Caution: Doping and Cheating

The USA Cycling web site has a page called RaceClean. After listing the latest update of convicted doping violations, the justification begins with "Doping is cheating". This simplistic black and white statement is fine in an ideal world, but is NOT true in reality and ANY athlete can find themselves labeled a cheater when no intention to cheat was ever considered. If YOU follow all the rules and recommendations, it is entirely possible to fall into a violation due to the current structure of the rules.

USADA is the anti-doping organization in the U.S. In their Strategic Plan it is stated "Clean athletes everywhere can trust that USADA will do everything possible to protect their rights", but this can easily be refuted. If you review posted violations, you will find several examples where the results state that a positive was detected "without the intent to enhance her athletic performance", yet a sanction is still given. Thus athletes that have been determined to definitely not be cheaters are still penalized as dopers and suffer doping consequences. This happens when a test returns a positive and the athlete was not aware that a banned substance was in something they ingested or if a product was used that is allowed to be used out-of-competition, but is detected during an in-competition test.

Athletes can reference the USADA web site to verify that they will not be out of compliance.

The USADA works under the specifications of WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency and gives a link to the WADA Prohibited List, due to WADA providing a "comprehensive document serving as the international standard for identifying substances and methods prohibited in sport".

The USADA also provides a link via their Substances menu for "Global DRO - Medication Search" where they state "The Global Drug Reference Online (Global DRO) provides athletes and support personnel with information about the prohibited status of specific medications based on the current World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Prohibited List.".

The American Arbitration Association North American Court of Arbitration for Sport (AAA) is the panel that holds the hearing between USADA and athletes when a positive result is discovered, but AAA must abide by the laws in place, even if by common sense they are unfair.

However, following these specifications as accurately as possible will not keep an athlete from a doping suspension. A major failure for fairness comes from the listing of drugs as allowed for out-of-competition and prohibited for in-competition. The WADA Code mentions several times that out-of-competition legal drugs are a WADA violation if they turn up in an in-competition test. Most specifically 2.2.2 ", the presence of a Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers in a Sample collected In-Competition is a violation of Article 2.1 regardless of when that substance might have been administered" and 4.3.3 " the classification of a substance as prohibited at all times or In-Competition only, is final and shall not be subject to challenge by an Athlete".

So if an out-of-competition substance is ingested that has zero medical history in the scientific community in regards to clearance times, the athlete can not know a safe time period to stop using the substance; it could be hours, days, or months. Since it is a crap shoot, using any out-of-competition substance has a propensity to get an innocent athlete in trouble from an in-competition test. In reality, there should not be any out-of-competition allowance. All drugs on the list should be listed with only one qualifier: prohibited. Otherwise it is a trap waiting to ensnare non-cheaters.

According to the GlobalDRO FAQ page: "In-Competition” usually means twelve hours before the start of a competition through the end of the competition", so their guideline insinuates that substances can be taken within 12 hours of a competition event, a very deadly lure when the above WADA rule disregards this advice.

Gea's Ordeal:
During the spring and summer of 2016, Gea had taken Nuvigil at the recommendation of a doctor to help her with the stress caused by her erratic work schedule. Nuvigil is not on the WADA list of banned substances, but is listed on the GlobalDRO web site as prohibited In-Competition, but not prohibited for Out-of-Competition. GlobalDRO states that the active ingredient is Armodafinal (which is also not on the WADA list).

According to the Wikipedia information on Armodafinil, "It consists of only the (R)-(-)-enantiomer of the racemic modafinil". Wikipedia also states "Although they have similar half-lives, armodafinil reaches its peak concentration in the blood later after administration than modafinil does". Modafinil IS listed on the WADA list, but they are not the same substance and have different timings.

Knowing that she would be competing at the Masters National Track Championships in August, Gea stopped ingesting Nuvigil 5 days prior to her event. After winning the 500 meter TT (for the fourth time, each of those crushing her competition), she was tested and her results came back positive for Modafinil.

The resultant AAA document of her hearing contains the following pertinent statements:
Section 46: Only two studies were available, and those were concerning Modafinil, not Armodafinil (of which no studies exist). In those studies, all volunteers cleared the drug within 48-72 hours.
Section 47: "the Panel finds the balance of the probability is that Ms. Johnson took Nuvigil more than 72 hours prior to the sample". In fact, Gea had stopped using Armodafinil 120 hours prior to her contest.
Section 48: "The Panel also finds that through her testimony and the evidence she submitted, Respondent by a balance of the probabilities that her use of Nuvigil was unrelated to sport performance".
Section 50: "The Panel finds that USADA has failed to carry its burden of proving that Ms. Johnson engaged in conduct which she knew constituted an anti-doping rule violation or that Ms. Johnson knew that there was a significant risk that her conduct might result in an anti-doping rule violation and manifestly disregarded that risk."

Yet with all that conclusion that she did not cheat and did not intend to cheat and followed all the guidelines provided by USADA, WADA, and GlobalDRO (as specified in section 53), she was given a 2 year suspension. Her only reprieve was a reduction to 21 months in section 51 because her illicit behavior returned a positive in-competition test because they don't want to enlarge the list of substances that are prohibited at all times.

Section 55: the most baffling. It states that "the facts that Ms. Johnson does not appear to have sought or gained a competitive advantage by taking Nuvigil", and provides no other guilty parameters, one would expect a dismissal of any sanction. But it then concludes with the opposite that "the Panel concludes that Ms. Johnson's conduct falls in the higher level of fault category, and a sanction of 21 months is warranted". Go figure.

So after thorough investigation where everyone concludes that Gea was not a cheater, she is still classified as a doper and must suffer the penalty of a sanction. It seems blatant that her rights were not protected, everyone agreed she did not cheat and she did not gain an advantage. For USA Cycling to state "Doping is cheating", vilifies athletes that suffer violations even though they are clearly determined to NOT be cheaters. It seems evident that USA Cycling is wrong to propogandize this belief and that the WADA/USADA have rules that violate the rights of athletes while not serving the primary purpose of deterring cheating. In this light Gea was an innocent individual, caught by a network of large, well funded organizations that pretend to rule for fair sport.

 

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