WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Rogue doctors and laboratories have taken the place of institutionalized doping as the most serious threat to drug-free sports, United States Anti-Doping Agency chief executive Travis T. Tygart said Wednesday.
Tygart said the efforts of the World Anti-Doping Agency, which just marked its 10th anniversary, and of independent national organizations such as USADA had helped eradicate institutionalized doping within countries, sports or teams.
"I think you no longer see that," Tygart, who is here to attend a sports law conference hosted by WADA, told Radio New Zealand. "Unfortunately, what you now see are rogue laboratories, rogue doctors that athletes are able to find and then pay to obtain things that they think will be undetectable."
Tygart said USADA had already made substantial advances in eliminating doping in sports, or leveling the playing field for clean athletes. He likened track and field in the United States during the 1990s to bodybuilding, for the prevalence of doping, but said the sport had since been transformed.
"We're a relatively young entity, we've not yet had our 10-year anniversary like WADA but we've come in and we've changed the culture within track and field," he said. "That's not to say there may not be cheats out there or that the temptation to cheat is not there but what it means is that we've given those clean athletes, who want to do it the right way, hope that they can get on the starting line and be successful without having to cheat."
Tygart said some sports had been tainted by their past history of doping but "all athletes are entitled the presumption of innocence, absolutely." He also said the independence of organizations such as WADA and USADA was critical in the battle against doping.
"The reality is sport has a hard time exposing its underbelly," he said. "That's not good for sponsorships, not good for the growth of the sport and that's why I think it's absolutely critical that our advancements of the past nine and 10 years have happened.
"What I'm worried about doing and what we're spending our $13 million [budget] on is protecting the clean athletes' rights. If they're second-best that's fine, as long as they're playing by the rules. And so I think you have to absolutely take away the sports' interest in running its own program," he said.
Tygart said shame remained a powerful force in motivating athletes to reject drugs.
"Most importantly, you've yet to see a cheat -- and include Marion Jones, include Floyd Landis, include the other BALCO athletes -- who were proud of the fact that they cheated," he said.
Olympic athletics champion Jones was among those caught following an investigation, started in 2003 and led by federal agent Jeff Novitzky, into the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. Novitzky's investigation included sorting through trash at the BALCO offices to uncover evidence of athletes and coaches using or distributing performance-enhancing drugs that were undetectable in conventional testing.
"I think without question, given WADA's success, given our success, given the success of other entities," Tygart said, "those that don't want to cheat today don't have to cheat in order to be successful and that's an important milestone that we all feel confident that we've reached."