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For athletes accused of taking drugs, a Perry Mason of their own

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“If you’re criticizing USADA [the US Anti-Doping Agency], it’s because you’re a doper or you have some financial incentive to do it,” says Jacobs, describing what he says his opponents believe. “Which is ridiculous. It’s as ridiculous as saying you can’t criticize the war on Iraq.”

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The system set up to stem drug use in sports is a complex nexus of international law and athletic values that is carried out by an alphabet-soup of antidoping agencies worldwide. It has its own built-in set of checks and balances. The only problem is, one person’s check doesn’t always meet another person’s sense of balance.

The genesis of much of the antidoping movement was an egregious scandal surrounding the Tour de France in 1998, when one team was caught with a carload of banned drugs. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), already plagued with rumors of drug use in many sports, was galvanized to act. Beginning the next year, numerous policing agencies bubbled up throughout the sporting world – most notably the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

A joint venture between governments and sporting entities, WADA spent four years fashioning a global antidoping code. All 202 countries in the Olympic movement and 570 sports organizations have signed on. Each year, the agency updates a list of banned substances.

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