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U.S. anti-doping agency eyes sports betting role

by Ryan Rodenberg, ESPN

The agency that spearheaded the takedown of Lance Armstrong has a new potential target: sports betting integrity.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) is interested in monitoring the expanding sports betting market in the U.S., potentially broadening its role to help pinpoint unusual betting activity with the same type of statistical detection methods it already uses to flag markers suggestive of doping.

The possibility of a broader role for USADA — which could be delegated the authority to serve as a central ‘hub’ for sports wagering integrity efforts — took on a new level of importance after the formal introduction of comprehensive federal sports betting legislation earlier this week.

“If legalized sports gambling and potentially match-fixing situations continue to come to light, it would be important to have a regulatory body to put rules in place and hand down any sanctions necessary,” said Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of USADA in Colorado Springs. “USADA would consider expanding our scope.

“We have had high-level conversations with several in the industry and folks on [Capitol] Hill.”

USADA was created in 2000 and is recognized by Congress as the designated national-level drug testing entity for a wide swath of sports, including Olympic athletes in the U.S.

On Wednesday, U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Chuck Schumer (D-New York) introduced the Sports Wagering Market Integrity Act of 2018 — that calls for a central “clearinghouse,” where betting data from across the nation are analyzed to monitor suspicious betting. The proposed legislation does not specifically mention USADA as the designated group to handle the work. The anti-doping agency’s top executive nevertheless pinpoints the shared focus.

“It’s in the gaming market’s interest as well as clean athletes’ to have a fair, honest playing field,” said Tygart, who has led USADA’s integrity efforts as CEO since 2007. “If someone has an unknown advantage through doping, the gaming industry suffers from an inability to equitably set the odds.

“Cooperative relationships have to take priority in order for clean athletes and a corrupt-free gaming market to prevail.”

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