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    19th January 2014

    Letter to ESPN’s Tim Keown regarding Doping Penalties…

    Tim Keown wrote this article about Bud Selig’s legacy with regard to drug use in Major League Baseball. I don’t know why I ended up writing such a lengthy letter about it, but here it is:

    Dear Mr. Keown,

    You said in your article about Bud Selig that, “There is, however, no debating one point: Baseball has the toughest doping penalties of any sport.” My understanding of baseball’s doping penalties are that there are lesser penalties for “failure to comply”, and then they go to a 50 game ban for the first positive test and 100 games for a second offense.

    Do you know about the doping penalties for other sports or are you just guessing that baseball has the toughest? Are you judging based on the number of games missed or the percentage of the season missed? Or by money missed out on by players who serve penalties? Or did you mean baseball has the toughest penalties of the big four North American sports leagues?

    Athletes in Olympic sports are governed by the World Anti-Doping Agency – any idea what the penalty is for a first time offense? It was two years, but starting this year it’s four years for a first violation, so athletes who test positive will be kept out of competition for at least one Olympic cycle (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/more/news/20131115/wada-doping-penalty-doubled-four-years-olympics.ap/).

    Track and Field (and road racing), Cycling, and Tennis also follow the WADA Code. UEFA and FIFA are also working together with WADA. You don’t think it would be a big deal for Usain Bolt, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Cristiano Ronaldo, or Messi to miss 2-4 years? And a four year ban could essentially ruin an little-known Olympic athlete in a less popular sport like Nordic (XC) skiing. A four year doping penalty would mean loss of sponsors and income from prize money or appearances – for an athlete that likely wouldn’t be able to afford a team of ace lawyers to work through the appeals process (as A-Rod easily could).

    Under WADA rules, those athletes have to make themselves available for testing every single day, all year around, in some cases for an unlimited number of blood and urine samples. We’ve seen that individuals have been able to beat testing in the past (Lance Armstrong and his posse), but with the use of biological passports, and WADA rules that allow samples to be stored 10 years for retroactive testing, I believe that these sports really are making progress in their fight to change the win-at-all-costs mentality. I believe there will still be individuals that will try to cheat, but I’m optimistic things will get better. Maybe I’m being naive, but I’d rather be naive than cynical and jaded.

    Daryl Holmlund
    Teacher, John Muir Charter School
    Long Beach, CA
    dholmlund@johnmuircs.com

    Copyright 2005 by Daryl Holmlund - All rights reserved.