USADA's lost focus

The war on doping has gone astray. Most people don't realize that a century ago, there was no such thing as illegal doping (the WADA Code was first implemented in 2004). Any athlete could take any risks with their body in an attempt to do better in their athletic pursuits. Many bragged about the extreme, almost toxic, substances they would consume in their efforts to perform. It was common and not cheating, since there were no rules against it. Athletes could decide for themselves what foods, pharmaceuticals, training, sleeping, that might help them compete.

It wasn't until some athletes took things a bit too extreme and started dying that organizations decided enough was enough and began making some drugs and methods illegal, mostly to protect the athlete. Of course, once you draw a line of what is allowed and not allowed, evolution will increase the restrictions, organizations will grow bigger to manage the increased responsibility, egos will develop as a power play over the athletes, and results need to be demonstrated to justify the existence of the controlling agencies. So doping rules began with common sense application to protect athletes and maintain a safe playing field and then developed into a myriad of black and white minutiae that can easily demonize athletes that innocently cross the arbitrary line that no longer has any notion of fair play, safety, or unnatural performance enhancement.

To justify their proficiency, the USADA will convict athletes that gained no performance enhancement, and then publicize them on the cross of public media with gross misrepresentations. Gea Johnson experienced that first hand with her hearing in 2016 and subsequent publishing of her violation. Since they rendered a guilty verdict, they need to make her look as guilty as possible to save face. Here's how that announcement goes:

Johnson, 49, tested positive for modafinil
She did not take modafinil, she took Nuvigil (armodafinil or R-modafinil). They are not the same thing, so listing modafinil as the violation is incorrect. Nuvigil has a much longer half-life. Interestingly enough, Nuvigil is not even listed on the WADA banned list. There are no tests available for Nuvigil with any examples as to how long it may exist in an athletes system.

The USADA lists athletes that have been handed sanctions on their website. They used one paragraph to inform about the conclusions of the AAA panel, where all of the items listed in the last sentence were deemed irrelevant to the conviction, but paint things very negatively.

The AAA Panel concluded that Johnson used a prescription medication containing modafinil out-of-competition for reasons unrelated to sport performance. But the Panel noted that Johnson did not obtain the medication from a doctor, seek a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE), or disclose the medication on her doping control form.

So their announcement targets these negative implications, but fails to mention that none of these were considered in determining a conviction. The Arbitration analysis of her hearing states:
54. "it is not clear that obtaining a doctor's prescription and procuring the Nuvigil from a reliable pharmacy would have prevented the violation".
55. "USADA has never granted a TUE for modafinil, so if she had requested a TUE, which she did not have to do for an out of competition permitted substance, she would have been denied".
55. "the fact that she failed to disclose taking modafinil days earlier out of competition on her doping control form is of no persuasive effect; she has no obligation to fill out that form at all", "her failure to disclose does not establish anything here".

More pertinent revealings in that same analysis were:
54. "Although Ms. Johnson is clearly responsible for returning to competition too soon after taking Nuvigil, the Panel is not persuaded that Ms. Johnson could have obtained more reliable information about the clearance time for modafinil by consulting appropriate experts".
54. "the balance of probability is that Ms. Johnson took the Nuvigil .. more than 72 hours before the competition".
55. "Ms. Johnson does not appear to have sought or gained a competitive advantage by taking Nuvigil".
47. "the concentration of modafinil detected in Ms. Johnson's sample was only 400ng/ml .. Accordingly, the Panel finds the balance of probability is that Ms. Johnson took Nuvigil more than 72 hours prior to the sample".
According to the GlobalDRO FAQ page: "In-Competition usually means twelve hours before the start of a competition through the end of the competition"

These facts demonstrate that Gea did not intentionally intend to cheat, gained no performance advantage, followed the Out-of-competition guidelines, but was convicted by an arbitrary rule that states that even small amounts of any in-competition drug that can be found with today's sophisticated technology are grounds for a sanction.

This would be embarrassing for USADA to admit that common sense did not prevail, but hard line drug rules are in place to demonize the innocent. This goes against USADA's statement of "USADA continues to aspire to be a leader in the global anti-doping community in order to protect the rights of clean athletes and the integrity of competition around the world".

As an aside, a regular world analogy might be:
As you are driving your car towards an intersection, the light turns yellow. Seeing that you will be in the intersection in 2 seconds, you decide to not suddenly stop. To your surprise, the light turns red 1 second later instead of the expected 5 seconds and you get a ticket. At your hearing you prove that you were only 2 seconds from the light when it changed and the judge accepts and acknowledges that fact. However, he says that technically you ran a red light, but he'll reduce the fine from $250 to $225 and you can deal with your insurance company and the DMV concerning your tarnished driving record.


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