Raise the bar

There has been a good discussion in the previous post on how to be fair to the riders while not creating a situation as we have in other sports.  We know other professional athletes are involved in Operation Puerto I and II.  We see people attempting to break records while a serious cloud of suspicion hangs over his head (Barry Bonds).  In both cases, we see little or no action from the sports governing bodies.

How about this thought to continue the thread.  Raise the bar of performance on everyone involved.  Here are some thoughts.  Thanks to Daniel (a/k/a Rant) for planting the seed.

One note.  I believe it is human nature to take the shortest, easiest, least problematic path.  Therefore, I believe if you want a certain behavior, you need to make sure that other paths are seen as worse than the desired path.

1) Labs– Put into place enough rigor that creates a situation where the results are unassailable.  My guess is start with the FDA.  I believe they regulate diagnostic labs who are developing tests and diagnostic equipment.  Before I can sell a new diagnostic test for cancer, I need to pass some rigorous criteria.  Any new doping test should pass similar scrutiny.  Now, the easy part of this missive is the lab performing the tests should actually follow standards and protocols currently in existence today.   In fact, redundancy should be built into the system.  Random duplicate tests should be performed by an alternate lab to act as a check.  Mandatory blinded validation of positive ‘B’ test by an another lab.  Once verified, an audit of the procedures, protocols and results are part of the packet sent to the doping authorities.  Re-certification should be frequent and rigorous. Obviously no leaks.

Penalty for not following any of these? Case immediately dropped.  No matter what. Lab also loses its accreditation for a period of time and then needs to be recertified before returning. 

2) Authorities– Strict protocols of adjudication followed.  Many of these exist today such as no public notification after ‘A’ sample tested.  When a case becomes a case after ‘B’ sample test and all lab processes and protocols are validated then complete, and I mean complete transparency to the athlete.  They have access to all evidence pertinent to the case.  The athlete deserves this as it is his/her life and reputation on the line. Gag order up to and during the hearing. Obviously, no leaks.

Penalty? Case dropped no matter what.

3) Athlete – In exchange for the rigor, redundancy and checks and balances the penalty for guilt should be a lifetime ban. 



4 Responses to Raise the bar

  1. Daniel M says:

    Good ideas. What safeguards should be built into the system to ensure that only people who intended to dope are punished? Think of Alan Baxter, the British skier who was forced to give up his bronze medal in Salt Lake City because he used an inhaler that he didn’t realize contained a banned substance. The same product sold in England didn’t contain the substance, so at home it was safe to use. In Salt Lake City, however, the American version wasn’t. No intentional doping there.

    So the rules in adjudication need to be flexible enough to take such situations into account. Or perhaps the list of banned substances needs to be made shorter, more rational, and based on whether or not the substance confers any benefit to a particular sport. Makes the testing end more complicated, perhaps, but the system should necessarily be tailored to the needs of the labs.

  2. Debby says:

    This is an excellent list of suggestions for reform.

    I agree with Rant that there needs to be something in place so that a cough drop doesn’t ruin your career. “Intent” is a hard thing to pin down, but if you are using an inhaler and a doctor verifies that you in fact have a cold, that should be it, end of discussion. Particularly when it comes to whether or not there is any advantage to be gained in your sport. What WADA thinks you might gain from using an inhaler or topical cortisone cream, vs. what you lose (career) if a trace substance is found…is ridiculous.

  3. pelotonjim says:

    Great points. The one thing I left out is the judges, CAS. There should be a little leeway for cases where inadvertent doping occurred. There seems to be a pretty good ability to discern inadvertent use of banned substances. That could be tricky since once a door is cracked, many will try to use it.

  4. Daniel M says:

    Perhaps, but the mark of a fair system is that it allows some discretion. And when in doubt, it errs on the side of the accused rather than the accuser. What we’ve seen in a number of cases is, perhaps, the result of a too-rigid adherence to the (poorly conceived) rules, along with too little latitude when determining punishment. Sure, everyone will probably try to weasel out of a doping conviction by claiming it was an accident.

    But in the Puerto case, if the DNA of a blood bag matches a particular rider, that’s no accident. And if Fuentes really was Dr. Doper de la Sangre, finding a rider’s blood in his refrigerator would be a pretty damning bit of evidence. I have a hard time believing that so many people would truly be going to Fuentes to dope. His office door would be constantly flooded with cyclists coming and going. I can’t imagine Basso, Ullrich and a bunch of others all sitting in the waiting room shooting the breeze. But that’s about what it would have to take, if the accusations prove true.

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