Part 1, in which we briefly extol the virtues of the October VeloNews

“What? What’s Rant doing praising VeloNews after he was so harsh in his critique of a Neal Rogers article not so long ago?” Strange thought, that. But if you throw darts at someone’s work when they disappoint, I believe you need to temper that with a recognition when they do well. And the October VeloNews was certainly an issue that was a pleasure to behold, and not just for the photography, either.

Rogers and company did a very fine job of recapping the 2009 Tour de France, with articles aimed right at their core audience — North American cycling fans. For those of us who live on the western side of the pond, the big story revolved around Sir Lancelot and his band of merry men (plus one angry Spaniard). VeloNews’ coverage tells the story of the Tour as it developed, gives a pretty thorough look at the Alberto vs. Lance tension within Team Astana, and provides stories about other riders and other aspects of the race, too. In all, it was some of the most thorough coverage I’ve seen from a North American cycling publication ever.

Part 2, in which we note the never-ending animosity between a certain French laboratory and a certain international cycling federation

You knew it couldn’t last, didn’t you? Eventually either the AFLD would complain about the UCI or vice versa. According to a number of news reports, the AFLD sent a letter to the UCI late last week. As CyclingNews.com reports:

The AFLD report was sent this morning to the UCI, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the French ministers of health and of sport, and to Tour organisers ASO. It had been put together based on the evidence provided by two AFLD-appointed doctors tasked with the job of carrying out blood and urine tests during the Tour under the aegis of the UCI, which regained control of testing from the AFLD at this year’s race.

The report talked specifically about testing that took place on the morning of July 11. According to Le Monde and Le Figaro, the report said that testing was delayed by 45 minutes as a result of an intervention by UCI inspectors. In addition, it alleges that AFLD escorts were not permitted to attend the process to ensure that riders were not able to manipulate blood levels in between receiving notification of testing and the testing actually taking place.

The article goes on to say that the AFLD believes that UCI testers inappropriately labeled some samples as being “out of competition” samples, rather than “in competition” samples. If true, this would be a serious breach of protocol, because the list of banned substances is different for samples taken out of competition and samples taken in competition.

Anne Gripper, the head of the UCI’s anti-doping program, responded by saying the AFLD’s concerns were addressed in July.

“The UCI is confident that there was no preferential treatment given to any team during the Tour,” [Gripper] told Cyclingnews. “It was an issue raised and dealt with while the Tour was happening. There’s nothing further than we can say on this matter. We had discussions with the AFLD on what they think happened and we’ve told them what actually happened.”

Interesting way of putting it. Perspectives are different, and stories are different, when two or more observers retell the same events. Hard to say what really happened at the 2009 Tour, but it’s clear that the animosity between the AFLD and the UCI continues. Like death and taxes, the bad blood between these two organizations seem to be one of life’s constants.

Part 3, in which we note a certain presentation about “Bad Science”

Over at BikeRumor.com there’s this announcement:

Robert D. Blackledge, Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), Retired, will be hosting ‘Bad Science: The Floyd Landis Case’, a presentation on the post-2006 Tour de France win by Floyd Landis and the subsequent handling of his allegedly tainted samples.

Blackledge’s presentation discusses the Landis case from the perspective of a forensic scientist. As the description at Bikerumor.com notes:

From the standpoint of a forensic analytical chemist with experience in forensic laboratory accreditation standards, this presentation will examine the analytical data and correspondence from the Landis case in terms of: chain of custody requirements; World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) guidelines and LNDD SOP; and reasonable standards of good laboratory practice.

It would be interesting to hear what an outside observer with expertise in forensic science has to say about anti-doping testing practices. Even though we know a great deal about anti-doping practices, in large part thanks to Floyd Landis’ willingness to make his case an open book, there is much to the anti-doping system that is, in essence, a black box.

While the subject has been much talked about and debated here, at Trust But Verify and elsewhere, Blackledge’s insights would definitely be worth hearing and/or reading. Blackledge has given this presentation several times before, as I recall. For those who live near by, Blackledge’s talk is scheduled to take place on October 20, 2009 in the Syngenta Lobby, 1st floor, Room 101 of the Patricia A. Sullivan Science Building on the campus of the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, NC.

Part 4, in which we join others in lamenting the relapse of Chad Gerlach

Chad Gerlach, a talented cyclist who is unfortunately struggled with crack cocaine and alcohol abuse, recently suffered a relapse and is back living on the streets of Sacramento, according to an article in Sunday’s Sacramento Bee.

Earlier this year, Gerlach returned to the pro peloton after five years of homelessness and substance abuse. Gerlach quit pro cycling, according to the Bee, in 2003 after becoming frustrated with the low pay that comes with being a professional cyclist in the US.

Last year, he appeared in several episodes of the A&E TV show “Intervention.”  As Bikereviews.com notes in an article today:

With a support base of family, friends, and TV network A&E, Gerlach rebounded from his addiction and went on to sign with the Amore&Vita pro cycling team. A recovered Gerlach caught the attention of many cycling enthusiast with his successful return to the saddle. Fans were inspired by his saga and began comparing it to Lance Armstrong’s battle with cancer. A new Gerlach emerged.

Gerlach apparently relapsed in June, and has since stopped racing and again lives a life of homelessness. He hopes to return to racing next year, according to the Bee.

“I’ve had a wonderful summer vacation,” he [told the Blair Anthony Robertson of the Bee] while panhandling on a recent Saturday night outside Safeway on 19th Street. “I’ll be back racing next year.”

As Joe Lindsey notes over at The Boulder Report, the saddest part of the Bee’s story is when they quote Gerlach talking about the birth of his daughter.

“I need to call and find out what color her eyes are, and what color her hair is.”

That is truly a sad thing, that he hasn’t even seen his own daughter. BicycleReviews.com says that Gerlach plans on checking into rehab again in the near future, and notes:

“I’ll race again one day”, Gerlach assured. The very talented Gerlach hopes to be competing against his former teammate [Lance] Armstrong again one day. Now a father to a newborn baby girl, Gerlach has one more reason for checking into rehab. Gerlach reminded me that he’s still working on a book, which he said he is having trouble completing.

Best of luck to Chad Gerlach, here’s to hoping he can overcome his addictions.

Part 5, in which we pass along a little tidbit about a certain someone who will be racing down under

Seems that one Floyd Landis may be heading down to New Zealand to race the Tour of Southland, according to this report via TVNZ.com. It appears that Landis will be racking up some frequent flier miles real soon.

According to the TVNZ.com article:

Floyd says he is doing quite well in putting his life back together: “I wouldn’t wish what I’ve been through on anybody.  It’s not easy being accused of something you didn’t do and having it out there for the world to see.  I didn’t do it, and I’ll never stop saying that.  But I’m not asking for sympathy.  I’m not trying to make a statement or anything by coming back.  I just want to race.  That’s when I’m happiest in life – when I’m on my bike.”

It was this attitude that caused Wayne Hudson and Richard McIlraith to consider inviting Floyd to ride for a team in the Tour of Southland.

“We had already formed a team of 5 riders, 4 of whom had ridden together in the 2008 Tour of Southland but a couple of weeks ago, the fifth rider switched to another team.  Although we asked a number of local riders if they wanted to ride for our team, nearly all of them had made commitments to other teams that were entering the PowerNet Tour.”

So, over a cup of coffee the two friends started tossing options around, and came up with Floyd.  “Although it was just a long shot at first, I said to Richard, ‘Well why not?  All we can do is ask and if we don’t ask, we’ll never know whether or not he might have said yes’”, said Hudson.

After making enquiries of the OUCH P/B Maxxis Pro Cycling Team, they were put in touch with Floyd’s agent Scott Thomson.  It didn’t take much longer to reach agreement in principle.  Floyd had just finished his competitive season, so was in pretty good form and Scott was confident that Floyd would rise to the occasion.  “Floyd is the kind of guy who will give his best and will turn up every day to ride as hard as he can.”

It would sure be fun to head down to New Zealand next month to watch.

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{ 10 comments }

strbuk October 7, 2009 at 4:56 am

I do worry a bit about Floyd heading down the that part of the world. Some of the harshest criticisms of him have come from the Aussies and the Kiwis. Good luck to him, hope he can win over some of the critics who have lambasted him over the years.

str

Jeff October 7, 2009 at 10:47 am

It always amazes me. The good folks from NZ and Oz have a reputation for being rugged individuals and independent thinkers.

Similarly, during the height of the proceedings I frequently wore a “Free Floyd” t-shirt to numerous CX races. I was a bit taken aback to be the target of abuse, from a number of individuals sporting one or more symbols commonly associated with anti-establishment sentiments, for supporting Floyd. Aside from being nearly 100% uninformed about anything that transpired at the Malibu hearing, I was amazed they were so anxious to side with “The Man”. I suppose there is no accounting for laziness and stupidity?

William Schart October 8, 2009 at 2:30 pm

On a different note, I see where Congress may look into the proposed and currently on hold suspensions on a couple of Minnesota Vikings, who were accused of violating the NFL anti-doping policy. Not yet officially confirmed.

Now I am off for the Tiger-Husker FB game, in the rain. Hey Rant! M I Z . . .

eightzero October 8, 2009 at 2:47 pm

AFLD*

http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/schumacher-calls-for-withdrawal-of-positive-results

Anyone know if in fact AFLD and the Keystone Kops that are the LNDD *actually* conducted a test on a Schumy sample and it came up negative? Not that it matters much, since having inconsistent test results is apparently irrelevant – a positive test one day and negative results the day before and the day after require conviction.

So…if Schumy weights less than a duck…he’s made of wood….

Rant October 9, 2009 at 8:23 am

strbuk,
Not to worry, there are probably just as many friendly Aussies and Kiwis as there are critics. If not more. He’s done his time. Given the uncertainties of the testing process, I could never support the idea that once convicted of doping, an athlete should be permamently banned. There’s just not enough certainty in their “proof.”
Jeff,
Interesting observation. So many who once would stick it to the Man now are willing to follow whatever the Man says. My, how times change.
William,
… ZOO RAH! Did you get soaked at the game? I’ll be interested to see whether or not Congress does look into those suspensions/non-suspensions.
eightzero,
Surely you’re not suggesting that Schumy is a witch, are you? ;-) It’s not clear to me whether there was a negative result in his case, but it does sound like he’s arguing that perhaps his results were false positives, from an earlier (unapproved?) version of the same testing protocol.

MikeG October 9, 2009 at 12:18 pm

I thought this was a really interesting comment:

As many of the riders who have been caught out (allegedly allegedly allegedly) using CERA are protesting their innocence, I have to assume that one of the two following situations is occurring.

1. That the CERA test is fundamentally flawed and continually throws up false positives which results in innocent athletes being wrongly persecuted by the testing bodies, the sport various governing bodies as well as the fans and the media, or…

2. Despite the knowledge that there is a test for CERA, there are enough athletes using it who continue to “pass” urine tests, who are still confident that the particular dosage they are on is low enough to avoid detection.

If the second of these possibly situations is true, I guess it gives a logical response to the new catch cry of the doping cheat (replacing “I have never tested positive”) of “Why would I be stupid enough to take a drug that there is a test for?.”

From this article:

http://www.pezcyclingnews.com/?pg=fullstory&id=7580&status=True&catname=Latest News

It really does make you wonder just what is up with the CERA test, and has it been modified as suggested by Schumacher…?

Rant October 9, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Mike,
Good article at Pez. It does make one wonder what is up with the test. Is it as good as claimed, or are there a whole bunch of riders out there using CERA and still escaping detection?

Jean C October 10, 2009 at 12:39 pm

8-0,

Schumacher has been caught by 2 different meanings on TDF (urine test and blood test). And probably 2 urine tests (A and B samples) for JO.
Sure the CERA urine test is flawed but in favour of athlete as we have seen it with Ricco who was tested 7 times but was caught just 2 times. It’s specific to CERA molecules which is large and don’t pass easily in urine, that happens only under high physical stress: Ricco was caught at TT and on first mountain stage. For flat stages, he got negative results. As mounatin goat, he don’t push hard on flat stage.

William Schart October 13, 2009 at 7:53 am

Interesting, Jean. It would then seem that avoiding detection of CERA is most likely when it is of least use: during a stage when the rider in question is taking it relatively easy. Although I suppose that there may still be some benefit to using it when you intend a less than maximum effort.

So the questions arise: what level of effort is necessary to trigger detection and for how long must that effort continue? Would it be possible, for example, for a rider to ride below the level of detection, so to speak, perhaps while sitting in on someone’s wheel, and then attack in the last few kilometers and still not trigger passing CERA?

And yes Rant: I got quite soaked. If only we could have arranged for the lights to go off at the end of the 3rd quarter instead of 75 minutes before kickoff. . .

Jean C October 13, 2009 at 4:17 pm

William,

Maybe it’s possible to avoid a positive as you say but race rarely occur like one rider wants, so it would be stupid to dope with CERA and hope to push hard only for the last km(s).
Imagine aa sprinter who has a puncture and cannot push hard to come back within peloton.

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