Open and Shut Out

by Rant on February 17, 2008 · 161 comments

in Doping in Sports

So now those who wish to exclude riders have a new method of doing so. Forget due process, forget proof of wrong-doing. Now all that is needed is for someone to confirm that there is an “open investigation” of a rider and, if a race promoter has built in a rule like the Tour of California has, anyone who might be the subject of such an investigation can be excluded. Doesn’t matter that the rider’s national federation says the rider is clear to race. Doesn’t matter whether the rider is guilty or innocent. He or she is shut out.

Just ask Michael Ball, owner of the Rock Racing team, who discovered that three of his riders — Tyler Hamilton, Santiago Botero and Oscar Sevilla — were left off the official rosters of riders who would be allowed to race. So much for giving riders shunned by other teams a second chance, eh?

Apparently, it doesn’t matter that the UCI even confirms that no regulations or legal impediments prevent a rider from racing. As VeloNews.com reports:

“When contacted last week by the organizer of the Tour of California, the UCI confirmed that Mr. Sevilla was one of the riders named in Puerto,” McQuaid wrote [in a letter to Spanish cycling federation general secretary Eugenio Bermudez stating that Oscar Sevilla was free to race]. “This has widely been reported in the press.

“Many organizers have taken the position that they do not want riders implicated in Puerto in their races. The UCI, as the governing body of cycling, cannot support this position from a legal standpoint even if the UCI agrees with it from a moral point of view. However, the UCI has to follow its rules and relevant legislation and Mr. Sevilla is innocent until proven guilty. There is no current anti-doping rule or other legal impediment to Mr. Sevilla taking part in races. However, the UCI respects the organizers’ right to select the teams and riders it considers best reflect the Tour of California’s position on sporting ethics.”

Messick said that McQuaid’s letter to Bermudez was immaterial, as AEG simply asked the UCI to inform them which riders were involved in “open investigations.”

“What is important to understand about that letter is that absolutely is irrelevant,” Messick said. “Whether an athlete is eligible to ride in the UCI races has no bearing on what all 17 teams agreed to about the eligibility of riders for this race. Every team agreed that no riders who are under an open investigation would participate. Every team agreed that USA Cycling and UCI would tell us about any riders who are currently under investigation and that is the criteria. That is the basis. That is the rule.”

Asked with whom at the UCI he had consulted, Messick named UCI anti-doping manager Anne Gripper, who was also at the press conference. Gripper explained to VeloNews that while the riders implicated in Puerto do not have open investigations with anti-doping agencies, they are under investigation by Spanish prosecutors.

Operación Puerto, which broke in May 2006, had been in legal limbo since a Spanish judge ordered the case closed. However, the case has been reopened following a Spanish appeals-court ruling.

Now, the Tour of California makes their own rules, and perhaps their intention is good. Having seen the taint that has fallen over some of the biggest races around, they want nothing to stain the reputation of their race. And riders with “open doping investigations” against them could, conceivably, cause great harm to the reputation of the ToC if those investigations actually led to doping charges.

However, the UCI should not be in the business of informing race promoters on whether any particular team or athlete is the subject of a “open investigation.” Unless an investigation is complete, and it results in doping charges, to do so is to cast a rider or team in disrepute and to harm that rider or team’s ability to compete. There are specific rules against releasing information about investigations prior to administrative hearings that result in doping prosecutions, as I wrote about here.

The same rules that prevent USA Cycling from making such announcements also prevent the UCI from doing the same. In the case of Rock Racing’s riders, one could argue that the recently re-opened Puerto investigation is common knowledge, and that it would be easy to assume who the targets might be. But apparently, Anne Gripper confirmed to AEG that Spanish authorities are investigating these riders. Exactly who they are investigating will become clear over time. It could be, as some reports suggested, that the new investigation will focus solely on Dr. Fuentes and his henchmen. In that case, three riders have been held out of competition based on false information. I can only imagine the field day an attorney would have with that.

Banning riders or teams from racing based on an unfinished investigation, unsupported by conclusive evidence cuts another way, too.

If I were an unscrupulous manager of a cycling team right now, I’d be sitting back and thinking about how I could manipulate this kind of rule to my advantage. And I’d be hoping more and more race organizers implement such a rule. In fact, I’d be encouraging them to do so.

Imagine, this could be a golden opportunity to knock out competitors. Forget spending money on various drugs or other illegal performance enhancement techniques. No more need to risk riders’ lives and potential future livelihoods. There’s a newer, simpler way to beat the other guys.

Start a rumor. And make sure it takes on a big enough life to cause some federation or governing body to open an investigation against the alleged cheater. In politics, this kind of stuff happens all the time in campaigns. They’re known as dirty tricks, for obvious reasons. Who’d’a thunk that such things could be effective in the world of professional cycling?

If you think I’m off my rocker and that it could never happen, let me assure you: It can happen. And it will. Especially if more race promoters follow the Tour of California’s lead. Why bother putting one’s own cyclists at risk for testing positive, when there’s a newer, sure-fire way to beat your competitors? I’m sure that the folks at AEG, the organizers of the Tour of California, never considered this as a possibility. Why would they? And I’m sure that whoever provided the late-night information to keep Hamilton, Botero and Sevilla out of this week’s racing didn’t consider the possibility. But somewhere out there is a shady operator, figuring out how to turn this rule on its head.

I wouldn’t be too surprised if he figures out just how to manipulate things to his team’s advantage. The law of unintended consequences has a way of rearing its ugly head, and this is a rule ripe for manipulation. Or put another way, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

So, henceforth, the way to shut out riders — or entire teams — from competition will be the murky, ill-defined “open investigation.” Thing is, those investigations may never be closed, or even brought to the point where any individual might be charged with any offenses and have a chance to defend him/herself. Beware the slippery slope. Downhill momentum is hard to stop.

Post to Twitter

BSMB February 17, 2008 at 11:38 am

Rant, good take: I’m amazed that Tyler is being shut down again. Why the hell didn’t they just give him a lifetime ban and be done with it? One aspect of this mess is the lesson that even if you are innocent, there is NO reason to protest it. Just admit you were a bad boy and take your 18 months out of the limelight (isn’t that what Millar ended up getting?). It doesn’t matter if you did the bad deed or not, if you protest you may never ride pro again even if you are only 22 at the time So just admit you’re a cheat, shed a few tears and hold your wifes hand on TV, and shut up and train on your own for the penalty time.

But the other point (among many you made) is the damage of unsubstantiated rumors that can foul riders. Look at these pages alone. You have Larry and Ludwig that are happy to claim that Levi, for example, must be dirty because he signed with a specific team. No evidence, no whispers on the grapevine, no tell tale blood bags in the bathroom: no one has ever implicated Levi as a doper. Yet L & L are happy to label him as such on these pages and use that as an excuse to justify the exclusion of Astana. And I assume L & L have no financial benefit in tearing down levi: just think what someone could and would do if it was in their financial interests to do so? Sad sad world.

Morgan Hunter February 17, 2008 at 12:13 pm

BSMB,

I think you may be confusing Larry with someone else. I’ve gone back in the threads and except for one place – where Larry is presenting a possible series of events – he himself does not “label” Levi – rather he is applying a technique of deduction that “may be” a possible scenario. But this is nothing more then a scenario which was developed to address reasons that Levi is one of the people who are held under suspicion – BECAUSE HE WAS A FORMER DISCO. But having re-read the peice – I could not find where Larry “insinuated” that Levi was dirty…

You are absolutely spot on though about “unsubstantiated rumors” – the favorite weapon of choice it would seem of many of the governing bodies.

I respect the “right of free speech” I realize the dangers of “censorship,” also. So much of this situation seems to have these two themes as an underlying point, today in cycling. It will not be a short and quick fight to get these issues “straightened out” – I am very sad to say. But we have to keep punching till we get their attention!

Larry February 17, 2008 at 12:15 pm

BSMB, READ MY POSTS. You are continually mischaracterizing what I’ve said. I never said that Levi doped. I said, in fact, that Levi is about as straight a character as I’ve ever seen. I’ve spent a good portion of the last three days trying to explain my position to you, and if you want further information, then make an effort to contact me privately.

Larry February 17, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Morgan, thanks.

BSMB, I direct the rest of this post to you.

It is one of the sad and badly-kept secrets of the cycling world, that a lot of riders race under the suspicion that they’re doping. If I haven’t made it clear enough, I think this is a terrible situation. Obviously, there is a doping problem in cycling, meaning that there must be a certain number of riders out there who are doping and not being caught. But there’s no good reason to suspect one rider more than another — that is, until one rider is actually caught.

It is one of the sad and badly-kept secrets of the cycling world that the powers that be in cycling are more suspicious of certain riders than others. BSMB, I’m sorry, but these suspicions exist, and I’m not a WADA apologist for pointing this out to you. The fact that these suspicions exist does not mean that there are any reasonable grounds for these suspicions. For example, there is no reason to suspect that American riders dope more than French riders. I’ll say it again, BSMB, because you seem determined not to understand me on this point: there is no reason to suspect rider A more than rider B just because rider A is from a particular country, or raced for a particular team, or has had better results than rider B.

However, the fact that there are no good grounds for suspecting one rider more than another does NOT stop the powers that be from speculating as to who is and who is not doping. In some cases, this speculation has risen to a near certainty that this-or-that person is “dirty”. You’ve heard this speculation here, mostly about Bruyneel, and if you want to check the record, I’ve fought this speculation more than once. I think the idea that Bruyneel is some kind of doping mastermind is ludicrous. I’m going to keep saying this until I know you’ve understood it: I think the powers that be are WRONG here — not only is it wrong to engage in this speculation, I don’t think there’s any basis in suspecting anyone more than anyone else until that anyone else has been caught red-handed.

Sorry, BSMB. But most of the cycling world assumes that Lance Armstrong doped his way to 7 TdF titles. To my mind, Lance Armstrong is a hero, he rode clean as a whistle, and the evidence to the contrary is garbage. However, the fact that I am as certain as I can be that Lance rode clean does not change the fact that WADA, the UCI, the ASO and a substantial portion of organized cycling think he doped. I do NOT understand why you want to vilify me for saying this. Do you want me to pretend that the cycling world shares my high opinion of Lance, when I know they do not?

Ludwig likes to talk about the Omerta. Ludwig is right, in that cyclists won’t talk about the doping they’ve seen, the teammates they know are doping, the organized doping programs that may have existed in the past. Even Saint Greg won’t say anything more about doping in his day than that there was doping in his day. So Ludwig is right, there’s an Omerta among cyclists. But there’s something worse that goes on among the powers that be in cycling. A campaign of whispering, fear and intimidation. You can call me paranoid for believing this, if you like. But I can assure you that with the exception of maybe a couple of teams like Rock Racing (and maybe Astana), no major cycling team will hire a rider today without considering that rider’s reputation for doping. No team is going to hire a rider without asking: is this hire going to affect my team’s ability to race in the Tour, and the Giro, and the other races we MUST race in. It doesn’t matter whether the rider is question is really doping. What matters is what the ASO thinks about the rider, or worse, what the team thinks that ASO might think about the rider. If you have any doubt, you don’t hire that rider.

Maybe I’m wrong about Levi. Maybe he has a great reputation in the cycling world, and he just made a bad bet when he went with Astana. I know I’m not wrong about Bruyneel and Contador — I know that they are under suspicion. I’ll say it again: there are NO GOOD GROUNDS for this suspicion. How can I argue that these guys are being treated unfairly if you won’t let me acknowledge that they’re being treated differently?

But if I’m right, and if Levi is one of many in the world of cycling who has unfairly fallen under a cloud of suspicion … then we go to the bigger point I’ve been trying to make, which is that Levi may have been the victim of an unfair, groundless, baseless, whispering, blackballing campaign that denied him any place to ride other than Astana – a team that never had a chance to race in the grand tours in 2008. That’s not an attack on Levi — that’s a DEFENSE of Levi and an attack on the rotten power structure in cycling that would have allowed for the existence of a blacklist.

And if you say I’m wrong, that there IS no blacklist, then who’s the apologist?

Larry February 17, 2008 at 1:16 pm

Rant –

Sorry for ranting.

Let’s get this discussion back on track.

The situation with Rock Racing, the TofC and the “open investigation” rule is a confused mess. Let’s see if we can make sense of it.

we’re dealing with a contract issue here. From what we know, AEG (the TofC organizer) included a clause in its contracts with the TofC teams providing that any rider “involved” in an “open investigation” would not be permitted to start the TofC. From what we know, the contracts authorized AEG to contact UCI and USA Cycling to determine which cyclists were involved in ongoing investigations.

I’m sorry to have to be the lawyer here, but the first question we have to face is the boring and mundane question of defining terms. What does the TofC contract mean when it refers to “involved” in an “open investigation”? From what I’ve read, Michael Ball (owner of the Rock Racing team) interprets “open investigation” to mean an ongoing investigation by a rider’s national federation. Ball has confirmation that Tyler Hamilton, Santiago Botero and Oscar Sevilla are not the subject of any open investigation by the U.S., Colombian and Spanish cycling federations. AEG (the organizers of the Tour of California) and the UCI interpret “open investigation” to include Operacion Puerto, and at AEG’s request, UCI identified Tyler Hamilton, Santiago Botero and Oscar Sevilla as involved in Operacion Puerto.

(rank speculation warning: what would have happened if Alberto Contador had been selected by Astana to race in the TofC? Would AEG have excluded him also?)

So, at its heart, what we have here is a garden variety contract dispute. If I were asked to resolve the dispute, I’d first want to read the entire contract and learn everything I could learn about how the contract was prepared and negotiated. When it comes to legal interpretation, context is very important.

However, based on the VERY little I know about this dispute, I’d say that Operacion Puerto is an “open investigation”. Rant, you cited to the VeloNews article yourself: “Puerto case to be reopened.” Puerto is “open”. It’s an “investigation”. Ergo, it’s an “open investigation”.

Now, if I was Michael Ball’s lawyer, I’d argue that not every investigation is an “investigation”. For example, if a rider’s tax returns are being investigated by the IRS, that shouldn’t be grounds for excluding the rider from the TofC. I’d argue that “investigation” should be read to refer to investigations being undertaken by cycling authorities. However, the intent behind the “open investigation” clause seems to be to exclude riders who are suspected of doping. Operacion Puerto is a doping investigation. Again, based on the VERY little I know about this dispute, Operacion Puerto appears to be an “investigation” as such term is used in the TofC contracts.

Again, if I was Michael Ball’s lawyer, and I was forced to admit that Operacion Puerto is an “open investigation”, then I’d probably focus my efforts on proving that Hamilton, Botero and Sevilla are not “involved” in this “open investigation”. Again, we’re forced to define terms. I have not done the research to know exactly where Operacion Puerto stands, and whether the three Rock Racing riders are truly “involved” in this investigation. However, again based on the VERY little I know about this dispute, I tend to side with AEG’s legal position. UCI told AEG that the three Rock Racing riders were involved in the Operacion Puerto investigation. The racing contracts apparently authorized AEG to contact UCI in order to determine which racers were involved in an investigation. I’ll stress again that we know very little from the press reports, but from what I’ve seen, AEG has the better case here.

Of course, nothing I’ve said above goes to the bigger questions you’ve discussed in your post. To put it mildly, with 20-20 hindsight, we can say that AEG’s inclusion in their contracts of this “open investigation” clause was not exactly a great idea. It’s opened up a huge can of worms, it has apparently severed the relationship between Rock Racing and the TofC, it has put organizations like USA Cycling in a position where they were expected to reveal information that USADA deemed to be confidential … not to mention the fact that when this clause was put to the test, no one could figure out what it meant.

But we have to be careful here. I think that AEG deserves credit for at least trying to set forth an objective standard for who should and should not be permitted to race. Contrast the ASO (the Tour de France organizers), who have excluded Astana from this year’s races based on a private and undisclosed selection process, with no assurance that the same selection criteria were applied to all eligible teams. Why exclude Astana because of the team’s 2007 doping problems, when other teams with 2007 doping problems (Rabobank, High Road) are being permitted to race? At least AEG has told us the standard they’re using to include and exclude teams, and at least AEG is publicly attempting to apply the same standard to all teams.

Arguably, AEG just needs a better standard.

As for your suggestion that the best selection standard is who does and does not have a UCI license … perhaps that IS the best selection standard. But putting aside the problems we’ve seen in this case, do you REALLY trust UCI to make good and fair decisions? After all, whose fault IS it that Hamilton et. al. are not racing in the TofC? All UCI needed to do was to tell AEG that Operacion Puerto is a Spanish government investigation, and that no one knows for certain what riders are “involved” in the investigation. Arguably, UCI created this mess. I’m not 100% comfortable that the best solution here is based on 100% reliance on UCI’s selection criteria.

Jean C February 17, 2008 at 1:49 pm

Larry,

I am speechless after a such post.

Yes you are right, there is no reason to suspect a rider with superhuman performance than a human athlete.

People who are working in their domain for a long time are not able to detect or at least to suspect the obvious frauds.

Are you saying that all people in lab are liars or inepts? Lausanne’s lab has detected many blood manipulation in riders’ bloods.

The countries with the strongest anti-doping have their riders on the first speed. Or do you think that they are lazy as said Armstrong or Jalabert who avoided France after the anti-doping laws?

What a lot of obvious errors or lack of cycling knowledge in those lines!

If as you say there is no reason to suspect riders, there is no more reason to suspect lab, WADA, UCI,… If you have not strong evidence, don’t speak, don’t write…

ludwig February 17, 2008 at 2:18 pm

If Hamilton, Botero, or Sevilla were innocent, then why haven’t they sued organizations that have either spread OP rumors or barred them from events? For example, why didn’t Hamilton sue Politiken when they published the 2003 doping schedule found among the Fuentes papers?

Rant February 17, 2008 at 2:21 pm

Jean,

I think Larry’s larger point is that some people are under suspicion not because of any “superhuman” performances, but merely based on who they work for or who their teammates are. Sometimes that may be a reasonable grounds for suspicion, sometimes not. But we shouldn’t be in the business of banning people based just on suspicions, we need to find ways to show that those suspicions are, in fact, correct. If not, otherwise innocent people can suffer great harm.

Larry,

No need to apologize for ranting. It’s in the name of this blog, after all. 😉 You make a number of excellent points in both of your long posts. As you pointed out:

All UCI needed to do was to tell AEG that Operacion Puerto is a Spanish government investigation, and that no one knows for certain what riders are “involved” in the investigation. Arguably, UCI created this mess. I’m not 100% comfortable that the best solution here is based on 100% reliance on UCI’s selection criteria.

I’m not 100% comfortable with using the UCI as the arbiter of this, either, to be honest. AEG needs to more clearly define the type of investigation they mean, and who would be conducting such investigations.
From what I’ve gathered, this new Puerto investigation will be focusing on Fuentes and his merry band of helpers, and not on any athletes. Which means that Hamilton, Botero and Sevilla have been unnecessarily slimed. This is going to be a long, drawn-out, interesting battle before it’s all over.

Ludwig,

Interesting question. Depends on whether various jurisdictions define professional athletes as public figures, and whether or not there is an exception to the laws on libel and slander for public figures, as there pretty much is here. That’s how a number of political smear campaigns (on both sides of the spectrum, by the way) have managed to go relatively unpunished. If I were to cast public aspersions on you — a private citizen — and what I said was false, I could reasonably expect you to sue me. But if you’re a public figure, it’s much harder to prevail.

Larry February 17, 2008 at 3:24 pm

Jean C, I’m afraid that some of the meaning of your last post may be lost in translation. For example, saying that you are “speechless” could be a compliment or a criticism! I suspect you meant it as a criticism.

I am saying that you cannot determine if someone is doping by looking at his performance. You have Lance Armstrong, who rode with great consistency, and some people suspected him because his riding was so consistent. Then you have people like Floyd Landis and Vinokourov, who had terrible days followed by great days, and they were suspected of doping because their riding was so inconsistent (the thought being, I guess, that they doped to get the stronger performances). You have riders like Contador with great acceleration in the mountains, and riders like Ullrich with a slower but very powerful acceleration — which style is connected to doping, and which is not?

There ARE performance indicators that you might connect up with doping, but there is great danger in doing so. For example, doping is sometimes connected up with an athlete’s ability to improve performance at a late stage in his career. Here in the U.S., this is a big part of the speculation regarding whether Roger Clemens (a baseball pitcher) used HGH. During last year’s TdF, I wondered privately how Michael Rasmussen was able to ride so well, so late in his career, when he’d never placed on the podium of a grand tour before then. I didn’t say anything in public about Rasmussen, because it would have been unfair to do so. It is possible for an athlete to perform well late into his career without resorting to doping.

Am I saying that people working in their domain for a long time are unable to detect or suspect the obvious frauds? Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying. You’ve said it so well, I wish I’d said it myself. The only way to know that someone is doping is to catch them at it. There is no other reasonable ground for suspecting an athlete of doping. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to stop people at the top levels of cycling from suspecting particular riders of doping.

Am I saying that all people in labs are liars or inept? No. Did I say anything like that? I am certain that these people, like all people, make mistakes. I am certain that, at least at LNDD (which, to be fair, is the only WADA lab that has ever been the subject of a public investigation — other labs may be worse), there are serious deficiencies in the ways lab methods are validated and performed, and major holes in the quality control processes. I’m also saying that under the WADA rules, it is almost impossible for an athlete to challenge an adverse analytical finding.

You say that Lausanne has detected a lot of blood manipulation? Yes, so I have read. The material I’ve read from M. Saugy in Lausanne is woefully short of detail. 40% of the TdF riders did this, and 80% of the TdF riders did that, and so forth. How does he know this, and how did he come to these conclusions, and why if he knows this are so few riders actually caught by LNDD? One of the biggest problems I have with the “whispering campaign” that I believe is going on inside of cycling is that no one is willing to tackle the difficult questions, and provide specifics. It is easier (and it seems to serve a particular political purpose) to say that doping is rampant, that someone else is responsible for it, and that nothing will change until someone else starts taking doping seriously. Greg Lemond gives speeches like this all the time.

You write that countries with the strongest anti-doping laws have their riders “on the first speed”. I’m not sure what you mean by “on the first speed”, but from the context, I think you mean that they’re not riding as well as riders from countries with weaker anti-doping laws. My understanding is that France has the strongest anti-doping laws in the world, and the French riders are in a TdF slump at the moment, but I can’t say that there’s a connection. What other countries have adopted strong anti-doping laws and have seen a decline in their performance on the road? As for U.S. athletes, we’ve done well in cycling of late, but our performance in other international sports (tennis, basketball, and how come we can’t win a Ryder Cup?) has been declining. As for cycling, does the U.S. have any obvious up-and-coming riders on a par with Greg and Lance? We may be in for a cycling slump ourselves. These things happen. I fully expect to see a French cycling renaissance. No, I don’t think the French riders are lazy!

I saw Lance win 7 Tours in a row, so obviously he didn’t avoid France in July. I thought that during his racing career, he lived part of the year in France, though I could be wrong about that. Do you think American riders have better access to doping products than European riders? I guess that’s possible … but from what we’ve seen, riders from all countries have been implicated in doping scandals, and I think that all riders have an equal opportunity to dope, regardless of race, creed or country of origin.

As far as obvious errors, point ’em out to me. Lack of cycling knowledge? I have much to learn; teach me what you know. You can also jump over to TBV, and read my Curb Your Anticipation series — there’s LOTS of material there for you to disagree with!

No reason to suspect labs? Please see the Vrijman report and the majority decision in the Landis case. UCI and WADA? Mostly, I’m critical of UCI and WADA actions that are a matter of public record — in those cases, I’m not “suspecting” anything, I’m responding to things they have actually done. Lately, I’ve said out loud something that I’ve suspected for a long time, that there is a blacklist in cycling, and that UCI and WADA bear some responsibility for this. You have every right to criticize me for saying this, as I have no direct proof that this blacklist exists. Unfortunately, you can never prove a blacklist, and I have no way of explaining much of what I see in cycling if there is no list (official or unofficial) of suspected dopers in cycling. You seem to believe that “people in their domain” can determine who is doping — I disagree that they can do this successfully, but I agree that they ARE trying to do so. Do you think that each of these people keep their suspicions to himself or herself? Forgive me if I don’t believe that — the powers that be in cycling do not appear to be able to keep a secret.

If my posts are being attacked by both you and BSMB, what does that say, I wonder? Attacked from both the right and the left, so to speak.

By the way, I have become a major fan of yours. I almost never agree with you, but in my life, I value most the people who disagree with me. I suspect that you have good sources for what you write, and I believe that your opinions are much more mainstream in cycling than mine would be. I also admire your willingness to post here, where so many disagree with you, in a language that’s not your native language (though you’re pretty good at English, and certainly your English is better than my French! Sometimes your English is better than my English. “People who are working in their domain for a long time …”. That’s pretty good, I wish I’d said that).

R Wharton February 17, 2008 at 4:49 pm

Jean – the answer as to why they can’t sue is as simple as the reason that they can’t win their arbitration cases. They can’t get the evidence, they would be forced in to arbitration with limited evidence and resources, and the costs to do so would be astronomical.

The lab techs at Lausanne were guilty of a cover-up with Hamilton, and the lab techs at LNDD wouldn’t get hired at a wholesale dry cleaners’ outfit here in the US. Yes, they were, and they remain, THAT DUMB. If THEY had fessed up a long time ago, the whole thing would have been done with by now and Floyd would still be racing. But THEIR ineptitude is what led to the entire feud with USADA, WADA, the AAA, and now the CAS. Those girls got away with something that any high school biology or chemistry professor would have caught and flunked them for. And yes, under the FRENCH system, they CANNOT be FIRED for their ineptitude. Remember the riots? Part of that dispute was over the ability of owners to fire employees for, guess what, ineptitude.

So this IS a national issue, and it DOES relate to your nation’s inability to attract the brightest and best to their employers.

That AEG drummed up this enforcement makes them guilty of compliance, and now THIS race is also tainted with the fact that some of the best cyclists in the world were not allowed to compete.

I DO find it ironic that the podium today was filled by 3 major anti-doping teams. I just hope they can make it stick throughout the week. Good for them.

Larry February 17, 2008 at 5:31 pm

R Wharton, there is NO indication that LNDD is any better or worse than any other WADA lab. FL’s legal team DID try to compare LNDD to the UCLA lab, arguing that UCLA did things better. However, LNDD received scrutiny in the FL case like no WADA lab has received before or since. LNDD was also raked over the coals by the Vrijman report – again, no other lab has ever been investigated like LNDD. In comparison, we know very little about what goes on at other WADA labs.

The prosecution of FL was an international effort. It was supported by Caitlin at the UCLA lab and Ayotte from the Montreal lab.

As for LNDD’s failures being a NATIONAL problem? Have you SEEN where the U.S. ranks these days in terms of science education? http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/04/AR2007120400730.html.

Jean C February 17, 2008 at 5:35 pm

Larry,

Some or more clarifications

In France there is anti-doping laws and a longitudinal control health for every french athletes with a french license so Jalabert prefered to live in foreign countries and have a foreign license!

Why Armstrong who lived sometimes in France, who saw many people reading L’Equipe every day at french race, in hotel could say on TV “L’Equipe is a tabloid!” Why lied for that? He could not ignore every rider in TDF departure area is looking at L’Equipe especially to see their face or to know what was said about them every day.
He lied again saying to raise his hct level close to 50% by altitude tent, studies proves that only 2-3 points are possible. Hasn’t he an average of 42 ?
The corticoid TUE: why use a cream for this kind of problem, that could be only WORST !!!!! LIAR too WITH CORRUPTED UCI (false TUE)!!!!!!
All LA “explanations” were just lies to dupe gullible and naive fans.

There is a lot of correlation with EPO events (releasing, testing, micro-dosing) and Fuentes to not draw general conclusion.

Scientist studies (Dr Ekblom who worked with Lasse Viren or Berglund, Audran, Birkeland,…) give a huge improvement (15 to 25%) for EPO and blood doping for a long period 6-9 months. Difference between 2 pro-riders are currently less than 5%.
Question how a clean rider could have done the same performance than Ullrich or Pantani or even Virenque ???

Suddenly improvement are a myth in physical sport, or it’s only for people who had bad training before. There is ever a reason. If athletes can give a good reason, in 99% of cases it’s due to doping program.

I posted on different post here many good links about doping, I like curves, you can have a look on:
http://www.cyclismag.com/article.php?sid=2500
Can you see some correlation with EPO, EPO testing, microdosing,…
http://www.cyclismag.com/photos/evolution_20060711180734.jpg

You can read too:
http://scienceofsport.blogspot.com/2007/11/effect-of-epo-on-performance-who.html

Vrijman’s report, hahahaha…As lawyer you should appreciate do you know that Vrijmann and Verdruggen are close friend? What kind of indepedent inquiry!

Armstrong, Ullrich Pantani, Indurain, Contador, Basso, Landis, Rasmussen, Leipheimer, Evans, Valverde, Jalabert, Kloden,. doped. I can bet all that they all cited doped.

Would you bet that Landis didn’t dope?

Jean C February 17, 2008 at 5:51 pm

Larry,

Thanks for your indeniable admiration for me ;D

I ever think that you are the most honest of the Trust but Verify.

Jean C February 17, 2008 at 6:09 pm

R Wharton

Probably you are reading tabloïds, french “riots” were linked with unemployement.

Maybe our technician are inept but if our President would be responsible of a stupid war, he would resigned. It seems that only for sexual enjoyement a US President could be fired.
By the way, what are doing your country to save the planet when you are the most polluting agent of the world?

Larry February 17, 2008 at 6:23 pm

Rant –

By the way, lost in the commotion over Hamilton, Botero and Sevilla is that Kayle Leogrande is ALSO not on the Rock Racing roster for the TofC. He’s still listed on the TofC web site – see http://www.amgentourofcalifornia.com/news/press/2008-roster-announced.html. However, he’s not on the Tour prologue start list. Mario Cipollini was apparently substituted for Leogrande at some point prior to yesterday’s commotion over the Rock Racing roster. Speculation on Cycling News was that Michael Ball dropped Leogrande from the list to make room for Cipollini … but when Hamilton, Botero and Sevilla were dropped, why didn’t Ball add Leogrande back in? The only information I can find about the Leogrande situation is at http://www.velonews.com/article/72073, and it’s not very conclusive.

The TofC “open investigation” contract provision is up on Bicycle.Net, and it’s VERRRRRRRRRY interesting:

“Team agrees to participate fully with all anti-doping initiatives as established by UCI, USA Cycling, USADA and WADA and to be subject to the respective sanctions of such governing organizations. From the date of execution of this Condition of Entry Agreement by Team through the conclusion of the 2008 ATOC, no member of the Team, which shall include without limitation named riders, coaches, trainers and Team management (individually and collectively, Team Member) shall have any open investigation as determined by UCI and/or USA Cycling) with regard to any matter involving a violation by such Team Member of any anti-doping rules as established by UCI, USA Cycling, USADA and/or WADA, unless or until such Team Member has been acquitted of such violation by UCI, USA Cycling, USADA and/or WADA

No Team member participating in the ATOC may be under suspension by UCI, USA Cycling, USADA, and/or WADA from the date of execution of this Condition of Entry Agreement by Team through the conclusion of the 2008 ATOC.”

OK, ladies and gentlemen: is Operacion Puerto an investigation “with regard to any matter involving a violation … of any anti-doping rules as established by UCI, USA Cycling, USADA and/or WADA”? It’s not all that clear! From Cycling News, it appears that the newly opened Operacion Puerto is going to focus only on the doctor who ran the operation and his assistant. It also appears that the investigation is to focus only on the handling of the blood bags, since the doping practices involved were not illegal under Spanish law at the time the lab was shut down. According to Cycling News, the revamped Operacion Puerto will not target the cyclists.

At the same time, it’s clear that WADA and the UCI want to get their hands on as much information as they can from the Operacion Puerto investigation.

So … we might conclude here that Operacion Puerto is not an “open investigation” within the meaning of the AEG contract, because the Operacion Puerto investigation is not looking at doping. If there’s an “investigation” going on, it would have to be at WADA and UCI — they’re the ones trying to get hold of Puerto data for possible use against cyclists. But is the WADA – UCI interest in Operacion Puerto an “open” investigation? WADA and UCI do not have any of the data they want from Operacion Puerto, and there’s no indication that they’ll ever get this data. Would it be more accurate to say that WADA and UCI’s investigation is not “open” until they actually receive the data and have SOMETHING they can actually investigate?

I’m not crazy enough to venture a legal opinion here, but Rock Racing may have a stronger argument here than I first thought.

R Wharton February 17, 2008 at 6:59 pm

Larry, I’m really agreeing with you here on everything. And don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of cross-eyed numbskulls with college diplomas who can’t read or interpret information worth a flip. But there’s no doubt in my mind that the lab techs (why do I keep thinking of love potion #9 or may be “The Fly” remake?) screwed up, then covered up once they’d decided to play Chinese Whispers with their friends at L’equipe.

And AEG definitely screwed up.

Rant February 17, 2008 at 7:06 pm

Larry,
Thanks for posting that bit about the open investigations from the AEG contract. The fundamental question with the Hamilton, Botero and Sevilla situation is really quite simple: Is there really an “open investigation” of these three riders? If what’s been reported about the re-opening of the Puerto case is correct, the answer appears to be “No.” At least as far as Spanish prosecutors are concerned. As you noted, and as I’ve seen, they appear to be going after Dr. Fuentes and his assistant.
The three riders respective national federations said there was no open investigation of any of the them. Unless the UCI and WADA have investigations that they aren’t owning up to, what other investigations could be happening based on the Puerto case?

Larry February 17, 2008 at 7:26 pm

R Wharton, agreed that LNDD screwed up. Not sure about the cover-up. But I love France, and almost everything French. They have the technical ability to operate nuclear power plants (something we haven’t been so good at), a terrific inter-city rail, a tunnel under the channel and a capital city that’s not choked by traffic. Plus, their wines are the best you can find anywhere outside of California.

And thanks for agreeing with me, I’m not getting so much of that lately!

William Schart February 17, 2008 at 7:47 pm

Larry:

Having suspicions about a rider for the various reasons you mention is one thing, what is important (to me, at least) is what is or isn’t done on the basis of those suspicions.

As you know, in our US criminal system, there is a range from mere suspicion through probable cause to beyond a reasonable doubt. What the authorities are allowed to do and also are prohibited from doing depends, in part, on where on this spectrum the available and permissible evidence lies. The police would be allowed to undertake certain investigations of someone based on mere suspicion, but they could arrest someone, or get a search warrant base on mere suspicion.

This is the problem with what is going one in cycling. Certain riders, teams, and DSes are suspected of doping, based on evidence that is only mere suspicion, or at best, perhaps probable cause. If it is only mere suspicion, like that fact that some other riders on his current or past team are known to have doped, UCI or WADA, or national federation may wish to watch that rider more closely. Perhaps institute additional in and out of competition testing, as I believe is allowed. But to prohibit a rider from competition based on mere suspicion is wrong, IMO.

Now, if you have probable cause, say for example, a non-negative A test result, the situation is deferent. Pro Tour teams must suspend such a rider, if I understand things correctly. It is not unreasonable that such a rider might be put under suspension until the case is resolved.

But this is not the case, AFAIK, regarding either the Astana situation with ASO. As you say, there is nothing against Levi that we are aware or other than he rode for Disco, who some suspect of doping, and now rides for Astana, who did have some problems with doping. Contador is linked to a very cryptic reference in OP files, barring further evidence that has not been publicly revealed. As for Bruyneel, I understand there is some question regarding some syringes found in trash several years ago. Apparently no one in a position of authority at the time found this to be a problem, else they would have done something at the time. If someone in authority now feels this is a problem, they could open an investigation. Of course, my guess is that evidence no longer exists and such an investigation would be fruitless. Perhaps JB is lucky and has gotten away with something, and perhaps he is innocent, we’ll never know, barring a confession. But he has not been convicted. Until he is, he should not be subject to any sanction.

The ToC situation is rather a different can of worms. I suppose that if ToC wanted to put a clause in its contract that any rider who ever got a speeding ticket is banned, that would be their right. But it looks like to me their contract language is imprecise (perhaps deliberately so?), open to a number of interpretations. It seems that Ball vetted his riders based on his interpretation, and at the last minute, the ToC used a different interpretation to ban the riders in question, with the UCI rather bailing them out by providing documentation that tied in with that interpretation. It kind of smells fishy to me, but perhaps is entirely legal.

Regarding “superhuman performances”: it is true that some riders who dope can put up superhuman performances, but not necessarily all doping riders do so. Case in point, our old friend Joe Papp. Nor does it necessarily follow that all superhuman performances of necessity indicate doping. Case in point here: Bob Beamon.

Larry February 17, 2008 at 9:51 pm

William, great points all! Absolutely true, what matters is what we do with our suspicions. I believe that teams are hiring and not hiring cyclists based on these suspicions. That’s not right.

I don’t think the TofC contract language is deliberately imprecise. I think it was some lawyer’s attempt to give the client what it thought it wanted. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. No one thought it all the way through.

Great point about Joe Papp. I suspect that the pressure to dope at the lowest rungs of cycling must be the most intense. Those are the people just trying to hang on to the margins of a career. The beauty of “clean sport” may not be so apparent to athletes living from paycheck to paycheck.

Larry February 17, 2008 at 10:43 pm

Jean C –

France has longitudinal controls? I’d like to know more about that.

Let’s skip over the Lance Armstrong question for the moment.

You are arguing that it’s impossible to ride at a top level without doping, and you citing a 15% – 25% improvement in performance through doping. I don’t think that there’s a 15% difference between the best and the worst riders in the peloton. So you’re saying that EVERYONE is doping? The French riders too? CSC and Slipstream too?

It’s hard to know what to say to this.

You seem to be arguing that (1) doping confers a large advantage, (2) the cyclists in the peloton are pretty evenly matched, therefore (3) everyone in the peloton must be doping (the non-dopers being unable to compete). Or is your argument limited to the top 25 riders, or the top 10 riders, or just the guys on the podium?

Your list of riders who dope is an impressive group, and a diverse group. The only things they have in common is that they rode after 1990 and they were successful. Are you saying that every successful rider since 1990 was a doper? Are you saying that no matter who wins the TdF in 2008, he must be a doper? Are you saying that we’ll be able to tell if the Slipstream anti-doping program is a success, because they’ll trail the rest of the peloton by at least 15% to 25%?

I think you’re saying what a lot of people believe.

I also think you’re taking your argument too far. You’re reasoning from general principles to specific cases, and that doesn’t always work. It may be the case, for example, that most of the great chefs in the world have trained in France. You can’t reason from this fact that because Joe trained in France, he must be a great chef.

You cite large performance gains in cycling since the introduction of EPO. It would be hard to argue that there’s no connection. That doesn’t mean that everyone who performs well is on EPO. There are other ways to improve performance. Equipment has gotten better. Training is more scientific now, with wind tunnels and computers and the like. The overall level of competition is higher, now that cycling attracts athletes from around the world and not just throughout Western Europe. The money is better, so athletes can afford to train year-round and can be more selective in choosing where and when they want to race. A rider like Lance, who targeted 12 months of training to be at peak performance in July, is going to perform better than an equally dedicated and talented athlete who’s expected to perform well year-round.

Still, I don’t know what percentage of the peloton is doping, and I don’t know whether doping confers signficant advantages that cannot be obtained in any other way. I would certainly encourage cycling to investigate this, and to report back to us — we could use a “Mitchell Report” for cycling.

My main objection to your line of reasoning is when you start naming names. There’s no reason to suspect someone like Cadel Evans of doping, other than the fact that he’s probably the favorite to win the 2008 TdF. Reasoning like this turns cycling into a joke: we can imagine a scene in Paris, where the winner climbs the podium, watches his flag raised into the air, steps off the podium, has his maillot jaune stripped from his body and handed to the number 2 guy, who climbs the podium, has the flag raised, etc., until we reach the 180th guy in the peloton, who wins because he’s the last guy left standing. Or maybe we just award the championship to the guy in last place, to save some time.

But I digress. Do you have any reason to suspect Cadel Evans, other than the fact that he’s a top rider? Please be as specific as you can in your answer.

Morgan Hunter February 18, 2008 at 12:04 am

Under – “I wish I had said that:”

Larry —“The only way to know that someone is doping is to catch them at it. There is no other reasonable ground for suspecting an athlete of doping!” (note: I added the exclamation mark at the end.) ”

Wow! You must mean then the reason we have dope testing is to CATCH dopers in the ACT of doping…what a refreshing view.

Larry – how can I help spread this “way out concept?” I find myself actually having goosebumps just imagining something like this actually occurring – rather then the “whisper stream” being employed today!

Naturally, I assume you realize Larry – that this simple concept will never work! It’s, how can I put this? It’s too simple, too direct! Besides that – where are my “loopholes?” You know, the ones that the present “interpretation of the rules” gives me?

But still – I can almost imagine your “way out” edgy, concept having legs to stand on. Na, it’ll never work! No matter how I wrap my brain around it – I just can’t find that normal fuzziness that we all have come to expect.

I mean, Larry, your “wild and impetuous ideas” would completely discount all the possible ways that we have come to expect pro cycling to be run!

Admit it Larry, you are out to destroy the whole concept of cycling, aren’t you? I’m guessing here but I would feel comfortable in assuming that you have “hippies” in your family tree. Am I right or am I right? Come on – you can tell me – I won’t tell anyone else – I promise! As to your “harebrained” idea:

“There is no other reasonable ground for suspecting an athlete of doping!” (note: Again I added the exclamation mark at the end.)

Larry – it is obvious that you are “new to pro cycling!” Okay – I admit that this concept “implies” a direct cause and effect principle – that “appears” to address what “we in cycling” have been fighting with for what? A hundred years or more?

Larry – are you one of those “against great tradition” people? You probably agree with “free love” too, don’t’cha?

You know Larry – I’m disappointed and shocked that you would even consider such a “wild idea” – “The only way to know that someone is doping is to catch them at it.”

“There is no other reasonable ground for suspecting an athlete of doping!” (note: I added the exclamation mark at the end.) ”

I just had to repeat what you said Larry – I had thought that I have gotten to “know” you.

I am almost left wondering if this is the same Larry, that I have come to know and respect?

I mean, how am I to know that it is really YOU? Larry? I think, this is probably not the Larry that I’ve come to know.

Yeah – It’s probably one of those “free thinker types” that pollute our net airways! Imagine – pro cycling wit such a clear and simple rule…Naw – it couldn’t possibly work!

Why – I’m actually finding myself – speechless, as you may have noticed!

Larry – Hey LARRY! – Will the real Larry please make yourself know? You have got to clear up this mess Larry! Inquiring minds want to know! Larry? – You out there? Come on fella – look at this!

“There is no other reasonable ground for suspecting an athlete of doping!” (note: I added the exclamation mark at the end.) ”

Larry, we need you to “explain” this concept to us. It is your patriotic duty. Wow man! I think I am at a complete loss for words.

“There is no other reasonable ground for suspecting an athlete of doping!” (note: I added the exclamation mark at the end.) ”

Indeed!

Morgan Hunter February 18, 2008 at 1:30 am

William,

You bring an interesting point to light – How can the governing bodies investigate a DS who is under suspicion? I do not believe there are rules to deal with such a scenario.

Case in point – you write —“This is the problem with what is going on in cycling. Certain riders, teams, and DS’s are suspected of doping, based on evidence that is only mere suspicion, or at best, perhaps probable cause.”

Does it mean that a DS is “found guilty” because one or more of his riders are busted for doping? I mean – how would you “catch him in the act?”

It would seem to me that with this current development in cycling – the DS’s position, his right to fair trial is not tenable? Don’t get me wrong – I am happy that DS’s are no longer “sacred cows” and can be held responsible for their part in doping.

I just don’t see how this could be proven – other then direct “he said she said” testimonial evidence or short of finding 200 syringes with his finger prints all over them.

What do you think? I’d like to hear what you “think” about this situation?

Thanks

Jean C February 18, 2008 at 3:34 am

Larry,

Longitudinal control are available for all top athletes and young who could be a top-athletes since around 2002 or ealier. There is at least 4 controls / years but a lot of biomarkers are monitored like blood, liver, spleen, other glands, stomach, bones, vision, …It can be used directly to sanction athletes but to preserve in first his health. When some values are becoming abnormal, athletes are targeted by more OOC. If the values are too abnormal, athletes can be not allowed to compete.

This kind of system can not avoid a one-time doping but it’s difficult to use a doping program especially for the next generation or athletes with 3 or 4 years of recorded datas. I suspect that Moreau was warned in 2006.

Yes “clean” riders cannot apparently compete with blood doped riders despite they are in the same races. 2 explanations.

* Blood doping give a bigger motor which uses more fuel. Human body is done to convert just a reasonnable quantity of food to energy by day. If a doped athletes abuse of their extra-power too much , body is not able to restore enough fuel, at the end of TDF, they would have not fuel to burn in their engine. They need to save fuel, that is why the average speed is not so great as we could expect with that extra powered motor.

* The cleanest rode every day inside peloton saving energy and power, and just for one stage they try to attack. After a day in a leading group, they have to recovering, 3 days at least are used!

Even with this kind of tactic never a clean rider can challenge a doped rider on a climb because output power is the key factor. Have you seen a french victory on a mountain stage for the last years? No but french riders can only win flat stage where tactical, drag protection can be use. And never they will win a TT !

All technical improvements : less than 5% since 85:
Roads are not better than 80 years, they are in many cases less slick to avoid slipping roads by rain or frost!
Wind tunnel are used by french since Fignon.
In 1980 a lot of european people were competing on race, but now the number is 3 or 4 time lower because there is more choice as sport. Do you think that there is more sport-riders than in the past?
All training methods are known since the 80’s. Of course some small improvements can be made. The “new training method” are all linked with new PED…
The real improvement are the electronic monitoring and some kind of equipement which are really effective to avoid stupid bonk, and to help people with less feeling. But as for radio, that can inhibit to use our human computer with more sensors.

As you probably has seen on the curve, the big increase of power was done between 1992 and 1996. What was the technical improvement responsible of this PHENOMENAL STEP?
Why do the French not enjoy these improvements?

William Schart February 18, 2008 at 5:41 am

Jean C:
Roads not better than 80 years ago? I rather doubt that. I have seen pictures from the Tour from as recently as the 1950’s where mountain passes are gravel roads, and from older Tours where conditions rivaled those in a cyclo-cross or mountain bike race.

Of course, there was not any big improvement in roads in the early 1990’s, so this is not an explanation for the improvements noted at that time. But there are other things, as Larry noted above: equipment, training methods, etc. legally available to all riders. Human performance is a strange thing, while it is easy to calculate how much faster a car will go with a 300 hp engine than with a 200 hp engine, I don’t think you can necessarily say that a rider with a better VO2 max or hemocrit will out-perform a rider with lower figures.

But the point here is not to debate whether or not all the improvements noted since GL are due to doping or not, nor is it to debate to what extent the current peleton dopes; it is to debate how we determine what riders are going to be sanctioned for doping. Larry and I, along with others, are simply saying that hard evidence should be required and that back-door methods, such as the ToC and ASO exclusions, should not be allowed (or at least, should be questioned).

Revising Larry’s scenario about this year’s Tour with your belief that only the French are clean, how about this: give the Yellow Jersey to the highest placed French rider and DQ everybody who finishes ahead of him?

ludwig February 18, 2008 at 8:01 am

Larry,

Well, you’ve come a long way, because you concede that there is a code of silence in cycling. Well, that’s a start.

The next step towards a realistic view of the sport is to take a hard look at the science indicating widespread doping in the peloton. You seem incredulous that a majority of the peloton could be doping. When faced with this idea, that was my reaction as well. But the fact is that widespread doping is the story that credible whistleblowers and Tour experts tell, and it’s the only explanation that makes sense within the context of the facts. As JeanC indicates with endless patience above, you need to take a hard look at the facts before continuing to make assertions based on what you wish to be true.

You are correct that a Mitchell Report for cycling is needed, although I’m sure Rant and TBV would be on the spot to question and belittle it. I can tell you that impartial observers have been demanding such an investigation for years, but you and I know the UCI isn’t going to do squat unless they are forced. Ultimately, the problem is you can’t really reform the UCI until you reduce the power of doping doctors and DSes over the finances of the sport and the loyalty of the riders.

The most die-hard apologist for Basso and Riis that I’m aware of wrote the article below. For years, I have disagreed with this poster about Riis’ sincerity, the limits of Damsgaard’s program, and the limits of reform given cycling’s current leadership, but he merits respect because he is willing to acknowledge the facts and what reasonable people should conclude based on them. Give it a look (and this is from a year and a half ago, before a spate of other scandals).

http://www.dailypeloton.com/displayarticle.asp?pk=10162
http://www.dailypeloton.com/displayarticle.asp?pk=10163

Read the whole thing, but let me highlight his conclusion on what the public can reasonably believe…

“If the “ethics” of Cycling are questionable, the reaction — or more frequently lack of it — from riders when faced with news of their competition doping is more so. Given the small size of the cycling community, it may be understandable that riders do not wish to denounce what may have been (and will again) be close colleagues. Regardless of the reason, however, silence will always be interpreted as complicity.

Normal people become angry when they realize they have been cheated. That cyclists rarely express anger when faced with evidence of doping, speaks volumes about the attitude that still seems to rule the peloton with respect to the act. It is, perhaps, inevitable that misunderstandings arise when people of different cultures interact (a person that might appear angry and agitated to a Russian, might not seem so to a Frenchman), but the general impression left on the public seems to be that cyclists don’t care whether their competition was doped. The conclusion drawn by the public from that impression should be obvious.

The impression of the public is only strengthened by the reaction — frequently angry — that the sport reserves for riders who speak out about doping, and break the so-called “omerta” (code of silence). Manzano, Gaumont, and Simeoni are the most recent examples; each in their turn was reviled by large numbers of their fellow riders for speaking out; and each in turn has had their words subsequently upheld by subsequent events.

Actions speak louder than words and the actions of the cycling world speak more of collective guilt, than of innocence. Loyalty to one’s fellows is both understandable and laudable; if the cycling world wishes to regain credibility, however, it is needful for it to comprehend that loyalty towards doping is not. As in all walks of life, many dangers threaten the whistle-blower; first and foremost threats against that rider’s career.”

This is the core of it. If dopers are only a few black sheep, then why don’t other cyclists condemn them in stronger terms? Why do they get so upset when a rider breaks silence?

Finally, Larry, if you are prepared to acknowledge omerta exists….then what else is preventing cycling from reform? I mean, how can cycling hope to reform if it is considered ethical within the peloton to lie about doping and protect the doping enablers? I personally believe cyclists deserve respect whether they dope or not. But do cyclists have a right to demand respect from the public if they remain loyal to the omerta code? Seriously, how can you say the reasonable conclusions that the public draws based on omerta (ie, your so called “whispering campaign”) are worse than omerta itself? Which is the cause of which?

Some people suggest that riders don’t speak out because the consequences are too severe. But Richard Virenque lied for years, then confessed, and remains active and wealthy today. Riis confessed (well, partially anyway), but still leads the 1# cycling team. Again, the only rational answer is that riders don’t talk in order to protect their sponsors and to protect those who enable them. It’s all about financial security.

What is a greater barrier to cycling becoming a respectable sport than this pattern of secrecy and deception? The omerta ought to be the target of your anger, because it’s the omerta that stands in the way of the open and honest discussion cycling needs to heal.

Rant February 18, 2008 at 8:05 am

Ludwig,

You said:

You are correct that a Mitchell Report for cycling is needed, although I’m sure Rant and TBV would be on the spot to question and belittle it.

I wouldn’t be too sure about that. Done well, a “Mitchell Report” is something that could be very helpful to the sport.

Larry February 18, 2008 at 9:21 am

Jean C, I will try to absorb all of the information you’re providing and come up with a more complete response. But again, I think you’re arguments are strongest when you talk about cycling in general, and weakest when you try to name names. I’ll ask you again, specifically: why do you suspect Cadel Evans of doping? (I chose Cadel Evans because he’s a current cyclist, and because I think we can discuss Cadel as a test case without all the emotional charge I injected into the conversation when I mentioned Levi Leipheimer by name.)

Ludwig, you also deserve a more detailed response than I have time for in the morning. I don’t know that there’s an omerta, any more than I know that there’s a blacklist. I know that cyclists behave in a way that’s consistent with there being an omerta. I think this is pretty typical of sport in general, and on a broader scale, of many other close-knit social groups (try to get a police officer to talk about corruption in the police force — even the clean cops don’t want to talk). Yes, it would be lovely if the clean cyclists got together and told us everything we ever wanted to know about doping, and did so honestly. It would also be unprecedented in human history. It isn’t going to happen.

We CAN hope for someone in cycling leadership to stand up and tell us the truth. There’s precedent for that.

Michael February 18, 2008 at 10:16 am

Lance beat Jan.

Jan doped.

Did Lance dope?

Lance beat Jan.

Wow, I’m convinced.

Morgan Hunter February 18, 2008 at 10:52 am

Larry,

I do hope you realise my “comment” was in jest.

Larry February 18, 2008 at 11:28 am

Morgan, yes. Sorry, I should have said something. I figured you were expressing agreement and support, in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way! I really enjoyed your post from beginning to end.

ludwig February 18, 2008 at 11:41 am

Larry,

You are asking for concrete proof, as if we were police investigators. But you don’t need concrete proof of high-level doping in order for cycling to suffer from a credibility problem that leads to bad press and police raids. All you need is abundant empirical and circumstantial evidence that 1) doping is ccmmon and considered acceptable in the peloton 2) that certain teams (Lotto included) seem to have an advantage in events like the Tour where doping is most beneficial 3) that testing has not been effective in catching the vast majority of doping 4) that since the introduction of certain PEDs, speeds went up and have not come down since 5) that UCI authorities have consistently acted in bad faith (defending and promoting dope teams, attacking whistleblowers, misleading the public on the doping problem) and continue to protect teams and managers involved in doping 6) that blood doping networks exist and are protected by omerta 7) that key teams do not have effective anti-doping policies in place, and that evidence suggests team managers look the other way (see Rabobank, not to mention Astana). 8) the abundant evidence supplied by whistleblowers and journalists that describe how omerta and doping functions. 9) the scientific evidence that a talented rider has no hope of competing with other talented riders who benefit from a sophisticated doping program.

I could go on, but that ought to be enough.

All of these factors may not be concrete evidence (fire), but they are certainly constitute more than enough (smoke) to conclude it is highly unlikely that Cadel Evans competed without PEDs. The only sense in which Evans was clean was that he wasn’t caught by the controls. There is no way of knowing who the most egregious cheaters are, but what is beyond doubt is the sport isn’t doing enough to convince the public that its events are clean and take place on a level playing field. Therefore, the winners of events will inevitably be questioned. It may not be a just scenario, but it results from the systemic corruption in cycling and the institutional support it lends to the omerta policy, and the resulting distrust in the media, the public, and finally by sponsors.

I’m still anxious to hear why the conclusions people draw based on omerta are worse for cycling than omerta itself. I also don’t agree at all that omerta is inevitable (at least to the extremes we see in cycling)–there are plenty of reforms that could make cheating less advantageous, but you shouldn’t expect the current UCI leadership to back them.

William Schart February 18, 2008 at 12:06 pm

” But again, I think you’re arguments are strongest when you talk about cycling in general, and weakest when you try to name names.”

Larry:

This is a very good point here. There certainly is doping going on in pro cycling, I think few of us would deny that out of hand. But when we start naming names of cyclists (and others involved in the sport), based on at best circumstantial evidence, we are on shakier grounds, and we raise the hackles on supporters of the rider in question.

Larry February 18, 2008 at 12:14 pm

Ludwig –

You and Jean C are arguing that it is effectively impossible to win the TdF without doping. In fact, you both seem to be arguing that it’s impossible to do well in the TdF without doping. You make arguments to back your case, and I can take issue with those arguments, but so long as you make your argument in a general sort of way, you’ve at least got a case that you can try to make.

IMHO, your case falls apart when you take your general conclusions and apply them to specific riders. For example, you write that “the only sense in which Evans was clean was that he wasn’t caught”, and as best as I can tell, you base this conclusion solely on Evans’ success in the Tour and your certainty that no one can be successful in the Tour without doping.

I’ll say it again: you cannot safely reason from general conclusions to specific cases. Joe is probably not a great chef, even if he comes from France, and even if the great chefs come from France. Frank Zappa did not smoke marijuana, even though he was a rock ‘n’ roll musician from the 60s. There are middle-aged white women who support Barak Obama, and young african-american men who support Hillary Clinton (and even John McCain!). And Cadel Evans may well be a clean rider, even if he has performed well during an era when a lot of riders were doping.

I’m not sure that even you, Ludwig, believe what you’ve written here. If you truly do believe what you’ve written, then the only sensible course of action is to CANCEL THE TOUR DE FRANCE. There’s no point in running a race that can only be won by cheaters. It’s absurd to award prizes to people on a Sunday, and then put the same people on a list of suspected dopers on Monday. I’m quite serious about this – note the complete absence of winking emoticons.

I’ll pause to let you respond.

BSMB, are you paying attention to this dialog? If you are: IMHO, Ludwig’s opinions are very close to mainstream. Please pay attention to what he has to say. I’m not making stuff up when I say that riders are suspected of doping based on nothing more than the success they’ve enjoyed, or the countries where they live, or the people they’ve been associated with. The only small leap I’ve made in my reasoning is this: I believe that teams take these suspicions into account when they decide which riders to hire, and not to hire, so as not to get on the bad side of organizations like ASO.

ludwig February 18, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Larry,

I didn’t want the Tour to start last year. I don’t pretend to have predictive abilities, but I did believe the Tour was going to be a fiasco (William, who participates in the other forum I post in, may remember this discussion). Yes, I would prefer a sit-down among cycling factions to grapple towards genuine solutions before any more lies and/or scandals unfold. I also don’t think you grasp the whole of the problem in the way you express yourself–cyclists don’t look upon dopers as cheaters (otherwise, they would say so publicly) in the sense that you and me think of cheating. The ubiquity of doping is precisely why it doesn’t bother pro cyclists. It’s been this way for years and may well always be this way.

I don’t place any particular importance in proving that individual riders are guilty of doping, although obviously this is substance of the issue in the popular imagination. I have respect and good wishes for all of them–unlike the defenders of omerta, I want them to be able to pursue their profession without having to cheat and lie. Ultimately, persecuting individuals is not the important thing, and I’m for full amnesty in exchange for putting a confession on record. The important thing is restoring the sport to honor and credibility, and to do that you have to confront hard truths.

You say
“And Cadel Evans may well be a clean rider, even if he has performed well during an era when a lot of riders were doping.”

I don’t dispute that what you say COULD be true, I’m saying that given the evidence it’s highly, highly unlikely. I think Jean and I have provided ample evidence why we think this way. So if you are accusing us of being irresponsible, then please explain why you think it’s possible he could place 2nd clean when most, if not all of the Top 25 were likely on some sort of doping program. Specifically, you can address the points I’ve made above.

“I’m not making stuff up when I say that riders are suspected of doping based on nothing more than the success they’ve enjoyed, or the countries where they live, or the people they’ve been associated with.”

Please address the many points I’ve made above, as well as the many links on the effects and ubiquity of doping I’ve provided (in addition to links on specific cases), before you mischaracterize my views again. If guilt by association was really my method, then basically everyone in the peloton would be implicated. That’s not my position at all, and when I name names (say Bruyneel, Riis, etc.) it’s because there is a convergence of evidence that is overwhelming. For the record, I don’t specifically name Cadel Evans as a known doper, although it’s true his team has been hit by recent scandals and that the circumstantial evidence indicates his performances are likely tainted.

Larry February 18, 2008 at 12:47 pm

Ludwig –

How have I mischaracterized your views? You’ve said that in cycling today, if a rider performs at the top level of the sport, it is highly highly likely that the rider is doping. I don’t recollect whether you’ve discussed riders from one country being more or less suspicious than other riders, but Jean C has done so. You’ve talked about riders being suspicious because they’ve been associated with people like Bruyneel. How am I mischaracterizing your views?

The many points you’ve raised are complex ones. I’ve addressed some of them in the past. But they’re not easily addressed in a single post. You’ll have to be patient.

Jean C February 18, 2008 at 1:34 pm

Larry,

In France we have a joke :
we tell friends : “Hitler said “Kill all judes and all coiffeurs””
Friends ” Why the coiffeurs?”

I notice that you agree with all other names but not with Cadel. It’s a good step forward. I hope that other readers have done the same as you. It was my bit of glory. ;D

If one of the above nameds is clean it should probably be Cadel Evans because he was the rider who constantly tried and was one of the most efficient to do the less effort and so save the more energy.
But he was too many consistant, his power should have decrease regularly after 10 days.

About Beamon.
Record 8.35m to 8.90 (1968) : 55cm, 1/15 around 6% of improvement
How many people beat Beamon’s record? Just Powel 1991 Lewis and Pedroso jumps were none homologated!
How many athletes close of 8.90m today?

William,
Your thinking negelected the 15-25% of a good program from Fuentes or Ferrari…

Si if Jan doped with EPO or blood doping and even have only 15% of improvement of his capacity, and if he was a decent pro-rider like Riis (before EPO), NEVER a clean Armstrong could have beat them !

If Jan had only doped with Testosterone , a clean Armstrong could have beaten him!

Jean C February 18, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Mistake, my last point was for Michael and not William. Sorry

Larry February 18, 2008 at 2:08 pm

Jean C, for the record, I only accept the names on your list that are (1) confessed dopers and (2) dopers with acceptable AAFs. I don’t put Landis in category (2).

I don’t think I’m being naive. I think I’m being a realist. We’ll discuss whether doping is truly performance-enhancing, as soon as I can look at your cites (and related cites). I think that doping is performance-enhancing. But I can’t buy into a point of view that equates all success in cycling with doping. If that’s the case, then cancel the Tour.

Morgan Hunter February 18, 2008 at 2:30 pm

I don’t really see the point with arguing with these two numbskull’s. How often do you all intend to “try” and explain to them that we don’t argue the point that people dope – BUT THAT WHAT YOU ALL AND i CONSIDER IMPORTANT – THEY CANNOT GET BECAUSE THEY WILL NOT GET – this form of argumentation is useless.

How often and how many different ways have we all tried to “explain” that the issue” is not doping but rather the methods that are being applied or not – to fight it?

Forgive me – but all you all accomplishing is giving these people “air time” to talk their points of view – WHICH is to repeat as often as possible their perverted understanding of the real issues in cycling.

Jean C proves his point by submitting hearsay – There is no attempt on his part to try to understand the difference – between getting “everybody” who has raced since 94 to the present – banned for life – because he thinks he “knows” that EVERYBODY DOPED!

But even if it turns out that everybody doped – the problem of the warped rule system does not change. It is this system that allows the doping and cheating to continue. You all should know this.

Ludwig – does nothing more then repeat the same circular biases – without ever seeming to come even close to understand that even if you have a “war crimes trial” – you still need some balanced laws to run it?

Every time any one tries to point out “why” everyone seems to react to his stance – he developes “selective amnesia” and ignores the line of discussion.

Why bother – after the last year – it should be apparent that these two have no concept of what “fair play is” they are merely on one hand acting out their prejudices and dislikes of the whole group of people referred to as Pro Racers.

I have no idea why these two individuals “hate” racers and cycling – but they certainly condemn themselves by their written words.

Rant – I know you are a fair individual – that you believe in letting everybody have their say – but don’t you realize that these two are on their soapbox and the only real purpose to their “posturing” is to get “air time.”

Well – I’m not interested in converting these two or anyone else – they both have the philosophy that the best thing that can happen to cycling is that every individual who is involved today in sport is nothing more then dopers and they all should be sent off to the gulag – and band for life, their houses and possessions confiscated, their children and families sold off to slavery – that seems to be the only thing that will make them happy. That is what they write in essence.

Arguing with such circular thinking is senseless. All it achieves is to give them the opportunity to spread their anger and rage and hate – wider.

Michael February 18, 2008 at 2:54 pm

The well worn axiom is that “doping is cheating.” But this ad hominem statement is not completely historically accurate.

Doping has historically been ubiquitous (usage?), and was considered an essential part of sports.

Major Taylor stopped racing the 6-day Madisons because he was scared for his safety because of the hallucinations caused by the drugs necessary to compete (liters of cocaine laced beverages when it was the “real” thing).

In November 1942, Fausto Coppi took “seven packets of amphetamine” to beat the world hour record on the track (from Le Géant et la Lime). The authorities watched as he did it.

From Les Forçats de la Route (The Convicts of the Road):
“You have no idea what the Tour de France is,” Henri said. “It’s a Calvary. Worse than that, because the road to the Cross has only 14 stations and ours has 15. We suffer from the start to the end. You want to know how we keep going? Here…” He pulled a phial from his bag. “That’s cocaine, for our eyes. This is chloroform, for our gums.”
“This,” Ville said, emptying his shoulder bag “is liniment to put warmth back into our knees.”
“And pills. Do you want to see pills? Have a look, here are the pills.” Each pulled out three boxes.
“The truth is,” Francis said, “that we keep going on dynamite.”

The winner of the 1904 Olympic marathon had injections – during the race – to aid him in finishing. Was this cheating? Hardly. Contemporaries believed that the race couldn’t be finished without artificial stimulants; in other words you couldn’t compete without injections of sulphate of strychnine.

How are these examples different than EPO today?

Well it wasn’t against the rules. Fair enough. We’ll get back to that.

So what happened?

Did the fan base cry out to ASO, UCI, and WADA to clean up the races? Did the fans turn away because doping was rampant? Were the results of the races for the last 100 years deemed inauthentic because of all this doping? Has anyone heard of fan organizations banding together and asking the UCI to expunge all the race results prior to adequate doping tests? Oh right, there is no such thing as adequate doping tests. WADA would have us believe that all athletes would test positive if they could just figure out a way to test them correctly. Maybe they are right. So what? Right now all we have are Jean & Ludwig’s (WADA’s) anecdotal arguments, which shouldn’t amount to enough to bring down a champion, no matter how convincing. We are not going to take away Coppi’s achievements, even though we know he was doped and wouldn’t pass today’s testing. Why should Pantani or Delgado, or anyone else be any different?

I have no problem with cycling, or any other sport for that matter, deciding that certain performance enhancements are against the rules. Really. No matter how arbitrary those rules may seem to me. What has changed in sport, and perhaps western culture in general, is this notion that we NEED to expunge doping at any price, at any level.

Of course the only true issue is that all the riders should be compelled to submit to the testing mandated by the organizations, and that the testing be performed transparently and accurately. This transparency is necessary for the FANS, not the riders or the event organizers. If a private organization like ASO wants to only allow riders with the name Bernard, that is their prerogative – for the fans to sustain faith they need to know that their favorite Bernard wasn’t excluded due to a corrupt set of circumstances. The fans need to know that the rules are enforced fairly. If an athlete tests positive under a fair, reliable, and equitable system, than he must serve the suspension. SOL. Fine. No problem. What we have today are athletes serving suspensions that have not been adjudicated fairly and transparently. Any wonder that chaos has ensued?

What is bad for sport are the non-analytical positives, poor testing practices, innuendo, vague rules, blacklists, witch-hunts, etc. These are the things that are killing sport. Doping . . hardly. It’s been around forever. If a doping rule cannot be reliably and equitably enforced with the given technology, then it shouldn’t have been written. No matter how bad a taste that might leave in your mouth.

Why hasn’t Tyler Hamilton been permitted to start a race? Didn’t he serve his suspension? Do they think that he has resumed cheating since he served his suspension? If so, let’s see the proof. Otherwise, let him race. Remember, a sponsor has willingly decided to pay him to race – that is the backbone of cycling. Black listing riders is not good for the sport. It is arbitrary and capricious. It is corrosive to the fan base.

The other twist is the desire that the athlete code of silence, which shelters the doping culture, be destroyed. Of course this very same omerta is what makes it possible for people to get together as a team. Look, if your brother were cheating on his taxes, would you rat him out? Your son? Your best friend? Your wife (see Marion Jones)? How about your teammate? Where do you draw the line? Most athletes don’t draw the line – they leave the policing of the sport to the authorities, and just go about their own business. That’s how it should be. Each man must answer for his own sins in his own time – that is not for a rider to decide. What if a guy ratted out his teammate because he was riding a bike that was below the UCI weight limit? I can already hear the moral equivalence arguments – but it’s the same omerta. Team leaders need to be able to trust the gregario, even with the less than flattering details, otherwise the team falls apart. That’s why they pay them their winnings.

Can’t we all just agree that the simple solution to all this is for a single governing body to run cycling using fair and coherent rules that can be applied to everybody equally? It sounds simple to me. ASO is coming close to being the only organization running races. Pretty soon they’ll run the entire calender and the UCI will be a mere historical footnote. . .that might be ok, but are they up to the task, and what happens to all the races outside of their control?

sorry so long a rant.

Larry February 18, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Ludwig –

Let’s start addressing points:

You wrote: “1) doping is ccmmon and considered acceptable in the peloton”

Your statement that “doping is common” in the peloton is a conclusion. You support this conclusion in some of your later arguments, and I’ll address those arguments in the order you’ve presented them. However, the statement that “doping is common” is such a vague and general statement, it’s hard to argue with, and it carries little informational content. What do you mean by “common”? 5%? 15%? 80%? Close to 100%? I’m reasonably sure you don’t know anything more than the rest of us, namely that some of the riders are doping, we don’t know many and it could be a lot.

It would be helpful if you’d either be more precise in your pronouncements, or admit that we don’t know enough to speak in anything better than vague generalities. It would also be helpful if those in a position to know and with a responsibility to eradicate the doping problem would also provide us with more specifics. I’m tired of the old “doping is rampant … and it’s someone else’s fault.” I mean, I can’t expect you to know more detail, but I can hold Dick Pound and his successors to a higher standard. At least if they don’t know, they should tell us they don’t know. That would be a start.

Your statement that doping “is considered acceptable in the peloton” is certainly wrong. There would not be a Team Slipstream if doping was considered acceptable in the peloton. Moreover, it would be completely contrary to human nature to expect that the clean riders in the peloton consider doping to be acceptable. I’m certain that the clean riders resent the hell out of doping. It may be the case that the doping riders consider doping to be acceptable, but even this can be questioned, because some of the doping riders are probably doping just because they think they need to do so to keep up with the other dopers, and some of these dopers probably resent the fact that they are put under this pressure. And the people who are doping in a small way may consider it unacceptable to dope in a big way. When the doping riders read about people like Joe Papp, and how his doping nearly killed him, I bet at least some of them privately consider doping to be unacceptable and wish that they didn’t feel compelled to dope.

I think that the riders understand that doping threatens to kill their sport. That’s not acceptable, either.

But you’re right that cyclists won’t talk about the doping they’ve seen in the peloton. Not even the clean cyclists. Not even Greg Lemond. Not even Jonathan Vaughters. Not even confessed doping cyclists like Bjarne Riis will give up any details. In other words, while doping may not be “acceptable”, nevertheless doping is more acceptable than snitching.

This is what you call the “omerta”. And you’re right that this “omerta” is an impediment to cleaning up cycling and getting rid of the dopers. But you’re naive if you believe that there’s any way to break up the “omerta”. The “omerta” is based on the community feeling among cyclists in the peloton, something of an “us against them” attitude, and a feeling that you’d better watch the other guy’s back because you need him to watch your back. These “omertas” exist everywhere — try to get an honest cop to testify about what the cops on the take are doing. It doesn’t happen. Such an expectation flies against human nature. Pigs will fly first.

Oh, and by the way. These “omertas” can exist without much pressure being brought to bear to keep silent. They can exist even if only a relative few are cheating. The taboo against “snitching”, against “being a rat”, reaches into our childhoods, into the playground and the classroom. It is a group dynamic, a price we pay for admission to the group. It’s a matter of trust: a group that cannot trust each other disintegrates; to survive, the group must expel the member that violated the trust. So we know that if we snitch, we lose membership in the group. That’s why the omerta works, that’s why it’s so strong.

This is why the effort being made by Vaughters and Slipstream is so important. Vaughters is trying to create an “omerta-free” cycling team, a team where you’re supposed to talk if you see a teammate doping. This is the “anti-omerta”: the idea that if a teammate is doping, that teammate is hurting the entire team and it’s wrong to keep silent about it. Vaughters is trying to weave this into the very culture of Team Slipstream, to create a dynamic where the rule of the group is that doping is worse than snitching.

I wish him luck. He has a shot at succeeding, as his team is a new team, and maybe he can instill a new culture before the usual culture has a chance to take root. But I don’t see how it’s possible to establish an “anti-omerta” in the existing cycling culture.

The solution to doping in cycling is going to have to come from somewhere else.

Larry February 18, 2008 at 3:44 pm

Morgan –

I consider you a friend here. This is intended as a friendly note.

I’ve come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that Ludwig and Jean C represent mainstream positions in cycling, and that you and I do not.

I don’t mean to say that Ludwig and Jean C are walking someone else’s party line, any more than you and I. Their opinions are personal to them, and I believe that they give as much care and thought to what they believe as you and I give to what we believe. I just think at the end of the day that their opinions are a lot closer to what most people in cycling believe to be true.

I value their presence on this forum, just as I value yours. It can’t be easy to post here. I’m sure they get a friendlier hearing elsewhere, with a lot more “I agree”s and “attaboy”s.

This doesn’t stop me from arguing against them, every chance I get!

I understand how you feel, too.

I remember a few months ago, when Floyd Landis posted over at TBV, and I felt this sharp experience of embarassment … I forget sometimes that we’re talking here about human beings, with wives and families and hopes and dreams and feelings.

Morgan, you are 100% right. In the midst of the suits, the alphabet soup of agencies, the speech-makers, the lawyers and their contracts, the white coats, the lab standards, the experts on one side, the experts on the other side, the sponsors, the media, even the fans and the so-called “sport” … let’s stand with the riders.

The riders deserve a dope-free sport, though this may be impossible. The riders deserve fairness, and this should be achievable. If there’s a trade-off between achieving fairness and eradicating doping, let’s strike the balance in the best interests of the riders.

I doubt that Jean C or Ludwig would disagree.

Larry February 18, 2008 at 4:05 pm

Michael, that’s one of the best damn posts I’ve read, here or anywhere else. I don’t agree with all of it, but that’s a damn good post.

I am personally not willing to tolerate doping, not now, not at any time. But thanks for reminding us that there was doping before there was EPO. Thanks for reminding us that if anyone’s maillot jaune is tainted, then they’re probably all tainted.

And you can go back to every questionable umpire’s call, every pitcher who ever threw a spitball, every corked bat, every crack-back block, touchdown scored on “fifth down”, punch below the belt, or back-room deal between ice skating judges. At the end of the day, you acknowledge the imperfect nature of human endeavor, you crown the champion, and you move on.

In cycling, let’s administer the best tests we can afford, perform them fairly and competently, catch the cheaters we can catch and move on. If riders are cheating and getting away with it, then let’s improve the testing if we can, but let’s also acknowledge that the annals of sport are filled with champions who cheated and got away with it. As they say in France, tant pis.

If you win and you didn’t get caught cheating, then you’re a true champion. Unless it’s later proven that you cheated, then you’re a champion forever. Any other standard makes a mockery of sport.

Larry February 18, 2008 at 4:30 pm

Ludwig –

I hope you appreciate the effort it takes to address your points, even if you disagree with what I have to say.

You wrote: “2) certain teams (Lotto included) seem to have an advantage in events like the Tour where doping is most beneficial”.

I take it that by “events like the Tour”, you’re referring to the longer Tours, the ones that take the greatest toll on the body, where doping might help counteract the natural deterioration one might expect to see in the ability of the athlete to perform over the course of the race.

As far as certain teams having an advantage in the Tour? I’m not seeing it. Here are the team winners of the last 18 Tours (since 1990, which is the watershed year that you and Jean C talk about):

2007 Discovery Channel
2006 T-Mobile
2005 T-Mobile
2004 T-Mobile
2003 Team CSC
2002 ONCE-Eroski
2001 Kelme-Costa Blanca
2000 Kelme-Costa Blanca
1999 Banesto
1998 Cofidis
1997 Team Deutsche Telekom
1996 Festina
1995 ONCE
1994 Festina
1993 Carrera
1992 Carrera
1991 Banesto
1990 Z

See http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour04.php?id=results/history/tdfhistory#teams.

Admittedly, T-mobile’s 3 wins in a row is unusual for cycling (it’s not unusual in other sports). And it may be the case that some of the teams in the above list changed names, so there may be more repeat winners that I would think. But by my count, there were 10 different teams that won the Tour team competition over the 18 year span. That doesn’t indicate to me that the Tour was dominated by a few teams over this period. As a point of comparison, there were 11 different World Series winners, 12 different super bowl winners and 7 different NBA champions during this same time span. So I’d say that the distribution of team championships in the Tour de France looks pretty normal to me.

ludwig February 18, 2008 at 5:01 pm

Larry,

You’re right that my 1# is not an empirical statement but a conclusion. And I concede that there is evidence that some riders look upon doping as cheating, even if pro cyclists as a group do not seem to act this way. However, it’s worth noting the distinction between appearance (what teams say re. PR) and reality (what teams actualy do). I hope Slipstream is as anti-omerta as you claim but we will have to wait and see what actually happens on the ground–as you know I’m a skeptic of how much can currently be accomplished given what I believe are the limited achievements of the CSC program and the wider limitations of testing.

Anyway, before it’s safe to jump to the idea that it is reasonable to assume contemporary elite cyclists are riding clean, there are the other 8 points (and I’m sure I can come up with many more) to get past.

Michael,

I respect for your position–I take no joy in seeing cyclists persecuted for doing their job as they understand it. I also agree that it does a system no good to mandate rules that cannot be consistently enforced, and that it is cruel to mandate rules that cyclists are paid to violate. Where I differ is my impression that because information technology and law enforcement have become more technically advanced, it is necessary for cycling institutions to change to meet the imperatives of Western-style reform–become more transparent, consistent, and honest. Specifically, there needs to be an appearance of fairness, and selective policing and scapegoating has to end. Either agree to embrace reform or agree to legalize/tolerate PEDs–these are cycling’s options. If cycling remains divided, it would be better to split into two different federations with different approaches to doping.

As for Hamilton, what’s hard to get past is that he sets a bad example. Although I don’t care whether he races or not, it’s certainly understandable why a race would want to avoid having him there from a publicity standpoint. No athlete should be excluded based on innuendo alone, but the sport and the races have to have some means of defending their reputation. The Tour of California, sponsored by an EPO manufacturer and only now implementing doping controls, is already in a precarious situation from a PR standpoint.

As for your standpoint on omerta, you seem to advocate an adversarial system, where there are designated authorities going after cyclists. This is all well and good for people who enjoy doping drama, but it hardly seems like a wise course from a publicity standpoint (ie, cycling’s reputation for scant ethics would likely worsen). I agree that a singular, coherent governing body would be preferable to what exists now, but if it’s anything like the UCI then controversy will continue.

Ethics reform is a start, but not a complete solution–it’s only a partial solution at best. Cycling needs structural reforms that make cheating less advantageous (ie reform the financial incentive structure and the role of sports medicine), as well as rules reform so the rules that exist can be enforced. The teams should be integrated into the anti-doping structure, in the sense that there is year-round oversight and the teams are not simply adversaries vis a vis the authorities. Finally, there should be year-round testing sponsored by the cycling leagues or federations.

Morgan Hunter February 18, 2008 at 5:28 pm

Larry,

I do not take your words as criticism, and thank you for your response. My response to you is not meant as any rebuff either.

Maybe you are right – maybe we are in the minority. Do you honestly think though that a Jean C or Ludwig solution – would actually bring about a resolution to this mess?

How practical and applicable is it to think that by letting cycling “crash and burn” will solve anything? One cannot control human nature. Human beings will rationalize away anything and everything to suit their purposes. But this doesn’t make it right.

But lest you think I am “anti-people” let me reassure you that what I am “anti” is situations where the world view is expressed at the cost of individual freedom and respect of human rights and the destruction of individuals, for a cause or personal belief.

I believe that most individuals will play by the rules – if the rules are fair to all and are enforced for all. Then of course – there are those who will cheat to win in sports, no matter what the rules may be. For such people the only prize worth winning is winning.

Personally, I dread the thought that rules and laws formed by such reactions and personal biases will better any situation. Since by their very nature such rules and laws tend to be biased.

Even if I find myself in the minority. Perhaps Larry, I am not as patient as you and Rant seem to be. But then again – I make no claim to be an expert at anything but I do have a sense of what is fair and right. I truly cannot see the situation improving with the rethoric that comes from the above mentioned individuals.

I have lived under different governments and different rules – from my life experience I have heard such presentations – they are nothing new. Many individuals and groups got away with such beliefs because individuals around them did not react or speak up about it. To allow a cause, a belief, a philosophy or an outlook that is at the expense of individual rights is where it begins.

One thing I cannot agree with you Larry, I do not believe that Jean C and Ludwig would or could agree with the importance of the individual. Not when their perceptions are shaped – as they speak or approach human existence. It is impossible for them. They would have to stop and change their world view to be able to agree that the riders are individuals and therefore must be accorded rights that ensure their existence.

Such persons do not see individuals – They see groups. They tend to see these groups as either positive or negative because they themselves are a part of the group and when they are not and therefore feel as outsiders, they see it all as negative. I do not think that such individuals should be accepted, even if they are the majority. The cost is just too high.

Perhaps, your way is better. Trying to find bridgeable places – I cannot be like this – I have seen what the result of such actions have brought about. When an individual or a group is in a state of “us against them” – there is no repromage possible. But – I hope that you are right Larry. I just know from experience that what you are trying to do, doesn’t work at certain points in society.

Perhaps yours is the bridge building function and mine is to rebuff the thinking that I hear behind their words and philosophy. As you may know – I am no spring chicken, I have lived a very full life. I have heard such stances before. I cannot help it but I must draw a line in the sand when I hear it.

One last thing – If my comment to which you respond to gives the impression that I expect you or Rant or anyone to “silence” such people – then I must say that this is a wrong impression. Perhaps I am just not clever or clear enough to express that my comments are made to highlight the absurdity that I am hearing. And even if my ways of thinking are in the minority. I must react to what I am hearing. Even if I have to go down in flames, doing so.

Larry February 18, 2008 at 5:36 pm

Ludwig –

The “address your many points” continues unabated.

You wrote: “3) testing has not been effective in catching the vast majority of doping”.

Well, this is a statement in tne nature of a conclusion, with no proof offered in support. To verify your statement, we’d have to have a better idea of how many riders are doping. The ADAs act as if they know how many riders are doping — See M. Saugy’s statements from last fall — but they don’t share their sources with the rest of us. (This is the ADA version of your “omerta”, one that’s much more difficult to explain than the rider’s “omerta”). So we really can’t know whether the testing is effective.

However, I’m going to partially concede this point to you. First, we have a number of confessed dopers (like Marion Jones) who passed every drug test. So we know that at least a few dopers are slipping through the system. Second, the people who run the labs tell us that they can’t detect all the dopers — I’m thinking of people like Caitlin (ex-UCLA lab), who ought to know.

I’m not sure what this point gains you. We know how many dopers get caught. We don’t know how many dopers there are. So we don’t know how many dopers are not being caught. Your point 3 is just a rephrased version of your point 1.

ludwig February 18, 2008 at 5:54 pm

Morgan,

I can’t think of a system more hostile to individual rights than the omerta as it currently exists. Cyclists either go along (ie lie, cheat, violate ethical agreements) or hit the road. Clean cyclists have no recourse whatsoever except to find another profession. The whole mess is rationalized on the basis of what’s “good for cycling”, and cyclists believe there is no other way to achieve their dream of being a professional cyclist. Meanwhile, if a cyclist is busted or tests positive, he is forced to either lie to protect his reputation or admit to the world he’s a cheater (when in reality he was just playing the game).

Omerta is an affront to human dignity, because it forces athletes to lie to everyone around them (including their families) and abuse their bodies in order to live their dream.

If you think I’m exaggerating, consult the accounts of whistleblowers like Manzano or Jaksche.

So please, hate critics if it pleases you (I suppose it’s easier to hate the messengers than to admit that cycling requires ethics reform). But don’t accuse them of being against human dignity–the struggle against doping about the right of athletes to health and happiness. That is, the right to a life of dignity without being a cog in a machine.

Larry February 18, 2008 at 6:03 pm

Ludwig –

Plowing forward, wishing that it was as easy to respond to your points as it might have been to raise them in the first place!

You wrote: ”

4) that since the introduction of certain PEDs, speeds went up and have not come down since.”

This is the crux of Jean C’s argument. There are many assumptions implicit in this point, the most critical of which is that the jump in performance can only be explained by the effects of PEDs. There are important side points, most notably that performance HAS gone up in a way that requires explanation, and that PEDs DO significantly enhance performance in cycling.

Here we have some serious substantive points. Let’s bookmark this argument as deserving of special attention, and move on to your other numbered points.

You wrote: “5) that UCI authorities have consistently acted in bad faith (defending and promoting dope teams, attacking whistleblowers, misleading the public on the doping problem) and continue to protect teams and managers involved in doping”

We’ve been down this particular road before. I’m no fan of UCI. I’m also no fan of WADA, the ADAs, the labs and the guys who run the races. But the arguments we’re looking at here are supposed to support your conclusion that doping is widespread, and that it’s close to impossible to ride at the top level of the sport without doping. Your argument (5) is not on point — it speaks to who is to blame for doping, and not whether doping is widespread or whether doping is required to win. We’re debating the nature and extent of the “criminal” activity, and not whether the police are inept.

You wrote “6) blood doping networks exist and are protected by omerta.” Well, after Operacion Puerto, we know that blood doping networks exist. I’ll agree that anyone in the peloton who wants to dope has ample opportunity and ability to do so. I’m not sure it matters whether the networks are protected by “omerta”. I think that the networks have the same “protection” available to all illegal activities — it’s bad for both the network and their clients if their activities are revealed.

You wrote: “7) key teams do not have effective anti-doping policies in place, and that evidence suggests team managers look the other way (see Rabobank, not to mention Astana)”. Again, I think this is like your point (5) (bad policing) and your point (6) (opportunities exist to dope). I’ll concede that opportunities exist to dope. I would even go as far as to concede that, at least pre-1998, there were probably organized doping programs on many teams. Perhaps some of these programs existed post-1998, and I cannot say for certain that there are no organized team doping programs today. To be certain, the teams can do better — some of them (Slipstream, High Road) are at least trying to do better.

At this point, before I’ve addressed your points (8) and (9), I’d say that you’ve raised two main points. The first is that cyclists can dope if they want to — the opportunity is there, and the risk of getting caught is probably not all that great. I agree. The second is that the only way to explain current performances in cycling is by widespread use of PEDs. I don’t agree, at least not yet, but I’m deferring argument on this point until later.

ludwig February 18, 2008 at 6:17 pm

Larry,

#5 is an important point because defenders of the status quo are constantly referring to the lack of positive tests and/or authority judgments implicating prominent athletes. If you concede that the UCI has been corrupt, and that it is still being led by authorities responsible for such corruption, then it becomes difficult to grant their proclamations authenticity or credibility. Specifically, if the UCI is involved in covering the doping problem up (and if you look at the long history of Verbrueggen and McQuaid’s words and actions it is difficult to come to any other conclusion) then it becomes less and less defensible to assume the doping problem is exaggerated. Also, if the UCI protects the interests of doping teams, then what hope does a clean team have to attain results?

By conceding my point that policiing is weak and/or non-existent, and that cyclists have enormous incentive to dope, you are practically endorsing my position that it is not reasonable to assume the athletes are clean until the policing system gains credibility and/or integrity. Consequently, media and fans who assume there is doping are not being as pig-headed as you have previously implied.

Larry February 18, 2008 at 6:25 pm

Ludwig –

Let’s dispose of your points 8 and 9. Actually, your point 8 is a smiley face, but I assume you meant to type the number 8.

You wrote: “8) the abundant evidence supplied by whistleblowers and journalists that describe how omerta and doping functions.” Well, personally, I’m not all that impressed by this evidence. It tends towards overheard pieces of conversation, what the masseuse saw, and leaked pieces of information of questionable pedigree. The best of this information points to a doping problem in cycling, which we already know exists, but does little to illuminate it. The worst involves targeting this-or-that rider that someone doesn’t like. If anyone has written a book proving that nearly everyone at the top of the peloton is doping, let me know, and I’ll order it from Amazon.

You wrote: “9) the scientific evidence that a talented rider has no hope of competing with other talented riders who benefit from a sophisticated doping program.” Well, Ludwig, from what I’ve seen, there is no such scientific evidence. There’s evidence that PEDs provide significant performance gains for cyclists who are in reasonably good shape. There’s evidence that programs like the East German doping program produced performance benefits for certain classes of top athletes (particularly women in strength-related sports). I’ve seen no scientific evidence that PEDs are shown to aid performance at elite levels of cycling.

I’m not saying the PEDs do not improve performance in the peloton. I’m saying that I’ve seen no scientific evidence that they do so. The evidence I’ve seen is the evidence you’ve mentioned in your point 4 – that there have been substantial gains in performance since 1990, and that there’s no possible explanation for this performance gain other than PEDs.

So let’s sum up. I would say (at risk of mischaracterizing you) that you’ve really raised three arguments in support of your proposition that it’s next to impossible to perform at the top of the peloton without the use of PEDs: (1) cycling has a significant doping problem, though we don’t know exactly how signficant the problem is, (2) riders have ready access to PEDs and face (or at least perceive) little risk of getting caught if they use PEDs, and (3) there have been performance gains in the peloton since 1990 that can only be explained by widespread use of PEDs. I’ll concede points (1) and (2), and plan to challenge you and Jean C on point (3). You need point (3) to make your case. On the basis of points (1) and (2), you have no case — on the basis of points (1) and (2), we just know that some guys dope.

BSMB February 18, 2008 at 6:30 pm

“”BSMB, are you paying attention to this dialog? If you are: IMHO, Ludwig’s opinions are very close to mainstream. Please pay attention to what he has to say. I’m not making stuff up when I say that riders are suspected of doping based on nothing more than the success they’ve enjoyed, or the countries where they live, or the people they’ve been associated with. The only small leap I’ve made in my reasoning is this: I believe that teams take these suspicions into account when they decide which riders to hire, and not to hire, so as not to get on the bad side of organizations like ASO”””.

Hell no I’m not paying attention to this stuff. You guys get paid by the word? Talk about saying the same thing over and over and over and over again. Jeeze, watching the Amgen Epo tour on stuttering internet is 1000 times more interesting.

I honestly don’t care if you line up every frigging rider, manager, massage therapist, chef, wrench, driver, gopher, etc, from every pro team ever created and have them all in unison cry out that “riders with success must dope”…That is NOT the way I live my life and I don’t give a shit about people who judge others with that kind of criterea.

snake February 18, 2008 at 6:44 pm

hey, from the clueless gallery:

what’s a DS ?

Michael’s rant is a work of art.

And Jean’s a guy ?

ludwig February 18, 2008 at 6:57 pm

Larry,

You dismiss #8 much too easily. It’s not just one or two accounts, it’s a bundle of accounts. It would be one thing to accuse a few riders of exaggerating, it’s quite another to accuse a large number, especially when there is no incentive whatever for them to just make stuff up. Did you read the DP article I linked to earlier (which references dozens of cases)? But just to mention some of the confessions I usually draw my inferences from, google (name plus doping) Manzano, Jaksche, Sinkewitz, Zuelle, Jaermann, Andreu, Simeoni, Millar, Aldag, Voet, Dietz, Skibby, Virenque and Gaumont. It isn’t just the confessions that are revealing, it’s the way the cycling community REACTS to the confessions.

Also, for more on doping in cycling, consult the following books….

http://www.amazon.com/Death-Marco-Pantani-Biography/dp/0753822032/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1203388699&sr=1-2
http://www.amazon.com/Breaking-Chain-Drugs-Cycling-Story/dp/0224061178/ref=pd_sim_b_title_2
http://www.amazon.com/Lance-Landis-Inside-American-Controversy/dp/034549962X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1203389059&sr=1-1
http://www.amazon.com/Doping-Public-Policy-Verner-Moller/dp/8778389429/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1203388663&sr=8-4
http://www.amazon.com/Testosterone-Dreams-Rejuvenation-Aphrodisia-Doping/dp/0520248228/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1203388911&sr=1-2

As for #9, I’ve provided links to scientific studies before…I’ll do it again if you promise to read them this time.

William Schart February 18, 2008 at 7:04 pm

To change this up here a bit, the Missouri Grand Prix swim meet has been going on here and today in the Tribune there was an interesting article:

http://www.columbiatribune.com/2008/Feb/20080218Spor007.asp

Seems there is this 40 year old female swimmer who is competing head to head with the young’ens. So apparently some suspect she’s doping. She has apparently gone to our friend Tygart and said “test me all you want, I am clean” and so far, there is no test that contradicts her. And no one is trying to stop her from competing.

Rant February 18, 2008 at 7:30 pm

Snake:
DS = Directeur sportif, a/k/a team manager
Michael’s rant is, well, “Rant-worthy.” Well done, Michael.
Jean C is a guy who lives in France. The name Jean would be the French equivalent of English name John.
Larry, ludwig, Jean C, Morgan:
Damn! You guys must have your fingers flying across the keyboards today. Quite the discussion you’ve got going.
One point I’d make about whether a doped athlete could be beaten by a clean athlete. Drugs affect each of us a little bit differently. In general, they work a certain way. So, with EPO, we know it will cause the body to produce more red blood cells, which help fuel the muscles. More RBCs, more oxygen to the muscles, greater work output. That’s the general equation. But if you look closely at the packaging (which I suspect many dopers do not), you’ll see a whole list of possible side effects for any given medication, including EPO. Not everyone who takes a drug will see the side effects.
To use a different example, consider the anti-biotic Bactrim. Broad spectrum, powerful anti-biotic. Kills lots of bugs dead. One of the side effects of Bactrim is a type of meningitis that can kill you. I found that out the hard way, but stopped taking it before the condition advanced to a fatal point. I can never take that particular medication again. And yet, for the vast, vast majority of people, all it will ever do is kill off an infection.
The point of the story is that we’re all just a little different. Even though we have roughly the same make-up genetically and physically speaking, we’re all a little different. Like a Ferrari is different from a Ford. Both are cars, with an engine, four wheels, brakes and a steering wheel. But under the hood, there are some considerable differences. And on a racetrack, the Ferrari would decimate the Ford.
Doping, if an athlete is using something that actually will improve performance (there’s plenty of snake oil out there, too), can lead to better results for that individual. But because we’re all different, there can be some individuals whose natural abilities exceed another person, even when that person is doped. Some athletes truly are freaks of nature. There’s a Finnish family of cross-country skiers who have a genetic abnormality that makes their bodies produce more red blood cells, as if they were taking EPO or blood doping. And, since they have more red blood cells, they do very well in endurance sports.
When we compare one athlete to another, we may be comparing an individual who has, through chemical means, enhanced his or her ability and risen to a high level of competition with a person who has a higher natural ability. Thing is, most of the time, we don’t know who is who — unless someone gets busted for doping, or we read a story like the one of the Finnish family.
To give another example. Back when I was in middle school and high school, I was a swimmer. On our team, we had a guy nicknamed “Slick” who was a very good swimmer. So good, in fact, that he clocked times in the 100 freestyle that would have won the 1960 Olympics (that’s the year a certain R.W. Pound of Canada finished sixth in the 100 free). By the mid-1970s (when we were in high school), his times were still competitive at the college level, but not in international competition. He was the most dominant swimmer in our state, all four years of high school. In today’s environment, we would automatically suspect someone like him of doping.
Or, consider another person, a cyclist out west about the same time. This guy completely dominated the races he was in, was on the National team (as were a couple of former cycling teammates of mine) and generally a rider who’s ability seemed to come from another planet. Like my friend from high school in swimming, this guy would have competed in the 1980 Olympics, if American athletes had been allowed to go to Moscow. But he didn’t. He turned pro, and grew up to be Greg LeMond. But by today’s standards, if we saw somebody that dominant, we’d think he was doping. Thing is, things are not always what they seem (and that cuts both ways). Today we’re more likely to doubt such accomplishments.
I can tell you for sure that my teammate in high school wasn’t doping. Friends of mine who raced on the national squad with LeMond when they were juniors swear that he wasn’t, either. In both cases, these guys were just freaks of nature.
Now, it’s easy to show, as Jean C has, that speeds have improved since 1990. And certainly, during that time EPO was a major factor in doping within the peloton. Does that mean all riders who did well were using EPO? That’s harder to pin down. There are many factors at play here, besides just the use of PEDs. One is the changing techniques for training. Nutrition is another. Technology, to some extent, is a third variable. And I’m sure there are others, too. On a quanitative scale, however, I wonder if the improvements over the last 18 years, percentage-wise, are larger than say the improvements in cycling (or swimming) from 1960 through 1980. I haven’t looked at the data for that, but it would certainly be interesting to see.

Rant February 18, 2008 at 7:39 pm

William,
Thanks for that. I’ve read about her before. Torres will have quite the feather in her cap if she can make it to her fifth Olympics. That would be darned impressive. With that kind of inspiration, maybe it would coax Ian Thorpe out of retirement so we could have a Thorpedo vs. Phelps matchup. That would be an awesome set of races to watch, too.

Larry February 18, 2008 at 8:57 pm

Ludwig, I’m going through some of the books you’ve mentioned again. It’s possible I missed something there the first time around.

As for the scientific studies, I’m reading some of the studies cited by Jean C. I understand that there’s evidence showing that EPO has a significant benefit for guys in reasonably good shape. I’m looking for a scientific study showing the effect of EPO on elite athletes. Not anecdotal evidence, which obviously exists (or else athletes wouldn’t be using EPO). Not inferences from increases in athletic performance since 1990, which (if true) provide us with important information, I’ll admit. And not studies on East German female shotputters. I’m looking for a scientific study showing the effect of EPO or blood doping on the perfomance of elite endurance athletes. I haven’t seen any such study.

My own suspicion is that PEDs are going to have a bigger impact on the performance of run-of-the-mill athletes, weekend warriors, and people towards the bottom rungs of a sport. Those kinds of athletes have room for improvement, plus they don’t have time to train full time — so a “shortcut” like EPO will give them a benefit they can’t get through extensive training, and enable them to reach some of the performance gains that were within reach before they doped. In contrast, an absolute, top, elite athlete at the prime of his game (think Lemond in the mid 1980s) is already so close to pushing the envelope of what he’s capable of doing, that further improvement is difficult. There’s a law of diminishing returns in most things, and my guess is that this law applies to endurance training. At a certain point, you’ve done just about everything you can do to improve, and adding something else to the mix isn’t going to help much.

Granted, PEDs can be used not just to boost performance, but also to fight the natural deterioration in body condition that takes place during a race as long and as difficult as the TdF. But again, elite athletes have the ability to hold onto peak form for longer than normal people. Plus, if you train like Lance Armstrong, you are training 12 months a year to reach and sustain peak performance for a three week period. I’ve seen no indication that this kind of training is impossible. Contrast the training strategies of guys like Hinault, who were expected to race and win at close to peak form throughout the entire racing season.

Yes, by all means, cite the scientific studies. But I want to see studies showing performance gains among elite endurance athletes.

Larry February 18, 2008 at 11:11 pm

Jean C, I need a little help with the article you cited in Cyclismag. I get that the article is citing an increase in wattage by the top cyclists before and after 1990. But can you tell how the study is measuring wattage? Mean average, median average? Is the measurement consistent? Possibly more important, can you tell how often wattage is recorded for each ride, and whether wattage is measured consistently (same device, same measurement, same measurements per interval? Also, for the years in question, were there available measurements for all the cyclists in the peloton? I thought that not everyone paid such close attention to wattage in the 80s.

I’m asking because when we consider the differences in wattages shown in this study, we should consider whether the difference is within a predictable margin of error. It is possible that the wattage devices have become more accurate over time, and that Lemond, Fignon and the others in the 1980s were actually producing wattages closer to Armstrong, Ullrich and the more modern riders. And according to one private study, longer recording intervals tend to depress wattage readings; see http://mywebpage.netscape.com/rechung/wattage/rosetta/rosetta.html. We might guess that wattage devices use shorter intervals now than in the past, since the processor power and memory available for these devices have improved over time.

The study I cited above shows roughly a 10% difference in wattage measured from one current device to another. So there is a margin of error that you need to factor into your conclusions.

I also think that riders today pay more attention to wattage than they used to. It’s possible that some of the improvement you’re citing in wattage is based on the fact that the guys in the 90s focused more on wattage than did the guys in the 80s.

I’m not trying to explain away the conclusions reached by the study. The study seems to indicate that all of the improvement in wattage took place between 1990 and 1995, and since then it’s leveled off. The factors I’m citing (better measurements, better training) should have translated into a more gradual improvement in wattage.

Still, if you factor in a margin for error, the performance gains aren’t quite as dramatic as you’ve made them out to be. However, given the fact that my French is not so great, I may be missing something.

Also, I know that TBV debated this same issue with you recently, I can’t find the debate. But I think the debate had something to do with where the measurements of each of the climbs began and end. I wonder if the more recent measurements cover a longer portion of the climb? My guess is that the wattage figures would decline during the course of a climb as the riders tire. If you begin the measurement at an earlier point in the climb, you should end up with a higher average wattage overall.

Do you have any more studies like this one? I don’t take the “science of sport” article as seriously, because it doesn’t focus on elite athletes. As the article itself stated, “Another potential problem with the study is the extrapolation of the data to the elite. These subjects were fit, but clearly not elite. It’s likely that in the elite, the improvement would be smaller.” The article then went on to speculate on the effect that a 3% improvement in wattage would have on the performance of a top Tour rider … but if this study only projects a 3% improvement from using EPO, then clearly other factors must be at work to produce the improvements claimed by the Cyclismag study.

Morgan Hunter February 19, 2008 at 1:50 am

Rant,

That is one of the nicest and simplest attempts to discuss doping I have run across – the one truth we can all come away with is that YES – we have questions, yet the way the system is constructed – we wind up unable to actually look at it scientifically and without bias. Thanks.

BSMB,

Dude, if you is – don’t let the “ruckus” get to you. I know its frustrating most of the time hearing what appears to be the same argument – this is the way its got to be man. I’ve never did a spring cleaning in my home without feeling and actually getting dirty. Never the less, the job has to be done. I think it is important that people who have a concept and actually live by a code of ethics stay with it. Keep on responding.

Michael,

—“What is bad for sport are the non-analytical positives, poor testing practices, innuendo, vague rules, blacklists, witch-hunts, etc. These are the things that are killing sport.—couldn’t agree with you more – nice post too.

Larry,

You are amazing – I sit at your feet. Nothing is more thrilling then seeing a fine mind at work.

Jean C February 19, 2008 at 3:21 am

Morgan,

If you still doubt that there is PED and PED on procycling road, just have a look to this picture showing it at Tour of California yesterday.

http://www.enregistrersous.com/images2/163214549420080219121217.png

Morgan Hunter February 19, 2008 at 3:26 am

Jean C,

I understand that you think that what is printed as PED just before the finish line is referring to “ped’s” – but in English and in America – the place where “people” cross the road are marked PED – meaning “pedestrian crossing” – it is not a reference to “ped’s” – but I can see how you would interpret this just looking at the picture.

Hope this helps.

Rant February 19, 2008 at 6:35 am

Morgan and Jean,
Changing to my photojournalist mode, I can tell you that if I were covering the Tour of California, a picture like that would be something I’d be looking for. It takes the abbreviation we use for pedestrian (PED) used to denote a pedestrian crossing on the street and uses it visually to sum up cycling’s problems of late, all in one image.

ludwig February 19, 2008 at 6:42 am

Larry,

I missed your reply to #2. In any case, I want whatever it is you are smoking if you think the evidence doesn’t indicate a strong advantage for doping teams. Look at the teams on your list! T-Mobile….well we know they’ve had a systematic doping program since Riis (see Holm, Aldag, and Dietz, all the way up to Sinkewitz). Once/Liberty….that’s Saiz’s team. We know they had a systematic doping program when Zuelle was prominent, as well as a systematic doping program when they dominated the Tour TTs and during Beloki’s ascendancy. Discovery? You and I both know there is abundant evidence linking them to Ferrari and other known doping docs, not to mention all the justified suspicion of their key riders (Armstrong, Heras, Hamilton, etc.). CSC…well 2003 is the year of Hamilton’s Fuentes-sponsored schedule, and Jaksche’s testimony tells us that Riis was aware how his athletes were preparing. Kelme….guess who their doctor was at the time of their major successes (ie with Sevilla, Botero, Terminaitor and previously with Escartin)? You guessed it….Fuentes. And if they spent a year or two without Fuentes you can be sure there were plenty of ready alternatives.

The other teams up there–Festina and Banesto–have also been linked to organized doping.

But seriously, why do I have to spell this out for you?

I appreciate your efforts to engage and grapple with this issue. But if you really want to understand this stuff you need to take the facts more seriously, rather than flippantly disregarding them (as you have especially with regard to points #2 and #8). Look man, I’m a fan of cycling. I never wanted to believe it’s rife with dope any more than you do. Back when I was a naive fan, I didn’t try to explain away the facts, but I certainly didn’t want to face them. But at this point I’ve been following this sport for years and there simply isn’t any other reasonable conclusion to be had.

Again, take a closer look at the evidence. Read ALL of the whistleblower accounts. And then come back and tell me its within the realm of possibility to have won the Tour (1990-2006) without PEDs. I really don’t believe there is any room to “agree to disagree” here–the evidence is overwhelming.

ludwig February 19, 2008 at 7:27 am

“My own suspicion is that PEDs are going to have a bigger impact on the performance of run-of-the-mill athletes, weekend warriors, and people towards the bottom rungs of a sport. Those kinds of athletes have room for improvement, plus they don’t have time to train full time “” so a “shortcut” like EPO will give them a benefit they can’t get through extensive training, and enable them to reach some of the performance gains that were within reach before they doped. In contrast, an absolute, top, elite athlete at the prime of his game (think Lemond in the mid 1980s) is already so close to pushing the envelope of what he’s capable of doing, that further improvement is difficult.”

Where is the evidence for this? Why do you think elite athletes have less room for benefiting from chemical enhancement? How can you say something like this in the face of the accounts of credible whistleblowers who assert that the benefits conferred by doping are indeed decisive? Who is in a better position to make these judgments–you or them?

I’m not saying you are saying this, but it’s totally absurd to argue that athletes like Basso and Ulle were doping because they were lazy. On the contrary their willingness to dope went along with their total commitment to being the best at what they do.

Morgan Hunter February 19, 2008 at 8:52 am

Rant,

I know what you are saying – but I did think it was kind of funny too – a very normal “mistake” that can be made.

Rant February 19, 2008 at 8:57 am

Morgan,
I find it pretty funny, too. I don’t know if the person who set up that shot realized what the picture would say, or whether this is from a finish line camera, set up without anyone really paying attention to the image.

Larry February 19, 2008 at 9:09 am

Jean C, I’ll throw another hypothesis out there, based on some of the things I’m reading on the Science of Sport blog you cited. (And thanks, that’s a great blog, I’m going to sign up for its RSS feed.)

It’s clear that over the years, our understanding of the physiology of endurance sports has increased dramatically. Not just the attention to wattage, but the attention to VO2, our understanding of hydration and nutrition, and improvements in training techniques, have gone through the roof. In addition, the improvements in computer technology allow us to capture much more data, and analyze the data much more completely.

Do the improvements in the science translate directly into the riders of today being better athletes than the riders who rode 20-30 years ago? I think so, but I think we’d both agree that the improvements are relatively modest. If you take as a baseline an athlete like Hinault or Lemond, these guys were already such ultra-elite athletes that I think it would have been hard to improve upon them.

I think that there’s a law of diminishing returns here. When a person starts to do athletic training, the person will see significant gains right away. Even a daily 30 minute walk will improve the condition of most people. But as a person gets in better and better shape, further improvement is harder to come by. There are simply limits on what the human body is able to do — as a person gets closer to that limit, each additional increment of improvement is more difficult to achieve, and there’s some theoretical limit on how well the person can perform regardless of training.

So I think I agree with you: even if the science of athletic training is twice as good as it used to be, that won’t translate into athletes being twice as good as they used to be. My guess is that, when we’re talking about elite athletes, we can expect that the dramatic improvements in the science of training might produce a few percentage points of improvement in the overall conditioning of the athlete.

But there’s another factor to consider, and that is whether the science can help the athlete get more out of his conditioning. I think it can.

Let’s consider the thinking of the elite cyclist as he begins the final climb of Alpe d’Huez. He’s thinking, how hard do I dare push myself? It’s a gamble. If the rider pushes himself hard enough, he might gain a significant time advantage on his rivals — and in the Tour, even 10 seconds can be significant. 60-90 seconds could be overwhelming. So there’s a big potential reward if the rider pushes himself. But what about the risk? What if the rider “cracks”, like we saw Floyd Landis do in 2006 S16? Then the rider is talking about losing MINUTES to the field, not gaining seconds. The risk of pushing too hard on a climb is enormous. The key, it seems to be, is for the rider to ride within a “comfort zone”. The rider should push hard, to be sure, but the rider probably also wants to ride within a margin of safety, to reduce the risk that he won’t crack.

Obviously, this is not an exact science, or else we’d never see a rider “crack”. But the modern rider knows a lot more about his “cracking” point than did guys like Hinault and Lemond. They’ve done the kinds of studies you’ve cited in “Science of Doping”. They know how long they can pedal at what wattage before they’ll crack. Even better, they’ve done studies of interval training. They know that in addition to the wattage they can maintain without cracking, they know the bursts of wattage they can maintain for short periods without cracking in the long term. So a guy like Contador might know that he can sustain a 30 minute effort at 420W, with 3 45 second bursts of 600W during those 30 minutes. He’s got all the monitors on board his machine to give him and his team all the data they need so that he rides at peak efficiency – as hard as they know he can ride without cracking.

My hypothesis is that the modern rider, aided by all this data, can ride with a smaller “safety margin” than riders had in the past. I think this accounts for some of the improvements in wattage you’re seeing in the Cyclismag study. The riders now aren’t that much physically better than the riders were in the past — they’re just know their “cracking” point better.

Just a hypothesis, but one that seems to be supported by a lot of stuff on the “Science of Doping” site.

Michael February 19, 2008 at 9:48 am

How about the UCI instituting the points system back in the late 80s and the early 90s? Didn’t this automatically motivate the peloton to ride harder? Riders now base their salary on the points accumulated.

Larry February 19, 2008 at 9:52 am

Michael, another great point. There are a lot of factors that might lead to performance gains. William talked about better roads. I think there’s better “advance” work: riding the route in advance of the race, riding the route by car the day of the race. We’re talking about human beings performing in uncontrolled conditions. It’s very difficult to know what is causing a performance increase under those conditions. With the unlimited number of factors that could come into play, you’re right to question whether one single factor explains everything.

Larry February 19, 2008 at 9:53 am

Ludwig, I want to keep our discussion focused on a single proposition, namely your claim that that it’s next to impossible to perform at the top of the peloton without the use of PEDs. I’m not flippantly disregarding anything. I’ve written what feels like 50 pages to you over the last 24 hours. My wife and daughter should get the kind of attention I’m giving to you!

Many of your arguments are good arguments, but they’re either repetitive of earlier arguments, or else they don’t go to the proof of the proposition we’re debating. IMHO.

In defense of your #5, You wrote that “defenders of the status quo are constantly referring to the lack of positive tests and/or authority judgments implicating prominent athletes.” That is quite true. But IMHO it’s not relevant to this discussion. *I* am not stating that the lack of positive tests is proof that you can win a TdF without using PEDs. I’ve conceded that riders are doping and not being caught.

On your point #8, I’ve read the DP articles, and thanks for citing them. They’re very good. I’m not dismissing them, I’m just saying that they stand for the proposition that cycling has a significant doping problem, and I’ve already conceded that. These articles say a great many other things regarding who’s at fault for cycling’s doping problem, but that’s not relevant to our discussion. We’re discussing whether it’s possible to win a TdF without PEDs.

On your point #2, you said that teams that dope have done better in the TdF than teams that don’t dope. If you could prove this, then this would be an argument in your favor in this discussion. And you’re right, we certainly know about doping on some of the winning teams. But that’s not enough data to go on. Your argument is based on showing that the dirty teams perform better than the clean teams. But as you’ve stated yourself, there are dirty riders who weren’t caught. So we can’t tell who is riding clean, and we can’t make the comparison you’re trying to set up. Instead, I looked at whether the distribution of winning teams in cycling is any different than what we’ve seen over the same period in other sports. If cycling had an odd distribution of winners, that might tell us that something odd is going on. Cycling does not have an odd distribution of winners. This doesn’t tell us all that much, I’ll admit, but at least this is based on objective data. It’s the only data we have to go on.

The other problem, of course, is that doping testing at the TdF focuses most on the riders performing the best. Just for this reason, there are going to be more AAFs on the winning teams. It’s hard to draw any conclusion from this that the losing teams aren’t doping just as hard as the winners.

You wrote: “Where is the evidence for this? Why do you think elite athletes have less room for benefiting from chemical enhancement?” See the article cited by Jean C, http://scienceofsport.blogspot.com/2007/11/effect-of-epo-on-performance-who.html.

You wrote: “How can you say something like this in the face of the accounts of credible whistleblowers who assert that the benefits conferred by doping are indeed decisive?” Because athletes don’t always know what will and won’t improve their performance. Take the situation with Andy Pettite as an example. He took HGH to help heal an injury. There’s no evidence that this is helpful. In fact, if you listened to the testimony of the experts in Congress on HGH (this took place the day before the Clemens testimony and got NO PRESS WHATSOEVER, I saw some of it on C-SPAN when I was looking for something else), there’s no evidence that HGH has ANY performance-enhancing ability for baseball players. The fact that athletes take PEDs is NOT proof that they work.

No, I don’t think that any elite athlete is lazy. I think that their dedication and work ethic are beyond my imagination.

Jean C February 19, 2008 at 10:51 am

For that hilarious picture, I just made a screen shot of a movie of ToC website.

Larry, I will respond to your posts later when you will have finished your reading.

ludwig February 19, 2008 at 11:28 am

Larry,

I’m sorry to take up so much of your time–please take as much time as you need if you wish to reply. Because work has gotten slow I have too much time on my hands lately, but naturally it won’t be this way forever….

“You wrote that “defenders of the status quo are constantly referring to the lack of positive tests and/or authority judgments implicating prominent athletes.” That is quite true. But IMHO it’s not relevant to this discussion. *I* am not stating that the lack of positive tests is proof that you can win a TdF without using PEDs. I’ve conceded that riders are doping and not being caught.”

So would you take the next logical step and conclude that because authority judgements are not credible AND the ample evidence that doping is rife (which you also seem to concede), that it is far from unreasonable to conclude that the winners of major races are probably doping? Essentially–here’s where I’m at. I consider the position of those who assert that every cyclist should be considered clean unless authorities say otherwise to be either intellectually dishonest or factually ignorant, as well as insensitive to the human tragedy that the doping/omerta culture represents. The moment you are prepared to concede “In all liklihood Armstrong and Landis doped just like their colleagues”, then I’ll be happy to lay off.

“And you’re right, we certainly know about doping on some of the winning teams. But that’s not enough data to go on. Your argument is based on showing that the dirty teams perform better than the clean teams. But as you’ve stated yourself, there are dirty riders who weren’t caught. So we can’t tell who is riding clean, and we can’t make the comparison you’re trying to set up. Instead, I looked at whether the distribution of winning teams in cycling is any different than what we’ve seen over the same period in other sports. If cycling had an odd distribution of winners, that might tell us that something odd is going on. Cycling does not have an odd distribution of winners. This doesn’t tell us all that much, I’ll admit, but at least this is based on objective data. It’s the only data we have to go on.”

As I understand it, you are basically saying ‘We know some teams are/were doping. But since we don’t know if there are clean teams, there is no way of knowing doping conveys an advantage.” I hope you can see how absurd this sounds. The reality is that if dope didn’t convey an advantage the teams wouldn’t use it–ie., the ample evidence of systematic doping is in itself evidence that doping is beneficial (and even if it wasn’t enough, then the anecdotal accounts and scientific evidence ought to make up for it). No one is in a better position to know whether doping works than cyclists and their managers, so the fact that they dope{d] ought to be additional evidence that doping is beneficial. In the end, if the winners are consistently doping (and I don’t see how this can be disputed) then these winners obviously believe the dope is helping them win.

“The other problem, of course, is that doping testing at the TdF focuses most on the riders performing the best. Just for this reason, there are going to be more AAFs on the winning teams. It’s hard to draw any conclusion from this that the losing teams aren’t doping just as hard as the winners.”

As you know, I don’t base my conclusions on AAFs. I base them on scientific evidence, whistleblower testimony and rider confessions, as well as the findings of doping/police/journalistic investigations. As for your second statement–exactly. It’s a mistake to assume that the bottom rung of the peloton isn’t doping too–in fact the testimony and evidence indicates the opposite.

As for your point on the distrubtion of winners, I’m not sure what you’re getting at. IMHO the most salient statistic is that the winning teams have been consistently tied to doping.

In any case, my point was not just to indicate that it wasn’t possible to win the Tour without doping, although I think there is overwelming evidence to that effect. But it was also to dispute your consistent assertion that it is unreasonable to say there is widespread doping in cycling or that it is unreasonable to publicly doubt whether the winners of events achieved such results dope-free. I think you have already conceded that that is clearly mistaken.

“Because athletes don’t always know what will and won’t improve their performance. Take the situation with Andy Pettite as an example. He took HGH to help heal an injury. There’s no evidence that this is helpful. In fact, if you listened to the testimony of the experts in Congress on HGH (this took place the day before the Clemens testimony and got NO PRESS WHATSOEVER, I saw some of it on C-SPAN when I was looking for something else), there’s no evidence that HGH has ANY performance-enhancing ability for baseball players. The fact that athletes take PEDs is NOT proof that they work.”

This argument has been refuted so many times I’m surprised to see you rehash it. Look, the best indication that these drugs are helpful is that the athletes and their enablers believe they are helpful (to the point when they have been consistently used over a long period of time), and the whistleblowers consistently confirm the use of the same products (like HGH and Testosterone) that apologists say aren’t performance enhancing. In any case, the relevant info is that 1) the drugs are banned 2) the athletes clearly believe they help. The professionals who reccomend the drugs to the cyclists are the people with the relevant expertise in this area. It’s highly unlikely they are wrong, but even if they were it would be irrelevant. But I will concede it is true that both Riis and Jaermann said that EPO was the main drug, and that HGH was relatively benign. Nonetheless HGH continues to be used, probably because the risk and/or harms involved are minimal.

What I would ask is this– since you have apparently conceded that the factual basis for my belief that dope is rife is cycling is valid, would you say it’s unreasonable to assume that the winners of the sport have been doping (given the evidence I’ve cited)? Is it unreasonable to say that cycling’s credibility has been so throughly damaged by doping, and that omerta is so deeply dug in, that only substantive reform and changes in leadership are likely to change it?

I suspect you are too emotionally tied to the Landis case to let common-sense conclusions come to the fore. I also suspect my strong emotive bias against omerta may harm the power of my argumentation. My reccomendation is that if you think arguments that doping is exaggerated have merit, you should deploy them against interlocutors who don’t agree with you–TBV is correct that this is the best way to get at the truth. I’m sure you would be very welcome at the DPforums (the owner there and his close associates are also Landis/Armstrong believers/supporters, although the majority of regular posters are not). There are plenty of people who are smarter, better informed, older and certainly more scientifically and/or legally knowledgable than me who would be very pleased to engage you on either the Landis case or doping in general. Many of the posters we get there defending Landis/Armstrong/Omerta are internet trolls–the “anti-doping nation” (as its detractors call it) would be pleased to debate with someone capable of keeping it civil.

susie b February 19, 2008 at 11:38 am

Rant, I have long had a LOVE-HATE relationship with your blog. I love that you write these great lengthy posts AND that you have a regular group of readers who are not too shy about writing what they feel. And they feel a LOT. 😉

I hate that I have to work for a living & can only sneak over to glance at your blog during the day. Where is Evelyn Wood when you need her!

Anyway, I hope to catch up on all the good debate tonight & in the mean time, I did read Michael’s comment from the 18th. TBV is right, it is EXCELLENT!

Also, to William – I haven’t clicked on that Columbia article yet but know you’re talking about Dara Torres. She’s long been one of my favorite swimmers, but especially at the 2000 Sydney games, when she made her 1ST “Comeback”. She has said the one thing that distressed her a great deal at that time was that there were many who spread rumours about her supposedly using PEDs. This time she wants to make sure there are no doubts – she is a NATURAL phenomenon.
Besides my fellow Marylanders Michael Phelps & Katie Hoff (the two best swimmers in the world, like EVER… :)), I will be rooting the strongest for Dara.

Whenever I read/hear people summarily dismiss the achievements of others as they seem “too superhuman”, I remember a quote of Thomas Carlyle’s :

“No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in great men” (& let me add) “& women”.

Just as there is occasionally an Einstein in this world, there is a Michael Phelps. And Dara Torres. And Lance Armstrong.

Can you imagine a sadder world than one where the AMAZING is not possible?

Rant February 19, 2008 at 12:29 pm

Susie B,

Whenever I read/hear people summarily dismiss the achievements of others as they seem “too superhuman”, I remember a quote of Thomas Carlyle’s :

“No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in great men” (& let me add) “& women”.

Just as there is occasionally an Einstein in this world, there is a Michael Phelps. And Dara Torres. And Lance Armstrong.

Can you imagine a sadder world than one where the AMAZING is not possible?

To be honest, I’d rather not imagine a world where the amazing is not possible. People like Einstein, or Michael Phelps, or Dara Torres or Lance Armstrong are the ones who inspire the rest of us to go out and push our own limits to see what we can achieve, too.
Without their achievements and the inspiration they provide, the world would be a much duller place in which to live.

Ludwig,

You make many good points. I think, however, that you’re getting into a bit of a circular argument on whether certain forms of doping are actually beneficial. There is, after all, the placebo effect (which you allude to). Some techniques haven’t been shown to actually work, scientifically, but many believe they do. A good example is low dose testosterone for recovery. The very few studies (two or three, I believe) done on that to date are inconclusive, at best. And yet, many athletes swear that it works. Of course, one of the effects of testosterone in low doses is an elevated feeling of well being. Because someone feels a bit better, they may perform better, even though the drug, itself, hasn’t caused any physical changes that make that person stronger or recover faster. (Same could be said for using caffeine prior to a race, but that’s not currently banned.) Now, since synthetic testosterone is banned, athletes shouldn’t be using it. But some things show up on the prohibited list not because they have been proven to enhance athletic performance, but because the people who draw up the lists believe they do. As an example, finasteride, which is banned as a masking agent — even though there’s no research that shows it can or has been used in such a manner. Still, it’s on the list, so anyone who uses it without a TUE and gets caught is toast.

The question becomes, should a technique be banned because people believe it works, or because it really does? That’s a tricky one. How do we test for the placebo effect? And should we be in the business of banning snake oil?

Although it’s more work for the anti-doping agencies and labs, prohibited lists really ought to be more sport-specific. A one-size-fits-all approach to anti-doping policy ignores the different skills and needs from one sport to another. It’s more work for the enforcers, but it would be more rational and easier for athletes to follow. And, by being more targeted for each sport, I suspect in the long run it would be less expensive for the labs performing the testing.

By the way, regarding expertise by the professionals who assist athletes in doping: Are you aware that Dr. Fuentes of OP fame is a gynecologist, and not a phlebotomist/hematologist? That’s one of the bases for Spanish authorities going after him on the grounds of endangering public health. In essence, they’re accusing him of practicing a type of medicine he’s not qualified to practice. Sometimes, these “doctors” are the embodiment of a phrase a friend of mine likes to use: “For every opportunity, there’s an opportunist.” The people who use such doctors either don’t know or don’t care that they are practicing “medicine” outside their area of qualification. But that’s another story for another time.

Morgan Hunter February 19, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Susie B,

You implying us guys can’t be “sensitive?” JUST KIDDING!

In my opinion – the “lose” of such individuals to the public is the heaviest price in all this. The individuals that go beyond the known edges is essential for a society.

To destroy such individuals because we can’t seem to have fair rules or means to deter the “cheaters” – is my personal driving motivation to change how the issue of “cheating” is being handled and defined.

DARA RULES THE WAVES! Finally a champion that is too old to be my daughter! Way cool. (:-)))

Jean C February 19, 2008 at 1:02 pm

Michael

Maybe I could resume your “long” post but well done to:

Cheating isn’t cheating if you are not caught.

How should I educate my children?
Must I shut up nothing when the obvious is clearly visible for people involved in sport?

Should we not critize governemnts, institutions or labs when we have no strong evidence of their fault?

What was in the past was done in accordance of that time. Since 1998 and Festina affair there is a revolution in sport, especially in cycling. The contagion propagate even to baseball and probably to NFL, … Even the football is going to move in that direction UEFA has already programmed blood testing for next european championnship.

Susie,
There is no more blind than seeing who refuses to see

Jean C February 19, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Practical EPO effect : Bjarne RIIS
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bjarne_Riis

he confessed EPO use fron 1993 to 1998, his achievements:

1989 95th Overall, Tour de France
1990 No results
1991 107th Overall, Tour de France

1993 Stage 7 and 5th Overall, Tour de France
1994 Stage 13 and 14th Overall, Tour de France
1995 3rd Overall, Tour de France
1996 Stage 9, Stage 16, and 1st Overall, Tour de France
1997 7th Overall, Tour de France
1998 11th Overall, Tour de France

A heavy guy like Riis cannot climb well on steep slope without EPO or blood doping.

Ken S February 19, 2008 at 1:29 pm

Interesting reading, if you have the time to get through it.

Great comments Michael. Sometimes I wonder why some things are banned and others not. Why does a rider have to abandon the tour because of swelling from a bee sting? Are we not losing the reason for sport when things like this happen? I know someone who raced and was talking about an east European rider who’s red blood cell count was too high so he was forced out. I can’t think of his name, maybe one of you can. But his whole family looked like Lurch, even his mother. There was definitely a different body chemistry going on there.

Also I don’t think labs should get a pass. Just because you suspect a rider is doping doesn’t mean shoddy lab work is good enough to convince me. The police need to follow the laws to. And from what I’ve seen in cycling, they’re not. Just because cheating is bad doesn’t mean you can go on some which hunt and start burning everybody you suspect.

And Rant, thanks for the post and for making some good points for me. Like the placebo effect. Many people are convinced things work when they don’t really. But sometimes that belief is all you need. Just ask yourself how many times have you hit a hill on your bike and thought, “This is gonna suck.” And sure enough it sucked. And yet at another hill, maybe an even worse one, you thought, “I feel great.” And then you went right up the hill. Think your thought process had nothing to do with it?

By the way, Jean C the US is not the most polluting country in the world.

I also know no matter how much I trained and doped, I’d still lose to anyone in the peloton even if they were 0 clean. (Assuming they didn’t crash while laughing at me.)

the Dragon February 19, 2008 at 1:53 pm

I would be far more comfortable with WADA World if ALL involved in WADA and related ADA’s & labs had to pass the same tests as the athlete.

Of course outside labs would be needed, yet a 2 year ban for hair regrowth preparation. It would be soooo sweet.

Regards,

ludwig February 19, 2008 at 2:11 pm

Rant,

1) On drugs and placebos, I’d cite Jaksche’s testimony as an example. He talked about how Heinrich explained that what was important was to use PEDs that registered an actual effect (and obviously that certain drugs work differently for different people). It’s very counterintuitive to think an athlete (especially today) would undergo the risk of taking a banned drug if they didn’t have good reason to believe it worked. It’s just common sense.

2) As for Fuentes, we probably won’t know he is the most successful doping doctor of his era for some time, but for the time being he certainly appears to be. His effect on the athletes he worked with was extraordinary–in several cases cyclists progressed from minor domestiques to Grand Tour contenders.

Larry February 19, 2008 at 3:31 pm

Jean C –

Let’s discuss Bjarne Riis.

We expect most riders placement in the TdF to follow a bell shaped curve: not so good at the start, better in the middle, not so good at the end. That’s the Riis curve.

The curve is going to be affected by the role the rider plays on the team. If a rider is riding as a domestique, he’s not going to place as well as when he’s riding for the GC. I don’t know Riis’ situation in 1989, but in 1991 he was riding on Laurent Fignon’s team (and Fignon placed sixth, I believe). So we can figure that Riis’ placement in 1991 had as much to do with riding in support of Fignon as it did with his overall conditioning.

The jump in Riis’ TdF performance took place when Riis was 29, right about when you’d expect career performance to be strongest.

If you want to credit EPO for Riis’ performance gain in 2003, you might hypothesize that at this time, EPO was not prevalent in the peloton, so that EPO give Riis a distinct performance advantage. This would have allowed him to dramatically move up in the pack. But by 1998, you would expect that EPO use was at close to its height, meaning that it no longer would provide a relative performance advantage (you’d use it to keep up, not to move ahead). So by this theory, Riis should have slipped back into the pack. He did not. He continued to perform very well.

By 1997 and 1998, Riis’ decline in performance is the kind we’d expect with a rider at the end of his career.

So, much about Riis’ career can be explained without considering his EPO use. Of course, EPO didn’t seem to hurt him any.

Jean C February 19, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Larry,

Riis was badly classed in his first TDF because his weight is to great to climb. It’s a physical law, without EPO or blood doping the ratio power/ weight is better for small rider on steep slope.

Could you find an other rider like Riis who won TDF after so bad results in his first TDFs ? NO

Could you find a climber with the same build as Riis before EPO era? NO

Larry February 19, 2008 at 4:11 pm

Jean C, I understand the business about weight and climbing. If EPO gave Riis a performance advantage (say, in 2003), maybe the advantage was enough to overcome the disadvantage conferred by his weight. By 2006 and after, when we can presume that plenty of lighter guys were using EPO, then the advantage would have disappeared. In other words, a light cyclist on EPO should climb better than a heavy cyclist on EPO. True?

Larry February 19, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Jean C, sorry, I meant 1993 and 1996.

Larry February 19, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Ludwig –

I agree with Rant’s comments.

What we’re trying to analyze here is whether the PEDs used by riders are effective. If you argue that the PEDs are effective because they’re being used by the riders, that’s a circular argument. You’ve essentially assumed away what we’re trying to discuss.

Should we go through a list of all of the nonsense that was considered to be gospel truth in the world of sports? Boxers who could not have sex before a fight (“women weaken legs!”). Football players training in the summer heat that were denied water. Astroturf introduced into sport, in part based on the mistaken idea that it would reduce injuries. Cyclists who thought that an air conditioned hotel room would degrade their performance.

Not to mention all of the commotion caused by a baseball pitcher who injected HGH because someone told him it would speed the healing of his elbow.

You can believe that, if the cyclists do it, then it must enhance performance. I don’t believe it. Not for a minute.

On to another point. Yes, I agree, it’s far from unreasonable to conclude as a general matter that there are TdF winners who have doped. We know about Riis and Pantani. The case against Ullrich is not completely settled, but it doesn’t look good for Jan. So yes, we know that there are TdF winners who have doped. I’d even go further and say that it’s probable that other TdF winners have doped. The odds seem to so indicate.

I draw the line at naming names. For me to say that rider X doped, or that he probably doped, or that he possibly doped, I need proof that’s specific to rider X. I’m not willing to draw specific conclusions about specific riders based on his membership in a group, unless the conclusion is applicable to all members of the group.

Will I post at DPF? Not in this lifetime. I can barely read DPF without feeling sullied and in need of a hot shower. I grant you that there are some great people on DPF, and that some of my best cyberfriends post there. But the tendency of discussions there to turn into nasty name-calling sessions is a bit more than I can endure in my spare time.

Finally. you ask if “only substantial reform and changes in leadership” are likely to improve the doping situation in cycling. Yes. Of course. That’s what motivates me to keep up this argument with you, the hope that reform is possible. If you’re right, reform is impossible, because no amount of reform is going to eliminate doping altogether. We’re never going to catch all the dopers. If we made progress to the point that we knew that there was only one doper left in the peloton, then by your arguments, we’d all know who the doper was. He’d be the guy in the yellow jersey. If that’s really and truly the case, then you might as well shut down the sport today, because there’s no hope for anything better than what we’ve got now.

Jean C February 19, 2008 at 4:24 pm

An excerpt from http://pappubahry.livejournal.com/262884.html
where links are available for more stuff

In the 1980’s, riders began to use EPO. This marks a qualitative shift in doping. Amphetamines were said to make riders get the most out of themselves; EPO changes the rider. Previously, all the best climbers were light – 60kg or so. With EPO in their system to carry more oxygen around, heavier riders are able to climb with the climbing specialists.

To read more on EPO, go here. The Science of Sport blog is excellent in general. In one of their other entries, the authors talk about the culture of doping amongst professional cyclists. The mentality is that it’s not just OK to dope, it’s necessary to dope. If you don’t take all the drugs that you can, you may as well not bother. When riders who get caught say that they’ve done nothing wrong, they believe it.

Jashke’s interview: http://spoke-n-word-cycles.com/blog.html

A reporter tested PED: http://outside.away.com/outside/bodywork/200311/200311_drug_test_1.html

ludwig February 19, 2008 at 5:23 pm

Larry,

Can you name another GT winner who suddenly leaped to prominence at 29? Why do you think that sort of development would be normal? Also, keep in mind that Riis is credited with pushing the envelope and innovation re. doping–ie. he wasn’t called Mr. 64% for nothing. There wasn’t any 50% rule in those days.

As for your hypotheticals….you still haven’t explained away the enormous scientific, statistical, anecdotal, and testimonial evidence that EPO use was decisive and changed cycling dramatically. If you want to seriously argue that the effect of PEDs are negligible then you need to confront the real world evidence rather than indulging in fairy-tale hypotheticals.

I’m arguing that PEDs are effective because there is overwhelming evidence that the riders who use PEDs beat those who don’t. The fact that the teams and riders dominating the Tour in the 90s and the early 2000s used EPO is part of that empirical case. There are plenty of examples backing up this conclusion. Can you cite any concrete examples to the contrary? Moreover, I’m arguing that the authority of the doctors and DSes who know most about the science of doping is much more credible than your speculations about HGH (which are at best a distraction from the real discussion–athletes take HGH because there is no test for it). Regardless of your “beliefs”, at some point you will have to make some allowances to the force of common sense and real world events.

As for reform….it’s no secret that the biggest obstacle to reform is that fans and sponsors continue to believe the lies propagated by omerta, and consequently the cyclists are professionally obligated to keep up the charade for the ‘good of the sport’. You can’t have meaningful reform if nobody can or is willing to agree on what the problems are. Once people agree that the jig is up and that omerta bs is unacceptable from a moral and public relations standpoint, then the way the sport is structured will have to undergo meaningful reforms. Essentially, the process has already started–one of the foundations of Vaughters’ stance is speaking frankly and honestly about the legacy of the doping culture as the only way to figure out how to overcome it. But clearly there is a long way to go, and it will require honest confrontation with difficult realities.

But given you and Rant’s praise of Michael’s post above (regardless of his morally questionable endorsement of organized deception as an acceptable norm….give him credit; at least he has a realistic view of the doping culture and grounds his ideas in reality), apparently you both support the continued role of omerta as a norm, which means you support the corrupt status quo. Because as long as you have omerta, consistent and fair enforcement of doping rules will be next to impossible.

As for DPF, the discourse there on a whole is much more reality-based and grounded in genuine love for the sport then the discourse here, which is transparently biased and agenda-driven. Essentially, you seem to be saying that only a select few with whom you share an emotional affinity are capable of understanding the truth. But life experience ought to warn you that is rarely the way things are. It’s far more likely that emotional commitments blind you to the truth.

Larry February 19, 2008 at 6:15 pm

Ludwig –

So far in this post, you’ve accused me of being unrealistic, a dope smoker, unusually slow on the uptake (“why do I have to spell this out to you?”), not taking the facts seriously, flippantly disregarding facts, ruled by my emotions, arguing with fairy tales, and blind to the truth. And you put my “beliefs” in quotation marks!

You’ve accused me of supporting the omerta and the “corrupt” status quo.

You’ve also referred to my arguments as either intellectually dishonest or factually ignorant.

OK.

The strange thing is, Ludwig, I think you’re a good guy, and I like you on a certain level. But I don’t really feel like continuing to engage you in this kind of conversation. Believe it or not, I blog here and on TBV because I enjoy it. I’ve laughed my way through many of your personal attacks on me, but I’ve reached my limit. Discourse with you is not civil.

I hope you’ll continue to post here, but I think I’ve posted my last response to you.

Nothing we say here is going to change anything, but I’ll stand on the arguments I’ve posted so far.

the Dragon February 19, 2008 at 6:19 pm

Larry,

Your view of DPF mirrors my experience.

Several weeks ago there was a post of a press release regarding Livestrong.com. I had the audacity to actually read the press release. And posted that contrary to the assertions of the original poster that it was proof that LA was lining his pockets at the expense of Livestrong, it was boilerplate and bland, and no conclusions could be drawn pro or con.

The invective and diatribes which followed, confirmed just how stupid I was to think that ANY reasoned discussion could be had there.

Regards,

R Wharton February 19, 2008 at 7:25 pm

Dragon –

You’re right. Even Vaughn is afraid to step in to the DPF, and it’s his forum.

Ludwig, I find it really sad to see the world you present through your lenses and filters. You really are a half-empty kind of guy.

What’s happening to the sport is the meltdown from a Feudal (note, not FUTILE) system where Balkanization leads to never-ending, circular disputes. And honestly, the cyclists end up being the pawns that are sacrificed first.

If the system is bent on breaking its’ own rules to catch the supposed cheaters, then I want a new system.

Unionize the athletes, boycott the TdF and and all other major races, and follow the Mantra: Trust, But Verify. How? Use science, testing, and retesting, and hold the labs to the highest standards possible. Athletes, teams, and the sport’s future are in their hands – literally.

And Ludwig, I’ll say it again – you’ve never been accused of something you never did. The result is never, ever good, no matter how hard you try to clear your name.

William Schart February 19, 2008 at 7:29 pm

Wow! 90 posts and going on. I think this is some kind of record for Rant. Hope WADA doesn’t open a file on us.

Rant February 19, 2008 at 7:32 pm

William,
It is a record. I think the most before this was in the 60s. Don’t tell Dick Pound, he’ll probably go off on a “rant” of his own. 😉

ludwig February 19, 2008 at 7:58 pm

Larry,

Well I certainly don’t dislike you or mean to insult you personally. I would stand by my assertion that many of your beliefs seem rooted in desires and not substantiated by evidence, and that you don’t oppose omerta (and by this I don’t just mean silence but the lies necessary to maintain illusions) because you aren’t willing to explicitly condemn it as ethically deficient or a source of problems–rather you seem to excuse it as natural or inevitable. And yes, I notice that many of your arguments are factually deficient or based on mistaken assumptions. I think if you follow cycling closely and pay attention to a variety of sources you will make these mistakes less and less and your understanding of which sources are trustworthy will become clearer, but in the meantime you should be more careful.

I understand why you would take all this personally but I don’t mean anything personal by it. Nonetheless, even though this isn’t real life and is therefore relatively insignificant, you have to at least concede that if you aren’t willing to engage the other side of the debate, then you have no business condemning the other side. For my part, I think it’s genuinely tragic that decent and well-meaning people buy into omerta lies and then project anger onto those organizations and individuals working (however imperfectly) in good faith for sporting fairness and integrity–it makes me angry and that’s why I bother to post here. Your position would be much stronger if you tested your views against interlocutors who are hostile to omerta–better yet those people who have been suffered due to omerta, because they either tried to cycle clean or dared to speak out against corruption. Read through the testimonies of whistleblowers and you will find that omerta extracts a human cost–not just the lives of dead cyclists (thankfully, PED-related deaths seem to be on the decline), but in the shame and secrecy caused by the lies.

Larry February 19, 2008 at 8:47 pm

Dragon, Wharton, I know some really good people who post on DPF. But I think a few of them may hold their noses while they do it. I also know more than a few of us who don’t find that forum condusive to serious discussion. Dragon, your experience is sad but typical. It’s a matter of personal choice where one chooses to post. If someone ever starts a serious, thoughtful and civil anti-Landis blog site, I’d be happy to post there in opposition.

Ludwig, I’ll stand on what I’ve written. Here and elsewhere.

Morgan Hunter February 19, 2008 at 10:33 pm

Larry,

That was the most amazing show of patience I have witnessed in a long time. Thank you for the lesson.

R Wharton,

Subtlety never gets through – although it is highly appreciated and sometimes very funny.

Larry February 19, 2008 at 10:44 pm

Morgan, thanks. For the record, I think Ludwig is a good guy, and I respect his opinions.

Jean C –

Is there data that cyclists are getting heavier since 1990?

Some of the stuff you’ve posted is pretty grim and sobering. The Outside Magazine piece is a good read; I’ve read this kind of thing before, but the use of PEDs by ordinary people is why I think anti-doping is so important. We probably have hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. using PEDs who are completely outside of any testing system.

The Jashke interview is also very interesting. It’s also not entirely bad news. Jashke makes it sound as if it’s getting harder to dope, and as if the organized team doping programs may be disappeaing under the pressure of the anti-doping effort. Also, if the cheaters have turned to blood doping, we can at least say that this is a lot more difficult to do than taking a pill or a shot.

The Vaughters – Andreu IM should not be taken seriously. Vaughters himself stated under oath that it was intended “as second or third hand gossip” and that he had “no personal knowledge that any team in the Tour de France, including the Discovery Team in 2005, engaged in any prohibited conduct whatsoever.” http://www.thepaceline.com/lance/exhibits/ex5.pdf. I don’t know whether Andreu testified regarding this IM, but he testified at trial that
he had no knowledge of Armstrong taking PEDs. http://www.thepaceline.com/lance/exhibits/frankieandreu.pdf. I understand that you may still give some credence to the IM, but I have to take more seriously the testimony given by Vaughters and Andreu under oath, subject to penalty of perjury.

Keep throwing stuff my way and I’ll keep reading it.

Morgan Hunter February 20, 2008 at 12:46 am

Larry,

I respect the right of everyone to have opinions – have I given you cause to suspect otherwise?

As to the other – it is a sad fact but a simple truth – human beings create the reality they wish to exist in.

Susie b,

Are you taking notice? I am severely limiting my responses – and to be truthful in then process I think I may just have pulled something…(.-))

Sara February 20, 2008 at 1:32 am

eh, didn’t LeMond say EPO era started in the 90’s and that was the reason he quit?

“In the 1980’s, riders began to use EPO. ”
http://pappubahry.livejournal.com/262884.html

Great writing here from everyone, keep up the good work!

Jean C February 20, 2008 at 2:02 am

Larry,

I have no real datas of pro-cyclists getting heavier, only we can see the ‘climber” becoming heavier.

Some of the stuff you’ve posted is pretty grim and sobering.
Yes a lot of stuff is grim and sobering, (i hope to understand the correct meaning), it’s why Ludwig and me are staying here despite our difficult job. I will seek for a grimmer and more sobering stuff later : the Donati’s report. You will understand why it’s fundamental to kill the Myths, continously lies and propaganda, and why we can be upset sometimes.

Since Festina’s affair I have followed doping and all doping scandals or testimonies reinforce our points day after day .

What has the other side to oppose: nothing of concrete: just unsubstancied or false myth: train harder, altitude tent, corrupted lab, french conspiracies, tabloïds, …

There is 5 years, I had an interview with chinese TV, probably between 50 and 100 Millions of TV spectators. My girlfriend said to me it was a honor but I had a big responsability.
Is it a great achievement to lie in front of 500Millions of persons?

Thanks Susie for this quote of Thomas Carlyle’s that I changed a little:
“No sadder proof can be given by a man of his own littleness than disbelief in honest men” .

Hopefully my lack of english skills protects my thin skin of civilised attacks which are for me the worst.

Jean C February 20, 2008 at 2:04 am

And as 100th post:

The famous and terrific Alessandro Donati’s report:

http://www.wada-ama.org/rtecontent/document/Donati_Report_Trafficking_2007-03_06.pdf

Morgan Hunter February 20, 2008 at 2:31 am

Jean C,

I find it interesting how your “english” sometimes is better then others – good enough to reshape a quote it seems.

No doubt about it – Donati has something to say.

You slipped a little though with; —“Thanks Susie for this quote of Thomas Carlyle’s that I changed a little:” — Amazing just how good your “english” can be.

Jean C February 20, 2008 at 2:42 am

Sara,

Should I quote Thomas Carlyle?

This Morgan quote is well too: human beings create the reality they wish to exist in.

The first EPO used was done by amateur riders, pro-riders were waiting to see the bad effects. Why destroy your goods when you are still rich and when you are still on top of ranking?
EPO was used in first by Italian teams, Netherland riders were in front too.

As many people, I think riders have the same ratio of honest people as the common population. And a big part were forced to dope to keep their job!

Just a look on result evolution give an idea of reality, especially with Gewiss the first to use massively EPO
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coupe_du_Monde_de_cyclisme_1989
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coupe_du_Monde_de_cyclisme_1990
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coupe_du_Monde_de_cyclisme_1991
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coupe_du_Monde_de_cyclisme_1992
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coupe_du_Monde_de_cyclisme_1993
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coupe_du_Monde_de_cyclisme_1994

Effect on average power on TDF(already psoted) but good to see the correlation:
http://www.cyclismag.com/article.php?sid=2500
http://www.cyclismag.com/photos/evolution_20060711180734.jpg

——————————————————
Historical aspects of human recombinant erythropoietin in sport

1977 Purified EPO is isolated from human urine for the first time.

1985 EPO gene is cloned.

1987 Recombinant EPO is first available in Europe.

1987-1990 A number of deaths of competitive Dutch and Belgian cyclists is linked to EPO use (see Gambrell/Lombardo, ch. 1; Rossi et al., ch. 1; Deacon/Gains, ch. 3).

1988 Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) classifies EPO as a doping substance.

1989 Recombinant EPO is approved by the FDA for manufacture.

1990 EPO is banned by the IOC.

1993-1994 The IAAF introduces blood sampling during eight World Cup Meetings (see Birkeland/Donike et al., ch. 3).

Jean C February 20, 2008 at 3:17 am

As R. Wharton is a professional of cycling, he is probably one of the most able to:

* Listing the principal reasons of the different types of “big” bonks
* describe their effects on the body
* and what consequences will or would be for the next days of racing.

He may limit his review to the case of clean cyclist participating at TDF .

Thanks for his future contribution.

Larry February 20, 2008 at 8:20 am

Morgan, sorry if I misspoke. I think you have consistently respected my opinion and those of everyone else. You are an integral part of this forum, with a unique voice, and no one stands for the rider the way you do. I hold great respect for you, and read your posts religiously. Also, when you want, you’re funny as hell. I apologize if I don’t always communicate this. I’m a fan of yours and always will be.

trust but verify February 20, 2008 at 8:25 am

Jean C, would you know where to get a copy of the 1994 Donati dossier on EPO?

TBV

Jean C February 20, 2008 at 8:51 am

TBV,
No I don’t know.

ludwig February 20, 2008 at 8:56 am

R Wharton,

It’s a common implication here that those who acknowledge that cycling has a doping problem or that omerta exists are somehow bad people because they are too cynical and can’t believe. I hope upon reflection you can see why that notion is flawed. I don’t think cycling can reform unless people can agree what the root causes of its problems are. That’s why it’s important to establish what the truth actually is, unfiltered by what one wishes to be true. And yes, Wharton, I have been accused of something I didn’t do in the past.

JeanC,

Morgan’s quote is actually better taken as a criticism of how the astonishing (and admirable) will to believe among Landis supporters leads them in all sorts of directions–grasping at any and all explanations. Hopefully the passion demonstrated will motivate Landis to confess sooner and stop tormenting the people who believe in him. Even for a success-oriented person like Landis…..imagine how guilty he must feel. It’s very sad to think about.

Larry February 20, 2008 at 9:06 am

Jean C, did you note WADA’s “endorsement” of the Donati report?

“The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of
the WADA. The content and views have not been independently authenticated. No legal liability or other
responsibility is accepted by or on behalf of WADA for any errors, omissions, or statements on these pages, or
any site to which these pages connect.”

I think this “endorsement” says more about WADA’s deficiencies than anything else.

ludwig February 20, 2008 at 9:42 am

TBV,

This isn’t the 1994 dossier, but it’s worth checking out.

http://www.playthegame.org/Knowledge Bank/Articles/Anti_doping the Fraud Behind the Stage.aspx

Morgan Hunter February 20, 2008 at 9:44 am

Ludwig,

You state —“It’s a common implication here that those who acknowledge that cycling has a doping problem or that omerta exists are somehow bad people because they are too cynical and can’t believe.”

Perhaps you do understand the situation in this light – but it is unfair of you to imply that this is what people “here” believe or make their stand on.

Or perhaps you are reading your own interpretations into what people are saying?

No one on this blog has denied or not acknowledge that cycling has a doping problem.

While I cannot and will not try to “speak for other people” – I will say to you that what we DIFFER IN IS THE METHODS being applied to deal with the problem.

You have a right to your beliefs – as do I – but please don’t assume that you may put words in my mouth and then think you can get away with it.

As to my “observation” of people – it is not meant to criticize anyone “specifically” nor is it intended with hostility – it is simply an observation – that “people create the reality they wish to exist in.”

Ken S February 20, 2008 at 9:45 am

ludwig, as one of the “Landis supporters leads them in all sorts of directions–grasping at any and all explanations” I’m glad to have been thrown into a category. I think it is important to “establish what the truth actually is, unfiltered by what one wishes to be true.” Which is why I believe in due process which Landis never got. Landis may have taken drugs, I’ll probably never know for sure. From what I’ve heard he had no need for peds, though that’s just hearsay. You act as if you “know” he was guilty. Is that because Lemond said so? Is that all the proof you need? There clearly are questions with the lab tests.

At this point it seems to me that too many decisions are made by the organizations for political reasons and this is affecting the attempts to clean up the sport. As a fan, I’d rather see a few riders slip through because we can’t catch everyone than a bunch of disruptions, early exits, and mud slinging. The culture of doping will not change overnight and the organizations and press need to stop acting like each new case, if shouted about loudly enough, is going to suddenly stop everyone from cheating. I’d like to know that the riders have rights, and the organizations are working to actually stop doping and not just working to make headlines that show they are trying to stop doping so they can have more money and power. I’m not going to hold my breath.

Following what Rant was saying, maybe we should start our own rumors to get investigations into every rider we don’t like.

Morgan Hunter February 20, 2008 at 9:52 am

Larry,

Aw – shucks fella. I think I’m actually blushing…No…that is my medicine kicking in” Phew – got worried there for a moment – I’m okay now though.

Sorry dude – I got to keep it short so Susie b keeps reading – I’m hoping to hear her dollars worth…(;-)) Why didn’t anybody tell her that we don’t bother with a mere “two cents?”

Thank you Larry – but you know we’re going to “pay for this?”

ludwig February 20, 2008 at 10:42 am

“Which is why I believe in due process which Landis never got. Landis may have taken drugs, I’ll probably never know for sure. From what I’ve heard he had no need for peds, though that’s just hearsay.”

Uh, there was an arbitration and a verdict–perhaps you should consult that. In any case, I’ve already provided plenty of evidence why it’s highly unlikely that a rider could win the Tour without doping given cycling’s corrupt omerta code and the weakness of doping tests as a deterrent. He had cause, he had opportunity, it has been determined by an arbitration panel that he used testosterone, his team was notorious for PED use, he had elevated htct and other factors that indicate blood doping. Hell, even Pat McQuaid and Bjarn Riis seem convinced he doped. If he was innocent then why don’t his colleagues speak out on his behalf? How much more proof is necessary? Even if one of these reasons wasn’t accurate the rest would still be overwhelming.

The funniest thing about this is all these Landis defenders seem to believe testing is the solution to cycling’s problems, and then they turn around and argue testing can’t prove anything. Which is it?

Jean C February 20, 2008 at 10:44 am

2 more points:

Jerome Chiotti a former road pro cyclist won the mountain-bike world championship with the same us as road cycling. He was not caught.
A few years later he understood that in mountain-bike there is no EPO, so he returned of his own his medal.

It’s not the anti-doping crowd who is killing the sport. Some people are confusing sport and buisness. Yes I agree that kill buisness but it restore dignity of Sport too for a better future.

Larry February 20, 2008 at 10:50 am

Jean C, what conclusions do you draw from your cited World Cup winners from 1989-1994?

Morgan Hunter February 20, 2008 at 10:59 am

So in essence then – we should just drop the doping tests because they are weak?

BUT they are NOT WEAK when WADA and the USADA – tell you that they are good?

And this is because – as you Ludwig pointed out – the entire system is corrupt with “omerta” – you did say that didn’t you? Or were you just running your gums?

What exactly is your stance – other then to try to pass yourself off as some knowledgeable person? And all others that point out the holes in your argument are deluded?

But then that is not so dissimilar to your “the entire system is corrupt and we need to start over” statements – along with “the weak doping test system” that is GOOD when it suits your arguments?

Wow! I feel so stupid. How can I not see this?

Rant February 20, 2008 at 11:06 am

Ludwig,

I think it’s more fair to say that testing — properly conceived and executed — is a part of the solution. I don’t recall anyone saying it was the solution to the problem of doping.

Doping is a complicated problem to solve, requiring many efforts targeted at specific parts of the problem. The problem with some of the tests is that they have not been properly conceived or validated. That is not to say that testing isn’t useful, just that some of the current tests aren’t as good as they should be. Add to this that some of the people conducting the tests (like Ms. Mongongu and Frelat at LNDD) may not have had the proper training to perform the work or to operate the necessary equipment, and you can magnify such problems even more. Labs have to be held to certain standards, as do the lab personnel. When they don’t meet those standards, it’s fair to criticize the end results.

On the other hand, other measures need to be taken to diminish the reasons for doping — as you have suggested. This is not an either/or choice about how to battle the doping problem. It’s a case where many efforts need to be undertaken to address the totality of the doping problem in cycling and other sports.

By the way, can you cite where Bjarne Riis expressed his doubts about Landis? I don’t recall seeing anything like that. McQuaid is well known for his opinion about the Landis case, but I was under the impression that Riis had not really commented about it.

Jean C February 20, 2008 at 11:16 am

Larry,

I was just making the point that Italians suddenly were winning “all” races, of course because they were the first to use massively EPO.
As confirmed in the following quote by Donati

From Play the Game Home / Knowledge Bank / Search / Anti-doping the…

ANTI-DOPING: THE FRAUD BEHIND THE STAGE

By: Sandro Donati

After four months of investigation, I arrived at extraordinary conclusions:

1. anti-doping tests on cyclists were very rarely positive because they used new substances, peptidic hormones, which cannot be traced with urine tests;
2. in particular, the erythropoietin hormone also known as Epo, was being used ever more frequently;
3. the idea of using Epo for athletes involved in endurance sports, and therefore also for cyclists, had clearly come from Prof. Conconi, who had been nominated member of the IOC Medical Committee some years before;
4. Prof. Conconi and his assistants had signed very important contracts with professional cyclist clubs to administer Epo to the cyclists;
5. at that time the production of Epo was quite limited and the substance was provided only to the hospitals who treated nephrology and the cyclists therefore obtained it through illegal channels;
6. the cost of Epo on the black market was very high (about 150 US$ per dose); there were also other very expensive hormones, such as Gh, or Igf1; in other words the doping market was becoming as lucrative as the narcotics market;

I wrote out a 14-page report and sent it, complete with a protocol letter, to the President and to the General Secretary of CONI. The President did not even answer it. The General Secretary sent for me and said he was very worried.

ludwig February 20, 2008 at 11:21 am

Well I’d agree with those sentiments, but I’d add that ethics reform is also urgently necessary. Ethics reform (along with structural reform) that would not only make doping less advantageous and tolerable, but that also makes the bad-faith defenses post-doping less acceptable within the community. In the original Sicilian usage, omerta doesn’t just mean silence, it means non-cooperation with the authorities. This has to end–the authorities and the teams need to work together productively while also guaranteeing the autonomy and integrity of oversight. In other words, the adversarial system that Michael recommends above is simply not an option. Sponsors and the public need to believe that cyclists believe doping is a problem and that it can’t be tolerated. Omerta makes a mockery of this, which is why the public and sponsors consider it a doped-up sport.

Finally, the judgments based on testing have to be binding. Cyclists should have a right to question the science involved but ultimately the teams and cyclists have got to agree to abide by the consequences of the contracts they sign. Rather than embarking on expensive public relations campaigns to discredit authorities (campaigns that inevitably destroy cycling’s image still further), pro cycling as a unified body should take its business elsewhere if there is good reason to believe the authorities are unjust or draconian.

But the most important thing is to convince cyclists that following doping rules (and enforcing such rules via peer pressure and oversight) is in their interest and that omerta is no longer a viable option. Practically speaking, the only way to do this is if the sponsors get behind such reforms 100%, and this will require firing many of the DSes and doctors responsible for the doping culture. So before one can get from A to B, the sponsors need to be convinced the problem is real and not imaginary.

Jean C February 20, 2008 at 11:37 am

I stated earlier that all riders who climbed Alpe d’Huez in less than 40mn in 96 were full doped. So it’s not only one or 2 names or people I dislike…

Between 44mn and 40mn few riders “could” be clean ….

I have followed the stages 16 and 17 , I was sorry for Landis because it was one of my preferred rider. I was happy for him despite I was already convicted he doped.
When he was caught I was sorry for him, he was one of the dopers caught.

What I didn’t stand was the FFF because I believe a lot of people, especially gullible fans send money, bielieving he could be clean. The odds are very extremely small.

So it is why I try to tell what is the real truth. Or at least to give to people a better picture of the reality.

Ken S February 20, 2008 at 11:43 am

I have not said testing is the solution to cycling’s problems. While general statements about a group of people are often correct, they’re not always correct about everyone in the group. I suggest they should be avoided for that reason. Testing done well can be a part of removing doping from cycling. Testing by itself will never do it.

Just because someone had an arbitration panel does not mean they had due process. To use an example it’s been known for a country to say that it’s leader was elected honestly and fairly when we all pretty much know he’s a dictator and the people didn’t have much of a choice. And while I’m no scientist or lawyer, from what I found of the hearing and the verdict it was a little too much like the fox guarding the chicken coop.

“I’ve already provided plenty of evidence why it’s highly unlikely that a rider could win the Tour without doping given cycling’s corrupt omerta code and the weakness of doping tests as a deterrent.”

First of all highly unlikely is still different than impossible. Are you going to say that anyone who wins the yellow jersey cheated? And if so, who do we give the jersey to? If Floyd had to cheat in order to win didn’t Óscar Pereiro have to as well? If everyone is really cheating like you imply, do you accept Pereiro as the winner? Why punish Floyd and not Pereiro? Or is the whole thing just a joke?

And while I’m sure there are riders who don’t want to talk and/or are afraid to, it seems to me with all the press against doping there aught to be a sponsor who’d love to have people coming out against doping. That would be good press. I think you hang your hat a little too heavily on the omerta thing.

the Dragon February 20, 2008 at 11:58 am

Ludwig,

You are good for a real laugh.

I really don’t want to live in your constructed world.

Have you noticed throughout history that societies which had governments (usually dictators and despots) like you propose, even with the most cruel repression, the human desire for freedom still survived and thrived?

If you call “ethics” denial of the right to defend oneself, and required acceptance of “jackbooted” corruption and conviction by rumor and inuendo, count me out. While I have a “yellow streak 12 inches wide running down my back” I will take to the barriers to fight your system.

Hopefully, your proposed World Order is just an internet fantasy.

Regards,

Morgan Hunter February 20, 2008 at 12:21 pm

Rant,

Reliable and dependent testing would go a long way to correcting this doping problem.
Unfortunately – not all the problems in cycling are due to doping. As you have often inferred – a transparent governing system would also go a long way to correct the problem.

For if you have reliable doping test – that prove someone cheated or not – then the process could be proved and upheld legally – and the people would trust it. A transparent governing body/system would also stop “conflicting interest groups” from being able to function “behind closed doors.”

The Dragon,

I’ll be at the barricades with you. count on it!

Ken S,

Terms like “ethics reform” – “structural reform” -“bad-faith defenses” – “autonomy and integrity of oversight” – to name a few, on the surface appear to “discuss something – if these terms are not clearly defined or are “able to be clearly defined” – they are nothing better then what politicians do when they are creating “sound bytes.” Basically meaningless.

And while I agree that a “sponsor” would love to “show off their squeaky clean team” – the problem arises when “longstanding sponsors who may have been abbeters of the situation – don’t want to get busted. This in my “opinion” is a very good possibility to consider.

Please do not interpret my comment as “against yours” – I am actually agreeing with your comment.

Larry February 20, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Jean C –

I’m not purposely trying to give you a hard time. The evidence available here is not all we might hope for.

Your hypothesis is that Italy did well in the inaugural UCI Road World Cup races in the early 1990s, as Italian riders were the first as a group to embrace EPO. From this hypothesis, we’d expect to see Italy as a team performing relatively poorly before, say, 1987, when EPO became available. We’d expect to see Italy’s performance spike in the early 1990s, when (by your hypothesis) Italian riders were using EPO more than the norm We’d then expect to see Italy’s performance decline to pre-EPO levels in the mid-1990s, as the rest of the world’s racers began using EPO.

That’s not what we see from the data you’ve provided. First, the UCI Road World Cup was not inaugurated until 1990, so we have no pre-EPO results to use as a point of comparison. Then, in the early 1990s (1989 – 1994), we have Italy winning 3 of 6 World Cup team championships. In the mid-1990s (1995-2000), Italy won 5 of 6 World Cup team championships. So in the period where we would expect Italy’s performance to decline, it actually improved.

Granted, there’s not enough data to go on here, one way or the other.

Jean C February 20, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Larry,

I resume for you (around 11 races as Coupe du Monde by year):

1990 -> 5 Italian team victories
91 -> 4
92 -> 2
[b]93 -> 9
94 -> 7
95 -> 9[/b]

You have to pay me an ice-cream on next TDF !

ludwig February 20, 2008 at 1:01 pm

“I have not said testing is the solution to cycling’s problems. While general statements about a group of people are often correct, they’re not always correct about everyone in the group. I suggest they should be avoided for that reason. Testing done well can be a part of removing doping from cycling. Testing by itself will never do it.”

While I don’t disagree with the spirit of what you say, you should concede the possibility that you are not right in this instance. There’s a difference between suspecting someone based on group membership and suspecting someone based on empirical and circumstantial evidence. I mean, if the scientific evidence and testimony of whistle-blowers all agree that it’s not possible to win these events without dope, you can’t just explain away that evidence on the basis of your good-faith. The situation gets worse when the athletes themselves are propagating myths in the service of their own interests–in that case isn’t incumbent upon those of us who love the sport to fight for the truth?

“First of all highly unlikely is still different than impossible. Are you going to say that anyone who wins the yellow jersey cheated? And if so, who do we give the jersey to? If Floyd had to cheat in order to win didn’t Óscar Pereiro have to as well? If everyone is really cheating like you imply, do you accept Pereiro as the winner? Why punish Floyd and not Pereiro? Or is the whole thing just a joke?”

Yes, it’s been very well established that cycling has an ingrained doping culture and the results cannot be trusted to be dope-free. Like Jean, I don’t particularly care about condemning this rider or that–but Landis’ campaign to mislead the public and intimidate anti-doping authorities is certainly particularly egregious. Like I’ve said in the past, based on the evidence I find it highly unlikely that any of the Top 25 in the 2006 Tour were dope-free. At that point the usual response is to condemn my cynicism, etc–but as I’ve indicated above that isn’t a constructive or useful response.

Obviously every sponsor wants to be considered anti-doping, but sponsors also want to win…hence the problems. However, we may be getting to the point where the former is considered more important than the latter, which is a step forward, though no substitute for substantive reform. Because unless you have reform, eventually doping recedes and winning becomes the priority, and the incentive to dope returns.

Ken S February 20, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Morgan, I’m sure as well that there are sponsors who don’t want to be known for abetting the situation. I was actually thinking more about the advantages of outspoken riders for a new sponsor. And really, most sponsors don’t stay around a long time.

Also I had to cringe when in some of the comments I read, “speaking truth to power.” That’s the perfect example of a meaningless sound byte.

It seems to me that the fighting amongst the different groups is hurting cycling more than the doping. Partially because I think they’re using doping problems not as a means to cleaning up cycling, but as a means to grab more power. And the labs and organizations need to be held to strict standards.

Jean C February 20, 2008 at 1:14 pm

Larry, (bis with the missing bold on precedent post),

I resume for you (around 11 races as Coupe du Monde by year):

1990 -> 5 Italian team victories
91 -> 4
92 -> 2
93 -> 9
94 -> 7
95 -> 9

You have to pay me an ice-cream on next TDF !

ludwig February 20, 2008 at 1:22 pm

Rant,

Re. Riis, obviously he wouldn’t state an opinion on the case, but he is quoted post-arb-verdict here….

http://cyclingfansanonymous.blogspot.com/2007/09/reaction-to-landis-ruling.html

trust but verify February 20, 2008 at 1:33 pm

Ludwig,

Yes, I read that last night while looking for the first one. I find it curious the way the 1994 report seems to have vanished. Many people know /of/ it, but it doesn’t seem that many people have /seen/ it. That makes it interesting, because it may contain information that can and should be re-evaluated in the light of subsequent developments.

In terms of the credibility of reports generally, it seems like valuations are mostly agenda-driven. Donati’s 1994 seems to have gone in and out of favor; Vrijman’s on the LNDD is taken as a completely political document; and Donati’s WADA-promulgated one also seems political. It is curious indeed that WADA would simultaneously put it on their site and withold approval of the arguments and conclusions. Like they want to have the cake and eat it at the same time, perhaps? They all provide interesting data, even if one can spin the conclusions.

That’s why Donati 1994 seems like a mini-grail– why would so many want to keep it hidden?

TBV

Jean C February 20, 2008 at 1:48 pm

TBV,

The Donati report is embarassing for some nations, so as a beginning UN institution WADA should be careful.
By publishing on their website, IMHO, WADA is giving it some weight.

Larry February 20, 2008 at 2:02 pm

Jean C, hey! I don’t recall placing any bets here! But next time I make it to Paris, I’ll be happy to buy you a falafel at L’As.

Your statistics roughly match my conclusion: the Italian bump in performance in the Worlds took place in the mid 1990s, a little bit later than we’d expect if the Italians were the early adopters of EPO. Next we have to plot when the Italian victories tailed off, to determine if we can see the effect of EPO being in wide use by riders of many nations. Certainly by 1998, EPO was no longer an Italian phenomenon!

Can you tell me how many team victories there were for Italy after 1995? Wikipedia is failing me here, in both English and French (il n’existe pas).

I’m finding this pretty interesting, by the way.

Morgan Hunter February 20, 2008 at 2:07 pm

Ken S,

I agree – that the fighting for power and control is a big problem – But I do not think that this is the biggest. Only recently have we been unable to avoid “seeing it” first hand – previously it was always done behind the curtains. I believe that the jockeying for power between the UCI and the “big 3” got out of hand for all concerned.

I think that they started with “throwing a couple of names” (riders) under the truck – but somethings weren’t working like before. Landis didn’t play along – he fought them AND he allowed us to get into the whole process with him…THIS CHANGE ALONE is the biggest change in the usual scenario.

Then the UCI kept “outing” dopers – conveniently at the big one for ASO the TdeF. But unlike in Festina Affair – which hit when pro cycling was just getting its legs in the states. But let me remind you that simultaneously – WADA got into the act. Wada wanted a damned good reason they could go to the government people to get funding. So the public “accusations” started hitting on Lance Armstrong.

When Lance wouldn’t react the way it was expected AND TOOK THEM ALL TO COURT and WON against them . They thought that they can get him through public pressure. Lance even managed to get Pound “gagged” – I believe and repreminded! With all the “publicity and attacks on Lance” the interest in cycling took on a momentum.

Finally in desperation – it is “my opinion” since they couldn’t nail Lance they hit Floyd. Lance and Floyd are two different types of personalities – they reacted differently to attacks. Floyd learned fast though – he opened up the basket even wider. By making it get into the public domain

Ironically enough – where are we at the moment? Well – as you may know – Floyd is having a CAS trial. BEHIND CLOSED DOORS! I have to think that this is not for Floyd’s sake – it is for the governing bodies that are trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube. I’m reminded though of the phrase – “the way it never was.”

The thing is – people are asking questions and there is a lot of eyes watching the circus.

One thing for certain – and I admit to being completely biased here – their biggest mistake was to think that the Americans would react the same as the Europeans. Before the can of worms was opened – each time they threw a name or two to feed the lions – it was predictable – because all the lions were in Europe. There is a quality in the American psyche that is absent in the old countries – once we get our teeth into something – we don’t stop till it ain’t moving.

Ken S – EVERYTHING I SAID HERE WAS NOTHING MORE THEN MY PERSONAL OPINION and interpretation of the circus. I admit to it – and I admit that I could not give hard proof to any of it – but consider – it is a very plausible scenario.

My loyalty is with the riders – I rode once and I know what a shitty situation the riders actually have as far as their “rights are concerned.” I got sick of it – now I’m yelling on MY soap box – that I want it changed – and I will not stop till this happens or I croak. Whichever comes first. But first and foremost, I am an American and there is nothing better I like then a good fight.

Jean C February 20, 2008 at 2:27 pm

Larry,

It was not a bet, it was just for the service… ;D

The bet was my house that all top ten of TDF were on PED or maybe just one of them has a abnormal physiology as never seen!

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coupe_du_monde_de_cyclisme_1996
10 victories by 11 for Italian teams

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coupe_du_monde_de_cyclisme_1997
2 only …

Jean C February 20, 2008 at 2:42 pm
Jean C February 20, 2008 at 4:28 pm

From Larry
Jean C, I need a little help with the article you cited in Cyclismag. I get that the article is citing an increase in wattage by the top cyclists before and after 1990. But can you tell how the study is measuring wattage? Mean average, median average? Is the measurement consistent? Possibly more important, can you tell how often wattage is recorded for each ride, and whether wattage is measured consistently (same device, same measurement, same measurements per interval? Also, for the years in question, were there available measurements for all the cyclists in the peloton? I thought that not everyone paid such close attention to wattage in the 80s.

I’m asking because when we consider the differences in wattages shown in this study, we should consider whether the difference is within a predictable margin of error. It is possible that the wattage devices have become more accurate over time, and that Lemond, Fignon and the others in the 1980s were actually producing wattages closer to Armstrong, Ullrich and the more modern riders. And according to one private study, longer recording intervals tend to depress wattage readings; see http://mywebpage.netscape.com/rechung/wattage/rosetta/rosetta.html. We might guess that wattage devices use shorter intervals now than in the past, since the processor power and memory available for these devices have improved over time.

Larry I missed this part the last time:

Cyclismag are not using powermeter but calculation. They are using the same rider bike ‘s weight, and they evaluate the power with time, height and a coef linked with efficiency. So that is interresting even if the real wattage is different for a small rider and heavy rider, we have a measure which is usefull for comparaison along the years.
So the Fignon, Indurain, Pantani and Armstrong wattage can be compared.

William Schart February 20, 2008 at 6:30 pm

I’d just like to step in a bit here and remind everyone that correlation does not imply causation.

Rant February 20, 2008 at 7:04 pm

Ludwig,
Thanks for the link about Bjarne Riis, most appreciated. Don’t know how I missed that back in September (although, there’s certainly was a lot to keep up with in that realm at that time).
Jean C,
Sorry about your post getting caught up in moderation. Once I found it, I approved it.

Larry February 20, 2008 at 9:57 pm

Jean C, regarding the Cyclismag, sorry, that doesn’t sound like they’re measuring wattage, it sounds like they’re guessing. I understand as a general matter that if you’re pedaling up the same hill faster, you’re using more wattage. But there are also issues of tactics, riding alone versus following a group, the number of turns you take at the front of the group and the time you spend at the front of the group, etc. And yes, there’s also the matter of the size of the rider.

I’m not certain whether the gear used by the cyclist would matter.

I’m glad I asked the question. The numbers in the Cyclismag article don’t seem very reliable to me. (I’m not a scientist, but …)

William, what you say is true about correlation and causation. Still, Jean C is doing a terrific job looking for the hardest evidence available that PEDs really DO enhance performance at the top levels of the sport. This evidence is just hard to come by. It’s hard to isolate the effect of PEDs from other factors that impact on performance. It’s been Jean C’s job to get creative in the selection of evidence, and my job to play the skeptic.

At the end of the day, the evidence will be slender, but it will probably point to PEDs having an unknown but probably signficant impact on performance. There will be too much uncertainty in what we can learn to determine whether a clean rider can hope to compete in the peloton.

I note with pleasure that Team Slipstream is more than holding its own in the TofC. Even with Tyler Farrar dropping out of the race today with stomach flu, the boys in argyle are just a hair out of first place in the team competition. I don’t know whether Jean C would acknowledge that Slipstream is a clean team … and it would be a miracle if this team did this well in July … but so far, we at least have a little anecdotal evidence that riding clean is not riding to lose.

Jean C February 21, 2008 at 12:53 am

Larry,

The cyclismag wattage are the MOST reliable because they are directly linked with time! You can write that equation:
Wattage = K * Time

So the only incertitude is time. Everyone can verify its by viewing stage.

On a climb, tactic and drag protection are fewer effective with steeper slope (7% and more). Rider has just to avoid to overtake his limits.
At less than 25km/h, under 1 m there is no drag reduce. On running race drag reduce are more efficient because they are closer echo other and a runner are more drag than a rider. Despite that the time gain are small, some people are saying around 5s on a 10000m for 27mn.
But that point has few value for our case because even in old days it was possible to be protected. To have a team mate with, can probably make the rider most confortable and less stress.
For a “bonked” rider, the aid of a team mate is usefull to maintain a constant tempo better for recovering.


I hope that Slipstream is a clean team… and I think that this year we are seeing and will see the cleanest peloton of the last 15 years. ASO and RCS have sent a strong message recently.
Last year, everyone was seeing one of the cleanest peloton until Paris-Nice.

Larry February 21, 2008 at 10:06 am

Jean C, before getting started, I found a bunch of new material on line last night (in my usual fashion: while researching topic “A”, I find stuff on topic “B” that I was unable to find when I was doing research on topic “B”). I’m still trying to get my hands around this material, but preliminarily at least, the material is reasonably convincing and tends towards a view of the matters we’ve discussed that falls somewhere in-between the position I’ve taken and the position I think you’re taking. I’ll need a little time to take this stuff in — some of it is more technical and medical than I am, not all of it is consistent, and we’re still not talking about anything that’s 100% conclusive.

On the climb stuff, I’d like to hear from R. Wharton or someone who knows better about this, but I’m skeptical of wattage figures derived from something other than a wattage-reading device. If you could reliably determine wattages from nothing more than speed and time, why equip a bicycle with a wattage reader in the first place? Merely a speedometer wout be good enough. Besides, we know that wattage is more than speed plus time, there also the slope of the hill. Also, there’s effort involved in acceleration that’s you’re not measuring if all you’re looking at is average speed. If two riders go up a hill at the same average speed, but one of them holds a steady speed and the other is constantly speeding up and slowing down, I’d think that the other is working harder. Admittedly, this is an area where I need to know more to reach definitive conclusions, but from what I know, I’m not buying the calculations made by Cyclismag based on K * Time.

Rant February 21, 2008 at 10:45 am

Larry,

Here’s the formula for determining watts:

Where W=watts (power), J = joules (energy), s = seconds (time), kg = kilogram (mass) N = newtons (force), m = meters (distance).

So, watts are force * distance/time. Or stated another way, mass * acceleration * distance/time. I’d have to look at what Cyclismag means by K in order to determine whether their formula is correct.

Larry February 21, 2008 at 11:34 am

Mr. Rant –

So for Cyclismag to be making accurate computations, they’d either have to (1) know each cyclist’s energy expenditure, (2) each cyclist’s weight, or (3) each cyclist’s newtons. Well, they don’t know (1) and (3).

The formula based on weight, distance and time does not make sense to me — where does the slope of the hill get factored in?

Jean C February 21, 2008 at 11:37 am

Thanks Rant

Larry, if you want to uplift 100 Kg one meter higher, we can use a small motor but it will take a long time. With more power, the time will be shortener. For 2 less time, you need 2 more power.
For cycling on a col, if you neglect air drag power and times stay a ratio. The K coefficient include the weight and the lost of energy in the system (chain, bike, rear, wheels, friction with road,…)
On less steep slope like Hautacam, the power is a little underrated because the rider raise 25-30km/h and the drag becomes not neglected. So Ullrich and Riis power on that climb were a little greater.

Why do we use powermeter when calculation is possible ?

Calculation is good to have a estimate average, but will be smaller than the “real” power. Claculation are done for a perfect world. If a col has a flat, rider still spend watt but calculation “forget” it.

The powermeter could be usefull for rider to avoid to push too hard, to measure the real work of the days and more … It’s like your speedometer on your car. Good to not overtake the limitation, but finally we need the traject time which can be seen has an average speed.

For our case, if we want to make the same comparaison with powermeter it would useless because leighter riders have less power than heavier but they are climbing faster. And there is for all speedmeters some calibration problems.

What can we think of the data if a rider ? Too very easy to “spike” them.

Larry February 21, 2008 at 11:39 am

Another question: if a cyclist is cycling with a flat tire … or a SQUARE tire … won’t his wattage be higher?

Larry February 21, 2008 at 12:10 pm

Jean C, if I’m following you correctly, Cyclismag does not really know what the wattage is. They’re guessing based on the time it took for the rider to make the climb.

We can guess that if rider “A” climbs the Col 5% faster than rider “B”, then rider “A” had 5% higher wattage. That’s probably true on average, more or less. However, the other factors you’ve mentioned (particular, different rider weights) are going to throw off the calculations. If Rider “A” is lighter than Rider “B”, rides at a steadier speed, with better equipment, using a more efficient “line” up the col, gets whatever help he can from drafting other riders (yes, I understand that this help is not all that great), rider “A” could conceivably climb the Col faster than rider “B” while expending fewer watts than rider “B”.

If Cyclismag is measuring time, and basing watts on the time measurement, then it would be more accurate to do what TBV is doing and just look at the times.

Jean C February 21, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Using time is usefull to do comparaison on the same col, but useless for comparaison between different cols.

There is not only Alpes d’Huez to climb on TDF, isn’t it ?

Larry February 21, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Jean C, let’s see if I can be more precise. Cyclismag is using an assumed value for “k”. Perhaps they are using a different “k” for each col. But they’re applying the same “k” value for every climb on Col X, regardless of the weight of the cyclist, or the year of the race. Correct?

I’m not trying to argue with you — I’m just trying to figure out what they’re doing.

I COULD make my wife read the Cyclismag article – her French is fluent. But the last time I did this was to make her translate Lamour’s protest letter to WADA, and the effort required (“Larry, this sentence is 30 lines long and I can’t find the subject!”) put a strain on our marriage. Of course, Lamour’s letter was written in a very formal style of French that I think even other Frenchpeople had trouble understanding.

trust but verify February 21, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Work climbing has a number of factors. The model that Allen Lim uses is typical, considering (1) combined rider/bike weight; (2) rolling resistance; (3) horizontal distance; (4) altitude; (5) speed for wind-resistance.

See: http://www.saris.com/powercalculators.aspx

and punch your own numbers in.

Speeds as done in elite climbing are fast enough that aero drag is relevant, and catching a draft matters. At the speed I climb, not.

All things normalized away, the number that is believed most useful is w/kg, accounting for the power output and the rider’s weight. The factors out the mass difference between Pantani and Hincapie, for sake of example. The ultimate test is how long one can maintain a certain w/kg. My 6.0 w/kg for 45 seconds will not compare well with someone who can do it for 45 minutes.

It is surmised by the likes of Ferrari that a tour winner needs to be around the 6.0 w/kg mark on the last climb to bring home the bacon. This is discussed in Coyle’s book, where Landis is noted as one of the few who approached Armstrongs w/kg.

The other number that is often thrown around is VAM, being vertical meters per hour. It is more tied to steepness of slope than w/kg, so it isn’t always correct to compare the raw number. My recollection is that during the Armstrong’s reight, he climbed at > 1600 VAM; Basso’s “extraterrestrial” Giro had climbs at 1850 VAM. On no occasion at the 2006 TDF did Landis exceed 1600 VAM, though there were many climbs in the 1500s. One can go look at Lim’s daily, contemporaneous records of tour power output in http://ia351412.us.archive.org/1/items/Floyd_Landis_Case_Documents_14/GDC01091-GDC01100.pdf

There are a lot of assumptions built into the Cyclisme power-over-time graphs that may not be correct, not least that they are guessing rider and bike weight, and may not have completely accurate values for other parameters.

TBV

trust but verify February 21, 2008 at 1:00 pm

I correct myself; the S15 results for Landis on L’Alpe are estimates because of a wheel change, and it’s calculated to be 1691 VAM @ 5.9 w/kg in 38:34; 23 watts consumed by rolling resistance, 39 aero, and 356 gravity.

The Bonk on S16 occurred after an interval of 1616VAM @ 5.50 w/kg and went south in a big way.

The 5 climbs on S17 were done at 1507, 1491, 1455, 1349 and 1567 VAM, at 5.68, 5.34, 5.64, 5.38 and 5.35 w/kg.

TBV

Jean C February 21, 2008 at 1:47 pm

TBV,
I could not understand all your point so:

Aero drag exist at 20 km/h but are few different in a range of climbing for the use of comparaison as we try to do. Of course for absolute values, it’s matters.

It would be good to use the w/kg but we don’t know the weight of the riders which change along the TDF, we don’t know how much water they carried… for old days we have nothing and of course no powermeter.

So to do comparaison along the years there is few choices.

William Schart February 21, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Let me expand further on correlation does not imply causation:

Suppose you have 2 variables: A and B. There are statistical tests that can be used to show if there is a valid correlation between the 2, i.e., is there a correlation between the increase in A and the increase in B. Simply because A goes up some when B also goes up does not mean the 2 are correlated.

Now, if you show that A and B are correlated, that could mean one of 4 things:

A causes B

B causes A

Both A and B are caused by some 3rd variable C

Or even that it is just a coincidence.

To put this in terms of there discussion here regarding PED usage and performance in the TdF:

If (and I’ll stress here if) you can show that performance has increased in the TdF (which has been shown to be true) and if you can show that PED usage (either in general or for a specific type, say EPO) has also increased (this is a bit more problematic, as some of the reasoning at times has been: “times are better so they must be using PEDs” which seems to be rather circular) than you need to show that there is indeed a significant correlation between the 2. Then you need to determine whether times have gone down because PED usage has gone up (possible), whether PED usage has gone up because times have gone down (probably not a realistic scenario), whether both have gone up because of some 3rd factor not here under consideration (and the fact that I or Larry or Jean or whoever can’t think of one doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist), or whether, despite the correlation, it is just a coincidence. I might be able to show a correlation between the drop in times of the Alp d’Huez between 2000 and 2006 and between the decline in approval rating for Bush, but I rather doubt one had any effect on the other.

My own personal belief is that PED usage is one of many factors involved here. But I believe that there are other factors involved too.

Jean C February 21, 2008 at 3:24 pm

Sorry Larry, I have just saw your question about K.

K is the same everywhere for all cols and for every rider.

Jean C February 21, 2008 at 3:32 pm

William

I just posted this on the other thread…
difficult to no see the correlation with the key factor of EPO !

I suppose that you are writing about that graph:
http://www.cyclismag.com/photos/evolution_20060711180734.jpg

I interpret the graph like this

* progressively increasing performance by a progressively icncreasing of EPO use and more experience of its use
* then the 50% limit of Hematocrit level.
* then Festina’s affair where some teams dropped their EPO (Voet’s testimony)
* then EPO testing
* then increasing of performance by EPO microdosing and blood transfusion

Rant February 21, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Larry,

Sorry it took a bit to get back to you. The day job sometimes interferes with ranting, don’cha know. 😉 You asked:

Mr. Rant –

So for Cyclismag to be making accurate computations, they’d either have to (1) know each cyclist’s energy expenditure, (2) each cyclist’s weight, or (3) each cyclist’s newtons. Well, they don’t know (1) and (3).

The formula based on weight, distance and time does not make sense to me “” where does the slope of the hill get factored in?

Ah, the old question of where does the hill factor in. It’s part of the force (mass * acceleration) aspect of the equation. To go uphill, one has to overcome the downward pull of gravity. So to climb at the same speed as on a flat, more force has to be exerted. The steeper the hill, the greater the force that needs to be applied.

Let’s take a look at Allen Lim’s criteria, which TBV pointed out:

The model that Allen Lim uses is typical, considering (1) combined rider/bike weight; (2) rolling resistance; (3) horizontal distance; (4) altitude; (5) speed for wind-resistance.

Rider/bike weight approximates mass. (Actually, mass with the relative pull of gravity thrown in — a kilogram of mass on earth is the same as a kilogram of mass on the moon. But on the moon, the weight is about one-sixth the weight on earth, if I recall correctly.)

Horizontal distance relates to the gravitational resistance that one must overcome to go up a hill. The further up you go, the more energy you’ll need to exert to get there. The next factor, Altitude, has an impact, for a couple of reasons. One, you’re slightly further from the center of the earth, so the pull of gravity is a little bit different. Two, thinner air for less wind resistance. (A third factor, less oxygen, means the body has to work harder to provide fuel to the muscles, too. But that’s another story.)

Speed relates to wind resistance, which is an counter-force that tends to slow you down. (It also relates to force and power, but let’s not get too complicated here.) The faster you go, the greater the resistance. If my memory is correct, at 15 miles per hour, something like 10% of your effort is used to overcome wind resistance (on a calm day). At 30 mph, 90% of your effort goes to overcoming wind resistance. But, as TBV pointed out, the speeds most riders are climbing at — even the top climbers — are slow enough that this has only a minor effect on the calculations.

Confused yet? I hope not.

There’s also rolling resistance, which comes from the friction involved in the wheels turning around on the pavement. As you asked, what about a flat tire? Well, if you’re tire pressure is lower, the rolling resistance will be higher. So you’ll have to generate more force against the pedals and burn more energy to go the same speed. Same for a square wheel (if you could actually get it to turn over), or a hexagonal wheel, or a dodecahedral wheel, and on and on.

I hope that clarifies things a little.

William,

Good overview of correlation/causation. Thanks.

Larry February 21, 2008 at 9:04 pm

Rant –

Thanks for the explanation. That was pretty thorough. Everything but time dilation!

I think what it all comes down to is that Cyclismag measured the time it took each rider to make the climbs in question, and guessed at the wattage. I’m sure that the wattage figures are accurate relative indicators for how quickly each rider climbed each col, but forgive me if I don’t trust the absolute wattage numbers.

trust but verify February 21, 2008 at 11:30 pm

I wouldn’t say they guessed the wattage, I’d say they guessed some of the other parameters and then calculated the wattage from the results. They may be right, or not; but the nature of the guesses is subject to unconscious biases, and they don’t provide a full set of values explaining how they derived what they did so one can question the guesses that were made.

And even should they be reasonably accurate, they don’t tell one anything about a particular performance, especially one that is under the highest envelope values.

TBV

Jean C February 22, 2008 at 1:11 am

Larry,

You are right the absolute wattage of cyclismage are not the real produced by each rider.
That is only a calculed average power usefull to do comparison between different riders from different eras and on different cols. That is enough to see tendacies and major changements.

TBV,

Sorry, I don’t understand your last point.

Jean C February 22, 2008 at 1:19 am

Follow the translation of the first paragraphs of
http://www.cyclismag.com/article.php?sid=2500

The average speed of winner of the Tour de France has been steadily increasing. It depends on a large number of parameters, not just the physical potential of the riders. The link between the increase in the average speed and increasing the potential physical riders, but there certainly is not easy to demonstrate. Analysis figures on the last 20 years.

The average speed of winner of the Tour de France has been steadily increasing. 35 km / h in 70’s, more than 41 km / h today. It depends on a large number of parameters, not just the physical potential of the riders. The weather, the spirit offensive of the bunch, the overall level, road conditions, equipment used, training methods, the difficulty of the course can change the average speed of the winner of the Tour. The link between the increase in the average speed and increasing the potential physical riders certainly is not easy to demonstrate.

ONLY THE FACE OF THE MOUNTAINS

The job of professional rider requires a lot of psychological qualities, tactics and techniques. But during long climbs high percentage sometimes after more than six hours of saddle, the physical qualities are essential to escape. In this phase of the race the rider can no longer benefit from the power vacuum in the wheel of other riders. He was travelling alone with the slope at nearly constant speed, gravity pulls steadily downward. The material, except the weight of his bike, goes relatively little influence its travel speed compared to urban circuit featuring many revivals or in relation to the clock on the flat where he will be aerodynamic.
Ratios weight / high-power threshold will allow the best riders to distinguish itself. The power output in the passes may allow us to better highlight the physiological evolution of riders that the evolution of the average speed over a whole Tour de France.

MOMENT OF TRUTH

We will discuss the recent ascents of the mountain stages on the Tour de France since 1985. The standard rider with bicycle weight 78kg and is our witness to the intensity of the race. The powers are evaluated on the passes for periods between 20 minutes and less than 50 km from the finish. The measurements show a high variability of power developed on the last pass in the same Tour de France. Often on the last pass that caught the race, the leaders produce their effort and “release the horses.” Attacks by far riders playing the overall standings are relatively rare nowadays. On other occasions, they will prefer to observe and stay on the reserve. Some may also be tired, their power will be lower. The average power depends on the length of the climb. It is easier to produce 400 watts for 10 minutes for 1 hour. It depends, finally, the energy cost in the early stage: pace of the race, number of passes, the quality of teammates, management of food and hydration. It remains a special case: against the clock in coast where the riders tackle the climbs with nearly 100% of their potential if they have recovered the efforts of the previous day.

Previous post:

Next post: