Friday, August 23, 2013

Discuss

From the New York Times:
"...an estimated 29 percent of the athletes at the 2011 world championships and 45 percent of the athletes at the 2011 Pan-Arab Games said in anonymous surveys that they had doped in the past year.

"By contrast, less than 2 percent of drug tests examined by WADA laboratories in 2010 were positive...
"...Athletes at the events answered questions on tablet computers and were asked initially to think of a birthday, either their own or that of someone close to them. Then, depending on the date of the birthday, they were instructed to answer one of two questions that appeared on the same screen: one asked if the birthday fell sometime between January and June, and the other asked, “Have you knowingly violated anti-doping regulations by using a prohibited substance or method in the past 12 months?”"
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On a separate note, does anyone know why Marin Cilic withdrew from the US Open? The US Open has issued statements on the withdrawals by Mardy Fish and Maria Sharapova, but not Cilic.
 
What gives?

8 comments:

  1. While I agree that doping in sport is a problem, this "study" is asinine. The problem is that is assumes that athletes will always tell the truth, even if the lie is harmless. It is completely contrary to every human impulse. This is the classic of being asked "Do these pants make me look fat?" Sure, you could be honest, but a lot of people aren't -- because it is just not polite.

    Anyway, getting to this study, the athletes were asked to think of a date (could be a birth date, maybe a different date). Then basically told, "If your date is between January and June, click "Yes". If it doesn't, click "Yes" if you have doped in the last 12 months, otherwise click No"

    Well, what do you think people are going to do when they see these instructions? They are going to think of a date that is between Jan and June. And if they didn't initially pick one, they are going to "lie" about it and re-pick one in that date range.

    It would be like going to the doctor and having him say, "Pick a date in your head, but don't tell me what it is." Ok, now if the date in your head is Between Jan and June, we are done and you can go home. If not, I need to do a proctological exam on you. Do you want to head out the door or should I put my gloves on?"

    Believe it or not, the dates will not be randomly distributed such that 50% of the people receive a proctological exam -- which is essentially the same thing as asking an athlete if he has doped in the last 12 months.

    I understand the design of the system -- they want to make it impossible to ever incriminate an athlete. That is, even if someone had a video camera and saw the athlete click "yes," the athlete could them simply say, "I don't dope. The date in my head was April 15 because all this talk about proctological exams reminded me of my tax return."

    However, assuming that a test designed in this way would get anything other than about 90% of the people to have their date in the first 6 months of the year is ridiculous and lacks any type of statistical rigor. In any case, given that you have no idea how many people would change their date so they would not have to answer the doping question, any statistical analysis of the answers is meaningless.

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    1. " This is the classic of being asked "Do these pants make me look fat?" Sure, you could be honest, but a lot of people aren't -- because it is just not polite."

      Yeah, or maybe because you're a spineless beta male who is likely going to be divorce raped by his wife in the near future.

      Why would you lie to your wife about her weight? That seems like a nice way to ensure that she will baloon up and it's your fault because you were too chickenshit to tell her the truth. How do you call yourself a man?

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  2. Wait, what, that's how they did that study? I hadn't read the details of the protocol yet, but that's exactly how they did it, the results are pretty much meaningless and I understand that WADA or whoever wouldn't want to publish the results....
    You are completely right, the majority of athletes will simply re-pick a date so they don't have to answer the doping question. Let's say that 75% said 'yes' and 25% said 'no'. Did they assume that 50% of athletes answered the doping question and therefore 25% said yes and 25% said no to the PED question? That would be insane if that was the protocol.
    I would be interested in the exact percentage of 'no's though....

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  3. Yet, despite all your rightful objections, does this not leave us with even higher percentages for dopers?

    According to your logic (or rather the logic the test forces you to use) many would rather cheat with the thought-of-date answer than to answer the other question which presumably would mean a doping confession. In order to avoid that truth, they go for the easier lie.

    So from the one's whose date falls out of the given period (we don't know the total here, unfortunately) we still get rather high numbers confirming doping. It all depends on the absolute numbers, of course. But it would also mean in the first pool (who repick their date to avoid answering the dope q) are many more dopers.

    Anyway, from the information we got so far, it is difficult to determine. That's an obvious flaw of the leaked figures. However, I know that Perikles Simon, a renowned and respected anti-doping fighter currently a professor at the University of Mainz, together with others, designed that study. He is not a complete moron, trust me, he should know how to set up credible survey.

    So for the moment I would give him the benefit of the doubt and would assume that he would not support/authorize a study that was founded on shady premises/bad stats...

    That said, the parameters of that study need to be published fully. Another source, from the German IAAF, in reaction to the publication of those figures claimed the study was in fact more about designer drugs and new, undetectable drugs. And therefore should not see publication.

    But since they prefered to have the study remain shelved anyway for the obvious reasons, their well-known aversion to reveal anything about actual doping in public, we need to take that with a grain of salt as well.

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    1. I don't think you can infer too much from the actual numbers because there is any number of reasons why someone could not answer the question.

      Let's say, instead of "Did you dope in the last 12 months?" The question was "Have you had sex with more than 3 people in the last 12 months?" I think a lot of people would say "None of your business." They just wouldn't want to answer the question or even pretend to address it. So, easy enough, "re-pick" a date in the first 6 months of the year.

      I think it is similar with athletes and doping. The view is "I tested negative, so leave me alone. You have no right to ask what I put in my body beyond that I test negative." It doesn't mean that they are or are not doping -- just that they view it as a private matter.

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  4. I am struggling to comprehend how this survey means anything at all. Humans are pretty darn good at lying, especially athletes who dope - they're on their guard all the time.

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  5. The answer to the Cilic riddle might lie here:-

    http://www.index.hr/sport/clanak/anonimni-hrvatski-tenisac-izdao-cilica-dobio-je-godinu-dana-suspenzije/696884.aspx

    Don't buy the elevated glucose bit though!

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    1. Funny thing, in the second paragraph, Google Translate translates "Cilic" into "Federer." Also translates "Marin" as "Roger." I guess its not too bad that Google thinks you are the Roger Federer of Croatian tennis.

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