Category Archives: Doping

Riding For Yellow

newport ride(1)

Last week, the bubble finally burst on the whole Lance Armstrong thing. I’d long since given up the idea that he’d raced clean, or that, in fact anyone had raced clean. Reading Tyler Hamilton’s “The Secret Race”, @Vaughters’ tweeting this summer, and the earlier USADA leaks had pretty much convinced me that cycling had been doped for most of the Postal/Disco run.

Reading some of the raw testimony, reading the statements of the confessed riders, and reading the continued denials from Armstrong himself were really kind of getting me down. On one hand, without a critical mass of cyclists confessing together, it’s really easy to keep the omerta going – reference Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton, and Bassons getting the cold shoulder from the entire cycling industry when they tried to shine a light (yes, after years of lying in the cases of Floyd and Tyler) on doping. So, giving out light punishment to lots of riders who confess at the same time has the effect of encouraging confessions.

On the other hand, think of a rider like Chris Horner – currently not implicated in any of the scandals – who spent the late 90s and the early 2000’s riding at the top of the US pro circuit, bringing in literally hundreds of dollars at races in office parks and beer primes, all because he chose to race clean. No podium girl wife for him, no villas in Girona, just a second shot at a EuroPro career once the peloton cleaned up.

The darkness was threatening to consume me – Armstrong’s story played a huge role in my becoming a cyclist.

Then, I got on my bike, and realized I had new yellow to ride for in the golden light of fall.

Caso Contador

So, Contador is officially a doper. I’d be happy, ‘cept, not really.
On one hand, I’m happy he’s busted – that cycling has absolutely the most aggressive no tolerance policy in all of sport is something to be touted, especially after the legacy of the 80s and 90s.

On the other hand, the CAS case against Contador’s especially weak – it doesn’t make a clean case that Contador was systematic doping, leaves open the possibility that it really was contaminated meat, and doesn’t make any accommodation for 18 months of racing, lots of testing, and winning freakin’ two grand tours, really decisively in the case of the 2011 Giro.

24 months seems to be the CAS’ standard sentence for a doping positive. So, it’s not surprising that Contador got the standard.

On the other hand, CAS left itself open to the counter charge that it’s screwing Contador just to make an example. In which case I’m disappointed – The amount of clenbuterol in his system is a tribute to our ability to detect minute concentrations of anything. Stripping him of two titles earned under extremely close scrutiny serves only to throw closer scrutiny on the existing cycling anti-doping efforts, and impugns every other cyclist currently riding.

That it took almost two years to come to this decision, during which Contador continued to ride under threat of having results overturned, keeping the entire sport in limbo, is an indictment of CAS process. Justice delayed is justice denied. For a career that really spans from about 24 to 34 for most Grand Tour contenders, two years means that there’s going to be a lot of asterixes as drug tests continue to improve.

I still don’t like Contador, but he’s getting screwed. He deserves something for popping positive, but two tours stripped, two years late? Not justice.

Update – The long arm of Justice is still reaching out for Armstrong – WADA requested the evidience the US Grand Jury accumulated while looking for Fraud at US Postal.

Dopers Suck (August Edition)

So, I’m still coming off of my mental defense against a major doping scandal at the Olympics (the mental preparation that “If they’re catching them, prevention is working”. Which, now that i think about the scarcity of medals being overturned – is the IOC as lackadaisical as the ASO was in the ’90s?). Anyway, I’m all about the side-effects for these folks (nasty picture over at Wired):

He was a constant user of anabolic-androgenic steroids, of which acne is a side effect — as is damaged sperm and shrunken testicles, both of which he also possessed. [From Graphic Evidence Against Steroid Abuse]

I Want to Believe – Drug maker cooperated with WADA

Freakin’ awesome.

Revealing the now high-tech nature of the fight against drugs in sport, WADA chief John Fahey said his organization worked with drugs giant Roche on the newest version of EPO (erythropoietin).

He said Roche had included a molecule in the third generation of EPO, called Continuous Erythropoiesis Receptor Activator (CERA) that acted as a marker in drug tests.

“In the development of that particular substance, close cooperation occurred between WADA and the pharmaceutical company Roche Pharmaceuticals so that there was a molecule placed in the substance well in advance that was always going to be able to be detected once a test was taken,” Fahey told public radio in his native Australia. [From VeloNews | Drug maker cooperated with WADA | The Journal of Competitive Cycling.]

Though, truth be told, I’m a bit bummed by this, as all it takes is a couple of rogue chemists to brew a “special” batch to beat the system.

Landis is Guilty

If you’ve had your head under a rock this weekend, you may not have heard that Floyd Landis has been found guilty of doping at the 2006 Tour de France, and will be stripped of his title, and suspended for two years, retroactive to January, 2007, when he said he’d stop racing professionally while the case was sorted out.

Me? I’m not sure how I feel about the decision. Trust but Verify has both the decision documents themselves as well as summaries of the dissenting arbitrator. He’s much more interesting than the two that voted to support the test.

I’m of a split mind. There are enough inconsistencies that have surfaced about lab process to make me want to side with Floyd. Being a recovering Navy Nukeular Power Officer, procedure and documentation are near and dear to my heart, and especially when someone’s life is on the line, there is absolutely no excuse for having paperwork that is anything but perfect. I’ve seen guys kicked out of their career (one a 17 year veteran, 3 years to go to retirement) for falsifying records. The testing lab needs to be held to an amazingly high standard, ESPECIALLY if cycling is to be kept clean. Even the suspicion of impropriety on the part of the lab makes booting real dopers less of a right thing to do.

Plus, there’s motive on the part of the French lab. 8 straight American wins? And an amazing comeback on the part of Landis? Incroyable! Sacre Bleu! N’est pas possible…

On the other side, getting off on procedure is complete and total BS, and identifying problems with the lab is something that teams should have a vested interest in BEFORE the racing season starts. An example (possibly too effective) is the interface with doping authorities that the Baseball and Football players’ unions have in the US. The tests and conduct are a part of their labor negotiations. Shoot, the scientists’ and engineers’ union that represents me has a say in the drug testing that we have on our jobs. Cyclists should have the right to have a say in the process too.

But, that’s BEFORE a positive result comes back. After the test comes back – well, sometimes the best thing for everyone in the long run is to take a bullet. Is a clean sport worth a couple of ended careers? Even assuming Floyd’s guilty, isn’t it possible that a couple of folks who popped positive have really been innocent? That’s a tough call.

In any case, it’s in the history books now. Landis’ legal bills are staggering; I’m considering a donation to the Floyd Fairness Fund. I’m really still not sure if he’s a doper or not, but I do know that he’s been publicly outspoken against doping, and is a heck of a rider. He’s also a human being, and it’d suck to be fiscally ruined by a mistake. Plus, I’d kind of like him to appeal to keep the media scrutiny on the world’s anti-dope testing labs. They need to be cleansed of any suspicion that there could be a false positive.

Joe Papp – Real world Doping

VeloNews’ interview with Joe Papp, who crashed while taking blood thinners and an EPO-like substance, is absolutely riveting. Go read it.

I’d like to highlight one of Dr. Richardson’s points, though, as it emphasizes a thought that I’ve had for a while; namely that, for riders currently doping, the incentive is to continue, as coming clean publicly can mean a lifetime ban:

Realistically, most of those involved in doping are using many products at the same time and for long periods of time before they are caught. They are currently penalized for one positive test per substance. That means that there is a built-in disincentive to be honest. Indeed, if a rider were to reveal the whole ugly story he or she would risk being charged with a second (non-analytical) positive and a likely lifetime ban from competition.

Counterproductive way to fight doping

So, it looks like Eric Zabel, the German sprinter, admitted to doping back in 1996. As a result, he’s being prevented from racing in the World Road Race championships this year.

While I’m a fierce believer that the current regime of testing is bearing fruit, and that the zero tolerance on folks popping positive now is the way to go, I think that for the sake of getting pro cycling back on solid ground there should be an amnesty program offered for folks who confess to having doped in the past.

While Zabel’s admission brings into question his past accomplishments, it also makes his third in this year’s Tour de France green jersey (Sprinters) competition that much more impressive, as he accomplished it without dope. Folks like Zabel and David Millar, who have raced both dirty and clean, should be used as ambassadors for clean sport.

There is a small issue of fairness – Millar served a two year suspension, whereas Zabel will likely not have to pay for his cheating (he’s in his 30’s, has good palmares, and if suspended has incentive to retire) – but that’s water under the bridge. As much as we’d like, it’s impossible to ever correctly repay past wrong. So, yes, Zabel did cheat, but did so under a different set of ethics than are in place today. As long as he’s clean today, and committed to remaining clean, and helping others to remain clean, he should be allowed to ride.

Bad News Comes in Threes / Actually Running

The current Mellow Johnny, Rabobank’s Rasmussen, has been fired by his team and left the Tour due to missed doping controls in the off-season.

I’m happy, I think, but can really feel for Rasmussen, who hasn’t tested positive, and looks to be getting booted for being not properly anal about proving he’s clean. At the same time, it shows that there’s definitely a sea change afoot – what team doesn’t want to bring home yellow in Paris? Sure, there’s a hint of witch-hunt (Witches float, like a duck and very small rocks), but staying documentedly clean is going to play a big role in the future.

My dad raised a good point last night, though – If a team’s out when a rider pops positive, what’s to stop folks from bribing a rider on a favorite’s team to dope in a big race, kind of a cycling version of the Black Socks scandal in baseball?

———-

Ran last night – stopped on Jamestown, cranked out 4.6 or so, and went for a swim afterwards. What a day! About 80 and brilliant sunshine, tiny bit of a breeze, and just wow. I’m psyched.

I’m also psyched about the Narragansett Blessing of the Fleet 10 miler on Friday. David, April Anne, Michele, and others. I don’t know that I can go ten miles at this point, but I can’t wait to try.

——
Edit Frank Steele at the Tour de France for the Rest of Us has a brilliant, brilliant bit up today on the recovery and the silver lining. Go read it and tell him thanks.

Another one bites the dust

10 AM Eastern Today. The article’s from l’Equipe, and in French (English translation here), but from what I can gather, it means that there’s another 9 riders going home after Astana’s departure yesterday.

Read it in English here. The CyclingNews bit is nice, as it’s got plausible deniability from Vino – maybe someone else’s blood got into his legs in his earlier crash. Not beyond the realm of possibility, but ….

F$ck.

Update: We can name names now. It’s Cristian Moreni from the French Cofidis team.

Update 2: Another 8 innocent riders have left the tour, as Moreni’s team, Cofidis, withdraws. Neca, over at Weighty Words commented yesterday about how no-one was mentioning that Andreas Kloden, who had been sitting at 5th place in the General Classification got screwed when Astana pulled out after Vinokourov popped positive.

Say it ain’t so, Vino…

F$ck Vino busted for blood doping.

I was all set to, tonight, write about how I was hooked on the Tour again; how the race seemed human again, and about how it was amazing to have seen Vinokourov go down in a huge crash, fight back to form, win Saturday’s time trial, take a rest day on Sunday and concede over 30 minutes to the folks fighting for the yellow jersey, and then come back on Monday’s mountainous stage 14 to take a flier off the front and win the stage in great style.

I was ready to believe again, ready to love professional cycling again.

Now, I think I’m back to just loving my bike, and my bike only.

Dopers suck.