Travis Tygart, USADA's General Counsel - Interview
Ferren Christou, a conversation with Travis Tygart, "... I would like to see
better cooperation between all entities and individuals interested in clean
sport. If there is one thing we should all be able to agree on, it is that
cheating through doping has no place in sport. The only way we are going to
achieve the goal of clean sport is if ADAs, sport organizations, clean athletes
and everyone else interested in the integrity of athletic competition work
together in a concerted, constructive and efficient effort."
By Ferren Christou
is the Senior Managing Director and General Counsel for the United States
Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). USADA is well known to professional cycling fans for
it's past and current prosecution of high profile doping cases against Tyler
Hamilton and Floyd Landis.
USADA was created in 2000 to restore the credibility
of anti-doping institutions in the United States. The former anti-doping agency
(ADA), the US Olympic Committee (USOC), had for over a decade been the subject
of allegations of covering up positive doping results for US athletes
(allegations that were seen to be confirmed after USOC documents were provided
to Sports Illustrated in 2003). USADA uses the anti-doping regulations, rules
and policies of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). This code was adopted in
2004. USADA is responsible for prosecuting US licensed athletes who are alleged
to be in violation of this code.
Travis is very passionate about fighting for
clean athletes and a clean sport. He truly believes the current anti-doping
infrastructure is the way to achieve these goals. But the anti-doping
authorities are not without their critics, and these critics have become
exceptionally vocal in the days since the allegations were made against Landis.
While Travis is adamant about following USADA's policy of not commenting on
current cases, he has been gracious enough to answer some tough questions
regarding criticisms of the ADAs and pertaining to general elements of the
On a personal level, it's interesting to note that Travis graduated
from the same Jacksonville, Fl. high school as Floyd Landis' chief counsel Howard
Jacobs (Jacobs is two years older).
Ferren Christou: Travis what's your
background in sporting law? How did you get involved in the anti-doping movement?
Is this an issue that you have been very interested in or passionate about for
some time? Also what does your job entail?
Mr. Travis Tygart:
Participation in sports as a player and coach taught me to value the ethics of
athletic competition including fair play, hard work, team work and playing by
the rules. As a result, I have been passionate about these values for a long
These principles are the reasons that I decided to leave teaching and coaching
and attend law school. I wanted to do my part to ensure fairness, justice and
uphold the rule of law. These sound like abstract concepts, but in the legal
world these are real concepts that guide our decisions on a daily basis. When I
represented criminal defendants, I saw first hand the impact that friends, peer
pressure, money and unfortunate circumstances can have on an individual’s
decisions and how important the application of these fundamental principles are
to cases that impact people’s lives.
am fortunate to have found a job where I get to apply and fight for these
principles every day in the context of sports. I started out as a commercial
litigator with an international firm in Dallas, Texas. I then worked in a
sports department of large firm based in Denver where we represented sports and
entertainment organizations and athletes.
My primary job is to manage USADA and its staff to fulfill our mission of
protecting the rights of clean athletes, the health and safety of all athletes
and the integrity of athletic competition. There are four primary areas devoted
to this mission, education, research, testing and results management. When a
person is alleged to have committed a doping offense, I am responsible for
managing the adjudication of the alleged offense through the established legal
Ferren: Some people feel
that the ADAs are bureaucracies that make their living by prosecuting doping
infractions. That this makes the ADAs more interested in winning cases than
finding the truth. Does this compromise objectivity?
find that those individuals who claim anti-doping agencies (“ADAs”) are more
interested in winning cases that finding the truth, are usually either defense
attorneys who have a profit motive to make such claims or reporters looking to
create a story and sell newspapers. Those claims are simply detached from
reality. People with a true understanding of what USADA does know better.
Travis: As I mentioned earlier, USADA was formed on behalf of clean athletes to ensure
fair play and the integrity of the rules, plain and simple. No case is worth
compromising the rules and impugning our integrity and credibility. When USADA
is under its legal budget as it was in 2006, the money is allocated to research
and education. We would much rather spend money on research and education than
fighting over whether a person has committed a doping offense. That said, our
integrity also requires that when an athlete is engaged in doping behavior and
we have credible proof of that activity, we must bring a case.
In a perfect world, we would never have to bring a case because all athletes
would compete on natural ability. Until that is true, the best that we can hope
for is to deter as many athletes as we can and to hold those athletes who cheat
accountable for their decisions. What is frustrating from our end is when
athletes who know they have been doping waste USADA’s resources looking to
escape accountability. That is why in cases like Kelli White, Alvin Harrison,
and Tim Montgomery, we attempted to get these athletes to acknowledge their
doping behavior and save the money that would be spent on prosecuting the case
to be used in our research and education programs for clean athletes.
Alvin were courageous and decent in that when they were caught, they admitted it
and did not force us to spend the resources that otherwise went to clean
athletes. Unfortunately, Tim Montgomery chose to raise every legal challenge he
could, which is his right under our system. As a result we were forced to spend
a substantial amount of our resources to prove what we knew from the very
beginning -- that he was an intentional cheater of the worst kind and won the
100M World Record as a result of his drug use.
The bottom line is that when bringing a case, USADA’s sole objective is
absolutely a search for the truth. No athlete who has not engaged in doping
behavior has any reason to fear or otherwise attempt to avoid the USADA
The entire adjudication process is designed to ensure that only athletes who
have committed doping offenses are ultimately sanctioned. To that end, when a
person is alleged to have committed a violation, the first step is to provide
the person the opportunity to submit any information he/she chooses to an
independent review board. This board is made up of people external to USADA who
review the case submitted to it and recommend whether or not there is sufficient
merit to pursue the doping violation.
Any suggestion that the USADA process compromises any athlete’s right to due
process or is unfair is a blatant distortion of the truth and frankly usually
employed by those who are looking to distract the public from their decision to
cheat. The truth is that the arbitration process is grounded in the federal
statue the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act and contains all of the
safeguards to ensure due process.
Ferren: In an LA Times
article by Michael Hiltzik you were quoted as saying, (athletes) "want a set of
rights that far exceeds the powers we have". Could you elaborate on this?
Travis: This statement was in relation to cases like Tim Montgomery and Tammy Thomas.
In Tammy Thomas’ case, she showed up to the hearing and did not tell the truth.
Essentially, she wanted a process where she could run from the truth and
obstruct our every effort to reveal the truth. Tim Montgomery wanted the same
and refused to cooperate or answer any questions posed to him. When asked a
simple question like, “did you use drugs?” he refused to answer. It is hard to
imagine a system fair to clean athletes where you can represent your country in
athletic competition at the highest levels but you are not required to answer
honestly when asked whether or not you have used drugs.
The point is, a guilty athlete wants a system where they can lie, cheat and
avoid the consequences of their doping at all costs. In reality, they want to
first cheat on the field of play and then when caught they want to cheat the
system again to see if they can get away with it. Ultimately, they are cheating
clean athletes and the public. Accordingly, we think it would be in everyone’s
interest if we had broader power to compel witnesses such as Victor Conte in Tim
Montgomery’s case and Patrick Arnold in Tammy Thomas’ case to participate in the
process so that the panel hearing the case could reach the truth more
efficiently. As well, ADAs should have clear avenues to deter athletes from
lying to the arbitrators.
Instead the current trend is for some athletes to engage in obstructionist
defenses that, despite publicity claims to the contrary, are designed to do
nothing more than hide the truth. What is unfortunate, is that one of these
days an athlete may succeed in cheating the system through legal maneuvering and
there will be no honor in that outcome. We take our obligations to clean
athletes seriously and that is why we remain constantly vigilant in our efforts
to stop cheating on the field of play and in the adjudication process.
Ferren: Can you give me a
rough estimate of the amount USADA spends prosecuting a case that goes to a
hearing? Specifically on legal fees and expert witnesses. Does this vary a good
bit from case to case or is it pretty consistent? Who pays for an appeal to CAS?
Travis: The cost per case depends solely on the facts of the case and the complexity of
the situations. In reality, not knowing the number of cases we will have from
year to year makes it very tough to accurately budget. Additionally, we have to
estimate what we will have to spend on each case to respond to the arguments
raised by defense counsel, including any frivolous defenses or efforts to hide
from the truth. We were under budget by approximately 35% in 2006. The amount we
were under went directly to our research program.
In terms of costs to athletes, there is no cost to an athlete to have a hearing
in front of a single arbitrator or a panel of three. These costs are borne by
the USOC. Similarly, the CAS fee on an appeal in most cases is covered by sport
although the athlete must pay the initial appeal fee which is a minimal amount.
The only cost to the athlete is whatever they decide to pay to hire counsel.
Ferren: There is a
perception that law enforcement uncovers more doping than testing. That this
means the tests are somewhat ineffective (and that clean riders who test
negative may still be viewed with suspicion). Does this catch-22 situation
frustrate you? Could you explain how USADA finds evidence beyond the tests,
working with law enforcement? Do you take tips from athletes regarding
Travis: Intelligent testing that utilizes special menus and appropriately timed testing
is effective. Although we all know that testing alone will never provide a
complete solution to the problem of doping. Common sense and recent examples
will tell you that you will not detect an athlete using a drug for which there
is no test. Given this, it is critical that we use all information available to
us in order to be as effective as possible in deterring and detecting doping.
Certainly, law enforcement has broader powers to investigate using subpoenas,
searches, wire taps, grand juries, etc. than USADA does. And, as we saw in
BALCO, cooperation between law enforcement and USADA was successful on two
fronts. First, our relationship with the investigators allowed them to be more
successful in their efforts. Second, the products of their work including
approximately 9,300 pages of documents seized at BALCO were ultimately received
by us for use in our process. To date, we disciplined 14 athletes involved with
BALCO or using BALCO related drugs.
Another source by which we seek information is our tip line; the USADA Play
Clean Line (1-877-752-9253). We established this line to encourage those
interested in protecting their sport to take a stand and call us. The
anti-doping movement needs strong athletes and coaches to take back control of
their sport. We are always looking for avenues to make it easier for athletes
to take a stand and say they have had a enough and then do something about it.
Ferren: There is also a
perception that the tests are rushed into service before being fully vetted. The EPO test is seen as a poster child for this argument. Could you respond to the
argument that the ADAs push the limits of ambition given the amount of funding
Travis: In my experience the arguments you hear about tests being rushed into service or
the defense counsel’s favorite refrain of “junk science” are again usually
employed in an effort to distract the public from holding an athlete accountable
for choosing to dope. The reality is that WADA and every other organization
involved in the anti-doping process work very hard to make sure that the science
used to catch dopers is appropriately researched, scientifically validated and
properly implemented. At the same time the anti-doping movement must be
progressive enough to continually innovate in its efforts to catch those
athletes who are cheating without sacrificing scientific credibility. We do not
have to look any further than BALCO to see the lengths some athletes are going
to in an attempt to stay ahead of testing.
Ferren: What is the procedure for providing an
athlete who has had an adverse analytical finding documentation about his or her
case? I understand the documentation originally provided is strictly outlined by
the International Standard for Laboratories. And that the athlete can petition
the arbitration panel for more documentation. Could you lead me through the
process? Could you give me an idea of how often the athlete is given more
Travis: The USADA Protocol and the WADA International Standard sets the documents that
are provided to an athlete who tests positive. Also, our rules allow the
athlete to have an expert or experts of their choice be at the B sample
analysis. This effectively affords the opportunity to view the entire B sample
opening and analysis process. This is a right not afforded in comparable
circumstances such as employee drug testing or other forensic testing.
Defense attorneys would have you believe that USADA unilaterally decided what
documents should be given to athletes. That is absolutely not true. Instead,
the set of documents provided by USADA was developed with substantial input from
defense counsel and the USOC Athlete Ombudsman and is a comprehensive set of
documents that directly relates to the analysis of the positive test.
Significantly, this set of documents is far broader than most employee-employer
drug testing schemes and is broader than comparative professional league
collective bargaining policies. This set of documents, which is provided
free to the athlete, is comprehensive enough that if there were a flaw in the
testing it would be immediately apparent.
Where the system runs into conflict is when athletes who know that they
committed the doping offense are grasping at straws and hoping to find a
technicality in order to escape the consequences of doping. That is why
you see more and more that defense counsel will inundated us with voluminous
requests for documents outside of what has been set forth in the rules.
These fishing expeditions are typically designed to introduce confusion into the
process and create a smoke and mirrors defense in an effort to influence the
public and create false sympathy for the athlete.
In terms of logistics, we carefully consider every document request that we
receive. If we decide that the athlete has raised a legitimate issue and
adequately justified the need for more documents we will act on that request.
In the event, that we do not feel that the request is justified, then by rule
the athlete is entitled to go to the arbitrators and ask for documents to be
produced. Ultimately, it is the arbitrators, not USADA, who decide the validity
of the request.
Ferren: I also understand that Tyler Hamilton was
given further access to the lab in his case. Could you detail what happened?
Travis: In my opinion the Hamilton case was a perfect example of an athlete wasting the
time and resources of USADA that should have been going to clean athletes. In
the first hearing, Mr. Hamilton essentially agreed that the test results were
accurate. Basically, he and his experts all agreed that the laboratory results
showed accurately that there was a mixed population of blood. Rather than
disputing the accuracy of the results, they sought to raise questions about what
the results meant. His main arguments were that his two mixed populations was
due to something other than a blood transfusion such as a “vanishing twin.”
Accordingly, in the first hearing there were no document production disputes.
While he did initially ask for a volume of documents, we informed him we did not
think the request was justified and he elected not to ask the panel to order the
production of any additional documents.
After he lost the initial case and then filed an appeal, his defense changed.
In reality, his defense had to change because we were able, through DNA testing
of his samples, to expose the “vanishing twin” defense as nothing more than
vanishing speculation. Once his main defense was defeated, he shifted
strategies and attempted to cast doubt on the accuracy of the test results.
At the hearing for the appeal in September 2005, for the first time, he
resurrected his discovery requests from the previous hearing. At that time, we
made the decision that it was easier to dispel the myth of his new defense by
overlooking the flaws in his document request and agreed to his requests for
additional documents. We also provided him enhanced access to the laboratory to
review more data concerning the analysis of his sample. The end result was
increased cost for both parties, and a delay in the process. Ultimately of
course, Mr. Hamilton, his defense attorneys and his team of scientists spent a
great deal of time trying to conjure up a valid defense to obfuscate Mr.
Hamilton’s doping. Their efforts failed and Mr. Hamilton was held accountable.
Justice was still served in the case, it just cost more and took substantially
more time for everyone involved.
Ferren: Would you outline
the process by which a hearing is scheduled? Is the scheduling done solely by USADA or is the athlete involved in the process? What factors cause the hearing
to take so long to occur after the adverse analytical finding?
Travis: The athlete is involved with the process from the initial notice of the positive
A report until the conclusion of the final hearing. USADA can not and does not
unilaterally decide the timing of cases being resolved.
While we always want to hold the hearing as soon as possible in order to bring
resolution, we understand there is a balance in allowing an athlete a reasonable
opportunity to prepare a defense. We are anxious to move as expeditiously as
possible to final resolution because the accused athlete is entitled to all
benefits under his/her sport, including the ability to continue competing. This
effort to have a fair process sometimes results in delays which may be
prejudicial to clean athletes because the accused athlete is still competing.
Once USADA charges an athlete (following the review board process) by giving
notice of the allegations and recommended sanction, the athlete has 10 days to
decide to contest that charge or not. If the athlete contests the charges, then
USADA initiates the process outlined in Section 10 of the USADA Protocol for
Olympic Movement Testing and notifies the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”)to
commence the process for selecting the arbitration panel. Every athlete is
entitled to a three member or single member arbitration panel comprised of
arbitrators from the North American Court of Arbitration for Sport and the AAA.
If a three person arbitration panel is selected, then USADA selects an
arbitrator then the athlete makes his/her choice in 5 days following USADA’s
selection. The two arbitrators selected by the parties then select the
chairperson for the panel in 7 days. In the event they are unable to decide on
a mutually agreeable chairperson then the parties are given approximately 5 days
to strike up to 1/3 of the entire arbitrator list and rank in order of
preference the remaining arbitrators. The AAA then matches the strike/rank list
provided by the parties and names the chairperson based on the parties’ overlap.
In many states, there are mandatory waiting periods for arbitrator and party
disclosures. For example, in California, there is a 15 day waiting period for
each arbitrator selection following the last disclosure or entry of new counsel.
Once the arbitration panel is finalized, the panel with input from the parties
determines the final; briefing and hearing schedule.
Ferren: Why Are WADA affiliated scientists not
allowed to testify for the defense?
especially appreciate the opportunity to address this fiction. The ethical
requirements placed on employees of WADA accredited laboratories, as contained
in Annex B to the International Standard for Laboratories, include the following
No Laboratory employee
or consultant shall provide counsel, advice or information to Athletes or
others regarding techniques or methods to mask detection of, alter metabolism
of, or suppress excretion of a Prohibited Substance or Marker of a
Prohibited Substance or Method in order to avoid an Adverse Analytical
Finding. No Laboratory staff shall assist an Athlete in avoiding
collection of a Sample. This paragraph does not prohibit presentations to
educate Athletes, students, or others concerning anti-doping programs and
Prohibited Substances or Methods.
This provision requires that lab employees not assist athletes with engaging in
or concealing doping. I think the wisdom of this rule is clear. It does not
necessarily prohibit a laboratory employee from assisting an athlete where the
employee believes it is appropriate to do so. In fact, USADA encouraged Dr. Don
Catlin to testify on behalf of Zach Lund during the appeal process when WADA did
not agree with the result reached by USADA. And, other laboratory directors
have testified on behalf of athletes like in the Calle Williams’ case.
Ferren: Michael Hiltzik
reported about the arbitrator pools in his LA Times article. He made an argument
that the pools are biased in favor of WADA and affiliated ADAs. He based this
claim on a trip to the UCLA anti doping lab that was provided by USADA in 2001
to a majority of the North American auditors. In addition, the chairman of WADA
and an outside counsel to USADA are in the pools. How do you respond to this?
think one of the signs of a truly fair process is when your critics have to go
to such great lengths to try and fabricate alleged flaws in the system. It is
always disturbing to me when critics choose sound bites over substance. It is
even more disturbing when a member of the press falls for the sound bite. In
reality, this claim of conflict is a tired refrain from a former defense counsel
for athletes who is trying to create an issue where none exists.
There was an event sponsored by the AAA that was a training session, which some
of the arbitrators attended prior to any cases being handled by USADA. The
training session was modeled after other AAA and CAS programs. In addition to
arbitrators, the USOC Athlete Ombudsman and defense counsel for athletes were
present. In order for the training opportunity to exist someone had to pay the
costs. USADA picked up the routine expenses of the conference. Those are the
The efforts of some to paint this as a travel extravaganza for the arbitrators,
where they would be so overwhelmed by the generosity of USADA that they would
march out and from that day forward jeopardize their professional careers and
their own integrity in order to decide cases for USADA is so ridiculous as to be
embarrassing for those making the claims.
These allegations are really an attack on the integrity of the arbitrators not
on USADA or the current arbitration system. The reality is that the arbitrators
are independent of USADA and sport. They are legal experts, with distinguished
legal careers, who listen to the evidence and make fair and just decisions.
CAS arbitrators were in existence long before WADA and USADA were created. Both
Dick Pound, the Chairman of WADA, and Richard Young, outside counsel for USADA,
were selected as CAS arbitrators before the creation of WADA and USADA. Today,
while they technically are still in the CAS arbitrator pool along with 200 plus
other members, by rule neither one is allowed to serve on a CAS Panel while in
their current position. Again when you look behind the sound bites and consider
the substance, you find that these attacks on the system are imaginative
fabrications by those critics who simply do not want to admit that the
adjudication process is fair.
Ferren: Dick Pound, a
fellow attorney and the chairman of WADA, has been aggressively outspoken
against high profile athletes such as Marion Jones and Lance Armstrong. Can you
comment on his behavior? What are USADA's procedures regarding making results
public and public comment in general? Are there sanctions for breaking these
Travis: USADA does not make statements to the press about the merits of pending cases.
We do not comment even when baited to do so by athletes and their professional
publicity machines. We have a rule that does not allow us to comment on the
specifics of an alleged doping case until after the case has been resolved and
we believe in and abide by that rule. Further, every athlete regardless of
their stature is innocent until proven guilty through the established process.
Again, we firmly believe in the process and the rule of not commenting to the
press to preserve the rights of athletes. No individual case is worth
compromising the integrity of the process.
Unfortunately, sometimes accused athletes seek to manipulate this rule to gain
favor in the eye of the public by making claims to the press about their case,
knowing that we will stick to our rule and not comment to expose the false
claims or at least give proper balance to them. This does, at times, put us in
a frustrating position and leads to the public being mislead. It is equally
unfortunate, that sometimes there are people outside of USADA, associated with
anti-doping efforts who comment publicly about particular cases. Often these
comments serve only to provide fodder for those wishing to attack the integrity
of our process. While I believe the arbitrators who decide the case are more
than capable of ignoring the public statements of both the athletes and anyone
who responds to the athletes, it does create a perception of unfairness that is
regrettable. This is precisely why USADA will not make comments about the
merits of pending cases even when we and the evidence are unjustly attacked
publicly by the accused.
Ferren: How do you feel about the discretion that's
been greatly eliminated from doping cases? Specifically the implementation of
strict liability (for substances and for missing doping tests) and mandatory
Travis: First, every athlete accused of a doping violation is innocent until proven
guilty. The ADA has the burden to prove the athlete is guilty. Also, every
accused athlete has the opportunity to have the facts of their case examined and
may receive a reduction in their sanction if exceptional circumstances exist.
The system as currently constructed strikes the balance of protecting athletes
from truly exceptional circumstances without compromising the integrity of the
system by allowing an athlete to simply blame someone else for the substance in
their body. As a matter of practice, a denial to a doping charge is the common
currency of the guilty and the innocent. This is exactly why an athlete with a
pending positive test needs to provide the panel with something more than a bald
denial of doping to be exonerated or receive a reduction. It would not be a
good system for clean athletes if once an athlete tests positive all they had to
do to escape the consequences of the violation was to claim that the substance
found in their body was somebody else’s fault. Such a system would be nothing
more than an unfettered license to dope for the few athletes who are
unscrupulous enough to cheat and then simply deny it. For people who are
willing to cheat in order to win, it is not much of a step for them to then lie
about it to avoid the consequences. This is the unfortunate reality.
Since 2000, we have conducted approximately 40,000 drug tests and have had 189
possible doping violations. Out of the 189 possible violations, approximately
32 were closed following USADA’s review and the review by the independent review
board, which concluded that the cases did not involve doping violations. The
remaining 157 out of the 189 went on to be charged by USADA. All of those were
resolved as doping violations with varying sanctions; 31 of them went to
arbitration and the remaining were agreed to by the athlete prior to a full
arbitration hearing. The point is that there is substantial process and review
by USADA and others outside of USADA prior to a case being charged by USADA.
Finally, the ultimate decision on whether a person is guilty or innocent of
doping is not in USADA’s hands but in the hands of independent CAS arbitrators.
Ferren: Many people feel
that the future of anti-doping enforcement lies in biological profiling instead
of testing for specific prohibited substances, creating a database of the
athlete’s normal biomarkers and sanctioning him when suspicious deviations from
that profile are detected. Do you have any thoughts regarding (or is USADA
exploring) the legal issues around this approach?
Travis: We have been investigating this concept for some time now. While the end goal
of guaranteeing athletes that they are clean is a dream of ours, we are
realistic enough to be candid about the complexities of this type of program.
We held our annual research symposium this year entitled “Intra-Individual
Reference Ranges” to further explore the practical implications of this type of
system based on personal parameters not simply whether a person passed a test or
not. We will continue to fund research into this area and hope to establish a
foolproof system that will not only allow athletes to say they have passed drug
tests but to truly demonstrate that they are clean.
Of course, we are skeptical of most of the current models out there. Like BALCO,
many of these programs essentially are pre-testing programs where riders do not
compete when their parameters are off so that they are not detected by
traditional drug testing. And, those whom it shows have doped should receive
more of a consequence than merely sitting out of competition for a few days.
Ferren: I am very
impressed at the professionalism, openness and good faith that goes into the
WADA and USADA policies and procedures. Could you speak to the leap the US
anti-doping movement took when USADA (aligned with WADA) replaced the USOC in
truly believe the USOC took a substantial step forward and distinguished itself
as a world leader in the fight against doping when it created an independent
entity to handle its anti-doping program. The fact that USADA’s sole mission is
to protect clean athletes and it is not burdened with any conflicting desire to
protect star athletes or field the most talented team has allowed USADA the
freedom to pursue its objective wholeheartedly. This independent model has
produced results which have shown that the problem of doping may be deeper than
we ever imagined. In my opinion, what we have learned also confirms that we
must win the fight against doping or the very virtuous nature of sport,
particularly Olympic sport, will be tragically compromised forever.
Our experience has demonstrated that there are complex legal, scientific and
ethical issues involved in fighting doping in sport and that having one entity
with its own mission, funding and control aimed at addressing these complexities
is the most effective way to handle these problems. This system allows USADA
the independence required as it looks to continuously evolve the processes and
programs required to tackle this problem as effectively and efficiently as
sometimes chuckle when USADA is unfairly accused of going after big name
“stars”. Because those athletes around Olympic sport prior to USADA’s existence
remember an entirely different “stars” program where the belief was among
athletes was that the best athletes were not tested and if they tested positive
they escaped consequences. Now USADA is sometimes castigated when it has the
unenviable job of exposing an athletic hero as someone who made the choice to
dope. None of us like to see our heroes destroyed, but the real threat to
American sport lies not in the exposing of these individuals but in the efforts
by some to excuse and enable this behavior by turning a blind eye to doping.
Ferren: Are there areas of USADA or WADA you would like to see upgraded or reformed?
would not be serving the interests of clean athletes if I and the rest of the
staff at USADA were not constantly seeking ways to improve not only our
practices but also the practices of all parts of the anti-doping process.
In terms of specific areas for improvement, I would like to see better
cooperation between all entities and individuals interested in clean sport. If
there is one thing we should all be able to agree on, it is that cheating
through doping has no place in sport. The only way we are going to achieve the
goal of clean sport is if ADAs, sport organizations, clean athletes and everyone
else interested in the integrity of athletic competition work together in a
concerted, constructive and efficient effort.
Ferren: Is there anything
else you would like the public to know about USADA or the antidoping
infrastructure in general?
Travis: It would be great if the public could come spend a week inside USADA
understanding who we are and what we really do. The staff at USADA is a group
of people who love sport and are passionate about preserving the ideal that you
should not have to cheat to win. Sometimes, because we respect the
confidentiality of the process, individuals with destructive agendas are able to
paint USADA and others involved in anti-doping in a false light. I would love
to spend less time addressing those baseless attacks on USADA and more time
engaged in constructive dialogue with reasonable people who share a commitment
to clean sport.
would also like to thank you and the Daily Peloton for this opportunity to
address these questions in this format. USADA wants people to understand our
process and the complexities behind the various balancing acts that are part of
any fair system. Unfortunately, too often the press wants quick sounds bites
and salacious stories instead of real and honest answers.
We appreciate the
Daily Peloton’s willingness to look behind the fictions and give us the chance
to address the facts.
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency