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Ironman CEO Discusses Drugs in the Sport

USADA CEO Travis Tygart
CEO of USADA Travis Tygart

As reported yesterday, the Triathlon Business International conference launched with a keynote address by U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s Travis Tygart, lawyer and CEO of USADA. In his address he said: “I was asked to talk about the Lance Armstrong case, but it’s a case we’re ready to stop talking about.”

Yesterday Armstrong chimed in to the conference via twitter  in response to Tygart: “What a joke.#Whendoesthevictorytourend?” Armstrong tweeted, later adding, “It’s a one way conversation right now.”

In a panel on drug policies and endurance sports that followed Tygart’s keynote, representatives from WTC/ Ironman, USA Cycling, USA Triathlon, Anti-Doping Research and the Banned Substances Control Group discussed doping detection and the enforcement of anti-doping rules and sanctions.

“For triathlon to stay a sport that is clean, I can’t emphasize how important culture is and those who are clean athletes not to tolerate those who cheat,” said Andrew Messick, CEO of WTC/Ironman. Messick said that triathlon and cycling are dramatically different, with more value placed on fair play in triathlon.

“The culture of triathlon is one where, fundamentally, people believe in fair play,” he said. “That said, there’s no doubt that there needs to be a robust enforcement mechanism.”

Doping in triathlon is often linked to the use of dietary supplements that could contain banned substances. USA Triathlon CEO Rob Urbach said testing for performance-enhancing drugs is more prevalent in triathlon than people realize and athletes are required to give their whereabouts and given little to no warning of testing.

Tygart called on leaders in the sports world and race organizers to speak up. “The worst you can do is sit on information and not do anything,” he said, adding that USADA works to protect those who provide reliable information to the agency. He also said  testing is only as good as the science and that research must continue to unveil new formats.The athlete biologic passport, for example, tests and monitors different variables including hemoglobin and hematocrit levels and helps assess abnormal variations over time, and is proving to be an effective way of detecting doping. But he also pointed to other evidence that is critical including video, photographs, emails and witness testimony.