It’s been a busy week for the CAS, with something like four cases making the news this week. Not all were related to doping, and news reports of at least one case (Nick D’Arcy) missed part of the story. TBV got it right, however.
In the D’Arcy case, the swimmer is trying to get back onto the Australian Olympic swimming team after the head of the AOC tossed him off the squad, following a drunken altercation between D’Arcy and another swimmer. Long story short, the other swimmer got a pretty rough beating from D’Arcy and D’Arcy was ejected from the swim team.
The CAS, in their ruling, noted that D’Arcy had violated AOC rules, and so the AOC would be justified in removing him from their team. What wasn’t reported so well was that the decision also noted that the head of the AOC didn’t have the power to unilaterally eject D’Arcy from the squad. The entire AOC had to make that call. So the CAS basically sent the case back to the AOC, saying “try again.” If they don’t, the CAS is willing to step in and make the decision.
So, as it stands, D’Arcy won a partial victory. But he’s not off the hook. And given what he’s alleged to have done, he shouldn’t be, either.
Another interesting case involved a Japanese football (soccer) player, who was battling a decision to sanction him over the use a saline/vitamin B1 solution. The CAS ruled that the Japanese football federation couldn’t sanction the player, as the rules under which they were trying to punish him weren’t in effect at the time — and even if they were, the player was still not at fault and hadn’t done anything wrong.
A couple of other cases came and went. And then there’s the Justin Gatlin case, which was heard in New York on the 28th and 29th. Gatlin’s case is interesting in a number of ways, but perhaps most interesting in that the two side are battling for exactly opposite outcomes.
On the Gatlin side, he’s trying to get his ban reduced to two years, so that he may compete at the US Olympic trials at the end of June. On the IAAF side, they’re arguing that he should have a life ban, due to a previous positive test. How to make heads and tails of this?
Back in 2001, Gatlin tested positive for a banned substance at a college track meet. At the time (and perhaps still), he was taking medication for ADHD, and the positive result was because of the ingredients in the medication. Over the course of a year, Gatlin and his representatives worked through the system and ultimately had the ban that had been imposed on him dropped.
At the time, the IAAF warned Gatlin that although his punishment had been lifted, they still considered the result a first offense. Next time, things would be more difficult. And, they are, for both sides.
The next time came during the Kansas Relays in 2006. Gatlin tested positive for testosterone and ultimately lost his appeal. The panel deciding his case determined that the 2006 test result was indeed a second offense. They suspended him from competition for four years, half of the eight-year ban that could have been imposed.
At this point, Gatlin is roughly at the half-way point on the four-year ban. Gatlin wants to compete in Beijing, so he’s trying to convince the CAS that because his first positive was a result of prescription medication he was using, it should be taken off his record.
And, since that first incident in 2001, he’s played a role in the BALCO investigation, going so far as to wear a wire and allow conversations with various BALCO-associated figures to be recorded (think Trevor Graham, whose own story is playing out this week). His legal team is arguing, in essence, for leniency.
On the other side, the IAAF wants Gatlin’s ban extended to eight years, which effectively would be a life ban. As Eurosport reported in March:
“The IAAF’s view is that Justin was publicly informed after he committed the first doping offence that any repetition could lead to a life ban,” IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said.
“We are not prepared to accept a reduction to four years.”
In a press release put out this evening, the CAS says that the Gatlin decision will be announced on June 6th. The written opinion, however, will be released at a later time. If the decision goes Gatlin’s way, he will be free to compete for a spot on the US Olympic team. If not, it will be a while (if ever) before he will be able to compete again.
Sometime in the future — though no indication has been given as to exactly when — the CAS will be issuing it’s decision on Floyd Landis’ appeal. News stories have suggested that the case will be decided in June (and in a few cases suggesting that it might be early June, at that). One source I’ve talked to recently says that may not be the case. My source declined to give any specifics on if a target date has been set for the decision, or when that might be, except to say that early June was not likely to be when the decision will be released.
Time will tell, of course. In the meantime, there’s a whole lot of racing going on. On Saturday, Landis will be taking part in the Mohican 100. With a bit of luck, and six weeks of training since the Cohutta 100, Landis may fare a bit better than he did in Tennessee back in April.
Over at the Washington Post is an article about cycling’s current state, with a number of quotes from St. David of Millar. The article, from my first read of it, missed an important part of the doping story — and given the paper’s past, it’s a bit surprising. Back in the Watergate era, the source known as “Deep Throat” told Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to “follow the money.” If we were to follow the money, so to speak, in terms of doping in cycling, where would it lead?
The story of doping in cycling is long. Very long. Back to the 1890s long. But doping isn’t just about cyclists using drugs to win races. There are doctors and others who participate in, organize, and benefit from the results of doped cyclists. It’s all well and good to try to catch the cyclists who are cheating and punish them for doing so, but that only addresses the demand side of the problem.
The supply side is just as big an issue. And while there may be a code of silence among cyclists, we don’t seem to hear nearly as much about sponsors who demand results regardless of how they’re gotten. We don’t hear as much about those who organize the efforts behind the scenes. Most of the time, when a story focuses on doping in cycling, it focuses on the riders who are using (or rumored to be using) performance-enhancing drugs.
Reporter John Ward Anderson writes:
Cycling is being criticized by fans, media members, sponsors and anti-doping advocates for fostering an illegal drug culture and a code of silence to protect it …
Well, yes, that’s true. But some sponsors have been involved — if not directly, then indirectly — in organized doping programs. Sponsors want good publicity, after all, and seeing their athletes winning and having their photographs plastered all over the sports pages is good publicity. The thing is, doping in cycling doesn’t exist just because some cyclists (how many depends on who you ask) choose to dope. That culture of doping, if it exists, has many who are responsible.
“There were lots of warning signs, but they turned a blind eye to it for too many years,” said John Wilcockson, the editor of VeloNews, a cycling magazine and Web site.
“They” presumably is the UCI. But it could be equally said about many others, including some in the media.
“Ten years after the Festina affair, if everyone had wanted to do something about it, the problem would be fixed,” said Christian Prudhomme, the director of the Tour de France.
True again. If everyone wanted to fix the problem, enough resources could have been brought to bear to solve the problem. Race organizers could have done something. Sponsors could have done something. Lots of players could have done something. But most were content to sit on their arses and let the show go on. There was a veneer of fighting the problem, but only a thin veneer.
Yes, the World Anti-Doping Agency was born (in part) out of the ashes of the Festina scandal. And also due to a certain credibility problem the IOC had in 1998 and 1999 over a large number doping scandals, as well as a small dust-up over bribes given to various Olympic officials by cities hoping to win the privilege of hosting the Olympics (can you say Salt Lake City?).
It has not been a perfect solution. The goals are laudable. The organization and implementation of efforts to achieve those goals has fallen short of the mark.
The fact that cycling teams need to run their own programs to discourage doping is a positive step — as long as those programs really are intended to discourage doping. Having spoken with Paul Strauss last fall, I have no doubts about the Agency for Cycling Ethics’ program. And, I have a high degree of confidence in the programs run by Rasmus Damsgaard.
But one has to acknowledge that there may be some teams who will implement such programs not so much to discourage doping as to ensure that no one gets caught. Just like the East Germans did way back when. Their best way of beating the doping labs was having one of their own — and using their own research as a means to determine when certain drugs had to be stopped so that they would clear the athlete’s system by the time of an in-competition drug test.
At least St. David Millar, having been through his own personal purgatory, sees some light at the end of the tunnel:
“I’m very representative of my sport. I cheated, and that’s it,” Millar said. “For the last decade, it’s been affair after affair, story after story, admission after admission, and the fans are finally giving up. But the doping culture is turning into an anti-doping culture, and in five years, we are going to be at the vanguard of anti-doping and ethical sponsorship. It will no longer be — just take our $5 million, put our name here, and we don’t care what happens. We could be an example for all sports.”
Perhaps St. David is right. Perhaps cycling is turning the corner. But if it is, it will take all of those involved in cycling — including sponsors, race organizers, the governing bodies, as well as the cyclists — to turn things around. It’s going to take a complete culture shift within the whole of the sport to make certain that if cycling has changed direction, it’s not heading straight off a cliff.