Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wednesday Calm Before the Storm

While we're all waiting for the Final Analytical Sample Reports to turn up, here's some happier history.

Cantua Creek results in 1999, chasing Gord Fraser at Mercury, and teammate Will Geoghegan; Pine Flat, scaring Mercury. Note what must have been a very young Dave Zabriskie, who probably wasn't shaving yet, and David Clinger, perhaps pre-insanity.

Now about those forthcoming lab results...

I'm licking my lips waiting for the lab packs. This is going to be put up or shut up time for the testinistas at the LNDD. They might make a case that will require new science to disprove, shame or force Floyd into a confession, or perhaps demonstrate that arrogance isn't the same as good science.

We should keep in mind that the vast majority of AAFs don't turn into sanctions. Why would that be? Therapeutic Use Exemptions might account for a good fraction, but what about the rest? It seems unlikely that Federations and Anti-Doping Agencies just blow cases off, like the proverbial fixed parking ticket. The only explanations I can come up with are either

  • The athlete had a good defense that invalidated the AAF results.
  • The AAF results were intrinsically flawed, and failed first pass credibility.
Neither of these possibilities speaks well of the tests and the testing regime. If the tests and the labs are infallible, then shouldn't the number of sanctions and AAFs correspond more directly? It seems telling that WADA avoids publicising statistics for sanctions vs. AAFs. They can't pretend it's difficult to count, since they already track each case with an AAF. It's not hard to read it as dirty laundry they are keeping hidden.

One of the things that keeps the lid on the statistics is the flip side of the confidentiality coin. Given the way the process is supposed to work, if there isn't a sanction because the AAF is dismissed, the public would never know. (Unless the whole thing leaks and the drum of infallibility is Pounded as loudly as possible.) The athlete is unlikely to want it advertised, and neither is the anti-doping machine, which gets to crow about its AAF statistics.

As a result, we hear loud trumpets of big cases that result in confession and sanction, but little about those that do not, especially if they don't get appealed.

One of the primary weapons of the Doping Inquisition is fear. It often leads to a quick confession that doesn't look too closely at the details. This isn't necessarily bad, because a lot of athletes are dirty, and crumble like crackers at the first AAF.

This shock-and-awe covers up the facts that the tests aren't that good, and neither are the labs. They'll catch a bunch of obvious kinds of cheats, but at the skinny edge of reliability, they are fig-leaves giving an illusion of credibility. The dilemma is that by presenting an infallible face, the Inquisition becomes incapable of the self-criticism necessary to admit shortcomings and correct them. They'll run programs to "improve" tests (like the current one to enhance CIR), but won't admit there is anything wrong with what is being used now. That would admit fallibility, and they can't be seen that way, or they weaken their powers of intimidation.

Landis could be the case that reveals a little old man behind the curtain, full of bluster, but without nearly as much magic as he'd like you to believe.

We still haven't seen Floyd's results, or had a chance to see what they say. It's taking a loo00oong time to get them. The way things leak, if there was damaging news, you might guess we'd have heard it by now. There haven't been any more leaks, just lots of time for the initial allegations to sink in and fester.

Objectively, I'm still allowing the possibility the tests are as correct as they're billed. If so, then Floyd needs to come up with his own science to disprove them. If not, he gets shown as yet another Lying, Shirking Doper. That is certainly what the powers would have us believe.

A lot depends on the quality of the lab work in the reports, and how Landis responds when they arrive. It will be his turn at bat. He can get a clean hit, strike out, or dribble into force play.

Waiting, waiting, waiting.