USADA & Chris Lukezic: a note on absurdities, by Larry Eder

Lukezic_Chris-BostonIn09.JPG            Chris Lukezic, Rbk Boston Indoor Games, February 2009, has encouraged USADA and WADA in their development of protocols for drug testing. We have asked them to make sure that their information was solid, that their research was peer-reviewed and that, most importantly, that their investigations are legally solid; they can not afford to loose big cases with shoddy research or relying on gossip or hearsay.

 One of the major toxins that performance-enhancing drugs have unleashed onto our sport of athletics is cynicism. Great performances are always suspect, no matter who the athlete is. Is it fair? Absolutely not, but it is, well, quite human. When something like performance-enhancing drugs is spoken about in hushed tones, gossip becomes fact. Rumors destroy careers. It is the cult of personality that engulfs most of modern media.

By making sports the near-religion it is today, and by anointing athletes with more accolades, money, prestige, winning at all costs is the lesson being taught on soccer pitches, track and sports facilities.

Sports should have an important place in the world. It is one of the most uplifting of human endeavors. Watching someone run, jump, throw, or doing it oneself, challenging one's limits, should be part of most human's personal journeys. I have noted, that in my modest running career, my best times from the mile to 10,000 meters were in races where I was pretty far back in the pack. I always felt that, the four or five races I won in nearly five hundred races, were pretty Zen moments. Earning one's personal bests, in my humble opinion, is part of the sports' attraction. I see how people can cheat in sport, however, that does not mean I either support it or believe that they, the cheaters, actually appreciate how they have brought toxins to the sport that they claim to love.

Performance enhancing drugs has nearly destroyed our sport. Tough stands by meet directors, federations, athletes, coaches, managers have brought our sport back to respectability. USADA and WADA have taken testing away from the sports federations, giving testing even more transparency. But, as USADA and WADA get closer, new drugs come out, and soon, gene therapy will be available to wealthy families, and federations, who will do anything for their athlete to win. To me, that is sickening. 

 As it has for a decade now, it takes about $100k for an athlete to find an unscrupulous lab, and an enterprising chemist, who can find a pretty solid way to beat the system. Cheating and not getting caught is not cheap. As most athletics athletes are not in possession of such resources, a focus on athletes at the top of the heap, who have the resources to cheat, is part of a program that I would encourage to create an more even playing field, if that is possible. Want drug free sports? Then, talk with young athletes and coaches, about ethics, what is right and wrong. Drug testing will only go so far, that is why USADA and WADA are involved in global drug education programs, which I applaud.    

My concern has always been that USADA and WADA, in fighting the bad guys,  could overstep their bounds. The ends never justifies the means. We applaud what USADA and WADA have done for our sport. They do a very needed, but dirty job, in an area that is, on its best days, gray. However, like waterboarding, poor evidence, thinly veiled threats, only hurt the cause of drug free sports. Research and resources are key for USADA and WADA to catch the majority of drug cheats. 

 No different than the police officer who sees bad guys day after day, week after week, year after year, and crosses a line to arrest someone who is has done bad things in the past, or who they think is guilty of a recent crime. A bad arrest by USADA or WADA, a case built on weakly reviewed protocols could and would destroy much of the positives that both organizations have brought to the sport.

An absurd arrest or enforcement, as has been done, in the strange case of Chris Lukezic, only makes USADA look foolish. Sometimes, a little distance and a long deep breath are needed before one sends out a press release

Case in point. Chris Lukezic, one of our top 1,500 meter runners in the past half decade, retired November 11, 2009. On that day, November 11, Chris announced his retirement to the media, which was picked up by many in the running media. Lukezic was well liked, and had
strong fan support. Lukesic also updated USATF on his decision. I have to admit that I was sad, as I enjoyed watching Chris race and felt he had more fast miles to run. Chris had found something new to put his enormous energy into: a travel start-up. And he was off!  

Apparently, USADA does not read the running media, as they showed up at the home of Chris Lukezic five months later.  On April 20, 2010, five months after his retirement, USADA demanded that he urinate into a cup, as part of a drug test for an athlete who they thought was active, but who had, in fact, retired.

Chris Lukezic is prone to self-analysis. Hell, the guy ran 3:33.28, so perhaps it was too much oxygen on the brain. As Lukezic saw himself as non-elite athlete, he refused to take the test. Now, you arm-chair quarterbacks are asking, " Why, Chris, did you not just pee in the little plastic cup and get it over with?" Chris Lukezic saw himself as a private citizen, and he did not see himself as the elite athlete USADA perceived, so he decided to take a stand. RBR applauds his quiet act of defiance.

USADA, an organization's whose prime purpose is to find every sports drug cheat and their support team, does not have much of a sense of humor. Nor do they appreciate a guy who stops racing at the world class level and directs all of his energy into an digital travel start up.

USADA did not appreciate his quiet act of defiance. They gave him a two year ban.  USADA did not notice that the guy has not competed since the outdoor 2009 season. They claim that Chris did not file "proper paperwork." Lukezic claims to have notified USA Track & Field of his retirement.
Chris Lukezic responded with an official statement on his blog:

It is Runblogrun's belief that USADA has bigger fish to fry than Chris 
Lukezic. Lukezic is not a drug cheat.

Seems like a few cyclists are lining up for some new is just, well, so absurd.

A perfect time for me to start my vacation....note that one, scheduled rbr piece will be posted daily, from September 3-12, 2010. Off to the left coast....


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