Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Oslo Forum on Doping with Independent Experts: 26 April

Doping: science, ethics and law

Location: Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, Drammensveien 78, Oslo, Norway
26. April 2017 15:00

Sport has great social importance and popularity, requires large resources and receives much public attention. But the sport's values ​​are challenged by doping. In Norway, processes against Martin Jonsrud Sundby and Therese Johaug have triggered vigorous debates on the relevant issues. Why are these matters so important? Is there a good match between people's sense of justice and what is actually happening in anti-doping matters? What rules are applicable? How should anti-doping work be regulated? Good answers require informed debate based on ethical, scientific and legal expertise.

If you'd like to attend register here.

  • 15.00: Opening by the president of the Academy, Ole M. Sejersted
  • 15.05: Roger Pielke, jr., Univ of Colorado: Scientific Integrity and Anti-Doping Regulation
  • 15.35: Michele Verroken, Sporting Integrity, Ltd.: Does anti doping serve sports and athletes or its own interests?
  • 16:05 Sigmund Loland, Norwegian School of Sports: The Ethical Dilemmas of doping
  • 16.30: Coffee break
  • 17.00: Jens Evald, Universitu of Aarhus: Anti-Doping - The balance between efficiency and the rule of law
  • 17.25: Erik Boye, Oslo University Hospital: Scientific variability and fallibility
  • 17.45: Odd O. Aalen: Statistical aspects: How to evaluate the uncertainty of diagnostic tests
  • 18.00 Discussion & invited comments
  • 19.00 End
Roger Pielke, Jr. has been on the faculty of the University of Colorado since 2001. He is the director of the Sports Governance Center within at the Department of Athletics, having Previously directed the university's Center for Science and Technology Policy Research. Pielke is the author of The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics and The Edge: The War Against Cheating and Corruption in the Cutthroat World of Elite Sports.

Michele Verroken is a qualified arbitrator, mediator and adjudicator, a former teacher and lecturer in sports science and physical education. She is the founding director of Sporting Integrity and the Director of Ethics and Anti-Doping at UK Sport, Michele created the UK's Drug Information Database, education programs The, Independent Doping Control Officer training and national anti-doping policy based on ISO-certified standards. Michele has significant experience in anti-doping programs The at national and international level.

Sigmund Loland is professor of sport philosophy and the Rector of the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences (2005-2013). He has published extensively within at sports ethics, the ethics of performance-enhancing technologies, epistemology of movement, and the history of ideas in sports. Dr. Loland ice forms President of the International Association of the Philosophy of Sport (2002-03) and the European College of Sport Science (2011-13), and he is member of the Ethics Board of the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA ) (2004-).

Jens Evald is professor of sports law; Head of Sports Law Research Unit, Institute of Law, Aarhus University; Member of the Board of the Institute of Sport (1998-2007); Chairman of the Dispute Resolution Committee, Danish Kayak & Canoe Federation (2000-presented); Vice Chairman Danish Sports Law Association (2001-2005); Chairman of the Board of Anti-Doping Denmark (2006-2012); Member the Political Commission, Danish Football Association (DBU) (2016-2017). He is author and co-author of more than a dozen books and numerous at articles. His work includes books and articles on private law issues, legal history, legal philosophy, biographies and sports law.

Erik Boye is retired professor and department head, Institute for Cancer Research in Oslo. With a background in experimental cell biology and biochemistry he has a long experience with Biochemical analytic techniques. Through the last five years he HAS BEEN Involved in Evaluating the quality of anti-doping analyzes.

Odd O. Aalen is professor of biostatistics in the Medical School at the University of Oslo. He has beenworking on statistical methodology Applied two medical research. He Also has an interest in the statistical aspects of diagnostic testing.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Talk at UF on "Sex Testing" in Sport

I gave a talk at the University of Florida earlier today on "sex testing" in international sport. I have attached the slides as a PDF here. The talk comes from The Edge, and is also the subject of a more technical discussion currently in late stages of peer review.

Comments always welcomed!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Foxes in the Henhouse

Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on anti-doping that featured testimony of Olympians Adam Nelson and Michael Phelps. The hearing also included testimony of Travis Tygart, head of the US Anti-Doping Agency as well as representatives of the IOC and WADA,

Tygart argued for "a clear separation between those who promote sport and those who police it. To do so otherwise, we believe, is to encourage the fox to guard the henhouse" (PDF). Tygart, and others, are arguing for the IOC, and other organizations of the Olympic Movement, to recuse themselves from the administration of anti-doping regulations in sport. Such a fix, Tygart suggests is "easy."

Tygart is right about the fox in the hen house, but he is wrong about the fix being easy. This post goes into a bit of the institutional history behind IOC's tight grip on WADA to set the stage for discussions of how the fox might be excused from the hen house.

Earlier this week comments by officials at IOC and USOC illustrated the different incentives faced by anti-doping regulators and organizations of the Olympic Movement. For instance, a Russian IOC official commented on Tygart's passionate anti-doping agenda:
"Fighting with an organization responsible for giving future Olympic Games — it’s a big mistake. This gentleman [Tygart] is doing a very counterproductive job with respect to the Los Angeles [2024] bid."
The head of the USOC said of Tygart:
"Travis’s style, I would be lying if I told you it wasn’t having an impact [on the LA 2024 bid]. At the end of the day, he’s doing his job, and he’s doing it really well. Would we like him to be a little bit more of a silver-tongued devil? Yes, we would."
If you are new to the world of sport let me translate all that: These administrators of leading Olympic sports organizations would prefer that USADA tone down its efforts to improve anti-doping regulations and governance around the world. The reason for this is that anti-doping efforts can lead to scandal and a stain on sport and the organizations that govern it. 

These dynamics are not new and can be traced to the origins of WADA in the late 1990s. At that time the IOC was reeling from a bribery scandal of its own making related and the world of sport had just suffered a big black eye due to doping revealing by the so-called Festina affair at the 1998 Tour de France.

Something had to be done.

So in response the IOC moved to create an "Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Agency," Right away many of those interested in anti-doping reforms saw this proposal to be highly problematic. General Barry McCaffery, who was President Bill Clinton's head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy with jurisdiction over matters related to sports doping, testified before the US Senate in 1999 on anti-doping reforms underway under the auspices of the IOC. He stated:
"IOC is rushing forward to build an institution that we cannot support-- one which is more public relations ploy than public policy solution. . . The proposal should have stronger guarantees that the agency  will be independent and operate based on basic principles of good  governance and democracy, such as transparency and no conflicts of interest."
Also testifying that day was Frank Shorter, US Olympian who had won a Gold Medal in the Marathon. He agreed:
"everything  possible should be done to avoid even the hint of a conflict of  interest. This obviously means no IOC control"
So too did Prof. Doriane Lambelet Coleman, of Duke University Law School:
"the reason it is so critical that the IOC and USOC  both externalize and make independent their drug testing operations is that they are neither willing nor capable, as a structural matter, of conceiving and administering a fair and effective drug testing program."
The pressure being put on IOC by the US and Europe meant that they had to give up their desire to own the new anti-doping agency. Instead, they had to settle for partial ownership. 

Richard Pound, a Canadian lawyer and I.O.C. vice president, who is drafting a proposal on the agency to be considered by the conference on Thursday, acknowledged that the I.O.C. has had to scale back its plans to be at the center of the agency. Pound said national governments would have a much larger role than anticipated, a reflection of the widespread skepticism about the I.O.C.'s leadership ability in the wake of the burgeoning bribery scandals involving host cities. . . Pound said it was possible the new agency, if approved, would have as much as 50 percent representation from public authorities, whereas before the conference the I.O.C. had anticipated no more than 20 percent. It was an indication of the increasing inclination of governments to take anti­doping enforcement out of the hands of sports bodies . . .
Ultimately, it was a 50% split in governance responsibility between governments and sports organizations that came to characterize how WADA was run, and that split still exists today. In practice, however, it is fair to question how much of a role governments actually play in the oversight of WADA, Consider that the US government representative to WADA listed on its website today, Michael K. Gottlieb, left the US government in 2015. I do not recall any instance of a government official on the WADA Board speaking for the organization - it s always sports people.

There is nothing in the international treaty on anti-doping that dictates how WADA is to be governed. In practice, to change the composition of the WADA governing committee (its "Foundation Board") requires a super-majority of 2/3 votes of its 38 members. Currently on this committee  there are 19 members from the Olympic Movement including 5 IOC Members, one of whom is the WADA president. To remove the fox from the hen house would thus require many people from sports organizations to vote themselves out of a job at WADA. It is hard to envision how this might happen.

One consequence of the tight grip that the IOC (and its related organizations) have on WADA can sure be seen in how WADA implements sanctions for violations of its Code.  Consider the case of Russian athletes who were part of the institutionalized doping scandal revealed over the past several years. Below is a list of organizations and individuals culpable in the scandal as argued in the four recent WADA reports (by Pound & McLaren).
  • Russian athletes
  • Rusada
  • ROC
  • IAAF
  • WADA
  • IOC
I have highlighted in RED where WADA has jurisdiction to sanction. 

That is right -- WADA has no ability to sanction sports organizations of the Olympic Movement, as the WADA Code focuses almost exclusively on athletes caught doping, not corrupt organizations or people in them. This is why in the lead up to the Rio Olympics last year WADA sought to ban all Russian athletes from the games, but instead IOC delegated the task to each international federation to sort out, leading to ad hoc and arbitrary decisions. 

Similarly, the fact that the IAAF leadership was extorting athletes for money to cover up positive doping tests is not a violation of the WADA Code -- if it were then the IAAF could be found non-compliant, and potentially suspended or otherwise sanctioned as a governing body for Athletics. Imagine that. Does anyone really think that sports organizations would willingly expose themselves to such oversight?

Getting the fox (IOC) out of the hen house (WADA) is thus no easy task. For its part the IOC responded to yesterday's hearing by stating that: "As for WADA’s governance, we hope to make it more independent from both sports organisations and governments."

Yet, it is not clear that IOC really understands what "independent" actually means in the context of governance (a failing not unique to IOC in the world of sports). Consider that IOC also says that it has "appointed independent experts for the WADA governance working group to give independent advice on how best to reform the governance of WADA." These "independent" experts are a lawyer for the IAAF and a CEO of a national sports federation, perhaps great guys but hardly independent of the Olympic Movement or the IOC. 

The notion of getting the foxes out of the hen house this raises some important questions:
  • If the foxes are to leave the hen house who is to replace them?
  • Who are these "independent" people who will oversee WADA?
  • Should all sanctioning be delegated to CAS?  And if so, then shouldn't CAS itself become more independent of the Olympic Movement?
  • Is it time to consider more radical solutions to anti-doping governance, perhaps such as WHO, UNESCO, private sector, etc.?
  • Who watches the watchers? to who are anti-doping regulators to be accountable too?
None of this is easy.  And this is just the governance structure -- I have not mentioned issues associated with the substance of the prohibited list, scientific integrity standards, athlete due process and participation and other important aspects of WADA reform.

Doping is endemic in elite sport. The organizations tasked with regulating doping aren't working. In fact, some sports organizations are working at cross-purposes to anti-doping. There is a lot of work to be done here.


Copenhagen Declaration on Anti-Doping in Sport, 2003. (PDF)

Hanstad, D. V., Smith, A., & Waddington, I. (2008). The Establishment of the World Anti-Doping Agency A Study of the Management of Organizational Change and Unplanned Outcomes. International review for the sociology of sport, 43:227-249.

International Convention Against Doping in Sport - UNESCO, (PDF) Background document: (PDF)

Lausanne Declaration, 1999. (PDF)

Teetzel, S. (2004, October). The road to WADA. In Seventh International Symposium for Olympic Research, October (pp. 213-24). (PDF)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Bloodgate Short

I'm posting this here for future classroom use. It is a Sky Sports Short on "Bloodgate" - some great footage here. (HT Alex)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A List of Elite Athletes Falsely Accused of Doping

There are enough cases of elite athletes falsely accused of doping that I thought I'd start a list. The list below includes cases where the evidence is strongly suggestive, at least, that the athlete was falsely accused by WADA (or other organizations) of having violated the provisions of the WADA Code.

Below I list the athlete, the sport and the drug that the evidence suggests that the athlete was falsely accused of taking. Click on the athletes name for supporting information. I welcome any comments or suggestions to the list.
The consequences to an elite athlete of being falsely accused of doping can be career ending. I will update this list as warranted.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Review of the Professional Cyclists’ Union, A Guest Post

This is a guest post from Steve and Joel at The Outer Line.

Review of the Professional Cyclists’ Union

The Cycliste Professionnels Associés (CPA), formed in 1999, had two important early accomplishments - the “Joint Agreement” with the teams to help govern the relationship between teams and their riders, and a riders’ “Solidarity Fund” -to provide limited financial support to certain retiring riders.  However, the CPA has struggled to grow or expand its influence very much in pro cycling over the intervening fifteen years.  A recent review and assessment by The Outer Line takes a detailed look at the performance and operations of the CPA, evaluating how well the organization has complied with its own by-laws, and benchmarking its performance against a widely-accepted set of external sports governance guidelines.  Although clearly hamstrung by its historical financial and human resources constraints, the CPA nevertheless rates fairly weakly in terms of complying with accepted governance standards - particularly in terms of its financial management and the general transparency of its operations.  The Outer Line report describes the current  risks and the future opportunities by which the CPA might play a greater role in pro cycling, and provides a set of eight specific recommendations for how the CPA can become more powerful in the future.   The report argues that a stronger cycling union would actually strengthen the overall sport, and would actually be good for the other key stakeholders in the sport, pointing out that other pro sports made their greatest leaps in popularity and revenue following the development of a more powerful voice for the athletes. 

An executive summary of the report can be found here, and the full 15-page report is available to be downloaded here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Lab Times Exchange on Problematic Doping Conviction of Steven Colvert

Today, Lab Times has published an exchange between WADA (Christine Ayotte) and the team of Norwegian scientists who first raised questions about the problematic doping conviction of Irish sprinter Steven Colvert. For background see: here and here and here.

WADA's response comes in the form of a version of the letter first posted on the WAADS website last month, which I discussed here. Ayotte's main response is to appeal to authority:
While it may sound seemingly insignificant to refer to 'WADA’s credibility', this oneside vitriolic opus is a charge against skilled, experienced scientists. The SAR-PAGE and IEF data presented are of excellent quality, the results clear and convincing. The methods, the interpretation of test results were published in the peer-reviewed scientific literature (more than 40 research articles from anti-doping scientists) and so were the criteria for issuing positive findings that are available on WADA’s website.
Let me point out what should be obvious: everyone in this issue is an expert. All have impressive degrees, publications and long CVs. Appealing to authority doesn't get you very far. In fact, with various WADA labs suspended around the world, including for improper false positive results, now is probably not the time to appeal to WADA's authority. Ultimately, what really matters here is evidence and procedure.

The team of Norwegian scientists (Jon Nissen-Meyer, Erik Boye, Bjarne Østerud,Tore Skotland) respond in the same issue of Lab Times.  They note the appeal to authority presented by Ayotte, and push back against the idea that it is improper to discuss this issue in the academic literature:
It is fair to say that Ayotte presents no scientific arguments against the assessments we make in our article. She claims that the scientists involved in analysing Colvert’s urine sample were highly competent and that the methods applied (PAGE, IEF) are widely used and have been the subject of many publications. We are not convinced that these matters determine whether the data were correctly obtained, interpreted and presented. More importantly, they certainly cannot determine whether or not problematic and inconsistent results should be subject to public discussion.
The exchange does get into some very important substance.

First, Ayotte criticizes the Norwegian scientists for not presenting their own data. This is of course ironic because WADA destroyed the original samples and has thus far refused to make available the original images from the case to either Colvert or the Norwegian researchers.

But the original data is probably not even necessary to resolve this case. The most important aspect of the exchange is that Ayotte repeats her claim that WADA scientists made mistakes in their evaluation of the data in Colvert's case:
If the laboratory expert was correctly quoted, he made a mistake when he stated that the amount of recombinant was small when compared to the endogenous EPO.
The Norwegian scientists, in their response to Ayotte, document that indeed the expert was correctly quoted making this claim, as was a second WADA expert. They write:
Ayotte clearly states in her letter that the laboratory experts are incorrect in their judgments of the PAGE results, and thus there is a disagreement among WAADS experts in the interpretation of the results used to convict an athlete for doping. We maintain that if the experts in the hearing are correct about the low level of rEPO in the PAGE analyses, the hearing should have concluded that the analyses are not consistent with one another and the case should have been dismissed. Alternatively, Ayotte’s interpretation is correct, in which case she has to explain how she can see such a large amount of rEPO in a gel where other people experienced in interpreting PAGE tests, including experts from two WADA labs, see little or nothing.

Either way, something is not right here.
The Norwegian researchers are correct. With WADA scientists in open disagreement on the data in this case and a team of independent researchers having published a critique of the application of WADA guidelines, that should provide sufficient evidence to overturn the Colvert judgment.

I don't know if Colvert doped and neither do you. Nor does WADA. At this point proof of guilt or proof of innocence is probably not forthcoming. But that is the point. Colvert should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and WADA's evidence does not prove him guilty.

Here is a big problem that Colvert and other athletes falsely convicted face: An expert familiar with the case tells me that for Colvert to take on WADA with a legal challenge would cost him more than $200,000, just to start. That would appear to be prohibitive for Colvert, based on media reports.

So even as the scientific literature and the court of public opinion appear to indicate that Colvert was wronged by anti-doping authorities and procedures, he essentially has no recourse to right the wrong. His athletic career has been derailed and that won't change. But it is not too late for Irish Sport, in particular, to do the right thing in support of one of its athletes.

Mistakes can be made, even in the best run processes. How organizations respond in the face of evidence of mistakes says far more about the integrity of those organizations than the mistake itself.

Irish Sport, do the right thing.