OK, so you're a big cheater now what?

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So, you're a famous athlete in a sport with a big doping problem. Like a lot of other athletes, you've decided that a little testosterone might improve your performance. Unfortunately, the T/E ratio on your A sample has just come back positive, which isn't a good sign. Actually getting censured is a multistage, so, what can you do in the meantime? Your general strategic options look something like this:
  1. Admit guilt.
  2. Claim experimental error and that the B sample test will vindicate you.
  3. Claim that yes, you have a very high testosterone level but it's endogenous and that the isotope test will clear you (similar arguments are possible for EPO).
  4. Claim that the tests are inherently bogus.
  5. Admit that the testosterone levels are high and exogenous, but that you have no idea how it happened.

For what it's worth Floyd Landis's defense was roughly #3.

So, what's your best strategy? #2 and #3 only make sense if you actually expect the tests to clear you. Otherwise, you end up with shifting rationales and this makes you look guilty. If you know you're doping, it seems pretty unlikely that the A sample result is experimental error, so it's also pretty likely that the B sample will come up with high testosterone levels. So, this rules out #2. #3 is not a bad choice, since as I understand it the isotope test isn't that reliable and you might get lucky and happen to be consuming foods with an isotope ratio not that different from the one in the testosterone you were taking.

On the other hand, you might get unlucky and then you either end up having to fall back to #4 or #5. At some level these are variants of the same strategy: "I know i'm not a cheater so something else must be wrong." On the other hand, they have different objectives: #4 is targeted at your public image, since you're claiming that you actually earned your results and that the tests are wrong. #5 is targeted mostly at getting off, since after all you were doping, you just didn't do it intentionally, so you can't be blamed for it--but you didn't earn your results. This might earn you a lighter suspension, I suppose.

And of course admitting guilt is always an option, but one that's best done right away, without further denials, since otherwise you look like both a cheat and a liar....


4 is your best bet... FL should have showed up at the lab with a skeptical scientist, not a lawyer. There are a lot of systems to get right in the measurements so they better have their ducks in a row.

Next is 5. It doesn't imply you didn't earn your results -- they handed you a bottle of tainted water after the stage, or a malevolent technician poisoned the sample.

And 6: You took a heretofore unpublicized drug that causes you to increase your own testosterone level. Legal at the moment, but it does diminish your achievement, so you're not anxious to get that explanation out there.

Isn't there some runner who's camp is trying #5, blaming the masseuse for using a testosterone containing massage cream?

Attacking the tests as bogus, specifically the isotope test, might be the best, as the isotope test seems to rely on your diet for the background being the same as the diet for the testosterone, which isn't the case if they have different retention times.

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