Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail on August 20
By: EUAN CRUMLEY
MARK DRY is a realist. He knows that when he steps out into the Bird’s Nest stadium on Saturday morning to begin his first-ever World Championships hammer throwing competition that the playing field might not necessarily be level. That some of his opponents may have opted to take the shortcut doping provides.
It is hugely frustrating to the 27-year-old Scot and has a direct impact on how far he is able to take his career. He can see things starting to change for the better, however, and has vowed to channel any anger he has towards the cheats into fuelling his desire to hit new heights.
‘We know how it is across the sport,’ admitted the Glasgow 2014 bronze medallist. ‘There are people that are just returning from bans — Esref Apak the Turk got banned at Gateshead (in 2013), so this will be his first competition back unless he’s had a qualifier somewhere. So, yeah, there are some dirty guys out there but most of them have bottled out now.
‘The distances have dropped, the world rankings are completely different and it’s going to come down to who is legit and consistent.
‘They might have big qualifying marks and big ranking marks, but it comes down to what you can produce on the day. I’ll throw as far as I can and see how many scalps I can take.
‘I’m a competitor, so it doesn’t matter whether they’re clean or dirty … if they’re someone that I have to beat, that’s my job and what I get paid for.
‘I’m not going to bitch and moan, I’ll go out there and beat as many as I can. If they get caught, I’ll be pretty vocal then, but until then there’s nothing I can do.
‘Whoever’s out there, I’ll try to beat them. Not everyone in the world who is better than me is on drugs. There are some guys out there who are clean that it’s just going to be a struggle for me to beat, so I’ll do as best as I can.’ Not so long ago, Dry was on the brink of quitting the sport. Then, in May, he went out and broke a 32-year-old Scottish record to make the qualifying standard for Beijing. It has been his love for athletics which has kept him going, which is why he despairs at seeing the sport being dragged through the mud by doping revelations.
‘It’s very frustrating but I’d rather the truth was out,’ said Dry, whose record mark stands at 76.93metres. ‘It is bad for the sport, it is damaging, it is upsetting but, for a lot of us that are already in the sport, it’s no surprise.
‘I know everyone’s in a different situation on how they need to approach it but when I directly get affected with qualifying standards and how hard it’s going to be make the Olympics when everyone will have nonsense distances in the world rankings — and that’s where they take the distances from — it becomes frustrating for me.
‘I’m on a lower funding tier because of the ridiculous rankings, but I do it because I love it and I’ll continue to do it because I love it. But, hopefully, if things get a little cleaner then my life gets a lot better.’ He is proud of himself, too, for keeping calm and carrying on.
‘Yes, no one ever got anywhere by quitting,’ he added. ‘There are one or two days when it’s tough but I’m pretty happy I stuck it through and I seem to have gained a lot of respect for hanging around and doing what I do.
‘I have wondered what I’m doing with my life sometimes. I could have been a pilot, I could have done this, I could have done that. But I wanted to become an Olympian and I’ve still got plenty of time left.’ And what targets does he have in mind for Beijing? ‘Not to fall on my ass, that would be a good start,’ said the Highlander. ‘Making the final is going to be the biggest one. If I throw what I’m capable of throwing, then I’ll make it.
‘The final is the first step, then try to make top eight. After that, I’ve just got to try to change British hammer-throwing history, I guess!’