Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I don't like drug cheats but...

The Guardian has a report from the "Drug Control Center at King's College London wheres Prof David Cowan, director of the center has stated emphatically that would be the "..."riskiest yet" for anyone using illegal methods to enhance performance."

The article has a fascinating writeup on how scientists are have realized a way to detect blood doping; (blood doping: the practice where one's own blood is collected and reinserted back into the body at a later date so as to create an over supply oxygen carrying more oxygen carrying red blood cells). Scientists have figured out a way to calculate the age of the RNA within the reinserted blood so as to detect it.

From the Guardian:
Cowan said many of the hurdles to detection of blood transfusions have now been overcome. "A few years ago, scientists discovered there are processes going on in red cells [as they age outside the body]. We've been looking at the different RNA that's present and been able to identify those that are clearly changed in stored blood."


At my job we have dramatically increased our client base to include financial institutions and European telecoms. Without getting into details regarding what we do, our company has instituted a drug policy since we are interfacing our technology with their clients to help drive sales.

My first reaction was; ("Oh great, are we going to be treated like Olympic athletes whereas we are ambushed at odd hours?), but after reading the policy I found it incredibly fair, honest and quite private. It included scheduled appointments, mandatory drug tests scheduled post a serious accident, and best of all the results are between you and your employer ONLY!

Contrast that to what Olympic athletes endure: A positive test is broadcast globally in most cases well before a second sample is tested. Hence, as Mark Twain once said: "A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,"

When Jessica Hardy tested positive she eventually admitted to testing positive by blaming or suspecting that it was supplements she was taking. Hardy really had no time to appeal or explain due to the aggressive Olympic trials schedule and the demonstrable lousy project-management of the athlete test samples by USA Swimming. I am still bitter that Tara Kirk did not get to go to the Olympics in Jessica Hardy's stead but I concede that Jessica Hardy had no time to mount a defense, an explanation or the ability to cross examine the results. Hardy was declared a doper and removed from the team and consequently USA Swimming declined to follow the rules and allow Tara Kirk to swim in her place.

It's extraordinary how many mistakes USA Swimming has made in the past four-years ranging from an anti trust lawsuit, child abuse lawsuits, poor drug test management, poor athlete compensation, forcing an athlete who followed the rules and qualified to swim for our country to stay home, and finally execs making 6-figure incomes with the USA Swimming CEO's salary approaching the million dollar a year range but I will save that for later. (Also, why do I feel I am missing some others as well?)

Recently Cesar Cielo tested positive for a banned substance but was exonerated or more accurately forgiven for the offense. Nonetheless, he did test positive and it was blamed on something he inadvertently ingested. Whether he should have been forgiven or not is arguable but his privacy, as well as Jessica Hardy's medical privacy should have been respected till the final outcome was declared.

In no other professional sports do athletes have to give their constant whereabouts, activities and vacation plans as if asking a parent permission to go to out and play. Athletes deserve privacy - if they test positive who really needs to know and why? I say just their employer and the athlete. Why they did or did not make the team is both the employer and the Athlete's business only.


TedBaker said...

One significant flaw with your argument: Given that athletes are most often tested once they reach National Team status and given that most National Teams are tax dollar supported, then their "employer" is, effectively, the tax paying public.

Tony Austin said...

USA Swimming is a non-profit and receives no government funding. It's monopoly is sanctioned by the US government though.

If it was a government body, employees are still entitled to privacy.

Glenn said...

$0 dollars from the government... and a great post Tony. Then again, athletes getting in trouble for doping is big news, and always free publicity for the sport. Keeps it in front of the public. What's the old saying, there's no such thing as bad publicity? Hate to think that's part of the thought process... but I certainly wouldn't put it passed anyone.

TedBaler said...

USA Swimming is the exception, not the rule. Every other National Team is taxpayer funded, with the possible exception of the Aussies... But they have the National Centre for Sports in Canberra.

Plus, even in US swimming, the athletes rely on taxpayer funded infrastructure.