Los Angeles, March 29, 2011
Egregious Error in Sports Illustrated Story by Selena Roberts & David Epstein Exposed
USOC Committee Meeting Notes Reveal Truth
Anti-Doping Research (ADR) has obtained a copy of meeting notes of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) meeting of March 2000, referenced as “the minutes” in the misleading Jan. 24 Sports Illustrated Lance Armstrong story by Selena Roberts and David Epstein. Attorneys at Time, Inc. finally provided an excerpt of the notes after repeated requests.
As suspected, the notes show that contrary to Roberts and Epstein’s claims, the committee, with Dr. Catlin often leading the way, was not only trying to do everything it could within the existing framework to ensure an effective doping system in the United States, it was attempting to raise the testing standards and make them more stringent for athletes.
The meeting notes are crucial for providing the appropriate context and demonstrate that Roberts and Epstein’s written and press interview statements charging that Dr. Catlin and officials discuss in the meeting how “to informally test athletes–not to sanction them but to help them avoid testing positive at the Olympics” are patently false. Indeed, the writers and editor(s) either do not understand or willfully ignore the context of the discussion.
To help shed light on the situation and be as transparent as possible, Dr. Catlin and ADR are taking the step of releasing the USOC meeting notes. Because the discussion is complex and difficult to follow, Dr. Catlin is offering a statement on the context of the meeting and an annotated version of the notes that adds helpful and insightful comments. You may click the following links to pdfs of Dr. Catlin’s Statement and Annotated Notes as well as the Raw Version of the Notes.
The primary issue at hand was how to apply Dr. Catlin’s new, complex, and, at that time, legally untested Carbon Isotope Ratio (CIR) test to confirm testosterone use in U.S. athlete samples prior to the Summer Olympics in Sydney. For his part, Dr. Catlin wanted to see his test implemented in the United States and was doing what he could to advance it.
“I want to see better and better doping (control),” he said. “And it’s (the CIR test is) ready to go… and I submit that there’s tons and tons of political and legal reasons not to do it and to do it. I’m making a statement that I’m willing to go to court to defend the test, and I wouldn’t have made that statement until very recently.”
The group was reviewing the rules for screening for testosterone use by applying the testosterone to epitestosterone (T/E) ratio to see how the follow-up CIR confirmation test could be applied. A key issue discussed was what constituted an initial positive T/E finding. According to the IOC, the relevant governing body at the time, only a sample with a T/E ratio of 6:1 or higher was an initial positive. The IOC rules included the ability to use CIR for follow-up testing while the USOC protocol under discussion did not mention CIR use.
Dr. Catlin and others on the committee considered implementing tougher standards than the IOC rules allowed, by applying the CIR test to samples in which the T/E ratio was in the more stringent 4:1 to 6:1 range. In fact, Dr. Catlin had lobbied the IOC to adopt the more stringent T/E range, a point he mentions in the meeting. The meeting notes reveal the group struggling with how to use CIR for sanctioning purposes given the concern that prosecution of testosterone doping offenses in which the T/E ratio was less than 6:1 would be unsuccessful under the current IOC framework.
The members discussed if and how U.S. athletes should be introduced to the new test, with some wanting to warn athletes and others not wanting to warn them. Those who argued for warning athletes were doing so out of a desire to compel as many of them as possible to clean up—the point of doping control—and for a time the IOC required such warnings. Again contrary to Roberts and Epstein’s claims, Dr. Catlin argued that alerting the USOC, so that they could warn athletes, was not necessary. “I don’t (care) whether you guys are alerted in advance,” he said. “If we want to put a test in before the Games, we’ll do it.”
As a potential compromise, a committee member floated the idea of doing an informal study applying the CIR test to a group of 50 samples in which the T/E ratio measured in the more stringent 4:1 to 6:1 range. The purpose of this proposal was to assess the potential of doping prevalence, as good, credible science-based anti-doping programs do. Research studies are, by proper protocol, anonymous, as Dr. Catlin told the group.
Although Dr. Catlin believed in the science behind the CIR test and was pressing to use it for sanctioning purposes, he was open to the idea of a compromise because he believed that the results would help push the IOC to adopt the more stringent standard. A precedent had been established with similar research conducted by the IOC at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, he noted, though he remained, as always, opposed to “no-penalty testing.”
In the end the motion to conduct the research study was withdrawn, and no such study was conducted. Five years later, in 2005, the World Anti-Doping Agency lowered the benchmark for an initial positive testosterone test result to a T/E ratio of 4:1.
The CIR test is considered revolutionary and has proven highly effective; despite many challenges by athletes testing positive, the Court of Arbitration for Sport has never found any fault with it.
The blatant mischaracterization of the USOC meeting is merely one of several egregious errors Anti-Doping Research has found in the Jan. 24 Sports Illustrated feature story by Selena Roberts and David Epstein.