Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cheating?

A few years ago there was a big uproar because studies had found that users of crack-cocaine faced much stiffer penalties than users of powder cocaine. The discrepancy was large and difficult to explain. It made little sense that one form of the drug resulted in life sentences, while another form most often led to probation or suspended sentencing. It made little sense until you looked at who used what. Then the reasons became very obvious indeed.

We should always wonder when large discrepancies exist that appear to make little or no sense. This is a sure indicator of ulterior motives. Motives that some would rather not reveal.

Take the following example. Drafting when riding a bike can conserve up to 25% of the energy that is normally required to propel a bicycle. The faster you ride the more you save. If you draft in an event where drafting is not allowed you are cheating in a serious way. You are gaining an unfair advantage that is real and immediate. There is no doubt about this whatsoever. You are cheating, big time!!

It is possible that you may gain some undefined advantage from taking a certain chemical. Much depends on the timing, the dose, what you ate with it, your metabolism and a host of other factors. For most chemicals the benefit is unproven and it is hard to estimate how much of an advantage, if any, you gain from taking a particular drug.

It is assumed that you could gain an advantage from certain types of drugs like beta2 adrenergics, and it may even seem logical that you would do so based on what is known about the mechanism of action of the drug. However, as any chemist or drug developer knows, lots of compounds look like they should provide a benefit under certain conditions based on their mechanism of action or what we know about the compound, but the overwhelming majority don't. Despite all the hoopla about toxicity, most compounds fail for lack of efficacy. And these are all compounds that should work based on numerous assays, animal studies, known mechanism of action, etc. etc.

Now ask yourself what is the penalty for cheating under these circumstances?

When you draft in an ironman triathlon, even in a key race such as the Hawaii or Clearwater world championships, you get a 2 minute penalty in that race. That is if you get caught.  Then you have to sit for 2 minutes in a tent and then you can continue. Many athletes have received this punishment and gone on to win the race. Many have been filmed drafting as the above clip explains with no punishment whatsoever.

Not only is the punishment aspect of a 2 minute stop dubious -some benefitted from taking a break-there are no repercussions beyond that. Neither do we have any if it was shown later on that you cheated! Nobody will come back three years later and strip you of your title.

Nobody will label you a cheater or thinks worse of you because of it.

But if you were to race the same race, and have a few picograms of clenbuterol in your blood, what would your punishment be? Never mind that a few picograms could not possibly do anything either beneficial or not. Yet we all know the outcome. We all know what awaits Alberto Contador.

You will be labeled a doper, you will be ostracized by the community, you will be suspended for two years depriving you of income, you will be harassed, and you will lose the support of your team. You may even face criminal penalties.

Does that seem appropriate to you? Do you smell something fishy?

2 comments:

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