Behind the Story: WADA One Hour Rule, comments by Jim Ferstle, intro by Larry Eder


Larry Eder

Updated June 5, 2022, Originally published on December 15, 2008: Today, we heard from Phil Stewart, editor Road Race Management, the seminal newsletter on the business of road racing, about his good friend, Jim Ferstle. Jim Ferstle, one of the finest investigative journalist in the sport of athletics, has just passed away. Jim was very kind to me, in explaining the abuse of drugs in sport and the hypocrisy of sport organizations in looking the other way. I will miss Jim Ferstle, who was a fine runner, a fine writer, and just a really good person. Our thoughts are with his family and friends. This is a letter from Jim in 2008 to explain the WADA One Hour Rule.

Dear readers,

Many of you subscribe to, and another 150,000 see the blog thru various sites, pass along, etc. Jim Ferstle responded to my commments on the WADA new testing protocols (December 12, 2008). I am not sure if there is anyone in the world who has covered drugs and sports as extensively as Jim. I know no one has done it with his candor and sense of ethics. Please read his comments:

It is interesting how things, such as WADA, doping, etc., get lost in translation. The headline on the WADA piece is similar to those on wire stories that circulated last week, and, no doubt, will color the perceptions of many on the issue. WADA Code is widely criticized, however, distorts reality. There is a basic misunderstanding of how the change came about and, also, it takes one element of the program and puts too much emphasis on it. The headline is a distortion based on the simple fact that the WADA code is arrived at by gathering much input, criticism, from the various stakeholders in the sporting community. So, yes there will be those who “win†and those who lose when the final regs are released.

The history behind the Brit one hour rule is, really, a move by the Brits to get under the testing œumbrella in the football and other professional leagues. If you think there was criticism of the one-hour rule, there was a lot more than that to any attempt to subject the pro sports in Europe to the random, 365/24/7 testing protocol of Olympic sports. The Brits, being clever, invented the one-hour rule to circumvent these objections and attempt to get the pros on board. What you are seeing now is the players attempting to challenge this compromise reached by the leaders of the alphabet groups and the administrators of the pro leagues. Is it a good compromise? Will it stand up to a legal challenge? We'll see.

Testing protocols are political documents pasted together by administrators and lawyers. There are no scientific panels, peer review, or anything close in this portion of the system. What the science of anti-doping needs is more transparency, not the paperwork of science. A transparent system would then be subject to more review by the rest of the scientific community, although, if you look at the issues with regular science you will find that the rigor of the peer review and/or scientific scrutiny is directed toward the high profile research projects that involve lots of money in research grants and/or potential profit for the pharmaceutical industry.

Sports anti-doping science is small potatoes in this area, so even with a more open process, the level of scrutiny is not likely to match say that of research on cancer drugs, etc. This doesn't mean you don't push for it, you just have to be more realistic or spend more money on it, if you want it to be done at the same level of scientific rigor as more profitable scientific inquiry. You're correct in that ethics and conscience are the key elements in this problem. Testing is simply the deterrent arm of the battle to control drug use. If you don't have athletes, coaches, and administrators with the proper ethics and conscience, you can have the best testing system in the world and still lose the battle.


Jim Ferstle
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