Anything Goes?

by Rant on September 28, 2006 · 2 comments

in Doping in Sports, Floyd Landis

Well, it’s only taken a few days, but back to the world of Floyd Landis for a few moments. First, I’d like to wish Floyd a speedy recovery from his hip replacement surgery yesterday. At least, I think he had the replacement yesterday, even though there’s been no actual announcement. Update: Landis is home, and the operation went well. Reported at VeloNews.

An Associated Press article in the International Herald Tribune has this statement by Patrice Clerc:

“Anything that goes in the direction of the fight against doping is fine by me,” Clerc said.

It wasn’t until I looked at this article a second time that something disturbing jumped out at me (Velogal’s 9/27 post prompted me to look at this a second time.) Does Clerc, the president of Amaury Sport Organization (which owns both the Tour de France and L’Equipe, the newspaper which first published this story), really mean “anything goes”?

Would that include changing lab test data so that it shows a rider tested positive? This is a conclusion one might reach, especially in light of this rumour posted at Trust But Verify yesterday:

An intriguing email offers some possible details of gross errors alluded to by Jacobs that were seen in the Lab Documentation Package. The ISL protocol for corrections on forms requires a crossout that is initialled by the person making the change along with the change. Many of the forms in the pack are properly corrected in this way, by people familiar with the protocol. However, some of the forms contain changes that are not done properly — there is white-out over the “error”, with a “correct” value filled in, and no attribution of who made the change.

I am seeking permission to identify the source and how the information came into his posession, and report when possible. It sounds like credible information that will be easily proven when the package is released or shown as evidence at hearing.

We don’t know if these changes were made in documentation of the chain-of-custody, or in substantive parts of the test protocol. In any event, they show that the lab has at least some people who are not correctly versed in the proper protocols. This casts doubt on whether they do other things correctly according to the ISL and the testing protocols.

The problem I have with this possibility of improperly modified data is this: It could have been an incompetent lab person not following protocol, or it could have been someone purposely changing data in order to “prove” his or her point of view (or frame an innocent person). Whichever it was, if this rumour is true it certainly casts doubt on the lab’s “results.”

If you really mean anything goes, Mr. Clerc, would that include leaking results to the press to conduct a trial by media? No, wait, since ASO organizes the Tour and they also own L’Equipe, maybe that’s just a case of corporate information sharing.

Would anything goes include shoddy lab work, including poor documentation of results and testing of whatever samples will give the desired result and then trying to pass the work off as not only conclusive, but infallible?

Would it include pronouncements by WADA’s windbag-in-chief, Dick Pound, convicting riders based on incomplete (or perhaps inaccurate) lab work?

It seems to me that “anything goes” contributes a great deal to the poor image of cycling amongst sports fans and casual observers the world over. It certainly contributes to a rush to judgment from a trial by media instead of the due process the accused athlete is entitled to. It certainly raises questions about the credibility of the anti-doping effort itself. And it tars and feathers all who are remotely connected to the process — but most especially the athletes who are presumed guilty before they are even presented with the evidence against them.

Perhaps, Mr. Clerc, it would be better to say, “anything that contributes to a fair process, which respects the rights of the athletes to privacy and due process while imposing harsh penalties on those who are truly found guilty [and that means no pronouncements on guilt until the process is complete, sir] is fine by me.”

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Debby September 28, 2006 at 9:45 am

If only the mainstream press would examine these issues as you and TBV are, instead of printing the interview with Clerc as if it were the only side of the story. What ever happened to “investigative” journalism? I fear it has been replaced by the “cut and paste” function in Word. No one in the main news outlets seems to be asking any questions or making any attempt to get the other side of the story. That is why I believe there is a huge difference of opinion on this issue between cyclists who read blogs like yours and the cycling news websites, and the general public. The cyclists are suspicious of the “facts,” and tend to support Landis, or at least want lab & testing reforms. The general public seems as if it could care less, and without knowing the details, is willing to banish him. I am hoping the truth will prevail.

Rant September 28, 2006 at 10:40 am

Debby,

Sadly, the mainstream media focus on the sensational rather than the factual. Investigative journalism — at least the kind practiced by Woodward and Bernstein, among others — has gone by the wayside in most instances. And what it’s been replaced by is more like opinionated journalism, meaning the reporter has an opinion and gathers the information to make his or her case.

We, the general public, don’t get the full picture unless we’re willing to seek out information on the whole story. But that takes effort, and most people don’t have the time or the inclination to look into the whole story for themselves. That’s why they watch CNN or FoxNews or read newspapers and magazines — whether online or in print. And it’s only reasonable to expect that the media would take the time to look at all sides of the story. That’s what they’re paid to do, isn’t it?

TBV does a great job of rounding up the day’s stories, blogs and occasional rumours. I don’t know where he gets the time, but I’m sure glad he does.

Thanks for lumping me in with him, I take that as a high compliment. I’m confident that in the end, the truth will out.

– Rant

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