Have faith in drug testing? You're a real dope

Martin Smith February 15, 2013, 10:44 am

"There are no positive tests."

With those five words, ASADA gave its critics even more ammo in the public relations battle that is rapidly turning against them.

The admission from Aurora Andruska, ASADA's chief, that no one mentioned in the Drugs in Sport report has tested positive sent critics into overdrive.

There were demands to know how an investigation that has blackened Australian sport could be based on nothing but hearsay.

Athletes must be clean if they've never tested positive, right? Wrong.

Remember, Lance Armstrong never recorded a positive test during his career. Neither did Marion Jones.

Two of the most infamous cheats in the history of sport never recorded a positive test during their careers.

That proves that while drug testing can be an important weapon in the battle against doping, no positive tests doesn't necessarily mean no doping.

It must be said that cycling's testing procedures during Armstrong's career were embarrassingly inadequate, both in terms of the number of tests and the unwillingness of testers to catch cheats.

Indeed, the accusation that authorities covered up a positive test from Armstrong in 2001 further undermines the testing process.

But the 600 or so negative tests that Armstrong recorded during his career were the safety net that kept him from revealing the awful truth.

'I've never tested positive and therefore I am innocent', Lance would say.

But for as long as drug testing has been a part of professional sport, dopers have found ways to maintain their clean image.

The Secret Race, a book by Armstrong's former teammate Tyler Hamilton, explains in remarkable detail how he and other cyclists avoided getting caught.

From drinking excessive amounts of water and taking salt tablets before a test, to simply pretending not to be home when testers knocked on the door.

He had secret phones and used code names to meet with crooked doctors to have injections and blood transfusions.

Hamilton even wrote about a grey powder, most likely protease, that riders would rub under their fingernail and introduce into the stream of urine to beat a test for EPO.

For seven years, Hamilton used almost every drug under the sun to boost his performance. Yet in seven years of pill-popping, injections and blood transfusions, he never tested positive.

In addition to these evasive tactics, history has shown that drug testers are always a step behind the cheats.

When a test for EPO was finally developed in 2000, cyclists turned to blood transfusions.

When a test for Human Growth Hormone was introduced in 2004, the clever athletes looked elsewhere.

To get ahead of the cheats, doping authorities like ASADA must be given greater powers. The power to compel witnesses to give evidence would be a good start.

"What is the point of all this testing if, in the end, USADA will not stand by it?," asked Armstrong in one of the last defiant speeches he gave before his secret world came crashing down.

Because, as Lance knows better than most, drug testing is simply not good enough.

Oldest First
Newest First
Top Rated
Most Replies


  1. Alfinda01:58pm Wednesday 20th February 2013 ESTReport Abuse

    Correct me if I am wrong - there were times (or at least a time) in Armstrong's career when he was found to have illegal substance in his body - but managed to bypass the corrupt system that was