The Official Site of Bryan Clay

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Mon, May 26th 2008, 16:06

U.S. pro sports leagues still trail in drug-testing arms race

After filling a glass tube with his blood for the fifteenth time in a week, American decathlete Bryan Clay wondered whether it might be taking a toll.

“That’s a lot of blood,” Clay says.

Three days of testing during that week in early March, five vials each day. And he volunteered for this.

Clay swears he felt depleted later that week when he competed in the world indoor heptathlon championship in Valencia, Spain, even though he did win the gold.

But Clay signed up for this unprecedented level of testing because, when the meet was over, anti-doping experts say they were able to look at Clay and say they were nearly certain he had been clean. Maybe not with scientific certainty — much more research would have to be done — but with a greater assurance than anyone has had in more than 50 years.

“It’s worth it,” Clay says.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which is running the pilot program for Clay and 11 other athletes, won’t even guess when the program might be operational. But “longitudinal” testing, as it is known, represents a shift that already is leaving American professional sports leagues behind.

Major League Baseball’s new anti-doping agreement, ratified by the players’ association on Friday, is arguably the strongest testing program in professional sports. But on the day it goes into effect, it already is all but obsolete. Despite the policy changes, baseball will not subject its players to blood draws and the kind of testing Clay is going through, nor will any other U.S. pro league. No one can look at an MLB player — nor any professional athlete, for that matter — and say he knows for certain the athlete is clean. And that underscores a point that many anti-doping experts have made for years: Current testing, no matter how rigorous, just doesn’t work.

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