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Top finishers drug tested for first time in race's history

By Emily Allen, Multimedia Journalist /Target 13 Investigator , emily.allen@krdo.com
Published On: Aug 18 2013 07:47:55 PM CDT

Men and women crossed the finish line Sunday in Manitou Springs, placing them among an elite group of athletes who've completed one of the world's toughest races.

MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. -

Men and women crossed the finish line Sunday in Manitou Springs, placing them among an elite group of athletes who've completed one of the world's toughest races.

The Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent aren't races for the fainthearted. Ascent runners race up Pikes Peak. Marathon runners race up Pikes Peak and then race back down the mountain.  It's ranked as the second-hardest marathon in the world.

The long-standing race has a new tradition.  This year race organizers asked the U.S. Anti-doping Agency (USADA) to drug test its top finishers. USADA drug tested the top four finishers in the Pikes Peak Ascent. USADA drug tested the top two male and top two female finishers in the marathon and a randomly selected a top-10 finisher for testing.

The top finishers were escorted into the USADA tent yards from the finish line shortly after they finished the race.

Touru Miyahara finished the race first in just over three hours and 43 minutes. It was the 30-year-old from Japan's first time running the Pikes Peak Marathon.

"His legs hurt," said Miyahara's translator Robin Lawrentz.  "It was a very challenging race but he climbed and he was hoping to place but he didn't have any expectation of winning today so he is very happy."

Miyahara didn't know he would be drug tested, but agreed with the move.

"Doping is definitely not good for sport so it's good the race has implemented that rule," said Lawrentz translating for Miyahara.

It's the first trail-running event in the U.S. to test its athletes.  The decision was inspired by Lance Armstrong's doping controversy in cycling.

"We want to make a statement that mountain running is an official sport like any others," said race director Ron Ilgene. "It (doping) can't be tolerated.  We want to make sure our records and our prize money go to legitimate athletes

The race's top finishers and record breakers walk away with cash. The Ascent's top female finisher last year took first place and crushed the women's record. She took home $8,000. The bigger payouts are attracting more elite athletes and upping the competition.

Alex Nichols finished second in the marathon two years in a row. The 28-year-old from Colorado Springs lost to Miyahara by 23 seconds. He said the running community supports the race's decision to drug test.

"I think it's good. I think there should be an even playing field in all athletics and trail running is becoming more competitive so we should step up our game and make it fair," said Nichols.

Stevie Kremer took home the title of first place female finisher. The 29-year-old from Creste Butte set a new record for her age group when she crossed the finish line in just over four hours and 17 seconds into the race.

"I think it's good (to drug test) but I think it's sad. I think it's sad that they've come to that point where now they are drug testing trail runners when in my opinion, trail runners are the purest of pure, we love the mountains, we love the fresh air," said Kremer.

It's Salynda Fleury's sixth time competing in the Pikes Peak Marathon. She took home first place in the women's division in 2007. Her finishing time Sunday was 14 minutes faster than her winning time in 2007.

"It keeps the sport honest and it's sad that the sport isn't that honest that people are trying to resort to that but since I have nothing to hide it's fine with me," said Fleury.

The top male and female finisher take home $3,000. Second through fourth place finishers also receive prize money. Athletes who beat course records get $2,000. Runners who beat the record ascent time receive $5,000.  All money awarded to athletes comes from sponorships. 

Prize money won by tested runners will be paid after test results are provided. Test results will be returned no earlier than six weeks after the event.

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