Old urine samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics show massive cheating

by James_Miller1 min read25th Nov 201615 comments


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Evidence that people will cheat if the expected benefits greatly exceed the expected costs. Update accordingly. Where else do you think people are cheating?

In science there's a lot to be gained by false results and little expected costs...

I think that this is especially bad for science because science doesn't have anything equivalent to test and analyze before the medals are handed out. Peer review isn't an adversarial process aimed at detecting fraud. Anti-fraud in science is entirely based on your published papers being analogous to the stored urine samples; you are vulnerable to people getting round to checking, maybe, one day, after you've spent the grant money. If we can translate across from the Olympic experience we are saying that that kind of delayed anti-fraud measure works especially poorly with humans.

I think that a large number of product descriptions on Amazon are wrong. If a feature requires tools to measure accurately, then I personally expect its claimed value to be inflated.

I have heard the rumor that drugstore products (e.g. shampoo, wrinkle cream) contain ever-declining amounts of the active ingredient, after the first product launches.

Like no Aloe in Aloe products.

The takeaway should be an update towards mistrust in institutions.

Presidents swindle and rape -- therefore the Presidency is not sacred. The Red Cross steals -- therefore the Red Cross is not sacred. Olympic athletes cheat -- therefore the Olympics is not sacred. Many scientific articles are fraudulent -- therefore peer review is not sacred.

This is not the same as saying the institutions should not exist, or are worse than the alternative. But it seems very common to have confusion about the trustworthiness of institutions. On the one hand, to know that there is dishonesty; on the other hand, to continue to trust the institutions as though they were honest. I don't think this is an example of pure cynicism on the part of ordinary people; I don't think it means they simply favor the high-status and strong, and truly don't care about honesty. I think that historically there have been efforts to convince people "you can trust this, it is reliable" about certain things, and that we haven't quite adapted to knowing we're no longer in that world. It is very hard to maintain awareness of one's true aloneness.

I also think that it's easy to forget that trust (being able to depend on things, being able to be secure, a world that remains stable and normal and safe) is a function of honesty (having words match exactly to deeds and facts.) We blow off honesty as a "mere" moral scruple, but expect to continue to trust the world around us.

I read somewhere an idea that maybe we should have alternative Drug-lympics where all kinds of drugs are allowed. Besides the usual entertainment value, it would also help advance medical and biotechnological research.

Yes, but some young people would fuck themselves up for life, possibly under pressure from their families. That happens now too, of course, and at least when it's legal they could get earlier and better help; but I still don't see any politician voting for it.

I don't see any US politician voting for it. On the other hand it might be a smart move for a Latin American country. They could completely legalize all drugs and invite people to experiment.

I concur. The Olympians have been cheating since the inception of the modern Olympics, and will continue to do so. There is little doubt in my mind that nearly every successful Olympic Athlete has used these drugs (a kind of race to the bottom is at work here). Hell, the Olympics could be regarded as a contest on secretive steroid use... A Drug-Olympics could be a showcase of the newest biotechnological advancements. The data gained from the plethora of individuals experimenting with these substances would be great; the physiological effects of these 'drugs' could be examined with regard to the nationalities and genetic make-up of these individuals. It could lead to some very interesting results/advancements.

We should avoid blogspam unless actual articles are paywalled.

Nytimes link

IOC reports with full lists of athletes: 2008, 2012.

The NYT link you provide is paywalled for me.

I'm shocked, shocked...