saying that they are succeeding because they are just working really, really hard you wonder how and that (doping) is the first think that comes to mind unfortunately.

"But you can still beat the guys who are cheating now and then. There are limits to how much the drugs can help, but they can maintain those limits for eight or nine months of the year whereas I can only maintain it in a 48 hour window.

"I'm a realist and I really try not to look at what I might have lost (to those cheating). This is the world we live in and people make selfish decisions. I signed up for this sport and knew how it was going to be.

"I've managed to win three Commonwealth Games medals and an Olympic one and I'd love to win a couple more. It is even more satisfying to do so in these challenging times.

"But not everyone can win medals and not every New Zealand kid will do so. I just hope they can enjoy their own personal goals."

Sir John Walker. Photo / Paul Taylor
Sir John Walker. Photo / Paul Taylor

Stain on the sport just a joke, says Walker

One of New Zealand's greatest athletes has joined the chorus of condemnation in the wake of the allegations of widespread doping since the start of the century.

John Walker, the 1976 1500m Olympic champion and the first man to run under 3min 50s for the mile, splits his criticism between the athletic cheats and admin-istrators.

"The vast extent of it does [surprise me]," Walker said yesterday. "For the IAAF [to hide it] is disgusting. They should be there to clean up the sport. You now have people saying 'well, what's real and what's not'."

Walker will be honoured at a breakfast in Auckland next week to mark the 40th anniversary of his world mile record run in Gothenburg, Sweden.

With a vast shadow now cast over the impending world championships in Beijing, Walker is unimpressed.

Walker said through the 1970s and 80s, it was known East Germans and Russians were using performance-enhancing drugs "but we just got on with the job. We didn't need it anyway. For the women it was different. It was tough for them".

So does Walker reserve his particular distaste for the athletes or those who run the sport?

"Both. It's just a joke, and when you've got protection from the main body it's even worse."