Monday, May 14, 2018

Wisdom on College Hoops from Carlon Brown

This series of comments below from Carlon Brown ((@carlonautentico) on Twitter offers a fantastic perspective on what college basketball prepares an athlete for and what it does not. Brown played at the University of Colorado and professionally in the US and overseas.

It'd be great to get him to my class next year. The perspective below is smart, have a read.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Reverse Engineering Bermon & Garnier (2017)

Last week, Ross Ticker, Erik Boye and I wrote a letter to the British Journal for Sports Medicine calling for the authors of Bermon and Garnier (2017, BG17) and their sponsor IAAF to release the performance data used in their study. You can read our letter here.

Professor Joe Guinness, a statistician and visiting assistant professor at Cornell (@joeguinness) has attempted to reproduce the reported performance results in BG17 for the women's 800m, which we discuss in our letter.
BG17 report an average time of 121.80 seconds with a standard deviation of 5.42 seconds, for 64 times included in the analysis. Prof. Guinness sought to reporduce these numbers by brute force (his code is linked in the Tweet above).

He has found that he can only come close to reproducing the times by removing Caster Semenya's 2011 time plus that of one other athlete. See his results above. He notes in a Tweet: "There are some caveats here, especially how rounding is dealt with, so this shouldn’t be taken as definitive."

If these numbers are correct then it would mean that Caster Semenya's time was removed while 2 times from Mariya Savinova in 2011 and 2013 would remain. Savinova's times have officially been removed from the IAAF database after she was suspended for doping at both the 2011 and 2013 World Championships.

The inclusion of Savinova alone would call into question the meaningfulness of BG17, and the deletion of Semenya's time would be curious. Of course, we cannot be sure about any of this until IAAF and BG17 release their data.

The longer the stonewall the more questions will be raised as to why the just don't release the data. Are there some things in their work that they are afraid to show?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Some Resources on Testosterone Regulation in Elite Athletics

It appears that the IAAF is on the verge of announcing another set of regulations governing allowable natural testosterone levels in women athletes. This is a bad idea. In anticipation of the new regulations I thought I'd post up some resources for those who are interested in the issue.

The regulation of testosterone only the latest effort by sports administrators to police how women should look. There are countless biological characteristics of humans that in some way contribute to elite athletics performance -- testosterone in women (but not in men) is the only naturally occurring biological characteristic that is regulated.

I take on this issue in some depth in this paper
Pielke Jr, R. (2017). Sugar, spice and everything nice: how to end ‘sex testing’in international athletics. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 9:649-665. (PDF, free to read)
Remarkably, in 2011 the IAAF listed a set of criteria for how women should appear, lest they be reported to officials for investigation of their testosterone level. These criteria are listed in the slide below (from a talk I give on this subject). Two of the nine criteria have to do with breats size and shape.
More generally, let's say that you accept the argument that testosterone should be regulated. I don't, but let's play along. Even here, the science relied on by the IAAF does not support the case that they are making.

The IAAF bases its case on this paper:
Bermon, S., & Garnier, P. Y. (2017). Serum androgen levels and their relation to performance in track and field: mass spectrometry results from 2127 observations in male and female elite athletes. British Journal of Sports Medicine
That paper purports to show that women in certain events gain a benefit from testosterone levels in the higher end of the range found in female athletes. 

That paper has received a range of criticism as being flawed. Notably:
Franklin S, Ospina Betancurt J, Camporesi S What statistical data of observational performance can tell us and what they cannot: the case of Dutee Chand v. AFI & IAAF Br J Sports Med Published Online First: 23 February 2018. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-098513
That paper concludes:
we believe that it is scientifically incorrect to draw the conclusions in the Bermon and Garnier paper from the statistical results presented. Their paper claims that certain athletes have an advantage in precisely the five events where a significant effect was found: we calculate that a high share of those five significant effects are likely to be false positives.
the statistical analysis data processing in this paper is such a mess that I can’t really figure out what data they are working with, what exactly they are doing, or the connection between some of their analyses and their scientific goals. 
Gelman was motivated by Simon Franklin, a post-doc at LSE, who emailed him that:
There are more than a few problems with the paper, not least the fact that it makes causal claims from correlations in a highly selective sample, and the bizarre choice of comparing averages within the highest and lowest tertiles of fT levels using a student t-test (without any other statistical tests presented).

But most problematic is the multiple hypothesis testing. The authors test for a correlation between T-levels and performance across a total of over 40 events (men and women) and find a significant correlation in 5 events, at the 5% level. They then conclude:
These are 5 events for which they found significant correlations! And we are lead to believe that there is no such advantage for any of the other events.
Female athletes with high fT levels have a significant competitive advantage over those with low fT in 400 m, 400 m hurdles, 800 m, hammer throw, and pole vault.
I also have written two critiques. First, a post-publication peer review:
My bottom line: The paper has some significant methodological issues, most notably the inclusion of female athletes who doped with those with naturally high levels of T. There is some double counting of athletes in 2011 and 2013. There is also speculation that the male findings are contaminated by doping. Methodological issues notwithstanding, the paper nonetheless strongly reinforces the 2015 CAS Chand decision. 

The IAAF data of Bermon and Garnier (2017) don't support the proposed regulations of testosterone in women at distances of 400m to one mile. Consider the figure below:
Let's accept the analysis as valid (maybe not, but let's play along). These IAAF data (pink bar) indicate that over distances of 400m, 800m and 1500m high testosterone women are on average 1.1% faster than their low testosterone counterparts. Unfair, IAAF might scream.

But look at the data that IAAF collected for men at 400m and 1500m (blue bar). These data indicate that high testosterone men are on average 1.1% faster than their low testosterone counterparts. Surely if high T in women in selected events where performance differs is to be regulated, then high T in men in selected events where performance differs is also to be regulated?

If IAAF responds that the T standard applies only to women but not men based on performance data, then this is the very hallmark of sex discrimination. This only scratches the surfaced of flawed T regulation.

We shall see what IAAF actually presents tomorrow. However, based on the evidence and arguments that IAAF have presented thus far, its T regulations are focused on one athlete (initials CS), discriminatory, sexist and (for those who think analysis of T levels in athlete performance is relevant) resting on a flawed evidence base.

There can be little doubt that this new policy will be challenged at CAS.

Monday, April 23, 2018

A Talk on College Sports: How University Faculty Can Help Fix College Athletics

Over the weekend I gave a talk to the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics (COIA). Here it is:
Comments welcomed!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Six-Figure Salaries in the US NGBs Reported in 2016 IRS 990s

The figure above was motivated by a column by Sally Jenkins in the Washington Post a few weeks ago in which she reported that the USOC pays 129 staff members more than $100k per year. I was curious how that statistic looks for the 47 Olympic National Governing Bodies.

One way to take a look at that question is to dive into the 20016 (most recently reported) IRS 990 forms required for non-profits and sum up all the highly-paid employees reported on those forms. We identified 184 individuals on the 990s with compensation levels above $100,000. This number is surely an underestimate as not all such salaries are reported on the 990s. In addition, there are many subcontracts and transfers reported on the 990s to other non-profits or businesses for which it is impossible to identify salaries. US Soccer for instance, transferred some $60+ million and awarded USSF employees unspecified bonuses. Even so, the reported numbers tell us something.

Summary stats:

  • Number of salaries between $100k and $150k = 56
  • $150k - $200k = 46
  • $200k - $250k = 33
  • $250k- $500k = 39
  • >$500k = 10
  • >$1M = 3
All told, these salaries for the 184 employees total $44.7 million and represent just about 4% of the total NGB budgets.

Please send along comments, corrections and data requests via Twitter @rogerpielkejr.

Monday, April 9, 2018

US Olympic NGB Revenues in 2016

UPDATE: An eagle-eyed reader caught a mistake in USA Archery and USA Bowling. Now fixed. Thanks for the close reading.

The image and data above shows US Olympic National Governing bodies ranked by 2016 revenue as reported to the IRS on Form 990, line 12. Some details:
  • Blue is a Winter Sport, Green is Summer;
  • We were unable to locate the IRS 990 for USA Canoe/Kayak;
  • US Soccer owns a subsidiary non-profit that reported more than $192 million in revenue, of which USSF says $50M was transferred to USSF. So the US Soccer total includes a net ~$142 million in addition to income reported by USSF. It's all a bit murky
Some top level figures:
  • The 47 NGBs collectively had more than $1.2 billion in revenues
  • 3 had revenues over $200m, Soccer, Tennis and Golf
  • 18 had revenues between $10m and $50m
  • 21 had revenues between $1m and $10m
  • 4 had revenues of less than $1m
Golf, Tennis and Soccer are clearly in a financial class by themselves.

In the works: How many employees of the NGBs make salaries of $100k+?

U.S. Soccer $266,366,465
U.S. Tennis Association $259,711,661
USA Golf $206,656,399
USA Hockey $44,446,718
USA Swimming $39,620,614
USA Track & Field $35,008,413
USA Gymnastics $34,477,340
USA Bowling $33,895,340
U.S. Equestrian Federation $30,658,967
USA Volleyball $28,806,924
U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association $26,924,000
USA Basketball $22,674,932
U.S. Figure Skating $20,481,288
USA Wrestling $18,236,578
USA Triathlon $15,984,236
USA Cycling $14,573,722
U.S. Sailing $11,646,019
USA Rugby $11,188,896
USA Water Polo $10,991,345
USA Softball $10,519,107
US Rowing $10,393,694
USA Baseball $9,268,586
USA Fencing $9,159,034
USA Field Hockey $8,931,960
USA Squash $5,487,560
USA Shooting $5,386,549
USA Weightlifting $5,147,637
USA Boxing $4,558,366
USA Archery $3,816,680
U.S. Speedskating $3,783,442
USA Bobsled & Skeleton $3,696,117
USA Taekwondo $3,451,975
USA Diving $3,257,831
U.S. Biathlon Association $2,696,248
USA Curling $2,340,751
USA Luge $2,330,785
USA Table Tennis $2,168,190
USA Water Ski $1,885,931
USA Judo $1,872,010
USA Synchronized Swimming $1,754,142
USA Roller Sports $1,644,637
USA Racquetball $1,471,286
USA Karate $1,265,814
USA Pentathlon $946,349
USA Badminton $743,341
USA Team Handball $347,825
USA Canoe/Kayak unavailable

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Has US Soccer Failed to Comply with State of New York Non-Profit Reporting Requirements?

Has the US Soccer Federation failed to comply with relevant laws required to maintain its non-profit status? This post takes a look at this question and concludes, it looks like it. At a minimum there are yet another set of important questions that a US non-profit sports organization should answer.

The US Soccer Federation is a non-profit organization which serves as the Congressionally-legitimated national governing body (NGB) overseeing the amateur sport of soccer, along with46 other NGBs that comprise the Olympic sports in the United States. The USSF derives its authority from the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 (The Ted Stevens Olympic Act, here in PDF).

USSF is technically a non-profit charitable organization incorporated under New York law. New York law requires that certain financial reports be filed by registered charities (see Section 172-B for details). Let's dig into some details.

The state of New York has a really outstanding website that allows for the public inspection of the financial reports filed by registered charities -- For instance, we can look at the US Soccer Foundation (and not to be confused with the US Soccer Federation), an organization founded as part of the legacy of the 1994 US World Cup to "help children embrace an active and healthy lifestyle while nurturing their personal growth beyond sports."

On the NYS Charities page here is what a search results for the US Soccer Foundation:
You can see that the organization was registered in 1997 and has filed required financial reports since 1996, with those filed since 2006 available online.

There was a flurry of filings on February 1, 2018, just a few months ago, and only four years of financial data, despite the fact that the USSF has been a registered NY charity for many decades. There is no evidence of any filings before February 1, 2018.

There are a few curiosities to note and a few questions to raise.
  • The USSF filed a registration statement for charitable organizations 1 February 2018 using a form explicitly marked for use by "first time registrants." I have noted this with the red circle in the image below below. Does this imply that the USSF was not properly registered as a NY state charity until February of 2018? What are the implications for its retrospective non-profit status, income earned, taxes?
  • No financial information is available on the NY Charities website for dates prior to 2013 or after 2015. Is this limited information in compliance with NY law? Relevant NY statutes explain that a charity's "registration to be cancelled for failure to file." What is the NY attorney general's view on the compliance status of USSF? Sure the February 1, 2018 filing flurry was motivated by something, perhaps a notification of being out of compliance. Regardless, it would be important to publicly disclose this information.
  • As has been noted elsewhere, the USSF has not filed its 2016 financial information, and notes in a handwritten scribble that it has an IRS extension.
The US Soccer Federation financial page has since posted a FY2017 IRS 990 but not an audited financial statement. The USSF is thus out of compliance with the requirements of NY law. Have they been granted an extension by the NY attorney general?
The last question I have is: where is the soccer-savvy media on all this? The CA2016 IRS 990 I reported on yesterday sits in plain view, as do the (non)filings of the USSF in the NY Charities database. Who is going to emerge as the American Andrew Jennings? 

I welcome answers to the various questions posed above. I will update if and when more information comes in.