Not following the "Standard" lets an athlete off the hook?


Jenkins beats doping charge —

Here's an example of a testing lab not following their own industry standard work, an error that “vindicates” (in a way), an Olympic-caliber athlete who had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and appealed her suspension.

Jenkins' test results were compromised because both labs analyzing her sample, in Ghent, Belgium and Cologne, Germany, violated an international standard requiring tests be run by two different technicians.

“This addresses a crucial issue emerging in sports law — has the science been done well?” Straubel said. “The standard violated is a safeguard that prevents labs from providing doctored results to mask testing process error or to intentionally harm the athlete's standing.”

So why did this happen?

Asked why both labs would have made the same mistake in using only one technician, Straubel said “They thought the rule was unnecessary and they complied with it in what proved to be an inadequate way.”

I think there' s a good Lean lesson in there — you have to ensure that your employees know “Why” the standardized work is important. Even going back to the Training Within Industry model, it's important to explain “why” key points are important for quality. I'm sure this is quite embarrassing to the labs and potentially lets an alleged cheater back into unfair competition.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. “Potentially lets an alleged cheater back into unfair competition.”

    That has so many mismatched qualifiers it doesn’t make sense.
    It will let Jenkins back into competition (as she has no longer tested positive).
    She is an alleged cheater.
    The competition is potentially unfair, if she is a cheater.
    However, since this is her only positive test and it was conducted in an insecure manner, she is vindicated.

    If she was a cheater, wouldn’t one of her other tests, that was actually properly conducted, have come back positive?

    Sorry that this doesn’t really relate to lean at all, but it’s a pet peeve of mine. People are proven innocent but are still, somehow, found guilty.

  2. OK, fair enough. The track and field system isn’t a court of law, nor does public opinion hold to the same standard. It *is* possible that two separate labs were both out to get her by faking a positive result. That doesn’t seem very likely to me.

    My point was that, if the standard work had been followed, there wouldn’t be such confusion over the results of the test.

    Jenkins can’t prove a negative, she can’t prove she’s not cheating (nor can any of the Major League Baseball players). The labs should have done their job and had better oversight of the standard work, that’s the lean lesson. Having policies in place is worthless if they aren’t followed 100%.

  3. I absolutely agree.
    We must be extremely careful in cases of standardized work, when we fail to follow it we risk lives, as in delivering the wrong medication, and careers, as in this case.

    For Jenkins, I think it’s only fair that we assume that she is innocent. The labs failed to follow standards put in there to protect athlete’s careers. She’ll never be able to completely rid herself of the taint of this accusation.
    It’s a wonderful illustration of why standard practices and policies must be followed.


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