Friday, May 18, 2007

Ray Cipollini's letter

Ray Cipollini, at the beginning of this mess, wrote a heartfelt and insightful note at The Daily Peloton. Today he sent to various media the following letter.


May 18, 2007

To: All Members Of The Media, The Sporting Public, And Any Other Interested Parties.

As most of you know, we all woke this morning to a Soap Opera / "Made For TV Movie" inclusive of Sex, Drugs and Lies, from the USADA/Landis hearings at Pepperdine University, Stage-4. Please, lets try to stick to the facts of this case as they pertain to the Anti-Doping process. I, like many others are more interested in the facts of this case, than the sensationalism of "bombshells." The end result of this case will manifest itself with a huge impact on ALL Olympic athletes that have been declared "cheaters", as well as future generations of potential Olympians that are turned off by the current Anti-Doping process that is extremely 1-sided, and does not allow for a reasonable defense against a system that has been constructed with the aim of being the Police, Prosecutor, Judge, Jury and Executioner.

[MORE]


I have been following this case very closely, as it is a topic that is very close to my heart, and one that I have very strong opinions about. The reporting (and analysis) of yesterday's testimony should be focused on the other, and even BIGGER "bombshell" (in my opinion), the fact that the most basic tenets of the Anti-Doping process are flawed. We (Administrators and participants of Olympic sports) have been told for many years by the Anti-Doping Agencies that:

a) The science behind the testing is un-impeachable.
b) There are strict "standards" that the labs must adhere to when searching for adverse-analytical-findings.
c) The sample testing is performed "blind."

As for (a/b): after yesterday's testimony by the two lab technicians (USADA's own witnesses), we now know that although the science itself may be solid, the application of external influence to the samples is AT BEST a personal decision by the individual performing the analysis. Contrary to WADA's own lab standards, manual intervention is routinely used to "clean up" the data that the instrument spits out, if the analyst believes that the machine made an error. To further allow indiscriminate modification of the results, no internal standards exist to the extent that "clean up" or manipulation is performed, nor is it even a process that all technicians perform. And here's the kicker: they don't even have to document what they have done to the raw data, and to what extent. To make matters worse, the data files for each of the "sequences" performed by the technician is overwritten with each iteration. The final result of the analysis, in the opinion of the technician, is all that matters!

This would be the same as you or I receiving an exorbitant finance charge on our credit cards, and upon challenging the bank have them tell us "We can't justify the charges, nor can we show you how we arrived at that figure, but that's the amount that you owe us." This would be a concern to many, if not all of us. How do you think this makes an Olympic athlete feel?

Another MAJOR concern is the fact that the lab technicians apparently know the source (name of the athlete) of the sample that they are testing. In this case, part of that may be due to the publicity surrounding the testing. However, lets keep in mind the fact that "blindness" should be a built-in part of the process, taking into account the fact that the lab (LNDD) itself was the source of the leaked publicity. To remove even the appearance of impropriety, All "B" samples should have been, and SHOULD ALWAYS be analyzed at a different laboratory. To me, it would be the same as losing a race by millimeters and requesting an additional look at the film, only to have the same Commissaire perform the follow-up review. What's the point?

Great care and effort (isn't this the "scientific method" that I learned in High School?) is supposed to be taken to ensure that "blindness" of the analytical operators is paramount to the process. It is in fact the basis for everything that follows. It concerns me greatly that there was absolutely NO consideration given to this aspect of the original testing, as well as the follow-up testing. If this can occur in a high profile case such as this one, how much of a chance does the average 3rd place finisher or random (randomly selected) control have for impartiality? If such important tasks are merely "ho-hum, rote, quasi-standard operating procedures", I can only wonder what else is going on that we don't yet know about?

Although I am not a scientist (i did have 2 semesters of Organic-Chem in College) or an attorney, I have listened to a lot of this testimony and have read quite a bit of it also. It is very clear to me that major changes need to be made; not just in the process of reporting and challenging an AAF, but also in how an AAF is actually determined. The creation/manipulation of the raw data used to even determine the existence of an AAF doesn't appear to have the same level of importance as the legal battles that routinely ensue. This is backwards, in my estimation.

To me, these are the real "bombshells" from the stage-4 testimony. They shouldn't be overshadowed by the personal, and tragic, admission of Mr. LeMond or actions of Mr. Geoghegan. (I'm still not sure of what "facts" USADA was gleaning from LeMond's original testimony). Their testimony, statements and actions have absolutely no bearing on the scientific and procedural issues at hand, and have only served as a distraction.

There are a lot of things that the Anti-Doping Agencies can (and should) learn from this hearing, and a lot of questions that will still need to be answered at the conclusion of this case. I believe that we are all better served if we focused on the real bombshells, not the sensational ones. There have been several others, and I'm sure there are more to come.

Ray Cipollini

30+ years in cycling.
Started racing as a Junior in 1976 (the LeMond era).
Competitively, attended Elite Athlete Olympic Preparation program in 1983, as an "Olympic Hopeful".
Realized (in 1984) that I suck in comparison to other, more genetically gifted racers. Still won a bunch of races.
Licensed Coach, UCI Director, USCF Official.
Served 2x 4yr. terms as the elected Team Manager Representative on the USPRO Board of Trustees.
Founded Navigators Insurance Cycling Team in 1989 (Amateur) 1994 (Professional).
Sold NICT to business partner (D.S.) Ed Beamon in 2006, after 13 years with program.
Advocate for a comprehensive, fair, impartial, and transparent Anti-Doping process.

28 comments:

MMan said...

Two words, Mr Cippollini:

Damn right!

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Pardon my ignorance, but who is Ray Cipollini?

daniel m (a/k/a Rant) said...

Bravo, Ray!

Anonymous said...

Standing Ovation!!

Anonymous said...

Mr Ray Cipollini is a longstanding, highly-respected individual in US cycling, involved with the Navigators Insurance cycling team, a US-based professional continental pro team that also competes in Europe. (http://www.navpro.com/)

Well said Ray.

cyntax said...

Very eloquent and succinct. Remind me again why Ray doesn't have Pat "gagged-only-by-my-foot" McQuaid's job?

kate said...

Thank you Ray for getting through the haze and refocusing what is at stake here.

The system as it stands, sucks. I hear people say, "if you don't like the system or the rules, don't compete, or start your own race"....but USADA and WADA are the only games in town for someone with the talent to make it professionally. There is NO alternative for the athlete if they want to compete at a world class level.

Even at my less-than-amatuer level, the rules of competition state that the sport's union rules are usurped by USADA and WADA. I don't have a choice either to compete at the Age Group level. If I want to race, I have to join their union, even if it's just a one day license to do so.

Here's to fixing the system so that the playing field is truly level for everyone.

Many thanks, Dave and Bill for all you do.

Aloha,
Kate

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Craig said...

A note to Anonymous 9:32:

After a careful re-reading of the Cippolini letter I don't see any place where Mr. Cippolini says that Flody is innocent. When I read it I see a well reasoned indictment of the current anti-doping procedures.

Anonymous 9:32, can you specifically point out where Mr. Cippolini acts as an "apologist" for Floyd?

Anonymous said...

Cippolini says let's stick to the facts. How about the fact that Landis admitted doping to Lemond, for one thing.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:47
What "fact" FL admitted to doping? It was a Statement made by GL! No proof, nothing. And re-read the statement and put it in the context of the phone call. FL musing, What good would it do? ...and Would hurt a lot of people. If you were unjustly accused, you might stop and think if it would be worth admitting to the "crime" in order to keep what you rightly won. That's no admission. Go learn about what constitutes a "fact"; it'll do you good in the future.

Rocket_head

Anonymous said...

Rocket_head, you're right. I should have said the fact that Lemond testified that Landis admitted doping, even though implictly. But still, I think this is a big thing, which Cipollini simply shrugged off. Also, if Landis did admit to doping, what is it he would have kept that he would have rightly won?

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Anonymous said...

Excellent summation of the situation. People, keep in mind that WADA is not just involved with professional athletes or "amateur" athletes who can have sponsors pour money into trust funds. The members of sailing teams, rowers/scullers, ski jumpers (Eddie the Eagle!), bobsledders, pole vaulters, and other low income and low profile people are subject to the same system. They have the least capability to defend themselves from it.
pcrosby

Chris said...

Excellent! Very well summed up Ray. As a lab worker, myself, for an "accredited lab", I know all too well how easy it can be to manipulate the results you get from a machine yet still adhere to the international quality standards. As you say, the final result is all that matters. Athletes are being done a great injustice by incompetent practices and secretive procedures. Science, especially cutting edge science like this, is certainly not infallible. In my opinion Science just tries to create order amongst the chaos that is the natural world and set nice arbitrary limits on things to make us feel comfortable. Nothing is absolutely certain - there are always exceptions to the rule. Justice should be fair and transparent and not based on science alone. I applaud Floyd for what he is doing, guilty or not.

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