Dick Pound’s Swan Song

by Rant on November 11, 2007 · 33 comments

in Doping in Sports, Floyd Landis, Tour de France

Today’s Telegraph online edition features an interview with Dick Pound, on the eve of his passing the leadership of the World Anti-Doping Agency to John Fahey of Australia. Pound, ever the controversial quotemeister (as Lance Armstrong once called him) pulls no punches in his comments to Simon Hart. The out-going leader of WADA is unrepentant about his confrontational approach to the job.

“It’s a matter of confronting cheating when you see it,” [Pound] says. “There is organised cheating going on and it’s not going to go away if we all hold hands and say ‘ummmm’. These are people who know the rules and in 99.9 per cent of cases they don’t give a shit about them. They’re destroying sport and taking rewards away from fellow athletes.

“If you’re not being confrontational, you’re not doing your job. Being confrontational, you’re going to attract some static. It’s like when you’re fighting. The most dangerous time for any boxer is when he’s just scored a very good punch. It’s the retaliation you’ve got to look out for. I’m happy to be known by my enemies. Nobody who is playing fair is mad at me.”

It’s one thing to be confrontational when dealing with confirmed cheats. If someone has been accused, been through his or her appeals, and is found to have been cheating, then criticizing that person might be justifiable. When you don’t have firm proof, or when a case has not reached its conclusion, it behooves someone interested in fairness to remain rather circumspect in his comments. (And isn’t that what the anti-doping is supposed to be fighting for — fairness and a level playing field for all?)

But Pound has often lobbed verbal clusterbombs before a case has reached its conclusion. He has, at times, even done so before an accused athlete has even been fully informed as to the evidence against him. Case in point: Floyd Landis. Here’s what Pound had to say about the Landis case to the Telegraph’s Hart:

Denial is also the standard response of the innocent and Pound has, his critics complain, been far too quick to stick the boot into accused athletes, like when he pre-empted this year’s arbitration hearing of 2006 Tour de France winner Floyd Landis by commenting that the American had so much testosterone in his system “you’d think he’d be violating every virgin within 100 miles. How does he even get on his bicycle?”

But Pound rejects the charge that his skill as a “quotemeister”, as he was once branded by Lance Armstrong, who never failed a dope test, has often been at the expense of legal fairness.

“I don’t pre-judge cases,” he insists. “I’m enough of a lawyer to know that there’s a process. What I do react to is when you get all kinds of shit attacking the methods and saying that the system is biased against athletes. All those sorts of things were coming out of the Landis camp. I don’t sit back and turn the other cheek again and again and again. I say they’re talking bullshit and here’s why.”

The way Pound has presented things here (or perhaps it’s just the way the reporter wrote the story), you’d think that Landis’ defense team had been attacking the lab and the system when he made that quip about all the virgins within 100 miles. That, however, is not the case. Pound made that comment much earlier on, as Michael Sokolove reported in his New York Times Magazine piece, The Scold, back in January.

As it happened, the news that the cyclist Floyd Landis had failed a drug test at the Tour de France broke in July, in the midst of a series of interviews I had with Pound in Montreal, where he runs WADA and also holds down more big jobs and positions than would seem humanly possible: partner at a top law firm, chancellor of McGill University, member of the I.O.C. and editor of something called Pound’s Tax Case Notes. He belongs, as well, to that bizarre subset of people who write long books as a hobby, eight of them so far. (One that I picked up in an anteroom of his office, a history of his law firm, ran to a door-stopping 559 pages.)

On this particular day, Pound, who is 64, looked tired. His broad face was drawn, his complexion pasty. He had just returned from China, and his back hurt. Thinking about Landis seemed to enliven him. He spoke of the cyclist as if he were some sleazy perp just collared by the vice squad. “He was 11 minutes behind or something, and all of the sudden there’s this Herculean effort, where he’s going up mountains like he’s on a goddamn Harley,” he said. In the 2006 tour, Landis raced in pain while awaiting a hip replacement, went out to an early lead, lost it, then seemed to miraculously regain it. “It’s a great story,” Pound said. “Wonderful. But if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Pound took something like a schoolboy’s delight in talking about Landis’s lab result, which supposedly showed his testosterone level to be grotesquely above what is typical for most men. Landis has denied taking a prohibited substance and is fighting what could be a two-year ban from cycling. “I mean, it was 11 to 1!” Pound said, referring to Landis’s reported testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio, a measure used to identify doping. “You’d think he’d be violating every virgin within 100 miles. How does he even get on his bicycle?”

Did you catch when Pound made those comments? If not, go back and take a second look. Although it’s true that Sokolove’s story wasn’t published until January 7th of this year, Pound made these comments during the early days of the scandal, in July or early August 2006. What’s also interesting to note is that the Times was the first paper, or one of the first, to report Landis’ alleged T/E ratio of 11-1. As we now know, that was just one of a series of test results on Landis’ A sample, and it was the worst of the lot. The other T/E ratios were in the 5-1 range on the A sample. The Times’ source for the report on Landis’ T/E ratio has never been identified publicly, but given the timing of the WADA president’s comments to a Times reporter, one has to wonder if Pound might have been the person who let that particular bit of information out into the wild.

And given his comments to Sokolove, it was quite clear (regardless of Pound’s status as an attorney) that he’d pre-judged the case. Not only that, he took some sort of perverse delight in the subject. To be somewhat fair to the man, he has been right about some of those he’s accused. One of those people would be Marion Jones, who admitted recently that she had, in fact, used banned substances during her career. Sometimes, you’ve got to give the devil his due. And that would be one of the times.

That said, Pound has, by his own actions, drawn the fairness of the anti-doping system into question. It is, of course, not just Pound’s opinions that happen to be problematic, it’s the way the system has been rigged in favor of the anti-doping agencies. Seems to me, if you want to protect fair play, you have to demostrate that you play fair. The current anti-doping system doesn’t play fair, it all but ensures that an accused athlete — regardless of the truth of his or her guilt or innocence — will be found guilty. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that someday, an innocent athlete will have his or her career destroyed based on a wrong accusation. It’s the hallmark of a well-conceived system that such an eventuality would be taken into account, and procedures would be implemented that would seek to minimize that possibility. That can’t be said of the current system, however.

Pound, through his outspoken and often outrageous comments, has certainly made doping a visible topic, as the Telegraph’s Hart concludes:

But if Pound’s outspokenness has achieved one thing, it has been to raise the issue of doping to the top of the sporting and governmental agenda.

“Seven or eight years ago we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation because doping was not on the radar screens, whereas now it is,” says Pound.

“There are an increasing number of people – decision-makers, athletes, parents of athletes and the general public – who are focusing on this issue.

“Governments are concerned from a health perspective and parents are concerned that their child has to become a chemical stockpile to do sport. That has been a very rewarding offshoot to all the work we’ve done.”

As with his comments about the Landis case, noted above, Pound’s memory seems to be a bit dim on the events leading up to the creation of WADA. Doping was definitely on the radar screens, as he would say, back then. If it hadn’t been, there would have been no great pressure to create an organization like WADA. The truth is that the seemingly never-ending doping scandals in the latter half of 1997 and throughout 1998, culminating with the Festina scandal at the 1998 Tour de France, were what provided the impetus for the creation of the agency. So was a certain ethics investigation, led by none other than Pound, himself.

That investigation centered around allegations of what amount to extortion and bribery in the selection of Salt Lake City as the venue for the 2002 Winter Games. In 1998, the credibility of the IOC, as well as the Olympics, was under attack just as a large number of doping scandals were showing how ineffective the anti-doping efforts had been up to that point. The IOC needed to restore their credibility, not only when in came to their selection methods, but also in terms of organizing and governing the international sports movements. Doping was as widely written about, and widely discussed topic seven or eight years ago, as it is today.

Dick Pound may be a part of the reason that doping is much discussed by sports journalists, fans and bloggers, but he is only a small part. But the biggest reason that doping is discussed so much is that so many more scandals are reported these days, rather than quietly covered up or brushed aside.

Much needs to be done to fight the scourge of doping in sports. Not just to ensure fair play, but also for the sake of the athletes’ long-term health. One merely needs to read Steven Ungerleider’s book, Faust’s Gold, to get a glimpse into the heavy price that a number of East German athletes wound up paying because of the systematic doping forced upon them by sports officials hell-bent on creating an athletic powerhouse by hook or by crook.

Given the growing feeling that the anti-doping system, itself, doesn’t play fair when confronting athletes accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, the new WADA president will certainly have his work cut out for him. Time will tell whether he chooses to follow in the footsteps of the agency’s first president, or whether he charts a new course to refine, overhaul, and improve on the system that currently exists.

Let’s hope that Mr. Fahey will have the gumption to change what needs to be changed, improve what needs to be improved, and that when he hands over the reigns to his successor at some point in the future, the agency and the whole anti-doping system will be better than that which he is going to inherit on the 17th.

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William Schart November 11, 2007 at 12:52 pm

Given that some riders do dope, chances are if I accuse enough riders of being dopers, I’m bound to hit a few bullseyes just by chance. So the fact that Pound got it right on Johnson and Jones is not particularly significant.

Secret helicopters and the like? This is sounding more and more like a conspiracy theory. Time for the tinfoil hats! We have a lot of people saying, based on very little hard evidence (that we know of), that most riders dope. Point out that only a small percentage of tests result in positive findings, then they use this as further “proof”: the riders are so evilly devious as to devise new and undetectable ways of doping. The fact that we find more riders who dope is “proof” that they dope.

Pound confuses confronting actual cheats with being a general asshole. A good cop may not be well liked by criminals, but will get along well with the general public.

Peter November 11, 2007 at 2:55 pm

What absolutely stunned me about Michael Sokolove’s New York Times Magazine article was the passage concerning Dick Pound’s accusation that 1/3 of NHL players were doping: http://pages.citebite.com/b4h1q0klagd

I couldn’t believe that the leader of WADA, a lawyer, could be so flippant as to completely fabricate accusations with no basis in fact. When I read that article back in January, that was the final nail in Dick Pound’s coffin for me. He just seemed so pompous and oblivious, not seeming to care about making such inflammatory remarks, because in his mind surely some of these athletes were dopers.

Larry November 11, 2007 at 3:29 pm

Rant, I think it’s genius on your part to follow a piece on Lemond with a piece on Dick Pound. These two guys are saying the same things. Pound says them with a bombastic sense of irreverent irresponsibility; Lemond’s comments seem more purely off the wall to me. But the message is the same. I tried to set forth the basic ADA message in comments on the Lemond post; Pound probably did more to set this message than any human on this planet.

What, then, is the legacy of Dick Pound? We’ll all quickly forget the things he said; what did he do? To his credit, he has a lot to do with the formation of WADA, and we probably DO need an organization like WADA to set up international rules and provide for international standards.

As best as I can tell, that’s the only good point in the legacy of Dick Pound. By his admission and the admission of his fellow ADA heads, WADA has not been effective in its anti-doping efforts. “Everyone” on the peloton is still doping. The ADAs cannot catch the dopers; in the words of Lemond, they can only catch the cheaters who get so arrogant and sloppy that they “make a mistake” and get caught.

Even if you don’t believe that “everyone” is doping, WADA is still a failure. It has not been able to determine or prove the extent of doping in cycling or any other sport. If there’s a “doping culture” in sport, then WADA has done nothing to describe the culture or root it out. The FL case has revealed how poorly the LNDD works; with the possible exception of UCLA, it appears that the other WADA labs are equally incompetent.

Even the recently proposed “biological passport” is an indication of how badly WADA has failed. It represents an entirely new way to detect doping – a radical departure from the kinds of testing performed under the existing WADA rules. It was developed by cycling teams like Slipstream and CSC, and brought to the ADAs primarily by Anne Gripper at UCI. It received not a single dollar (or Euro) of support from WADA. (I found one report that indicated that WADA sponsored some research in France on a method similar to that used at Slipstream, but there’s no indication that Slipstream or anyone else has been given the chance to benefit from this research.) Last year, Slipstream asked WADA to audit its testing results — there’s no indication that WADA ever accepted this offer. And for whatever status he may have as a WADA spokesman, Greg Lemond has had unflattering things to say about these programs – see the Denver Post article I cited in the previous discussion.

I don’t think there’s any two ways about it. Since the founding of WADA, Dick Pound has been the world’s most important anti-doping cop. Dick Pound believes that doping remains rampant in cycling and other sports. His own words define his legacy.

Rant November 11, 2007 at 7:35 pm

Peter,

I thought about including that quote, too. Thanks for the adding it to the mix. It’s certainly an excellent example of Pound’s flippancy towards the facts.

Larry,

I wish it were genius, but really, it was just the way things worked out. It does work well to illustrate a few things, though. Pound’s biggest legacy is pulling the WADA system (in all it’s “glory”) together. John Fahey’s legacy, I hope, will be to correct the excesses of the previous administration.

William,

Good points. Pound does get confused about what it takes to be a good cop, doesn’t he?

William Schart November 11, 2007 at 7:40 pm

So, we’ve collectively come up with numerous suggestions for how WADA can be fairer to an accused athlete. Can we do some brainstorming and come up with some constructive ideas for how WADA can do a better job of catching those who do dope?

Rant November 11, 2007 at 8:34 pm

William,

I think such efforts need to include more research geared towards developing better testing techniques, with easily understood criteria for what constitutes a positive result. More testing of more athletes more often (once the tests, themselves, are of the proper quality) will also go a long way. Instead of targeting individuals, the program should be random and it should test every individual, rather than a small percentage. The more people you test (using good, accurate testing techniques), the more likely you are to find a cheater.

Larry November 11, 2007 at 9:24 pm

William –

Terrific idea, to think for once about how WADA could do a better job of catching dopers. Here are some suggestions, in addition to what Rant has suggested:

1. Do the work and raise the money necessary to properly implement the biological passport system. I’m going to leave this vague, hoping we get to a longer discussion of this system at a later date.

2. Reach out to the riders. Educate them about the dangers of doping. Make counseling (and probably, amnesty) available for riders who come forward and say that they’ve been doping and want to ride clean. Try to come up with ways to cooperate with riders, as opposed to running a completely adversarial system. (In this regard, I note that in the Slipstream program, the first step they take when they suspect a rider of doping is to bring the rider in for talks and counseling.)

3. Reach out to the teams. The teams have a great deal at stake here — they don’t want their riders DQ’d and they don’t want to lose their sponsors. WADA should help teams formulate clean racing programs. Teams like Slipstream should not have had to figure out on their own how to run a clean team – WADA should have developed a program long ago that teams could adopt to “ride clean.”

4. Get the facts on who’s doping. We’ve all grown tired of WADA throwing out vague statistics like “everybody dopes” and “80% of riders dope.” If your statistics are that vague, you don’t really know what’s going on, and if you don’t know the nature of the problem, it’s hard to craft effective solutions.

5. Get the facts on whether doping is effective. We all assume that doping must be an effective means of enhancing performance, or else why would the riders dope? Let’s find out the truth. Does low-grade testosterone use really do a rider any good? Does EPO help, and are there effective and legal ways to get the same effect as EPO provides? If a popular means of doping is not effective, then let’s let the riders know — the most effective way to get the riders to drop a doping product is to convince them it doesn’t work. If you find out that a doping product IS effective, then give us the facts … and focus more attention on stamping out the use of the product. And get rid of testing for substances like cocaine, and marijuana, that may be illegal but which are not performance-enhancing.

Jean C November 12, 2007 at 1:32 am

Some news about Ullrich who seems to have retired because “nothing have changed” and that he could not take risk…
Read : http://www.focus.de/sport/doping/fall-ullrich_aid_138835.html german)
or a translation :
http://www.cyclingheroes.info/id990.html

William Schart November 12, 2007 at 5:45 am

Well, that’s what Jan says, but at that time the German authorities were investigating him re his involvement in the OP affair. They had collected DNA material from his house and in April released the information that the DNA matched that of 9 bags of blood seized in the OP affair.

This is the problem I have with all these statements from riders – they tend to be self-serving, trying to put “spin” on things and excuse bad behavior withh “They all do it” and/or “My team made me do it”. Undoubtedly, in some cases, there may be an element of truth, but perhaps also some pure “spin”.

Jean C November 12, 2007 at 6:32 am

William,
You made a mistake, it’s a private conversation inside procycling world which is reported, so I doubt that could be a spin.
You can have problem with statements ” they (the big majority) all dope”, but the facts and different affairs seems to confirm that point… How many riders and teams are saying that is false?
The Rabo’s report about Rasmussen is not a direct accusation about the team management but we can see at least indulgence.

Jean C November 12, 2007 at 6:50 am

There is no spin when it’s a private conversation inside cycling team…

Jean C November 12, 2007 at 6:52 am

Sorry for the double post…

ludwig November 12, 2007 at 8:01 am

Larry,

As I stated in another post, you are way off when you suggest that the ADAs are somehow responsible for the doping problem, or that doping in cycling is somehow ADAs failure.

The ADAs can do very little without the cooperation of the UCI and the cycling community. Quite simply, all WADA does is determine a list of banned substances, fund tests to detect these substances, and is some instances carry out testing. They don’t have the resources for a prolonged education campaign, or a prolonged investigative campaign, or to provide the millions that will apparently be necessary to test cyclists every day.

You do have a point when you say the ADAs need more funding (although this does go against the going Landisista line, which says the ADAs exert too much power). But you are dreaming if you think the ADAs have any power to do anything against the omerta?

Why were there doping busts in this year’s Tour. The answer is because the UCI finally started cooperating. If you want to look for a high-profile figure to blame for cycling’s doping culture, don’t look to Dick Pound, who tried to warn cycling and help cycling. Look to Hein Verbruggen. Pat McQuaid. Lance Armstrong. Johan Bruyneel. Manolo Saiz. Michele Ferrari. Bjarn Riis.

These are the guys who have held the balance of power in cycling and the doping culture flourished under their leadership.

Jean C November 12, 2007 at 8:50 am

Ludwig,

I could more agree with you. Interesting to read the conclusion of the Rabo’s report about Rasmussen debacle: they clearly stipulate the responsability, the inefficiency and the lacks of UCI!

Morgan Hunter November 12, 2007 at 9:51 am

Jean C — you seem to be convinced that the people here are trying to ignore that there is doping going on in the peloton — if this is your understanding of what we all are trying to work through — then your understanding is incorrect.

My understanding of this blog is this: the majority of the people do not contest that there is doping going on — some feel that there is more some feel that there is less — but no one thinks that only a select few are doing it. The evidence of the recent past has shown that there is much more then maybe we all thought.

What is important Jean C is that you understand that what bothers me — is the way that the doping accusations are handled. The rules that are not being followed by the powers that be. Don’t misunderstand Jean C — I have no desire to make it easy for dopers to dope. But I do feel that the way that WADA and the UCI are handling the rules is unfair.

You are absolutely correct if you accuse me of being biased for Landis — I think he is clean. I may be totally deluded — but this is how I feel. From what I have come to learn from the trial — I am really upset that such judicial behavior and rules can exist in a governing body. You would be right to say — but I am blinded because Landis is American — This may be so — but I do not feel that what was displayed at the trial has anything to do with being American.

If you take out Landis and insert anyone else going through the same trial situation and we have the chance to see and hear it personally — I believe I would still react with indignation at what went on.

Ludwig — “If you want to look for a high-profile figure to blame for cycling’s doping culture, don’t look to Dick Pound, who tried to warn cycling and help cycling. Look to Hein Verbruggen. Pat McQuaid. Lance Armstrong. Johan Bruyneel. Manolo Saiz. Michele Ferrari. Bjarn Riis.” – Since Manolo Saiz, Michele Ferrari, and Bjarn Riis have all been “busted” – one way or the other I have no arguments against them. BUT — UNLESS YOU CAN PROVE THAT – Lance Armstrong AND Johan Bruyneel have been cheating — I will still give them the benefit of the doubt.

The problem is that people are “finger pointing” and can’t back up their claims. Every time Armstrong was “accused” by a finger pointer — he took them to court and won. Why is that? Ludwig — you are “finger pointing” when you throw Armstrong and Bruyneel in with the rest of the crowd you mention and offer no tangible evidence.

Jean C November 12, 2007 at 1:35 pm

Morgan,

What is fair is that clean riders could compete and win if they deserve it!
It’s unfair that a doped rider could win and could escape to the deserved punishment even in a case of lack of competence of governemnt body.

And it’s unfair to have a doped rider stolen poor or naive people to pay his lawyers.


Errors about Lance:
Lance was seriously accused by L’Equipe, but has never try to sue them… Why?
For the SCA case, he only won because his contact didn’t stipulate that he must win clean! So doped or not, the insurance was forced to pay Lance in the 2 cases!

Michael November 12, 2007 at 2:00 pm

Larry,
I think you have hit upon something. The teams need to manage the blood passport. The sport should help the teams do this. A team could withhold a rider from a race because of unusual blood levels; and they would, if they believed there would be repercussions from allowing the rider to start an event (of course WADA would have to clean-up their own house for this to happen). But I find it deeply troubling to have the authorities run this system. Variable blood values are not proof of doping, but it can be assured that WADA would read them as such, and then use the information to search for an AAF.
_
And obviously, riders shouldn’t be banned for using a product that has no clear performance enhancing effect.
_
I don’t think that the facts will ever be available regarding how many riders are doping. Think about it – I assume that WADA has some grounds for making these accusations. They probably have the results from thousands of tests showing numerous irregularities that do not rise to the level of cheating, either because of a hole in the current rules, or because of a limitation of the testing technology. But it wouldn’t be unreasonable for WADA to suspect these riders. Of course, these irregularities are not grounds to decide a rider is categorically dirty. And the people who actually know the truth, the riders, will never be able to tell us. Maybe we need an anonymous survey?

Morgan Hunter November 12, 2007 at 2:27 pm

Jean C – what makes you think that I am against clean riders and clean riding? Do you assume that I am blind to the fact that there are riders and teams and sponsors who practice cheating? I do not.

You keep accusing Floyd Landis of manipulating the public – We do not see this the same way Jean – As I said – I am emotionally championing Floyd – If I am proved wrong and he is found to be a cheater – then I shall be the one to feel devastated. I am NOT CHAMPIONING CHEATING.

Try to understand – as I see the system existent in cycling – I don’t see it very fair. My choice is to stand by the riders – yours is against them. I think the riders are not soley responsible for the state of doping as it appears to be today. It is too big. It has to have had major support from big money.

If you stop for a minute – you will see that we are both wanting the same thing. Clean cycling – clean sports. Where we differ is that you focus on the riders as being at fault for this going on. From what I know of the history of cycle racing – the riders did not start it. It was the teams and their backers, as I see it. It may have had individuals riders who started using to survive – BUT TO KEEP IT GOING on the scale that seems to be present – IT HAS TO HAVE been supported and developed by the higher ups, and the gambling consortium’s.

Never the less – the riders have been always presented to cloud the issue of this as the major perpetrators of the “cheating/doping movement” – I disagree with this.

If you have been studying the rules and bylaws as we have been trying to do – you will see that WADA’s rules are unfair. The rider cannot defend himself – he cannot get information from the accusers to prove his innocence – the labs are closed to him/her – the procedures may not be questioned. THIS ISN’T JUSTICE IT IS A KANGAROO COURT.

YES it is hard to stop the cheating – but we cannot ignore the rule of fair justice if we are expecting “fair play” from all concerned. The cheating has been going on for a very long time – the people involved have become expert at it. The governing bodies have to catch up to speed – but they should not be allowed to do so at the expense of justice – otherwise we are no different then the cheaters. We are doing “anything to win” and isn’t that what you accuse the dopers of doing?

At the moment – the “governing bodies” are independent and have no supervision to answer to – is this a smart way to do things – I do not think so.

As far as I am concerned the first thing that must happen is that there are NO CLOSED DOOR HEARINGS – NO BACK ROOM DEALS – everything must be done transparently – otherwise – who is to stop someone from the bad guys from getting into a position in the governing bodies and manipulate it to their ends? NOTHING!

We must strive for testing that is unquestionable – Doesn’t it make you pause for a moment when you look at certain testing procedures and all that comes of them is controversy? It does me. Such testing should be disallowed.

Finally – if the state of doping is so prevalent, Jean – then why are the officials only catching a few percentage of them? You may answer – because the dopers are very clever – you are right – I do not argue this point. But we have to be clever as well WITHOUT throwing out ETHICS:

Jean C November 12, 2007 at 3:23 pm

Morgan,
Sure we want to reduce cheating and doping.
If the system was unfair we would see have many athletes who were punished with no grounds.
The procedures seems to be harsh against athletes, maybe… but as you pointed right they are few people caught even if all indices are saying that there is a lot of doped riders. So when a athlete is caught there is few chance that it was false. And the athlete can have a hearing.
It would be good to have statistic errors about Justice and Wada system, so you could conclude what system is the most unfair.

Larry November 12, 2007 at 5:09 pm

Ludwig, I blame the ADAs because they are responsible for detecting the dopers and, if the ADAs themselves are to be believed, they aren’t doing the job. I appreciate that this is a difficult job, and if I measure their job performance solely on the basis of their ability to catch dopers, I don’t know if it is possible for them to do their job any better. (I look at the sloppy lab practices at LNDD, and I wonder, if LNDD cleaned up their act, would they catch more dopers? But I can’t say whether or not this would happen.)

But the ADAs don’t say that we’re all doing the best we can to catch the dopers. The ADAs blame everyone else for the fact that we’re not catching the dopers. And this mystifies me, because the ADAs are the ones charged with the responsibility to catch the dopers. If the ADAs are right and someone is to blame for our failure to get the dopers off the road … then the blame logically falls on the ADAs themselves.

You blame UCI for doping? You’ll have to explain that statement more carefully if you want me to follow you. The UCI is the body that licenses riders and teams, sets the rules for the races, and determines who will race and who will not race. But the UCI has to follow its own rules. It can’t simply pick out cyclist Joe Smith and say, “Joe, we think you’re a dirty rider and we’re not going to let you race.” They have to follow their own rules.

Under the UCI rules, the primary anti-doping effort has been delegated to WADA and the ADAs. Maybe that was a mistake, though if cycling wanted to be an Olympic sport, I think that the UCI HAD to delegate this job to WADA and the ADAs. Now, I guess that UCI could have run a separate and parallel program of drug testing, but that probably would have been counterproductive, and I’ve never heard anyone (not even Dick Pound) suggest that McQuaid and Gripper should be collecting urine samples. No, I think that UCI’s main role in the fight against doping is to delegate WADA to do what WADA does, and to stay out of WADA’s way.

Granted, UCI may have screwed up with regard to Rasmussen. Rasmussen missed out of competition tests, probably more than the UCI rules allowed. On that basis, he never should have been allowed to race. That would have eliminated one of the 150 dopers that the ADAs claim were allowed to race in 2007. Any suggestions what UCI might have done to keep the other 149 out of the race?

In what way did UCI cooperate with the drug busts in 2007? In what way did they impede drug busts in prior years? Maybe I’m missing something. If you have some information here, I’d like to hear it.

I’m not a UCI apologist. I think they do a lousy job. But it’s not their job to do drug testing. That’s a job they’ve delegated to WADA.

If WADA needs more money, they should ask for it. I’ve never heard Dick Pound plead poverty. By the way, if they want to properly implement a biological passport program, they BETTER ask for more money. Any decent biological passport program is going to require a lot more testing and a lot more evaluation than is being done currently. Is WADA making it clear at this point that they’re going to need more money? If not, then once again they’re failing to do their job.

“Landisista”? LOL. I DO enjoy your posts!

You say that Dick Pound tried to warn cycling and help cycling? How? At what point did Pound make a specific proposal to improve drug testing, or to battle doping in cycling in some other way, and cycling turned him down? What power did he ask for and did not get? What test did he want to implement and cycing said “no thanks”? What program did he try to implement where he was turned down? As far as I can tell, the WADA system of drug testing is exactly the system Pound desired to put in place.

You mention a list of names (but no specifics) who held the balance of power in cycling and allowed doping to flourish. It’s a mixed group of names! The first two are UCI guys, and I’ve already discussed UCI. The next is Lance Armstrong, and like every other cyclist in the last 30 years, LA may or may not have doped. But even Lance’s worst enemies have never accused him of promoting doping, or helping anyone else dope. Bruyneel is a cycling team manager, and by the same analogy I used for riders, he’s like every team manager for the last 30 years, meaning that he may or may not have run a team doping program. The cyclists and the team managers do not hold the balance of power in cycling, and they don’t control WADA or the drug testers.

In the final analysis, you can blame the dopers for the doping. This is something like blaming the police for the fact that you live in a crime-filled neighborhood, only to have the police blame the criminals. Yes, we get it that the criminals are responsible for crime. The police are responsible for preventing crime and catching the criminals.

Ludwig, I’d be happy to heap more blame on McQuaid and UCI. I don’t like them much. If you can help me do it, go ahead. But when it comes to 150 people doping at the TdF and LNDD catching 4 of them, if you’re determined to blame someone, the blame at this point would have to fall on WADA and the ADAs. Going back to my police analogy, if WADA and the ADAs are the city police, then UCI is like the city’s mayor. Yes, under that analogy, maybe UCI should have fired WADA long ago, and brought in a new chief of police. Is that what you think they should have done?

Jean C, I’d be happy to discuss LA’s guilt or innocence another day. I don’t think there’s much evidence that he doped, but let’s discuss this when it’s more on topic.

Jean C, I see no logic in the assertion that the system must be fair because so few people are caught. First, this defies a fundamental concept that justice requires similar treatment for people who are similarly situated. A system is not fair if it punishes a few people for what everyone is doing. But it’s also not logical to state that, because a system generates hundreds of false negatives, it’s incapable of generating any false positives. False is False.

Rant November 12, 2007 at 6:40 pm

Jean,

One comment about why Lance may not have sued L’Equipe. As I understand it, in France the laws regarding slander and libel of public figures (which Armstrong surely is, given how frequently he appeared in the sports pages of the papers every July between 1999 and 2005) make it just as difficult for the public figure to prevail in court. Like the American media, the French media are well protected from lawsuits whenever they publish stories that public figures don’t particularly like.

Armstrong knows how to choose his battles, and doesn’t generally go into battle when he knows he’s going to lose. It’s not worth the time, money, or bother to him to do so. Suing L’Equipe over their articles would have almost certainly been a losing cause. Not because of the truth of what they may have published, but because of how well protected the media is. Generally speaking, I think that’s a good thing. A free press needs to be able to criticize public figures, whether they are sports stars, celebrities or politicians. Sometimes the media go too far, but I find that preferable to a state where the media are unable to write the stories they turn up.

If that were the case, doping would be going on in sports, and the public would be none the wiser. And corruption would be happening in politics (well, more than it already does), and so forth, and we would never know.

I wouldn’t draw any conclusions about the validity of L’Equipe’s (or any newpaper’s) reporting just because the subject of the story hasn’t taken legal action against them. Sometimes, those people know enough to not waste their time tilting after windmills.

Jean C November 13, 2007 at 2:09 am

Rant,
In France slander and libel even of public figures is not allowed as consequence we have few tabloïds as it’s the case in other countries. Armstrong knows it as he knows perfectly since he were in France that L’Equipe is not a tabloïd.
So you point about Armstrong- L’Equipe is false.
You are just right when Armstrong chose to not sue l’Equipe because he would lose not his time but his reputation.

Rant November 13, 2007 at 5:04 am

Jean,

Thanks for that information. I guess I was misinformed about the similarities between slander and libel law in France versus the US. I was under the impression that the two countries were very similar in that regard. Point taken.

ludwig November 13, 2007 at 8:27 am

Larry,

Pound has been speaking out about cycling’s drug culture for years, and has recieved the same sort of abuse from omerta supporters as he does from the current crop of Landis supporters. Do you remember when Lance Armstrong published an op-ed saying that anyone who felt a large number of cyclists were doping shouldn’t be leading WADA? Reality is cycling (and yes, Armstrong, Verbrueggen, and the rest) has had a hostile relationship with Pound for years. You might argue someone other than Pound would have done the job better, but Pound still deserves admiration for speaking truth to power. Unlike most players in this mess, Pound has retained his integrity and his honor.

I’m not familiar with the exact details of exactly what is delegated to what, but WADA alone is not responsible for testing. They have to coordinate with national federations, even organizers, and of course the UCI. And as you well know, the science to beat the tests remains stronger and better funded than the tests themselves.

I think cycling needs to clean up its own house–it is the figures in cycling (ie managers, doctors, riders), not WADA, who are responsible for covering up doping and maintaining the omerta line. Which is what makes your position so puzzling–under what circumstances do you think it would be possible for WADA to do the job you want them to do? You want WADA to be able to test for all illegal substances and eliminate doping…..without the cooperation of cycling? How are they supposed to catch dopers if the teams themselves have elaborate and expensive plans, backed by millions of sponsor dollars, to avoid said testing?

There’s plenty of blame to go around, but I place considerable blame on the UCI because UCI leaders have consistently lied to the public and covered up the doping mess. They are a convienient target because they have essentially represented the doctors and the DSes–the real profiteers of the doping culture.

Make no mistake about it–until reforms happen that hold teams responsible for doping offenses, nothing substantial is going to change.

ludwig November 13, 2007 at 8:33 am

Larry,

For changes at the UCI that effected the 2007 Tour, see this interview for example.
http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/news/The_Big_Interview_Anne_Gripper_article_154405.html

I believe one of the keys to busting the likes of Vino and Kash was the implementation of blood profiles, which makes it easier to target suspected dopers.

Larry November 13, 2007 at 9:13 am

Ludwig –

Thanks for your cite to the Anne Gripper interview. That’s a terrific interview, but there’s nothing specific there about how UCI did something different regarding drug busts during the 2007 TdF. Or if there is, I didn’t see it.

On Pound’s integrity and honor … we can let Pound’s record speak for itself.

You ask what WADA would need to do the job I want them to do? The first thing I would want is for WADA to either say (1) we’re all doing the best job we can to catch the dopers, this job is going to take a while to accomplish, please be patient, etc., or (2) this job is NOT being done as well as it could be done, and here are the specific things required for this job to be done the way it should be done: [insert SPECIFIC recommendations here]. I understand that WADA needs the cooperation of other agencies to do its job, and if there’s blame to be assigned here, then these agencies should share the blame with WADA and the ADAs. But WADA’s sole purpose is to stamp out doping in sports. WADA is in charge here. They’re supposed to be the experts. They should lead the way.

And by “lead the way” I don’t mean that WADA should be the leading source of sound bites, or vague accusations, or finger pointing. I’m talking about specific reforms.

Two examples: we have the excellent critique of UCI contained in the Rabobank report on the Rasmussen affair. That’s a positive development in the battle against doping: it contains specific ways where UCI can clean up its act. Did WADA provide us with this information? No. The information came from a team sponsor – someone you’ve tended to group with the doping “omerta”. Why didn’t WADA provide us with this critique years ago?

Example two: we have the new idea of the doping passport. Who implemented this idea? CSC and Team Slipstream. Who has brought this idea front and center to the cycling world? I think the primary credit belongs to Anne Gripper at UCI. Again, it’s been members of groups that you might have grouped in your “omerta” that are leading the way. What role did WADA play here? None that I’ve been able to determine.

ludwig November 14, 2007 at 10:20 am

Larry,

I don’t think you’re being fair at all to WADA. All my essential points stand–1) WADA needs the cooperation of the particular sport in order to do anything, 2) such cooperation was not forthcoming until very recently and is still incomplete 3) unlike the UCI and the omerta, WADA was not responsible for covering up the doping problem. The last 10 years of cycling are a history of continual conflict and disagreements over whether even to sign on to the WADA code, and then how to test for cheats. To say that the WADA had the leverage and the power to catch the cheaters during that time is not accurate in the least.

But make no mistake about this–Pound was always vocal about cycling’s refusal to enforce its own rules. All you have to do is google cyclingnews, dick pound, doping, and you will get dozens of examples. While the Verbruggens of cycling attacked whistleblowers and assured the public the sport was clean, Pound was speaking truth to power. You may say that criticizing cycling as adopting dishonest postures is counterproductive–I think recognizing and owning up to cycling’s past was always essential for its future. As we have seen, the public refused to accept and understand the prevalance of the doping culture until athletes started admitting and talking about it–until then they continued to follow the propaganda and what they wanted to believe. As Lemond has told us, cycling is paying the price for its lies.

Finally, to argue that the compromises recently adopted (the blood passports etc) are without the influence of WADA is disingenuous. Ultimately WADA can’t force cycling to do anything–the power brokers in cycling have to make the decisions.

A few links for you to peruse
http://www.bikebiz.com/news/23731/UCI-says-world-anti-doping-org-has-it-in-for-cycling-suspends-links-to-WADA
http://www.dailypeloton.com/displayarticle.asp?pk=3039
http://www.velonews.com/news/fea/13562.0.html
http://edition.cnn.com/2007/SPORT/07/26/cycling.mcquaid.reut/index.html

Larry November 14, 2007 at 10:52 pm

Ludwig, I’m sorry I have not been able to reply. I’m very careful when I reply to you, because you’re smart and you disagree with me. If I’m not careful with my facts, I know you’ll catch me, and if my reasoning is off, I’ll know you’ll nail me for it. These are compliments, by the way, but I just don’t casually dash off replies to you. Sometimes it takes more time than I have.

The articles you cite are interesting and I’ll need to read them more carefully. I’ll admit I’m better on current news than I am about the 2002-03 time period. I don’t know how easy it will be to show that WADA has not been helpful until recently in terms of bringing the biological passport program to the forefront. I have quotes from Lemond saying that the Slipstream types of programs may be just a clever way by the team to avoid doping controls, and while that was not an accurate statement on Lemond’s part, I can’t blame WADA for things said by Lemond.

UCI and Anne Gripper in particular have been instrumental in pushing the idea of the biological passport. Dick Pound actually had some nice words for McQuaid as a result. If we can get these agencies to stop fighting with each other and cooperate, we’re all going to be better off. I’m not going to try to figure out who started the war of words between UCI and WADA.

My main point here has been, if you believe the ADA line that nearly all cyclists are doping, then there’s a lot of blame to go around and WADA deserves its share. If you’re determined to blame, then the agency that is solely devoted to fighting doping has to get some of the blame. Again, I’d be more sympathetic to the idea that WADA’s done all it can and the blame lies elsewhere, if I could figure out what WADA wanted to do differently but was unable to do. If WADA can look at the drug tests for the 2007 TdF, determine that 150 riders doped but that they could only prove cases against 4 of them, don’t you want to know what’s up with that? Are there changes that need to be made to the WADA code or the ISL, to actually allow WADA to prosecute those 150 dopers?

One frustrating aspect of WADA is that they don’t explain to us what they know. If Saugy had come forward and said, here’s how we KNOW that 47 riders were doing EPO or blood transfusions … and here’s what we need to throw the book at these guys … man, would that ever be refreshing. It doesn’t help us when WADA levels these vague and overgeneral kinds of accusations. If they know what they’re talking about, then they should explain it. And if they’re just talking through their hat … well, you know what I’d recommend in that case!

I get what you’re saying about the omerta – if you have time you may want to pick up the link to the NY Times article today about Team Slipstream – some good stuff there about the omerta.

No time to write more, sorry. Our dialog will continue. Thanks for posting here. I enjoy our give-and-take.

Jean C November 15, 2007 at 1:41 am

Larry,
Even if I read rapidly your post, it seems that you are unaware or a lack of knowledge of what happened in 90′. Just some points:
— “they all dope” coming out with EPO around 1997 and especially after Festina, when people learnt more about the big advantage provided by EPO.
— UCI must have cleaned cycling after Festina, UCI preferred to say it was a unique case, the rest of peloton was clean! Only France reacted by his federation and by law (criminalization of doping suppliers)
— So a peloton at 2 speeds was re-born, the first time was at the beginning of EPO when just few teams were using it and were destroying the field!
— until very recently UCI stated that there were no problem of doping in cycling the most tested sport, only some black ships.

There is a lot of drugs in our cities, are all of them caught? There is a lot of thieves and criminal, are they all caught ? A lot (all ?) of drivers drive too rapidly have they all receive a fine ?

Jean C November 15, 2007 at 2:35 am

Larry,
I find this post on cyclingforum:
http://www.cyclingforums.com/showpost.php?p=3625770&postcount=77
—————–
And yes, the UCI/ASO do know who dopes and they allow certain riders to get away with it, while other riders are “caught” and then cast aside.

I have it on bluechip authority that the UCI knew full well that Armstrong for example was doping and the UCI turned a blind eye to him and his team.
The reason he was allowed dope?

In Armstrong’s case, he got his “pass to dope” in 1995 in Limoges.
1995 in Limoges?
Sure he wasn’t exactly lighting the world up back then.
But an unfortunate tragedy and it’s immediate aftermath gave Armstrong a bargaining chip.

TDF 1995 : Fabio Casartelli of the Motorola team dies while descending a mountain in the Pyrennees on Col De Portet D’Aspet
His death, naturally, was covered by the world media.

The stage immediately after Casartelli died, to Pau, was “processional”.
Indurain/Jalabert/Riis – the top riders – went to the ASO/TDF and said that the stage would be solemn. No racing, just riding quietly in memory of Fabio.
Again there was worldwide coverage of that processional stage.
TV and radio stations which would never cover live TDF stages, covered that stage to Pau.
Motorola, as a team with Armstrong as their leader, were allowed by Indurain/Jalabert/Riis to cross the line of that stage while the rest of the peloton held back.
The result that day was neutralised.

A couple of days later, the stages were back in competitive mode, Armstrong managed to get away and won a stage in to Limoges.
If you look at the final 500 metres of that stage, you see Armstrong gesturing up to the sky, on the pretext of offering this win in the memory of his fallen tea mate, Fabio Casartelli.
Again, positive (excuse the pun) TV/Media coverage – what a great guy to remember his team mate, etc.

Roll the film on to 1998 – Festina.
Savage stuff. Soigneur for Festina is arrested after his car is stopped on it’s way to Dublin stuffed with dope.
World wide media coverage ensues.
Festina manager (Roussel) is arrested.
Casino rider, Rudolfo Massi, who waltzed up the mountains destroying Virenque/Pantani gets busted for doping and is publicly stripped of his King of the Mountains jersey. Worldwide coverage.
Festina, the entire team, is thrown off the TDF. Worldwide coverage of their departure with Richard Virenque ensues.
TVM team gets busted for doping at TDF and is thrown off the Tour. World wide coverage.
ONCE, the No 1 cycling team in the world walks away from the TDF. Worldwide coverage.
Jan Riis and Luc LeBlance are filmed standing toe to toe pointing and shouting at each other over the how best to demonstrate riders annoyance at all this adverse media coverage at the TDF.

Professional cycling on it’s knees. UCI is under seige.

Aug-Dec 1998 carries nothing but accusation and counter accusation and court appearances instigated by the French authorities.
Zulle/Virenque/Bourchard and Dufaux – world champions/grand champions are all busted for doping.
Rumour and counter rumour ensue.
Wholesale migration of riders living in the south of France (Nice) to places like Girona and Switzerland because the French police have started to take an active interest in the nest of doping called Cycling.

Vuelta September 1998 : superb race, the final result in the balance practically to the final stage.
Abraham Olano wins………but who finishes 4th after returning from cancer?
Armstrong.
A good news story. A great news story.
In all this fallout, in all this rumour/counter rumour, the UCI at that point decided that Armstrong was to be the “good news story” of a sport that was on it’s knees.
Man gets up of deathbed and manages to finish 4th in the Vuelta.
Positive, worldwide media coverage for a sport that was literally in the shit.
That’s when the Faustian pact was sealed.
Certain UCI members at that time, have admitted this (off the record, naturally).

When Armstrong’s usefulness as a rider/publicist was deemed finished, the UCI did what it always does, it allowed the real truth to come out.
The UCI leaked the rider identity of the 6 positives from the 1999 TDF.

The UCI know and the UCI has and will tolerate doping for a variety of reasons.

———— end of post

Larry November 15, 2007 at 7:59 am

Jean C, that’s one hell of a story! Yes, there’s truth to the idea that FL saved international cycling from the pit it fell into after Festina and the doping scandals of 1998. The remainder of the story lacks a certain logic, which is true for most “conspiracy theories.”

First, if UCI was looking for a hero to save cycling, would they REALLY have chosen a hero they knew was doping? That doesn’t make logical sense. It means that their hero could get caught, same way that the riders in 1998 were caught, with the result that cycling sinks even lower into the muck.

Second, if UCI needed a hero, LA was a dubious candidate. Sure, if LA won, they’d have the whole “rider triumphs over cancer” story, which would be a terrific story. But no one thought in 1999 that LA had a prayer of winning the TdF. He rode on a third rate team, and I’m not sure he’d even completed a TdF prior to that time. If UCI had decided to “conspire” to create a heroic winner of the TdF, they’d have tpo pick someone with a realistic chance of WINNING, and that would have excluded LA.

Third, if your conspiracy theory is right, then once LA emerges as the savior of cycling, it would become more important than ever for UCI to continue its cover-up. That’s the nature of a conspiracy, you can never admit to it. But your conspiracy theory includes a part where UCI decides it no longer needs LA, and exposes LA as a doper. If the UCI admitted to a conspiracy, then not only would it threaten to undo all the “good” it did with the conspiracy, it would also expose its own involvement in the conspiracy. So not only would LA be exposed as a cheater, so would UCI. There’s no way that UCI would behave in this way, it makes no logical sense.

By the way, just to make it clear, I see no credible evidence that LA doped. Other than the fact that he was a professional bike rider, and for the past 30 years at least, all riders ride under suspicion.

Larry November 15, 2007 at 8:54 am

Ludwig, I’ll give credit where credit is due. BRAVO to Dick Pound for his recent statements about the threat to public health posed by doping in sports. I’m going to look at what he said more carefully later, he may be guilty of a bit of hyperbole, but he’s right: the true danger of doping goes well beyond fairness in sports and the tens of thousands who can make a living as a professional athlete. The danger extends to the millions of young people who emulate professional athletes and who aspire to become professional athletes. If they get the message that they have to dope to succeed in sport, and if they have access to the dope, that’s a public health disaster. Unfortunately, that message is out there, and so is the dope. Put two and two together – the result seems obvious to me.

This is one reason why I get so outraged by statements by the likes of Saugy in Lausanne, that everyone in cycling is doping. He damn well better be right, and he damn well better have the facts to back him up, and he damn well better provide us with those facts, and he damn well better tell us what to do about this. Because if all he does is drop a bomb that everyone in cycling is doping, and he then just walks away from the press conference without further explanation, and there’s no follow up, then all he’s done is to add to the message that you need to dope if you want to succeed in athletics.

Ludwig, that “omerta” you speak of? They can make a living off the professional athletes. But they can make a killing (figuratively, and perhaps literally) by extending their market to ordinary people like you, me, and our children. I’m convinced that this is going on, though I’ll admit I’m a little short on proof.

Dick Pound is not all bad. And I gotta admit, when the old “quotemeister” is on the side of right and truth, he can spin some great quotes and garner a lot of attention. My opinion of Pound remains low, but not as low as it was yesterday. Today, he’s “mon ami”.

ludwig November 20, 2007 at 7:35 am

Larry,

The problem is there are limits to what people like Saugy can prove–that is in a scientifically verifiable sense–findings that are falsifiable. This is why the authorities in charge of cycling have to pay more attention to circumstantial evidence and doping netwroks if it wants to fight the problem.

Re. young people and doping. If doping is tolerated then surely the problem of young people emulating it is serious. However, people like Saugy are the last ones to be held responsible for that problem–look instead to the figures who maintain the omerta (code of silence) and continue to recruit young riders into the high-paying pro cycling game without minimal ehtical constraints.

Ultimately, WADA cannot fix cycling. Cycling has to fix cycling. It has to get honest and truthful about the problem–realizing that was it required is a revolution in sports ethics and standards of integrity. Testing alone is not going to do the job–the doping scientists developing new drugs and strategies are too smart and have the monetary advantage.

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