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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid