Wednesday, August 28, 2013

MABRA Drug Testing: Why Wasn't I Tested?

I don't use performance enhancing drugs, but this year I raced like I was on them.

First, I won the crit at Page Valley Stage Race.  Then I won the Coppi 1/2.  Then I won the Masters 35+ Road Race Championship.  I went for three months without finishing out of the top five.

This would possibly be subpar if I was Rick Norton (he's done it for years, after all), but because it was me, it should've raised some flags.

I fit the profile of the typical American doper:
(1) Middle aged (meaning between the ages of 35 - 65, not relating to the period between the collapse of the Roman Empire and the rise of the nation states in the 15th Century);
(2) Childless;
(3) Historically middle-of-the-pack abilities; and
(4) Narcissistic (I blog, ergo I am vain).

The latter part of this Summer, I fit the classic modern doping profile about as closely as is possible.  

Thankfully, MABRA and USAC threw $12,000 of our dollars toward testing our local MABRA races, so everyone would know--red flags like me would surely be subject to vigorous testing.

Right?  Isn't that what we were told in December?

Except that's not how it worked.  I wasn't tested.  Not a drop of urine begged.

Why wasn't I tested?

Remember the money, nine months ago, we in MABRA decided--not without some objections--to give to USADA so they would test us?  MABRA and November Bikes both earmarked significant thousands in our cash for a USAC anti-doping program ("Race Clean") at the MABRA level.  We had discussion on the MABRA board, surveys and analysis, and decided as a community to put somewhere around $6,000 of our local funds toward testing.  USAC matched MABRA's funds, bringing the total to $12,000.

Remember, most of this originated from our own pockets, whether it came from our USAC membership dues or from our race entry fees and other contributions to MABRA.  The one exception was November, who simply gave money the old fashioned way--out of pure charity.

Now that the season is essentially over, it's time to look back and ask what we got for our money.

It's not a complicated answer.  We got jack squat for our money.

There are two possible conclusions about USAC's program and how it worked in MABRA:
(1) USADA can identify riders who should be tested (like me), but simply didn't--meaning no one was tested;
(2) USADA did test riders, but since they did not test me, they didn't test the riders they should have tested.

In either case, it's clear USADA failed.

I have no question about who is to blame--it's our MABRA leaders and the folks who pressured them toward this program.  The idea was right, but we should have known that we'd never get what we were vaguely promised.  Contracts require terms, and ours had none.  Without specific promises for X number of tests on Y number of athletes, our MABRA board members should never have handed over our cash.

Unfortunately, the zealots pushed this one through.  They used the "anyone against this is for doping;" ironically, the same kind of argument Lance had used with cancer (i.e., if you're against me, you're for cancer).  And, surprise, we got hosed.

The failure of MABRA's attempt at drug testing is really two-fold: (1) it was money poorly spent; (2) it eroded our social contract with each other.  Like children who appeal to adults for justice, we took a step back from our responsibility to each other.  We appealed to a higher power that turned out to be off running press conferences.

We should've just said, "If you dope, you're an idiot, and if you care enough to spend $12,000 on a program to catch idiots, you're also an idiot."

Next year, let's spend the money on recruiting new riders to the sport and on juniors.  Better yet, let's cut race fees and pay our officials more money.  Those folks do an amazing job and all they usually get is some pizza.

In retrospect, that's how those of us who were against the drug testing program should've framed our arguments: if you're for drug testing, you hate juniors and officials.

Of course, it's likely we won't need to make this argument next year; no one's going to suggest we throw another $12,000 at it next year.  Right?  Well, I'm not so sure.  After all, this is Washington DC, land of empty promises.


Chuck Wagon said...

You didn't get the message? We've reverted to the old school where anyone who does suspiciously well gets burned at the stake. If he burns, not a doper. If he doesn't burn, he is a doper and we stone him to death.

The testing program does seem to have been conspicuously inconspicuous, hasn't it?

To clarify one point, November offered to fund the thing if MABRA decided not to pay for it out of its budget. MABRA paid for it out of its budget, ergo our offer was left on the table.

I watched "Off Road To Athens" recently, and if you follow Steve Johnson in that movie and realize that he's now the head of USAC, well, it fills me with ALL SORTS of confidence! Happy unicorns and short rib sandwiches!

Kevin Cross said...

Thanks for the clarification, Dave.

I'll have you know that tied for fifth at Millersburg qualifies as suspicious.

ian spivack said...

good article Kevin, people should always question what did this amount of money buy us?
Nice job finishing up the season and getting your cat 1 upgrade. Now you will be on everyone's watch list at races (except USADA) :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this article. So, were there any tests conducted, or did the $$ simply disappear into USAC's pockets?

And if there were tests conducted, were MABRA riders the ones tested or were the tests, say, run at Clarendon and out-of-district pros were the ones tested?

Surprising that if tests did happen, they were conducted so quietly. One would assume that the purpose of this process was to send a message that if you dope, you'll be caught through our new robust testing process. Instead, the message is just the opposite: we'll pay a lot for testing, but there's no way it will ever happen!

Kevin Cross said...

&Ian, thanks and same to you. Suspiciously successful, although you're still too young to fit the classic profile.

@anon - These are good questions. I generally think we have good leadership in MABRA, and I'm hoping we'll get a kind of "lessons learned" from this thing at some point. I'm not confident we'll get anything from USAC or USADA.

Anonymous said...

Would you consider posting a link to your questions on the MABRA list for the purpose of getting a renewed discussion going to alert leadership to these issues? Seems to be about the time for a doping discussion on the list anyway...

Kevin Cross said...

I hesitate to toot my own questions. I'm happy if people want to use this as an example or a discussion starter, of course, but I don't usually like promoting my crappy blog on MABRA's board. These are really questions for USADA and USAC, but I expect little from them on something like this. My urine is also, naturally, available upon request.

Anonymous said...

you didn't piss in a cup. Others did. Though not a lot of fanfare went into it.

It's tough to tell if any anti-doping program is successful. If we catch someone, than all of MABRA is cast under suspicion. If we don't catch anyone, we have no idea if its because we didnt test enough or if the threat of testing made an impact.

I agree that there should be explicit guaranteed minimum requirements from USAC and USADA. MABRA should inquire about it, but the board is just a small group of volunteers. We need people to take on the problems, not just complain on the internet.

hfang said...

Kevin, I'm not sure you totally fit the profile. Dopers dominate and their performance many times come out of nowhere. You won several hilly road races which means you're obviously a good hill climber and can hold your own in breakaways. You didn't dominate the crits and do a sub 52 min Church Creek TT. I'm sure you were a recipient of the benefit of the MABRA/USAC doping testing. It didn't seem like anyone dominated the CAT 123 races. And your profile perception about childless may not be correct, however it probably speaks to being able to have the funds to buy dope on a consistent basis and have no care what their kids will feel when they are caught. When you start dominating all of the road races, ride away on all of the crits, and do a sub 52 min at Church Creek, I'm sure there will be people asking to have you tested. In the meantime keep crushing it on the weekend rides and congrats on your CAT 1 upgrade. And what is it with your 57 min Church Creek TT? Is that the way you through the testers off by screwing the doper profile? By the way.. wasn't there someone at Black Hills who was tested?

Anonymous said...

I'd have to agree with Harry. Success in a few local road races with local field doesn't put you in the 'likely doper' category. Jumping from where you were to competitive on the national level would be a different story. Those guys who cheat for success on the national level can get caught when the net is cast locally.

chainfree said...

I totally get where you're going with this and find it understandable but a few things to consider:

1. MABRA put in $6k not $12k.
2. I believe the funds cover the MABRA season (Road, Track, CX). Go start winning some CX races now! You may still get your chance.
3. There has been at least one test (Blackhills)

I think the ultimate test would have been if you had folks call in to USAC to complain about you...and then see if you actually got tested. Eh, there's an idea for next year.

I'll be interested to see if USAC will be willing to push forward all unused funds to the next year if it's determined at the end of the year it wasn't spent in full.

I remember there was a strong voice that said the "threat" of testing would ruin MABRA attendance and the sport wouldn't grow...I don't think that happened. Cat 5 attendance was crazy...I couldn't get Emir into several races since the 5's were filled so early.

Anybody that knows you, knows you're too good and decent of a human being to cheat. And as someone that has seen your talent throughout the last few years, your success wasn't surprising.

Anonymous said...

What remains so irritating about this debate is this. No one knows what we actually bought for 3k. The proposal that was accepted was for 3k from MABRA and 3k matching funds from USAC. Nobody knows the extent of doping. Nobody knows how much doping mitigation a 6k total doping test buy nets you. And nobody can quantify the harm from doping in any amount. Cycling is riddled with issues that 3k could do some good with. Woman and minority outreach. Collegiate cycling. But no the focus needs to be on mitigating a problem of unknown dimension with uncertain methods. *sigh*.