Wednesday, December 12, 2012

More Analysis (and a bit of opinion) on the MABRA Drug Testing Survey

Last post we looked at who participated in the survey, and general results.  In this post, we'll break down responses by category and experience.  The question is:  do we want to fund drug testing in MABRA?  This post will look at the different groups that make up MABRA and whether it's true, as some suggest, that experience, age, and category can be at all correlated with desire for testing.

We find some consensus in MABRA about testing:  we generally want some kind of testing.  We also agree on who should be tested:  elites, not novices.  The upward sloping line in the graph below shows this consensus.

Across every category, every level of experience, and every age group, the pattern is the same:  we want testing of Masters, elites, and pros; we don't want testing of 4s and 5s.

Veterans vs. Newbies
Proponents of testing have implied that the longer you're in the sport, the more you realize the prevalence of PED use, and you want testing. 

This turns out to be wrong, with notable caveats.  Those in the sport for more than 10 years generally want less testing than less experienced racers want, except they want Cat 3 and Masters racers tested.  But these are very small differences.  

Experience, then, does not matter when it comes to drug testing.

Elites vs. Novices
What about category?  Do elites (cat 1 and 2) or cat 3s have different opinions about testing than novices do?  And what about Masters?

Elites generally more aggressively favor testing.  Masters are generally less in favor of testing--although they do favor  testing (61%) of themselves when they race as Masters.  

These characteristics, however, are only small deviations from the entire sample, and the general conclusion--we favor testing of elites, we oppose testing of novices--holds for elites and masters.

The wisdom of MABRA crowds
I was surprised we did not more strongly favor Masters testing, since most amateurs busted in recent years--Kenny Williams, Pete Cannell, Roger Hernandez, Chuck CoyleNicholas Brandt-Sorensen, Joshua Webster, Neal Schubel, to name a few--are Masters racers.  As Joe Papp recently stated, "Based on my experience [selling PEDs to American cyclists], in the U.S. the majority of athletes seeking doping products on the black market are amateurs, and believe it or not, they're masters athletes."

So it's a bit of a mystery to me why we are more concerned with elites than masters.

We want more testing of our upper categories and we don't want testing of our lower categories.  We can't have this. Or, more precisely, we can choose to give money to a testing protocol that does not distinguish category.  We get the whole package, with no control over it.

Are we willing to accept what we don't want--testing of new racers--in exchange for what we want--testing of elites?

This is the choice we face.

Those in favor of testing are willing to accept the possibility of testing of the lower categories, and the risks it poses to recruitment and retainment of new racers.  Let's face it, building our sport at the local level is hard enough as it is.  To the dangers of 8-cornered crits, the cost of equipment, and the unforgiving nature of bike racing (YOU GOT DROPPED!), add the joy of peeing in a cup in front of a random dude and the possibility of a false positive.  And for those who smoke pot, the inability to indulge.

Those against testing want to preserve as much simplicity as possible in the lower categories, at the cost of not knowing if your opponents are juicing, and of probably losing to substance-enhanced dopers every now and then.  It's happened to me, and I don't like the feeling.

As I see it, we have two populations--Novices and Elites--with different preferences.  If we decide to promote more local testing, we should at least acknowledge the existence of both positions.


John Cutler said...

Just to clarify the question at hand.

The following is the "question". MABRA has 4 options:

A. MABRA donates "club funds" (not voluntarily raised) to a regionally earmarked USAC/USADA testing fund. This donation would be "matched" by USAC.

B. MABRA accept donations from members, and then donates this amount to a regionally earmarked USAC/USADA testing fund. This would allow the voluntary donations to be "matched".

C. Combine options A and B above.

D. Do nothing. Interested MABRA riders can donate to the national fund established by USAC. In this case, there would be no regional earmarks.

With options A,B, C, and D above it is understood that USADA will handle all logistics, athlete selection, results management, and all this will occur based on current USADA process, and the rules presented by USAC/USADA. USAC will be increasing enforcement activities next season, and regardless of how MABRA participates, the effort will be better funded.

It is unknown, currently, how these increased funds will impact testing of novice, lower category riders, etc.

Kevin Cross said...

Thanks, John. Appreciate the information.