Why the Code's not it for Wada
In 1985, under growing market pressure from Pepsi, Coca-Cola decided to replace the world's premier fizzy pop with a sweeter version of its treacly treat. That drink, which almost immediately became known as "New Coke", was launched to considerable fanfare in April.
But three months later, after a massive consumer campaign, the vote was in: you can't beat the real thing.
So New Coke was phased out, old Coke came back and the entire episode passed into marketing folklore as a cautionary tale about messing with a winning formula.
It is a story somebody should have told the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) before it updated its code this year, because the message from the high street is clear: "new code" is horrible, we want "code classic".
But before I get into the latest market research I should provide a little background.
I say "little" because when I first sat down to do this I proceeded to write 500 words on how Wada got started, what it stands for, the challenges it faces and the restraints it is under.
It was a roller-coaster read but I suspected only Wada staff would still be with me by the time I got to what Wikipedia has already dubbed "the whereabouts controversy".
Whereabouts, just so we're clear, is the IT-based system drug-testers use to keep track of athletes.
Without it, the thinking goes, out-of-competition testing would be almost impossible. Without out-of-competition testing you can just about forget catching cheats - in-competition testing only catches the spiked or the stupid.
So whereabouts is fundamental to everything Wada does and was a key component of its most significant act to date, the introduction of the global anti-doping code in 2004.
As a first stab the code was a great effort. But like all first stabs it didn't quite get the job done. The main issue was its patchy implementation.
Whereabouts and how it was actually run - a job that Wada leaves to others - was perhaps the most egregious example of this. To keep things local, let's look at what was happening here.
Prior to 1 January, potential British Olympians were asked to pick an hour a day - five days a week, three months in advance - when they could be found to provide a sample.
The window was 0500-2300, so many took the option of an early call at home. As the athlete was only required to be at the stated place for a portion of that hour (the onus being on the tester to be in the right place at the right time), this suited those who put in two-hour training sessions before the rest of us have breakfast.
It was also only a minor imposition for those who trained later in the day. And practically every athlete wanted whereabouts to work, as they knew no-notice tests were the only real deterrent to the dopers.
They also understood the need to back whereabouts with teeth, so there was little quarrel with the decision to equate missed tests (not being where you said you would be) with a failed test.
Three strikes in an 18-month period and you were out, as Christine Ohuruogu learned to her cost in a very public reckoning that few, if any, in Team GB failed to notice.
But, as the Ohuruogu case showed, while whereabouts was the foundation for a robust anti-doping policy for many sports, it was not every sport. Nor was it every country.
A consultation process (more on that later) was started, resulting in the recent launch of a system that sees British Olympians, in theory, subject to the same requirements as their counterparts from America to Zanzibar, with the main team sports joining later in 2009.
The five days a week of stated hours is now seven days, the earliest hour you can choose is 0600, not 0500, and most significantly they now have to stay put for the full hour.
On top of these changes, Wada has decided to combine the strikes you were allowed for missing tests and those you were allowed for failing to fill in your form correctly.
Suddenly it has become very easy - and the whereabouts form is not the finest piece of software ever written - to find yourself one third of the way from a career-threatening and reputation-wrecking ban.
It is no exaggeration to say that many British Olympians are furious about all this. Ohuruogu has just re-entered the fray, claiming elite athletes are treated worse than criminals. And you should know something is up when the normally mild-mannered GB rowing squad start acting like 1970s shop stewards.
Leading tennis players like Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Venus Williams aren't best pleased either. And the team sports are getting their complaints in early.
So how on earth did this happen? Who exactly did Wada consult? And what must happen now to keep the anti-doping movement on track?
The answers to the first and second questions go straight to the heart of the problem.
The Montreal-based organisation is funded on a 50/50 split by the International Olympic Committee and world governments. Finding agreement between the sports is hard enough, imagine how difficult that becomes when you throw in the agendas of 200 sports ministers.
To get anything done Wada leans on its lieutenants, the sports federations and, where they exist, national anti-doping authorities. Consultation is more about the right channels than direct democracy.
If, for example, Premier League footballers had a beef about having to fill out whereabouts details for their holidays, they needed to bring it up with the Professional Footballers' Association, who would speak to the Football Association, who would then pass that on to Fifa.
The result? Not a great deal of actual consultation with the guys at the sharp end.
Which is why Wada was in London this week holding emergency meetings with the representatives of Britain's Olympic and professional sports stars.
It is a shame it has had to happen this way around but everybody present at the meeting has said they welcomed Wada's willingness to talk. And Wada has said it is willing to carry on talking.
What it has not said, however, is that it will turn the clock back. In fact, it has made it very clear that it believes a lot of the complaints about the new requirements are the result of ignorance, basic human resistance to change and old-fashioned bellyaching.
But it is not a stance it should hold on to too tightly. No piece of legislation - particularly something as broad as the code - can ever be perfect and there are some quick fixes that should placate the masses.
One simple step would be to put the start of the window back to 0500. It might seem a small detail but if you are expected in or on the water at 0700 it can make all the difference. Wada should also reconsider the shift in onus from tester to tested in terms of who is there for the full hour.
More work should also be done on the technology that whereabouts depends on. It seems crazy to me that the software has not been designed to flag up information that makes no sense.
Think about what happens when you try to book return travel tickets for a date before your outward journey - the system won't let you. The whereabouts page allows you to make these potentially catastrophic mistakes.
There is something else Wada should consider.
Where there is a willingness to go further than whereabouts - and the technology exists to make it happen - why bother with a stated-hour system?
One of the most revealing things that many GB Olympians have been saying is scrap the online diary: track us 24/7/365 with our mobile phones.
The British Athletes Commission was in talks with Vodafone last year on this very subject. The UK anti-doping authorities got scared off by the cost implications but with Google now doing something similar those costs have obviously come down.
This is clearly not a one-size-fits-all solution, only wealthy countries and sports could afford something like this, but if they can why not let them? You could pursue a more lo-tech option for others.
So let's be clear: Wada's mission is difficult, its limitations are legion and its intentions are among the very best.
But as Oscar Wilde once said "it is always with the best intentions that the worst work is done".
What Wada must admit now is that this work is a work in process and there is no disgrace in taking the occasional backwards step.