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Going for the Gold
Drug Testing, Legal Challenges of Olympic Sponsorship Among Issues Discussed at Event

By Katie Vloet

William Bock III, the general counsel for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, pointed out his 13-year-old son in the audience of February 17's "Going for the Gold" event at Michigan Law. It wasn't just a moment of familial pride, but also a chance for Bock to draw attention to how widespread doping has become: Another 13-year-old boy, who was training to compete internationally on an inline-skating team, was given steroids. The boy's father went to federal prison for supplying the drugs.

"There can be life-changing, detrimental health effects from taking anabolic steroids at that young age," Bock, '89, told the audience during the series of panel discussions, presented by the Law School's Sports Law Society. Referring to doping in general, he said, "The public is not aware of the extent to which this happens."

Bock, a partner at Kroger, Gardis & Regas in Indianapolis, pointed out how athletes often change their behavior in order to beat drug tests, give only enough of a blood sample for a limited number of tests, give false whereabouts to evade testers, and time their use so the doping cannot be detected.

On the opposite side of what turned into a lively discussion was Howard Jacobs of the Law Offices of Howard Jacobs near Los Angeles, an attorney who has represented numerous athletes in doping disputes. He agreed with Bock that anti-doping efforts must focus on catching people who cheat. But he said many of his clients were charged with using banned substances based on contaminated supplements and other issues.

The testing system, he said, needs to better differentiate "between intentional doping and inadvertent positives.... The testing just doesn't work that well." He suggested, among other changes, that marijuana—a drug that doesn't improve athletic performance—be taken off the list of banned substances entirely, and that more money and resources go toward finding the athletes who benefit from intentionally taking banned substances.

The event also included a discussion about Olympic sponsorships, featuring Calita Robinson, '92, global marketing counsel at Coca-Cola, and Christopher McCleary, '91, associate general counsel, global brand and client management, at Visa. Both addressed the challenges of maintaining a company's exclusivity and fending off "ambush marketing"—that is, quick and inexpensive marketing that is used to fool people into thinking a company is associated with the Olympics.

In addition to other panels about the intersection of sports and law, 2010 Olympic ice dancing silver medalist Meryl Davis, a University of Michigan student, spoke about her experiences and allowed fans to wear the medal for photos.

In opening the event, Professor Sherman Clark offered to put in his "law prof.'s egghead two cents."

"Sports makes us think about the law more deeply, and in different ways," he said. "And that's because so many of the models operating elsewhere in society—including programs designed to ensure that all are treated equally—simply don't work when applied to the ruthlessly performance-oriented world of sports."

 

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