Anti-doping – can I see your passport, please?

Having the 2012 Olympics in London ahead there is a number of discussions coming up again. And there is one topic I would like to focus on today. My blog mate Alina touched in her “I will keep pushing you” blogpost already on the topic of doping. And I found something really interesting regarding doping and a new technology of tracking drugs in blood and urine.

The Biological Passport

In fact this technology is not a new technology itself (as they are still testing blood and urine for drugs) rather the process is new. Usually, urine is tested a single time on common drugs like EPO or the level of haemoglobin and blood reticulocyte is tested. If the levels vary too much from “normal” values the tested sample will be considered “manipulated/positive“.

And here starts the conflict. Because athletes will claim, that they are suffering some mysterious disease and that is why their haemoglobin or reticulocyte levels are above average.

So, what the “Biological Passport” does is that data of biomarker levels in the blood are collected on a regular bases in order to figure out the average level of the different biomarkers of each individual. And if there are bigger changes found beyond the individual margin, this will be considered clear evidence to the cheating of the athlete. No excuses no more.

Sustainability 

Deepak states in his blog that with the introduction of the passport in 2008 the number of tests with results beyond marginal values has dropped to only 4% (compared to 10% in 2007 and 14% in 2001). Obviously, this test is great success, however Deepak adds, its reliability is denoted 99.9% which implies that out of 1000 samples 1 will be wrongly tested “positive”.

Critics

Apparently there is ways to outwit the passport test as well. For example by employing micro doses of illegal substances it is possible to constantly remain within individual substance boundaries and the test will never state “positive” although drugs have been consumed, Grannygear objects.

Moreover, Grannygear argues that rider’s blood markers naturally change over the time of their career due to improvement in their performance and natural progression as athletes. And it is not clear whether this is accounted for in the biological passport programme or not.

Cervelo Co-Founder Vroomen states in his blog that he has not heard of riders being tested for the biological password between the end of the Tour de France 2010 tour and April 2011. He is wondering about the interval of the samples to be taken and a possible decrease once profiles are established.

Vroomen claims that for athletes the deterrent is not the fact that there exist those individual profiles but that there are constantly samples taken that keep track of changes and so would prove doping. (but if there are no tests on a regular bases, the are no reference values available)

Furthermore, Deepak and Vroomen talk about the cost of this technology. On the one hand the programme lacks transparency as athletes have not full access to their data. Which leads to defending biological passport cases in court which is quite expensive. (wouldn’t it be easy to avoid those cases by simply making it more transparent?)

And on the other hand the high cost of the programme inhibits the spread of usage. Deepak explains that an average laboratory test is about $400. Athlete Marion Jones was tested 160 times in her career which adds up to $64,000 for a single athlete. The UCI (International Cycling Union) spent about $8 million on anti-doping in 2007, which was 50% of their budget, he continues.

And if we then add the money spent on lawsuit in court there is not a lot of money left for further research and improvement of the passport.

Defending the biological passport

In response to Vroomen’s post the UCI gave a counter statement citing evidence to refute Vroomen’s unsupported claims.

In order to do so they provide statistics that “clearly demonstrate” that Vroomen’s allegations were incorrect.

General statistics for Blood Passport Tests only (excluding urine tests and Tour de France 2010) from July 1st 2010 until April 30th 2011 (period referred to by Mr. Vroomen):


2010: 1074


2011: 1577

This includes out-of-competition controls, pre-competition and in-competition controls on all major events during this period and team training camps.

Teams:


CERVELO
 01.07.2010 – 31.12.2010: 45

GARMIN(-CERVELO)
 01.07.2010 – 30.04.2011: 68

The UCI considers Vroomen’s comments ’’unacceptable given the years of research and investment in this area“.

Good anti-doping test but poor publicity ?

I find it very interesting to see such a sensitive reaction to this one blog post. I am wondering about the reasons.

This new technology is recognized by international experts and it has become a reference used internationally, as stated by UCI on pedalmag.com. And there are people like grannygear that really see the value in the technology. It helped the cycling sport to not continue being ill-reputed due to the high number of athletes using drugs.

But it remains the question of the future development. There has already emerged the discussion about introducing it to more sports like swimming as there have been recently more drug abuse cases than before. But I haven’t heard of any action taken.

Why is it so difficult to spread the use of  biological passport? Wouldn’t the different sports gain better reputation if viewers/ fans would know that their idols are not cheating? To me, this test seems like it provides a better result for the individual athlete. Personal data is compared to each other and it is not one fixed value that is always referred to for every athlete.

So, where does actually lie the problem of further implementation? Legal obstacles? Financial obstacles?

Are you convinced? Would you vote for it if there were democratic elections for it?

Shorts not Skirts!!

What do you see when you turn on the TV? In Germany it would likely be soccer, in the USA football, baseball, or basketball, and in the UK rugby. Every nation has its own favorite traditional sport, which of course is a good thing. But now, who do you usually see playing these kinds of sport, men or women? Yes, usually it’s men that have the greater media attention. Now, I am neither a feminist nor the contrary, but I thought that this is an interesting fact to investigate. We have heard a lot about marketing and commercialization of sport from my fellow blogger Mirja, and I would like to extend that to the issue of gender equality. (more…)

All that glitters is not gold

Today, I do not know if I will write a post that is linked to sports, because there is a topic that is really striking me and I am totally keen on writing about it.

Marketing – why always marketing?

We are always talking about Marketing and Social Networking even on our blog. Mirja does it, Alina does it and I do it as well. We were always referring to products and services, because Marketing is crucial to generate sales and run a business, like Alina pointed out in her blog post about Costumer -Relationship-Management. Marketing is necessary to be successful and this also applies to Self-marketing. (more…)

Technologies? No, thanks. It’s a matter of time

In my Human eye vs. “Hawk-Eye” post last week I gave an example of a technology that is used in tennis when there is doubt about a ball having dropped down on the line or outside the field. It will provide us with an animated video showing with a 3-6mm accuracy where the ball hit the ground. (more…)

I will keep pushing you!

Right, this time I found my topic quite differently than the others. Sports, what am I going to write about this time? I then opened a browser and typed in ‘Sports’ and you know what caught my attention first? This sentence on a blog :

‘Today it is increasingly common for people to seek options that will give them an adrenaline rush, no matter the age, sex, size, race or social status, there is room for everyone when it comes to enjoying emotions, adventure and experiences for a lifetime.’

We all know it

Mirja experiences it at several championships, Julia while going out running. Anika feels it during a game and Anne while riding a horse, jumping over a hazard. According to Omron Healthcare our ancestors needed adrenaline to react quickly in a dangerous situation. Nowadays we naturally do not move as much as our ancestors so consequently we need sports to reduce the extra energy which is provided in our bodies.

Side effects

Beast begins with the questions whether extreme athletes are just over-caffeinated adrenaline junkies living life on the edge with no fear and no regard for their own health. Supporting this idea, Benjamin Klaile is of the assumption that in sports such as cycling and athletics doping by using Betablocker to reduce the adrenaline rush is totally common. Doping Doctor Fuentes argues that high performance sport has become a circus where the athlete’s health is subordinated. At this point I would like to ask you if you think that sports business is in a way manipulated by doping or if you still enjoy watching for instance la Tour de France without any hidden agendas.

Business + Adrenaline .. Any connection?

As already mentioned some people just love an ‘adrenaline kick’. That’s what has been found out and used. ‘Marketing is all about manipulation’, a professor from the HWR just recently told me when we were talking about what I would like to do in the future. People used this addiction to provide several opportunities in order to get those ‘adrenaline kicks’. Kohale literally fancies the rush racing games convey. Well,  I would much rather prefer to go running, but that’s in the eye of the beholder now, isn’t it? 🙂

Apps for horseback riding?

A few days ago I scrolled through our blog and stumbled over Julia’s post about the Nike app that enhances your running experience. I thought that this was a very neat invention and wondered if there is something similar for my type of sport. And yes, there is!!!

(more…)

Social Networks in Sport

While I was busy researching my next blog post about branding in sport I fell over so many discussions about social networks and sport, that I decided to dedicate an own post to that topic and to squeeze in a post about the impact of social networks on sports first.

I would like to refer to Alina’s Blogpost “Social Platforms and Sport” as she introduces the topic Social Networks in Sport, which is a great base for my following blogpost.

Emotionalizing the Sport is the Main Issue

According to Daniel Rehn, in his Blog sportmanager.de, the objective of Social Networks in Sport is to make the athletes and teams reachable, emotionalize and create a familiar atmosphere.

That is the main objective of Social Media; to include the fans into the daily activities of the team and make them feel like they are a part of the team.

Fans are the most important thing for every sport, so the athletes have to attract the fans and give something back to them; an insight into their life, how they train and what motivates them. But embracing themselves can also lead to scandals and of course involvement by the athletes leads to involvement by the fans, not everybody can cope with it. Staying authentic, differentiating oneself from others and staying interesting turns into a game, is said in Daniel Rehn’s post “Die Vier am Eck – Gedanken zu Social Media und Sport #16”.

So the main question, according to Andy Pawlowski, should be: “What is it that we see and hear that we can offer to others so that they connect with us and feel what we feel, even when they aren’t physically with us?”

An astonishing Example

One case really astonished me and gave an insight on how far social media are influencing sport already. According to Daniel Rehn, a mexican first league soccer team replaced the names of their players with their twitter nicknames. Another example is FC Valencia that replaced the logo of a missing sponsor with their Twitter Channel.

Who runs the world?

As I promised last time in my “getting prepared blog” today I will concentrate on the big competition in sports apparel market between the two giants Nike and Adidas. As you might remember I acquired this topic due to the implementation of a new football shoe that led me to a lot of questions. (more…)

Human eye vs. “Hawk-Eye”

When we started blogging, annehwr already introduced us to the topic of “the role of technologies being used in sports”. In her post she was also referring to the so called “Hawk-Eye” technology and she touched the debate on whether it is a good tool to be used or not.

Being a tennis player, sometimes I of course watch tennis matches and I follow the big tournaments broadcasted on television. But today I will not talk about the players and their play but about a very helpful tool used during first-elite level matches.

Pressure

Over the last decades, tennis sport has experienced a certain development: the equipment has changed, racquets are made from different materials than before and today there are played courts of artificial surfaces.  This all led to a faster play in general. Along with that there have emerged several cases of officials’ line calling that stirred up controversy. So, there has been increasing pressure from all different parts to adopt a system that will give assistance in line-calling.

Today I will give you the “tennis view” on the “Hawk-Eye” technology and in my next post I will give you a debate and an example of a sport that is not benefitting yet from such technology.

What is “Hawk-Eye” ?

Just to give you a quick understandable explanation: “Hawk-Eye” is a line calling system that works with high-speed cameras placed around the court. This system is recording from different angles the balls’ trajectory and can so compute a 3D image of the ball and the spot where it hit the ground.

It is not only about “in” or ‘’out’’

Jason Tsang writes in his blog about the additional use of the “Hawk-Eye” system apart from preventing the umpire of wrong line calls. He states that this tracking system also allows for statistics that can be also shown to the audience. Further he argues that even the players could benefit during the match from the stats displayed as they could adjust their play.

Opponents

Nevertheless, there are doubters of this technology. Most famous person in this context could be Roger Federer being cited: “A pure waste of money.”

It is to mention that according to Jason the system costs approximately $20,000 to $25,000 USD per week for one court.

Bloggers Anonymous and Geoff are challenging the accuracy of the technology as they are wondering about the balls’ compression and skid and the images proportionality. They claim that the images look as though the ball’s entire diameter always comes in contact with the court (as we can see a perfectly round and quite large imprint of the ball).

Jeff Walker adds that the “Hawk-Eye” system takes out the emotion of a match. He says that if we have had replay back then we would have never seen legendary tirades of players against umpires. He declares that this was definitely more entertaining than a computer spitting out a result.

Proponents

But there are a lot of people who are in favor of  “Hawk-Eye”. Jamea Jackson stated that she feels relieved as she is not wasting any more time on getting angry about wrong umpire decisions (and while being angry loosing points). And she disagreed on peoples’ opinion that the system throwing off the timing and the rhythm of the match.

So, to sum it up I think that James Blake gave a good statement on the use of the system as he argued that the speed of the ball sometimes just makes it impossible to see, even for trained people and that a simple replay can eliminate human error.

Obviously it is a good tool but just like Anonymous observes that the system is mostly only used on the center court (the ONE main court of a tournament) it advantages (only) top players as they can challenge line-calls in order to find out if the ball was in or out. I think there must be found a solution for the cost issue, otherwise this technology will instead of gaining representative value, loose it. All players competing in the same tournament should be given access to the same tools.

Alina and Blogging: A tricky relationship

The three question marks in my head

First of all, I was really scared of writing a blogpost as I was never confronted with that topic before. How should a good blogpost look like? What about the content? All about IT or could I refer only to sports? Should I choose a professional or rather personal writing style? To get an idea of how good blogposts are constructed I read through some on the internet and now knew what blogging was all about: provide the reader with information about a certain topic in an interesting way.

An idea does not fall from a tree

Now it was required to think of a topic that relates sports and IT. My help up until now has always been keeping the task in my head. During my daily life I literally bumped into potential topics. In all of my posts I then described how I came up with the idea.

Gathering information

After having the base of a blogpost, information needed to be collected. I did this by initially looking through though several websites to gain professional information on the topic. My following step, when the a framework was established, was to read through other blogposts which I found on Google Blogs. At this point I have to admit that it was sometimes pretty hard as there were no specific posts to my topic or Google Blogs was showing me websites and not blogs. Anyways I then used opinions of others to complete my post with not only providing the reader with information, but also giving an idea of what other people think about this.

Everything’s completed but still..

… there are questions left from my side. In my eyes the implementation of other opinions did never really fit into my post. Even though I get the point of including opinions of professionals to achieve a professional way of posting, I merely did it because we were supposed to. When I read through other blogs it was always exciting as they sometimes even provoked with their own opinion. I feel like our opinion should be kept in the background which I find very sad because I feel it could be an opportunity to even start a discussion about the topic with classmates which gets them more interesting in what I post about!