OpinionWADA: Random (?) Drug Testing

FasterSkier FasterSkierFebruary 22, 2007

After this year’s Davos World Cup men’s cross country race, two Americans were summoned to give urine samples. Most coaches and athletes know that the top three finishers are tested automatically and believe that the selection of two other skiers is random. So it naturally raised some eyebrows in the US camp when the announcement was made for testing. The chances of choosing two Americans at random in that race was about one in 750.

But wait a minute! Last year after the same race, with a slightly larger field, guess what? Two Americans were chosen again, “at random.” The chances of these four selections happening at random would be given as zero by mathematicians, rounding down to the nearest whole number.

So what is going on in Europe with the FIS, WADA and the Swiss Organizing Committee?
Switzerland is the home country for the FIS office and we know distances are not great in that country so we can certainly be sure that the FIS officials were present at the two races in question. It follows that there must have been some knowledge or acceptance of procedures between WADA (the doping testors), the FIS, and the organizers. It has come out that some officials, perhaps the chief medical examiner, may arbitrarily select the two skiers we all thought were chosen at random. Finding out who authorized what has turned out to be a hard nut to crack. But it’s clear that is what has happened.

Two versions for this arbitrary testing procedure have been put forward.

First, the FIS and WADA are following the lead of the organizations who are going after the US cyclists. Ever since Lance Armstrong began winning the Tour there have been doping accusations from sources too numerous to name. Essentially the Europeans do not believe a cyclist from the US can win the Tour without doping. So the FIS and WADA are trying to outshine the biking folks by catching an Amercian who has been using EPO, steroids or some other banned substance. Not that this would make the cyclists guilty, but the Euros would love the association. Bad luck, guys!

Second, and the more serious reason is that the FIS and WADA do not want to have a scandal, period! Especially this year just prior to the FIS Championships in Sapporo. So if they test Americans, the probability is very high they will be clean and they can say, “There, we did our job.” So they are avoiding making random tests for fear they might catch someone. This is very sad. So it’s a win-win situation here. They test skiers who are probably “clean” and they avoid testing skiers who might be taking additives, as we might call them.

One might ask, well, what about the tests on the three winners? Anyone who has followed the testing procedures over the past few years, and listened to the defenses put up by various athletes, teams, coaches, sponsors, etc., knows it can be very complicated to get a positive test result, especially in a timely manner. First of all, the lab needs two samples and if the first tests positive, it must test the second. If it’s negative, all bets are off and the athlete who was tested is cleared. But the samples have to get to the labs first and there has been a streak of amazingly poor transport methods in delivering these samples. But not only that, often times the labs are too busy to do the tests right away, but will get to them at a later date (sometimes after a major competition). Of course the samples can be mishandled and then the tests are not valid. The list goes on and on.

I wrote the chairman of WADA, a Mr. Richard Pound in Montreal, and asked if he could give me an explanation for choosing the four US skiers during the past two years. He wrote back quickly and said essentially that he had no idea who authorized the selections, that normally the FIS did that sort of thing.

But now it gets even more interesting. I heard from a reliable source that three or four WADA officials flew from Great Britain to Switzerland and then traveled on to Davos for the World Cup. They are the ones that made the arbitrary selections and it looks like the FIS and the organizers are absolved in this harrassment plot.

So we ask, why is WADA going after the US xc skiers and why doesn’t Pound know what’s going on, since he is the chair of the committee. The reader may draw her/his own conclusions about the reliability of Pound’s note to me. But it does seem clear that WADA is after the US athletes and since the skiers are the only ones performing in important endurance events in the winter, why not go to Davos.

I support WADA, but they are after the wrong country in the sport of xc skiing. They are simply harassing the US Ski Team while other countries are going unnoticed or untested.

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