By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (Feb. 18, 2020) — When a podcast lands Travis Tygart as the guest for its first-ever episode, the bar is set pretty high.
For a podcast that advocates athletic competition without the use of performance-enhancing drugs, the longtime CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s appearance on the “Clean Sport Collective” podcast signaled that this was a podcast to pay attention to.
In other words, the podcast has made a serious commitment from the get-go to be an authoritative voice on issues related to doping, cheating and unethical practices in sports.
“The Clean Sport Collective is a community of powerful voices comprised of athletes, brands, events, clubs, fans and the public to support the pursuit of clean sport and athletics through the absence of performance enhancing drugs,” reads a statement on its Apple podcast page. “With this podcast, we will celebrate clean athletes, educate you on issues in the world of clean sport, and bring hope that we can all believe in the power of fair play across all sports.”
Clean Sport Collective podcast host Chris McClung, co-owner of Rogue Running, a running coaching business in Texas, and his co-hosts, Shanna Burnette and Kara Goucher, have important discussions about anti-doping efforts and initiatives, educating the public on individuals and groups that are involved in raising public awareness about athletes that are vocal role models and others that play behind-the-scenes roles in the fight to reduce the use performance-enhancing drugs in sports.
Since its debut episode in May 2019, the podcast has recorded 35 episodes (see a rundown of the episodes below).
The podcast is a testament to the conviction of successful athletes to do things the right way while also serving as role models in all sports.
“I appreciate this podcast for shining a light on clean sport and having guests who uphold the belief that running can still be great without succumbing to the doping pressures,” wrote someone named Sephorafan in the show’s comments section on its Apple Podcast page.
In a recent interview via email, two-time U.S. Olympian Kara Goucher, who ran the women’s 10,000 meters at the 2008 Beijing Games and 2012 London Games, provided an informative overview of the podcast, detailed its growth and feedback from athletes and listeners, talked about future goals of the podcast, among other things
What kind of feedback have you been getting about the podcast from fans, coaches, media, fellow podcasters?
The feedback has been really good. People enjoy the conversations and really seem to like the content. We have gotten a little pushback that we are anti-Nike, but as long as you sign our clean sport pledge, you are more than welcome to come on and share your story. It’s been great giving a platform to clean athletes.
How important is it, in your view, to have a transparent forum like your podcast to give athletes a chance to speak their mind about why they do things the right way and why they are fed up with those who break the rules by doping?
Our goal was to highlight clean athletes. Sometimes the story lines follow the scandals, and the athletes robbed of opportunity are forgotten. We really wanted to give them a place to be seen and heard.
‘All of our guests are pretty passionate about clean sport. We wanted to give them a safe environment to discuss integrity in sport and be heard. We felt like providing them that platform was extremely important.’Kara Goucher
Has it been easier than you expected to line up guests for the Clean Sport Collective? Or has it been a greater challenge than expected?
It wasn’t really hard to get people to come on, but as our audience has grown, more athletes want to be on. We just launched May 30th, 2019. We had some big names on in the beginning with Travis Tygart and Jenny Simpson, but since we were so new a lot of those episodes weren’t heard by our audience. Now our audience has grown quite a bit and people want to be part of the conversation. We had 60,000 downloads in December and January. This month with our run-up to the USATF Olympic Marathon Trials we are on track to get over 90,000 downloads. We are gaining traction and getting a bigger audience, and the athletes want to come on and share who they are. Everyone we have reached out too has said yes and only once has an athlete had to cancel because they wanted to focus on their training, which of course we understood.
How do you go about promoting the show? Is it all done or mostly done via social media and word of mouth?
Our promotion is all done via word of mouth and social media. The Clean Sport Collective posts first on Instagram and Twitter late Sunday morning, and then I try to post either later that day or on Monday. Our audience has grown and they know that they will get new content every Sunday.
What was/were the catalyst(s) to launch the podcast? Can you give a bit of background on how it got established?
We launched the Clean Sport Collective in 2016. It’s a non-profit 501(c)3 and we had big dreams for what it could accomplish. We learned that we took on way more than we had the power to do. After attending the PCC conference in London last year, I was really motivated to do something with the Clean Sport Collective that would empower athletes. Shanna Burnette and I started thinking about launching a podcast where we could dedicate space for their voices. Unfortunately neither Shanna nor I had any sort of podcast experience. I was doing a podcast for Chris McClung, his podcast “Rouge Running,” and we mentioned to him our desire to start a podcast. He loved the idea and offered to help. A few months later he flew to Boulder (Colorado) and we recorded our first few episodes together. Without Chris the podcast never would have gotten started.
High-profile names like Frank Shorter and Allyson Felix and Alysia Montaño and Bonnie Ford and Molly Huddle have been among your guests so far, and a great person for episode No. 1 in Travis Tygart. Do you guys keep a wish list for potential guests? How do you figure out who you pitch invitations to? Is it often based on the timeliness of a particular news story, such as WADA proceedings, Alberto Salazar’s suspension, something like that?
We definitely have a wish list. While running is our bread and butter, we’d really like to highlight athletes in other professional sports as well. We also want to highlight brands who have signed our pledge and activists we follow on social media. We have a huge wish list and we are slowly chipping away at getting in touch with people.
We do want to be relevant. So once there was a decision in the Salazar investigation we wanted to do a podcast on that and, of course, get Steve Magness on. Right now we are highlighting athletes who have signed the pledge and are running at the USATF Olympic Marathon Trials at the end of the month. So we try to get good content with current events, while still having a mix of guests.
Frank Shorter was really important to us to have on because he could tell us so much about the history and formation of USADA. It was important for us to educate our followers on how this all began. Of course Allyson and Alysia were big names in 2019 with their advocacy and with Allyson becoming the most decorated athlete at the World Championships. Her episode was before we had a big following, but it was fascinating to hear her talk about the culture in sprinting, which I had never heard anyone talk about before. And with Bonnie being from the media side, she could give us a perspective an athlete would never have.
We’d like to keep mixing it up and give people from all different angles in sport the chance to share their feelings and thoughts.
How would you describe the synergy and the rapport between yourself, Shanna Burnette and Chris McClung in producing the podcast and also in discussions with the guests?
Shanna, Chris and I get along great. Chris is the professional, he is the one who has a background in recording and editing podcasts. He does a great job in leading conversations and helping guide the podcasts in the moment. Shanna is the go-getter, she is the one who founded the Clean Sport Collective and is always trying find ways to connect with our wish list guests. I do the least of us all. I love to be the one on the podcast trying to bring out the personal side of the athletes, especially when we are interviewing female athletes. I am also trying to drive our podcasts to a bigger audience. We work really well together and we are really proud of what we have been able to do since last May.
Looking at the vast landscape and growing presence of podcasts, did you and your colleagues sense that there was a void in terms of programs of this type? Do you think the Clean Sport Collective fills a niche within the greater discussion of sports via a podcast?
We felt like there was a void for celebrating clean athletes. We wanted to celebrate them front and center and give them a platform to tell their stories and why they are so passionate about clean sport. We weren’t seeing that anywhere else and we feel like we are doing that. We certainly were a niche to begin with, but as were grow and educate, we are becoming a bigger part of the sports landscape discussion. We will continue to push for more discussion and are really excited about all we want to do in 2020.
Has Lance Armstrong been mentioned/thought of as a potential guest?
If an athlete has doped, we are open to have them on the show. After all, we can learn the most from athletes who chose the wrong path and are open about this mistakes they made. We had some backlash for having Tyler Hamilton on, but we learned a lot from him about a team environment and culture that leads athletes down the wrong path. Tyler admitted what he did and took responsibility for it. I’m not sure that Lance falls in that same category. If he is willing to take full ownership for his decisions and wants to share his experience to better the future for cycling, then we would consider that.
Follow the Clean Sport Collective on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CleanSportCO
Here’s a complete rundown — with the most recent episode at the top of the list — of the podcast’s guests and episodes:
Episode #34: Stephanie Bruce, 2:29 marathoner and U.S. 10-km road champion
Episode #33: Scott Fauble, 2:09 marathoner (Top 10 all-time for a U.S. runner)
Episode #32: Emily Sisson, 2:23 Mmrathoner (fastest U.S. debut)
Episode #31: Shadrack Biwott, Boston Marathon podium finisher
Episode #30: Molly Huddle, Olympian distance runner and 28-time U.S. champion
Special Episode: New shoe regulations with Ross Tucker, Kara Goucher, and Adam Goucher
Episode #29: Evan Dunfee, world bronze medalist in the 50-km race walk
Episode #28: Uli Fluhme, race director and clean sport advocate in cycling
Episode #27: Desiree Linden, Boston Marathon champion
Episode #26: Steve Magness, Nike Oregon Project whistleblower
Episode #25: James Wilks, UFC fighter and producer from the documentary “The Game Changers”
Episode #24: Clean Sport Panel with Rob Krar, Dylan Bowman, Alysia Montaño, and Kara Goucher
Episode #23: Roger Pielke, expert in sports governance
Episode #22: Emma Coburn, steeplechase world champion
Episode #21: Amelia Boone, four-time Obstacle Short Course World Champion
Episode #20: Mary Cain Tells Us Her Story
Episode #19: Frank Shorter, Part 2
Episode #18: Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet, CrossFit Games Champion
Episode #17: Performance Enhancing Footwear? A panel discussion with Kara Goucher, Ryan Hall, and Alex Hutchinson
Episode #16: Tyler Hamilton, convicted doper and whistleblower in cycling
Episode #15: Frank Shorter, two-time Olympic medalist in the Marathon, Part 1
Episode #14: Kara and Adam Goucher on the four-year bans for Alberto Salazar/Dr. Jeffrey Brown for doping violations
Episode #13: Bonnie Ford, senior writer at ESPN
Episode #12: Alysia Montaño, six-time U.S. 800-meter champion and world bronze medalist
Episode #11: Allyson Felix, 26-time Olympic and World Championship medalist
Episode #10: Roundtable discussion with Kara Goucher and Shanna Burnette
Episode #9: Adam Goucher, Kara’s husband, four-time NCAA cross-country champion and Olympian
Episode #8: Annie Thorisdottir, two-time CrossFit Games Champion
Episode #7: Mirinda Carfrae, three-time Ironman World Champion
Episode #6: Jonathan Coyles, VP of Drug, Health & Safety Programs at Major League Baseball
Episode #5: Ian Sharman, ultra marathoner
Episode #4: Jenny Simpson, world-class miler
Episode #3: Kevin Rutherford, CEO of Nuun Hydration
Episode #2: Kara Goucher and Shanna Burnette, Origins of the Clean Sport Collective
Episode #1: Travis Tygart, CEO of the United States Anti-Doping Agency