What I'm about to say may shock you. WADA are a pack of over zealous clowns.
I know, I know. You're as surprised as I was, no doubt, to find that out. But it's recently become clear to me that that is, in fact, the situation.
At the outset, I need to make clear: I think taking performance enhancing drugs - uppers, HGH, *some* kinds of steroids, EPO, and the designer hormones - I think taking them makes the competitive cyclist (or rower or swimmer or runner) a frickin' clown too. In a cynical sport, where many cheat... well, it doesn't violate the ethos of the sport, it just means that many or most of the players in that sport are assclowns. In a sport that is trying to go clean, dopers are super duper butt whistle variety assclowns. Not good guys. I don't approve but do tolerate it in a cynical sport, just as I tolerate some other forms of cheating; and in a sport trying to go clean I don't tolerate it at all. None of this speaks to legal consequences; I don't condone actual *illegal* doping under any circumstances. And I do believe doping needs to be policed up in sports; it has too much potential to undermine the noble aspect of sports, man's achievement; and to undermine the business aspect of sports, the fan's relationship to the performers.
That said, WADA resembles the old mercury cure for syphillis. In 50 percent of the cases, mercury did little or nothing for the sufferer. In 30 percent of the cases, it cured them. In 20 percent, it killed them.
Yep, you heard that here first too. WADA may actually be doing more to discredit the notion of playing clean, than they are to advance the actuality of playing clean. Their cure may be worse and more imminently lethal to the patient, than the disease.
It starts with their absurdly moralistic focus.
I'll give you two examples of absurdity that you should know about. First, there was Jonathan Vaughters having the ride of his life in the 2001 Tour de France when he was stung by a bee. His face swelled up like a beech ball, but he couldn't take a simple corticosteroid shot and continue riding. The swelling and pain were so bad, he was forced to withdraw. Minutes after a shot, the swelling went down and he was fine. That he couldn't take a shot where there was obvious medical necessity, was absurd; that the old men at their pulpit refused to distinguish between obvious medical necessity and optional performance enhancement was cynical and lame.
So too the persecution of Allesandro Petacchi, who, despite all his other sins, apparently suffers from asthma and uses Salbutomol, a medicine that may be used with a therapeutic use exemption, which he has. He used it during the 2007 Giro - a race where riders go up and down a lot of mountains, and there is often snow and freezing rain, even in the late spring. As he put it, he was having a very rough time, and "maybe I used some extra sprays." Newsflash, kids. When you have asthma, and you have an attack while riding, you use the rescue inhaler until you can breathe. It's not a fun drug, it doesn't increase your performance, it keeps you from frickin' dying, as happened to a friend. I've found my asthma to be particularly bad in the mountains in spring - it's cold, wet, windy, and the air at altitude doesn't help much. It seems to me that's a normal type of problem, and the typical person with asthma would in fact reach for the inhaler a bit more often. Damn straight, that may even mean a bunch of times in a row, if the choking feeling and inability to breathe didn't stop. Yet here we have WADA and the Italian version of USCF busting Petacchi's balls over it. Sorry, but when there are dozens of other drugs that actually markedly improve performance, busting on a guy for using a drug he's authorized to use, is pretty frickin' lame - it's like they couldn't bust any real dopers so they go after a sprinter, who used a drug he's authorized to use, which is believed to not have any effect on >VO2 efforts; just to make a point. Well done, WADA.
The final absurdity I want to talk about is WADA's injection into the Major League Baseball steroid controversy this week. Let's be clear - MLB is a league that didn't effectively attempt to ban frickin steroids until a year or two ago. Yep, using them was against the rules, but the league and the players steadfastly refused to reach a labor agreement permitting enforcement, until a watered-down testing regime was agreed to in 2002. Cheating? Yeah, but this is in a sport with a long history of stealing signs, spikes-up slides, and chin music. It ain't beanbag, and the unwritten rules of the sport are as relevant as the written ones. Chin music isn't permitted either, but a lot of people thing it's necessary, and it's tolerated.
After congressional pressure in 2005, MLB instituted some sorta fer real testing regimes, popped a few dopers, and then commissioned the Mitchell Report, which is due process in doping investigations as witch hunts are to improving the public's general spiritual welfare.
Now, apparently at MLB's invite, WADA is taking a look at MLB. What's the verdict?
Baseball is a sport in "turmoil," according to David Howman, a ranking WADA official.
Got that? He's looking at a report that looks at steroid sins but mostly rumors of steroid sins, some of which are 15+ years old, notes that 172 players were implicated in the witchy hunty Mitchell report, and declares the sport is in turmoil, just like cycling.
We have experience working in sports in similar situations. . . Cycling is one. . . We’ve tried to help that sport.
Yeah. They've really helped cycling, with supporting pre-emptive bans on riders for associating with the wrong doctors, with unreliable French lab procedures, media leaks targeting targeted riders, and a notion of due process that wouldn't pass muster with a crowd of enraged, inbred vigilantes.
WADA jettisons quaint American notions like legal notice, grand jury secrecy, and due process. These are things that the moralizing transnationalists in WADA simply don't have use for.
No, the mission is to save our sports from ourselves. And based on what they've done for cycling, they're doing a great job of it.
The NY Times Murray Chass makes a couple criticisms about the nature of anti-doping agencies. One is that they have an inherent conflict of interest; they profit and gain influence simply by leveling doping charges.
WADA and its domestic relative, Usada — that is, the United States Anti-Doping Agency — are not my favorite organizations. I have always felt that every time their officials spoke, every time they criticized baseball’s steroids-testing program, their words dripped with dollar signs. Conflict of interest? It seemed blatant.
Chass notes that they are non-profit organizations, but you'd be silly to think that execs at non-profits are immune from the lure of power, or for that matter, the lure of money. Yep, it's a no-no to overcompensate non-profit executives, but I've seen plenty of them rolling in several hundred thou to do their world saving.
Chass' criticism continues:
But officials from the two bodies say that they are nonprofit organizations, that they aren’t out to make money from baseball, that they are not in the testing business and don’t seek baseball’s testing business.
“We have no interest in dictating the testing,” Howman said. “We have no friend we want to see put in operation in Major League Baseball. We are not a testing agency. We don’t have any commercial aspect to our job.”
Travis Tygart, head of Usada, offered a similar disclaimer. “We’re a not-for-profit corporation,” he said. “We have absolutely no economic aspect. Our interest for all sports is to have the most effective antidoping plan in place. We want to see the best practices in all sports, even if they don’t fall under our jurisdiction.”
You got that? They have no economic interest. They are just doing it for the purity of sport, for our own good.
I have a basic rule that I follow in my life. When somebody says they have no interest at stake, they are only here to help me, I put a hand on my wallet.
In short, if somebody who isn't family or a close friend claims to be looking out for me, either they are lying and looking to rob me blind, or they really are moralistic people on a crusade, and they only want to do whatever is necessary for my own good, as they see it. Both kinds of people - crooks and crusaders - are dangerous, but I generally prefer crooks, since a good honest crook can generally be bought off, or talked sense to. Not so crusaders; they'll inflict themselves on me to save me from myself, and that goes against my basic belief in individual freedom and responsibility.
Howman's blundering into MLB's business and making all sorts of alarmists comments is a good example of how a zealot can cause real damage, good intent notwithstanding. MLB is a $6 billion annual business. You know how much $6 billion is? If MLB was a country, it would rank around 120th in the world for Gross Domestic Product. It is a business interest so significant, that it probably shouldn't be trifled with by some out-of-town sorta expert, shooting his mouth off.
But Howman comes in, says it's in turmoil, and that WADA wants to do for MLB what WADA has done for cycling. Hell, if that's the plan and I had TV rights, I'd be shopping them around. nI'm not sure MLB can really afford WADA's kindness. There's also a practical matter - other than botched prosecutions, successful prosecutions that are leaky enough that dopers can still win the publicity battle afterwards, and Dick Pound's astonishing combination of wild accusations and leaks of evidence relating to ongoing cases, I'm not sure what WADA has really done for cycling.
Statements like Howman's are nothing short of tampering with a very large business, and if Bud Selig had any cojones, Howman would be on the next plane back to New Zealand, with Barry Bonds and a very angry Bad Albert Bell waving goodbye from the departures lounge window. Who the frick is MLB's lawyer on this project?
I can think of one thing WADA has done for cycling. It has inspired a number of teams to self-police, to take a performance-oriented approach to testing that is also transparent, meeting scientific training needs as it controls doping. You can look at those efforts as a noble thing, or you can also look at them as a vote of no confidence in the yahoos running WADA. Ultimately, the riders and teams will have to clean up cycling themselves. It's logical because team physios want to know how the riders are doing at all times, and frequent tests can be used to enhance performance. On the other hand, promoters have no interest in cleaning up the sport, other than encouraging a more marketable product. Meanwhile, the moralizing crusaders at WADA and some of the national bodies seem primarily interested in trumpeting their own moral purity rather than working with the affected sports to come up with workable solutions to stop doping, without destroying the business side of those sports and the fans' joy in the game.
So there you have it, chapter and verse of my increasingly chapped butt over WADA and certain parts of the elected officials' three act satire on regulating performance enhancing drugs.
Reckon I'm on the shortlist now?