Tuesday, October 6, 2015

CU-Boulder Screening of DOPED and All-Star Panel Discussion

Register here!

The Sports Governance Center at the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Department of Athletics will be hosting a screening of the documentary DOPED:  The Dirty Side of Sports on Tuesday, October 13. The one-hour film will be followed by a panel discussion, which will include the film’s director, Andrew Muscato.

The film discusses the real-world challenges of addressing doping – the use of prohibited performance enhancing drugs – in college, professional and international sport. Several recent studies have indicated that among elite athletes as many as 40% may engage in doping. Yet, anti-doping agencies routinely sanction about 1% of athletes. The difference between these numbers is troubling.

Also on the panel are, Maureen Weston, professor of law at Pepperdine University; Shanon Squires, coordinator of the Human Performance Lab at CU Denver’s Health and Wellness Center; and Walter Palmer, former NBA player and advocate for athletes’ rights.

The event begins at 7pm on Tuesday, October 13 and will be held in the Champion’s Center auditorium of the new CU Athletics facilities.

The event is free and open to the public. Because seating is limited, advance registration at this link is required.

The screening is the first public event of the Department’s new Center for Sports Governance, an initiative led by CU-Boulder Professor Roger Pielke, Jr. and Athletic Director Rick George. Pielke says that the SGC “intends to create a safe space for difficult conversations, in which people do not necessarily have to agree on everything, but are willing to openly and respectfully share different points of view.”

Pielke adds, “The issue of doping in sport is not only challenging, but it is one where people have strong feelings and deep emotions. We hope to add to the conversation by engaging some of leading experts on the topic, in the open, among the Boulder community.”

The SGC will be holding more such events on a range of issues where sport and governance meet.

Soccer in Boulder

From last week's Boulder vs. Fairview soccer game.

Via @PanthersBHS

Monday, October 5, 2015

Masking the Pain: Denver Fox31 on Toradol Use in College Sports

This investigative piece takes a close look at Colorado university athletic programs and their use of a potent pain killer - Toradol. The drug is not in wide use here at CU-Boulder.

Chris Halsne of Fox 31 followed up on the original report in a piece that aired last night. He reports that Oklahoma extensively uses the drug:
New records from the University of Oklahoma prove that since 2012, student-athletes were given 4,086 doses of Toradol. The distribution covered athletes in nearly every men’s and women’s sport: baseball, track, gymnastics, tennis, basketball, wrestling, rowing, softball and volleyball, with football players receiving the most (1,490 doses.)
Last spring, the University of Southern California settled a lawsuit with a former football player over alleged Toradol abuse leading to his health problems.

Halsne reports that the head NCAA's chief medical officer, Dr.Brian Hainline, says that things must change:
“We must shift the culture on painkillers. I think the culture now that it’s too easy to give a pain medicine. It’s too easy when an athlete is sore, to say well, why don’t you take this, you’ll feel better before the game.”
I think it is safe to conclude that we should be expecting to hear lots more about painkillers as performance enhancers in the near future.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Frank Shorter Responds to my Op-ed on USADA

Frank Shorter, the Olympic gold medalist and Boulder hero, has written an op-ed in response to mine on accountability in anti-doping agencies.  I encourage you to read his piece in full here at The Denver Post. It is an important conversation and I am glad that Shorter is engaged.

Below are my responses to Shorter's piece, embedded as italics within Shorter's op-ed.
A guest commentary writer in the Sept. 20 Perspective section made an inaccurate and misinformed assertion that the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is "falling down on the job."
The "falling down on the job" quote does not come from my piece, but from The Denver Post headline writer. 
As an Olympic gold medalist and passionate advocate for clean sport, I was directly involved in the creation of the USADA. Having remained involved with the group and the anti-doping movement in general for the last 12 years, I feel compelled to correct some of the misperceptions. USADA conducts its work with the highest level of integrity.
Effective mechanisms of accountability will help us move away from attestations of integrity. I assume that everyone in USADA works with integrity. That does not make accountability unnecessary.
In 2000, the USADA stepped into a sports-testing world rampant with conflict of interest, and was tasked with independently and without bias enforcing the global anti-doping rules of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympic Movement.

The USADA was created with the goal of having absolutely no conflict of interest. Its sole mission is to protect the integrity of clean competition and the rights of clean athletes, and its carrying out of this mission is directed by an independent board of directors specifically created to be free from conflicts of interest.
Saying so doesn't make it so. USADA has placed itself into a clear situation of conflict of interest in boxing. More broadly, WADA also has some challenges with following its own COI guidelines.
Imagine that a big part your job each day is to hold America's sports heroes like Lance Armstrong and Marion Jones accountable, and to protect the integrity of clean competition by making sure everyone plays by the same rules, no matter how famous.
The recitation of superstar athletes who were caught breaking rules is not a magical elixir that means that institutional accountability is unnecessary.
Then imagine receiving death threats against you and your family because some fans are unwilling to accept that sometimes sports figures are not actually heroic at all. For the hardworking USADA staff, this unwarranted backlash is a reality, because they must stand up for what is right regardless of what is popular.
Tell me about it. I've been in the climate debate for years. 
The opinion piece claims that "taxpayers provide the USADA with more than $10 million per year." This is false. The government grant to the USADA is less than that and is easily verifiable by checking USADA's website.
Here is my math.
It also implied that the overall money USADA receives is an immense amount. This is not true. In fact, the amount provided to USADA to carry out a national anti-doping program is less than half of the yearly earnings of many professional athletes.
It is common fallacy to assert that a relatively small amount of public funding means that accountability is unnecessary. That is wrong. USADA is an institution recognized under an international treaty by the US Congress and is overwhelmingly publicly funded. Therefore, it should be accountable to the public. Full stop.
The opinion piece also implied that the USADA has stepped outside its authorized role by assisting non-Olympic sports with anti-doping programs. The suggestion that there is something unethical about the USADA accepting such engagements, and the attempts to belittle this work as "moonlighting," demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of anti-doping and the important role that the USADA serves as a resource for sports entities wanting to implement similar anti-doping programs.
"Implied" -- "suggestion" -- "belittle" I'll focus instead on what I wrote.
I did ask USADA some questions that can help observers to clarify its roles and responsibilities. After several weeks, I am still awaiting a response.
I am exceedingly proud that the agency has chosen not to turn its back on athletes in non-Olympic sports. Because of that, athletes in a growing number of sports have the opportunity to compete in sport played fairly.

Congress provides the USADA with an annual grant, subject to renewal. The continuation of that funding recognizes and affirms the overwhelming success the USADA has achieved. If the USADA earns any money by taking on additional responsibilities to help advance anti-doping in other sports, these funds are channeled right back into the organization's efforts.
Greater transparency, rather than assertion, will help to resolve these questions.
There will always be conflicts of interest whenever the promoters of a sport attempt to police the athletes they represent. This is why the USADA is a much-needed, shining example of the model anti-doping solution.
For better or worse, sports institutions do not have the best reputation these days. That is unfortunate for those who are doing everything right. But that is the way that it is. Consequently, in such a context, public trust will be reinforced by openness and transparency, and not defensiveness at being asked challenging questions.
Frank Shorter is an Olympic gold and silver medalist and former chair of the USADA board of directors.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Marathon Increments

On 28 September 2014, a new men’s marathon record was set at 2 hours, 2 minutes and 57 seconds by Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto. With a reduction of only 2.4% the record would drop below 2 hours, a round number in the marathon that has taken on the significance of the 4-minute mile in earlier generations.

Looking back in time, it took almost 15 years for men to advance the world record by 2.4%. Does that mean that the 2 hour marathon might be forthcoming in the next 15 years?

Maybe not. The previous improvement of 2.4% in the men’s marathon world record took more than 30 years, from 1969 to 1999.

On the women’s side, the marathon world record improved by 2.4% on average every 23 months from December 1974 to April 1985. It did not see another 2.4% improvement until October 2002, when Paula Radcliffe set a new world record. She advanced the record by another 2.4% just months later.

So are the men on the verge of breaking two hours? That depends on whether you think that the men’s rate of improvement is similar to what it has been since 1969. In that case, no.

Alternatively, if you think the men are comparable to where the women were at in early 2002, then the men are just a Paula Radcliffe away from not just breaking 2 hours, but shattering it.

Data cannot resolve these options.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Op-Ed in the Denver Post on Accountability, USADA and Sport

I have an op-ed in the Denver Post on recent issues involving conflicts of interest and sport. In particular, I high light the controversy that USADA found itself in over the past few weeks. here is an excerpt:
This was not the first such controversy the USADA has faced in its moonlighting for money in boxing. Boxing, of course, has a shady history. Why should anyone care if it skirts the rules? After all, the Mayweather-Paquiao fight earned a reported $500 million.

We should care for several reasons. One is that the USADA, while ostensibly an independent organization, is recognized in law as the nation's official anti-doping agency. Taxpayers provide the USADA with more than $10 million per year, which pays Tygart nearly $400,000 per year, the same as President Obama. Yet, the USADA has little accountability to Congress or the public.

Should a taxpayer-funded, public interest organization really be contracting directly with professional boxing? The USADA makes almost $2 million per year through such moonlighting.

A second reason is that elite sports — both in the U.S. and internationally — are currently awash in controversies centered on conflicts of interest. The unfolding FIFA scandal is just the tip of the iceberg. The International Association of Athletics Federations, headquartered in Monaco, is facing allegations of systematic doping among track and field athletes from around the world. Its newly elected president, Sebastian Coe of Great Britain, is on the payroll of Nike, which has recently been associated with alleged complicity in prohibited performance-enhancing drug use among several of its sponsored athletes.

The spectacle of actual or perceived conflicts of interest cast a pall on both the USADA and the IAAF, which have public interest mandates to enforce the rules of sport. 
On the USADA budget, last year the organization received about $9 million from the US government and Congress last December authorized more than $80 million in support over the next 6 years (the actual funding will depend upon appropriations, and will likely be less than authorized. So $89 million over 7 years I turned into a round number of $10 million per year to be conservative).  Travis Tygart's salary (2013) comes from the organization's IS 990 form (here in PDF). The $2 million in USADA income in contracted services (2013) comes from the organization's annual report, and since I wrote this I have learned that in 2014 USADA received $2.6 million for such services.

I did send USADA some questions (unanswered as yet) about these issues:
 1. Could you send me the revenues generated by USADA services provided to sports other than those which are "amateur athletic activities recognized by the United States Olympic Committee" (e.g., MMA, professional boxing, etc.) for the past 10 years, by year? Is it possible to provide this by client or event?

2. When USADA charges for such services, does it charge at cost-to-provide or are the charges otherwise variable? (Does USADA ever make money on these services above and beyond the cost-to-provide?)

3. Under what Congressional or other authority does USADA perform contract services?

4. What is USADA's preferred budgetary balance between services to Olympic sports vs. non-Olympic sports?

5. Who holds the ownership of USADA IP?
I'll report back the USADA response. The issues at play here are not really about a dispute over facts between USADA and the media, but go much deeper. Those are the issues I raise at the op-ed here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Remarkable FIFA Reform Proposal from UEFA 1995 (!)

A colleague sent along a document from UEFA from 1995 proposing wholesale reforms in FIFA governance. The proposal, called VISION I, includes some of the reforms today being considered as necessary for FIFA to improve its governance. You can see the entire document here in PDF.

Among the report's recommendations:
  • FIFA governance would be modeled on the Swiss federal government;
  • The FIFA presidency would rotate among 4 confederations [Note: VISION I proposes 4 rather than 6 confederations, almost identical to what I explored here];
  • The FIFA president would also be of the region hosting that quadrennial World Cup;
  • The World Cup would rotate among the 4 confederations every 16 years;
  • The ExCo would have 15 members.
The proposal is short (6 pp.) and does not get to far into details, which is proposes to be worked out under a subsequent VISION II.

Under the VISION I proposals, the ability of the FIFA ExCo to cash in on their roles would have been dramatically reduced. There would have been no Chuck Blazer, no Jack Warner, no Sepp Blatter (after 2000). My how things could have been different.

The document clearly shows that UEFA was aware of many of the organization flaws that characterized FIFA 20 years ago. It also shows that significant reform of FIFA has been articulated for a very long time. 

Decisions matter. FIFA missed an opportunity 20 years ago. Will it miss one again today?