After USA Cycling recently fired the anti-doping researcher Dr. Paul Dimeo of Stirling University, as the head of its anti-doping committee, the appropriate role of academia in elite sports governance has again been questioned. While some academic research in the anti-doping field may seem unconventional or disagreeable to everyday participants in sports, academia is nevertheless where new technologies, innovative approaches or radical restructuring of ideas often originate. And there is an active and vocal community of scholars around the world studying the subject of anti-doping methods. While formal anti-doping policy continues to focus simply on catching the cheater, this academic research is beginning to utilize new data and modeling tools, in subject matter areas as diverse as public health and pharmaceutical manufacturing, to identify and suggest broader policy change.
Stopping the proliferation of cheating in sport is a goal no one in cycling would disagree with. In the short-term, USAC’s decision to fully commit to and communicate zero-tolerance is an important statement for American cycling, and reinforces the organization’s public image. At the same time however, academic researchers are trying to become more active in the actual sport – to leave their ivory tower and test ideas in the real world. And for this process to work productively, says Dimeo, there needs to be an acceptance “that research requires objectivity, and objectivity requires freedom of expression.” Unfortunately, this is where academia and the real world sometimes collide – and with real-world consequences like those observed in the USAC-Dimeo conflict.
To read The Outer Line’s detailed overview and analysis of this situation – both in microcosm and in the big picture – please click here.