Jul 1 2009
If you had been unceremoniously dumped from your team for “abnormal blood values”, and knew that any samples you had given any dope tester over the past 8 years could be rescrutinized ad infinitum, why on Earth would you ever stop doping?
Thomas Dekker’s lousy performances this season might just indicate that the cessation of his contract last summer had scared him straight. A positive test from late December doesn’t exactly feel like a righteous kill—especially given his absence at the Tour Down Under, essentially the only event at which this particular incident of malfeasance could have benefited him.
The WADA code is very clear. Dekker knew the rules going in, broke them (B sample pending), and deserves to be punished accordingly. But the likely length of his sentence—two years—barely exceeds the age of his positive test. Not only will this bring up questions on the technical reliability of old samples, but it also displays a pretty serious potential for abuse: WADA could simply sit on off-season positives, or positive tests from developing riders, and then spring them to engineer high-profile dope positives before big events.
I don’t oppose retroactive dope testing in general, but doping itself is generally prosecuted as “sporting fraud”. In Massachusetts, at least, the statute of limitations for a fraud offense is only three years. You could invoke the discovery clause, but the counter-argument is that the doped performances might have been obvious at the time. And lord only knows what would happen if WADA decides a few years down the line that something that’s illegal now shouldn’t be.
8 years, the longest suspension I’ve ever heard of someone receiving, feels like an over-extension, especially given the explosion of high-profile dope convictions over the past 4 years. A two-year window of retroactive testing, with third-party notarization of dates detected, seems both less prone to abuse and more likely to reform current dopers. Positive re-samples older than 2 years could be considered as a first offense, should a second violation come up.