Stab Magazine | Blowing The Whistle: Are CTers Doping?

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Blowing The Whistle: Are CTers Doping?

What will an anonymous outlet for reporting doping mean for professional surfing? 

news // Feb 21, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

We live in the age of the informed whistle-blower–of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Julian Assange.

Call them heroes, call them traitors, but either way, in wave after wave of excruciatingly revealing documents, they’ve let the truth out because, to their mind the public—the free, hard-working, tax-paying public—has the right to know.

Well, it seems that professional sports have also embraced the whistleblower ideology, in a bid to keep all athletes honest, but will the WSL adopt the policies?

The WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) recently introduced ‘Speak Up,’ an anonymous platform where professional informants and whistle-blowers are encouraged to, well, speak up.

Can you hear the shitstorm a-brewin’?

‘Speak Up!’is there to encourage whistleblowers to come forward and report suspected doping violations, in whatever shape or form, in any professional sport.

From the Speak Up website:

You may report any alleged Anti-Doping Rule Violation, any alleged World Anti-Doping Code (Code) non-compliance violation, or any act or omission that could undermine the fight against doping. 

Anyone can report a doping misconduct. If you have detected, identified, witnessed or know of, or have reasonable grounds for suspecting that cheating has occurred, we encourage you to let us know by opening a mailbox. 

Tired of the scandals and negative media surrounding professional sports marked by doping scandals, WADA has taken these extraordinary lengths clean up their images.

On the WADA website update last year, their Director of Intelligence and Investigations, Gunter Younger made an announcement.  

“We understand that coming forward in good faith is a major decision that takes courage and conviction,” said Younger. “Speak Up! answers the call made by athletes and others for a secure, confidential way to report activity that goes against clean sport.”

“My role is to ensure that the information provided is treated with the utmost confidentiality, that allegations are investigated fully; and that, in the case of whistleblowers with whom we contractually engage, they are kept informed of progress and that their rights are protected.”

These days many, if not most, professional sports are tainted with a doping story or two. From Lance Armstrong to Ben Johnson to A-Rod to Diego Maradona, all mainstream sports have seen their scandals.

But surfing’s scandals have largely been of the performance diminishing, not enhancing, variety.

In surfing’s public domain, the most famous drug stories have come from Tom Carroll, who revealed his meth addiction in a tell-all biography, or the well-documented addiction issues of Matt Archbald, Andy Irons, or Michael Peterson, to recall but a few cautionary tales of yore.

As far as doping scandals in surfing, the sport’s only seen the official 12-month ban for Neco Padaratz, after testing positive for steroids in 2005, and of Raoni Monteiro, who received a 20-month ban for testing positive to a performance-enhancing drug in 2015.

In 2013, after the fallout around Lance Armstrong, an article in The Australian pointed to Kelly Slater, at 41 and number one in the world, as a prime doping suspect, noting that Slater admitted the WCT only intermittently submitted athletes to doping tests.

“They tested us at the first event and I never got tested again all year,” Slater had told reporters, the piece noted.

“Why talk about it and not do it? Why bother? Either do it or don’t do it,” Slater said of the then ASP’s testing practices at the time.

Of course, this was no admission of guilt, and the reporter’s leap in logic didn’t impress the GOAT, who had less than kind things to say to the writer, and was quick to state that he’d welcome any and all testing (see video above).

From a distance, and from those close to most surfer’s camps, surfing’s doping problem seems minimal, if non-existent. If athletes are being tested as extensively as to make it effective, the WSL most likely comprises a clean roster.  

WSL follows the WADA principles, as well as their list of prohibited substances, but they do have their own Anti Doping Policy and their own Discipline Director enforces it.

Therefore, as I understand it, they are under no demands to have to implement the Speak Up ideology to their own policy.

Yet, if a professional surfer (‘and others’ according to WADA) want to report anti-doping violations, there is nothing to stop them from doing so by registering a complaint directly with WADA.

The Speak Up platform even includes a secure app for iPhone and Android phones, currently available in beta version on the App Store and Google Play. It’s there. I downloaded it.

Which brings up a few issues.

Since its earliest incarnations, The World Tour has forever enjoyed an informal and fairly loose, light-hearted code of  ‘what goes on tour stays on tour.’ This has remained resolute and unaffected for many years—but would that culture survive the Speak Up policy?

If rigorous anti-doping testing is already being done, then the Speak Up program seems ripe for exploitation, anonymous calls meant to cast doubt on and distract competitors.

Though of course, the use of PED’s of any sort is cheating, straight-up. (There is no honor in not informing the authorities. You are being unfairly beaten.) But in the bid for a World Title, or surviving the CT cut-off, could a struggling competitor resist, if aware someone above them in the ratings could be negatively affected by a confidential call to WADA?

It’s unclear whether any efforts will address concerns over other drug use on tour, though in 2018 it may appear from the outside that surfing has become so professional and timid, that there is much less room in the house for anything fun or seriously debauched, amongst the personal trainers, coaches, chefs, physiotherapists, and sports psychologists that entourage the Championship Tour at every step of the way.

Additionally, the recent destigmatization of many recreational drugs has been warmly embraced by many societies in general and for good enough reason, and surfing seems to be following suit. The money spent the last few decades on the war against drugs, nearly all experts agree, would be more wisely spent on more pressing societal ills.

Should recreational drugs be a focus for the WSL, only insofar as addiction and abuse is concerned? In the wake of Andy Irons very public death, the waters get a little murky.

“Those are personal, private matters and it’s really hard to dredge them up publicly and come to any kind of conclusion,” Kelly told reporters in 2013, addressing rumors around the rampant recreational drug use on tour during the era. “Andy (Irons) was the one who put himself in that situation. Had he had more outside pressure to change, that might have pushed him over the edge more quickly. I know a lot of drug addicts and you can’t force them to go get help if they don’t want it. You just have to show those people love and support and let them know that if they need your help, you’re there.”

Five years later, the tour looks very different, and there’s a case to be made that the athleticism and professionalism of the tour today has diminished recreational and abusive drug use amongst the world’s best.

But, should we be concerned our World Tour stars are resorting to drastic measures to keep up with the ever elevating performance level?

The Speak Up ideology serves well to eradicate cheating from the professional sport, which surfing has become. The WADA efforts would bring surfing in line with the most sport’s codes out there, though whether it addresses a problem on tour isn’t clear.

The WSL anti-doping policy can be downloaded here.

Want to report an anti-doping rule violation? Head here.

And for a look at WADA prohibited substances, head here. 




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