Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sunday Roundup

News
The Fort Worth Star Telegram suggests that people love their chosen sport no matter what it is and that, in essence, they don't really care about it being clean. Cycling is dominant in the piece with references naturally made to the Floyd Landis affair, but the author also maintains that no one who is an NFL fan waits to see what the urine samples show to celebrate the pool wins in the Superbowl. History shows that doping in cycling is practically a given:

But in sports, history matters. It's why so many people are angry at Barry Bonds. History matters. And the Tour de France has 104 years of it.

A murky 104 years, some would argue, in the wake of the doping scandals and Spain's ongoing Operación Puerto. Four days after American Landis stood on the victory podium at the 2006 Tour, race officials announced that he had tested positive following Stage 17 for an imbalance in testosterone.

Stage 17 was the defining leg of Landis' race. The day before, he had struggled mercilessly on the Alpine climb to La Toussuire, losing the yellow jersey and dropping out of the overall top 10. The following day's leg was the last mountain stage of the race, and

Landis regained the yellow jersey in the final time trial and rode triumphantly into Paris on the final day.

Landis proclaimed his innocence, as all alleged doping culprits seem to. His case with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency is still awaiting an arbitrator's decision. Tour de France organizers already have stripped him of his title.


Guardian (UK)/Fotheringham tries to explain the huge crowds in London for the Tour start, despite being a punching bag for the last year. Definately a "half-full" approach.

The San Diego Union Tribune's Mark Ziegler gives us a "tour of doping" from this spring and of course features Floyd Landis and his arbitration hearings in May. UPDATED full version of the article contains allegations by David Clinger via Matt DeCanio that Landis was an HGH user at Postal in 2002.
[Landis'] attorney, Howard Jacobs, discounted DeCanio's allegations.

“He's said things about virtually everybody,” Jacobs said, noting the eccentric nature of DeCanio's Web site. “I don't think anybody is taking him seriously.”


The article also repeats the Andreu/Vaughters IM that Landis has dismissed on many occasions, and Vaughters has called gossip and speculation, not based on facts and first hand knowledge.

Real news to us is the report of ambiguous blood screening values from the tour, which were obtained from the Panel somehow:

In a pre-Tour blood screen from June 29, two days before the 2006 race began, Landis had a hematocrit level of 44.8 percent and hemoglobin level of 15.5. On July 11, 10 stages into the Tour, his hematocrit had increased to 48.2 and his hemoglobin to 16.1.

This caught the attention of Michael Ashenden, project coordinator for an Australian research consortium called Science and Industry Against Blood Doping, because the body's concentration of red blood cells naturally decreases during an exhausting competition such as the Tour de France.

“Going from 15.5 to 16.1 (in hemoglobin) is not that unusual when not competing,” Ashenden said by phone from Australia. “But it is very unusual to see an increase after a hard week of cycling. You'd expect it to be the reverse. You'd expect that to fall in a clean athlete. An increase like this in the midst of the Tour de France would be highly, highly unlikely.

“There's nothing where I could point to one value and say, 'This guy definitely doped.' But it raises red flags for me. I would definitely recommend to anti-doping authorities that an athlete presenting these values should be target-tested for blood doping.”

One explanation is that readings can fluctuate depending on the machinery or other variables.

“It's hard to compare them,” says Jacobs, Landis' attorney who has handled blood doping cases with other athletes, “because you can get different readings depending on the machines that were used. You can't draw any conclusions unless you look at all the calibration data. That's why they are health checks and not anti-doping tests.”


Note: Ashendon is the person responsible for the test that convicted Hamilton.

This is all clear as mud. As we learned with IRMS testing, the technical details are important, and not just "technicalities."

The Olympian publishes an AP piece in which Lance Armstrong says he , like Floyd Landis, won't be at the Tour de France this year. It's also suggested that if the Landis arbitration hearing decision comes down during the TdF Floyd is the one who would be stealing thunder from this year's race.

The Wausau Daily Herald thinks that cycling has always been a tough sell in the United Sates, and Floyd Landis didn't make it any easier to promote.

The Chicago Sun Times notes Floyd Landis stop there in its' literary listings.

The Toronto Star writes a brief review of "Positively False" in which it states that someone or something is lying in this whole Floyd Landis saga. It interestingly describes Landis as "willfully naive".

Philly Inquirer/Bob Ford is irked by the way Landis has been written off, and of the pontifications.

Landis has appealed the results of those tests, proved that the French lab conducting them was grossly unprofessional, and mounted an assault on an arbitration system against which the chances of success are, truly, hors catégorie.

...

Of course, not wanting to be slow on the draw, the Tour also wiped out Landis, even though his appeal isn't complete.

"Another American, Floyd Landis, disgraced the Yellow Jersey when he was found guilty of drug use four days after his victory. A legal battle subsequently ensued," says the Tour's Web site in its presumptive summation of the 2006 outcome.


Blogs
Floyd Landis.com announces that "Positively False" had made the NYT Best Seller List tied for number 15 in the Hardcover Non-fiction Category with a book about farm animals and farm life in Upstate New York.

Rant caught the draft with another cyclist yesterday and made a convert to the cause. He also caught Robbie McEwen today at the TdF. And he wants to let evryone know that IF they plan on attending the book signings for "Positively False" they should get there early. We can attest to that, we were two hours early and by the time Floyd got there 300 people were waiting in line. Bring your patience.

Couple Beer, No Beers reflects on steroids in sports and is one of the few out there who has some kind words for Barry Bonds. He also has kind words for Floyd Landis and wonders why it is so hard to believe that Floyd could have recovered from his disastrous Stage 16 bonk to go on to Stage 17 glory in last year's Tour de France:

The testing of Landis' samples seems as unprofessional as a middle-school biology lab. The lab has repeatedly been criticized for not following standard protocol, including assigning the same techinicians to both the A and B sample. The reason that this is a breach of protocol is to prevent the technicians from having foregone conclusions while testing the second sample. In 2006, a Spanish rider was aquitted for that very reason. There are even questions about the effect of testosterone in short-term use in an endurance sport. Is it so hard to believe that Landis, having let the lead slip from his grasp the day before, his hip deteriorating, his cycling future uncertain, muster up enough intensity to crush everybody on Stage 17? Is that so far-fetched? It sounds like the Natural, Roy Hobbs limps out to the plate and crushes a ball into the lights, how poetic. It happens in real life too. Floyd Landis is innocent, it will be a travesty if the USADA doesn't get over it's steroid witch-hunt and convicts Landis.

Cranks and Caffeine
is surprised he can read, and found Positively False interesting and accessible.

Strbuk's Blogosphere
writes up her experiences helping around last week's Lancaster book signing.

PJ's Pope Watch on the decision continues. Black smoke again.

6 comments:

Jon said...

I find it odd that "doping" is such a headline issue in almost every news article I've read about cycling while in our American national pastime drugs are so easily ignored. In American baseball your first positive test is free! There is no media for the slugger who has been on the juice, it's only on the second positive test that anyone other than the guilty party is notified. It's sick that the punishment after the second positive test is a 25 game suspension! That is pocket change for these professionals, and it certainly doesn't compare to the pro cycling world.

Why is it that so much attention is focused on doping in cycling when most sports (other than Olympic athletes) just brush it under the rug?

castor said...

In light of the fact that a new Tour has started, and as much as I can understand Floyd's need to continue to persue his case, I do hope he'll let some of the spotlight fall off of him and onto the riders in this year's tour. It's only fair that Floyd's team take into account that there are riders who want to participate as eagerly as he did last year. I just hope that this is kept in mind, and the spotlight doesn't continue to overshadow the tour as it has so far.

wschart said...

Jon:

I think it has a lot to do with the fact that cycling is not a mainstream sport in the US; hence many so-called journalists feel free to bash the sport anyway they can. A few years ago, when doping issues were not much visible, there was an amount of articles deriding cyclists for their wardrobe (i.e., lycra), etc. Soccer gets pretty much the same treatment every four years during the World Cup.

The assumption is, since it isn't a mainstream sport here, it must not be a "good" sport and only those crazy Europeans care.

Perhaps we can take some solace in the fact as recently as the 60s and 70s, it was almost impossible to find any mention of cycling in the media at all.

Geek Graffiti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James said...

I guess it is a good sign that the "Paper of Record" te New York Times classifies Floyd's book as non-fiction?

Rich said...

Regarding blood samples, chain of custody is clearly not an important issue for those on the other side of the fence. How do the athletes know some of the blood taken by the authorities will not show up in some future doping raid?

Rich