Friday, December 7, 2012

MABRA Drug Testing Survey: Results

For those into numbers, I've compiled the data here.  I ran into some problems which I bitch about below.*  I welcome help and more expert analysis.

Here's my analysis.

Who Responded:  Old Cat 3s.
Maryland, DC, Delaware, and Virginia have 1217 registered bike racers in the men's categories (and about 140 in the women's categories). **

For the men, our largest categories are 3 and 4.  By far, most bike racers are not elite.  In fact, there are more registered category 4 racers than categories 2 and 3 combined.

This is our population--the folks whose opinions matter in this discussion.  A perfect survey would have had 1217 responses (and made a place for the responses of women bike racers in MABRA).

Clearly, our survey fell a bit short of the 1217--about 133 people responded.*

This is only a problem if our respondents are not representative of MABRA in all the important ways.  Unfortunately, our responders are not typical MABRA bike racers.  The graph above (the population of MABRA) should look as close as possible to the graph below (our sample) showing the categories who answered our question.

 You can see the difference:  our survey is dominated by the upper categories.  There are 455 cat 4s in MABRA, but only 20 took our survey.  Take a look at this table, which shows that, the lower the category, the less likely MABRA riders were to take the survey:

Percentage of riders in Category who took survey:
Category 1: 24.1%
Category 2: 16.3%
Category 3: 12.3%
Category 4: 4.4%
Category 5: 1.6%

The results of this survey, then, are skewed toward the upper category riders.  We may want to weight their opinions more; after all, they're the ones who race most.  On the other hand, the Orwellian phrase--some "being more equal than others"--leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

If we're awarding extra weight, we should probably think of juniors, since they're the future of the sport.  Unfortunately, the results are skewed toward masters racers.  60% of respondents were masters racers; only 2%*** were juniors.

We did receive several responses from parents of juniors, which hopefully counts for something.

Another interesting trend in this sample--81% of respondents have been racing for 3 or more years.  Not very many new racers answered the survey.  This again suggests that the results may be skewed toward the more dedicated, older racer--not a bad thing, necessarily.

On the whole, however, 8% of MABRA responded.  While it might not be fit for advanced econometrics, it does still give us a good idea what our community believes and wants.

So, what do we think about drugs and drug testing?

 Are we using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs)?
 Almost all of us (94%) believe PED use is rare; only 1 person thought it was common at all levels.

Interestingly, that consensus was not followed by a consensus on whether it matters:  just over 70% believe drugs alter the outcome of races, but almost a third believe it doesn't effect race outcomes.  

Who should we test?
Four folks thought there should be no testing, but almost everyone agreed pros and elites should be tested--in fact, they barely distinguished between them, (with only a 2% difference). 

What are potential concerns about testing?
Almost everyone cited some concerns with testing.  The largest concern was a false positive--about 3/4 of respondents cited it as a reservation.  On the other hand, 1/4 of responders had no concerns. 
 A number of folks wrote in concerns not listed in the choices:  privacy, cost for promoters, the idea of peeing in a cup "in front of a dude," and one father who worried that testing "might distract officials....I want safe races, especially for my son."

What are potential benefits of local testing?
Just as most cited concerns with testing, most all noted benefits.  This suggests that most people checked both--we see testing as a complicated issue with potential benefits and drawbacks.  A significant chunk--13%--did not cite a single benefit in testing.

We don't think doping is common in MABRA, but most of us are in favor of some kind of testing.  However, very few of us wish to test novice racers, and we are concerned about false positives, about cost, and a number of other things.  Almost all of us see deterrence as a big reason for instituting more local testing, and no one is hoping races will slow down as a result of this.  

Clearly, we all have swinging brass ones.  Congratulate yourself on that.

To those who took the survey, thanks.

In my next post I hope to address important questions: do elite and novice racers have different opinions about testing and drug?  does being in the sport longer correlate with a desire for more or less testing?

*I wish I had known several things before sending off this survey:  
  1. Survey Monkey (SM) charges money to process more than 100 responses;
  2. SM charges money to send a spreadsheet or CSV or any other useful format of answers;
  3. SM charges money charges money to share results with others;
  4. SM does not allow a single month membership (at $17); instead, it bills you $204.
As much as I love MABRA and data sets, especially data sets exceeding 100 responses, I'm not willing to fork over $204 to see what a bunch of apes think about doping.

So, the bad news is that I don't have a handy link to send you to a site with beautiful graphs and charts, and that the last 33 respondents will have to be ignored.  I'm sorry.

**  One of the failings of my survey was a failure to distinguish the sexes, but I wanted to keep the questions at a minimum.  Also, I we may all be sexist idiots when it comes to women and doping.

***I added this question (on juniors), which explains why 20 skipped it.


Anonymous said...

Your question about "Who should we test?" should have included a response for "none of the above" or stated, "if you don't think we should test anyone, leave the answer blank." It was pretty much a loaded question the way it was worded.

Fatmarc Vanderbacon said...

The more you race, are in racing, the likely more jaded you become and realize the potiential for PED use... As a new racers, it's just not something on the radar yet...


Rollin' Polish said...

The problem with the "money is better spent elsewhere" argument is that the money that was recently raised for testing wouldn't have been raised otherwise and, even if it had, not a single person has noted what that could buy MABRA that it does not already have.

Anonymous said...

.....maybe there's not "consensus" (100% agreement) BUT 70% of respondents agree that doping affects outcomes of local races. more than 7 out of 10 believe it is happening in a way that directly affects their personal results, investment in equipment, training, and time. that's huge.

in response to: "Interestingly, that consensus was not followed by a consensus on whether it matters: just over 70% believe drugs alter the outcome of races, but almost a third believe it doesn't effect race outcomes."

thanks for running the survey!

Chuck Wagon said...

I don't know whether it's lack of awareness or apathy, but I'm sort of shocked that there's so little apparent interest in the whole thing apart from a few really engaged people.

Thanks for doing the survey.

Kevin Cross said...

Thanks for your comments. @chuckwagon, in some ways it may be good that folks aren't interested. Maybe they just want to ride their bikes. Or maybe, as you fear, they are apathetic.

@fatmarc: I thought the same thing, but the survey doesn't provide much evidence for that (see the next post).

@rollin: I agree that the November guys and others raised money for this, and its specifically for this. As I understand it, we're also considering MABRA money for this (I could be wrong).

John Cutler said...

Incredible. 70.4% of survey takers believe there is enough substance taking locally to effect the outcome of local races. I'm blown away by that.

And 41.7% believe that Cat 3s should be tested? Cat 3s? So close to half think that the lowly 3s should be tested. Again. Incredible.