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 Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora