News / USA

    Sports Doping Row Points to Broken Testing System

    U.S. Postal Service Team rider Lance Armstrong of the United States raises his arms as he crosses the finish line to win the 204.5 km long 17th stage of the Tour de France from Bourd-d'Oisans to Le Grand Bornand, France, July 22, 2004.
    U.S. Postal Service Team rider Lance Armstrong of the United States raises his arms as he crosses the finish line to win the 204.5 km long 17th stage of the Tour de France from Bourd-d'Oisans to Le Grand Bornand, France, July 22, 2004.
    The performance drugs and blood-doping techniques that allowed Lance Armstrong to dominate the cycling world have raised questions about the ability of testing programs to root out cheaters and ensure the integrity of competitive sports.
     
    The U.S. athlete, who admitted using drugs and other doping techniques through all of his seven Tour de France wins, was stripped of his cycling titles and banned from competition after an October report by the U.S. Anti-Drug Agency (USADA) detailed evidence of his drug use.
     
    Key Events in Lance Armstrong's Career

    -1992:  Competes in Barcelona Olympics. Turns professional after the games
    -1993:  Wins Tour de France stage at Verdun, the Triple Crown in the U.S. and world championship in Norway
    -1997:  Declared free of cancer, joins U.S. Postal team
    -1999:  Wins Tour de France for the first time
    -2005:  Wins the tour a seventh consecutive time and retires
    -2006:  Independent investigation clears him of doping
    -2009:  Finishes third in Tour de France after coming out of retirement
    -2011:  Retires from competitive cycling a second time
    -June 2012:  US Anti-Doping Agency charges Armstrong with doping
    -August 2012:  USADA bans Armstrong for life, strips him of his Tour de France titles after he said would no longer fight doping allegations
    -October 2012:  Loses large corporate sponsors, resigns as chairman of his Livestrong cancer charity
    -January 2013:  Admits to doping in interview with Oprah Winfrey
    How he managed to conceal his drug use and doping for so long remains a subject of debate among the experts. Michael Perko, a professor of public health at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, said science and perhaps the wealth of Armstrong’s team, allowed him to stay a step ahead of the drug testers.
     
    “What they’re doing was very hard to detect,” said Perko. “It takes time to develop the tests to detect the newest ways to dope, especially when you’re using blood doping and other kinds of methods.”
     
    Blood dopers train at high altitudes, which helps the blood develop the ability to carry more oxygen. The highly-oxygenated blood is then withdrawn from the body, frozen, and injected again just before the athletes begin their next event.
     
    “You’re injecting yourself of course with your own blood,” Perko explained. “But it is super, super energized with oxygen.”
     
    ​Armstrong had said he was tested over 300 times, according to Don Catlin, retired tester and UCLA Professor Emeritus of medical and molecular pharmacology. “Now I am learning that Lance Armstrong, who I undoubtedly tested myself many times, was able to get away with it. What’s wrong with our testing then?”
     
    The failure to catch Armstrong bothers him, Catlin said, because he had “developed testing for the U.S., and it has been applied all over the world for 25 years.”
     
    “I think that someone at the International Cycling Union [ICU] – who is the authority under which the testing took place – somehow or other let Armstrong know they’re coming,” he said.
     
    In an interview with the CBS 60 Minutes program, Director Travis Tygart of the USADA, recalled that in 2001, a Swiss lab official who received a suspicious test result on Armstrong was directed to attend a meeting set up by the ICU with Armstrong and his coach to explain the testing process.
     
    “And I asked him: did you give Lance Armstrong and his coach, Johan Bruyneel, the keys to defeat the EPO tests [i.e., tests that measure the amount of a hormone called Erythropoietin in the blood]? And he nodded his head yes,” Tygart added.
     
    Director of the Swiss anti-doping laboratory Martial Saugy holds papers of a presentation during a news conference in Lausanne, January 11, 2013, as he reacts to declarations of Travis Tygart, Head of USADA that Saugy met with cyclist Lance Armstrong and gave him the key to EPO testing.Director of the Swiss anti-doping laboratory Martial Saugy holds papers of a presentation during a news conference in Lausanne, January 11, 2013, as he reacts to declarations of Travis Tygart, Head of USADA that Saugy met with cyclist Lance Armstrong and gave him the key to EPO testing.
    x
    Director of the Swiss anti-doping laboratory Martial Saugy holds papers of a presentation during a news conference in Lausanne, January 11, 2013, as he reacts to declarations of Travis Tygart, Head of USADA that Saugy met with cyclist Lance Armstrong and gave him the key to EPO testing.
    Director of the Swiss anti-doping laboratory Martial Saugy holds papers of a presentation during a news conference in Lausanne, January 11, 2013, as he reacts to declarations of Travis Tygart, Head of USADA that Saugy met with cyclist Lance Armstrong and gave him the key to EPO testing.
    Armstrong has denied this incident ever took place. And Swiss media reports quoted the director of the Lausanne lab, who denied the accusations, as saying it would be “paradoxical for the laboratory that reported the first case of EPO to give the key to circumvent tests.”
     
    The ICU did not respond when contacted for comment.
     
    In 2005, the ICU received a $100,000 donation from Armstrong, which Tygart called “inappropriate.” Asked if that amount was meant to influence the ICU drug testers, Tygart told CBS the donation represented an “inherent conflict of interest.”
     
    Catlin suggested that there was more to ICU’s involvement than what Armstrong was willing to admit to. If that is the case, he said that would point to “corruption inside the sport itself.”
     
    He said that means the whole system needs to be fixed.
     
    Catlin cautioned, however, that not all athletes use performance enhancing drugs or blood doping and some never would. But “we don’t know who they [the users] are,” he added, because testing is supposed to do that.
     
    “If Lance really is honest and if he wants to leave a mark in society, he will come forth and talk about how widespread it [i.e., doping] is because I am here to tell you it is very widespread,” said Perko.
     
    Armstrong was a true champion, Perko said, one who could peddle a bicycle faster and longer than anyone else and probably didn’t need to take drugs.
     
    Tygart, however, called Armstrong “one of the ring leaders of this conspiracy that pulled off this grand heist that defrauded – using tens-of-millions of dollars – defrauded millions of sports fans and his fellow competitors.”
     
    Tygart noted that if Armstrong’s claim that he competed in 2009 and 2010 without using drugs is true, then that would protect him and those who helped him from criminal prosecution due to a five-year statute of limitation on criminal fraud charges.
     
    But if Armstrong last used drugs in 2010, Tygart continued, he “can be charged with a criminal violation for a conspiracy to defraud.”
     
    USADA asked Armstrong in early February to testify under oath about the extent of drug doping in sports, but his lawyers have indicated that he has no interest in addressing the agency.

    Now, Armstrong faces several lawsuits over fraud and lies, some by former teammates. And the U.S. Justice Department has joined one of them to recover tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship money.

    And Perko said the Armstrong scandal may have already caused long-term damage to all of competitive sports. He said the Armstrong case and others involving high-profile athletes in recent years convey the image that doping is the norm. He cited a recent study he did of 73 million children, which found that over 1.1 million 10-year-olds reported taking performance enhancers to improve their sports performance.

    “We’re allowing those kids to think that ‘I need something,’” he said. “And that’s a terrible thing for a kid who’s going to be great to think that they have to have something else other than their own, you know, work ethic.”

    You May Like

    US Watching as North Korea Holds Biggest Political Meeting in 36 Years

    Workers' Party Congress set for Friday; Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora