BARCELONA — The Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission performed a mere 106 anti-doping tests in all of 2012, according to statistics made public Tuesday by the World Anti-Doping Agency in a wide-ranging report that illuminates both the challenges and progress in the global anti-doping campaign.
Of the 106, 68 were performed out-of-competition; 38 were taken at meets. The 106 tests caught no one cheating.
Compare the Jamaican number — 106 — to the number of tests performed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in 2012: 4,051. Or the Russian National Anti-Doping Organization: 15,854. The Chinese: 10,066. German: 8,077. Italian: 6,794. British: 5,971. Australian: 5,186. Japanese: 4,956. Indian: 4,051.
Jamaica’s 106 tests were five more than Malta, two more than Slovenia and nine fewer than Iceland. The anti-doping agency in Iran performed 75 more tests than the Jamaicans.
Now ask: who is making a serious effort in trying to catch sports dopers?
The 2012 WADA report for the first time amounts to a one-stop shop. In previous years, there were two separate reports — one for the WADA-accredited labs, another for the various national anti-doping organizations. The report collects the numbers from both sources into one document.
Further, it collects the lab and anti-doping organization data for blood tests, urine tests and the so-called “athlete biological passport” samples.
The report is filled with fascinating, compelling facts and figures.
For instance, the return rate in Olympic sports — as it has been for years — for what is called an “adverse analytical finding,” meaning a positive test, is right around 1 percent.
Considering only the samples that cycling’s governing body, the International Cycling Union, which goes by the acronym UCI, submitted for its riders last year, blood and urine, in and out of competition — the return rate was, predictably, 1.1 percent, 84 of 5,633 in-competition and 11 of 3,307 out-of-competition, 95 over 8,940 total.
Track and field’s return rate, again considering only those samples submitted by the federation: 0.7 percent.
Aquatic sports: 0.9 percent.
The Olympic federations with serious challenges — far more than cycling and track, which are widely perceived to be plagued by doping issues?
Weightlifting, with a return rate on 1,815 samples of 4.2 percent.
Curling, believe it or not — with four out-of-competition positives out of 96 total samples, again for a return rate of 4.2 percent.
And the Olympic federation facing the most serious challenge? Equestrian. Five in-competition positives from 65 overall samples, for a rate of 7.7 percent.
Overall, there were 20,624 cycling samples analyzed in 2012; 27,836 in track and field; 13,069 in swimming; and, to the surprise of some who might believe cycling is by far the most aggressively policed sport, 28,008 in soccer.
No names or nationalities are attached to the figures.
The obvious question: what are all those tests proving?
The public wants the tests to do what they simply can’t do — show to some level of satisfaction that athletes are clean. But, as the report makes clear, it’s another test produces far more vivid results.
It’s called the carbon-isotope test. With it, the numbers change dramatically.
The IAAF, track and field’s governing body, for instance, authorized 97 such cutting-edge tests last year; 35 were out-of-competition and turned up no positives; 62 were done in-meet, when ordinary tests would likely turn up nothing; nine of the 62 came back positive.
Using the carbon-isotope test raised the return rate in track and field to 5.75 percent overall, 34 of 591 cases, and to 4.97 percent in cycling, 27 of 543.
An even more compelling example of the use of the carbon-isotope test:
The Thai Weightlifting Federation performed an out-of-competition test on 26 weightlifters; 25, or 96.2 percent, came back positive, according to the WADA report.
If carbon-isotope testing produces “better” results, the fact is it’s also expensive.
As the carbon-isotope numbers underscore, it is only the allocation of more money that would provide the level of assurance in a level playing field — particularly in the aftermath of the Lance Armstrong matter — that many assert they want in today’s sports environment.
Where, though, would such funding come from? WADA is funded both from sport, largely meaning the International Olympic Committee, and from governments around the world. In an era of tight budgets, are governments likely — or not — to see funding for doping controls as a pressing priority?
Until then, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
It has for years been common knowledge that the blood-booster erythropoietin, or EPO, would be sought after by cyclists, long-distance runners, cross-country skiers — or, for that matter, any athlete seeking a competitive edge.
So, for instance, the IAAF in 2012 authorized 1,392 EPO tests, in and out of competition. The tests caught no one.
The Russian national doping organization performed 3,063 EPO tests. Positives? None.
The UCI instituted 1,137 tests in competition, catching six, and 3,117 out of competition, catching three. In all, 4,254 tests for a return rate of 0.21 percent.
In the meantime, also sure to add to the debate, as the IOC prepares in the coming weeks to nominate one of three candidates to the WADA presidency — former hurdles great Edwin Moses, IOC vice president Craig Reedie or former IOC medical director Patrick Schamasch — there’s this:
Worldwide, labs analyzed roughly 185,000 samples from athletes across all the Olympic sports in 2012. There turned up a total of 4,500 “adverse analytical findings” as well as “atypical findings,” meaning a case that requires further investigation, for a combined rate of 2.4 percent.
Of those 4,500, 2,279, or 50.6 percent, were for anabolic steroids, topping the list.
Next: stimulants, 697, 15.5 percent.
Next, and this is why there is such discussion about whether it ought to be on the list in the first instance as a performance-enhancer, cannabinoids, meaning marijuana, 406, 9 percent.
At a meeting May 11, WADA’s executive committee announced that effective immediately it was significantly raising the threshold required for an athlete to test positive.