Welcome to the Science of Sport, where we bring you the second, third, and fourth level of analysis you will not find anywhere else.

Be it doping in sport, hot topics like Caster Semenya or Oscar Pistorius, or the dehydration myth, we try to translate the science behind sports and sports performance.

Consider a donation if you like what you see here!


Did you know?
We published The Runner's Body in May 2009. With an average 4.4/5 stars on Amazon.com, it has been receiving positive reviews from runners and non-runners alike.

Available for the Kindle and also in the traditional paper back. It will make a great gift for the runners you know, and helps support our work here on The Science of Sport.



Tuesday, February 26, 2008

LIfetime bans for drug cheats?

Should dopers be banned for life? Or is two years enough? A debate of crime vs. punishment

Yesterday, we looked at the case of Dwain Chambers, disgraced sprinter from Britain who served a two year suspension for his use of the designer steroid THG and who is now making a bid to run for Britain, first at the World Indoors (which he will run in) and then in the Olympic Games (where he's trying to get to). Even failing this, he's likely to push for the World Champs and other big races in the future. His desire to do so has sparked lively reactions, polarizing opinion among present and former athletes for Britain.

For example, double Olympic Champion Kelly Holmes has said:

"This was an athlete who went to America, knowingly took a drug that was undetectable at the time, got caught, admitted he'd taken drugs, then went on to say that you can't win anything without taking drugs. It doesn't put us in a good light allowing a cheat, who has admitted he's a cheat, to represent us."
She is backed up by Steve Cram, former 1500m champion, and now a commentator and journalist, who suggests that a lifetime ban for any drug cheat should be in order:
"I think a lot of us in the sport feel that a two-year ban is never enough for people committing that type of offence. And I would hope that as the next few months follow on, this isn't really just about Dwain Chambers at all, it's about the sport's attitude towards those who've committed serious drugs offences."
As things stand, Chambers will never take part in the Olympic Games, because the British Olympic Authorities do issue a lifetime ban to all convicted drug cheats. So for now, Cram, Holmes, and others who agree with them, can be satisfied knowing that the Olympics, at least, are out of reach.

However, there are those who support Chambers and are fully behind his efforts to run again. In effect, they are saying that "he has done the time, now let him come back and make a new start". They apply the letter of the law, which says that a convicted doper gets two years, and then is allowed to return to sport.

For example, Kim Collins, former 100m world champion, is quoted as saying:
"If they don't pick him then UK Athletics would be bending their own rules. He should be allowed to run and he should be representing Great Britain because he's the man for the job. He did serve his time and unless they are willing to change the rules and keep it 'once and you're out', he should be able to run."
Now, bear in mind that all this has been said against the backdrop of the issue of Chambers' selection of the British team for the world indoor championships in March, so people are commenting more on that issue than perhaps the issue of what to do with a convicted doper.

Should we be considering a four-year ban for dopers? Or criminal charges?

But it got me thinking about the severity of the punishment for a doping offence. This issue, as you might imagine, is debated extensively, and some have suggested that any positive test should result in a lifetime ban, or at the very least, a four-year ban, as Lord Sebastian Coe and Ed Moses have recently suggested.

Coe, for his part, has been pushing for a four-year ban for drug cheats since last year. If that sounds extreme, others within the IOC have even suggested that doping offences should be criminalized - jail time the result of a positive test.

The problem with increasing the punishment - testing will be even more vulnerable to attack

What interests me about this is that no one is looking at the testing procedure and systems, but rather assuming that testing is capable of reliably catching athletes who do cheat. For the implicit assumption when one calls for increased bans, is that the process that will ultimately give that ban is sound, and not likely to collapse under what would become even more pressure to be correct. If the system for testing and then processing positive tests is even slightly flawed, increasing the bans simply invites even more legal wrangling and controversy.

Now, believe me, I'm the last person to side with those who cheat in sport - I wish we could watch sport knowing that the most any athlete is using is a Vitamin C supplement! But the problem is that the process AFTER A POSITIVE TEST seems to be so flawed that if the punishment was made more severe, the already creaky structures under which athletes are tested would come crashing down under the "burden of proof" that would be required to send a runner to jail!

The "Innocent Man" syndrome

I recently read John Grisham's book "The Innocent Man", which is about a man who is wrongfully sentenced to death as a result of a flawed justice system - he loses 11 years of his life on death row before being exonerated. It would take me pages to run through just how flawed the system was, and besides, this is The Science of Sport, not a Book Club (though I'd highly recommend the book)! But the point is, it would be terrible if someone could write a book in 2015 about an athlete who spends 2 years in jail and/or is banned for life for testing positive for any drug, when he's actually been wrongfully convicted!

But the even bigger problem - dopers will get away with more under the increased burden of proof

Now, if you're thinking I'm going soft of dopers, let me address the balance. Because while the chance of "false positive" is a real one, what concerns me more is that dopers who test positive will have even more chance of getting away with it, because the entire process that ultimately delivers their sentence would now be under even more pressure to avoid a false conviction.

What we have seen in recent years is a dramatic change in how doping cases are managed. In the past, it was a case that an athlete would test positive, receive their ban, and disappear for four years - think Ben Johnson in 1988. He got caught, took his punishment, and we didn't hear from him again, until the ban was served.

But these days, "positive" doesn't mean positive, it means start the legal fight

But what is happening more and more today is that athletes are wising up to the "grey areas" in the system. There is almost a "guide book" on how to respond when you test positive. You begin by attacking the personality and integrity of your accusers, you go after the credibility of the laboratory testing you, you cry out that people are out to get you and that you're being discriminated against. Then you take your defence into the media and put all kinds of articles on Wikipedia to claim your innocence. You might even consider writing a book about it, and you definitely hire an expensive legal team who help you concoct defences like the "vanishing twin theory" which is more at home on an episode of "House" than in a sports tribunal, or you simply bombard the system with so much doubt that you escape punishment because no one can prove the use amidst all that uncertainty. And all the while, you deny, deny, deny, because actually proving that you used drugs is no longer as simple as testing your blood or urine and finding the presence of drugs in it! (and this doesn't even take into account the fact that a lot of drugs can't even be detected!)

The positive drugs test, formerly definitive proof that an athlete has doped, is now nothing more than the start of a usually messy, drawn out fight that is played out in the media and undermines the sport more than even the drugs use does. The problem is that sometimes the athlete has a case, because there are flaws and mistakes, and the system is not beyond reproach, which it needs to be in order to issue life bans. The result of this is that I honestly believe that we are headed for the day where an athlete who tests positive will face a trial consisting of a judge and a jury of their peers, who will have to assess their guilt based on days of testimony and evidence...think "Boston Legal" and "The Practice" for sport.

So my concern with increasing the length of a doping ban, and possibly criminalizing the use of drugs in sport is that the testing procedures, which are already "losing their teeth" in terms of actually following through with a positive test will become completely toothless as a result of increased bans --- taking a decision to ban an athlete for two years can be done a little more lightly than sending that same athlete to prison and preventing them from ever competing again!

So while in theory and principle, I'm all for a lifetime ban or even criminal charges, actually proving it poses a problem and until WADA and the federations figure out how to regain the upper hand in the "post-positive test" battle, increasing the ban will do little more than intensify the pressure they are under.

Back to Dwain Chambers - what should be done?

But let's get back to Dwain Chambers, for as Cram points out, the issue is not solely about one athlete, but about the attitude of the system towards its "cheats". And I'd love to hear from any of our readers who have some sports law experience, or even some experience in employment law on this one, because the issue here is bordering on that of "restraint of trade", where someone is prevented from earning a living unfairly.

Do you believe that a lifetime ban can be enforced for something like drug use? Or does this amount to restraint of trade, unfairly preventing the athlete from earning a living or surviving? Is it possible to block an athlete's participation based on one "mistake", willful or not?

I tried to think of the analogy from the world of business - if a businessman was caught defrauding his company, he'd without doubt be fired, and probably face criminal charges. But would he ever be able to work in the same industry again? Would the business world consider issuing a lifetime ban on a corrupt businessman? Well, rhetorical question, because there's no "system" to ban him from. But there's a good chance he'd be labeled and unable to find work, at least in the same area. Is that the same situation as Chambers and the Olympic Games?

All questions for which I don't have an answer - if you do, or have an opinion, please do let us know!

Ross

25 Comments:

Andrew said...

Great article! I believe the 2-year ban is appropriate because:
1) an athlete's peak is rarely longer than 10 years so 2 years is a pretty steep penalty
2) a second offense is already a lifetime ban, and
3) the anti-doping authorities are far from perfect and an athlete shouldn't lose their entire career due to the confusing system.

Zach Lund was "technically" guilty but even the authorities publicly sided with him while handing out his 1-year ban. Thank goodness they weren't forced to ban him for life, especially when some of the blame falls to the testers.

The Floyd Landis case is frustrating because ultimately, we'll probably never know for sure if he doped regardless of the final ruling. His case punched several legitimate holes into the testing process that should never be there. As you alluded to, if a lifetime ban is possible for a first offense, then Landis might have to be let off the hook.

One thing that troubled me about the Landis case was that when his "A" sample tested positive, that was supposed to mean nothing until the "B" sample confirmed it. After his "A" result was leaked WADA chief Dick Pound went public to claim "We have caught a cheater" even though the "B" had not been tested yet!

If that is the culture of anti-doping, we should never have first-offense lifetime bans or criminal charges until the testers clean up their own act.

An athlete's union could help this. One positive from Major League Baseball is that the players' union endorses the tests and processes used; if a player fails a test, they have little room to argue.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Andrew

Thanks for the comments. You're spot on - if the testing is even slightly suspicious, you can't raise the level of the ban to criminal charges or lifetime bans - the case of the A sample result being leaked before the B sample is tested is a case in point - and it seems to happen quite often, which must be of concern.

So the first thing that must happen is that the testing process, together with the system following a positive test, must first be refined so that it is utterly and completely beyond reproach. Until such time that this happens, I'm with you that our emotional response to want life-time bans must be tempered!

Thanks!
Ross

Philippe said...

In the current testing and enforcement environment, I think a 2 year ban is probably around the right level. However, I think that any athlete found doping must undergo testing for the 2 years before their return - at their expense. Announcing your retirement and dropping off the radar is not acceptable. If you wait until the end of your ban to decide you want to "unretire" you should be required to undergo another two years of monitoring before you return. If an athlete thinks there is a chance they might return after the ban, its up to them to make sure they are tested and accountable during the ban.

Ideally, the teams and sponsors that hire these athletes will put more effort into keeping their image clean. Endorsement deals should be written such that payments must be returned if an athlete is ever banned.

In regards to your business question, yes, people can be banned for life. As an example, consider Herny Bloget:
http://www.sec.gov/news/press/2003-56.htm

Jonathan, Australia said...

As humans, we all make mistakes and need to accept / believe that people can change. People should have the opportunity to change, learn and grow and be given a second chance once they have done their time. I think it is fantastic to see David Millar back in the cycling peleton after admitting he stuffed up and suffered the consequence. If someone is caught then admits their cheating, they should be welcomed back after having done their time. If they deny deny deny, they should still have the rules applied and be given a second chance. They should be gone for life if caught a second time, but I believe it to be unfair and unreasonable to absolutely write-off someone for good.

Regarding business - the backroom deals, helping out mates, insider trading - it is rampant and accepted, business is about money and today's society respects money no matter how it is obtained. For example we have a certain billionaire who was guilty of leading the nations largest cartel and convicted of fraud - yet is still president of one of the largest sporting clubs.

I may be struggling with cynicism about sport - but don't get me started on the business world.....

Thanks for the blog.

adventurelisa said...

Regarding any doping athlete who makes a come-back...

1) They win because of doped-up advantage.

2) The don't win because they're not doping.

3) They win because they put in more effort and training; they're not doping again but they are suspected of doping because they've done it before - and a leopard doesn't change its spots.

4) They win because they are doping again but their drugs are ahead of test detection so they wax lyrical instead about how much more effort and training they're putting in than before. But they're guilty.

I'd like to say, "Ban the buggers for life" but as Ross says, any positive test is the start of an uphill legal battle and for a lifetime ban you really need to be able to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that doping was present.

As for making a mistake (Jonathan's comment)... these athletes are not children and they have been told over and over and over "Say no to drugs". Even asthma meds have to be registered so there's no way they can can get off on the ignorance plea. I'm not even a pro athlete and I know.

This is a mistake you know could cost you your career so if you take the chance, you must be prepared to take the consequences.

Dwain admits he took the chance, thinking he wouldn't be caught. Would he do it again?

If I was on Dwain's team I wouldn't want him around either; doping is one situation where you get one chance; one chance only.

Would I hire a staff member after I'd fired them for dipping their fingers in the cash register, even if they'd been in the slammer for the past 2-years to contemplate their sins? Of course not. Trust is broken and their misdeeds compromise my success and integrity.

Doping is a nasty topic that crosses moral boundaries. I'm already wondering what revelations there are going to be at this year's Tour de France witch-hunt.

Lisa

adventurelisa said...

Ross,

I've got a gem for you on an athlete suing a nutrition company because she says that they put 19-norandrosterone into her supplements...

How do I email you?

Lisa - lisa@ar.co.za

Anonymous said...

I think the idea of criminalizing doping is a bit exagerrated and unjustified. There is so much hype surrounding the subject, that people are losing perspective, and letting their emotions override their rationale.

Things should be a crime that present a general danger to society. No one has shown, or can show, that doping among a minority subset of society, called athletes, presents enough of a danger to society in general, that we need to pull them out, and put them in jail, for our own protection.

For example, I find "Lisa" above is typical, labelling doping a "nasty subject which crosses moral boundaries", and prematurely concludes without arguments "doping is one situation where you get one chance; one chance only".

I wonder why we blame just the athletes? To really attack the problem, why not widen the ban to include coaches, and doctors and everyone else involved in the supply chain?

Another unrelated comment, I think the worst "victims" are the innocent teammates of a relay team who get stripped of their medal.

adventurelisa said...

Anonymous,

You're right too - it isn't just the athletes. It is also the coaches, doctors, advisors.
But unless they're slipping a mickey into the athlete's supplements without their knowledge then the athlete, is still to blame. They could claim ignorance and say that've been victim to glory-hungry coaches but how do we know whether they know or whether they don't know? This is where the reasonable doubt comes in... So 2-years is then quite fair.

I agree too about the team-mates being stripped of medals, like Dwain and Marion's team-mates. No wonder they don't want Dwain on their team - he's high risk and he tarnished the reputation of the other athletes too.

As for being a moral boundary... it is and I think our responses to doping are personal. Would I re-hire someone who had stolen from me? No. Would I provide products to someone who ducked-and-dived on previous bills? No. I wouldn't even take a boyfriend back who has been playing around on the side. But that's me; not everyone is the same.

We chose our poisons and the associated consequences.

For Dwain's own good (and other previously bust dopers) I do hope he is on the straight and narrow but because of his previous record he has a long way to go to earn confidences again.

adventurelisa said...

Ah... even if you forget the whole personal morailty thing, what this actually comes down to is rules... rules have been established for sports and doping breaks these rules. There doesn't have to be a danger to society.

Doping gives a middle finger to the sport and the other competitors.

Anonymous said...

Hello "adventurelisa",

Thanks for agreeing with me :-)

Anyway, I'm all for establishing rules of conduct, and applying the rules fairly and evenly, with associated consequences. But maybe I misunderstand the status of sporting organizations, and even the scope of authority of groups like WADA. I don't look at them as governmental organizations, or extensions of the government created by the public for the public, but rather more like a collection of private clubs with private rules of conduct, with the maximum threat of expulsion from the private club.

My point is just to maintain perspective. Not all rules belong in the criminal code. To become a crime, an act should meet some minimum standard, such as representing a general danger to society. Doping, although it does violate rules, is unfair to competitors, puts athletes careers and sometimes lives at risk (which could violate other, already existing criminal laws), etc., should come with penalties and negative consequences, but does not, in my opinion, meet the minimum requirement for criminalizing it.

If I wear blue jeans to a federated bowling match, I am breaking their rules, and giving my middle finger to the bowling federation who basque in the power of enforcing such rules. I could understand assessing a small fine, or for repeated abuses, banning me from their private little club, but certainly such an act shouldn't end me up in jail.

Anonymous said...

Hello,

To respond more to the point, I would say the next step is to improved the reliability of detection, as well as increasing the scope of liability (coaches, doctors, dealers, etc.).

Ray

(PS: I posted the previous "anonymous" entries above, and usually sign it "Ray" but forgot.)

adventurelisa said...

Jail? I don't think physical bars-and-guards jail was in question?

Being banned from competitive sport for 2-years or for life is sufficient "jail" for any athlete.

*grin* I think we got broken up cellphone reception on the physical vs virtual jail but it seems we're in agreement on other issues.

Andrew said...

I thought of an example for the business world: Cessna CEO Jack Pelton bought fake college degrees from a diploma mill and listed them on his resume.

Guess what? He's still the CEO.

Ray said...

Hello "adventurelisa",

My comments were reacting to this idea, which I quote from the article: "...others within the IOC have even suggested that doping offences should be criminalized - jail time the result of a positive test."

But I don't disagree with anything you said -- I'm not arguing with you at all on any point. My comments are just a question of degree. In general, what degree of reaction is appropriate, and what goes to far?

Simply put, criminalizing an act essentially means you can be sent to jail. Illegal, but non-criminal acts, usually result in fines, to recompensate damages, and/or some prohibition of your behavior (to stop doing something that causes the damage, or as a penalty), and/or some mandatory behavior (going to rehabilitation, or doing volunteer work).

Maybe I'll put it another way, at the risk of showing my own ignorance. Is an athlete who dopes actually breaking any law? Which law? For example, blood doping doesn't involve the use of any controlled substance, so what law does blood doping violate? I guess it may violate the terms athletes contract, so contract law may apply between the parties of that contract. If it just violates the rules of the IATF, does that have the weight of law behind it? This would be binding presumably because when the athlete wants to participate in competitions, he(she) agrees, in writing, to be bound be certain terms (again contract law).

The only possible victims of contract law are the parties of the contract, which presumably excludes the majority of the population, who still somehow feel cheated by sports drug scandals.

- Ray

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi everyone

Well, thank you so much for the great debate in the last 24 hours - it was intended to stimulate comments and some honest thoughts on the issue, and it's certainly been entertaining to read the posts.

Just to add one or two comments: The issue of criminal charges, with possible jail time, is a very real one that is being considered by sports authorities. The IOC member in question (whom I mentioned in this article, as Ray has pointed out in the latest post) is an Arne Ljungvist, who has suggested it - he is a leading IOC anti-doping campaigner. ANd he is not alone - the issue is that the use of steroids constitutes a crime because steroids are restricted medical products. And so just as cocaine gets the dealer a sentence behind bars, so too the use or distribution (more serious) can land the "user" or the "Dealer" with the same punishment.

So the authorities are certainly pursuing that angle, though it seems to me to happen only in some instances, and I must confess that I'm not 100% sure why that is. I know that cycling authorities have stated their intention to prosecute cheats, though I must also say that when it comes from cycling authorities, I do not put much stock in the words, and they are more likely empty threats.

But still, it's there as an option. I can only repeat what I said in the original article, and what others have said in the comments, which is that if they go this route, either criminal charges or instant life bans, they really do have to tighten up and improve the process for testing, because such severe steps demand watertight processes, which they don't have right now.

Then the other thing that has come up is that the authorities must pursue the entire chain, not just the athlete. This seems to me to be a no-brainer, and the fact that it's never happened before is a telling indictment on the authorities. Because ever since athletes have used drugs (which is a long time), people have turned a blind eye to their "supply chains", and that allowed the problem to get bigger than it might otherwise have been. I have no doubt that the coaches, the national federations and the appointed doctors are as responsible and as easy to identify as the athlete, yet it has not happened. And rather than saying it should happen, perhaps we should be asking why it has not yet happened?

There are of course going to be examples of coaches who have been caught out and punished, but for the most part, we know only the athlete and nothing more. Can you imagine if a coach was issued with a two year ban if two or more of their athletes tested positive? Of course, legally, that invites all kinds of complex scenarios, because the coach will defend himself by saying he is not responsible for what is in the athlete's body. And he'd be right, how do you prove he was the source? You can't, unless you have solid testimony and evidence.

All of which only supports my belief that one day, we are going to see full-blown court cases to resolve positive tests - a jury will have to hear a defence attorney cross-examining an athlete who may be testifying against their former coach, while medical records and credit card statements are produced as evidence to prove that the steroids found in the athlete's urine were purchased by this person on that day, and so on!

That seems to be where it's heading, which will be a shame.

Anyway, thanks for the debate, keep it coming! Tomorrow, change of topic slightly, I hope to write something a little less legally divisive!

Ross

adventurelisa said...

Heya Ray,

You're on target with this one. I've only really thought about it as breaking the "law" as prescribed by the sporting code but not in an overall society law aspect. I wonder what the deal is on this?
Perhaps it would depend what kind of drug you're using?
Something like cocaine, as an example, is a no-no by the law at large, so if an athlete was performance doping with amphetamines or cocaine, usually recreational drugs, they would be breaking the sport "law" and the main law.
But, if they're just using growth hormone... well, then perhaps they're not prosecutable by the legal system, just by the sporting fraternity?
Lisa (away from email for next few days - will catch up next week)

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Well, once again we are really pleased with the level of discussion and debate here on The Science of Sport! Thanks so much to everyone who has joined this debate, it is a real winner.

Re Lisa's last comment about growth hormone, like steroids this is a controlled substance in the USA, and possession of it without a prescription is prosecutable.

Indeed, a two-year ban is a "virtual jail" for an elite athlete. Yet it still begs the question of whether or not the athlete should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

One of you made the point that by violating the drug policy of a sport one is breaking their rules, and ejection from the sport (or "club") follows. However in many countries these drugs are controlled substances, and so in fact they are breaking the law by possessing them.

Furthermore, in France I believe athletes can be prosecuted for doping not via narcotics laws but because the French have passes some kind of sports fraud law of which a proved doper is guilty of violating.

Rules are rules, again as someone said earlier, and so then shouldn't an athlete be prosecuted if he/she breaks the rules of the law? That is, they are in possession of a controlled substance without a prescription?

I am not sure what you think, but somehow I feel they should. True, they are serving a "jail" sentence in the form of a two year ban from their sport. But still they have broken a law, and why should they be exempt from prosecution just because they can run faster than me. . .?

I suspect that deep down we struggle with this issue because, inevitably, we place these people on high pedestals. And when they are caught for some reason, perhaps because previously we revered them, we have difficulty seeing them do jail time. Somehow we feel it is enough that they have been banished from their sport and disgraced as a cheat.

In any case, this is a fantastic debate regardless of where one stands on this issue, and thanks again for those commenting on it!

Kind Regards,
Jonathan

Jonathan, Australia said...

Hi Lisa, I don't know if I would re-hire someone who was previously stealing from me after they have done their time, but I believe a part of being human is to have an ability to make mistakes and to also have an ability to change, and a part of living is to risk allowing people to change - sport, business, love, whatever. I think we can't discount this human component (as a general idea) otherwise we all just start living as robots and never risk again. Stealers should have the opportunity to be gainfully employed - given they admit their wrongs and show an attempt to change - by someone who knows their history and is prepared to risk that the person has changed - or has processes in place to ensure any potential damage is minimalised, and is prepared to take the risk.

Jail is going to far - it is only sport - if we cannot trust what we are watching and are sick of the fraud and cheating, we should turn off the telly and read a book or go to an art gallery or something. Unfortunately much of sport has moved from inspiration to entertainment - it seems (too?)many people are happy to just be entertained and the essence of achievement and competition is lost - a cultural failing that encourages doping perhaps?

Ray said...

Hello Jonathon and Ross,

I'd like to zero on the sports authorities' criminal proposals. I don't exactly what is being considered or proposed (again, my ignorance).

If the doping involves "controlled" substances, then its use is already restricted. Uncontrolled use is already against the law. Re-criminalizing a criminal activity seems to bring nothing more than redundancy. So my question is, are the existing laws insufficient to deal with the problem?

Either the proposals are superfluous, or they propose to criminalize things which are not yet crimes, perhaps because they don't involve controlled substances (e.g. blood doping?).

I also question the scope of authority of the sports authorities who want to regulate doping with criminal law. It is not within their authority to enforce criminal laws. As law-abiding citizens, they could report the athletes to the police, but that's where their authority stops.

Ray

PS: I have a "falling tree in the forest" question: if an athlete dopes, and doesn't win, did he do something wrong? :-P

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

HI Ray

I must confess that I don't know a great deal about the proposed "criminal" nature of punishment for dopers. I was recently in the USA for 4 weeks and what is happening there is that Congress has begun pursuing athletes who dope (mostly in baseball of late) as "criminals". In particular, they are after the men who have supplied steroids, and I recall reading that the basis for this is that steroids are indeed banned substances. So it's not baseball authorities, but Congress who have initiated this.

The IOC have a member who ranks quite highly in the anti-doping fight who has suggested that all sports authorities should adopt the same attitude. That's not to say that each federation will be able to pursue criminal charges, because you're quite right - they don't have this authority. But if one thinks of the Operation Puerto affair where the labs of a Spanish doctor were raided (by police) and many blood samples and other doping practices were discovered, that issue could easily have been handled as a criminal one (and may have been - I need to read up on that a little more). But in both cases, criminal charges are possible, more for the doctor or "dealer" than the athlete, because the use of steroids or blood doping is illegal (not just "banned" by the sports authorities). And I've long wondered about this myself - I'm going to send an email off to a professor of Sports Law at the University where I work and get some clarity on this issue, because it's not something I'm that familiar with either.

So let me do that, and I'll do a post on it in the future to clarify a little more!

ROss

Ferren said...

Great article.

The lab tests will NEVER all be watertight. It is not possible.

No set of 34 relatively busy commercial WADA affiliated labs can meet that goal. It is NOT POSSIBLE.


I believe in second chances, that athletes who test positive should be let back in the sport after serving a ban. Those athletes should undergo extra testing, including bio-profiling (which is probably the only hope for any lessening of doping in general). Maybe put on some kind of bio-profile probation.

I do understand trying people for sporting fraud, even though I don't agree with it. Everyday people go to jail for defrauding insurance companies, defrauding a sporting event and competitors (especially when there is substantial money at stake) doesn't seem much different to me.

Ferren said...

Great article.

The lab tests will NEVER all be watertight. It is not possible.

No set of 34 relatively busy commercial WADA affiliated labs can meet that goal. It is NOT POSSIBLE.


I believe in second chances, that athletes who test positive should be let back in the sport after serving a ban. Those athletes should undergo extra testing, including bio-profiling (which is probably the only hope for any lessening of doping in general). Maybe put on some kind of bio-profile probation.

I do understand trying people for sporting fraud, even though I don't agree with it. Everyday people go to jail for defrauding insurance companies, defrauding a sporting event and competitors (especially when there is substantial money at stake) doesn't seem much different to me.

Anonymous said...

You would send an athlete to JAIL for using GROWTH HORMONE which is a natural hormone found in the human body and which is ultimately GOOD for his health... or for using TESTOSTERONE which is the MALE HORMONE, and which is ultimately also GOOD for his health?!!

You would send an athlete to spend time in jail with bank robbers and murderers and cocaine smugglers???

You must be out of your mind, or you are for cruel and unusual punishment for athletes. You would have been a great Witch Hunter, or a great Inquisitor...

Do not forget, even if you are holier than others, someday the person who is being sent to jail could be YOUR SON... or YOUR BROTHER...

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Anonymous

Thanks for that - I haven't had such a good chuckle in a while.

First of all, the use of testosterone and growth hormone is NOT good for health. Many people have died as a result of complications caused by both, but in particular testosterone has been implicated in kidney, heart and endocrine failure. So you might wish to inform yourself before making bald assertions that prove incorrect.

Second, it's not about being holier than "thou", man, that is funny! My brother or son!? Wow, that's quite something.

Finally, read the post. You clearly haven't. And then please come back with a thoughtful opinion, not comedy.

Ross

Matt E said...

This is my take on things:

The athletes due to the fact they are suffering from the condition of being human, will generally cheat and lie and try every possible method to improve performance. You cannot rely on their judgement, or the judgement of their coaches who are also looking for success via transference.

Instead the burden of responsibility needs to be placed on the manufacturers of the drugs. Anyone producing and selling the drugs illegally, should be very harshly punished. legal versions of the drug should include molecular or chemical markers that show up in any blood test. This should be Internationally agreed.

Who am I kidding...

P.S. Do you have any data about competitors returning after doping bans, like Basso or Millar? How is their perfroamnce compared to before they were banned and known to be doping?
Are they coming back and just getting better at hiding their doping, while performing at the same level?

P.P.S. If you assume Lance is innocent of doping, and then hypothetically apply a performance improvement through the addition of doping, how good would he then be? How much would he be beating his doping competitors by then?