The Jockey Club’s 60th Annual Round Table Conference on Matters Pertaining to Racing, on August 12th, will have Travis T. Tygart as its keynote speaker. Mr. Tygart is the chief executive officer of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), which is the national anti-doping organization for the Olympic movement in the United States. In 2000, the U. S. Congress recognized UASADA as the “official anti-doping agency for Olympic, Pan American, and Paralympic sport…”
The Jockey Club states that Mr. Tygart “will share insights on the mission, policies, and practices employed by the USADA and the Partnership for Clean Competition to combat the use of performance-enhancing drugs…”
Mr. Tygart’s topic is certainly timely: the Olympic games are underway in London and horse racing in the United States is undergoing scrutiny and criticism for what many—from inside and outside the racing industry– have alleged is permissive drug policy.
The upcoming Tygart speech brought to mind some research that was recently conducted by ESPN The Magazine. ESPN explained:
“When the Team USA Media Summit was held in May (2012), 100-plus London hopefuls landed in Dallas. So did our Confidential team. Promising anonymity in exchange for intel, we spoke with 30 women who have their sights set on the Summer games…and asked them about everything from terrorism to sexual harassment by coaches.”
One of the questions was as follows. “True/False: Olympic athletes have figured out how to beat the drug-testing system.”
ESPN reported the results: “…55.6% think that, yes, Olympians have figured out ways to outsmart the tests. Even those who responded false sound as if they’re trying to convince themselves to believe. ‘I admit that I am probably being naïve. But I have to tell myself that, or else my whole career, the whole idea of the Olympics, seems like a waste of time.’”
While this is a small sample and is confined to United States women athletes, the results are eye-opening because the answers came from exceptional athletes, who have an insider’s view of what goes on in their various sports.
Whether it is the Olympics or horse racing, the task of keeping drugs from altering the outcomes of competitive events is increasingly difficult. Where money and fame are involved, people will look for ways to game the system, and human ingenuity often enables them to do so by staying a step ahead of the regulators, especially via advancements in pharmaceuticals.
The Jockey Club Round Table audience may be listening to a gentleman whose anti-doping organization cannot effectively police its own competitions.
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