All U.S. sports need an anti-doping agency
The anti-doping program that brought down Lance Armstrong should cover our pro and college sports, too
By Dionne Koller
January 20, 2013
Time will tell whether self-described “bully” Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey can repair the good name he lost when the United States Anti-Doping Agency revealed the truth behind his carefully crafted “narrative” of survival and sports glory. For me, to forgive Mr. Armstrong or not isn’t the issue. Instead, Mr. Armstrong’s fall illustrates how effectively we regulate Olympic movement athletics in the United States, and how that model for regulation can enhance the integrity of college and professional sports.
Scholars have said that sports incorporate a society’s values. Indeed, Mr. Armstrong’s description of his “ruthless” desire to win could apply to many of our beloved sports figures, and they’d be respected for it. In the U.S., sports are considered an individual, private-sector affair, guided predominantly by the demands of the market. We are unusual in that we do not have a government ministry for sport. Our professional leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association enjoy considerable deference from courts and Congress, which hesitate to get involved in their regulation. The desire to win, coupled with a laissez-faire approach, often reflect United States sports at their best and worst. It is that desire that contributed to the crisis in the American Olympic movement that ultimately resulted in the formation of the USADA.
Previously, the United States Olympic Committee, charged with developing athletes for international competition, had responsibility for testing and sanctioning competitors for doping violations. This type of self-regulation, fraught with conflicts, led to many American medals and seemingly unforgettable Olympic moments. It was also built on many a fraud.
USADA was created in 2000 as a private, nonprofit corporation with the strong support of Congress. Its mission is to investigate, test and sanction athletes in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code, which must be followed by every sports federation, as well as every nation that wishes to participate in the Olympic movement. USADA is fully independent of the USOC, and it is not a government agency. However, it is primarily funded through government grants, and it enjoys Congress’ endorsement as the “official” anti-doping agency of the United States. For this reason, the rules USADA enforces and actions that it takes have real significance — athletes who participate in Olympic movement sports must either abide by them or, like Mr. Armstrong, find themselves banned from the world of international sports.
An institution with this type of independence and authority does not exist in professional and college sports, where win-at-all-costs attitudes and self-regulation can lead to the type of corrupt decision-making that once tarnished the American Olympic program. As a result, Mr. Armstrong’s confession to Ms. Winfrey made me wonder what would happen if there was an organization like USADA that could unequivocally present the public with the truth about many of our beloved sports figures and institutions, and then have the power to take action.
For instance, imagine if USADA had authority over professional and college sports. If it did, there would not have been a cloud of suspicion over this year’s baseball Hall of Fame class. Instead, we would have long ago had real answers — and likely a far more productive debate about the players’ place, or not, in the Hall — because, as we eventually did with Mr. Armstrong, we likely would have heard from the players themselves. Although Mr. Armstrong’s description of his lack of remorse might leave one cold, his view that doping was “part of the job” in international cycling is critical to better understanding the sport, our enjoyment of it, and ultimately ourselves. Without the kind of firm and final judgment that USADA gave us on Mr. Armstrong, Hall of Fame candidates from baseball’s steroid era have been incentivized to keep denying and living in the shadows, and the game is far worse for it.
Similarly, imagine an independent agency whose mission it was to investigate and sanction college athletic programs. In sharp contrast to the NCAA, whose member-run, half-hearted attempts to self-police long ago lost legitimacy, a new entity could be created as a public-private partnership charged with ensuring that rule violations in college sports are thoroughly investigated and even-handedly punished. It could also hold institutions accountable for failure to abide by gender equity laws, failing to properly educate student athletes and subverting the academic mission of the school. Schools that wish to participate in intercollegiate athletics would have to follow the rules — or face the fate that has befallen Mr. Armstrong.
More than anything, the Armstrong example shows us that it is possible to regulate sports in a way that ensures no institution or athlete is too big to fail, and that the benefit of tearing down the facade of even our most revered athletes is gaining important truths about athletic culture. Such truth is badly needed in college and professional sports, and the fact that we don’t seek it says something about us. It’s time for Congress to use its power, as it has before, to help create an independent entity that can bring greater credibility to American sports so that they more often reflect the best of our human intentions and impulses, and not the worst.
Dionne Koller is an associate professor of law and the director of the Center for Sport and the Law at the University of Baltimore. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Former U.S. Anti-Doping Agency chief: Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong’s rep DID offer donation
Armstrong strongly denied during the second part of his interview with Oprah Winfrey on Friday that anyone in his camp had offered the anti-doping agency a donation.
By Michael O’keeffe / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Saturday, January 19, 2013, 4:20 PM
Terry Madden remembers that day in 2004 quite well: Travis Tygart, then U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s general counsel and now its chief executive officer, rushed into his office and told Madden that one of Lance Armstrong’s closest associates had just called to offer a sizable “donation” to the Colorado Springs-based agency.
“Travis received a telephone call from one of Lance’s closest representatives, who offered to make a contribution to USADA,”Madden told the Daily News on Saturday.
“Travis’ office was a five-second walk from my office and after the phone call he immediately reported it to me. Within 30 seconds I told him to call the representative back and decline the offer. We can’t accept donations from people we are currently testing or will be testing in the future.”
Armstrong strongly denied during the second part of his interview with Oprah Winfrey on Friday that anyone in his camp had offered the anti-doping agency a donation. Madden, USADA’s CEO from 2000 to 2007, had not commented on the record about anti-doping matters since he retired in 2007. But he’s speaking up now because he says Armstrong isn’t telling the truth and he wants to set the record straight.
“This is another personal attack on Travis Tygart and the United States Anti-Doping Agency,” Madden said.
Showtime’s “60 Minutes Sports” reported earlier this month that a representative of the disgraced cyclist had offered a $250,000 donation to the anti-doping agency. During an interview that was included in the segment Tygart confirmed the offer was made. Madden said he remembers the offer was between $200,000 and $250,000. “We informed our board of directors so they were aware of it,” Madden said. “They supported our decision.”
But when Winfrey asked Armstrong about the 2004 offer on Friday during their much-hyped interview, the embattled cyclist denied that it happened.
“That is not true,” Armstrong told Winfrey, wagging his finger. “In the 1,000-page reasoned decision they had issued, there was a lot of stuff in there. Why wasn’t it in there? Pretty big story. Oprah, it’s not true.”
USADA officials didn’t see the 2004 offer as an attempt to bribe or influence the agency at the time, Madden said. The donation incident wasn’t included in the explosive report USADA issued in October before it stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France victories and banned him from competition for life because it was “totally irrelevant”to the doping charges USADA leveled against Armstrong.
Madden declined to identify the representative who made the phone call to Tygart because of the federal whistleblower lawsuit filed by cyclist Floyd Landis that names Armstrong and several business associates as defendants.
Landis and another former Armstrong teammate, Tyler Hamilton, have said that Armstrong tested positive for banned drugs in 2001, claiming that International Cycling Union officials did not pursue a case because Armstrong paid off the sport’s governing body. UCI officials have denied that allegation, but they have acknowledged that Armstrong made a $100,000 donation for anti-doping efforts to UCI in 2002.
Kathy LeMond, the wife of Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, testified under oath in 2006 that she had been told that Armstrong’s longtime corporate sponsor Nike and Thomas Weisel, a banker who sponsored Armstrong’s teams, had wired $500,000 to a Swiss bank that belonged to former UCI chief Hein Verbruggen to cover up a positive drug test. Nike has denied the allegation.
LeMond made the shocking accusation during a deposition for a lawsuit filed by Armstrong against SCA Promotions, a Dallas company that indemnifies sponsors who offer prizes for athletic accomplishments. The company refused to pay Armstrong a $5 million bonus because of doping allegations. Armstrong sued SCA for the bonus, and the company settled for $7.5 million. SCA officials, however, are expected to demand their money back next week or file a lawsuit to pursue the issue.
Madden said it was easy for USADA to reject the offer from Armstrong’s representative in 2004: “It was just against our ethics,” he said.