Wizards of Oz

"Life is fraughtless ... when you're thoughtless."


United States of Arrogance

U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney's frown on the podium following her silver-medal women's vault performance represents a common theme in America these days: Nobody likes "second best"! (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, referenced from WTOP FM in Washington DC [ http://wtop.com ])

In track and field, Team USA sprinters who came in second cried in anguish at "losing" -- rather than elation at being the second fastest in the world.

And Michael Phelps, who has won more gold medals than anyone in Olympic history has won medals, was also visibly amazed that he didn't add to his Fort Knox haul of Olympic precious metals in one of the early events in London last month.

While USA Basketball fields an all-star lineup of NBA professionals, I must admit I get bored with Lebron and Kobe trouncing opponent after opponent (and would have been thrilled to see an upset). So that's the other extreme -- coupled with an expectation of utter dominance.

Given the superhuman dedication these athletes commit to their sports, I suppose it's understandable when they discover that their tens of thousands of hours of sweat and tears isn't good enough for a Wheaties box or a cover photo on Sports Illustrated (though McKayla seems to have cracked the code for going viral even with silver).

But this underscores an irony in American sports today. We want shut-out victories with wide margins to proclaim our significance, yet we disdain those who take performance-enhancing drugs -- at least that's what the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) would have you believe.

Check out the USADA website. Their banner proclaims they are "Protecting the Rights of Athletes" and
"Inspiring True Sport", and their logo truncates two stripes of the American flag into a equal sign. Yet their behavior demonstrates otherwise.

Which is why I applaud Lance Armstrong for challenging their legitimacy in international competition -- especially when USADA's charter specifies that their role is to serve as "the official anti-doping agency for Olympic, Pan American and Paralympic sport in the United States." They are a non-profit, non-government agency that is a subcontractor to the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Office of National Drug Control Policy. I had the privilege of sharing an office floor with them when my team was in a commercially-managed, government-leased site (we had Suite 210 of Tech Center II in the Colorado Springs Technological Park, while USADA had Suite 200). So this is an "Agency" I've been aware of for the past couple of years (when they first moved into their 18,000 square foot class-A office suite at "TC-II").

USADA is admittedly working in an evolving field, where prohibited substances are frequently added to and removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA's) list. In fact, WADA updates their list annually -- with easy-to-access search tools and even iPhone and iPad apps. But USADA has taken on an attitude of entitlement and authority that is well beyond their "Olympic, Pan American and Paralympic" charter.

Bottom line: the list of banned substances is dynamic. What may be acceptable one year could be at the top of the WADA Prohibited List the next. Yet every single test that Lance Armstrong has undergone has been clean.

That alone is the most damning evidence against the U.S. Olympic Committee subcontractor's witch hunt. Their only evidence is from third-party testimony, not from empirical observation. And today's Washington Post Opinion blogpost by Sally Jenkins underscores their history of (a) increasing penalties when their legitimacy is challenged, (b) their ability to "plea bargain" with lesser-known athletes who may be the worst abusers in order to build a stronger circumstantial case, and (c) their thinly-veiled collusion with the World Anti-Doping Agency.

When the U.S. District Court in Austin threw out Lance's case earlier this week, it was acceding to the boundary conditions of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) -- saying they appear to have due process. But if that is indeed the case, what other body has a batting average of 0.967?!? Athletes going before CAS against USADA have lost 58 of 60 cases, which does not demonstrate "truth" to me but manipulation of the process.

So my question is: When will Gatorade be added to WADA's Prohibited List? Or Succeed! S-Caps (which provided me the electrolytes I needed to avoid cramping on last year's Pikes Peak Ascent)? Or bananas for that matter? (They are loaded with potassium and other essential compounds for aiding performance....)

We Americans share in USADA's hypocrisy, demanding success at all costs -- but willing to retreat behind the spectre of obfuscation and conjecture.

USADA represents all of the worst practices of the ill-begotten War on Drugs, fixing blame on high-profile athletes (ostensibly the "user" community) in order to garner more attention for themselves and their misguided causes and budgetary needs.

And in the end, we all lose.

USADA's budget is one item that should be stricken from Congress's FY13 Appropriations Act for the Office of National Drug Control Policy. I intend to write Congressman Lamborn and Senators Udall & Bennet urging they investigate USADA's potential violation of their charter, and cancel their federal budget immediately.