Mountain runners applaud addition of anti-doping tests at Mount Washington

Press release from the Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race.

The Mt. Washington Auto Road management and the organizers of the annual Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race have announced that they will institute testing for performance-enhancing drug use, beginning with this year’s race. The men’s and women’s overall winners, along with other randomly chosen individuals, will be tested immediately following their completion of the all-uphill 7.6-mile footrace on Saturday, June 16.

“We’re taking this step because unfortunately illegal performance-enhancing drug use is creeping into the mountain running scene as it has in other professional endurance sports,” said Howie Wemyss, general manager of the Mt. Washington Auto Road, recently. “With this change we intend to maintain and enhance the credibility of winners’ performances and the validity of course records.”

The race organizers will follow standards for testing that are provided by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which was “set up as a foundation under the initiative of the International Olympic Committee with the support and participation of intergovernmental organizations, governments, public authorities, and other public and private bodies fighting doping in sport.”

At Mt. Washington, testing will be of urine samples obtained while the athletes to be tested are still at the summit, as soon as possible following the finish. In keeping with WADA practice, they will be chaperoned until their samples are ready to be given.

Paul Kirsch, elite athletes’ liaison for the race, offered this observation about the new policy: “Clean sport is important to keep a level playing field in MUT (Mountain/Ultra/Trail) racing events. I am very glad that the Mt. Washington Race is taking the issue seriously and beginning to drug-test.”

Initial reaction from elite mountain runners familiar with the Mt. Washington race has been similarly positive. “That’s such a great step in the right direction,” said USATF Mountain Running Champion Joseph Gray of Colorado Springs, Colo. Gray, who has undergone such testing in races elsewhere, has won the Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race in each of the last four years and also won the 2016 World Mountain Running Championship. “Hopefully more races will follow Mt. Washington’s lead!”

Canaday on his way to winning the 2012 Mt Washington Road Race.

Sage Canaday of Boulder, Colo., a past winner at Mt. Washington and a two-time qualifier for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials, was tested by the standard United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) urine test after he won the 2014 Pike’s Peak Ascent in Colorado. A longtime vocal proponent of testing, he shared Gray’s response to the newly announced Mt. Washington policy. “I think this is a great step in promoting a clean sport based on honesty, integrity and hard work. As an iconic race steeped in history, Mt. Washington is a challenging and competitive race that tests one’s absolute physical limits. By adding drug testing, Mt. Washington is asserting itself as a world-class event that celebrates fair competition and performances.”

Kasie Enman of Huntington, Vermont, the 2011 World Mountain Running Champion, added, “There is a perception out there about some MUT races that testing isn’t as stringent, that the door is a little bit open for cheating athletes who want to sneak under the radar. It’s important that we remove that perception and ensure a fair race for all the clean athletes in our sport. Thanks to Mt. Washington Road Race for taking this important step. I’ll be proud to toe the starting line there this June.”

Enman after finishing 2nd at the 2017 World Long Distance Mountain Running Championships.

Sponsored by Northeast Delta Dental, the race ascends the Mt. Washington Auto Road from Pinkham Notch, N.H., to the summit of Mt. Washington, the highest peak in the northeastern United States. Gray and Canaday are two of just eight men who have made the grueling ascent on the Auto Road’s 12 percent grade in less than one hour. Canaday set the American record for Mt. Washington when he won in 2012 in 58 minutes 27 seconds. Two years later, Gray broke that record, finishing in 58:15. Enman has raced at Mt. Washington several times, including two third-place finishes. The women’s American record, 1:09:25, was set in 2016 by Kim Dobson of Eagle, Colo. The women’s open course record, 1:08:21, was set in 2010 by Shewarge Amare of Ethiopia. The men’s record, 56:41, was set in 2004 by Jonathan Wyatt of New Zealand.

Now in its 58th year, the Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race will be held on Saturday June 16, starting at 9 a.m. Names and hometowns of all registered entrants can be found on a list at this link, sortable in alphabetical order by name and by state, province, or foreign country:

More information about the Northeast Delta Dental Mount Washington Road Race Anti-Doping policy: