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Doping: costs and benefits

Jun 29, 2010
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Two interesting articles were recently posted in the Landis sticky (one in two versions by Colm.Murphy and myself and one by Race Radio) taking a rather more sophisticated approach to understanding the motivations to dope in professional cycling than is common in the media. The first also suggests some possible incentives that might turn the tide against it. One article is by Michael Shermer (author of The Mind of the Market and maybe more pertinently the co-founder of the RAAM)

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-0702-shermer-doping-20100702,0,5483079.story

OR

http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/070710/opi_666195861.shtml

the other by Steven Levitt (co-author of Freakonomics and Professor of Economics)

http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/06/doping-in-the-tour-de-france/

I like their analyses of the problem (and find some of Shermer's solutions thought-provoking), but I wonder whether anyone on this forum would care after reading both to ponder what other incentives could be created to motivate riders (and teams or institutions) away from a culture of doping. Testing and banning creates a powerful disincentive, but clearly not powerful enough to halt doping. The benefits of doping, it is argued, are so great that they greatly outweigh the risk of being caught (Levitt) and this risk seems never to increase significantly, despite the best of efforts of anti-doping organisations (the reasons for which have been much debated on this forum).

Ideas anyone? If we assume anti-doping efforts are never going to work on their own (maybe this is wrong, but that's another argument to be had), what novel incentives are there that could make riders believe that riding clean has hidden benefits (or that doping has hidden costs). I can think of some, but I am not an expert on pro cyclists and their motivations...:confused:
 

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Jun 8, 2010
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As a scientist working often with game-theoretic tools, I find the Shermer analysis unilluminating. Nash equilibrium concepts are not particularly useful for characterizing strategic interactions where agents are not perfectly rational, unbounded in computational capacity, etc. I suppose one could more to a behavioral game theory setting, but still the concepts are mostly just heuristics when applied to sports and doping.
 
soulor said:
Two interesting articles were recently posted in the Landis sticky (one in two versions by Colm.Murphy and myself and one by Race Radio) taking a rather more sophisticated approach to understanding the motivations to dope in professional cycling than is common in the media.

I first saw Michael Shermer's "game theory" take on doping back in 2008. It was published in Scientific American. Here's thefirst partof that, and some neat tables and charts to explain the concepts. It does make tremendous sense.
 
Jun 19, 2009
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As a racer and coach to some that made it to the Pro ranks only to abandon the sport when faced with that emergent equilibrium my opinion on remedies, like Shermer's; are pragmatic.

The amnesty and economic "return" policy would be undone by the Civil laws prevailing when riders contracted services to teams and sponsors. How to gauge the damage of a disgraced rider's admission to a small sponsor that invested heavily in that rider? That small firm would certainly find a larger remedy in Civil Court than a simple return of endorsement fees and rightly so. That seems to be the art of late admissions of guilt by Bjarne Riis and others-wait until the statute of limitations is exhausted and thenfind Jesus. If that issue could be navigated we have a start.
I would also say that the amnesty should extend to non-racers who come clean but must also "out" their customers to gain exemption from prosecution. An increased penalty for a dealer exposed by the atheletes would be just as legally unrealistic but could provide an effective incentive.

It has been argued effectively by others that increased penalties haven't provided deterrent to those bent on cheating. Maybe historically so but incentivising both dealer and user to give it up hasn't been attempted to my knowledge. The psychology of a few sociopaths can start this cycle again if the organization monitoring the sport isn't cleaned up. Offer UCI officials something and get started there...hopefully that action is going on in the background now.
 
Jun 18, 2009
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Threads such as this never gain much traction. It's way more interesting to talk about Lance and Hookers...

I think Shermer misses the boat a little with the punishment aspect. Draconian penalties aimed at riders simply miss the point.

I think the better tact to take is to try to create a system where riders within a team, and teams themselves, are under pressure NOT to dope. You'll still get people cheating, but I bet you'd cut it down significantly. However, it would call for some hard choices. Short term, some innocent people will end up paying for the actions of others, but drastic times call for drastic measures.

My thoughts on punishment:

First offense: team immediately pulled from competition for 30 days. If the rider has transferred teams between the infraction and him being found guilty, both teams are out of competition for 30 days. The rider in question is suspended for 2 years.

Second team offense in 1 year period: team suspended for 1 year, rider for 2 years.

This puts the onus on the team to make sure it's guys are riding clean. With a system like this in place, the BMC's of the world won't sit around and wonder "gee, why is that Frei dude suddenly riding so well?"

Individual race penalties: If there are more than 3 positives from the race, the race is canceled for the following year. This puts pressure not only on the organizers, but the governing body itself to ensure that the race is being conducted clean. The tests would obviously have to be performed, and the punishments meted out by an outside party...


The more I read, and the more I think about the problem, the less hate I actually have for Armstrong, and the less blame I think he deserves for the whole mess. Ultimately, he's become a master of working within a corrupt system. It's easy to blame him, harder to get to the real problem.

If the real problem isn't addressed, there will just be another Armstrong right around the corner.
 
Jun 19, 2009
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131313 said:
Threads such as this never gain much traction. It's way more interesting to talk about Lance and Hookers...

I think Shermer misses the boat a little with the punishment aspect. Draconian penalties aimed at riders simply miss the point.

I think the better tact to take is to try to create a system where riders within a team, and teams themselves, are under pressure NOT to dope. You'll still get people cheating, but I bet you'd cut it down significantly. However, it would call for some hard choices. Short term, some innocent people will end up paying for the actions of others, but drastic times call for drastic measures.

My thoughts on punishment:

First offense: team immediately pulled from competition for 30 days. If the rider has transferred teams between the infraction and him being found guilty, both teams are out of competition for 30 days. The rider in question is suspended for 2 years.

Second team offense in 1 year period: team suspended for 1 year, rider for 2 years.

This puts the onus on the team to make sure it's guys are riding clean. With a system like this in place, the BMC's of the world won't sit around and wonder "gee, why is that Frei dude suddenly riding so well?"

Individual race penalties: If there are more than 3 positives from the race, the race is canceled for the following year. This puts pressure not only on the organizers, but the governing body itself to ensure that the race is being conducted clean. The tests would obviously have to be performed, and the punishments meted out by an outside party...


The more I read, and the more I think about the problem, the less hate I actually have for Armstrong, and the less blame I think he deserves for the whole mess. Ultimately, he's become a master of working within a corrupt system. It's easy to blame him, harder to get to the real problem.

If the real problem isn't addressed, there will just be another Armstrong right around the corner.

I agree with alot of what you say as long as the cleansing starts at the UCI.

As for LA; my lack of regard for him comes from the dishonesty he commits outside of the sport. That and he isn't as good as alot of clean riders if he were forced to perform unenhanced. But, as you said; the system has perpetuated that lie.
 
131313 said:
If the real problem isn't addressed, there will just be another Armstrong right around the corner.

correct. we can offer immunity, change or maybe even improve the structure of penalties but it means very little to just hit the reset button until doping controls consistently and predictably lead to doping positives. WADA/ashendon freely admit that the tests are behind.

the only suggestion from the article which i thought showed insight is incentivizing the creation of new and better testing methods. this equilibrium is probably the most unbalanced. beating tests leads to rich rewards, failing a test is of little reward to anyone (except clean riders in a small indirect way).
 
May 20, 2010
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131313 said:
If the real problem isn't addressed, there will just be another Armstrong right around the corner.



that man is Contador. Trained to dope successfully by armstrong and hog. and theres ya problem. successful dopers forcing junior stars to dope to keep up. its evil.

lifetime bans is the only way to break the omerta. reduce any busted dopers to the level of flandis. its simple, youre caught, your banned for life. you never have to see vermin like basso and vino winning races juiced to the eyeballs again.
 
Jun 18, 2009
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Hillavoider said:
that man is Contador. Trained to dope successfully by armstrong and hog. and theres ya problem. successful dopers forcing junior stars to dope to keep up. its evil.


I see a big difference between the two. When Contador pulls a move like Lance did on Simeoni, I'll equate the two.

Hillavoider said:
lifetime bans is the only way to break the omerta. reduce any busted dopers to the level of flandis. its simple, youre caught, your banned for life. you never have to see vermin like basso and vino winning races juiced to the eyeballs again.

I just don't see this working. Look at Bjarne Riis. If he got tossed from the sport permanently, starting today, he could still look at the risk/reward category and say, "yep, I made a good decision to dope".

The fact is, while the testing needs to be better, some cheaters will always be one step ahead. That's why there has to be internal pressure as well as external pressure, or nothing will change.

Anyone who's banned for life will just be discredited as a bitter liar, just like now...
 
Jun 24, 2010
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The main problem I see with the state of doping and/or confessions is that the one who breaks the code of silence is the one always with the most to loose. By breaking this silence you break any friendship bonds past or future within the pro peleton you want to compete in. Currently there are only two options available to a caught cyclist, the Pellizotti/Basso/Vino approach were you cope the penalty and keep quite, to be welcomed back after your ban, or you go the route of Bernard Kohl and end up as a chicken farmer (or similar).

The incentives for bringing down the house and breaking this code of silence needs to be increased. How to do this? I am not sure, but perhaps the teams could get incentives for letting whistle blowers race at different levels? Obviouly the whistle blowing needs to varified.

The problem with this solution is it ruins Pat McQuaids circus.
 
131313 said:
My thoughts on punishment:

First offense: team immediately pulled from competition for 30 days. If the rider has transferred teams between the infraction and him being found guilty, both teams are out of competition for 30 days. The rider in question is suspended for 2 years.

Second team offense in 1 year period: team suspended for 1 year, rider for 2 years.

This puts the onus on the team to make sure it's guys are riding clean. With a system like this in place, the BMC's of the world won't sit around and wonder "gee, why is that Frei dude suddenly riding so well?"

Some good thoughts on disciplining the teams there, but the bold part sounds a bit unfair on the second team. What about when Lotto brought in Kohl? Although you could argue that teams should be more careful before they sign riders.

131313 said:
Individual race penalties: If there are more than 3 positives from the race, the race is canceled for the following year. This puts pressure not only on the organizers, but the governing body itself to ensure that the race is being conducted clean. The tests would obviously have to be performed, and the punishments meted out by an outside party...

This idea sounds good too, but if the UCI is anything like the rumours suggest, then surely race organisers would make 'donations' in order to keep their race going.
 
May 20, 2010
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131313 said:
I see a big difference between the two. When Contador pulls a move like Lance did on Simeoni, I'll equate the two.



I just don't see this working. Look at Bjarne Riis. If he got tossed from the sport permanently, starting today, he could still look at the risk/reward category and say, "yep, I made a good decision to dope".

The fact is, while the testing needs to be better, some cheaters will always be one step ahead. That's why there has to be internal pressure as well as external pressure, or nothing will change.

Anyone who's banned for life will just be discredited as a bitter liar, just like now...

131313: you are not making sense. this rebuff sounds a bit desperate. anyone banned for life will be bitter yes but discredited? nah. The omerta exists because if you are caught and you keep quiet there is still a way back in after 2 years.

i agree testing will not always keep up with methods but not everyone is the worlds best doper. people make mistakes. dopers are busted. then banned for life, so why not tell? i really think people will tell all if banned for life. maybe its just me....
 
thanks for the links.
On the first article, I'm deeply bothered by the "immunity" solution-since it becomes the "easy way out" for those who benefited/enriched by doping while keeping their awards and now they get covered by a "legal protection" to reveal information. the first thing that came to my mind was Valverde's case. that is just wrong.
On the second article- nothing new...
 
Jan 30, 2010
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"How can cycling be saved" thread

Got this from one of my posts a couple of months back in the "How can cycling be saved" thread and updated a few words here and there to make it more relevant

Inner Peace said:
I don't think money is the issue here - Master's athletes still dope...

Firstly, there needs to be a day of amnesty

At the end of the season, all riders have until their first race of the next season to confess their sins without punishment. After that, lifetime bans for anyone caught doping (present day, and retrospective) and all results obtained previous to the test are wiped off the permanent record. If that means Christophe LeMevel eventually wins the 2009 Tour de France, then so be it.

The choice to dope is a function of the risk of getting caught (small) and the punishment (still quite small - two years and you're back and you only lose the results that you were busted in???)...

You have to increase the risk of getting caught = retrospective testing
You have to increase the punishment as well = lifetime bans and wiping of race record


Give riders that choice for 2011, and give them until the end of 2010 to admit doping without punishment, and you could change the culture for good..


I'll add to that:

Completely independent testing agency

And I really can't emphasis enough the point about wiping their results from the record, permanently.. This has to happen.

They have to know that in 50 years time, no-one will be able to look at the information source that takes over the internet and find out who a rider is, other than when they look up doping.
 
All noble suggestions and solutions but none of them really address the fact that riders don't believe they will be caught.

In the criminal world, punishment as deterrent just doesn't work. Levels of recidivism are just as high in 3-strike California or death-penalty Iran as they are in liberal Canada.

Pro cyclists who dope would see the "results wiped from the record" threat as something imaginary or fantastical. They really don't believe it'll happen to them. Thus it's unlikely to stop them from doping if they think everyone is doing it.

It sounds simplistic but the way to stop people doping is to stop people doping.
 
Inner Peace said:
Firstly, there needs to be a day of amnesty

At the end of the season, all riders have until their first race of the next season to confess their sins without punishment. After that, lifetime bans for anyone caught doping (present day, and retrospective) and all results obtained previous to the test are wiped off the permanent record. If that means Christophe LeMevel eventually wins the 2009 Tour de France, then so be it.

The choice to dope is a function of the risk of getting caught (small) and the punishment (still quite small - two years and you're back and you only lose the results that you were busted in???)...

You have to increase the risk of getting caught = retrospective testing
You have to increase the punishment as well = lifetime bans and wiping of race record

.

with respect, retroactive testing is a dead end. it is expensive, tedious, and could easily overwhelm WADA's budget. do you think the UCI will help cover the added cost? yeah right. the UCI is going to finance an effort to turn the history books upside down and destroy what little credibility they may have.:rolleyes: how do we decide which results get expunged? a testosterone positive in 2007 wipes out results for that year? for an entire careeer? somewhere in between? where do we sensibly draw that line? this approach is riddled with difficulty and the possibility of endless legal wrangling.

pretending you can find a way to finance retroactive testing not to mention enthusiasm from the UCI to catabolize itself.....the athletes/coaches/DS's mostly know what testing methods are being used and even if the threat were real they probably think retroactive testing will yield few results. modern techniques, like autologous transfusions, can only be caught or held in check with a passport-like system. it is an empty threat. as such, granting immunity will be a waste of time. few, if any, will have strong reason to go against the omerta.

i'd love to see meaningful retroactive testing but i just don't think it's a practical solution.

It sounds simplistic but the way to stop people doping is to stop people doping.

well said smaryka, well said.

completely eliminating doping is naive. the goal is to continue driving down the benefits an athlete can get from it. it is an ongoing battle. biopassport needs to evolve and total hgb mass analysis can't come soon enough. even so, doping won't be eradicated but it can be diminished so significantly that it makes competing cleanly a realistic alternative for talented athletes. then you might see some positive internal peer pressure in opposition to an omerta.
 
Jun 19, 2009
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So the UCi now supports 4-year bans and this:

What happened to the Code of Ethics?
Another measure that was aimed to clean up the sport was the Code of Ethics, agreed upon by the AIGCP in 2004. According to this agreement, suspended riders would blacklisted from riding for a ProTour team for four years - a rule that was never respected. "This code of conduct still exists, and it is signed and validated within the AIGCP," said Boyer on the day the news came out that Andrej Kashechkin had been signed by Lampre for the rest of this season.
"The team directors signed the agreement several years ago and said they would apply it, but they never did. This means that these people would like to make the public think that they are fighting against doping, but the fact is they don't."


Knowing their a*s is on the line the crooks don't want to punish themselves for ignoring their own ordinance; they just want to restate it and throw it back on the riders. This is another clear example of how far up the food chain the colonoscophy of cycling must probe.
 
Ferminal said:
If you are too strict towards teams it makes it very unattractive for sponsors.

Perhaps that effect would be lessened if it were the managers not the teams which were punished.
Maybe, or it puts the onus on the sponsors to make sure the teams they sponsor stay clean.

Making the team (and ultimately the $pon$or) responsible for everyone on the team being clean, by suffering the consequences when someone is caught, makes the most sense to me.

I suspect it's very difficult to dope without the team knowing or at least looking the other way.
 
Ninety5rpm said:
Maybe, or it puts the onus on the sponsors to make sure the teams they sponsor stay clean.

Making the team (and ultimately the $pon$or) responsible for everyone on the team being clean, by suffering the consequences when someone is caught, makes the most sense to me.

I suspect it's very difficult to dope without the team knowing or at least looking the other way.
Too much of a hassle for the sponsors, and above all, too much risk. They'd be seen as responsible for a kind of behavior they can't really control (individual riders doping). Their brands get tainted enough as it is when they are associated to a doping scandal, no way what you're proposing wouldn't scare off the sponsors.
 
Feb 2, 2010
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131313 said:
Threads such as this never gain much traction. It's way more interesting to talk about Lance and Hookers...

I think Shermer misses the boat a little with the punishment aspect. Draconian penalties aimed at riders simply miss the point.

I think the better tact to take is to try to create a system where riders within a team, and teams themselves, are under pressure NOT to dope. You'll still get people cheating, but I bet you'd cut it down significantly. However, it would call for some hard choices. Short term, some innocent people will end up paying for the actions of others, but drastic times call for drastic measures.

My thoughts on punishment:

First offense: team immediately pulled from competition for 30 days. If the rider has transferred teams between the infraction and him being found guilty, both teams are out of competition for 30 days. The rider in question is suspended for 2 years.

Second team offense in 1 year period: team suspended for 1 year, rider for 2 years.

This puts the onus on the team to make sure it's guys are riding clean. With a system like this in place, the BMC's of the world won't sit around and wonder "gee, why is that Frei dude suddenly riding so well?"

Individual race penalties: If there are more than 3 positives from the race, the race is canceled for the following year. This puts pressure not only on the organizers, but the governing body itself to ensure that the race is being conducted clean. The tests would obviously have to be performed, and the punishments meted out by an outside party...


The more I read, and the more I think about the problem, the less hate I actually have for Armstrong, and the less blame I think he deserves for the whole mess. Ultimately, he's become a master of working within a corrupt system. It's easy to blame him, harder to get to the real problem.

If the real problem isn't addressed, there will just be another Armstrong right around the corner.

Nice thoughts, but who's going to actually announce the positives. UCI? Your theory is solid provided a truly independent lab.

And there will never be another LA around the corner. That dude completely capitalized on 98' (Festina).
 
There isn't money to do enough tests that are sufficiently reliable that we can have confidence a significant fraction of dopers are caught.

Stiff punishment does little to defer individual behavior.

I'd rather we accepted testing results as somewhat dubious rather than gospel, applying short-ish sporting penalties in quick fashion. When the punishment isn't horrible, abbreviated process becomes more acceptable.

Retroactive testing and record cleansing is irrelevant once the money has been dispersed.

The risk of embarrassment to sponsors is built into the sport in the discounted price of sponsorship compared to other sports -- cycling is a great value up to the moment a scandal leaks onto the brand.
This says that the business model of the sport is broken, and part of the environment that results in doping.

Ultimately, with ownership of the tour, ASO is more important to the future resolution of anything than the UCI, but it may be the least able to address the business model problem.

-dB