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Drug Testing is Incompatible with Freedom


As a kid, I loved the Olympics. I have fond memories of the XVIII winter games, watching them on a black and white TV with my Dad. I’d use his stopwatch to measure the times of the racers, and we’d cheer for the Americans or other favorites. That year (1964), my Dad was stationed in Tokyo, the host city for the Summer games. We were able to attend some of the events - I vividly recall peering through a crowd of spectators along the road as racers in the 30-Km walk passed by near the end of the race. One guy was terribly sick, vomiting as he walked, but he did not stop or even slow down. The look of grim determination on his face is still burned into my brain.

For two weeks every four years, I was glued to the tube for hours and hours. I knew all the times and the records to beat, all the names of the top stars.

Not any more. The Olympics are dead to me. I have only a vague knowledge of who won the various events, obtained by accident from a newspaper headline or a top-of-the-hour news summary on the radio. I paid no attention when my Alma Mater's basketball team, the UTEP Miners, went to the WAC championship in 2005.

Why? Because, Olympic and most other athletes, by submitting to drug testing, demonstrate that either they do not understand, or - even worse - do not value, fundamental freedoms purchased with the lives of countless brave men. The athletes, along with supporters of the stupid, immoral and unjust practice of drug testing, scorn the concept of the presumption of innocence. They piss on the idea that men have a right to be free from warrantless searches and seizures. They reject the vital principle that when a person is suspected or accused of committing a crime or violating a rule, the burden of proof must fall to the accuser, not the accused.

Recent reports of the “scandalous” test results of American Tour de France winner Floyd Landis brought bitter laughter to my lips. His indignant sputtering about how he would “prove his innocence” revealed his ignorance and marked him as a sucker who deserves nothing but contempt, regardless if he used banned substances or not.

I laughed the same bitter laugh in 2004 when an Olympic athlete, accused of using drugs even though she had passed all the tests, angrily exclaimed to the press that she would "prove she never used <performance enhancing substances> ". She was and is an idiot, and deserved exactly what she got. She obviously never paid attention in her history or logic classes - if she had, she would know why it is impossible to prove one's innocence and why the founders of this country went to great lengths to make it clear that the government (and private organizations by extension of the concept), must never require citizens to do so.

The founders of the United States of America correctly understood that it is impossible to prove a negative and irrational to try to do so, and erected a magnificent government on a foundation of that and other pillars. They clearly and unequivocally spelled out in the Constitution that a person must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, does not have to utter a single word in defense, and cannot be required to furnish any information or cooperate in any way with his accusers. If asked, "Are you using drugs?" and the answer is "No", the accuser may not require that the accused furnish the evidence of the "crime". It is unconstitutional to be forced to "Prove that you are not lying - piss in this bottle for us."

Ethically, It is immaterial that participation in the Tour de France, the Olympics, other sports or employment is voluntary. By abrogating their rights to the slave-master of drug testing, the athletes are telling the world that it is OK to trade freedom for a medal, that it is OK to be a slave if the payoff is big enough. They pave the way for government and business to continue smearing excrement on the Constitution.

Proponents of testing contend it is the only way to keep competitors from using drugs to enhance performance, and that it is not "fair" for the other athletes. Baloney. Testing does not prevent drug use or doping; it only snares those who don't know how to beat the tests. Whenever a new, more Draconian testing system is adopted, people quickly find ways around it. I foresee a day when all athletes will be required to wear a 24x7 blood-monitoring device that beams a constant analysis to DEA central control. But, the day after that requirement becomes law, someone will figure out how to fool the device. Because testing can never be 100% accurate, it provides a false sense of security, and has ruined thousands of lives through false positives.

On 3.17.05, Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball, told the Congressional Committee investigating steroid abuse that he would "… suspend any player who tested positive... " This kind of idiocy is prevalent in our ignorant society. He obviously does not care that tests are not perfect and is content to let a laboratory act as judge, jury and executioner with no appeal and no peer review.

In the Olympics, even more tyrannical than the testing itself is the IOC practice of disqualifying the entire team if more than a certain number of the athletes fail the drug test. How is this fair? Punishing innocent people for another person's "crime"? That is exactly the same injustice that is occurring at Hueco - responsible climbers are banned because some other jerk stepped on a plant or sprayed graffiti on an aborigine's cave painting.

Proponents of testing moan "Children look up to athletes; if the athletes use drugs the poor children will also, and the blood of the kids who die from steroids is on all our hands unless we test everyone to stop the evil practice of steroid use!" Bullcrap. This argument is so blatantly fallacious to be barely worth refuting; does anyone else find it ironic that it is typically trotted out by conservatives who otherwise insist that people take full responsibility for their own actions?

Testing-pushers (make no mistake, there is big money involved) wring their hands and cry "We need drug testing to prove people are using ... to keep them off steroids, to save them from themselves! It's just not fair that someone using steroids can outperform non-users."

More crap.

It is not only impossible to prevent drug use, it is stupid, immoral and unethical to dictate the substances people are allowed or not allowed to ingest. Fascists who worry about drug use and conclude that testing is the only way to stop it DO NOT have the right to screw us out of the most important, cherished, fundamental right a free man owns - the presumption of innocence!

A typical objection voiced against the use of drugs for performance enhancement is that it is not "fair" to those who don't want to take steroids. However, this is a specious argument, because all top athletes make sacrifices that most other people are unwilling to make. Athletes train obsessively, often to the point of injury. Is that "fair" to those unwilling to do so? Athletes often quit jobs and abandon relationships in order to reach the top - for example, Lance Armstrong, who divorced his wife and broke his kids' hearts to devote all his time to his obsession to win the Tour De France over and over. Was that "fair" to all the other riders who were not willing to stiff their families?

Often, the physical and psychological consequences of the youthful pursuit of medals last for years, and result in many cases of depression and some suicides. Is it "fair" that certain athletes are willing to ruin their bodies to get a medal? X-rays of the knees of a typical professional basketball player at age 40 look like those of a "normal" 70-year old man. Is it "fair" to prevent someone, not genetically gifted with a big, strong body, from using steroids to be able to hold their own against the genetic freaks? If a person knows the risks and is willing to assume them in order to excel, it's their own damn business if they want to use steroids to even the gap between them and a big, rich kid with plenty of time and money to devote to training!

The decision to risk injury with performance enhancing drugs is a personal choice that each competitor has a right to make; it is logically the equivalent of a decision to take other types of risks in order to achieve a goal. Top boulderers and climbers routinely build the mental toughness needed to win comps by risking death and injury on highballs and unroped solos- it that "fair" to climbers not willing to take those risks? Should we have random-spying year-round to make certain that all competitive climbers use topropes?

Performance enhancing drugs alone do not a champion make. Genetics, training, and motivation must also be present. I could eat steroids for breakfast from now until I die, but I will never win a medal. Is it "fair" that I was not born with the proper body to be a top athlete, not born with the courage and mental toughness to solo Separate Reality five times in a row like Dean Potter did this year? Potter and Chris Sharma make no attempt to hide their use of pot, and were stoned during many of their epic ascents; that does not in any way cheapen their accomplishments or lessen my respect for them - nor does it make me think that getting high will enable me to climb like them.

Many thoughtful and intelligent people defend the use of drug testing for athletes because it is voluntary, but they oppose mandatory testing of employees. They offer analogies that include the rules for NHRA drag racing, where participants agree to allow their rods to be torn down and inspected (at the expense of the owner!) for illegal modifications. This "voluntary" argument fails to counter the fundamental philosophical problems associated with testing.

Although it is true that the athletes do not have to participate, by agreeing to give up fundamental rights, people grow accustomed to the overall practice of drug testing, which now extends into every aspect of life, both voluntary and involuntary. Moreover, with Congress threatening to step in make it illegal to play professional sports without testing, the "voluntary" argument becomes moot.

Please understand that I am not advocating making drug testing illegal for organizations and participants that are stupid enough to do so voluntarily. I'm saying that if one loves freedom, one must condemn the practice as contemptible and immoral, and work actively towards eliminating it, through open and aggressive criticism and boycotts.

Sure, sports participation may be voluntary - but freedom-loving people ought to voluntarily refuse to have anything to do with any sport or activity that starts out by requiring people to "prove" innocence. That is the fundamental problem. You can't prove a negative. Think carefully about it. For example, prove that you have never committed murder. You can't – even if you could somehow come up with a multimedia recording purporting to cover every millisecond of your life, I could argue that the recording could have been faked. Take the racecar analogy. Although an engine is a very simple and deterministic contraption compared to a human body, it is conceivable that it is possible to modify it in a manner that would escape detection in the teardown process. To extend the analogy further, suppose that the teardown judges claim that your car had been enhanced, and DQ'd you just because they say so, without your being allowed to protest. Stupid, eh? But that is exactly what often happens when someone tests positive for drugs. And even in those cases where a follow-up test is provided, that follow-up test can also result in a false positive. More testing is not the answer - the answer is to quit expecting people to prove innocence. The burden of proof must fall to the accuser, not the accused! That's what the "presumption of innocence" is all about.

Just because something is voluntary for the participants does not make it ethical or exempt it from criticism. I'll offer two, albeit somewhat abstract, examples. Consider the moronic "volunteer guard" system that has been in place at Hueco since the PURP went into effect in 1998. Both the guards and the climbers who submit to being guarded reap a transient benefit, but also play into the hands of the TPWD, who point to the system as a "success" and use it to justify the draconian restrictions of the PURP. I know of at least one climber who hates the PURP and refuses to climb while being guarded – he climbs at Red Rocks now - yet supports sports drug testing because it is voluntary. Or, take the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many climbers oppose those wars, not because they are worried about offing known terrorists, but because of the high numbers of innocent non-combatants that have been killed (some estimate that over 50,000 women and children have been killed in Iraq alone). But don't forget – the US military is 100% volunteer – does that alone justify the unintended consequences of war, or serve as a reason not to condemn and oppose war?

Many drug-using athletes pass the tests. They employ extreme measures, such as catheterization to inject purified urine into their bladders or shaving off 100% of their body hair; techniques for beating the tests evolve in sophistication to match every new draconian measure that the drug police invent. Those not willing to take such measures are the ones that are caught, while those who know how to foil the system slide by. Drug tests cannot "prove" innocence - all they do is provide a false sense of security and numb the public's resistance to intrusive government.

Many well-meaning people offer a compromise where different classifications for sports would be provided – such as "Fully Modified Track and Field", or "Top Fuel Swimming", where different levels of chemical, biomechanical, and gene engineering would be allowed. Although this looks good on the surface, it just pushes the problem back one level. Some kind of testing would be required for those who want to enter the "limited", no-enhancement categories - again, the participants would be asked to prove a negative, with all the attendant problems already listed.

A smug, self-righteous, Holier-Than-Thou, "my drug is OK but your drug is EVIL" attitude pervades the entire issue of drug use. For example, weed users are unfairly penalized for smoking a single joint months and months ago, because it will show up in a hair sample - but go ahead get plastered on alcohol every weekend, or slowly kill yourself with nicotine - no problem! Heck, no one seems to care that Floyd Landis proudly announced he had “whiskey and beer” at a party the night before his comeback in the 2006 Tour De France.

1.2 million people a year die from tobacco. In 2005, two NMSU students died - dead - from alcohol poisoning. The answer is not to make tobacco and alcohol illegal – the answer is to quit prohibiting what people ingest, and focus on punishing harmful behavior that hurts other people – murder, theft, fraud, etc. There are millions of people who responsibly take risks ranging from unroped soloing to snorting cocaine who have never hurt anyone else and lead responsible, productive lives. There are also millions of people who don't use drugs but DO lie or cheat or steal or kill – punish them, because their actions deserve sanction, and leave the responsible risk-takers in peace!

If voluntary sports testing excluded illegal drugs, then it would be slightly less of a problem. However, it does not, and it extends to drugs that do not enhance performance. That is still not the real issue. The problem is still the requirement to prove innocence - a logical impossibility and affront to freedom.

The real solution to the “problem” is simple – quit worrying about what substances people ingest. It’s none of our business. Let people use whatever drugs and enhancements they choose. It is impossible to fully control or detect every type of enhancement, and to try to do so invariably results in trashing fundamental rights.

Benjamin Franklin succinctly summed up this and many other related philosophical points over 200 years ago when he wrote (paraphrasing): "Any society that will give up a little freedom to gain a little security will lose both and deserves neither."

I am pleased that the current mania with drug testing has not yet reached the competitive climbing circuit. In a 2000 article in Rock and Ice Magazine by Will Gadd, he mentioned that he needed "three Red Bulls" to be sufficiently "wired" for an ice-climbing competition. I loved it! It was funny and made me proud of him and the other climbers in the comp. No one angrily insisted that Will be DQ'd for dosing himself. The caffeine, niacin, taurine and other substances in Red Bull would have pegged the drug-meter if the comp was operating with Olympic drug rules.  The Huecotanks Rock Rodeos have never required testing, and never will – no one cares if climbers are wired, stoned or pumped with ‘roids – all that matters is the send.

So, if you have even a shred of respect for freedom, justice and logic, "just say no" to drug testing! Don't lend aid and comfort to the morons who advocate or require testing. Refuse not only to submit to drug tests, don't patronize businesses that test their employees and don't watch sports where the athletes slavishly submit to the unjust stupidity of drug testing!

Finally, for those of you who smugly and ignorantly claim: "if you have nothing to hide, why are you afraid of testing?" …  I would love to watch the expressions on your faces (Floyd Landis - take heed!) the first time YOU or a loved one gets shafted by a false positive, the way my wife - the most drug-free person you will ever encounter - was screwed out of a job by a false-positive in the late 1980's.