When Lance Armstrong's ex-teammate first accused him of using performance enhancing drugs, did you believe the accusation right away? I did. And when we learned that doping was common practice among top cyclists, did that surprise you? It didn't surprise me. It was exactly what I expected. My bullshit filter worked perfectly in that case. Or maybe it was just my economics training. Whenever the following three conditions are met, you always have rampant cheating:

1.       Cheating is easy

2.       The payoff is huge.

3.       The odds of getting caught are low

Eventually you'll see the same sort of doping scandal in tennis. It's obvious that many of the top players - especially the women - are up to something. You can tell by the sudden changes in body shape and performance. It's especially obvious when you see players having their best performances after the age of thirty.

This brings me to hedge funds. Every now and then - such as this week - a story trickles out that a hedge fund manager has been accused of illegal insider trading. Prior to the accusations, we tend to take hedge funds at their word that they have secret algorithms and they do penetrating research to achieve their market-beating returns.

Allow me to get out in front with both tennis and hedge funds. My bullshit filter says tennis is filled with juiced-up cheaters, and the majority of hedge funds are criminal enterprises hiding behind "secret" algorithms.

Just to be clear, I don't think Roger Federer is abusing any substances. His body shows no signs of it. I think Andy Roddick is clean too, or else he would still be playing. I would put the juicing rate at somewhere near 50% for the top thirty players.

I'm sure some hedge funds are legitimate too. The honest ones are easy to spot; most of them aren't beating the market averages. Here again I would put the rate of cheating, including insider trading, at about 50%. I have no data to support that estimate; I'm just looking at the needle on my bullshit meter. Someday we'll look back and laugh at the fact we ever believed hedge funds used secret algorithms.

What does your bullshit meter tell you about tennis and hedge funds? What percentage do you believe are cheaters?


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Nov 28, 2012

OK. Reviewed available info on the net regarding steroid use for myself. Conclusion: I grant you steroid use is not as harmful as I thought but its not as harmless as you think either. They can increase mortality, though perhaps not as much as some perfectly legal things.

Even if they didnt, though, I would have trouble with the idea of legalizing them. Somne of the 'less serious' side effects (aggression, shrunken testicles, etc.) are such that I wouldnt want to force an athlete to have to deal with the possibility of them just so I could see them perform a bit better. And legalizing them (or not enforcing the laws against them) does force them to choose between that and losing to the folks who take that chance.
Nov 28, 2012
@Dingbat, whtllnew: I reviewed the medical literature on steroids in 2000, and there was no evidence that anabolic steroids increase the risk of suicide. There was no evidence that anabolic steroids increase mortality in any way. They can increase blood pressure, cause night sweats, and cause mood changes (usually for the better), but their side effects are not as great as those of coffee for comparable dosages (comparing, say, 200mg/week of testosterone propionate to 2 cups of coffee/day). There are theoretical reasons for thinking they may increase the chances of prostate cancer, but experiments have not supported the theory (although men with prostate cancer should not use steroids). There are a few anecdotes about patients dying while being given steroids, but in all cases they were dangerously ill before they were given steroids, were given very large doses, and were being given many other drugs simultaneously. It is common for athletes to take uselessly-large doses of steroids (e.g., 3g/week when there is little evidence that anything over 800mg/week has any additional benefits), and yet the most-common negative outcome from this is gynecomastia. Oral steroids, which generally have worse side effects due to their lower stability and lower bioavailability, can also cause liver damage, in the same way that many oral medications can. Other than that, there was simply no evidence that anabolic steroids cause any long-term health problems. This is remarkable when one considers that studying almost any supplement for any amount of time produces erroneous studies with false conclusions of danger (such as the famous but statistically incorrect "vitamins kill" studies of the past decade), and that there are many studies linking fatalities to common, uncontroversial medicine and supplements including aspirin, tylenol, and aspartame.

The exceptions that I am aware of are that oral steroids cause liver damage, that men with prostate cancer should not have any testosterone supplements because they oppose the effects of finasteride and dutasteride, that women should not use anabolic steroids, and that men under the age of 20 should never use any anabolic steroids because they can terminate bone growth. Also, I'm not including DHT or androstenediol; they have more side effects and provide fewer benefits and should generally be avoided.

Furthermore, doctors routinely prescribe men with low testosterone natural testosterone supplements of 70g/week, even though natural testosterone has roughly 20 times the side-effect / therapeutic effect ratio of synthetics (varying by type of synthetic and the particular side-effect being considered). The man who gets a 10g/day natural testosterone patch from his doctor, typically prescribed without any phase-in, phase-out, cycling, or anti-estrogens, will have significantly more side-effects (e.g., hair loss, negative mood change) than the athlete injecting 400g/week of synthetics, largely because natural testosterone has a half-life measured in hours while synthetics have a half-life generally closer to a week, and it is the breakdown products (particularly DHT), not the testosterone, that cause most negative side-effects. The fact that doctors prescribe natural testosterone at all proves that they don't know what they're doing. There is no legitimate therapeutic use for natural testosterone.

It's especially ridiculous for people to talk about the dubious health risks to athletes from steroids when athletes routinely use (and sometimes die from) /extremely/ dangerous drugs, including diuretics, insulin, mitochondrial uncouplers, EPO or blood doping, and growth hormone. These drugs are all even more dangerous than alcohol, though of course none of them approach anywhere near the fatality rate of cigarettes.
Nov 27, 2012
The thing that really pisses me off about the performance-enhancing drugs scandals is that apparently they have these drugs that let people in their thirties be as fit as people in their twenties, and instead of making sure that insurance will pay for everybody to get them, the government outlaws them!
Nov 26, 2012
@language - gotta give you credit. Fill your post with how atheists are immoral and support a cheating system, shaking your head at how terrible their world will be.....

.....and hope that nobody spots how at the end you say that you believe a doping cheater to be a hero. Sounds like perhaps you share that lack of ethical responsibility you claim to look down on.....
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 25, 2012
@lewscannon: The NFL doesn't test for steroids at all. The players union won't allow it. And I would be surprised if the number who *don't* juice is as high as 5% (excluding kickers).
Nov 25, 2012
I work in the sports world, and unfortunately, Scott, your view of the conditions that create cheating are correct. The problem is that there is a tipping point when the sense of athletes (or traders) is that "everybody is doing it" in our field, then there is a flood of cheating. This is why harsh enforcement of rules (WADA, USADA) is critical in sport, and athletes and coaches pay a harsh penalty to make them think hard about cheating. Is there really any commensurate sense of risk for traders? Is the SEC at all serious? We need to beef up enforcement on wall street, or the tipping point will destroy the credibility of the market. In sport, I worry about the high school kid who starts using steroids, and that's why we must be harsh with sport PED cheaters. Who suffers the most if the stock market is seen as completely corrupt?
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 24, 2012
Tennis - no more than 70% of the Top 50.
Hedge funds - no less than 80% of all of them.
Nov 24, 2012

the closer to monopoly a sports league becomes, the less valid the relationship becomes.

thus the relationship between the single league american sports, and any individual player is basically nonexistent.

if he doesnt want the relationship, because he wants to play by PED playing field, there is no other game in town for him to compete at.

this is why i think the relationship argument is flawed, or any appeals to the sports leagues authority.

the relationship loses even more when there is a player union backing "labor" performed by athletes. that is not a relationship, that is a crowded mess full of greedy rulemakingbreakers.
Nov 23, 2012
Somewhat on topic.

I propose that they create 3 separate Olympics.

The first would be the 'pure' Olympics, that include only tests of human athletisism. Track and Field events, swimming (maybe) and weightlifting, and bare-hand pugiliism (wrestling, judo). Gymnastics would be converted to a battery of Parkour obstacle courses. The list of approved equipment would be very short, and the only role of judges is to enforce the rules.

The second would be the human powered vehicle and team sport Olympics - this would be merged with the Paralympics. Cyclimg, rowing, boxing, fencing, all team sports, etc. In these events all forms limb replacement and augmenting technology is allowed (sans-external power sources) - but not drugs or artificial hormones.

The third would be the trans-human Olympics. In these events competitors are encouraged to use whatever technology is available to boost the power of the human body past its limits. These would the the gladiatorial games of science fiction.

You can guess which would be the most popular.
Nov 23, 2012
There seems to be some controversy regarding what constitutes 'cheating'. I think some discussion is in order.

To me, cheating means knowingly violating the rules of conduct (written and unwritten) that apply to a certain relationship. In any relationship - whether it is a business, sport, marriage, friendship, community, or card game. There are certain expectations that people have of each other. Conforming to these expectations is generally a requirement for the relationship continuing.

Sometimes these rules are written and formal. Breaking the law is clearly cheating in society. Sometimes these rules are social conventions - while there is no written agreement saying that unmarried partners remain faithful, it is a general expectation.

Sometimes the unwritten convention contradicts the written rule. When I play games with my in-laws, breaking the written rules is considered part of the game, and it is considered bad form to call someone out for it.

In any case, conformity to the rules is very important for the sustainability of a relationship, and when that relationshhip involves real sums of money - the written rules have to be enforced no matter the convention. Otherwise someone is going to feel cheated.
Nov 23, 2012
COMPLETELYOFF TOPIC: I recommend going here to see the eary results of shine the braille toad:


(Be sure to ask Chrome to translate the German, unless of course you know German.)

Scott rules the world?
Nov 22, 2012

be careful your desire for equal opportunity does not turn into equal outcome.

i played pro sports, never doped, but if i had no moral objections to PED i would have. i would have sacrificed 10 years of golden years for greater ability in the now.

i see cheating as its own reward for those who choose that path. they harm themselves and get what is coming to them.

if you arent willing to pay the price, dont envy the prize.

your sons effort sounds great, but does he deserve to beat out millions of other aspiring athletes? if he does its most likely because he won the genetic lottery and put in the work.

imo, most anti PED ppl think they have some natural entitlement to beating enormous odds. they dont have a healthy respect for the odds, nor the fact they are competing for that opportunity against other sentient beings with their own hopes, dreams, prayers, and ingenuity.

sports give a huge amount of status, but its a game for young healthy ppl. education grants lifelong power. in other words, its not as great a reward as it appears.

my general attitude about cheaters was that i already knew i was competing with mutants. whats a little PED thrown in?
Nov 22, 2012
Happy wrote [People - let's be clear: There is no such thing as 'cheating'.

Some actions have negative consequences. But this is true whether they're man-made consequences (cheat on your taxes, get caught and go to jail), or natural consequences (tell a lie to a friend, get caught and lose the friendship).

When it comes to money and sports, I count on people bending or outright breaking the rules. Expecting anything else is naive. In baseball, there's a saying, "If you're not cheating, you're not trying hard enough."

Happy Soon-To-Be Turkey-Day Everybody :-) ]

and was at -6 (downvotes). i really have a hard time grasping atheists value system. it appears entirely arbitrary from where i stand. a relic of postpuritanical socialization. yall went to school with deists, in a culture of deists, who socialized you to the golden rule, and yall think atheism grants some benevolence or morality. equality or tolerance or honesty. its quite hilarious. now that deism is being pushed out of socialization its quite obvious what culture decline with follow.

this world is a time limited revolving door of progress. there isnt enough time for the bad guys to get caught and for bad movements to fold in on themselves due to actual natural consequences. for every wise old person who goes into the dirt, there is a sucker born every minute.

marrying atheism to ethics feels like the most futile exercise in judgmental masturbation. interesting to see how many downvotes a cheating advocate receives. i just end up shaking my head to see the general attitude of todays youth. darth vader is seen as stronger because good is weak. maybe after a lifetime they would change that attitude, but again, a sucker is born every minute, who then needs a lifetime to figure it out before his dirtnap.

armstrong is NOW a hero to me. before he was just 1 of many athletes. an athlete who competed in a sport/tech hybrid competition. its not NASCAR (who i have zero athletic respect for), its not chess, which is not even a sport, but it still is an arbitrary competition based on human power merged with bicycle tech.

give me the 100 meter dash any day. humans are landbased bipedal animals, which is why i really dont give a ratsass about michael phelps. obviously impressive, but c'mon, its 1 step away from handgliding.
Nov 22, 2012
"I don't think Roger Federer is abusing any substances. His body shows no signs of it"

Oh? You saw signs of "abuse" in Lance Armstrong's body? What signs did you see?
Nov 22, 2012
50% for hedge funds?! On my !$%*!$%* meter I see it at about 90%. No comment on tennis though since I don't follow that sport very closely.
Nov 21, 2012
It's amazing that in the NFL, there aren't many reports of steroid problems. The testing must be through.
-8 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 21, 2012
Athletes, especially NFL players, so abuse their bodies that quite a few of them die in their 40s of strokes and heart attacks. For someone who is willing to risk that, the slight additional risk of using steroids vanishes in the noise. All the sport organizations should just legalize it and forget about it. The public doesn't care -- we'd watch gladiator fights if anyone were willing to do them (and "mixed martial arts"/"ultimate fight" matches come quite close).

Re Lance Armstrong, he's a genuine hero, and I don't give a darn if he doped or not. Neither should anybody else.

Re tennis, I'm not sure why anyone would bother juicing. Tennis has some prestige, but not the money you can make in a sport that's on TV all year long. (Besides, look at Anna Kournikova. She can't play tennis worth a hoot, but who cares? She's got a great career ahead of her as eye candy until age catches up with her.)

Re hedge funds, you are probably right that consistently above-average performance merits a fraud investigation or at least an audit, but sometimes the predictors do have winning streaks. And of course, hedge funds are not something you or I should be buying anyway. They're gambles and strictly for the kind of person who can lose $20 million and laugh about it. I'd much sooner risk my money playing "21"; at least I know something about how to win at that game.
+36 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 21, 2012

"For me? I wish all athletes would dope, juice and supplement themselves into invincible warriors. Then we can see the true limitations of human endeavor. Until then, sports are.... well.... .... meh."

I really wish this were a troll comment - but I see this sentiment too frequently to believe that....

I'm going to give you the mother's perspective - not that ever seems to make much of an impact but mothers are used to plodding forward anyway. It is what we do.

I have a 16 year old son who gets up at 5:30 every morning and is out the door before anyone else wakes up. He does weight training before school, then takes a full schedule of advanced (IB) classes including Physics and Calculus. After school he continues to train until 5:30 or so. He comes home, eats impressive !$%*!$%*!$ of food (I have guidelines from his coach on what I should be feeding the kid), then does homework until he falls asleep. Weekends are typically a combination of sports, homework and catching up on sleep. He has very little time to spend with friends.

This is all entirely his choice. He is very competitive in one sport that he does outside of high school - in addition to playing on HS teams. In the case of the outside sport, I've noticed coaches really make an effort to spend time with him. His primary coach tells us that is because they believe he could make the national team and compete well at an international level - and if that happens they want to be able to say they worked with him.

He is incredibly focused and driven. His dad and I are more the type B kind and neither of us are into sports. Watching a kid pour this much effort and heart into a sport has certainly changed my perspective. We also now have a glimpse into the kinds of outside influence that comes into play. Most of it is good. He has opportunities to travel and to work with Olympic-level coaches. In fact, it looks like he will spend all of next semester in an Olympic training program with opportunities to travel and compete in Europe - at minimal cost to us.

On the other side, my oldest son had a good friend who committed suicide as a result (according to his mother) of steroid use. It's a long story - but I think his mother's account is pretty credible. In his case he was trying to improve his chances of getting into West Point. It doesn't look as though a coach was pushing (or monitoring) his drug use. In any case, that is a pretty stark reminder that these drugs are not without serious side effects. These are human beings. They are not characters in a video game that you can "juice up" for entertainment purposes.

Sports should be about testing human limits and spirit - not about maximizing the entertainment value for fans who don't have to live with the long-term consequences of drug use.
Nov 21, 2012
Melvin, Buffet is actually pretty average in general in stock picking I heard; he basically had 6 stock picks over his career that he knocked out of the park. So he won the wall street lottery. So why is he average in stock picking in general? His theory of picking undervalued stocks with growth potential is what everyone else out there is trying to do. If the stock's key numbers are right and the price is lower than it should be, you buy it.
Nov 21, 2012

Im with Dingbat on this one. What you're basically asking athletes to do is die an early death so you can see just how good 'good' can get. Doping is not the same as training.
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