Monday, August 7, 2017

The Latest Anti-Doping Hysteria, And The Problem Of Reducing Complicated Issues To 140 Characters

When I started this blog in 2010, I had the intention of including lots of original content.  I did a pretty good job at first, but inevitably work took precedence.  But I had some extra time this weekend, giving myself a bit of a break after 3 anti-doping arbitrations in a 6-day stretch.  So after an enjoyable morning bike ride, I settled in to watch the IAAF World Championships.  Having recorded the coverage so I could fast-forward through much of the commentary and pre-race hype, I studiously avoided social media so that I could watch without knowing the results.  I watched two remarkable finals:  Almaz Ayana absolutely crushing the field in the second half of the women’s 10,000 meters, and Justin Gatlin's shocking win over Usain Bolt in Bolt’s self-proclaimed last 100-meter race ever.

Then I decided to check the twitter response, which was as predictable as it was illogical:

“Until Ethiopia follow proper doping procedures I for one do not accept these athletes performances”

“All those expressing dismay that a doper won must be in denial about the fact that evidence shows >40% of elite athletes dope”

“Gold medal to any advertising executive with convincing pitch to attract fans to watch athletics where Almaz Ayana & Justin Gatlin are stars”

Here is the problem with social media rhetoric:  sound bites and tweets are compelling in their simplicity, but anti-doping is complicated.  When you reduce anti-doping to 140 characters, illogic is inevitable.  I could write or talk for days about the complexity of the issues in anti-doping, but let me illustrate the illogic of the latest hysteria with a few questions raised by these simple tweets, questions that are easy to ask and much more difficult to answer:

If performances can only be trusted by athletes who live or train in countries that have strong and independent National Anti-Doping Organizations, then why is there such skepticism over Justin Gatlin’s performance, when he has not tested positive or had any known anti-doping issues since returning from his 4-year ban in 2010, while living and training in a country that has one of the strongest and most independent National Anti-Doping Organizations?

If entire nations such as Ethiopia are to be singled out as “not following proper doping procedures,” then how can you justify the fact that Russia remains the only country that is precluded from competing at these World Championships?

If more than 40% of elite athletes dope, which presumably would mean that 40% or more of the 2017 IAAF World Championships women’s’ 10,000 meters were doping, then how did Almaz Ayana completely dominate the field and win by 46 seconds?

If more than 40% of elite athletes dope, but less than 2% of all anti-doping tests result in either an Adverse Analytical Finding or an Atypical Finding [see], does this mean that more than 38% of elite athletes are doping and not being caught?  And if this is the case, how can you continue to justify the exclusion of all Russian athletes from these World Championships while at the same time believing that a significant number of competing athletes from all countries are doping and not being caught?

It is frequently claimed by the anti-doping authorities, as one of the justifications for their pursuits, that if people don’t believe that what they are watching is real (i.e., if they believe most competitors are doping), they will stop watching.  This is a consistent narrative, that anti-doping threatens the very existence of sport.  Without in any way meaning to minimize the anti-doping fight, history shows that there is little, if any, correlation between people’s belief as to the prevalence of doping and their decision as to whether or not to watch.  In fact, for the most dedicated fans, it could be argued that the debate about who is or is not doping is simply part of the conversation, in the same manner as the debates over who will win a particular game, who is the best, etc.  Sport fuels a 24-hour media industry, which depends on controversies to generate interest.  The doping debate has simply become one of those controversies which makes fans more engaged, not less.

Anti-doping is complicated.  Certainly, athletes who “cheat” are not always caught.  But at the same time, athletes who test positive are not always “cheaters,” let alone villains.  Attempts to encapsulate anti-doping in a sound bite or a tweet – to say that you do not accept extraordinary performances from athletes from certain countries or to use the pejorative phrase “drugs cheat” indiscriminately or to simply declare that the majority of athletes are “doping” - may help build hysteria, it may even help to build interest, but it will inevitably be over simplistic and prone to illogic.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Swimmer Omar Pinzon Completely Exonerated By Court Of Arbitration For Sport, Responds To CAS Decision

Los Angeles (April 8, 2014) – Omar Pinzon’s long fight to clear his name is finally over, with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (“CAS”) issuing its final decision exonerating him earlier this week.

Despite the fact that he has never used cocaine, Mr. Pinzon tested positive for cocaine while competing at the Colombian National Games in Cali, Colombia, on November 10, 2012.  Confident that he was innocent, Mr. Pinzon submitted to a polygraph examination, and was found to be truthful that he had not knowingly used cocaine.  When he was suspended by the national swimming federation for Colombia (FECNA) for 2 years, Omar Pinzon appealed to the CAS.

Following a hearing in New York in February 2014, CAS has now issued its final decision, fully exonerating Omar Pinzon.  In its decision, the CAS tribunal noted the following:

-the CAS tribunal did not believe that Omar Pinzon had ever used cocaine;

-the testing laboratory in Colombia had not used the standard test for cocaine, and did not establish that it even followed its own required testing protocols;

-there is no known scientific study that would support the test results reported by the testing laboratory in Colombia;

-the results reported by the testing laboratory in Colombia are virtually impossible in a human urine sample after the ingestion of cocaine, meaning that the test results are inconsistent with biology; and

-the lab result can only be explained by lab error, manipulation of the sample or adulteration of the sample.

In addition, the CAS tribunal ordered that FECNA must pay Omar Pinzon in excess of US $50,000 for the costs of the arbitration and his legal fees.

In responding to the CAS decision, Omar Pinzon stated as follows:

“I am extremely happy with the CAS decision, because it proves what I already knew, which is that I was completely innocent.   The past year has been extremely difficult for me and my family, and I look forward to returning to competition later this month.

Despite this ordeal, I look forward to again representing my country in the near future.”

For more information please contact Howard Jacobs:

Howard L. Jacobs                                          
Law Offices of Howard L. Jacobs                 
2815 Townsgate Road, Suite 200                  
Westlake Village, California 91361                
Tel. 805.418.9892  Cell. 818.422.0508         
Fax. 805.418.9899                                             

Friday, December 20, 2013

Alix Klineman Receives Reduced Suspension for Inadvertent Use of Banned Supplement, Responds To AAA Decision

Los Angeles (December 20, 2013) – The American Arbitration Association recently issued its decision suspending volleyball player Alix Klinemen from competition from May 22, 2013 through June 9, 2014 for her inadvertent use of a banned supplement, thereby allowing her to return to competition early next summer.

In its decision, the AAA Panel summarized the reasons for its decision as follows:

            “USADA agreed with [Alix Klineman’s] contention that she is not a drug cheat.  [Alix Klineman] is an exceptional, forthright person who unfortunately finds herself caught up in the persistent world-wide efforts to eradicate performance enhancing drugs in sport through the imposition of stringent minimum penalties even where clear and convincing proof exists that an athlete made a small error with no intent to gain a competitive advantage.”

In responding to the AAA decision, Alix Klineman stated as follows:

“This has been a devastating experience for me. It is an understatement to say it is heartbreaking for me to be punished for something I never intended to do. Having accidentally taken a banned substance means that I am placed in the same category as those who meant to cheat to get an unfair advantage. This, of course, was never my intention nor did I ever know that I was taking a banned substance.

Nevertheless, I am pleased that the Arbitration Panel recognizes that I never attempted to gain any competitive advantage nor did I obtain any competitive advantage through my mistake. Further, the panel has stated in their report that they believe that I took reasonable precautions to avoid taking any prohibited substances.

I look forward to returning to competition as soon as possible, and working toward my ultimate goal of representing my country at the 2016 Olympic Games.”

For more information please contact Howard Jacobs:

Howard L. Jacobs                                          
Law Offices of Howard L. Jacobs                 
2815 Townsgate Road, Suite 200                  
Westlake Village, California 91361                
Tel. 805.418.9892  Cell. 818.422.0508         
Fax. 805.418.9899