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U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)

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The Quest for Clean Competition in Sports: Deterrence and the Role of Detection

Spirit of Sport – July 2014

Clinical Chemistry

USADA Chief Science Officer, Larry Bowers, Ph.D., discusses deterrence and the role of detection and testing in the quest for clean competition in Clinical Chemistry’s Point/Counterpoint. This is an excerpt from that publication. Please click here for the full article (subscription required).

Can we catch every person violating anti-doping rules through just a random drug test given the current resources? No. The police cannot catch every impaired driver, so should they stop trying? Regulators cannot catch every incidence of insider trading on Wall Street, so should we cease regulation of the finance industry? And should we stop performing Internal Revenue Service audits because some people successfully cheat on their taxes?

The fundamental problem with the question posed based on a Bayesian analysis of testing numbers is that it assumes that catching every cheater through random drug testing is the sole purpose of an antidoping program. It is not. But before focusing on the role of drug testing in an antidoping program, why are antidoping rules important?

To live together and achieve societal goals, we agree to a set of rules to govern our work and play. We accept rules against impaired driving, for example, because of the potential harm to others. We accept rules that the basketball rim is 3.05m high and the court is 28 by 15m to have a level playing field. Violating the rules that the athlete agrees to abide by to have equitable competition has its own name: cheating. When an individual cheats, whether in sport, at work, or on their taxes, it defrauds or takes something away from others. It is ethically and morally wrong, no matter how the individual tries to rationalize it.

Read the full article at Clinical Chemistry (subscription required)

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