Friday, July 24, 2015

WADA, Science and Trust

I'd love to have complete trust in the work of anti-doping agencies. But then I come across things like this:
Appearing on the BBC’s HARDtalk, [WADA director general David] Howman was asked how prevalent drug use was in elite sport.
“We have guesstimates, based on some research that has been undertaken over the last year and it’s far more than we would wish it to be. The guesstimates have been over 10 per cent. It varies from sport to sport, but that is of concern because those who are being caught by the system as it currently runs – it is far lower than that.”
Asked whether he believed the opinion of one “respected former professional” who told the Cycling Independent Reform Commission earlier this year how they thought 90 per cent of pro cyclists might be doping, Howman said he didn’t. While suggesting that the number had fallen ‘very majorly’ since the Lance Armstrong era, he said the question was to what level it had dropped.
Published research suggests that the number is higher, 14% to 39% according to this recent study.

Is WADA unaware of that research? or Does WADA think that it is wrong?

As I've written before, anti-doping agencies simply do not know how many elite athletes dope and they have no idea as to the effectiveness of their programs. When Howman is saying that the number of cyclists who have doped has dropped "very majorly" he is clearly just guessing.

But even taking Howman's guesses at face value, if 10% of elite athletes dope, that means that 9/10 dopers go uncaught. That should be either be a crisis or reason to rethink anti-doping efforts more fundamentally.

Instead, what does Howman say the biggest challenge is for WADA? Money.
"When I started at Wada, Wayne Rooney was being paid $4m a year by Manchester United. He's now being paid something like $30m.

"We were getting $20m when he first started, we're now getting $30m. Sport is saying to us [your money] should be increased but they are not doing it in the same proportion. That probably is not a good way of addressing the issue."
Achieving a 10% success rate is not the best justification for more resources. It is also not the best way to build trust either.


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