Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How Useful is Anti-Doping Testing Data?

I have a piece out in Nature today (free!) on the utility of anti-doping testing data. It turns out, you can't really use the available data to answer the most basic questions -- such as, how many athletes dope? or Are anti-doping programs effective?

That piece can be seen here.

Over at SportingIntelligence I have a companion piece with more background and data. I show some USADA testing data (above) and conclude:
The data show that the number of athletes sanctioned from 2001 to 2013 almost doubled, and from 2007 to 2013 just about tripled.

Does this mean that doping incidence has doubled or tripled? That USADA’s testing program is twice or three times more effective?  Unfortunately, we just can’t answer these questions.

The good news here is that just about everyone – athletes, anti-doping agencies, independent scholars – appears to have shared goals. Moving forward I am hopeful that the anti-doping agencies will help to better support researchers wanting to quantify the prevalence of doping and the effectiveness of anti-doping programs — no matter how uncomfortable the answers might be.
Have a look at both pieces. I welcomed comments and critique.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Question for FIFA: How many Watches Were Returned?

Last September, FIFA investigated a gift of expensive watches giving to its top officials. Here is what it found:
[The Confederação Brasileira de Futebol] distributed 65 gift bags, each containing a Parmigiani watch, to a group comprising the 28 officials on the FIFA Executive Committee, a representative from each of the 32 Member Associations competing in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, and a representative from each of the 10 Member Associations in Conmebol. CBF produced records indicating that it obtained the watches from Parmigiani, a CBF sponsor, at a price of USD 8,750 each. The Investigatory Chamber commissioned an independent appraisal of one of the watches CBF distributed. That appraisal determined that the watch had a market value of CHF 25,000. That value was confirmed by a later appraisal done in Zurich.

The FCE [FIFA Code of Ethics] plainly prohibits such gifts.
So FIFA asked for the 65 watches back, and stated that it would donate them to a charity organizations.

However, FIFA has never followed up, to my knowledge, to account for compliance to its request for the watches to be returned or to identify the charity to which the watches were donated. I have asked FIFA for this compliance information, and have yet to hear back.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Upcoming Talk on "Sex Testing" in International Sport

Next Monday, 26 January at 12:15 (MT) at CSTPR, I'll be giving the first talk of our Center's spring seminar series. Here is the title and abstract:
Sugar, Spice and Everything Nice:“Sex Testing” in International Athletics

Roger Pielke, Jr.
University of Colorado
Center for Science and Technology Policy Research


In many settings, decision makers look to science as the basis for making decisions that are made difficult by their social or political context. Sport is no different. For more than a half century sports officials have looked to science to provide a clear distinction between men and women for purposes of determining who is eligible to participate in women’s athletic competitions. However, the science of sex provides overwhelming evidence that there is no such clear biological demarcation that differentiates men and women. Despite this evidence, the International Olympic Committee and the International Association of Athletics Federations in 2011 implemented a form of “sex testing” based on androgens, and specifically, testosterone levels in females. This paper evaluates this policy, finding it contradictory to scientific understandings of sex and counter to widely-held social norms about gender. The paper recommends an alternative approach to determining eligibility for participation in women’s sports events, one more consistent with the stated values of sports organizations, and more generally, with principles of human dignity.
If you are in Boulder and want to attend or are elsewhere wish to watch it online, here are all the details.

The talk is based on a paper of the same title. If you are interested in a draft of that paper for comment -- and I'd sure welcome comments -- please drop me an email at rpielkejr at gmail. Thanks!

Details on the WADA "Independent" Investigation

WADA has released the Terms of Reference (in PDF) for its investigation into allegations of systematic doping by Russian athletes and the participation of the IAAF in a cover-up. Here is the Purpose for what WADA has titled an "Independent Investigation":
The IC has been established to conduct an independent investigation into doping practices; corrupt practices around sample collection and results management; and, other ineffective administration of anti-doping processes that implicate Russia, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), athletes, coaches, trainers, doctors and other members of athletes’ entourages; as well as, the accredited laboratory based in Moscow and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA). To achieve this task the IC will review evidence gathered by WADA and will request the collection of further evidence as it deems appropriate. In principle, the IC is also able to obtain information on its own initiative, including interviews with persons of interest. This however will be the exception and will be coordinated with WADA to avoid duplication
The committee of three is bound by the WADA confidentiality policy and media policy. It reports to WADA and WADA is coordinating the information gathering. The committee chair is the only member allowed to speak to the media, and the committee is planning to release very little information or documentation. All of this is troubling for an effort focused on trust and credibility.

While the investigation may ultimately be useful and lead to positive change, it is clearly a misnomer to call it "independent" in any manner. It is an internal WADA committee, which is chaired by a former WADA president. Calling a committee independent when it is not is just not good practice. WADA is not alone in facing difficulties understanding what "independent" actually means.

Monday, January 12, 2015

How Big Will College Football Get?

UPDATE: The data are in: 33.4 million viewers. The most-watched cable program of all time.

Tonite marks the culmination of the first top division college football tournament. How big will college football get?

I'd suggest paying attention to the numbers below to get a sense whether its continued financial growth will be really big or really, really big. These are the audience sizes for the top-watched programs ever on US cable networks. Yes, they are all sports events on ESPN.

For comparison, last year's Super Bowl had an audience of 111 million. Last night's NFL playoff games had an estimated audience of 40 million. And last year's NCAA basketball championship had an audience of 21.2 million.

How big will college football be? Tonite TV viewership should help to answer that question.

RankDateProgramNetworkViewers (000s)
1.01/01/2015CFB/Sugar Bowl: Alabama-Ohio St.ESPN28,271
2.01/01/2015CFB/Rose Bowl: Oregon-Florida St.ESPN28,164
3.01/10/2011CFB/BCS Champ: Oregon-AuburnESPN27,316
4.01/07/2013CFB/BCS Champ: Alabama-Notre DameESPN26,380
5.01/06/2014CFB/BCS Champ: Florida St.-AuburnESPN25,572
6.01/09/2012CFB/BCS Champ: Alabama-LSUESPN24,214
7.10/05/2009NFL MNF: Green Bay-MinnesotaESPN21,839
8.01/03/2015NFL Wild Card: Arizona-CarolinaESPN21,678
9.11/30/2009NFL MNF: New England-New OrleansESPN21,402
10.01/01/2011CFB/Rose Bowl: TCU-WisconsinESPN20,558

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Accountability to Principles of Gender Equity

At Sporting Intelligence my first column of 2015 is up. It was inspired by several things, including Venus Vs., a documentary on prize equity in grand slam tennis which I show in my Sports Governance class. Most recently however I was inspired (well, shocked really) by this blog post by Helen Wyman, a British professional cyclist. 

Here is an excerpt from my piece:
Today, the issue of equal pay for men and women in sport is more about accountability than gender. So long as sports organizations like the IOC and UCI invoke equality as a guiding principle, then they should be held to those principles.

That is not a matter of gender equality, it is simply a matter of good governance. Alternatively, if the leaders of these organizations actually believe that women should receive smaller purses for their competitions, then these leaders should have the courage to change the stated principles of the organisations that they lead to reflect those beliefs. Saying one thing and doing another is not a successful course of action for any institution.
I argue that gender equity in pay is really not much about gender anymore, but rather, about good governance. You can read the whole thing here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Two Investigations to Watch in 2015

Two significant investigations are scheduled to report their findings in 2015.

One is the recently-created three person committee established by the World Anti-Doping Agency hot on the heels of revelations of systematic doping by Russia in the IAAF.  The committee includes Richard Pound and Richard McClaren, both long-time sports insiders. Pound is a member of the IOC and McClaren is a CAS arbitrator. Both are highly respected. However, Pound was the first president of WADA and can hardly be considered independent. Sports governing bodies have yet to fully appreciate the significance of independent advice. The third member of the committee has not been announced. WADA does not say when the committee will report, but it seems unlikely to go on too long without reporting, given the magnitude of the allegations.

The second is the Cycling Independent Reform Commission established one year ago by the UCI to investigate various allegations which resulted from the USADA investigation of Lance Armstrong and his team mates. That commission was to have reported by the end of 2014, so it seems likely that it should be saying something soon (maybe by the end of February). That three-person committee includes:  Dick Marty,Ulrich Haas and Peter Nicholson. A number of cyclists, including Armstrong, have reportedly met with the CIRC. At Sporting Intelligence, Teddy Cutler has an in depth look at the CIRC.

Expectations are very high for the CIRC and the WADA committee has barely gotten started. Both have the potential to profoundly change the landscape of sport. Stay tuned.