Monday, February 28, 2011


I thought this Washington Post piece that was linked from the Velonews site was nice to see. The fact that people are starting to raise questions about the anti-doping system in place is encouraging. Without inadvertent ingestion due to contamination or use of non-performance enhancing recreational drugs, USADA doesn't have much to point to.
I understand the importance of having a deterrent, but Tygart and co. see no need to make the distinction between intentional cheaters and the other 50% of athletes who they sanction.
The reality (and pessimistic view) that I'm beginning to hold is that if you want to cheat, you are going to be able to stay one step ahead of the anti-doping authorities and get away with it unless you screw up or really screw up.
It's not all gloom and doom, I guess. Paper trails seem to be an effective way to catch cheaters after the fact (Operation Puerto, Papp List, etc.). And then there's the cutting edge tests that some of the cheaters may not know about until it's too late (Cera in 2008 and plasticizer test in 2011?).
I guess this is my question: is WADA really an effective deterrent to cheating if the dopers know that they can get away with it if they're careful enough? And how effective of a deterrent does USADA and WADA need to be in order to justify the roughly 50% (if you believe that statistic) sanction rate of inadvertent 'cheaters' that test positive for something that in all likelihood had no effect on their performance?
Maybe we should spend more time and energy into changing the culture of doping in sports being as the current drug testing is seemingly so ineffective. Of course there are always going to be cheaters and D-bags in every profession but if we could minimize that from within, build trust that the guy or gal next to you is clean, we might be able to effectively clean up sport. Maybe I'm naive, but I still believe in people and I think that many athletes who choose the dirty road do so because they think the person next to them is doing the same thing, and they justify it to themselves accordingly.
How could we possibly change the culture and build trust? Start with strong leadership to get the message out. Team leaders sitting down to talk with the young guys/gals on the team. Leaders of the sport saying 'enough is enough' and abolishing the omerta. Communication between athletes, management, and anti-doping authorities. I think that we're starting to see this in cycling, but I hope that it's taken up a notch.
I don't know if this is the answer or even the right path or not. Just seems like we can do better.


Anonymous said...

One must remember if there is no doping there is no need for WADA, ASADA or Tygart and they can't let that happen. They must justify their jobs.

Anonymous said...

sorry...not ASADA but USADA

Tim said...

There is a difference between the way Americans look at it and the Europeans. Here cyclists are often educated and they have some life experience and a better moral compass before turning pro (with exceptions of course). In Europe, they race at age 15 and they put all their eggs in that basket, no college and little parent guidance. And plenty of shady characters to give that 15 year old something "special" to get results on sunday. From there is a vicious cycle. It seeps into their world so gradually that it becomes the norm. Not easy to turn a whole way of thinking around, but the only way to get rid of it.