The World Anti-Doping Association is the sports equivalent of the TSA. WADA and its American counterpart, the USADA, claim a government-backed monopoly over “drug testing” in all sports. Any sport that refuses to follow WADA’s exact drug testing standards—or even question their scientific veracity—is presumed dirty. Any athlete merely suspected of “doping” by WADA/USADA is presumed guilty, with no meaningful due process to prove otherwise.
Lance Armstrong has long been WADA/USADA’s Moby Dick. Armstrong’s crime was winning cycling’s Tour de France a record seven times. Discrediting that amazing feat has been the drug testing monopoly’s obsession. Recently, USADA announced it had evidence against Armstrong—who never failed a drug test administered during competition—that conclusively proved his guilt. Armstrong refused to submit to further persecution by USADA’s kangaroo court. He unsuccessfully petitioned a Texas judge to stop USADA. The judge sympathized, noting that USADA was likely motivated by politics and revenge against longtime critic Armstrong, but he felt legally powerless to stop them. USADA summarily declared him guilty. Under the drug testing monopoly, the organizers of the Tour will be forced to “strip” Armstrong of his Tour de France titles—re-writing history to satisfy the demands of WADA/USADA.
The real story here isn’t Lance Armstrong. It’s the use of fear and intimidation to secure unquestioned authority over the lives—indeed the bodies—of human beings. “Drug testing” is rooted in the perverse notion that an employer or competition sponsor has an unqualified right to control the bodily contents of athletes. While “doping” is synonymous with “cheating” in the public’s mind, the line between permissible and impermissible drugs is purely a creation of the state, specifically the War on Drugs.
The only reason any sport tests for drugs is to appease the state. The North American professional sports leagues all depend on massive government subsidies to function. The price of those special privileges is sacrificing the occasional athlete—particularly a high-profile one—on the altar of “illegal” drug use.
From a purely free-market standpoint, this makes no sense. Sports organizers are discrediting their own product to service the fundamentally impossible goal of 100% “clean” athletes. No religion demands such purity.
Nor do consumers. Major League Baseball recently suspended two well-known players for unapproved tester one use. Do fans of those players’ teams really prefer not seeing these athletes play for 50 games? When a star player is suspended, it’s not as if ticket prices fall or consumers get a refund for the games the “dirty” player participated in.
Lance Armstrong was the only reason millions of Americans even paid attention to the Tour de France. Cycling aspires to be a niche sport in the United States. The drug testing monopoly’s destruction of Armstrong likely ends any chance the sport will gain a significant foothold in this country. Was it worth it?
Of course, say WADA and USADA. The conquest of Mount Armstrong is a significant public relations triumph as these groups move to consolidate their legal monopoly. For example, the National Football League Players Association continues to resist the drug testing monopoly’s efforts to force human-growth hormone tests on its members. The NFL, under pressure from Congress, WADA/USADA’s principal ally, has tried to appease the monopoly, but the question remains the subject of collective bargaining between the league and the union. But Congress’s patience will eventually run out. Elected officials won’t tolerate competition with the monopoly.
And we’re not just talking about professional sports. Former president George W. Bush, during one of his annual messages to Congress, called for the long-term expansion of the drug testing monopoly to high schools. Just recently a county schools superintendent in Virginia announced plans to study “random” drug testing for athletes—and perhaps all students one day. Eventually there may be a WADA/USADA official in every school, pulling children out of classrooms throughout the day and forcing them to urinate in a cup or give blood samples. Anyone who mentions the Fourth Amendment or civil liberties will be publicly declared an illegal drug user—just like Lance Armstrong.
(This article originally appeared at the Laissez Faire Blog on August 25, 2012.)