Mr. Keep It Clean
Bill Bock helps keep the Olympic playing field level
Published in 2017 Indiana Super Lawyers magazine on February 15, 2017
Growing up, Bill Bock loved the Olympic Games and what they stood for. He had, he says, a bad case of “five-ring fever.”
The fever didn’t break when he became a lawyer in the early 1990s. In fact, he often helped Olympic hopefuls with fundraising and legal issues pro bono.
Things got busy after a friend of a friend tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. “It happened to be at the International Olympic Committee-accredited drug testing laboratory in Indianapolis, and they asked if I could go over and observe the sample analysis and help out with the case,” says Bock, a sports attorney at Kroger, Gardis & Regas in Indianapolis. “It turned out the B sample did not confirm the A.”
In 2000, when the United States Olympic Committee handed off its drug testing to the United States Anti-Doping Agency, Bock worked as outside counsel for the organization, then became its general counsel in 2007.
In his current role, Bock provides guidance to the USADA’s chief investigator and works with law enforcement to investigate athletes who may be using performance-enhancing drugs. He was lead attorney in the USADA investigation that stripped Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France medals, and he was a key part of the USADA’s investigation of BALCO in the early 2000s.
“Being able to support people that dream to be the best they can be, and ensure that they can do that in a safe way—and through their own God-given talent as opposed to having to rely on dangerous drugs—is what motivates me,” he says.
Bock says there will always be a need for agencies like the USADA. “Humans are human, and we’re subject to temptations and the desire to be on top or to take shortcuts.”
He’s currently focused on state-sponsored doping. “Unfortunately, to date, the International Olympic Committee hasn’t been as vigilant on that issue as we think they should have,” Bock says. “In the lead-up to the Rio games, we encouraged them to look closely at the evidence of state-sponsored doping, and the fact that a viable and effective testing program had not existed in Russia in the four-year lead-up to the [Rio] games.”
Though USADA doesn’t have a role with the IOC, Bock says they try to “help the voice of clean athletes be heard.” For instance, USADA and other anti-doping agencies asked the committee to impose uniform standards on athletes from Russia who could compete in the Rio games but, “Instead, the IOC kind of stood aside, and said, ‘We’re going to allow each individual sport [to determine if athletes from Russia should be able to compete],’” Bock says.
Why no uniform standards? Bock says: “Russia pumped $52 billion into the Sochi Olympic Games. There is the concern that that lure of sponsorship money can drown the voices of individual athletes.
“WADA’s independent investigator has established that the deputy minister of sport was making decisions about which Russian athletes’ samples were being tested [from 2011 through the Sochi games], and which were being thrown out by the Moscow WADA-accredited laboratory. And yet, to date, there have been no meaningful or sufficient consequences as a result of that.
“Not everybody values the importance of clean sport and truth and honesty,” Bock adds. “Globally it remains a fight to make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of the underlying values of the anti-doping system.” And on the same level playing field.