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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Vijay's Drug Case

This is a short post because I've been on jury duty plus I've got some internet problems.

Last week I did a post called If It's Good Enough for the Deer... when the PGA Tour and the World Anti-Doping Agency (usually shortened to just WADA) announced that deer antler spray wasn't an illegal drug after all. I think most people missed that post because I put up two posts that day. I have two reasons for bringing it back up.

First, it was basically a rant about the slippery slope of drug testing -- a problem that I don't think is being taken seriously enough. As I pointed out in that post, IGF-1 is found in the milk you buy at the grocery store. And not only is IGF-1 difficult to test for, but no one has determined at what level IGF-1 ceases to be part of a healthy diet and becomes instead an illegal drug. This begs the question: Is it illegal for athletes to drink milk? This is a sloppy way of testing for drugs.

Which brings up my second point -- namely, that drug testing is dangerously close to becoming a witch hunt. Don't misunderstand me. Drug testing has become a necessary part of modern sports. But between sloppy regulatory examples like IGF-1 and the inherent problem of athletes whose bodies may naturally manufacture a greater amount of, say, testosterone than their competitors (is their testosterone level illegal, even though it's natural?), how do we define "illegal drug levels" in a way that's fair to all athletes?

The legal suit being brought against the Tour by Vijay and his people is the natural result. Again, let me be perfectly clear -- I don't like this move. It smacks more of revenge than justice. But it's the inevitable result of the previously-listed problems, and we're probably going to see more suits like this. Vijay's suit won't solve anything beyond polarizing people on both sides of the issue even more than they are now.

What WADA and the various sports organizations need to do is re-evaluate the entire procedure for determining what really constitutes doping -- what specific drugs and what levels of those drugs truly result in a performance boost, as well as how they will determine whether an elevated level of such drugs is natural or induced illegally. I think they also they need to reconsider including drugs such as caffeine and IGF-1 which are common in normal foods. Down that way lies madness.

To be blunt, this whole thing is just getting silly. Somewhere along the line, calmer heads will have to prevail. But I'm afraid I don't see it coming any time soon.

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