Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Drug-Testing Coming to Amateur Cycling?.....

Could drug-testing become the norm for amateur cyclists? How would you feel if this came into USA Cycling rules and regulations for amateur cyclists? It brings up an age-old question of how prevalent doping is in cycling both at the pro and amateur levels!

"Just over a week ago, the World Triathlon Corporation (Ironman) announced a new drug testing program. But get this this, not only a program for both pro and age-group athletes, but an out-of-competition pool for both pros and AGers who've qualified for either the World Ironman Championships (Kona) or the 70.3 Worlds. The rules for age-group athletes will be the same as for pros. Same list of banned substances. Same requirements to register one's travel arrangements on the ADAMS system, which allows WADA and its labs to know an athlete's whereabouts for unannounced out-of-competition tests. The program started at IM Wisconsin race last weekend, both pro and age-group athletes will be asked to sign a waiver, by which the athlete—pro or AGer—agrees to be drug tested at events, and to cooperate if chosen to be part of the out-of-competition (OOC) pool. It is not by chance that the new program kicks off this weekend, since IM Wisconsin is the first qualifier for Ironman Hawaii 2010. While only pro athletes will be tested at Wisconsin, an age-group athlete qualifying for Kona 2010 might be chosen for an OOC pool at any time. Certainly there are many athletes who are taking banned substances and who'll take part in Ironman and 70.3 races around the world. But many or most of those athletes may be taking them for reasons other than to cheat. For those athletes, there's always been a work-around, called a therapeutic use exemption (TUE). Floyd Landis famously had a TUE for a banned-list medicine he was taking for his degenerated hip during his short-lived Tour de France victory. Age-groupers will also need to apply for TUEs as well.

Typically, athletes must apply to their national anti-doping agency for a TUE (in the case of American athletes it's USADA). But WTC has been granted by WADA the right to set up its own panel of experts to adjudicate TUE requests. It is unprecedented in sport that a race organizer has its own TUE board. But it's not a bad idea in Ironman's case, since it's highly questionable whether USADA or any other NADO has the expertise and wisdom to properly consider TUE requests by the full third of WTC's race fields that are old enough to carry AARP membership cards.

If an athlete is selected, and then opts out of the program, they loses their slot to Kona (or Clearwater). In this sense, the program differs from what pro athletes suffer. If an ITU racer opts out of his OOC pool, he effectively opts out of his sport. If an AG athlete opts out, he simply loses his entry to the World Championship.

Testing for Ironman athletes has been a sham in recent years, not because the WTC didn't do everything it could to attract testing, but because the pro athletes competing in its races were almost never chosen by USADA for the OOC pools. Now Ironman has taken an affirmative step to do what no other race organization has ever done. But age-group testing might be the quagmire WTC did not anticipate. If you're a pro athlete, triathlon is your temp job. It's what you do to earn your living today, but there's a finite time you'll be doing this until you move on to your permanent job. For those who have that permanent job, triathlon is not how you earn a living. It's an avocation. It's for fun. When in the course of news reporting Slowtwitch.com writes of your ban from the sport due to your positive drug test at Kona, or in an OOC test, and this becomes the first item folks read when they Google you, what will that mean if you're a church pastor? A sixth grade teacher? A police captain bucking for chief? A medical doctor? An airline pilot?

The big news is not that the WTC organization is testing AGers, rather that WADA is allowing WTC to operate almost like an anti-doping agency. This, is assumed, because triathlon's ITU has so egregiously abrogated its responsibilities to the sport as a whole. This a noteworthy achievement that will certainly be unappreciated by most of those reporting it. Nevertheless, age-group drug testing is high stakes for the AGers who have a lot to lose. Finessing this may prove like a game chess: as WTC executes, it best be thinking five moves ahead. " Article amended from http://www.slowtwitch.com/.

I for one am all for the testing in triathlon, particularly when there are World Championship places at stake and it is good that the WTC realize that for an AG'er these slots are the Holy Grail. As for the potential for drug-testing for amateur cycling, I'm not so sure.....I can't see a 31 year old Cat 4 rider with no sprint having to register with the ADAMS system and having to tell the testers in advance that he might be heading out of town to visit the beach one weekend! Thoughts??

7 comments:

daniel said...

I can see them doing in competition testing for amateur cyclists; ie, testing as a requirement to accept any prizes from either primes or placing well. But I don't see out of competition testing happening for cat 4 riders, but maybe for cat 2 and 1 riders.

Either way, all of this testing sounds expensive and I think we'll end up feeling it in either higher race fees or license costs.

Sigberto said...

Just like you, I'm all for making sure we've got a clean sport.

Unfortunately, the red tape that would come administering such programs would overwhelm the governing bodies, as would the cost of anti-doping programs (especially out-of-competition). I'm sure that approving TUEs alone would overwhelm some guy's normal duties.

Plus, USA Cycling and USADA don't have the resources to prosecute all of the professional dopers, so they probably don't care to test, charge, and/or prosecute an amateur. Wasn't there some article about Floyd that said they basically let other positive tests slide under the radar because they could only afford to prosecute Landis at the time?

If this were to work in the amateur ranks, it would only be feasible for maybe Cat 1s and maybe 2s. There are probably too many folks that would require TUEs in the 3/4s and do we really care if a guy with a bum knee got a cortisone shot before his Cat 4 event? Yeah, I believe that it's illegal, but it's also a waste of time for USA Cycling and USADA. Don't raise my race fees for the guy with an injury.

And, of course, the idea of dope testing Cat 5s just makes me giggle.

chuck hutch said...

I think there should be testing at races that have over a certain dollar amount prize list, and chapionship events. Maybe knock some money of the prize list amount to catch the cheaters, who may collect the prize money anyway if they are not caught.

Iain Banks said...

I agree with Chuck. The reason that the WTC are doing it is due to the big prize of getting to the World's for the AG'ers. There seems little point in testing Cat 3's and below. It's the higher up racers who have more at stake that may been tempted to try the "Belgian Pot".

Lance Lacy the Omnipotent said...

Yea testing amatures. I could sell my pee and blood to the doppers and make some cash sweet...

chuck hutch said...

If you sold you pee, the would be negative for hgh but positive for std. Just kidding.

Lance Lacy the Omnipotent said...

Yea let me just set myself up there...nice one corn boy