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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs