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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Anti-Doping thoughts

IAAF head Lamine Diack is proposing a return to four-year bans for major doping offenses. This is mostly bluster; the reason for dropping back to two-year bans in the mid-1990s was court conflict in several countries along "restraint of trade" lines. I've got a better idea which I'll explain in a bit.

One of the reasons track fans loathe athletes who dope is the same reason baseball fans should, and probably will in the coming decades. Both sports are so statistics-driven and doping totally screws it up. Just look at what's happened to marks in men's throwing events and practically all women's events -- the world records and all-time lists are ridiculously skewed to the pre-Ben Johnson days of little if any doping control. The official shot WR is 23.12m (75' 10 1/4"), but the real record is probably 22.54m (73' 11 1/2"). We know the official WR was set by Randy Barnes just 2 1/2 months before being caught with methyltestosterone in his system, and Barnes later tested positive again for a lifetime ban. The official WR was almost assuredly drug-assisted. Yet it still stands.

Rather than trying to extend doping bans to double their current length, we should take a different approach. Not only would an athlete get a two-year ban, but the results from the two years immediately prior to that ban should also be canceled. No one realistically believes we catch dopers the first time they use illegal help. And as a further disincentive, the athlete would have to pay back all prize money won over those two years before their eligibility would be restored -- in essence, a fine along with jail time. (Currently, athletes in big-money marquee events have more to gain from doping than those in lower-profile events, and this system would even it out.) Of course, an athlete who earns a lifetime ban would have their entire career results wiped out.

This is a tough measure. How would this affect the Justin Gatlin situation? Michael Frater and Wallace Spearmon would be the reigning World Champions in the 100 and 200, and Francis Obikwelu would be the defending Olympic champion. He'd have a boatload of money he owed the IAAF (although far from the entirety of his 2004-2006 income, as track people earn most of their money from sponsorships and appearance fees). And his times of 9.85, 9.88, 9.89, 9.92 and 9.96 (three times) would disappear from the all-time world list.

This also might fix the type of extra punishment currently handed out to those who admit guilt. Athletes such as Kelli White, who cam clean about her past, not only got a two-year ban but had the previous three years wiped out, for a total of five years. In her situation, I'd advocate only a one-year ban to keep her total punishment at four years--but she'd still be responsible for repaying the whole three years of prize money she dishonestly earned.

I think this covers the bases: avoiding government conflict, increasing penalty to include significant financial loss, and working to keep the record books as clean as reasonable.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not bad, just that LawDudes will find a way to mess it up