LANE ONE: WADA survey shows doping is about performance, but also meeting expectations; education seen as the key to prevention

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Plus: Russia: Expect appeals from 50 national federations to the Court of Arbitration for Sport = Milan Cortina 2026: Organizing committee says CEO will stay = Winter Games 2030: Vancouver referendum motion rescinded = Athletics: USA Track & Field issues ‘24 Marathon Trials RFP; Philippine star Obiena settles with federation = Football: Riot mars Ghana-Nigeria qualifier as doping control physician dies, and Egypt’s Salah hit with laser pointers on penalty shot vs. Senegal; British teen gets six weeks in jail for racist Tweet re Euro 2020 Final; Qatar 2022 sells more than 800,000 tickets in first sales effort = SCOREBOARD: Football: U.S. men finish World Cup qualifying with 2-0 loss at Costa Rica, but are in for Qatar ‘22 ●

Why do athletes use performance-enhancing drugs?

The obvious answer is to enhance performance, but a new survey from the World Anti-Doping Agency show that there are also other factors in play.

The “Athlete Vulnerabilities Research Project” was released Tuesday and reports the results of a modest mid-2021 survey designed to find out the motivating factors in doping and the view of athletes and support staff in prevalence and prevention.

It’s hardly comprehensive – “Completed questionnaires were obtained from 355 sport personnel (coaches/technical personnel, medical personnel and administrators/leaders of sport federations) from 85 countries and 46 sports, and 219 athletes from 30 countries and 35 sports, a total of 574 respondents from 85 countries and 59 sports” – but it gives an insight into the thinking of a small sample of people on the front line of sport in multiple countries. Some highlights:

Motivations

Sure, increasing performance was no. 1, but there are other significant factors in play other than an athlete’s own desire to do better. The nine identified motivators among athletes:

1. 57% said Performance Enhancement
2. 49% said Meeting Expectations
3. 32% said Compensate for Deficiencies
3. 32% said Concentration Enhancement
5. 29% said Search of Approval
6. 27% said Gain of Financial Rewards
7. 23% said Medical Motivation
8. 22% said Aesthetic Enhancement
9. 20% said Recreational Motivation

That half cited the pressure of “Meeting Expectations” is a major red flag in looking at doping, and was a major factor in one of the most infamous doping cases, that of American sprint star Marion Jones. She said she turned to doping prior to the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, fearing that she was slipping back from her 1997 and 1999 World Championships form, where she was dominant.

Coaches and support staff saw athlete motivation a little differently; their top five:

1. 73% said Performance Enhancement
2. 55% said Meeting Expectations
3. 42% said Compensate for Deficiencies
4. 41% said Search of Approval
5. 37% said Gain of Financial Rewards

Again, the pressure element ranked high, although better performances were still most important.

Vulnerabilities

When considering doping itself, the top risks in doping differed significantly between athletes and support staff. For athletes, the factors cited by more than 15% out of 35 factors:

1. 30% said Need for Fast Physical Change
2. 26% said Negative Social Environment
2. 26% said Health Condition
4. 25% said High Rate of Injury
5. 21% said Strength-driven Sport
6. 20% said Nutritional Supplements
7. 18% said Goal Orientation
8. 16% said Pressure of Expectation
8. 16% said Increased Physicality Requirement

There was no one outstanding factor seen as more risky than others. For coaches and support staff, the answer was much different:

1. 50% said Nutritional Supplements
2. 25% said Pressure of Expectation
3. 24% said Need for Fast Physical Change
4. 23% said Goal Orientation
5. 21% said Negative Social Environment

In terms of who is going to be doping, the answer was clear: the higher the level, the more the pressure for doping. Among male athletes, 37% said the pressure was highest at the international level, compared to only 18% at the national level or 16% among youth. For women, 29% of athletes said the international-level athlete was most likely to dope, compared with only 12% at the national level.

Once again, it’s about pressure, something to keep in mind as we observe athletes rising in the public consciousness and especially those who are not part of teams, with permanent care teams of coaches, trainers and other support staff.

A fascinating question was asked about the perceived prevalence of doping:

“Overall, the total sample estimated 21% of athletes to be doping. Athletes had a higher estimation at 25% compared to all stakeholders at 21%. Stakeholder types varied with their estimates, with coaches/technical personnel estimating 22%, medical personnel 17% and administrators/federation leaders the lowest at 15%.”

Asked who the most important influencers are at varying stages of their careers, athletes at the top levels of competition – including national and international level – cited their coach, trainer and manager. Younger athletes paid more attention to coaches and parents, but also to their teammates and peers.

What’s the best way to prevent doping and reduce the vulnerabilities? Athletes cited four elements more than any others:

1. 64% said Education
2. 39% said Nutritional Support
3. 37% said Psychological Support
4. 36% said Education of Athlete Support Personnel
(no others above 22%)

Among athlete support staff, “education” was cited 84% of the time as the best way to prevent doping, followed by more education of athlete support staff (34%) and psychological support (also 34%).

The report was compiled by WADA, in cooperation with the University of Sherbrooke in Canada.

Observed: This is only the first step, and a small one at that, to learn more about athlete and support staff attitudes toward doping and prevention. What is does show – clearly – is that athletes have to be constantly reminded not to use prohibited substances in a race to get to the top and/or stay there.

Given the extreme demands of being a professional athlete and the short careers of even the biggest superstars in most sports, one cannot directly compare being an athlete with a lifetime career in accounting or law or being an electrician or a plumber. But many professions require continuing education to maintain licenses as a way to ensure a basic level of knowledge that the public can expect from any licensed individual.

Are we not at the stage today that all athletes – and that means all – should be required to attend and complete a mandatory anti-doping and competition integrity session before participating in (1) annual national championships, (2) selection events for World Championships or regional or Olympic Games, if not part of the nationals and (3) at all World Championships and major regional championships and Games.

Is it too much to ask that athletes from as many as 200 different countries sit for 90 minutes to be sure they understand that there are worldwide penalties based on the World Anti-Doping Code and if they cooperate with bettors or others engaged in match-fixing?

There are now well-developed educational program within the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Testing Agency to do this, and emerging tools in the competition integrity area to be sure everyone knows what the rules are.

Would that have stopped American sprint star Marion Jones from doping in 2000? Maybe not, but it would have been a counterbalance to other messages she was getting at the time, and if someone of her stature had been telling younger athletes what happened to her – including imprisonment – would they listen?

Yes. The first Games to implement this should be Paris in 2024, with electronic certificates of completion issued, eventually to be a requirement to enter any major international competition.

Being a world-class athletes is a serious undertaking; no reason they should be not be just as serious about refraining from doping.

Rich Perelman
Editor

≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

● Russia ● The Russian Minister of Sport, Oleg Matytsin, told the Russian news agency TASS that more than 50 Russian national sports federations are working together to file appeals against the widespread bans imposed by international sports federations.

The appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport will ask for the bans to be annulled or reduced, tracking back to the International Olympic Committee’s request to ban Russian participation back on 28 February.

● XXV Olympic Winter Games: Milan Cortina 2026 ● In response to a widely-picked-up La Repubblica story that Milan Cortina 2026 chief executive Vincenzo Novari will be replaced, the AroundTheRings.com site reported a denial from an organizing committee spokesperson.

Saying “we haven’t any news about changes in our future,” the spokesperson added “The relationship between our president Mr. [Giovanni] Malago and Vincenzo Novari is super and the relationship between Novari and our stakeholders is also very strong.”

The Milan Cortina 2026 board is scheduled to meet on 6 April.

● XXVI Olympic Winter Games: 2030 ● Vancouver City Council member Colleen Hardwick withdrew her motion to ask for a referendum on the bid for the 2030 Winter Games on Tuesday evening, prior to any consideration.

The politics of the motion, seen as challenging an understanding with the historic tribes in the region who have agreed to lead the bid effort, were fragile at best and may not have attracted even a second in the City Council.

Hardwick, who is challenging incumbent Mayor Kennedy Stewart – who is against the motion – said she will re-introduce the motion in two weeks after more discussion.

● Athletics ● USA Track & Field released a 70-page Request for Proposal for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, with a $100,000 rights fee and a projected “$20 million Economic impact to your city.”

Interested bidders must signal their intention on 15 April and the proposal is due by 20 May. A site visit will be made and a decision is expected by 14 July. As usual, any bidder has very limited revenue opportunities:

“The USOPC owns all revenue sources, as well as all media and licensing rights, associated with the Olympic Team Trials – Marathon. No sponsor or partner that is not a USOPC sponsor may receive any recognition associated with the Olympic Team Trials – Marathon and no sponsor or partner may receive any benefits in association with the Olympic Trials without the express written consent of USATF and the USOPC. Furthermore, USATF and USOPC sponsors and suppliers shall have a right of first refusal with respect to business opportunities related to the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon.

“Notwithstanding the above, via USATF’s contract with USOPC, certain opportunities may be made available to local supporters of the LOC and others. In general, USATF and the USOPC will grant the LOC certain rights (subject to Visa’s exclusivity outlined below) to ticket sales, in-stadium food and beverage concessions, and agreed upon local partnerships (local revenues) to the LOC. The grant of these revenue sources will be subject to venue-specific negotiation and revenue sharing. Accordingly, LOCs should propose a complete revenue plan as part of its bid. This plan must include a comprehensive ticket and event marketing plan and promotions program. Advice may be provided to LOCs as it relates to marketing and promotions packages upon request.”

The Road Race Management site commented, “At least the last four cities to host the trials, Atlanta in 2020, Los Angeles in 2016, Houston in 2012 and New York and Boston in 2007 lost money on the event, in some reported instances over $1 million.”

Rich Kenah, the head of the Atlanta Track Club, indicated that his group would not bid for 2024.

Philippine vault star and Tokyo Olympian E.J. Obiena has reportedly reached an agreement with the Philippine track & field federation which will allow him to represent the country in international competitions such as the Southeast Asian Games and the World Athletics Championships in Eugene in July.

The federation had accused Obiena last October of misusing funds intended for his coach, which both he and the coach vigorously denied, but suspended him anyway. That has been ended. Obiena was not allowed to compete at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Serbia, despite ranking fifth on the 2022 year list, with a national record of 5.91 m (19-4 3/4).

● Football ● The qualifying contests for the FIFA World Cup are coming to a close, but not always in a pleasant way.

In Dakar (SEN), Egypt had won the first of the home-and-home series by 1-0 and after a 1-0 win by Senegal that tied the cumulative score at 1-1, extra time was held and then penalty kicks. Egypt’s star forward Mohamed Salah lined up for his penalty shot, but had what appeared to be dozens of laser pointers aimed at his face in an effort to distract him, and his shot went high and over the goal.

Senegal won the shoot-out by 3-1 and advance to the World Cup. The Egyptian Football Association released a statement, including:

“The Egyptian team was subjected to racism after offensive banners appeared in the stadium stands against the players, specifically against Mohamed Salah, the team leader.

“The crowds also terrorized the players by throwing glass and rocks at them during the warm-up process.

“Additionally, the Egyptian mission’s buses were attacked, causing their windows to break, injuring and wounding some, which was documented with photos and videos that were taken and risen with the complaint.”

FIFA said it was aware and would review the incidents.

In Abuja (NGR), Ghana and Nigeria tied, 1-1, with the aggregate score of the two matches tied as well (0-0 first match). Ghana advanced due to scoring an away goal, allowing it to advance to the World Cup, but causing a riot on the field.

Spectators without tickets had rushed the stadium prior to the game, and some ticketholders were turned away as a safety precaution. Fans rushed the field after the game, overturned the team benches and were rushed by police, who also used tear gas to clear the field.

Even worse was the death of Zambian physician Joseph Kabungo, serving as an anti-doping officials on behalf of the Confederation of African Football. The official report stated:

“Kabungo had a cardiac arrest when walking towards the team dressing rooms and collapsed on the floor. Both team doctors and other medical personnel administered CPR on him, but after a while, he was taken to hospital, and that’s when the terrible news was confirmed.”

A 19-year-old British man, Justin Lee Price, was given a six-week jail sentence for posting a racist Twitter message targeting English striker Marcus Radford after he missed a penalty shot against Italy in the UEFA 2020 final in London.

Said prosecutor Mark Johnson: “Price targeted a footballer based on the colour of his skin and his action was clearly racist and a hate crime. I hope this case sends out the message that we will not tolerate racism and offenders will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

FIFA reported that the first round of sales for the Qatar 2022 World Cup resulted in 804,186 ticket purchases, with Qatar, the United States, England, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, India, Brazil, Argentina, and Saudi Arabia the top-ten purchasers.

The next phase will open on 5 April, following the Final Draw coming up on Friday.

≡ SCOREBOARD ≡

● Football ● The CONCACAF World Cup qualifying marathon concluded on Wednesday, with Canada, Mexico and the U.S. heading to Qatar, but as the Americans lost to a young Costa Rican side, 2-0, on the road in San Jose.

The first half was physical, with 13 fouls – nine by the home team – and the U.S. maintaining 61% of the possession. Playing most of the half in Costa Rican territory, the U.S. got eight shots to six, with two good chances. Off a corner, Miles Robinson brought down a volley to the left of the box in the eighth minute, and sent a right-footed missile straight at goal that got behind keeper Keylor Navas, but he was able to cover it short of the goal line. Striker Ricardo Pepi hit a hard shot from the right side in the 13th minute, that was blocked out of bounds by Navas.

The U.S. got a quick triple chance in the 48th minute, but could not score. Off a free kick by Christian Pulisic, Miles Robinson sent a swift header to the corner of the Costa Rican goal that was blocked by Navas. But the ball came right to Tim Weah and his shot was saved, with the rebound hit by Walker Zimmerman at goal again, but Navas handled it.

But the game changed just three minutes later, as a Costa Rican out-swinging corner by Brandon Aguilera met the head of a charging Juan Vargas, with the shot flying past U.S. keeper Zack Steffen for a 1-0 home lead.

It got better for the home team as the U.S. defense got sloppy. Costa Rica went up 2-0 after a save by Steffen on striker Anthony Contreras resulted in the rebound going wide and midfielder Jewison Bennette’s pass across the U.S. net found a running Contreras behind Steffen and he pounded the ball into the net in the 59th minute.

The U.S. had most of the remaining possession, but could not finish its attacks, either against Navas, or his replacement, Esteban Alvarado, who came in at the 77th minute due to injury. The Americans ended with 65% possession and 15 shots to 12.

The loss means the U.S. has still never won in Costa Rica, now 0-11-2 all time, and 0-10-1 in road World Cup qualifying games. But they are back to the World Cup – for the 11th time – after infamously missing the 2018 event in Russia.

Elsewhere, Mexico defeated El Salvador, 2-0, in Mexico City; Panama scored a rough, 1-0 win over Canada in Panama City in a game with 32 fouls, and Jamaica finished with a 2-1 win over Honduras in Kingston. So, in the end, the CONCACAF standings:

1. 28 points: Canada (8-2-4; +16 goal differential)
2. 28 points: Mexico (8-2-4; +9)
3. 25 points: United States (7-3-4; +11)
4. 25 points: Costa Rica (7-3-4; +5)
5. 21 points: Panama (6-5-3; -2)
6. 11 points: Jamaica (2-7-5; -10)
7. 10 points: El Salvador (2-8-4; -10)
8. 4 points: Honduras (0-10-4; -19)

The impressive scoreless draw with Mexico in Mexico City on 24 March ended up being the key to the U.S.’s third-place finish; otherwise, the Americans are in the inter-continental qualifier.

Costa Rica finished 6-0-1 in its last seven qualifiers and will face New Zealand in a play-off for another slot at the World Cup.

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