USADA Refuses to Admit Superior Steroid Testing Protocol of Competitor VADA

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When the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) announced that Light Welterweight boxing champion Lamont Peterson had tested positive for the anabolic steroid testosterone, it was a major victory for the new anti-doping organization. VADA has championed the use of a specific type of anti-doping screening test over the more commonly used testosterone:epitestosterone (T:E) ratio test. Peterson would have likely avoided detection if his urine had been screened only using the T:E ratio test.

VADA has chosen to use carbon isotope ratio (CIR) to screen 100% of the urine samples collected by its agents. CIR testing examines the atomic composition of urinary testosterone to determine if it was naturally-produced by the body or introduced exogenously through some method of testosterone doping. Most of the carbon atoms present in testosterone have an atomic weight of 12. The atomic composition of natural testosterone differs from that of pharmaceutical testosterone in that it has a slightly greater ratio of carbon atoms with an atomic weight of 13.

Victor Conte, former BALCO kingpin and current anti-doping advocate, has been one of the most vocal supporters of VADA. He has frequently cited the superiority of the CIR test over the T:E ratio test. The T:E ratio is the standard anti-doping screen for testosterone use utilized by most anti-doping agencies such as the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Conte has encouraged all anti-doping agencies to abandon the flawed T:E ratio test in favor of the CIR test.

The suggestion that VADA may be ahead of other anti-doping agencies has put USADA on the defensive. After all, USADA and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have marketed their protocols as the leading world standard in the world of anti-doping. It can’t allow people like Victor Conte to claim that other ant-doping agencies have superior procedures for catching dopers.

The superiority of VADA’s use of CIR to screen 100% of urine samples versus USADA’s use of CIR to screen only a small minority of urine samples seems obvious. USADA has primarily used CIR to analyze samples only after they failed the initial T:E ratio screen of 4:1.

Rather than applaud VADA of their ubiquitous use of the CIR screen, USADA disingenuously and misleadingly suggested that it is still the undisputed king of steroid testing. They issued a “smoke and mirrors” statement that disputed assertions made by Conte but failed to address the crux of the argument in favor of universal CIR testing.

“CIR is a regular part of the USADA testing program for all athletes under USADA’s jurisdiction, as well as a routine part of the anti-doping programs conducted by USADA in the sport of professional boxing. It is completely inaccurate to say that CIR testing would only be done if a T/E ratio is 4-1.”

“CIR has been used by anti-doping organizations internationally since the early 2000s and there have been many athletes sanctioned by USADA and other national anti-doping organizations around the world as the result of CIR testing. CIR is an important tool in our toolbox and we use it strategically and effectively.”

USADA vaguely suggested that CIR testing was not only done in cases of T:E ratios exceeding 4:1. But it did not clarify exactly when it would use CIR testing. USADA avoided full disclosure of its CIR testing procedures and only suggested it was used “strategically and effectively.”

“Strategically and effectively” certainly sounds like a lot less than 100%. USADA needs to make a more persuasive case for how its steroid testing (for testosterone) is more effective than VADA’s use of 100% CIR testing. Or applaud those organizations that are trying to improve anti-doping procedures.



NYFightBlog. (May 12, 2012). USADA counters Conte assertions. Retrieved from