Thursday, March 1, 2018

Sexual Abuse Allegations at US Olympic Sports Organizations

There are a large number of sexual abuse allegations against officials in US Olympic sports bodies. While those against Larry Nassar and USA Gymnastics are the most widely publicized, there are many others. This tabulation is for my own use, but hopefully of use for others as well.

The Washington Post reports:
More than 290 coaches and officials associated with the United States’ Olympic sports organizations have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct since 1982, according to a Washington Post review of sport governing body banned lists, news clips and court records in several states. The figure spans parts of 15 sports and amounts to an average of eight adults connected to an Olympic organization accused of sexual misconduct every year — or about one every six weeks — for more than 36 years.
Here is an initial tally of media reports (updated 15 March 2018):
If you have further pointers, please suggest in the comments or send me a DM, and I'll update.

Further reading:

Haley O. Morton, License to Abuse: Confronting Coach-Inflicted Sexual Assault in American Olympic Sports, 23 Wm. & Mary J. Women & L. 141 (2016). (PDF)

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Critiques of Bermon and Garnier 2017 (related to Chand vs IAAF)

A new paper was published today with a strong critique of the IAAF study on testosterone and female elite athletes. 
Franklin S, Ospina Betancurt J, Camporesi S What statistical data of observational performance can tell us and what they cannot: the case of Dutee Chand v. AFI & IAAF Br J Sports Med Published Online First: 23 February 2018. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-098513
That paper concludes:
we believe that it is scientifically incorrect to draw the conclusions in the Bermon and Garnier paper from the statistical results presented. Their paper claims that certain athletes have an advantage in precisely the five events where a significant effect was found: we calculate that a high share of those five significant effects are likely to be false positives.
An earlier critique was provided by statistician Andrew Gelman:
the statistical analysis data processing in this paper is such a mess that I can’t really figure out what data they are working with, what exactly they are doing, or the connection between some of their analyses and their scientific goals. 
Gelman was motivated by Simon Franklin, a post-doc at LSE, who emailed him that:

There are more than a few problems with the paper, not least the fact that it makes causal claims from correlations in a highly selective sample, and the bizarre choice of comparing averages within the highest and lowest tertiles of fT levels using a student t-test (without any other statistical tests presented).

But most problematic is the multiple hypothesis testing. The authors test for a correlation between T-levels and performance across a total of over 40 events (men and women) and find a significant correlation in 5 events, at the 5% level. They then conclude:
Female athletes with high fT levels have a significant competitive advantage over those with low fT in 400 m, 400 m hurdles, 800 m, hammer throw, and pole vault.
These are 5 events for which they found significant correlations! And we are lead to believe that there is no such advantage for any of the other events.
I also have written two critiques. First, a post-publication peer review:
My bottom line: The paper has some significant methodological issues, most notably the inclusion of female athletes who doped with those with naturally high levels of T. There is some double counting of athletes in 2011 and 2013. There is also speculation that the male findings are contaminated by doping. Methodological issues notwithstanding, the paper nonetheless strongly reinforces the 2015 CAS Chand decision. 
 And second, a short data analysis of their reported findings.

The Bermon and Garnier paper clearly has some methodological issues. However, even taken at face value it does not support the IAAF case against Dutee Chand. CAS continues to dither over the arbitration nonetheless. It is time to send it back to IAAF and ask them to start again.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

ISG 2018: Bonus Class Materials #2

This week -- meetings 9 & 10 -- we continue a short unit on sport and social movements. Here is some material from the syllabus plus bonus material for the week ahead.

Our class is a part of the Inclusive Sport Summit taking place on campus this week (props to Medford Moorer for making it happen with CU Athletics and Recreation Services). Here is the schedule for the ISS on Wednesday and Thursday. Note that it is open to the general public.

The Thursday closing session will feature Solomon Wilcots (CU Buff, NFL, CBS and now Sky Sports) and Jim Trotter (ESPN, Sports Illustrated), along with Professor Nancy Lough (UNLV). NOTE that it will be in the Touchdown Club in Dal Ward.

On Tuesday, in addition to a scheduled quiz, we will have a final look at the Russian doping saga with a discussion of tonite's 60 Minutes episode featuring Grigory Rodchenkov.

We will also start a discussion of Colin Kaepernick, Donald Trump and the NFL. I'll give a mini-lecture on propaganda.

Here are this week's readings:

Bonus material will be suggested in class.

Monday, February 5, 2018

ISG 2018: Bonus Class Materials #1

I have promised my students in Introduction to Sports Governance some bonus materials related to class discussions that we won't be able to get into in any depth. There is a lot going on in sports governance right now (safe understatement). Here are some bonus items:
We have three Olympians visiting class tomorrow, here are some highlights of their careers in and out of sport:

Casey Malone on discus:

Mara Abbott on her broken heart following Rio:

Kara Goucher as an anti-doping whistleblower:

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Unsolicited Advice for USOC After Nassar

The events today in a Michigan court room were remarkable, as sexual predator Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to an additional 175 years in prison. In the aftermath of the sentencing the US Olympic Committee, which has oversight responsibilities of USA Gymnastics under us law (the so-called Ted Stevens Act of 1978), released a letter to athletes.

In the letter USOC says the following:
The USOC has decided to launch an investigation by an independent third party to examine how an abuse of this proportion could have gone undetected for so long. We need to know when complaints were brought forward and to who. This investigation will include both USAG and the USOC, and we believe USAG will cooperate fully. We will make the results public.
Nobody asked me, but here is some independent advice to USOC.

1. How USOC handles this investigation is incredibly important, for making things better, for its reputation and for its legitimacy in the eyes of athletes.

USOC gets one shot at this and one shot only. The way forward is a minefield with lots of potential for missteps. Here are some recommendations based on my observations of many, many investigations by sports organizations.

2. The choice of "independent third party" is absolutely essential.

No details are provided, but it would seem obvious that absolutely no one from the Olympic "family" should be involved in the investigation. No one. Independent must mean independent. USOC should have no role in selecting the members of the investigative team. USOC should pay the full cost.

One suggestion is to follow the model of the Mitchell Report (full name: "Report to the Commissioner of Baseball of an Independent Investigation into the Illegal Use of Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Substances by Players in Major League Baseball") which was called for and paid for by Major League Baseball.

George Mitchell recently explained how it came together in a way that was truly independent:
[MLB commissioner] Bud Selig deserves great credit for his courage. He was the only commissioner of a professional sport in the United States who had the courage to authorize a completely independent investigation. I made it clear to him in our first conversation that I would do this only if I had his commitment to my full and total independence. He unhesitatingly gave it, and he kept his promise. That's to his great credit.
It also worked because, well, George Mitchell is George Mitchell. (I had the pleasure of spending a day with him a few years ago when I was the "George Mitchell lecturer" at the University of Maine. He is the real deal.)

Who might USOC turn to? Some suggestions:

Condoleeza Rice is at the top of my list. She is a diplomat, knows sports and is above reproach. If not her, then someone of similar stature (of which there are very few). George Mitchell is on the list also.

Alternatively, USOC could turn to Congress for help, for instance by making an appeal to the two senators from Colorado (where USOC is headquartered), one a Republican and one a Democrat. Congress has ultimate oversight responsibilities for USOC and could empanel and support the work of an investigation (e.g., via hearings). The risk of course is that involving Congress could lead the issue to become politicized in today's hyper-partisan environment. Another risk is that Congress is just too dysfunctional to take it on .

Of course, Congressional action might preempt USOC anyway (in which case it would be in USOC's interests to just get out ahead). Senator Jean Shaheen (D-NH) has already suggested such, and the train may be leaving the station.

Either way, I'd recommend Condoleeza Rice, regardless who empanels the committee.

3. The investigation must be about more than who knew what, when.

Yest, that should be part of it, of course. But an equally important question is who didn't know what, when. If USAG or USOC officials did not know about the years of abuse, then why didn't they? What went wrong? Clearly, both organizations should have known a long time ago and stopped it.

A limitation to such an investigation is that absent a Congressional role, there will be no subpoena power or ability to compel evidence from witnesses. Mitchell had this problem in his steroid investigations, but his efforts were was helped along by a few athletes who were willing to speak and a parallel federal investigation.

If USOC has not already acted to secure official communications of (all) USAG and (relevant) USOC staff, such as emails, phone messages etc. then it is already too late. USOC needs to be acting as if a major investigation is already underway, and not wait until it is.

4. Finally, USOC should go ahead and decertify USAG. 

In its letter today USOC said:
We have strongly considered decertifying USAG as a National Governing Body. But USA Gymnastics includes clubs and athletes who had no hand in this and who need to be supported. We believe it would hurt more than help the athletes and their sport. But we will pursue decertification if USA Gymnastics does not fully embrace the necessary changes in their governance structure along with other mandated changes under review right now.
This is weak.

Given the scope of the abuse, USAG needs to be rebuilt from the ground up in the aftermath of an independent investigation. Decertification would mean, in effect, putting USAG into a form of receivership and managed by USOC. Yes, this would be challenging and take a lot of effort.  However, it could be done in a manner that limits impacts on athletes and the sport.

Crucially, it would be the right thing to do, and help to restore credibility in the sport and the institutions that govern it. It would send a signal that fixing things is ultimately more important than sport victories. If there is some disruption involved in making things right, then that is a price worth paying.

USOC can be sure that people like me -- well outside their "family," and people like Aly Raisman -- who has called for such an investigation as someone well inside the Olympic "family," will be paying close attention to how this independent investigation proceeds. There won't be a lot of generosity towards USOC if they botch this.

What they do next really matters. We are all watching.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Regulatory Re-Writing via Arbitration? Chand at CAS

Last week the Court of Arbitration for Sport provided an update on its arbitration proceedings in Chand vs. CAS (here in PDF). This is the case that involves the IAAF testosterone regulations governing eligibility of female athletes. I won't go into the (substantial) backstory here, but if you are interested see my recent paper on "sex testing."

In this post I argue that CAS should not allow IAAF to re-write its regulations through this arbitration case.

This is an odd arbitration. Several years ago CAS had suspended the IAAF regulations with a request for IAAF to return with evidence in support of them (if this seems backwards, it is). IAAF commissioned research, presumably to support their regulations, which were published last year (Barmon and Garnier 2017).

The IAAF data do not support the IAAF regulations. Everyone seems to agree with this, as IAAF has asked CAS to present new regulations as part of the Chand proceedings. CAS agreed to this request and in response IAAF submitted to CAS "draft revised regulations that would only apply to female track events over distances of between 400 metres and one mile."

This is an unusual arbital decision. IAAF is engaged in regulation re-writing as part of a CAS proceeding.

Even more odd, the evidence from IAAF in Bermon and Garnier (2017) shows that as the 100m distance -- that Chand specializes in -- high testosterone women are slower than low testosterone women, shown in the figure below.

As a matter of the CAS arbitration in this case, that should be the end. Even if one were to privilege testosterone as a proper object of regulation of female athletes (which to be clear - I do not), the IAAF data does not support such regulation in the case of Chand. End of story. Case closed. Send IAAF back to the regulatory drawing board.

But for whatever reason (and I'm not sure, but I'd guess the reason's initials are CS), CAS is allowing IAAF to re-write its testosterone regulations via the Chand case. You've heard of "activist judges"? Well, these are "activist arbitrators" working on behalf of those in IAAF who have expressed a desire to ban certain women from sport.

But here as well the IAAF data of Bermon and Garnier (2017) don't support the proposed regulations of testosterone in women at distances of 400m to one mile. Consider the figure below:

These IAAF data (pink bar) indicate that over distances of 400m, 800m and 1500m high testosterone women are on average 1.1% faster than their low testosterone counterparts. Unfair, IAAF might scream.

But look at the data for men at 400m and 1500m (blue bar). These data indicate that high testosterone men are on average 1.1% faster than their low testosterone counterparts. Surely if high T in women in selected events where performance differs is to be regulated, then high T in men in selected events where performance differs is also to be regulated?

If IAAF responds that the T standard applies only to women but not men based on performance data, then this is the very hallmark of sex discrimination. This only scratches the surfaced of flawed T regulation (see my paper for more nails into this intellectual coffin).

T regulation is simple in theory. But when theory meets the real world, T regulation fails comprehensively, taking IAAF's own data at face value. Dig a little deeper the IAAF study falls apart (e.g., it includes dopers).

Bottom line: CAS should not be engaged in regulatory re-writing via the Chand case. Chand should be permanently reinstated immediately. IAAF T regulations should remain voided. If IAAF wants to keep trying to regulate women's bodies, then they should start again.