Wednesday 22 May 2019

USADA chief defends use of plea bargaining

Travis Tygart, Chief Executive Officer, US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) speaking at an Anti Doping Information Day
Travis Tygart, Chief Executive Officer, US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) speaking at an Anti Doping Information Day

Cliona Foley

The man who brought down Lance Armstrong told Irish sports leaders yesterday that ‘plea bargaining’ deals are the key to eliminating the scourge of drugs in sport.

Travis Tygart, the chief executive of America’s anti-doping agency, confirmed that USADA was willing to give Armstrong just a six-month ban if he would come clean and dish the dirt on others, an offer he flatly rejected.

USADA has since been heavily criticised for commuting sprinter Tyson Gay’s ban to just a year for information he provided them.

“I appreciate the concern but decisions based on a strategy of holding distributors accountable is the only way we’re truly going to change the culture of a sport, as opposed to just penalising individual athletes when they’re dumb enough to get caught,” Tygart said.

“The best source of evidence is an athlete who has tested positive,” he said.

“We firmly believe everything Gay told us and felt, under rules, that it justified the reduction that he got.”

Tygart also pointed out that Gay’s co-operation cost him an Olympic silver medal which he would not otherwise have relinquished if he had simply served his full ban.

Tygart was the Irish Sports Council’s (ISC) guest speaker when it outlined the new World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) guidelines for 2015-plus.

As well as increasing minimum bans from two to four years these crucially include new ‘complicity’ and ‘prohibited association’ rules.

Athletes who are found to be working with coaches/doctors/managers who have proven doping violations will receive written warnings which, if they ignore, will result in suspension.

The Sports Council has just appointed one of its staff to specialise in ‘intelligence’ gathering about suspected dopers, and it is also considering setting up a dedicated phone-line for whistleblowers.

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