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Drug Testing Questions and Answers

April 2005
George Mathews

Ken Stone asked me some questions for an article he is writing for Geezerjock Magazine. I thought it important to share my answers with our membership since not all my responses may be included in his article.

Q. It's well-known that only a few international masters events do drug-testing, along with a few nationals in Europe. But even these dope tests are skimpy usually fewer than 50 in a field of 5000. Is drug-testing of masters fair under these conditions? Is it worth doing?

A. I would be careful about quoting a number of drug tests. This number is confidential. The number isn't as important as the deterrent effect the threat of testing has on athletes. I believe that this is not only fair, but imperative, if we are to provide a level playing field for all athletes. It is absolutely worth doing if we are to grow the way most of us would like.

Q. What would it cost to drug-test a majority of masters at WMA world meets or USATF nationals?

A. The cost is prohibitive at this time for the USATF nationals. It runs about $200 to $400 per test, depending on what you are testing for and how quick a turn-around you need on the results.

Q. Do the waiver rules in WMA work? How many athletes avail themselves of the waiver to compete while taking "banned" drugs?

A. I hope that the WMA rules work. We need to understand that WMA uses IAAF rules. There is no waiver for "banned" drugs per se. Waivers are known as "therapeutic exemptions."

U.S. athletes can apply for an exemption through USADA which will be accepted by IAAF and WMA. I have heard of athletes getting exemptions for things like asthma medications.

The information for these exemptions is provided to all U.S. athletes entering WMA World Championships.

The problem concerns certain medications that are taken in the normal process of aging, such as hormone and testosterone replacement. These are not exempted, to my knowledge. This is the real challenge.

I have brought this up at WMA meetings in the past and have been told that there isn't the "science" to prove that these medications aren't "performance enhancers."

Is it fair for a man who loses "some" testosterone in the aging process to be able fix the problem with synthetic testosterone?

The answer from WMA and IAAF is that costly research must be done to prove that these substances are not performance-enhancing. They say the money isn't available for this research.

Maybe somewhere in the world some university might want to take this project on. I have challenged one known candidate for President of WMA to address this very important need.

Q. WMA supposedly has an appeals process for drug-testing. Has this process ever been used? If so, what were the upshots?

A. The appeals have been through IAAF in the past. There is only one U.S. case that we are all aware of. We know the result of that appeal. There is question as to what the outcome might have been if an exemption had been asked for.

Q. If a vote were taken on whether masters organizations should do extensive drug-testing and add a surcharge to meet entry fees how would the vote go?

A. I would hope that everyone would vote "yes," although I don't think a vote should be taken. We are part of USATF and should follow the rest of our organization. For information purposes, it should be known that USATF Youth Track & Field has drug testing.

I don't think athletes would want to pay. This should be an included cost in the entry fee.

Q. Since suspensions last only two years usually, banned athletes can still resume competition in another age group down the line. So suspensions have little bite. Should drug rules be stiffened for masters?

A. We should adopt a Zero Tolerance Lifetime Ban for steroid use as we have for our open athletes.

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