Don’t believe me? Then, here is just one example. The Games are designed to shine a spotlight of glory upon the host nation. This provides the host nation with a world stage on which its government can promote its national goals. The politics lying behind each Olympiad are overt. Sport is the veil, the styled green curtain from ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ behind which nationalism and geopolitics not only promote submission, but also nefarious compliance.
Pierre de Coubertin founded the Olympic movement on a doctrine of ‘universalism’, defined as ‘any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.’ Really? This is the basis of the Games? Then explain to me how during tenuous and sensitive times in the world’s history, the likes of Nazi Germany, Russia and China have been chosen to host the Olympic Games? What geopolitical machinations exist to allow this to occur over and over again? And, one must think that even the athletes, with the nationalistic pageantry of standing on the podium in their nations’ colors while hearing and singing national anthems that politics, not Sport, dominates the Olympic Games.
Back to Sport. So, this all begs another question: Why does anyone think that clean sport exists? Indeed, when the accepted rate of cheating at elite-level Sport is 50-70%, and the catch rate hovers around 1%, then we can only surmise two things. First, that anti-doping in its current state does not work; and, second, that there is near-zero incentive to fix the broken machine. Afterall, what would be the incentive to promote clean sport and weed out the majority of the cheats?
The Olympics drive everything. If you think of a spiderweb, the Olympics and the IOC are the epicenter of the web. The various world sports governing bodies -- FIFA, FINA, UCI, ITU, IAAF and so on -- are connection points one ring out from the center; the various national governing sports bodies are connection points the next ring out; then comes WADA; then comes the NADOs; and so on and so on, further radiating out.
It’s a nuclear bomb of deceit.
Look again at the Olympic motto -- “Faster, Higher, Stronger.” This is what the general public wants to see out on the sporting field of battle.
Imagine what would happen if the next Olympiad were run with 100% clean athletes? We would see zero world records. Zero Olympic records. Zero national records. Yes, the competition would be exciting. But, the spectacle would be gone. The popularity of the Olympics has already fallen off the cliff. Countries used to fight for a seat at the table in order to host the Games; now, hosting an Olympiad is akin to Kryptonite.
The cleanliness of Sport and the efficacy of global anti-doping have earned -- and demand -- healthy skepticism. This is not to be confused with cynicism -- that all athletes are cheats and that no one in the anti-doping establishment wants to make a difference. Neither of these stances is true. However, the only thing we can know is false with certainty is the notion that 100% of athletes are competing clean. The reality is far, far from it. The situation of those in anti-doping has to be similar to politicians who have that twinkle in their eyes about how they are going to change the world, only to be suffocated into an inability to affect any meaningful change as their nation’s political machine grinds them to dust.
The athletes are squarely part of the problem. For myriad reasons they serve up excuses dressed up as justifiable stances for the decisions they make. Because it is a fresh topic, look no further than the athletes speaking with forked tongues about the whole Alberto Salazar/NOP/Nike debacle. In one moment, they are raising their pitchforks and torches against the sporting giant and vocally eviscerating the whole lot for the abusive treatment of its female athletes. Yet, in the next moment, these same athletes are writing blogs justifying their new Vaporfly purchase by questioning why they would give up a known competitive advantage to others, and female athletes both talking about their favorite Nike shoe models and posting photos on social media of themselves in their Vaporflys. Pathetically nauseating.
They will tell you that to not run in Vaporflys is to put themselves at a distinct disadvantage. They will wag the shame finger at Nike, yet still happily take the company’s money and continue to compete for the Swoosh. They will applaud that Mark Parker has stepped down from being CEO, yet never mention the hypocrisy that he is now in an even more powerful position at Nike as the Chairman of the Board.
No. Sport does nothing if it does not reward a win-at-all-costs attitude.
Back to the athletes and their being part of the problem. They continue to serve up bullshit like “I’ve been tested every day of the week. Twice on Sundays! I’ve never tested positive.” Remember the catch rate outlined above? Remember all the times we have heard this line from athletes only for them to get caught or ultimately confess to their serial wrongdoing during their entire careers? Any and all iterations of ‘always tested’ and ‘never tested positive’ should be the first red flags for any athlete using these as evidence that they compete(d) clean.
What typically comes next is some number of athletes, in the spirit of ‘full transparency,’ will share their IC and OOC testing data. Sincerely, I hope more athletes will do this. Here’s why. While in no way does sharing test data prove innocence or cleanliness, it absolutely shines a spotlight on the massive holes in global anti-doping. Whether it be the paltry number of tests, the multi-month gaping holes in testing through which you could drive a truck full of PEDs, or the multitude of suspect locations where athletes live and train. Don’t tell us you’re clean when in a handful of seconds we can rationalize precisely how you can subvert the anti-doping system with a doping free-for-all.
Which leads to the next problem with athletes -- the excuses. We hear “I’m not sure what else I can do besides show my test results to prove I’m clean.” Or, here’s my favorite: “Where’s your evidence I’m cheating, huh?” Or, “(Such-n-such questionable coach) only holds a stopwatch for me; I’m OK with that.” I mean, the list of deflection tactics is staggering. And, that list serves only to absolve athletes of responsibility. Patterns are proof. The informed know what cheating looks like and, given the odds, can spot a cheating athlete the vast majority of the time. So, rather than serve up excuses, why aren’t athletes coming together and taking a collective “We’re not standing for this anymore!” approach? Instead, they say, “It’s not my problem. Someone else needs to fix it. Until then, I’m gaming the fuck outta the system.”
If athletes wanted to truly promote transparency and visibility, they would think out of the box. They would hire an independent lab to test them every day and publish a running log of test data. This would include all blood markers, not just the PED screens. They would never live or train in a suspect region of the world, either because it is financially unreasonable for testers to get to that location or because that location has a well worn history with being a doping hotbed. They would cut ties with anyone who has a shady or questionable reputation. They would call out those whom they know or suspect of cheating while they themselves are still competing rather than waiting until they’ve retired to then say that anti-doping efforts in their sport need to improve. They would boycott Olympics hosted in nations with abhorrent human rights practices. They would refuse sponsor money from these same nations. The list goes on and on.
Yet, almost unanimously, they do not. We get a soundbite followed by a shoulder shrug. But, we are to believe these same athletes compete clean. The moral compass of the self-serving athlete points True North only so far before it veers sharply away. And we are told that it is OK; that this is the way of things in the world of Sport. Likewise, cheating knows no boundaries -- not culture, not color, not sex or gender, not national borders, not any given sport. It is critical to strip away the lens of blind nationalism through which so many view Sport. Every nation has its cheaters. Every nation has its form of state-sponsored doping. Believe it.
All hope is not lost. The general public is more informed and vocal about all the ‘sport is cleaner than ever’ whitewashing shenanigans. Whistleblowers continue to come forth, some under the threat of death. Some admirable grassroots pushback is also gaining a head of steam. It is still an exercise of pushing rope uphill, and without a commensurate and complementary top-down effort -- radiating out from the center of the spiderweb -- nothing will ever change. Not ever. Because the incentive to affect this change has never existed. There’s no reason to believe the incentive will ever exist.
What is clear is that the current system will never functionally change anything. What is required is a completely new anti-doping force. It’s not even a rebuilding of the current system. The current system needs to be thrown out in totality, the baby with the bathwater. Start anew with a blank sheet of paper. Fund it properly. Place strict liability where it belongs -- on the athletes -- and not just in word but in actual practice. Staff this new entity with fresh faces with fresh ideas who are free from any sport’s politically-driven machine. Remove any tolerance for any corruption or conflict of interest.
It is a case of the tail (the propaganda that we are winning the battle for clean sport) wagging the dog. In reality, with the current sporting model, clean sport is an unreachable idealism. If you truly believe Sport is cleaner than ever because the global anti-doping system is working, then here’s my advice: Pull. Your. Head. Out. Of. Your. Ass.
Take a step back and you quickly see this is a systemic problem of global proportion. Until this occurs, indeed nothing will change. The current ant-doping model is an aircraft carrier, yet clean sport proponents are bringing bows and arrows to the fight. Right now, clean sport is sadly a no-win situation.