USATF announces "Zero Tolerance" anti-doping plan
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Chief Public Affairs Officer
USA Track & Field
INDIANAPOLIS – USA Track & Field President Bill Roe and CEO Craig Masback on Wednesday unveiled a major new USATF action plan in the anti-doping movement, called “Zero Tolerance.”
Developed by combining existing programs and USATF priorities with ambitious new initiatives, “Zero Tolerance” focuses on three goals: increasing efforts to catch and punish cheaters; expanding educational efforts and focusing the message on the theme that cheating is wrong and cheaters will be caught; and taking a more visible role on these issues.
With its emphasis on “significant, substantive action steps,” the plan specifically addresses issues in the anti-doping movement that have been writ large, particularly in recent weeks and months.
Among the initiatives being launched by USATF as part of the plan are:
A substantially increased set of punishments and fines for athletes who cheat and their coaches. This could include lifetime bans for first steroid offenses and fines up to $100,000 for steroid convictions.
Implement a groundbreaking effort to proactively root out cheaters. This program will encourage whistle blowing and ask former cheaters to tell us how they did it so we may share this information with testing authorities.
Create an elite athlete outreach program focused on anti-doping messaging. Utilize Golden Spike Tour community outreach programs and USATF youth events to introduce the “Zero Tolerance” program to other elite athletes, young people and college athletes.
Call for an emergency drugs in sports summit in Washington, D.C. USATF has called for a summit of major U.S. sports leagues and proposed the meeting be hosted by the Drug Czar’s office.
Engage the IAAF on the issue. Urge the IAAF to enforce its own rules requiring all IAAF member countries to conduct out-of-competition testing. Masback and Roe developed the plan in concert with the USATF Board of Directors, which met October 18-19 in Cleveland. The full text of the plan is attached.
An audio replay of the teleconference is also available.
MEMORANDUM TO THE “ZERO TOLERANCE” WORKING GROUP
Re: Action Plan This memo is intended to outline our “Zero Tolerance” action plan for dealing with the events of last week. It will be the basis for the identification of specific, substantive action steps to address the challenges facing our sport and the information that will be utilized to formulate our public relations plans for the short and long term. This plan was developed in consultation with the USA Track & Field Board of Directors, which has approved its contents. BACKGROUND In brief, the USOC, international Olympic community, media, and general public believe that the sport of track and field in the United States and around the world is infected by performance enhancing drugs. It doesn’t matter whether that view is fair or true – in this case, perception absolutely trumps reality. And, while we do not know for sure how pervasive the drug problem is, no one can deny that there is a problem.
USA Track & Field is at a crossroads. Those of us charged with leading the organization have an opportunity and responsibility to take swift and comprehensive action to address this problem. The cost of creating and implementing an effective program will be high. To the extent that we succeed by catching more cheaters, the short term pain will be significant. But, there is no responsible choice other than to follow this course of action.
Below I list our anti-doping action plan, called preliminarily “Zero Tolerance.” It is targeted at building on our existing anti-doping efforts to achieve three broad objectives: (1) increase efforts to catch cheating athletes and coaches and the lab gurus who supply them; (2) expand our existing educational efforts so that fewer athletes and coaches will make bad choices; and (3) take a more visible role on this issue at all levels with the public, USOC, USADA, IAAF, and Federal Government. The plan will change and grow as new ideas come in and alliances are formed.
By admitting that we have a problem and taking strong action to address it, we can start a journey that will quickly take our sport back to the point where its credibility and the public appreciation of our athletes’ performances will grow and flourish.
“ZERO TOLERANCE” – ACTION PLAN
1. INCREASE EFFORTS TO CATCH AND PUNISH CHEATERS
USA Track & Field will expand its efforts to catch cheating athletes and coaches and those that supply them. This effort will take many forms and will be incremental to our existing efforts in this area. It represents the most direct and effective means of creating the level playing field we all seek. This is a tough and aggressive course of action -- as we know from the last 14 years, catching drug cheats itself creates in the public’s mind the notion that a sport “has a drug problem” (and the flip side is true – sports that don’t test “have no drug problem”). Unfair as that may be, this is our only way out of our current problem and we must choose this route.
Among the elements of the Zero Tolerance action plan are:
· Increase the number of tests. We have written and requested that all testing authorities (USADA, WADA, IAAF) increase significantly the number of out-of-competition tests administered to our athletes. While our athletes are already the most tested athletes in the world (many of them are tested 10 or more times a year), we must protect their reputations and those of our sport by having the testing authorities increase the frequency of testing.
Note: USA Track & Field athletes are among the most tested athletes of any sport or sports team in the world. We expect our athletes to be tested more than 1300 times by USADA in 2003, a 20% increase over 2001, with more than 50% of those tests expected to be conducted out-of-competition (compared to 21% in 2001 – the number of out-of-competition tests has tripled between 2001 and 2003). In addition, athletes are subject to IAAF and WADA testing. In 2002, USATF athletes were tested 414 times by the IAAF (377) and WADA (37), with 67% of those tests being conducted out-of-competition.
· Create and implement a “whistle-blower” program. Based on the success of USADA’s efforts to take a tip from a track coach, isolate a substance, and catch a group of athletes and their supplier, we must make it easier for athletes and coaches to report the existence of drugs, cheaters, and those who supply them. We have done this by establishing a hotline # -- 1-866-809-8104. Athletes, coaches, and members of the public can contact this number to report information in confidence. All information collected will be shared with USADA. We urge the USOC and USADA to set up similar numbers.
· Hire a private investigator. USA Track & Field has written to the USOC and USADA and urged them to hire a private investigator who would get inside our sport and other Olympic sports and develop intelligence concerning who is cheating, how they are cheating, and who is supplying them. This could include attempts by the investigator to obtain so-called “designer” steroids” and pass them along to USADA and other testing authorities. The investigator should also cooperate with counterparts at the professional sports leagues and with governmental authorities in circumstances where the distribution of the substances is contrary to Federal and/or state laws. We believe that this is best approached on a multi-sport basis, but will explore launching this initiative ourselves if neither the USOC nor USADA go forward with it.
· Organize Zero Tolerance Anti-Cheating Seminars. USA Track & Field is moving forward with plans to work with other NGBs to hold seminars aimed at collecting information from former cheaters who are willing to identify how they cheated or facilitated cheaters. All information collected will be shared with USADA.
· Increase Penalties for athletes found guilty. USA Track & Field will explore the legality under the Amateur Sports Act of increasing the penalties for athletes convicted of doping violations. This could include lifetime bans for first steroid offenses.
· Impose fines against athletes found guilty. In addition to any warnings or suspensions imposed by USATF and IAAF rules, USATF will launch a program to fine guilty athletes. Those convicted of stimulant positives will be fined up to $10,000. Those convicted of offenses involving a two-year ban (including, for example, steroids or amphetamines) will be fined up to $100,000. All fines collected will be used for anti-doping research, education, and investigation.
· Punish Coaches of athletes found guilty. USA Track & Field will create a program to ban the coaches of athletes who test positive from our sport. In addition, the coaches will be fined up to $100,000, will not be eligible to be the coach of a U.S. Team, and will not be eligible for any USATF benefits.
The vast majority of our athletes and coaches are living by the rules and achieving results honestly and fairly. We owe it to those athletes to make every effort to get the cheats out of our sport so that the clean athletes can receive the respect and admiration they deserve. Given the vote of support from the USATF Board, most of the initiatives above can be implemented immediately though some will require USATF Bylaws changes (which can enacted as early as December).
2. EXPAND USATF EDUCATIONAL EFFORTS
USATF already has one of the leading anti-doping educational programs of any sports governing body. Beginning with our Junior Olympics, athletes receive anti-doping information. However, whatever we are doing must be expanded and improved as there are clearly too many athletes and coaches who are not listening to what we are telling them.
We must send regular, clear, and consistent messages to athletes and coaches that drug use is morally and ethically wrong, dangerous for their health, and ruinous to our sport. We must make it clear that we will not stop our anti-doping efforts until we have caught the last cheater – no matter how smart they think they are, they will be caught.
Among the elements of the Zero Tolerance action plan are:
· Create an elite athlete outreach program focused on anti-doping messaging. Utilize Golden Spike Tour community outreach programs and USATF youth events to introduce USATF zero tolerance program message via presentations by USATF elite athletes present and past.
· Establish a monthly anti-doping newsletter sent to our 2,000 leading athletes, coaches, and agents. This newsletter will be incorporated into Elite Beat (our elite athlete magazine) for six of the twelve months. In addition, we will expand anti-doping section of USATF Elite Athlete Handbook.
· Launch joint ventures with in-sport publications that will put anti-drug information and messaging in each one on a monthly basis. Our goal should be to reach all post-collegiate athletes, the 100,000 collegiate athletes, the four million participants age 18 and younger, and America’s 65,000 track and field coaches. We should look for web-based opportunities for distributing this information as well.
· Expand the number and reach of our anti-doping seminars with athletes. Continue and expand existing elite athlete anti-doping seminars, including our Annual Meeting and Rookie Camp seminars. Establish a seminar program tailored for younger athletes, particularly our 8-18 year old Junior Olympics participants and their club coaches.
· Send anti-doping information directly to youth clubs and distribute it via USATF’s 57 local associations. Initiate an anti-doping poster program aimed at youth clubs. Make an anti-doping education segment a key element of the new Club Handbook.
· Expand the existing anti-doping curriculum in our Coaching Education program.
In addition to expanding the reach and regularity of our anti-drug messaging, we need to seek the help of experts to make sure that we maximize the impact of these opportunities. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP – The Drug Czar) has spent considerable resources to figure out what kind of anti-drug messaging works and we should solicit their assistance in crafting the content of our publications and curricula. As noted below, we should look to partner with relevant federal and state agencies whenever possible to expand the reach of our educational efforts.
3. TAKE A MORE VISIBLE ROLE ON THESE ISSUES
In addition to taking the aggressive, substantive action outlined above, we must increase USA Track & Field’s profile in the overall anti-doping effort. We should not do this merely for public relations reasons – we must be present whenever and wherever these issues are discussed to lend others our hard won expertise and learn what we can do better to address our problem.
Among the elements of the zero tolerance action plan are:
· Issue a call for an emergency drugs in sports summit in Washington, D.C. -- to be held in the next two weeks. USA Track & Field has issued a call for a summit among the major sports leagues and organizations to take place in the next two weeks. The unfolding Balco scandal is not a track, baseball, or football issue, it is an issue facing the entire American sports and social scene involving the distribution of illegal substances, adulteration and non-regulation of supplements, and the actions of lab gurus to prey on unsuspecting athletes and coaches across America. We have asked the Drug Czar’s office to host the meeting.
· Create anti-drug Public Service Announcements (PSAs) utilizing our athletes and coaches. Run those PSAs on our 12 USATF-owned television shows and seek placement of the PSAs via other outlets. Focus on the message that track and field tests more than any other sport, that using drugs is cheating, and that in track cheaters get caught and are banned from our sport. Work with NBC and the “Road to Athens” producers to include anti-drug messaging in their programming/advertising lineups.
· Lobby Congress to regulate food supplements and the Federal Government to get serious about catching steroid traffickers (including via H.R. 207). Our existing support for CASPER (the Coalition for Anabolic Steroid Precursor and Ephedra Regulation) is the right kind of action to take, but we must mobilize our grass roots power to speak out to public officials on these issues.
· Engage the IAAF on the drug issue in a positive and productive way. We must urge the IAAF to enforce its own rules requiring all IAAF member countries to conduct out-of-competition testing. The IAAF has said that fewer than 30 countries conduct random, unannounced, out-of-competition testing. With more than 40 IAAF countries winning medals (and more than half of the top medal-winning countries doing no out-of-competition testing), we cannot allow our athletes to be subject to a stringent anti-doping regime while their international competitors face no domestic testing at all. We must also propose as a matter of urgency that the IAAF increase the penalties for doping convictions.
· Focus on international and domestic relationship building. USATF has been ineffective at developing and implementing both an international relations plan and a plan for pushing its agenda at the USOC. Fundamental to the push for an effective, worldwide anti-doping plan will be initiating and strengthening political ties at both the IAAF and USOC.
· Work with other NGBs to share ideas and best practices and look for ways to improve our mutual anti-doping efforts. Seven other NGBs have had athletes sanctioned for doping violations in 2003 including USA Swimming (5) and USA Cycling (4). Sharing experiences and expertise with those large and well-organized NGBs can help us attack the doping problem more effectively.
· Publish negative test results. More than 99% of the tests administered to U.S. track athletes did NOT result in positive lab results in 2002. The only way to protect the vast majority of athletes who are innocent is to publish their names and the statistics related to their negative tests. This information is already partially available on the USADA website (the USADA site does not include IAAF and WADA test results), but we should look to publicize this information as well.
· Utilize our website and other communications tools to emphasize our zero tolerance message.
CONCLUSIONS We have a historic opportunity and mandate to take significant action to address an issue of great importance to our sport and America. We must take dramatic action to put this program into place immediately so that it can be effective prior to the Olympics. But, our commitment to it must be long term, with a goal of rebuilding our credibility in this area so that by 2008 we will be recognized as a world leader on this issue.