Preserving Your Rights and the Integrity of CompetitionTravis T. Tygart - Chief Executive Officer, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency
Ogden Mills Phipps: Thank you, Stuart and Matt. Our next speaker, Travis Tygart, has been on the front lines battling the use of performance enhancing drugs for many years. When news recently broke that two amateur bicycle riders had tested positive for EPO on May 20 in New York, he spoke of the temptation to cheat and a win at all costs culture. Unfortunately, we see that in horse racing too.
Travis became chief executive officer of the U.S. Anti Doping Agency in September of 2007. The U.S. Anti Doping Agency exists to preserve the integrity of competition and protect the rights of U.S. athletes and is cooperating with federal authorities on numerous investigations, including the international steroid bust, Operation Raw Deal, and the international doping conspiracy involved in the Balco Laboratories in San Francisco.
He's published numerous papers and law review articles on topics including Title IX, Antitrust and Doping in Sports. He also serves on the board of governors on the Partnership for Clean Competition.
The mission of the partnership is to ensure integrity in the sports at all levels by supporting anti doping research. Founding organizations of that partnership include the U.S. Olympic Committee, National Football League, Major League Baseball, the U.S. [Anti] Doping Agency. Additional supporters include the NBA, the National Hockey League and the PGA Tour.
Stuart and Matt just talked about the critical need for transparency, stronger penalties and standards for drug testing labs. Travis Tygart is well versed on all of these subjects, and we are honored to have him here today.
Travis T. Tygart: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to The Jockey Club. It's wonderful for me to be here today. I want to particularly thank Jim [Gagliano], who we've gotten to know over the last year or so, as well as the great team of leaders he's got. It's a pleasure and honor for me to be here today.
I want to say first, I've been a lifelong horse racing fan. I recall as a junior in high school, growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, playing on my high school basketball team, we used to take a trip every year down to Ocala, Florida, which, as I'm sure most of you know, is great horse raising territory.
But we used to play in the Ocala Thoroughbred Breeders Association holiday tournament every year. It was a wonderful outreach that the sport did for that community, and a number of young kids, like myself, would come through, and we got a chance to see the farms and talk to the owners and the trainers, and we firsthand saw, I think, what Michael talked about: that imagination, that beauty that your sport contains.
Then, that same basketball team actually had a chance to travel to Lexington, Kentucky, and all of us on that team will never forget. We had a chance to see a closed practice for the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team. And Rupp Arena is a magical place as well.
I'm a [University of North] Carolina grad, so it's not quite on par with the Dean Dome, and their team wasn't quite as good back then as it is today. However, I'll never forget a player some of you may know: Rex Chapman. We're sitting, our team, on the side of the bench. And Rex Chapman came over and he was just kind of shooting the bull with us and made statements like, "You know, guys, basketball is a metaphor for life. It's not whether you win or you lose, it's about giving it your all. And guys, there is no I in team, it's about teamwork." And he went on to practice.
And me and my fellow teammates kind of looked at each other like, "Is this guy crazy? Seriously? This is about winning. This isn't about losing. It's all about winning, and we're going to go and win. And yeah, there might not be an I in team, but there sure is an M and an E, and we've got stats because we want to get financial scholarships."
On that same trip, I think that notion of win at all costs, certainly as a high schooler back in 1987, '88, '89 was very prevalent. I can assure you, having gone back to high school to teach, it's only gotten worse since that time period.
That same trip we had an opportunity as well to go to Paris, Kentucky, and tour a farm. In 1988 to have the chance to see Secretariat as a young high schooler with our teammates was quite frankly one of the most memorable events of our life.
We recall after — and I talked to some of my teammates recently about this when Jim gave me the opportunity to come here — about the conversation that the entire team had on the bus ride back to, or the van ride back to, our hotel after seeing Secretariat and hearing about the story and seeing the beauty of that athlete.
I'll never forget the conversation from our coach and our athletic director at the time about how impactful it is for an elite athlete like Secretariat to potentially have a better legacy or be just as well known if not more well known for what they do off the racetrack than what they do on the racetrack. That, again, was an incredible moment for all of us as young kids.
So to fast forward 25 years, almost, for me to be here in front of you all, such an inspirational and influential group, is truly an honor. And I hope I can shed some light on what we've done in the Olympic movement that gives you some guidance as you navigate the issues that Stuart [Janney] and others have outlined today to bring back that magic and recapture that magic, if it's been lost.
I'm not here to bash you all. I'm not here to take a position on Senate Bill 886 or the House equivalent. I'm not here to say Bute at 5 nanograms or 10 nanograms or 2 is the right number or that Lasix ought to be used or not used.
I'm here to hopefully show the parallels between what you all are going through and what the Olympic movement worldwide, but also in the U.S., went through over the last decade or so.
I think we have to start with the idea that there are important rights. The topic of my conversation today is protecting or preserving your rights, and there are a number of rights at issue when it comes to anti doping.
The rights of the victims, the rights of sport, the rights of society, and the right to healthy and safe competition. We can't lose sight of the fact that those are what ultimately lead to our sport having integrity that is valued or not.
However, you want to define what is most important of those rights. For us in the Olympic movement, we think it's the rights of the athletes. For one individual athlete to agree to a set of rules, to be robbed, literally, by someone else who doesn't abide by those rules is an injustice. It's a travesty. We think it's the biggest injustice that exists in sport.
We're here primarily to defend that athlete's right to the rules which they've agreed to. At the end of the day, the anti doping rules are no different than the rules of sport. If the Kentucky Wildcats got to play on an 8 foot basket, and the Tar Heels played on a 10 foot basket, that would be unfair to the Tar Heels. [It] might give us an excuse when we lose to them, however, but it would be unfair.
And that is a primary point for all anti doping efforts to be concerned with.
So the world in 1999, '98, in the Olympic movement is not unlike what you all face today. We had people call it a mess. They said it was attempting to herd cats. It was a train wreck waiting to happen. And frankly, they were right. At the end of the day, it was chaos for athletes because you had a myriad of different rules around the world.
In France, for example, you had glucocorticosteroids that were not allowed. Well, in the U.S. and in Canada, glucocorticosteroids were allowed. You had different sanctions depending on the sport and the country where an athlete participated or a sport that they were in. So a discipline like cycling had a six month maximum suspension for an EPO or an anabolic steroid positive or violation.
You had the Swimming Federation, FINA, on the other hand, who had a four year sanction for a serious anti doping rules violation. You also had powerful entities that were in denial who wanted to point to every other problem to justify why fans were walking away. You had people justifying names like the Chemical Games and the HGH Games, and the press just fed it, and they loved it.
Unfortunately, what it did was it really eroded not only the integrity, but ultimately the bottom line, because the Olympic Games, not unlike your sport, distinguishes itself. It's not just entertainment. Yes, it is part entertainment, but it is something more. Supporting the Olympic movement is about those life lessons that we talk about frequently.
So it was bad ultimately for sponsors. I think you could see the TV revenues were down, scandals hit, and unfortunately, probably, the biggest scandal was the 1998 Festina Affair in the Olympic movement.
I've got a slide up here some of you probably remember the headline from the baseball scandal. I think, unfortunately, this perfect storm of bad rules, lack of uniformity, confusion for sports fans, rights that were being violated, the very rights we talked about had a scandal then attached.
As soon as that scandal attached, it forced something to be done. Not unlike what happened with professional baseball in the mid 2000s.
So what did we do in the Olympic movement? We decided to all come together, both sport as well as government, and create what is known as the World Anti Doping Agency [WADA] as the global body that is responsible for uniform rules for coordination of policies at every level.
You see the slide, the Level 1 document known as the WADA Code. It clearly sets out what are the definitions of doping. Is there an intense standard? Do you have to knowingly do it or is it strict liability? It itemizes adverse or positive tests, refusal to test, mis tests, possession, trafficking, distribution, and covering up — all of those things that ultimately relate to what an offense might be.
It also establishes the criteria for what is ultimately prohibited, and there are essentially three criteria. And for a substance or a method to be put on the prohibited list, it has to meet two of the three criteria. The three criteria are: [does it have] the potential to enhance performance, [does it] violate the spirit of sport, or [does it] have an adverse or potentially adverse health or safety consequence to the athlete. So that is the criteria.
There then is a fair, democratic process that happens every year that has advanced publication of the rules so that everyone, again, all competitors, owners, breeders, should know what those rules are in advance of them going into effect in a period of time to allow for behavioral change when those rules change. That comes up with what actually every year is prohibited.
The U.S. has three representatives to that prohibited list committee, and it's done on an independent basis by experts. Not by a sport who might want EPO allowed at certain levels because EPO leads to better competition. But you know what? It also violates the spirit of sport, probably hits all three criteria.
It also sets forth the criteria for evaluating what labs are going to be allowed to test the samples and the accreditation for those labs. It also provides for the sanctioning. So with the Olympic movement it's a two year sanction for the first offense. It can be aggravated if it is conspiracy involved or other such egregious conduct up to four years or minimized if it's truly an inadvertent situation, down all the way to a public warning, which you may have seen recently.
It also sets forth the due process rights that are afforded to anyone before their license as an athlete, coach, trainer is removed for that period of time, and that's critically important.
As part of the world anti doping program, the Level 2 documents, they talk about testing. So how do you collect samples? How do I know as a U.S. athlete my sample was collected fairly and chain of custody is intact, and no contamination when I'm competing in France?
Likewise, how do I know the Canadians aren't as thorough in their collection process to give loopholes to athletes or others who might want to exploit the testing process to make sure they don't get caught cheating?
It also has laboratory standard, the TUE, which I'll come back to in a second: Therapeutic Use Exemption and the list.
There are also the Level 3 documents. At the end of the day this next slide shows its complexity. Both sport, law, medicine, chemistry and sanctioning; it's complex work. It's not always easy work.
I've seen some press statements and some op eds about the Olympic TUE process. Let me be crystal clear, there is nothing secret about it. This has been in the rules since the first code came into existence in 2004, and most federations prior to this had a similar process.
So it's not secret whatsoever, and it is certainly the rules the world has agreed to. It essentially says if there is an athlete that needs a medication for a chronic or acute medical condition, that they document and can provide that documentation to an independent panel.
So we have what is known as a Therapeutic Use Exemption committee at USADA that reviews these as they come in based on the documents or any follow up that that committee may want, such as additional testing or additional challenges if it involves certain drugs. If they can prove that there is no reasonable alternative other than the drug that is otherwise prohibited, and that it does not provide any performance enhancing benefit, then they can receive permission for this.
Again, what is critically important and unlike the press release that I saw, it is not — the appropriate analogy is not — a horse owner giving his own horse the drug. It's independent. We're here for clean sport, not for the best athletes being put on the playing field.
Any decision that we make is ultimately given to WADA, which has the opportunity to appeal that decision whether we grant ultimately that drug or not.
Obviously, we could spend hours on the differences between human athletes and equine athletes when it comes time to provide medications to them. Certainly having humans that can have access to needed medications is an important aspect of our process.
But most importantly, whether you agree with that or you don't, it's the rule. Some people might want 8-foot baskets in basketball. But the NCAA and pro basketball said no. They're going to be 10 feet, and that's published and that is what is agreed to.
So quickly, we highlight various avenues of effectiveness. I've talked about some of these already, so let me move through this a little quicker.
Obviously, education is critically important. Don't underestimate the value of education. We've yet to see a cheater, Marion Jones, other athletes out there that you've read about in the paper, who when their doping was detected, they never said they felt proud about it. In fact, a number of athletes that The New York Times article that the chairman referenced read that story.
There is an op ed in The New York Times this morning from an athlete back in the late '90s, early 2000, [who] was challenged and comprised, and it's powerful. We've never seen a cheater who when caught was happy that they had to go through it.
So you can embrace the culture through education. Education alone won't do it. You have to test, and testing critically provides the deterrent. And hopefully for those that don't want to cheat, it provides the deterrent.
I think when athletes make that determination to cheat, it's because they feel like they have to do it to win, that the culture has overtaken the rules. So they're not going to be victims, [it’s] the win at all cost culture.
You have to have effective testing. We have out of competition testing. We literally have the information, cell phones, home addresses, training venues for our athletes — about 3,000 of them, 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. We show up at their houses, we show up at their training centers. We take blood, we take urine.
It's inconvenient. Some would say it's way over the top and invasive, and I'm not going to disagree to some extent. But our athletes have said this is what we want because our rights to compete by the rules that are in place are important enough that, USADA, we're willing to give you our vacation schedules. We're willing to tell you when we go down the street to get groceries. We're willing to be available before going out for dinner or seeing a spouse to allow you to come and test us. And it's worked.
Unfortunately, it's not as easy as just testing all the time. If you stay stagnant, the cheaters will get ahead. Unfortunately, if you don't have an aggressive research program, testing program, it's easier to cheat if you don't have those programs than to catch those that are going to cheat. And that is unfortunate, but it is exactly why we have committed resources through the partnership of clean competition.
You've heard that, a little about that, from the chairman. We've got about $2.8 million a year that is going to research. It's independent. Again, we created our own not-for-profit. It's cutting edge technology. We're trying to develop tests using real-time information from people in the field to develop tests. THG through Balco is a perfect example of that. We had a coach that sent us the designer steroid that he heard and knew was out in the industry.
Dermorphin has gotten a lot of headlines. It's good a test was developed for it, yet you have to ask how long has it been out there before we had a test for it, and what is the next one?
Unfortunately, it's so complex that they'll do some tweaks to the molecule, and there will be another version of it that will give a performance enhancing benefit, and it won't be detectible. So you have to invest the funds and the resources and the effort into research.
You also have to have, that we've seen, the ability to gather intelligence in investigative efforts. Because we know, despite claims of passing 150 tests by athletes or today's headlines of 500 tests, you can still cheat and pass tests for the very point that I just made.
Unfortunately, the chemistry has to stay lock step, and it's ever changing for the cheaters. So you have to have the ability to have a non analytical or to discipline an athlete based on something other than a positive test.
We have an investigative unit. I know FEI, the Federation for Olympic Equestrian, has an integrity unit. And we have a whistle blower Play Clean line, where athletes, coaches and others can pick up the phone and call. Of course it places a big burden on the entity handling that to make sure they do it appropriately, professionally and responsibly, but it's a critical avenue for obtaining information to best protect your sport.
Quickly, two pieces of evidence, and I would just ask you, do you think there are people in your industry that are using similar calendars? This is a calendar used by an athlete who we detected her doping through non analytical means…not a positive test.
But you can see, if you can see it, the red smiley faces were the days she was using EPO. The yellow smiley face was the day she was using the designer steroid THG, and she followed that use with the orange smiley face, which was the cream that would mask the use of the THG, the designer anabolic steroid.
What is most powerful about this calendar to me are the purple smiley faces. Those were the days this elite [athlete] — she won the 100, 200 World Championships in 2003 before she was suspended for two years. The purple smiley faces are the days that she was having her menstrual cycle.
And her testimony at the hearing was she would have her menstrual cycle sometimes four and five times, four and five days in a row, two and three times a month. It was just a classic side effect of the EPO and the anabolic steroids that she was using.
Fortunately, through our process, where she came forward, was truthful, received the suspension but also helped identify the meaning behind some of that information, and that's critically important from a detection standpoint.
Of course the process is important. Through our process, which is in line with the federal statute, the Ted Stevens Olympic Amateur Sports Act, there is full due process given to every athlete prior to them or coach or trainer prior to them being removed from the playing field for an anti doping rule violation. You see, notice of the allegation charged, the opportunity to confront the evidence, to cross examine any of the witnesses, appeal right, a written decision. You can see all of our decisions on our website.
In conclusion, I just want to say, hopefully, our experiences in the Olympic movement over the past few years, really since late 1999, can be an example for you all. You heard it from Michael again this morning, the ratings for the Olympics today on those earlier announcement about the money revenues that the Olympics have generated.
I think anti doping has to take some credit for that, because I think when the integrity was being diluted back in the late '90s, the world of Olympic sport alongside governments said what can we do to recapture the magic? And similar discussion and analysis that you all have done over the past couple years took place. While it took about four years from '99 to 2004 before those uniform rules came into existence and were adopted by everyone and agreed by everyone, it has shown, I think, significance since then.
We had a perfect storm. The scandal, however, was what put it over the top for us in the Olympic movement. We took dramatic and definitive measures. We put a stake in the ground in 1999 to say clean athletes are going to have a chance to win. Even if it has a short term negative impact on our business. The long term value for our business is too important.
[We] brought in uniformity, brought in independent agencies, we firmly believe to promote and police your sport is awfully difficult if not impossible. And now, importantly, we're here to sustain it.
It's not always pretty business. Getting sued is not always fun. Being attacked for personal vendettas or witch hunts is not always fun. But that venom is better aimed at us, the independent agency whose job it is to protect the rules, than aimed at the very athletes who are hoping to compete on a level playing field.
Thank you for your time and thank you for the invitation once again.