The Long and Winding Rant

by Rant on June 22, 2008 · 16 comments

in Doping in Sports, Floyd Landis, Joe Papp, Justin Gatlin

Been an interesting few days in the land of Rant. Thursday evening, I attended a book signing by Johan Bruyneel, who was in Milwaukee to promote We Might As Well Win. I’ll write that up in my next post, after I’m done going through my tape of Bruyneel’s comments. There’s a number of other things to catch up on, however.

First, is that Justin Gatlin appears set to run in the US Olympic trials later this week. Gatlin was granted a temporary restraining order, barring the US Olympic Committee and USA Track and Field from preventing the sprinter’s participation in the trials to determine who will represent the United States in the 100 meter event. Tomorrow, Judge Lacey A. Collier will hold a hearing into whether the first anti-doping violation on Gatlin’s record, related to his use of a medication for ADD, and the subsequent use of that violation to increase Gatlin’s suspension for a 2006 positive test for testosterone violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a Washington Post/Reuters article reports:

“In a nutshell, plaintiff’s first violation occurred despite the fact that the substance found in plaintiff’s system was and is clearly recognized as proper for his diagnosed condition, Attention Deficit Disorder, and that by all accounts, it is undisputed that plaintiff completely followed the protocol established at the time for managing his intake of medication before competing,” the judge said.

“There is little to perceive in the way of harm to defendants should plaintiff be allowed to participate in the trials.

“The country, indeed the world, would be wrongfully excluded from watching one of its great athletes perform.”

Not everyone, was satisfied with this initial outcome, however.

“Mr. Gatlin’s defenses to his steroid doping violation have already been fully considered and rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport which he agreed has exclusive jurisdiction over this matter,” USADA spokeswoman Erin Hannan said in a statement.

“We appreciate having our first opportunity to provide this court with the facts as to why that arbitration decision was in the best interest of clean athletes.”

The national federation governing track and field is pledging to respect the current process. As the BBC reports:

USATF spokesperson Jill Geer said: “We respect and will participate in the process. Our general counsel (Lamont) Jones will be in Florida on Monday to be part of the hearing.”

Gatlin is far from guaranteed a spot on the team. To win a chance to compete in Beijing, he would have to finish in the top three at the trials. Not impossible to do for a man who was once the owner of the world record in the distance, but with a two-year hiatus from competition, it’s a challenge.

Should Gatlin win a spot on the team, there would be the question of whether he would be allowed to compete in Beijing. Would the IAAF and the IOC respect the judge’s rulings? I rather doubt it. What power could force them to do so? They are not American-based organizations, after all. Still, Gatlin’s case will be interesting to watch over the next week — and, if he should earn a spot on the US Olympic Team, perhaps for some time to come.

Speaking of the Beijing Olympics, it appears that China has recently taken steps to shut down a number of suppliers of performance-enhancing drugs. CyclingNews.com reports that:

With the Olympic Games less than two months away, the Chinese government has taken steps to clean up its pharmaceutical industry, which the United States claims has been a source for much of the world’s performance enhancing drugs production. The Chinese authorities revoked manufacturing licenses for three companies and punished 125 more for producing, selling or distributing banned drugs.

According to a statement by the Chinese news agency Xinhua, most of the businesses which were punished were retail pharmacies, but did not list the names of the companies. Officials also said one person had been imprisoned for illegally distributing drugs.

Does the phrase, “It’s about time.” resonate here? And yet, 2 months before the games, wouldn’t most hard-core doping efforts already have all the drugs they need and plans in place for how to circumvent testing positive. Surely this isn’t about casting the games in a positive light.

Just down the page from that article is another article that suggests that (at least for some) the benefits of using human growth hormone might just be in the mind, rather than the body. It’s called the placebo effect, and a study presented at the Endocrine Society last week indicates that such an effect can be found in regard to HGH.

Previous studies have shown little performance benefit with human growth hormone, a drug which has been banned by WADA. The drug also has some dangerous side effects which include diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure and heart problems, abnormal growth of organs and a hastening of osteoarthritis. But neither dangers, the ineffectiveness nor the fact that the drug is banned has stopped some athletes from using HGH to try to boost performance.

In a nutshell, if certain types of people believe something will work, nothing’s going to stop them from using it — health effect, actual effectiveness and other things be damned. Where this study gets interesting is that it was a so-called “double-blind” study, meaning that neither the researchers administering the drug nor the athletes receiving it knew for sure whether they were getting HGH or a placebo. At the end of the study, the participants were asked to guess whether they had been part of the placebo group or not.

The men were more likely to guess that they had received HGH than women, and the ones who were “incorrect guessers” who were given placebo but thought they had received the drug not only believed their performance improved, but also showed some actual improvement in jump height, a measure of power.

The researchers concluded, “The results of this study suggest that the placebo effect may be responsible, at least in part, for the perceived athletic benefit of doping with growth hormone for some people.”

So, the question becomes, how do we define performance-enhancing drugs? Should only those drugs that can be demonstrated to be performance-enhancing be banned? Or should drugs that people believe to be performance-enhancing, but for which there is scant evidence to that effect, also be banned? Where do we draw the lines between legal efforts to improve athletic ability, and illegal methods to do so? Tricky questions with no easy answers, I’m afraid.

Switching gears a bit to the fearless leader of USADA, there’s an article profiling Travis Tygart in the Denver Post. Tygart gets in some interesting quotes, one of which is:

“If there’s anybody out there that has the sophistication and the wherewithal to defeat the testing system, it would be Floyd Landis or a Justin Gatlin, and they’re not,” Tygart says.

I’m not really sure what he means with this statement. Victor Conte figured out how to defeat the testing system, not Landis or Gatlin. If those two were cheating and trying to get away with it, then the didn’t do a very good job (which is not to say that either was, that’s an entirely separate issue). Victor Conte had the sophistication and the wherewithal to figure out how to defeat the system — and athletes using BALCO’s products did for a number of years. Dragging Landis’ and Gatlin’s names through the mud is a cheap shot.

About his job, Tygart says this:

“My job,” Tygart says, “is to not let a skilled advocate like Howard [Jacobs] or anyone else use smoke-and-mirrors and technicalities to let a cheater like Tim Montgomery go free.”

Unfortunately, most anti-doping cases revolve around technicalities, which is a technicality that Mr. Tygart might choose to overlook. But it’s in all of those technicalities that the truth — or the probable truth — lies. And whether an athlete was cheating or a lab tech misinterpreted a test’s results is something that the overall system needs to be able to decide clearly. Unfortunately, it involves the interpretation of technical data most of the time. Tygart’s job is to ensure that USADA’s lawyers present its case against an athlete fairly — and without any unnecessary collateral damage.

Which brings me to Outside Magazine’s article on Joe Papp, which is now online. I read the article when it first appeared in the print version of the magazine, and was struck by a number of things — not the least of which is how little USADA has done for Papp since he testified last year in the Landis hearings. I failed to see the significance of Papp’s testimony at the hearings, beyond being a statement that some athletes use various drugs in various ways because they believe or experience various performance-enhancing effects. The problem with presenting Papp as a witness — and this was even noted by the majority in their opinion — is that his testimony wasn’t directly tied to the case of whether Floyd Landis had used testosterone on Stage 17 of the 2006 tour.

USADA used Papp, arranged for a speaking engagement or two, and then pretty much kicked him to the curb. At least, as far as I can tell. They’ve got the perfect poster boy for someone who’s experienced the dark side of doping and lived to tell (some haven’t been so lucky). The only thing he doesn’t have is a highly-recognizable name. If he hadn’t participated in the Landis case, just how many of us would ever have heard of him? It’s a sad story, Joe Papp’s. It’s worth the read for those who haven’t already done so.

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Morgan Hunter June 22, 2008 at 12:18 pm

Hey Rant —

What is wrong with this statement? — “”¦The Chinese government has taken steps to clean up its pharmaceutical industry, which the United States claims has been a source for much of the world’s performance enhancing drugs production.”

I am not being snide or sarcastic when I point out that China may not be “pointed” to as being — “”¦a source for “much of the world’s” performance enhancing drugs production.” It would behoove us to consider – China may have their own large-scale pharmaceutical industry — up to about 3 years ago — what China had to offer most of is cheap labor and manufacturing! There are thousands of foreign businesses in China — owned and operated by “foreigners who built their manufacturing plants” in China because of the extremely CHEAP labor and production costs.

No wonder that the Chinese news agency Xinhua did not list the names of the companies. Two of the biggest “foreign” manufacturers happen to be American; there are also German, Belgian, French, Swedish, Dutch, Italian concerns that are either producing their pharmaceuticals or are buying “cheap” and funneling the products back to the home countries.

To think that the Chinese Officials are doing anything but “showing” themselves to be taking “action” is to be naive. As the statement says — “”¦most of the businesses which were punished were retail pharmacies,” –as far as I know — pharmacies can not manufacture drugs on the scale of world distribution — they may “sell it” – but production on the scale that the article points at — one has to be realizing that production is done by the pharma concerns.

What do you want to bet that the one person who was “jailed” was some local “gangsta?” who had been just dealing and was a “known” dealer by the cops?

Another thing. To imply that growth hormone is being produced “only in one place or another” is completely MISLEADING to the reader! Considering that there are hundreds of manufacturing facilities in “poorer” European countries — not to mention Russia standing “around” just waiting to be picked up for a penny on the dollar — since these poorer countries had their economies go right down the toilet — for many different reasons.

A “manufacturer” wouldn’t even have to invest a penny in building the structures — many still have all their equipment and CHEAP labor is just waiting to get a job! In Bulgaria, the people are so poor that they have gone back to driving horse and cart as a means of transportation! So — does any one want to bet that some “manufacturer” is not taking “business” advantage of this situation?

Rant I am not criticizing your article — I just want to put it in a “larger world context.” I am also not implying that the “legit” pharmaceutical firms are “BEHIND” the illegal MANUFACTURING OF various drugs being used illegally, although some MAY BE. Since it would seem that; “a lot is good but a whole lot is better” appears to be the guiding light for many business concerns — this possibility should not be ruled out.

What I am trying to point out is that the “article” is pure SPIN.

China “wants to look like” it is showing concerns for what the other powers are “dealing with” — who are these other “powers?” Well in this particular case — WADA and the IOC. Does ANYONE believe that the “western nations” are NOT USING the Olympics as a way to “open up China?”

So let us ask ourselves — if the US and other Western Nations are intending to use the Olympics to “bring about change” in China – then the IOC and WADA are being used to this end. Does any one then “wonder” why it is possible for WADA and the IOC to be sustaining themselves through unpublicized governmental support? Just maybe — it is possible that the whole “drug cleaning push” in cycling was just an offering to legitimize the IOC and WADA in the eyes of the Chinese government to let them get a “foot in the door.”

Stranger things have happened.

Luc June 22, 2008 at 1:15 pm

Rant,
If you take a ‘drug’ to enhance your performance and your performance improves but later find out that the ‘drug’ was a placebo, is it really cheating? Basso comes to mind here with his ‘intent’ to cheat and his implication in the Operation Puerto affair. Maybe I should believe him and his incredible performances were all a question of the placebo effect.
There is a short article in June 19 issue of Cycling Weekly about Neovite a product here in the UK with colostrum as it’s main component. WADA is advising athletes to avoid taking it as colostrum contains insulin growth factor (IGF-1) a banned growth hormone. Colostrum has been shown to have an increase on performance enhancement and recovery yet no athletes have tested postive. Hmmm, maybe that is why the GB athletes did so well in the world track cycling. Food for thought. (I’ve got the magazine and couldn’t find the link for you.)

Rant June 22, 2008 at 2:55 pm

Morgan,
Good points, all. What I was getting at is just what you said, the article is pure spin, plain and simple.
Luc,
There’s a bookstore not far from where I live that sells Cycling Weekly and they usually have the editions about a week after their publication date. Next time I’m over there, I’ll have to pick up a copy. That article sounds very interesting, indeed.

William Schart June 22, 2008 at 7:12 pm

Ah, Cycling Weekly. If I am not mistaken, this is the current incarnation of a weekly that was at one time known as “Cycling and Mopeds”. Back in the early 1960s, when there was an extreme dearth of cycling literature here in the US, I subscribed to this for several years. As I could only afford surface delivery (read: slow boat) my issues arrived in my mail box around one month late. No big problem, since I had no other source of information on European race results. So for several years, for me, the Tour de France took place in August, as that was when I got the issues with the TdF results.

bitch slap me back! June 23, 2008 at 8:46 am

This is a stable that will have few, if any, winning horses.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/23/sports/othersports/23racing.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Rant June 23, 2008 at 9:16 am

BSMB,
I saw that article this morning. You just may be right. It will certainly be interesting to see how things play out. I wonder if any of the other owners will join IEAH in their plan to go drug free?

Michael June 23, 2008 at 4:33 pm

Travis Tygart. Does anyone else get a queasy feeling whenever he starts talking?

The parallels between him and Joe McCarthy are sometimes disturbing. McCarthy was the face of a political movement that started with reasonable goals – to generally eliminate communist sympathizers from having political influence, and to specifically root out soviet spies. Tygart’s mission while being far less potent, is no less reasonable. However, like McCarthy, Tygart has fallen into the habit of justifying his organization’s purpose, methods, and rules by stating their goals and supposed moral superiority to the accused.

Taking a prescription drug under the guidance of a doctor and following the protocol established at the time for managing this medication before competing is considered “a technicality.” Perhaps Tygart could explain what piece of evidence this judge failed to account for that led to the AAF, rather than complaining that the judge shouldn’t have jurisdiction. He makes it sound like he doesn’t like playing by somebody else’s rules. If there was a valid AAF why doesn’t he explain it, and stop winging about the rules. Sort of like a certain TDF champion I know that got hosed by rules he didn’t like, so he released a detailed defense to the public.

How do these guys get to be in charge?

William Schart June 24, 2008 at 5:53 pm

I see over at TBV that the judge has lifted the TRO and Gatlin’s Olympics will be the same as most here: watch on TV.

Rant June 24, 2008 at 7:00 pm

William,
I saw the same thing a few hours ago. Unless Gatlin’s legal team can find a way to get past this hurdle, I’d say you’re right. But even if he does get past this hurdle, the IOC is clearly not going to let him race in Beijing. Which makes me wonder: Is there any point to soldiering on? The outcome, short of a lawsuit in Swiss court, seems certain. And even if Gatlin were to win there, the IOC might still not accept the ruling. It’s their party, and what kind of force does Swiss law have on an event being held half-way `round the world.
Gatlin, at this point, is basically screwed. This is the thanks he gets for being cooperative with the authorities.

Luc June 25, 2008 at 12:32 am

Rant did you see this in Cycling Weekly-“In a packed week on the anti-doping front, we should also get to hear about the CAS’s final verdict on Floyd Landis and Iban Mayo’s cases.”
http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/news/Mondays_international_news_roundup_article_259388.html
Have you heard anything?
William, you are right, Cycling Weekly was Cycling and Mopeds. Found it on Wikipedia.

William Schart June 25, 2008 at 5:55 am

Gatlin could, if he were to continue his suit, perhaps wins a moral victory in regards to his status (and that of athletes with similar conditions to his) in the US. Given the number of students who are diagnosed with ADHD or ADD, I suspect that there may be a number of athletes who potentially are using one of several drugs used to treat such conditions. While the Americans with Disabilities Act only applies within US jurisdiction, there is a lot of competition available there.

In the future, if USADA chose to consider a situation similar to that which lead to Gatlin’s first “violation” not to be a violation, would the international alphabets accept that or would they consider this to be a violation, and sanction the athlete accordingly?

Rant June 25, 2008 at 5:56 am

Luc,
I did see that a couple of days ago. What I heard has been a vague “end of June at the earliest” comment. Well, it’s the end of June, more or less. But my source really appeared to be steering me in the direction of July or August, I think. What I did get confirmation on was that someone recently inquired of the panel, and no changes in the original expected “delivery date” have occurred. So whatever the expectation was a month ago, that’s still the expected time frame.
Now, one thing that’s not mentioned much is that the CAS Secretary (Monsieur Reeb) gets to review the decision, and if necessary make or request changes to it, before it’s officially released. (Strange, but true. It’s part of the CAS procedure on all decisions.) I’m not sure if that’s included in what my source heard or not.
I suspect that CW’s reporters have heard the same thing I have, and are playing a bit of the guessing game, too.

RobW June 25, 2008 at 1:04 pm

And here I let myself get excited by the wording as I read the TRO yesterday afternoon, thinking that, maybe, just maybe, a legal authority might publically shine a light on “procedural mire[s]”, “intractable situation[s]”, “the arbitrainess of …decision[s]” and the lack of dealing “with the facts of [a] case head-on”. Too much to hope for I suppose.

Rant June 25, 2008 at 1:43 pm

RobW,
I’m not able to post it right now, but I have a copy of yesterday’s ruling. In reading it, it sounds to me that the judge knew the court in Atlanta might reverse his TRO and he wrote a section that basically said, “If I felt I had the authority, I’d do this…” Perhaps this is a way of giving the judges above him a suggestion of what to do if they decide US courts do have jurisdiction in the case and decide to reinstate the TRO. I’ll upload and post a link to the document this evening.

William Schart June 25, 2008 at 2:32 pm

Then there is the question as to whether or not CAS will time its release in relation to possible impact on the TdF, scheduled to start on July 5. There are several possibilities, depending on what the decision is and to what extent CAS wants to impact or avoid impacting the Tour and/or send a message.

Rocky Victor July 21, 2008 at 12:23 pm

Travis Tygart. Does anyone else get a queasy feeling whenever he starts talking?

The parallels between him and Joe McCarthy are sometimes disturbing. McCarthy was the face of a political movement that started with reasonable goals – to generally eliminate communist sympathizers from having political influence, and to specifically root out soviet spies. Tygart’s mission while being far less potent, is no less reasonable. However, like McCarthy, Tygart has fallen into the habit of justifying his organization’s purpose, methods, and rules by stating their goals and supposed moral superiority to the accused.

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