Canada holds a special place in Edwin Moses’ heart. As a relatively unknown 20-year-old, he stunned the global track and field community with a record-breaking 400-metre hurdles performance at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
While the 47.63 sec.-run with silver medallist Mike Shine trailing by eight metres emitted shock waves, the cerebral and confident Moses later said he predicted a world record after running 50 secs. a few months before the Olympics.
“I scientifically put together my workouts and successfully compiled my projections that would – four months later – put me at the world record,” he told Share in an interview in June 2009. “It was completely planned on my part and I did tell people this was what I was going to do. They found it hard to believe because it was coming from someone who went to a school with no track, no experience and no history. As it turned out my hypothesis was correct.”
At the 1976 United States Olympic trials at Hayward Field in Oregon, he set an American record in the event, with a 48.30 sec. run.
Moses, who cleared the 10 three-foot hurdles with an unprecedented 13 steps between each barrier instead of the usual 14, was back in Montreal late last week for one of the few times since his record-setting achievement at the Olympics 38 years ago. He’s the education committee chair of the Montreal-headquartered World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Last year, he unsuccessfully ran for the WADA presidency. Former British Olympic Association chair Sir Craig Reddie, 72, succeeded John Fahey as the new president.
“I was not disappointed that I lost,” Moses, who designed and created amateur sports’ first random out-of-competition drug testing program in December 1988, said while in Toronto last weekend. “I have been involved in the world of anti-doping for a very long time. Everyone who has been involved longer than I am is well past retirement age. I was involved from around my mid-20s. I do what I do and there is a big space for everyone.
“So I am just happy to be involved with the education committee because there is a lot of space in educating athletes on things that they should be aware of and things they should not do. All of the information is readily available. You have to convince the athletes to make sure that they comply and that they do their own due diligence and take responsibility. That’s the push right now.”
WADA recently approved stricter punishments for athletes found guilty of doping. First-time major offenders will be banned for four years, meaning they will miss at least one Olympic Games.
Moses, the Laureus World Sports Academy chair since 2000, said many athletes have been pushing for firmer penalties for a long time.
“There have been athletes who have been talking about this for the last 25 years, including International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach since the days of the IOC Athletes Commission which he founded,” said Moses who is the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) chair since September 2012. “So this is not a new idea. A lot of athletes have felt the punishment should be severe because the rewards can be so great.”
WADA’s new code also presents increased flexibility in the punishment of athletes who are found to have mistakenly taken banned substances or who co-operate with doping investigators.
“At USADA, we give points and dispensation to athletes who co-operate,” Moses said. “But I think that we on the anti-doping side have a lot of work to do to educate the athletes. I know these efforts have been going on for over 25 years and so with the advent of electronic communications and social media, an athlete today can instantly let us know where they are going to be and when they are going to be available for a test at the push of a button.
“So I think it’s incumbent on the athletes to follow through and do their due diligence and take responsibility themselves. There is more than enough information out there to keep the athlete who wants to find out what should be done to keep them from doing it.”
Raised in a family that values education, Moses accepted an academic scholarship to attend the historically Black Morehouse College in Atlanta where he pursued physics and industrial engineering studies while competing for the school’s track team. He took up athletics in high school after being cut from the basketball team and kicked off the football squad for fighting.
Once he conquered the field in Montreal, Moses overcame a loss to German Harald Schmid in August 1977 and started an amazing unbeaten 122 consecutive-race winning streak that lasted nine years, nine months and nine days.
He set a personal best 47.02 secs. when he broke the world record for a fourth time in Koblenz, Switzerland in August 1983 during the remarkable streak that included 107 finals. The record stood for nine years until fellow American Kevin Young’s 46.78 secs. gold medal performance at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Moses left the sport with two Olympic gold medals – which most likely would have been three if the U.S didn’t boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics – three World Cup and three World Championship titles.
A 1994 American track and field Hall of Fame inductee, Moses – who in 1990 competed in a World Cup bobsled race in Germany – was the first athlete to pioneer the acceptance of controlled professionalism in track and field.
Prior coming to Canada last week, the 58-year old sports administrator was in New York for the return of the Jesse Owens International Trophy ceremony. The award is presented to a world-class athlete based on their values of integrity and uncompromised sportsmanship. Established in 1981, this was the first time the award was presented since 2003.
Reigning Olympic and eight-time world champion sprinter Usain Bolt beat out nine contenders, including Miami Heat forward LeBron James, tennis player Serena Williams and golfer Tiger Woods for the prestigious honour.
“When you look at the list of winners since the award was created, Usain certainly deserves to be in that company,” said Moses who was the 1984 recipient.
Bolt’s parents, Wellesley and Jennifer, collected the award on behalf of their son.
Herbert Douglas Jr., who is the oldest living African-American Olympic medallist at age 92, founded the International Athletic Association (IAA) – which administers the award – to honour Owens who was his friend and mentor.
“I met Herb at the Montreal Olympics and he became a really good mentor and friend,” said Moses who has an honorary doctorate from the University of Massachusetts-Boston and an MBA from Pepperdine University. “He convinced me to go to business school because I wanted to be a doctor. He has been like a father figure and business mentor for many Olympians.”
Moses, who resides in Atlanta with his 18-year-old son, was last December honoured with the United States Olympic Endowment-administered William E. Simon Award presented to individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the advancement of the Olympic and Paralympic movements.