Kevin Moats Banned for Doping

Top age-group athlete Kevin Moats, 58 years old, has been suspended from competition by World Triathlon Corporation for 1 year as a result of a positive test for exogenous testosterone. The original ban was for 2 years, but the ban was halved by an arbitration panel.

The adverse finding was as a result of a test executed on Moats, out of competition, on January 30, 2012. The sample failed the threshold for testosterone/epitestosterone ratio. Moats admitted, at his arbitration hearing, taking supplemental testosterone. He contends, and has produced documentation, demonstrating that he has been under a doctor's supervision since 2005 for hypothyroidism and andropause. However, Moats did not seek a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) prior to the test or at any time prior to the arbitration hearing.

Moats rested his case on inconsistencies between USADA's requirements for retroactive TUEs and text on TUEs that had been published on WTC's website (specifically, the Ironman Pro Membership website, notwithstanding the fact that Moats is an age-group racer). While USADA grants retroactive TUEs for only certain classes of drugs, such as asthma inhalers and insulin, WTC's website did detail a much broader approach to retroactive TUEs. WTC's website indicated that TUEs could be retroactive for any class of drug, if that athlete met certain criteria which included having a "medical condition which was well documented prior to" the test.

However, that same section in WTC's rules also reads that "ALL Age Group athletes are advised to check with their National Anti-Doping Agency and their National Triathlon Federation to determine if there are domestic or federation policies which may be different from those of the WTC. Stricter TUE requirements could be applicable..." (the all-caps "ALL" is in WTC's website text.)

Moats was represented at the hearing by Howard Jacobs, generally considered the dean among athletes' attorneys in anti-doping cases. Jacobs acknowledged that his client did not read the full set of WTC's anti-doping rules, and that Moats is in contravention of these rules. However, Jacobs argued, his client relied on the truncated text specifically regarding TUEs. Moats' suspension was therefore reduced from 2 years to 1, and the suspension, having begun from the date the sample was taken, is retroactive to that date, plus 1 year. Accordingly, Moats is again eligible to compete in triathlon as of that date in 2013. All WADA signatories are bound to honor the ban, and all WADA signatories would presumably honor the lifting of the ban in January, 2013, as well.

WTC was gently chided by the arbitration panel, saying, "the Panel would respectfully suggest that WTC consider amending and clarifying its anti-doping rules and website, as well as offering formal anti-doping education and training." The panel also noted inconsistencies with regard to the nature of a "registered testing pool."

The panel also asked Moats why he did not disclose the use of exogenous testosterone at the point of testing, and he indicated that the testing form only asked for medications taken during the past 3 days (his last testosterone application occurred 7 days prior). The panel appeared compelled to accept this testimony as the form did indeed read as Moats indicated.

While not part of this case, this opens up the broader question of competing narratives. USADA has as its sole job the execution of an anti-doping regime. However, both WTC and USA Triathlon (USAT) have snippets or elements, or entire sets of rules, that sit parallel to those of USADA and are in some cases not entirely consistent. For example, on USAT's website there are three paragraphs on doping. Inside of one such paragraph, we read:

It is also the responsibility of each member of USA Triathlon to submit, without reservation or condition, to in-competition and out-of-competition doping controls conducted by either the ITU or the USADA. Out-of-competition (short notice) testing of athletes may take place at USA Triathlon elite-level camps, training sessions at USOC facilities or at other designated sites. Out of competition testing (no advance notice) testing of athletes may take place at any time for those athletes designated by USA Triathlon for inclusion in USA Triathlon's Out-of-Competition testing pool. (the bold is ours.)

Does this mean that out-of-competition testing does not apply, and cannot legally apply to those who are not "members," i.e., those who take out 1-day licenses? And, does it mean that out-of-competition testing cannot legally apply to those not already designated in an out-of-competition pool?

These sorts of parallel messages may work to undercut USADA's attempt to catch dopers.

However, the panel also wrote at length describing that the lack of anti-doping education also places anti-doping efforts in peril, citing cases where that lack of education creates means by which an athlete can build a case arguing for a mitigation of his culpability. Therefore, the panel is asking both for entities like WTC not create confusion through parallel messaging, while still requiring parallel messaging as a means to educate.

One might wonder why WTC has an anti-doping program, and a set of anti-doping rules, at all, rather than simply paying USADA to test at its races (which is does anyway). It is a legacy that reaches back to 2004, when the International Triathlon Union (ITU) threw out from under the international federation umbrella Ironman, Powerman, Xterra, and Life Time Fitness races. All agree the ITU acted in haste, in retrospect, and this resolution was formally overturned 2 years later.

But immediately after the 2004 ITU resolution casting it out, WTC undertook to built its own anti-doping platform, under an organization it called the GTG. It became a WADA signatory and has operated since as an "IF-equivalent." The current program is the legacy of that initiative, and remained in place mostly because USADA seemed unwilling and uninterested in testing non-Olympic-bound athletes in a non-Olympic-style race unless its paid to do so as a contractor, and WTC was compelled to find ways to both test, and to fund testing, at its races.

That established, since the Moats case WTC has changed its approach to doping and the text upon which Moats relied for his reduced sentence is no longer found. Further, some athletes report being moved from the WTC out-of-competition testing pool to a pool administered by USADA, suggesting WTC is quietly divesting itself of a separate anti-doping program (we've learned, for example, that WTC no longer grants TUEs, although Slowtwitch reported just last month that it did).

Moats is the current Hawaiian Ironman course record holder in the 55-59 age group. He is notorious for his use, in the past, of a rear-view mirror on his bike, widely interpreted by those in his competitive set as a method for spotting approaching race marshals.