". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Former Lance Armstrong Prosecutor Says Men in Girls’ Sports Offers 10 Times the Edge of Doping

March 13, 2024

If anyone’s an expert on cheating in sports, it’s former U.S. Anti-Doping Agency official William Bock. The lead attorney in Lance Armstrong’s case, Bill spent a lot of time investigating one of the biggest scandals in cycling history. Years later, he tried to explain to the NCAA — where he served on a key committee — that “there’s a lot of crossover and similarities” between the problems of doping and men in girls’ sports. No one listened. So he did what they couldn’t ignore: he resigned.

For two decades, Bill’s whole job was preserving fairness in sports — a position that ultimately led to a seat on the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions in 2016. “I, like many Americans, love sports and grew up in a family play[ing] sports,” he told Outstanding podcast host Joseph Backholm. “And when I started practicing law, [I] felt that I wanted to be able to contribute and help young athletes [who] had that Olympic dream, which was something that kind of always inspired and motivated me.”

During his work with some of America’s future talents, a few cases in the anti-doping arena landed in his lap, and after writing some of the rules relating to the issue for the U.S. Olympic Committee, they invited him to join the group as their general counsel. When the Armstrong controversy broke, Bock immersed himself in the science. “… [T]he difference between a gold medal and a silver medal can be 1/100 of a second,” he pointed out. “[W]e’ve seen people tie for the gold medal. At that level, the differences are so minute that when we have a doping case, we don’t even have to show an enhancement of sport performance — just the possibility that there could be some minimal enhancement … to get a substance on the prohibited list. Sometimes we’re showing that after a long period of use, you might have a half of a percent or a percent increase in your oxygen capacity or strength or something. So these can be very small differences that can have a big impact on who’s on the podium, who wins the money, who wins the medals.”

The entire point of these sports bodies and governing boards is to make sure there’s a level playing field. But as he learned quickly at the NCAA, “We’re treating the issue of males competing in the female category completely differently than we do on the anti-doping side.” And we shouldn’t, Bill insisted. The half-percent advantage people get from doping doesn’t even compare to the edge men have biologically over women. “Generally,” he said, “the advantage a male has is somewhere between 10% and 60% over a female.”

That’s a mind-boggling statistic. And yet, he points out, it’s being completely ignored by America’s collegiate associations. “Male advantage starts at birth,” he told Joseph. “There’s a period of six months after a baby is born that’s called ‘mini-puberty.’ And a male baby gets the same amount of testosterone during that period of time that they’re going to have continuously from puberty onward. But that first six months, there’s a surge in testosterone, and it causes a lot of changes to the male body that they benefit from the rest of their life…”

These are factors the NCAA should have considered when Lia Thomas arrived on the scene, Bock pointed out. “I knew from my background in sport and dealing with a level-playing field and scientific issues the effect of testosterone on performance, that this couldn’t possibly be fair, and that all of the performance differences between men and women just [necessitates] … those categories [being] absolutely separate.” When Thomas started beating Olympic-level swimmers on the girls’ side and winning national meets, Bill was convinced the board would take action. “At that point, I thought, ‘Well, certainly, given the Thomas situation, the NCAA is going to going to have to do something here.’ But nothing happened.”

So Bock started talking with people on his committee, which, he explains, “dealt with the other aspects of ethics and sport — and involved athletic directors or coaches on the committee. There were university presidents, compliance officers on the committee, and [we] started having an open conversation with those individuals about whether this was fair or not — and was glad to find that virtually everybody agreed with me. … It really made a mockery of the fairness of the process.”

The whole reason we have a female category in sports is to make sure women were included. Because let’s face it, he said, “if it was just an open category with no divisions, we’d have no ability to recognize excellent female performances,” because males would dominate. “I’m saying things that we’ve known since first grade biology. So it almost sounds silly to say.”

And yet, instead of confronting the Thomas issue, the NCAA dug in. “They retrenched and issued announcements and said that their policy is great. And at that point, I really saw the need to disassociate myself with the NCAA. … [It needed someone] to say that what they’re doing to women is wrong.”

Bock quit the committee in protest, publicly calling the association’s trans rules “sanctioned cheating.” “I tried to put in my letter a lot of reasons why they ought to rethink their policy — and I hope that they do for a variety of reasons. One, this is causing increasing harm to women. Two, the whole structure of the NCAA as an ethical organization is at risk because they are not putting competitive fairness as their North Star. And if you’re a sports organization, and you don’t make fairness your North Star, that’s not even really sport any longer. And then finally, they’re absolutely in violation of federal law under Title IX. Title IX is very, very clear. You have to provide equal opportunities for males and females for members of both sexes.”

He admits that he probably should’ve resigned sooner. “I had several years to make my choice,” he told Backholm. Asked what tipped the scales, Bill replied immediately: the injustice of it all. “And because if we don’t speak up when people are being hurt by wrong ideas, by wrong actions, by people not doing their job, then we’re complicit in what’s happening,” he argued. “… The only way things change is if we speak up. And so it’s an obligation for all of us. Not everybody’s on a committee at the NCAA. But we all are attached in some way.”

Bock pointed to moms and dads who have kids on the playing field. What if their safety is at risk because they’re playing against a “guy that could injure them”? “Are you going to pull your kid off the field — or are you going to feel the peer pressure of everybody? You know, we’re all going to have these opportunities to make tough choices.”

While his decision to step down made national news, Bill hasn’t heard a peep from the NCAA — not that he’s surprised. “It’s now become a money-making operation,” he lamented. “ …[ I think] they’ve lost sight of the real mission that the NCAA was originally focused on. … And I think that’s part of the issue here.”

At the end of the day, Bock emphasized, “[You have to] keep the main thing the main thing. [But] first you have to know what the main thing is. … You have to know what your values are and then stay committed to them. What’s the reason for being a sports organization? It should be competitive fairness. It should be the well-being of athletes. And I think that if you are a sport organization and you keep the fairness and good treatment of athletes the number one thing, you’re going to make the right decision most of the time.”

But frankly, Bill said, “The NCAA has lost that focus on what their core values are. And they’re afraid of criticism. They’re afraid of being out of step with their member institutions. Maybe they’re afraid of losing the golden goose of March Madness, and so they’re going to try to placate people on college campuses.” Ultimately, he warned, “they’re either going to change and do the right thing to protect athletes and have competitive fairness in sport — or they’ll be gone, because there won’t be any reason for the NCAA to exist anymore.”

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.