Towards A New Anti-Doping Approach, Part VI

by Rant on January 4, 2009 · 15 comments

in Doping in Sports

It’s been a bit since the last installment of “TANADA”, so before I begin with the next one, a brief…

Warm-Up

TBV pointed out an interesting article on the Wired website (and in the current dead-trees issue, too) to me last week, about the use of biological markers for the early detection of cancer. On the fourth page of the article, is this, regarding the use of prolactin as an indicator of ovarian cancer:

Take the case of prolactin. In 2005, a research group at Yale announced it had identified several biomarkers that together could work as a test for ovarian cancer. (More markers mean better odds of a true positive, since different people have different proteins in their blood at different times.) The Yale markers included CA125; osteopontin, a protein believed to be overexpressed in several cancers; and prolactin, a pituitary hormone found in the breasts, ovaries, and other organs. The test for early detection of ovarian cancer was released commercially by LabCorp last June under the name OvaSure.

The results troubled the Canary ovarian team, which had already taken stock of a few of these and other markers and ruled them as insufficient for a valid test. The inclusion of prolactin, in particular, stood out. “It looked wrong to me,” says Nicole Urban, head of gynecological cancer research at the Hutchinson Center. “It seemed highly unlikely that it was related to the cancer.”

So Urban ran her own study, comparing prolactin levels in women with ovarian cancer to those who were cancer-free. She also introduced further variables: when and under what circumstances the blood was drawn. It turned out that during a routine blood test, prolactin was present in normal levels among cases and controls alike. But the levels spiked dramatically when blood was drawn right before the patient went into surgery–whether it was surgery for ovarian cancer or another procedure. In other words, Urban concluded, it seems that prolactin isn’t a biomarker for cancer. It’s a biomarker for a stressed-out patient about to go under the knife. (Last fall, after the Food and Drug Administration warned that there were “serious regulatory problems” with the OvaSure test, LabCorp withdrew it from the market).

Before using a biomarker as an indicator of something, one needs to be sure that its presence really means what one thinks it means. This has some interesting implications for the development of anti-doping tests, too. Over at the Daily Peloton Forums is the beginning of a discussion on the subject. As of this writing, there are no responses to the original post.

Another interesting site that’s taking up the discussion of whether the use of performance-enhancing drugs (doping) should be allowed in sports is ProCon.org. The site presents quotes and comments both in favor and against various questions and issues related to doping in sports. ProCon.org also has sites that discuss other issues, too. For each person or organization quoted, they give a starred “credibility” rating. Among their caveats about the rating system is this:

Some 1 star individuals can be more credible than 3 or 4 starred sources. All organizations receive 1 or 2 stars regardless of their actual credibility

Kind of begs the question: Why bother with the ratings if such a statement is true. It’s an interesting site, however, with comments and quotes from a wide range of people across the spectrum, including yours truly.

Right, then. With that, on to tonight’s main topic, which is …

How To Deal With Organized Doping

Up to now, most of the discussion has been about dealing with cases where an individual is accused of doping. As we’ve seen a number of times in cycling and other sports, there are times when doping is an organized activity on a much larger scale than just one athlete using various performance-enhancing drugs. It may be organized at a team level (like the Festina scandal in 1998) or it may be at the level of a sport’s national governing body, or it may even be at a national level like a national Olympic committee (East Germany comes to mind).

In cases of organized doping, where an entire group is cheating, punishing the individual athletes will only address the surface problem. It won’t address the overall problem. So how should such cases be handled?

There are at least two approaches, each valid and each providing a certain amount of justice. Many of the scandals involving organized doping have been unearthed by law enforcement agencies. In those cases, the punishment comes in the form of criminal trials and potential jail time. Given that various laws may be broken in such cases (distributing medications without proper medical cause, drug trafficking), it seems fitting that the people who are at the center of such efforts should be prosecuted for the crimes they’ve committed. The accused will get the full benefit of the legal system. Of course, if found guilty, the accused will also face punishment that could include prison time.

But what about doping that doesn’t break any laws, but still imparts a performance advantage. For example, the use of various over-the-counter medications that contain banned stimulants, or even the use of various techniques or equipment banned by a sport (bikes that are too light come to mind). In such cases, the only thing that’s happened is that a sport’s rules have been broken. Since no real crimes have been committed, using the legal system seems inappropriate.

Looking to various sports for examples, it seems to me that the kinds of punishment that should be levied against an organized effort would consist of the following types of items:

  • Team results being nullified or teams being relegated to last place in a particular event
  • Teams being relegated to the last place in a ranking system
  • Teams being barred from competition at tournaments, invitational competitions, championships, and so forth
  • Teams being relegated to a lower competition division. For example, a ProTour team would be downgraded to Pro Continental status or lower
  • Those who organize team doping programs being suspended or banned from a sport, with the length of the ban determined based on the seriousness of the cheating going on
  • Teams being barred from drafting or signing new talent for a period of time, which again would be based on the seriousness of the cheating going on

As with the punishment for athletes, the severity of the punishment should fit the “crime.” Of course, an organized doping program is a much more serious offense than a single athlete caught doping for a big event. The mere fact of organizing a doping program shows a serious intention to cheat and to cheat at a broader level, so the punishment inflicted on a team whose leaders have such a program should be much more severe than might be the case for an individual who gets caught using a particular performance-enhancing drug.

Organized doping programs that have long-lasting effects (for instance, an entire team that is doped with EPO) should have the most severe punishments, while those with shorter effects might warrant a lesser punishment. Perhaps.

Who should determine such punishments? Again, this may be best left to those who govern a sport — the international federations. Responsibility for enforcing the overall rules (and responsibility for prosecuting violations) would fall on the various national governing bodies for a given sport. By setting the rules at the international level, they would then be consistent regardless of what country an athlete comes from.

The catch is when organized doping programs stray into the area of criminal behavior. When that’s the case, those who are accused of being responsible should be subject to the full rights and protections of the legal system, but they should also be subject to the full weight of the punishments that could be imposed should they be found guilty. In addition, the organizers would be subject to the laws of the country or countries where their efforts took place. If caught in France, then it’s a case for the French justice system. If caught in the US, it would be the American justice system. And so on.

So what about a team caught up in a criminal prosecution? How should we deal with their results? Once the legal case is settled and guilt determined, then the governing bodies for the sport should look at the time period the cheating occurred and adjust the team’s results accordingly. If an organized doping program existed for ten years, once a conviction occurred in court or in a sport-specific proceeding it would be appropriate to readjust the past ten years of team results. That would be small (or no) comfort to the other athletes who were robbed of better placings as a result, but it’s the right thing to do.

For sports where prize money is paid, it seems appropriate that the cheaters would have to make their victims whole. In other words, they’d have to pay out their ill-gotten prize money to those who should have received it. Perhaps with interest.

Do we need to create any special laws to deal with doping? To me, the answer is “no.” Drug trafficking is already illegal in most countries, as is distributing controlled substances without a proper authorization. If a team’s manager, trainers, doctors or others broke such laws, then they should be held accountable under those laws, too. Those types of doping that aren’t of a criminal nature shouldn’t be criminalized. Instead, those are the types of things that are best left to each sport’s governing bodies.

So that’s a brief look at dealing with organized doping. In the next post, I’ll be going back and discussing some of the suggestions that have appeared in the comments to this and previous posts in the series.

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Larry January 4, 2009 at 11:34 pm

Rant –

Funny you should mention the story of the cancer markers. I’ve been trying to think of a good way to explain to Jean C and others why I have no trust in the ability of the ADAs to test for PEDs, now or ever. I thought about using an analogy to cancer testing, but I wasn’t sure how many people had experience with the testing for “markers” that is common in cancer screening and the monitoring of patients diagnosed with cancer.

The testing used to convict Floyd Landis is, in essence, marker testing. It is not possible to test directly for the presence of artificial testosterone in the human body, since artificial testosterone is chemically identical to natural testosterone. If it were possible to examine a molecule of artificial testosterone and compare it to a molecule of natural testosterone, no scientist could tell you for certain which was which.

Instead, the scientists have a theory that there is a “marker” for use of artificial testosterone: a “low” relative amount of carbon-13 atoms in testosterone metabolites found in an athlete’s urine. It would be great if the scientists could prove that use of artificial testosterone (and ONLY use of artificial testosterone) causes a drop in the carbon-13 atom relative count, but that’s beyond the capability of the available science. Instead, the scientists have tried to prove two things:

1. A low relative carbon-13 atom count is unusual in a non-doping population — unusual enough so that the scientists can conclude that the low count is not likely to happen by chance. In other words, the test is not likely to generate false positives.

2. A low relative carbon-13 atom count would NOT be unusual in a person using artificial testosterone. In other words, the test has some ability to avoid false negatives.

Before going further, please note: this two-part analysis is exactly the same as that used to find a valid cancer marker: the marker must be good enough at avoiding false positives and false negatives to make it worthwhile to use the test. Also note that while this two-part analysis has a ground in science, the PRIMARY justification for use of the marker is statistical: it has a sufficiently low possibility for generating false positives, and a sufficiently high ability to avoid false negatives. In other words, the odds are good enough to justify use of the test.

Another big thing to note, and this is a point that confuses many: a false positive is not the same thing as a lab screw-up. Of course, lab screw-ups can cause false positives, but it’s also possible for false positives to occur when a test is performed properly. From a statistical standpoint, we don’t know and don’t care what causes the false positives, we just know that they’re going to occur with some frequency, and we care that the frequency be not too frequent.

So, with cancer markers and at least some PED tests, the fundamental basis of the test is a statistical one, and one fundamental question to ask turns out to be: is the condition being measured by the test really all that unusual?

When you look at the test used to convict Floyd Landis, and the studies used by WADA and the ADAs to “prove” that low relative amounts of carbon-13 are unusual, it turns out that low relative amounts of carbon-13 may NOT be all that unusual. In fact, it turns out that we don’t even know what is USUAL when it comes to relative carbon-13 counts.

It’s bad enough that we’re deciding the fate of athletes based on doping tests that we KNOW will generate false positives. It’s worse that the scientists have not done the basic work to ensure that these false positives will occur only at levels deemed to be statistically acceptable.

strbuk January 5, 2009 at 5:10 am

Great Rant Dan, I was especially interested in your take on organized doping which seems to have gotten little if any attention.

str

Morgan Hunter January 5, 2009 at 9:15 am

No cririque – just my two cents.

The problem arises that the reaction protocol to a single doper or a Doping Positive for an INDIVIDUAL RACER needs to be approached not with the idea of PUNISHMENT rather with the concept of neutralizing THE gain of DOPING.

An individual who has a positive test must be neutralized in a constructive manner. This is simply accomplished; take away the BENEFIT gained for having doped. An individual getting RELEGATED to last place — no matter the level of his performance will soon realize that he has a simple choice — RACE CLEAN or get the heck out of the sport — because he’s not going to be making HEADLINES so that he gets the big money for riding a bike.

SINCE HIS ability TO EARN A LIVING is not jeopardized but his HABIT — if he is a doper — is REWARDED by racing off the back. And even if he is NOT A DOPER, he has not lost the means for earning a living.

Naturally, we need to produce RELIABLE testing or at the very least OPEN the test to direct EXAMINATION without CONDITIONS so that the ACCUSATION may be PROVED or DISPROVED. It cannot be EXCEPT ABLE that the GOVERNING bodies are allowed to make an ACCUSATION without proving GUILT or an ACCUSED proving his INNOCENCE.

Now — we do not appear to have a TESTING procedure that allows us to IDENTIFY an individual as BEING A DOPER. Testing results come much too late for us to REACT to a DOPER actually doing a race. This problem appears to be handled by the alphabet soup group simply by LEAKING the accusation to the PUBLIC and proceeding to hammer the accused into silence. THE QUESTION OF GUILT OR INNOCENCE is never resolved for the individual or for the public.

If the Alphabet Soup group are DISALLOWED to make the rules as they go along OR to create bylaws that ignore individual rights THEN the problem can be dealt with quiet effectively without turning everything on its head.

When there is SUSPICION of ORGANIZED doping by a group or a team — then this should be dealt with as any other illegal DOPING OFFENSE — by the EXISTING AUTHORITIES ALREADY IN PLACE. The Police. As Rant writes — Many of the scandals involving organized doping have been unearthed by law enforcement agencies. They are more than able to deal with such groups.

If there are regions that do not CONFORM to the anti doping attitude and bylaws — these regions AUTOMATICALLY lose their ability to compete.

As I see it — the fanatic HANG”˜EM High crowed would like all to believe that by simply GETTING RID of the dopers — we will have a DOPE FREE sport — HISTORY completely disproves this.

If we are serious about rehabilitating the doper and NEUTRALIZING the benefit of doping — then punishment like destroying a racers ability to earn a living — is not really a solution. We may get rid of one individual — but the problem of doping is completely ignored.

Rant January 6, 2009 at 8:59 am

Larry,
Good points. If we’re going to rely on various markers or tests, then we need to know that when the markers/test results suggest that doping is the cause, that doping is either the only possible cause, or other causes are so unlikely as to be nearly impossible. We haven’t gotten to that point yet with the science in place, from what I’ve seen.
strbuk,
Thanks. It’s an evolving series. I’m hoping that we cover all of the bases by the time it’s done.
Morgan,
Perhaps “punishment” isn’t the word I should have chosen. What we need is a system that provides powerful disincentives for doping — without such excessive penalties that we wind up destroying a person’s career or livelihood (unless said person’s actions are so egregious that such action is warranted). In line with that idea, you’re approach of neutralizing the benefits gained from doping is a very good idea. The system needs to have fairness built in, along with real protections for the athletes’ rights, so that one who is truly innocent can prove so, and will not suffer great financial and personal losses in the process.

Morgan Hunter January 6, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Rant,
Not only is it important that we establish “guilt or innocence” for the accused – we also must arrive at a real resolution when an accusation is made – for the good of the sport.

No normal person can feel good about watching a great sport and the very people involved in controlling the legitimacy of the sport appear more corrupt than the athletes they accuse. May I point to Larry’s reaction to the outcome of the last 2.5 years. For him, and I understand his stance completely, the act of watching cycling has changed. Without proper closure of the issues, I can’t see people like Larry coming to the sport again as they once might have.

One should perhaps ask in this particular case, that of cycling – perhaps this is the objective. To destroy the public’s viewing pleasure, their identification with this particular sport, considering that the alphabet soup is under the aegis’s of the IOC, maybe – the Olympics doesn’t like to have a “sport it can’t control” (read broadcast revenues) that is big enough to actually be competition for their venue of sport?

I respect your approach to the “punishment” aspects of this problem. Let’s look at the reality. Who does an athlete who is doping really hurt? Him or her self. Yeah – I know, some make a lot of noise about the monies these individuals may be taking away from others. This to m e seems nothing more than a lot of “funk” being sent out to fog up the picture.

consider people, there is so much money being made by the people who organize broadcast live events that the actual salaries of the competitors are a mere fraction of the take! An individual rider does not make his monies on the Wins he produces, he makes it on the kind of SALARY AND ENDORSEMENT he gets. So the argument about non-doping riders being “cheated” out of their winnings is a mere drop in the bucket.

Maybe not the Tour – but as you may know – ASO has been throwing “fits” about the costs they have to pay out for having high profile athletes competing in their event. Ask yourself who was the first racer in Tour history to Demand a bigger cash prize and get it? It was an American. And once this flood gate was opened, ASO couldn’t close it. Any wonder why ASO and their built in publication Le Equipe spend so much effort in destroying the American champions of the Tour?

Organizers are no different anywhere in the world. The IOC would drive any athlete into oblivion if they were forced to actually pay for the athletes performance. So they hide their greed behind the “Olympic Principle” – they claim PURE COMPETITION because they don’t pay the athletes. Right. That’s fair. What’s that thing called when an employer has workers and he doesn’t pay them for the work?

ASO can’t close the gate on the money it costs them to put on the Tour – but I do not think that ASO is suffering, does anyone? At the same time – I would bet that if ASO has the chance to pay less for their “performers”, they will do anything to make it happen! The 800 pound gorilla throws its weight around by pontificating on the “žpurity” of THEIR sport — by excluding convenient teams and individuals that they have problems with controlling.

In the meantime the world is in uproar about the “žscandals” in cycling, the alphabet soup keeps feeding the fires, ASO doesn’t have to pay Landis his purse, the IOC gets a lever to distract the world looking its way and its lackey, WADA is doing it for them.

But you know what? I think — the times are a’ changing!

racejunkie January 6, 2009 at 6:22 pm

I’m shocked at how little attention is paid to the team enablers and grateful, Rant, that you’ve raised it. If Manolo Saiz getting busted red-handed or Rabobank’s letting Rasmussen ride the Tour knowing full well he’d skipped pre-race doping controls–and damn near letting him win it, too, without the tsk-tsking that only his getting called on it inspired–isn’t enough to raise the minute possibility that sometimes the riders aren’t the core problem, what the hell is?

Perhaps we ought to hold the DSes responsible. If they’re involved, they ought to be out of the sport for at least as long as their proteges. And if they’re so oblivious to what their riders are doing that a sudden rash of team positives comes as a genuine shock to ’em, perhaps they could use a little eye-opener.

Regards,

rj

William Schart January 6, 2009 at 11:32 pm

I have no personal knowledge of the nature and extent of the doping problem in cycling, or any other sport for that matter. But if it is anywhere near the level that some believe, it is possible for it to have gotten that way without the knowledge and assistance of team officials. Yet how many non-riders or teams have received any sort of sanction? A few teams have been informally sanctioned, such as Astana’s exclusion from the TdF this past year. Some sponsors have dropped out of cycling due to doping scandals, either as directly effected their team or simply because they (apparently) thought that the doping problem was too big in cycling. But has any coach, DS, etc. suffered? I don’t know.

Rant January 7, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Morgan,
I hope the times are a’ changin’. The sport of cycling could definitely use a fresh beginning.
racejunkie,
I can’t imagine a scenario where the DSes and others aren’t involved, at least at some level. Every athlete who dopes must get it from somewhere. They must get advice from someone, and perhaps even medical treatments, too. Can the DSes and team management be completely unaware? I find that hard to believe. Sure, in individual cases, maybe. But it takes some real effort to hide one’s nefarious activities from those around them. It can be done, but …
There are teams where doping seems to be the order of the day. Joe Papp’s former employer in Italy sounds like one with an organized system. Organized enough to scatter to the wind when a whiff of “busted” came around, too.
No real anti-doping program is ever going to be effective until it addresses organized doping, both in terms of detection and deterrence. That’s one thing the current system sorely lacks. It merely goes after the end user. That could be effective, up to a point, but it doesn’t address the whole problem. And until the anti-doping system addresses the whole problem, it’s really more “anti-doping theater” than “anti-doping reality.”
William,
Sad fact is, we’ll probably never know the true extent of doping in cycling or any other sport. The ad hoc measures taken against teams (like ASO’s ban of Astana from their events last year) have some impact, but I really wonder if it’s been a deterrent to other teams. I have my doubts. If we don’t address this part of the problem, there will be a big, gaping whole in creating a viable, workable solution.

Larry January 10, 2009 at 1:50 am

Rant and others –

My point about doping testing and cancer markers seems to have missed the mark. I’m not merely saying that the ADA scientists have to do better. Clearly they can do better, and they are not performing to the best ability that science has to offer, but my point goes past this. I’m saying that the best that the science has to offer, and ever will have to offer, is never going to be good enough.

Let’s see if I can state this more plainly. The tests do not show that a rider doped. AT BEST, they show that there’s something going on with the rider that would be unusual if the rider was clean, but would NOT be unusual if the rider doped. If any of you can feel comfortable with this kind of reasoning being used to ruin a rider’s life, please come forward and say so. I’m coming forward to say that I’m not comfortable with this, not at all.

Here’s my analogy. Say that you went to Vegas, went to a roulette table and placed $100 on number 22. You hit! That’s $3500 for you. You let it ride, and number 22 hits again. Wow, you’ve just scored a bit north of $100,000. Then you’re arrested and convicted of cheating. Why? Because what just happened to you is highly unusual (I think the odds are like 1 in 1000) if you were not cheating, but not at all unusual if you were cheating.

You say you don’t like that analogy? Neither do I. The chances of a rider being hit with a false positive doping test are a LOT better than hitting the number twice in a row in roulette. The odds of a false positive drug test are MUCH closer to hitting a number ONCE in roulette.

The story that doping testing is reliable or certain is a scam. It will always BE a scam, unless a positive doping test is supported with additional evidence.

Rant January 10, 2009 at 8:38 am

Larry,
Sorry that your comment got trapped in Limbo. Not sure what happened there.
That’s a very good analogy. Just because something is unusual doesn’t mean that someone is cheating. And from what I’ve seen, that’s a perspective which seems to be lacking when looking at any form of testing, be it your typical anti-doping tests or the biological passports. The improvement with the bio passports, if it’s fully carried through, would be the focus on looking into those unusual results to determine what the cause was. Of course, if you’re using just the standard anti-doping tests to do so, are we just coming back to the beginning of the circle?
I don’t know. I’m thinking that will make a good topic for the next post in the series.

William Schart January 10, 2009 at 10:17 pm

One problem, unlike many team sport (football of all persuasions, baseball, basketball, etc.), professional cycling teams tend to be rather empheral. Many teams which were around when Lance won his first TdF 10 years ago are no longer in existence.

When a US sport team is found guilty of some indiscretion, it will often suffer some sanction: loss of draft picks, fines, in the case of college teams, banning from post-season play, etc. But it can be hard to sanction a cycling team thusly; the sponsor might simply decide to withdraw its support and the team ceases to exist. Teams could be sanctioned in reference to a particular event: team and or individual riders DQed, time penalties, etc.

Individual team officials can be sanctioned by suspensions, fines, etc. Of course, the individual involved might also drop out of the sport, rendering many sanctions moot. If a team doctor helps riders to dope and gets caught (but is not guilty of any actual illegal activity) he can simply return to private practice and refuse to pay any fines that UCI/WADA might levee.

Rant January 10, 2009 at 10:35 pm

William,
That’s a good point. Major league teams are much more stable, in terms of finances and longevity, than pro cycling teams. Most of the major league teams don’t directly depend on the largesse of a title sponsor, their income and support is broader and deeper. Cycling depends on the goodwill of the title sponsors. Without them, the teams ceases to function.
And it’s true that if an athlete who’s been sanctioned decides to retire, that renders the penalty moot. Same for team officials. Of course, I’d say that’s true for all sports. The scenario of the team doctor is complicated, as you say, by whether or not what he did was illegal. If not, you’re right, the doctor could return to private practice and refuse to go along with WADA/sport governing body sanctions.
Everyone,
I’ve launched Rant 2.0. It focuses on different topics than RYHO and RYHO, the original site, is going to be around for a long time to come. (Some day, I may find a way of merging the two sites together, but for now, they will carry on separately.)
If you’re interested in taking a look, click here.

Morgan Hunter January 11, 2009 at 4:14 am

William

It appears to me that one of the big problems we have “built in” to the “present governance” in cycling is this “keep it in-house” practice as to “infraction” of the rules.

While I agree with “sanctioning” as a form of punishment for the INDIVIDUAL if he is proven guilty — I find myself “seeing” the problem of an entire TEAM outside this practice. The result of this individuals “action” hurts only himself and/or the results of an “event/race.”

In my opinion — when a “group” is involved with doping/cheating — this is quiet another matter entirely. There is directly implied intent to subvert the results/outcome of the sport, more importantly — because in order to “do” such a project, the Team must “acquire” the illegal substances to be used. In the PUBLIC laws in most lands, acquiring, with intent to supply is ILLEGAL. Therefore it would seem clearly in the realm of the official authority of the lands.

Since there is no difference in principle between a TEAM and ANY normal “business” entity — both being in existence for the sole purpose of making a profit – to ALLOW a team and its support people to be “dealt with” internally — like saying that when Enron or Maddof are guilty of “intentionally” stealing — they should be dealt with “in-house.”

The very least the punishment for “purchasing/dealing/distribution” in illegal drugs is a prison sentence. Just as when someone steals is punished by jail time. Not a “smack on the wrist” and then they submerge into the pool of the milieu to resurface in some other capacity. When this is the reality — should we be surprised at the difficulty of “stamping out” the “drug problem” in cycling?

So the question would seem to be — Why are the “teams” — when “busted” not being prosecuted? It is a “no brainer” to see that there is a difference in an individual’s wrongly taking upon himself to “use illegal drugs” with the intent to maybe win or perhaps just to be able to “keep his job” — as compared to an entire organization who is BREAKING the LAW of most lands because they are “dealers of/and supplying illegal substances” — to the users?

William Schart January 12, 2009 at 9:53 pm

Morgan:

What you are saying is true enough, however, as Larry has pointed, not all things banned by WADA etc. are necessarily illegal. And things get complicated by the international nature of cycling (which is true of some other sports too). Suppose that in some country over the counter use of EPO is legal and a team based in that country undertakes a doping program where the EPO is only administered in the country. The team then goes to another country to compete in a race. Since the benefits of EPO use last for some time, the team could be innocent of any law breaking, only violating the rules of the sport.

Morgan Hunter January 13, 2009 at 12:59 am

William,

Actually, your example makes the process simplest of all. If a world consensus says that the use of EPO is illegal and there is a country that does not. Then the problem is simple – that country and its athletes may not compete in world competitions where the majority have taken the stance that EPO is not allowed.

If the athletes of said country wish to contest this then they can petition changing the rule by questioning the scientific base the world consensus is based on.

Since it is a question of an entire country opposing a consensus, it may be easier to get to the bottom if a “rule” is based in science that is accepted by a majority of the world or if it is merely the “belief” of a select few.

The point is – there can be some constructive action taken when a wrong is discovered.

As it is today, the athlete is faced with the concept that he will be “excommunicated” if caught doping, go through a sham of a trial, his guilt or innocence is never proven, while the cloud of “guilt” is forever branded to his public image.

I do not know about you but I want to be past the old worn out process of “branding.” It did not work in Salem; it can’t work today”¦.and it shouldn’t be allowed to exist.

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