Friday, December 16, 2005

Banned for Suspicion of Wrongdoing

Former 100-Meter world record holder Tim Montgomery was banned from his sport for two years earlier this week. Montgomery has said he will retire rather than sit out his suspension.

Under the rules of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which monitors U.S. national and international level athletes for the use of banned substances, and the World Anti-Doping Agency, any athlete caught using performance enhancing steroids or other banned drugs, like amphetamines, faces a suspension from national and international competitions for a minimum of two years. A second offense carries a lifetime ban from competition.

I love this structure of punishment. It forces athletes to play clean or face drastic penalties. However, there is a problem with Montgomery's ban--He has never tested positive for a banned substance.

Instead Montgomery was banned from his sport for two years due to circumstantial evidence compiled in the BALCO investigation and the testimony of another American sprinter, Kelli White, whom Montgomery claims he does not know.

In order to participate in national and international events, athletes are called upon to surrender certain rights to privacy in order to ensure the integrity of the sport. Athletes voluntarily agree to these limitations, which include off-season, random drug testing, in order to compete at the highest levels.

Fine. But if the USADA or the WADA want to ban an athlete for violating the rules, they must PROVE the allegations, not just make the allegations. If some has evidence that an athlete has violated the anti-doping rules, that does not mean that person has violated the rules. Is it grounds for requiring at new drug test, sure, but not a ban.

Here is some of the evidence offered to the Court for the Arbitration of Sport:
  • A blood test conducted Mexico in 2000 which allegedly shows a doubling of testerone in Montgomery in one day.

  • Documents for the criminal investigation of BALCO which "individually or when linked together established Montgomery's doping"

  • Hearsay admissions made by BALCO President Victor Conte to criminal investigators which implicate Montgomery.

Circumstantial evidence at best.

The panel at the Court for the Arbitration of Sport wrote that it accepted the testimony of Kelli White, and in combination with the circumstantial evidence, thus imposing the two year ban on Montgomery. See pages 15-21 of the CAS finding

Don't get me wrong, if Montgomery broke the rules, he should be thrown out on his head. But it seems to me that if there is all this circumstantial evidence against Montgomery, the USADA or the WADA would have been able to get one positive test.

The CAS made a big deal of the fact that Montgomery and his counsel did little to offer an alternative explanation or attempt to discredit Kelli White. While from an American court perspective, this is not necessary. But the CAS can probably take Montgomery's silence as evidence of wrongdoing.

This whole thing bothers me. I don't know if Montgomery took banned substances or not. The evidence seems like he did, but if the USADA or WADA is going to ban a person from their profession, there needs to be a little more hard proof.

For some potential fallout--check out this article about how Montgomery's ban could impact Baseball.

Linked at OTB Traffic Jam

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