Study -Anti-Doping Systems in Sports are Doomed to Fail

Jul 11, 2013
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http://omicsonline.org/open-access/antidoping-systems-in-sports-are-doomed-to-fail-a-probability-and-cost-analysis-2161-0673.1000148.pdf?aid=32505

Abstract

Objective: Doping in sports now seems to be more widespread despite testing. The objective is to assess the
effectiveness and cost effectiveness of the current anti-doping system.

Methods: A probability and cost analysis was performed. Using calculations based on official world-level data of
positive doping test results, sensitivity and frequency of testing in 93 categories of sport, and estimates of numerical
characteristics (frequency, window of detectability, test predictability)

Results: A low probability of doping detection was demonstrated; 0.029 for doping once a week by a single random
test with average sensitivity (40%) and window of detectability of 48 hours. With 12 tests a year probability of detection of
continuous doping is ~33%. To detect 100% of doping in one year 16-50 tests per athlete must be done costing ~$25,000.

Conclusion: Testing is not economically viable for effective detection. Changes are thus required to the current
system to combat sophisticated doping techniques.
Conclusion
The primary conclusion that can be drawn from this research is that the current system of anti-doping is, given the realities of the sporting world, ineffective at reaching the desired goals.
This is assuming the primary goal of the anti-doping system is to eliminate doping, irrespective of whether this is because of the athletes health, fairnessand equality or natural ability arguments.
Furthermore, it would seem that should the current system of anti-doping remain, significant increases would need to be made in the testing levels; this in turn would require a significant increase in revenue for anti-doping collection and testing. This may be economically impossible and thus other solutions to the ubiquitous problem of doping may need to be sought, outside of individual scientific tests.
The alternative is to invest additional funds into the development of more advanced, efficient and effective tests for the detection of doping.
If it were possible to increase the test reliability,the window of detectability and the range of substances that could be detected, this would mean the increase of the number of tests could be more modest. Such an increase may well be affordable. On the other hand, this would still not eliminate the issues with test predictability or corruption and as such further demonstrates the current system needs work in order to become both efficient and effective in deterring and punishing doping. The ABP appears to be the solution to the problem but further analysis reveals that it has its shortcomings just like chemical testing.
Overall it would seem that the current system, as it stands, needs to be reconsidered and reworked in order to be effective and efficient.
 
Sep 29, 2012
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A very misleading study title - his conclusion is entirely different.

It's certainly interesting to see the % chance of getting caught, assuming a 48 hour window. Given we know the window when EPO micro dosing is more like 6-10, the chances are in fact even less.
 
Here’s a key conclusion from the abstract:

A low probability of doping detection was demonstrated; 0.029 for doping once a week by a single random test with average sensitivity (40%) and window of detectability of 48 hours. With 12 tests a year probability of detection of continuous doping is ~33%. To detect 100% of doping in one year 16-50 tests per athlete must be done costing ~$25,000.
IOW, a) the test does not detect all dopers even when there is enough substance in their body to be detected; b) the window of detection, or time period when there is enough substance to be detected, is short even when doping is continuous or ongoing; and c) the infrequency of tests means there is a low probability of a test occurring during the window of detection.

And in the text, they give an example of 40% sensitivity and a 24 hour window of detection. Even if an athlete is doping continuously for an entire week every month, if he’s tested randomly once a month, the probability of testing positive is a little more than 0.01.

They provide some estimates of sensitivity and window of detection for different substances, including EPO and growth hormone.

Table 2 is very interesting, they estimate the odds of a doper testing positive during a year or during an entire career, based on various assumptions about sensitivity, window of detection and tests per year. E.g., with a sensitivity of 40%, a doping regimen of once a week, a window of detection of 72 hours, and two tests a year, they estimate the odds of a doper escaping detection in any year are 77-1, and 5-1 over an entire career (i.e., very unlikely to test positive in one year, about one in six over a career), and they note that actual rates of detection in several sports, including cycling, are close to this. There are other values of the key parameters that lead to about the same detection rates, as well as higher or lower ones.

Dear Wiggo said:
A very misleading study title - his conclusion is entirely different.
It is???

It's certainly interesting to see the % chance of getting caught, assuming a 48 hour window. Given we know the window when EPO micro dosing is more like 6-10, the chances are in fact even less.
See Table 1, they do provide a lower estimate for microdosing.
 
Sep 29, 2012
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Merckx index said:
If, as the title asserts, anti-doping systems are "doomed to fail" then the following:

Testing is not economically viable for effective detection. Changes are thus required to the current system to combat sophisticated doping techniques.
is suggesting changing the current system. But: this study suggests anti-doping systems are doomed to fail.

If he wrote, "current anti-doping systems" or similar, that would provide clarification.
 
To change the level of doping, you have to massively increase all athletes' perception they'll be caught.

Most new anti-doping strategies cause a temporary increase in that perception, but it fades over time as the reality sets in and/or alternatives are found or ways to mitigate the risk are introduced. Whether the new level of perceived risk falls back to previous level or not depends on the strategy.

An example of such a temporary impact strategy might not mean more tests, but simply increasing the frequency samples are taken. That would work for a while, until the reality of limited testing was realised. Of course lots of costs associated with taking samples, ensuring sample integrity, chain of custody, storage, admin etc.

The only way that such perception will be permanently raised high enough is with sufficient global political will and resources to match, including the use of an intelligence/investigative based approach.

I just don't see that happening. The money in sport (and the political capital that buys) dwarfs the money in anti-doping by multiple orders of magnitude.
 
Of course they need to factor even when they test that they test for the specific substance the athlete is using. Ref: JTL, ToB / EPO.

How anyone could test positive is beyond me.
 
Dear Wiggo said:
If, as the title asserts, anti-doping systems are "doomed to fail" then the following:



is suggesting changing the current system. But: this study suggests anti-doping systems are doomed to fail.

If he wrote, "current anti-doping systems" or similar, that would provide clarification.
Clarification??
Looking at the full title, you'd expect that the analysis would be referring to the latest or most current anti-doping systems, no?
It'd be pointless to analyse past systems that have been superceded, while future systems are yet to be created...

At least the report clarifies this in the first sentence for you:
Objective: Doping in sports now seems to be more widespread despite testing. The objective is to assess the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of the current anti-doping system.
 
Dear Wiggo said:
If, as the title asserts, anti-doping systems are "doomed to fail" then the following:



is suggesting changing the current system. But: this study suggests anti-doping systems are doomed to fail.

If he wrote, "current anti-doping systems" or similar, that would provide clarification.
don't think his conclusion is entirely different from the title at all. The opening line of the conclusion sums it up:
The primary conclusion that can be drawn from this research is that the current system of anti-doping is, given the realities of the sporting world, ineffective at reaching the desired goals.
that he then goes to suggest a solution to the primary issue doesn't diminish the catchy title...
 
Sep 29, 2012
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Archibald said:
don't think his conclusion is entirely different from the title at all. The opening line of the conclusion sums it up:


that he then goes to suggest a solution to the primary issue doesn't diminish the catchy title...
Except his title does not say "current". At face value it implies anti-doping is always going to (doomed to) fail.
 
Jul 11, 2013
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I've now had time to read the full thing and can only recommend it.

The perspectives of current doping levels in sports are rather grim though..
(if you accept their premises and calculations of course)


What the above results indicate is that by using current statistics it
would seem that the likelihood of being caught doping is somewhere
between 0.1 and 10% in a single test.
To put this in perspective, the
most complete and considered official current statistics pertaining to
adverse analytical findings are provided by the World Anti-Doping
Agency [54]. These findings, per sport, range anywhere from 0 to about
18% [41]. This would seem to indicate that given the findings of this
research, the extent to which doping occurs is very high
. Theoretically,
using these figures, if one were to assume that 100% of athletes dope,
because of the limited window of detection, low test sensitivity and
infrequent testing, it is likely to have result in 2.9% of adverse findings
only. To elaborate, according to the calculations, if W= 0.29 (48hours),
S = 0.4, D=1 and T=0.25, one obtains a 2.9% chance of doping detection
in a single test. Therefore if one was to then again refer to the statistics
available from WADA a sport with an adverse analytical finding of 2.9%
(such as is closely the case with darts) would seem to indicate that given
these conditions a vast majority of athletes in that sport were engaged
in doping. Assuming tests were completely random and every athlete
doped regularly, then the percentage of positive test findings (adverse
analytical findings) would be low, roughly corresponding to actual data
published by WADA.

This indicates two things. 1) That doping is far more widespread
than official figures would lead one to believe
and 2) That the current
system of anti-doping testing is inadequate to eliminate doping. This
supposition is supported by a number of officials [55] in the sporting
arena, some athletes [56] and numerous others involved in sports
including academics [28,57]. It should be noted that scientific literature
does not always quote specific examples. For this reason they must
be searched for in websites and popular literature. This is why such
examples were used above. Illicit activities can hardly be researched
systematically and this is why formal scientific literature does not
provide relevant information. As outlined previously it can be said that
it appears as though anti-doping policies are in place more for reasons
of perceptions and deterrence through fear then for any effective and
efficient scientific merit.
This lends further support for the assertions
by Hermann & Henneberg, [58] as to the relationship both perceptions
and image has to modern sports, their participants and anti-doping.
 
The incentive to dope compared to catch dopers are not comparable at all. While dopers have big resources, testers do not have that. To increase efficiency, you either need to increase the amount of tests or target-test people. To make things even worse, catching dopers even has a bad impact on wievership at least in short term. (You still see people that enjoys full genius 90's style cycling) Essentially, you have to spend money and effort to get nothing. While I don't think that anti doping is doomed to fail, it will always lag behind.
 
Jul 10, 2013
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Goal of the system is not to combat doping. It is to give the suggestion to audiences and sponsors that doing is being combated.
 
Jul 11, 2013
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It appears that fighting doping is as difficult as fighting human population growth...

Anyone selling the idea of a new clean era must be either delusional or have an agenda.

So what is worse.. The dopers, or those (like the UCI) selling the product as something it is not...
Basically they know about these things but yet have no problems in blindfolding and lying to the general public..

Fans providing the monetary basis for sports are more likely to turn on it because of scandals as per "nobody's innocent" study..

So basically we are at a dead end.. And no-one in power dares to admit to it..
 
Merckx index said:
Table 2 is very interesting, they estimate the odds of a doper testing positive during a year or during an entire career, based on various assumptions about sensitivity, window of detection and tests per year. E.g., with a sensitivity of 40%, a doping regimen of once a week, a window of detection of 72 hours, and two tests a year, they estimate the odds of a doper escaping detection in any year are 77-1, and 5-1 over an entire career (i.e., very unlikely to test positive in one year, about one in six over a career), and they note that actual rates of detection in several sports, including cycling, are close to this.



See Table 1, they do provide a lower estimate for microdosing.
So the amount of riders testing positive is pretty consistent with the majority of riders doping?
 
Oct 16, 2010
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mrhender said:
I've now had time to read the full thing and can only recommend it.

The perspectives of current doping levels in sports are rather grim though..
(if you accept their premises and calculations of course)
i accept them.
i don't think Di Luca was far off with his 90% estimate.

Almeisan said:
Goal of the system is not to combat doping. It is to give the suggestion to audiences and sponsors that doing is being combated.
 
burning said:
The incentive to dope compared to catch dopers are not comparable at all. While dopers have big resources, testers do not have that. To increase efficiency, you either need to increase the amount of tests or target-test people. To make things even worse, catching dopers even has a bad impact on wievership at least in short term. (You still see people that enjoys full genius 90's style cycling) Essentially, you have to spend money and effort to get nothing. While I don't think that anti doping is doomed to fail, it will always lag behind.
And the incentive to catch vs not get caught is not comparable at all either.

A famous athlete can lose absolutely everything, his fame, his job opportunity future, his finances, the better life for his children, for his family, the glory accumulated amongst beliebers and the medals which he risked his life to get.

No one on the testing side is playing anywhere near the same high stakes game, and many in fact would rather not catch the dopers since its bad publicity (and potentially end of bribes) anyway.
 
mrhender said:
It appears that fighting doping is as difficult as fighting human population growth...
Or as difficult as fighting any other drug industry.

the US DEA and other agencies have been fighting recreational drugs for almost a century now with an annual expenditure higher than most countries, insane power and influence and the green light to do whatever they please.

But Wada running out of a shed somewhere in Canada with like 30 employees and 0 cooperation from other sports governing bodies is going to win the fight against performance drugs.

OK. :eek:
 
The Hitch said:
Or as difficult as fighting any other drug industry.

the US DEA and other agencies have been fighting recreational drugs for almost a century now with an annual expenditure higher than most countries, insane power and influence and the green light to do whatever they please.

But Wada running out of a shed somewhere in Canada with like 30 employees and 0 cooperation from other sports governing bodies is going to win the fight against performance drugs.

OK. :eek:
Two great posts The Hitch. Brutal. However, in this David vs. Goliath face off, anti-doping has one slingshot that hopefully can make a difference: retroactive testing. That is if all sports government bodies, IOC and the rest decide to go that way, which ain't going to happen anytime soon.
 
Jul 11, 2013
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The Hitch said:
Or as difficult as fighting any other drug industry.

the US DEA and other agencies have been fighting recreational drugs for almost a century now with an annual expenditure higher than most countries, insane power and influence and the green light to do whatever they please.

But Wada running out of a shed somewhere in Canada with like 30 employees and 0 cooperation from other sports governing bodies is going to win the fight against performance drugs.

OK. :eek:
Indeed...

I guess current reading of "Inferno" affected my associative analogy towards apocalysm...

The good intentions of some are inevitably over-shadowed by the dark con of man.. ;)
------------------------------------------------

Now back to reality (the study):

In some areas of the world, capital punishment still exists for certain crimes. Some states of the United States are one such example. Moreover, the United States, being one the world’s, most technologically advanced nations have ample systems of surveillance of its citizens in place, not only video but there are also numerous organizations which exist to this end. Despite this reality, crimes are still committed; murders are still committed, even with the death penalty in place and constant surveillance.
The thought that simply watching someone will eliminate the darker sides of human nature is both unrealistic and delusional.
There are comments to the increased length of bans as per WADA's 2015 code as well as some nations criminalisation of doping..
 
Dear Wiggo said:
Except his title does not say "current". At face value it implies anti-doping is always going to (doomed to) fail.
it doesn't say "future" or "all" either...

only going to analyse the current systems.
Would be pointless to review the past ones that have been superceded, and future ones haven't been invented or in place yet...
 
This would seem to indicate that given the findings of this research, the extent to which doping occurs is very high. Theoretically, using these figures, if one were to assume that 100% of athletes dope, because of the limited window of detection, low test sensitivity and infrequent testing, it is likely to have result in 2.9% of adverse findings only. To elaborate, according to the calculations, if W= 0.29 (48hours), S = 0.4, D=1 and T=0.25, one obtains a 2.9% chance of doping detection in a single test. Therefore if one was to then again refer to the statistics available from WADA a sport with an adverse analytical finding of 2.9% (such as is closely the case with darts) would seem to indicate that given these conditions a vast majority of athletes in that sport were engaged in doping.
Several comments:

1) If this conclusion is true, then those who argue against using power data as an indication of doping—e.g., Alex S. and Andy C., in the Clinic—on the grounds that we already know who to target are missing the point. If most riders are doping, then targeting is not the solution. At best, it will slightly increase the chances of catching the best riders, but if there are limited resources, it will also decrease the chances of catching other riders who are also doping.

2) If one wants to argue against the conclusion of this analysis—that doping is not as widespread as the authors claim it is—one has to question the values of the parameters. There are four key parameters: 1) sensitivity of the test; 2) window of detection; 3) period of doping; and 4) frequency of tests. Only 4) is known, or available, for certain for all riders. In theory, parameter 1) should be known fairly precisely, but defining it in terms of a % confuses the issue. Sensitivity is normally defined as the level of drug in the body that can be detected. If it’s defined as the % of dopers that can be caught, it’s clearly dependent on how much drug they are taking, and how fast it’s cleared. IOW, it depends on several factors, including but not limited to parameters 2) and 3). So it’s very hard to come up with a % value for sensitivity that one can have any confidence in, and I wouldn’t put much stock in the values the authors assume. Sensitivity could only be determined by controlled studies, which of course are impossible for dopers. In fact, in their table, they don’t even have a value for EPO.

3) Parameter 3) is the one we have the least information about, and about which we are dependent on information from reformed dopers. This might be critical to the authors’ conclusion. In estimating the chances of testing positive, the authors are assuming athletes are acting rationally and intelligently, doing everything possible to minimize their getting caught. As the old saying goes, you have to be really stupid to get caught. But some athletes are stupid, and don’t act rationally. So one could argue that the actual rate of positives is inflated because a few dumb athletes do things that greatly increase their chances of getting caught over what would be expected from random testing. I’m not saying this is the case, I’m just throwing this out as a possibility to keep in mind.

4) the authors did not apply their analysis to the biopassport, but it could be and I think ought to be subjected to the same approach. That is, we can make estimates of these parameters for blood transfusions, making assumptions about how much and for how long they change the parameters measured in the passport program.
 
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