Monday, August 13, 2012

BBC - Could the fledgling field of performance profiling reveal the truth about Olympian achievements that defy expectation?

When I read the headline I thought the general topic would be about using analytics to find great athletes. Instead it was about using statistical analytics to judge who should be tested for performance enhancing drugs.

The subject has it share of political spin with proponents stating that this profiling would not be to punish or discipline athletes but rather to "screen" them. The word "screen" should be read as, "If you are really good then you are a de facto suspect and will be "screened" more because we are suspicious. That's how I read it.

From the BBC:

To make performance profiling more rigorous, sports scientists must determine a typical trajectory for each sport and each event by studying data from hundreds, even thousands of careers, says Berthelot. Sprinters tend to peak young and fall off quickly, while distance runners typically peak in their late 20s and early 30s and lose their speed less quickly. With this foundation and as much data as possible on an athlete’s past performances, computer models could put a probability on the likelihood that a performance was unusual enough to warrant closer drug screening, or whether it fits the trajectory of a exceptional career.


In horse racing the crooks use to dope the "losers" to make them into "winners" and then bet heavily on them. Then when they realized that drug testing was getting too sophisticated to mask, they started doping the "winners" so as to become "losers" and then bet heavily on the "long shots."

When I say long shots I mean "Hubble-telescope-grade" long shots. Those who should have never been in the race in the first place let alone in a stable. The way they would doped these faster horses was terrible, they would stick a sponge up the horse's nose so it could not breathe properly and consequently fade during the race.

In my opinion dope testing is important but it should be that all athletes get tested not just the youngest or the best. Selective screening simply punishes the strong an places suspicion on greatness no matter what the category.

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