Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Thursday Early Roundup

We're going early and late until volume dies down again.

CyclingNews (link likely to change tomorrow) has comment from Rasmussen:

Michael Rasmussen has given reporters his reaction to his exclusion from the race. He has pleaded his innocence, despite his succession of missed tests and the fact that team manager Theo de Rooy said last night that the Dane had admitted lying to the team.

"I'm shattered. I'm on the verge of tears," said Rasmussen today, quoted in the Danish tabloid BT. "I was not in Italy. Not at all. That's the story of one man who believes he recognised me. There is no hint of evidence."

He was referring to former professional Davide Cassani, who said he saw Rasmussen training in the Italian Dolomites on June 13th and 14th. Cassani said that he is "100% certain" that it was Rasmussen. This was at a time when the rider had told the team and the UCI that he was in Mexico.

"My career is ruined," he told Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad. "I have no idea what I should do or where I will go. This is an enormous blow for me, and also for all the guys from the Rabo team. They're devastated."

In relation to Rasmussen's protestation of innocence, this appears to have been disputed by the team:

"When Rasmussen was confronted with this information he confirmed to Theo de Rooy [team manager] he was at that moment in Italy," said Rabobank press officer Jacob Bergsma last night. "That was the reason De Rooy decided to get him out of the Tour and the team."

The rest of Rabobank started today's stage, but Menchov abandoned.

Counterpunch expresses the opinion that cycling may be on the verge of McCarthyism at this point and though it's a great thing to try and clean up the sport, the concerns expressed by Floyd Landis about due process once again enter the picture:
All fans should be glad that there is increased scrutiny of doping, but things are out of control as due process for riders under suspicion is pushed aside to create an appearance of no tolerance. But no tolerance of what? Of not submitting paperwork in a timely fashion? And what of routine lab errors? What recourse does a rider have if they are accused under a tainted lab sample? Under these conditions today, Heaven help any rider subjected to the routine bureaucratic failures that cross each of our paths, generally without dire consequence, on a daily basis.

Mother Jones, of all outlets, looks at the scandals and asks with relevance, "If Only a Doping Scandal Could Mean Victory in Iraq." Yeah, we've been wondering that too.

Independent (UK) thinks the Tour has hit rock bottom. We're not so sure-- It could be raining.

USA Today/Lopresti thinks Cycling is the worst of all the sullied sports.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel gives us a "foaming rant" from last year. We could all use a brew or two.

In the News UK has Pat McQuaid as pleased that cheaters are getting caught, and also still gets it wrong about Floyd Landis. McQuaid concedes that there are some problems still to be overcome in cycling however:
"I can see that there are difficulties, I can see the sport has gone through a difficult period but that's a period of change and I can see that at the far end of that period the sport will come out of it a lot better and a lot stronger," he said.

Last year's Tour winner Floyd Landis was stripped of his title and banned from cycling after testing positive for abnormal levels of testosterone in his system.

BBC Sport gives us a timeline of current Tour de France cheaters , and includes audio of its' interview with the ubiquitous Pat McQuaid.

The Guardian Unlimited's
William Fotheringham says Le Tour can be saved, and he tells us how. This Guardian Unlimited piece would seem to prove that Pat McQuaid is in denial.

The Chicago Sun Times
says this is the worst blow yet for the TdF, but it likes the way other countries treat doping and cheaters, and wonders why sponsors haven't left and our sports haven fallen like cycling has yet in the USA.

Edward Wyatt writes that the Tour is in tatters, few would argue with that assessment.

HPLC touts IRMS testing as catching cheats such as Floyd Landis and Christian Moreni.

Media Life Magazine
thought that things were bad when Floyd Landis was accused of cheating in last year's Tour de France and the subsequent fallout that followed lost sponsors for the doomed Phonak team and the sport. But, things just got a lot worse for cycling:

Last year, Landis team sponsor Phonak dropped out following his positive tests for increased levels of testosterone. The Discovery Channel said it will end its sponsorship this year, though it cites financial concerns

Through the weekend, viewership for the Tour was down less than 10 percent from last year, decent numbers considering an American was leading then.
But with the recent scandals, ratings could fall off further. The Tour claims worldwide viewership of some 100 million, but already two German TV stations have dropped coverage, citing doping scandals.

Rant serves up "Le Tour Ironique", and Hunter Thompson's words make more sense than they ever did before. And we thought that the Landis scandal was the doping allegation to end all doping allegations.

Lefti says we're seeing another round of "Guilty until proven innocent."

Lanterne Rouge doesn't get Moreni, who must not have learned anything from Landis' tests last year.

Baker Blog says the other shoe has dropped, cycling is a gutter sport between dog fighting and pro wrestling, and Lancey-boy should come clean.

Ranting and Rambling thinks if you are a successful cheat, you'll be caught, which makes you stupid.

Ysobelle is just fucking stunned.

Crooked Shore asks, "Bike race or Bad Mystery Novel?"

Sportz Assassin asks why even have the Tour with last year's Landis affair and this year's utter debacle?

The Science of Sports
says well done Rabobank, and that you can't trust those athletes who can look you in the eyes and swear innocence anymore. He mentions Floyd Landis fighting dodgy lab procedures, but makes no direct comment on Landis guilt or lack thereof.

GreenPagan wants to know when the fans will revolt and throw out the cheaters? In a week of unsavory sports scandals in the US he wants to know what it will take to wake people up, especially when it come to baseball?

Red State Rabble is sick at heart about the current crisis professional cycling finds itself in, but that won't keep him off his bike nor will it stop him from appreciating the beauty of the peloton.

Running in Oz puts the current cycling crisis in proper perspective.

Maple Leaf Tattoo
is disgusted with the Tour de France after the Landis affair last year, and this year's utter meltdown. She says either cancel the race, or let everyone dope.

LA Scene
is so upset by what has happened in the past week in France that supporting Floyd Landis in his quest for justice is now also in question. There are ten things we need to consider, one of which may be bad news for Floyd:

6-Now you have to go back and look at Floyd Landis' case. This is still in arbitration. With doping scandals rocking the Tour now, it can't help Landis' case. If I was an arbitrator, I don't think it would be helping.

So Quoted
brings up two of the more upbeat stories in cycling: Saul Raisin and Team Slipstream. Jonathan Vaughters is helping VeloNews cover the tour and Paul Scott's association with the Landis defense team was brought up by a poster.


Larry said...


I recommend you post a cite to today's NY Times article on the Rasmussen affaire. Excerpts follow below.

I'm surprised to see so many people on this site trying to defend Rasmussen, or trying to suggest that the various cycling authorities were wrong to force him out of the race, or spinning conspiracy theories on how this was some kind of setup. Rasmussen cheated to avoid out-of-competition testing, and lied to cover up the cheating.

I don't like LNDD, or UCI, or WADA, or ASO. But in the Rasmussen case, they did the right thing.

If anyone out there thinks they're doing Floyd Landis a favor by being critical of the way that LNDD-UCI-WADA-ASO behaved in the Rasmussen case ... you're wrong. Don't place Landis in the same boat with Rasmussen. That ship has sunk.

NY Times report (excerpts):

On Tuesday, Rasmussen said he committed an “administrative error” by not informing cycling officials, as required, of his whereabouts this spring. He said at the time he was training in Mexico, near the home of his wife’s family.

But a Danish news report Wednesday quoted a former Italian rider saying that he had seen Rasmussen training in the Dolomite Mountains in Italy in mid-June, days before the Danish antidoping agency went to conduct a test on him at a different address. Confronted with the information by the Rabobank team manager Wednesday night, Rasmussen confessed, according to the team spokesman. A statement on the team’s Web site said Rasmussen had been fired.

Rasmussen’s story aroused suspicion from the beginning because it seemed to subtly shift each time he told it. Initially, he said he had missed only one drug test. Then, Danish antidoping officials revealed that he had in fact missed at least three — two by their agency, and one by the cycling union.

The missed tests came as antidoping officials showed up to test Rasmussen and could not find him at the address where he had said he would be. Professional cyclists must notify antidoping authorities of their whereabouts at all times so they can be tested outside of competition, a move designed to discourage doping by making sure that riders never know when they will be tested.

Rasmussen was also late in filing paperwork on his whereabouts with the cycling union in April 2006, which the organization also considered a missed test and which led to a formal warning.

Three missed tests are considered the same as a failed drug test, but the rules state that the three test attempts must be made by the same organization. Because Rasmussen’s missed tests were from two different organizations, he received only a warning from the cycling union. But the Danish authorities barred him from participating on the national team either in this year’s cycling world championships or the 2008 Olympics.

Rasmussen also said Tuesday that in April 2006, when he filed his forms late, he had spoken by telephone with the head of the cycling union’s antidoping agency, Anne Gripper. Informed Thursday that Gripper did not work for the agency at that time, Rasmussen said he must have been mistaken, and he also revised the date on which he said he talked to someone at the agency.

The changing stories have created frustration for Tour officials, as well as for Rasmussen’s fellow riders and for cycling fans

PEM said...

A few thoughts:

Looks like “Trust But Verify” applies to more than just Landis.

Regarding Vinokourov, looks like he learned a little from the Landis affair. I have not read any theories or excuses made by him, but I understand he asked for the B test. Thus, no AAF yet, so we still need to wait and see. However, unlike Landis, he seemed to have disappeared. The one thing that makes me believe Landis is innocent is that he did not hide, no matter how ill prepared he was to speak about his situation.

Regarding Rasmusssen, he was fired because he lied about his whereabouts. His team firing him verified this. There is no similarity between Rasmusssen and Landis.

To end the race now and not marvel and cheer the riders would be a great injustice to those remaining riders that have trained so hard to be where they are.


Ken ( said...

I agree with Peter.

1) There is no comparison between Rasmussen and Landis. Rasmussen lied to his team and the board of directors for his team's title sponsor voted to fire him. From my understanding they didn't even tell the UCI president before making their announcement. Lying to cover up an apparent evasion of testing can not be accepted. For the title sponsor they really had no other choice. They are a bank and not firing him could damage their reputation. His firing isn't about a UCI/WADA conspiracy, it is about violating his team's trust and rules.

2) The race should continue. Why punish clean athletes who obey the rules. Yes the integrity of the testing lab is questionable and this makes me scared of sloppy testing practices resulting in false positives. In a normal testing world, however, the 'B' sample should be nothing more than a formality to make for an iron clad case; as the integrity of the 'A' test would be strong enough as to be able to be fully trusted.

Ken ( said...

The International Herald Tribune has an interesting article on the events that lead to the discovery that Rasmussen lied about his where abouts. Basically BEFORE the new broke about Rasmussen's missed tests, the reporter Cassani in Italy had written what was supposed to have been a favorable article about how hard of a worker Rasmussen was. To back this up, the reporter wrote about how they had seen Rasmussen training in the rain in the Dolomites in the middle of June. A Danish reporter heard Cassani's comments and realized that Rasmussen was supposed to have been in Mexico at the time. Things unraveled for Rasmussen from there.

wschart said...

If it is true that the recent TdF developments have an impact on the Landis decision, this is really a sad state of affairs. Rasmussen lying about his whereabouts, Vino and others doping really say nothing about what Landis did or did not do back in 2006, nor about what LNDD did or did not do in conducting the tests.

However, I suspect that the decision has already been made, more or less. At this point, I am guessing that the arbs officially closed things down, and hence triggered the 10 day countdown, so as to be able to release the result after the TdF.

ShepFan said...

"stevespeeves" here...

If readers recall nothing else, remember this:

It does no good to fix a crooked problem with a crooked solution.

With the exception of one rider who has declined his B sample test, no one has been proven guilty in the 2007 tour. Media outlets and commenters on the Floyd-related boards frequently overlook this. It's shocking to read otherwise well-informed commenters here and on Rant presume Rasmussen's and Vino's guilt. We don't know yet, exactly as we didn't know about Floyd a year ago. We still don't know about Floyd, but we know a lot more than we did then.

It is stunning that illicit news leaks from within the ADA system, that supposed paragon of virtue, are now routine, and hearsay is ejecting riders and teams from a Tour in progress without any due process. This kind of zealotry, which has injured the sport in the past, should be punished and not publicized. Typical of the media's crazy bias is the Swedish decision to report only results and doping news. Or the UK paper, cited above, which has Landis already stripped of his title and serving a suspension.

Someone says he saw Rasmussen in Italy and not Mexico. Media outlets carry conflicting reports of confirmations and denials. What is known for sure? Only that Michael missed some random tests. If that was a problem, Tour organizers should have disqualified him before the race. Unless they can prove more than was known at the start, they have no ethical standing in getting him fired.

ADA spokespeople have capitalized on this year's increased enforcement and the presumed guilt to support their raison d'etre. I vehemently disagree.

ADA groups must be above reproach, have high ethical standards, and stand behind solid science and laboratory practices. Ours destroy careers, races, teams and cyclists based on hearsay, trial by media, uncertain science and laboratory rigor (about which they brook no discussion), an internal code of silence, and loose-lipped spokespeople in their ranks.

In short, ADA in cycling is crooked, in the sense that it is broken, and not playing straight. It may be legally crooked, but that's for a jury to decide.

It does no good to fix a crooked problem with a crooked solution.

If the 2006 "Grand Deboucle" wasn't proof enough, 2007 is showing that ADA hysteria is increasing. Which is not to say cycling is a clean sport--only that this scattershot technique isn't the way to fix it.

Often-quoted M. Pierre Bordry, head of the French ADA (AFLD), is also the President of LNDD, the lab at the center of these controversies. In his case, the prosecutor is also a paid foreman of the jury. Does this sound crooked?

Riders must now forcibly sign contracts sacrificing a year's income of they are found to be doping. In today's climate, that only takes one predictable news leak about preliminary test results, the scandal-hungry media, and about 24 hours. I want to see ADA officials similarly accountable: if you cost a rider a a year's salary and cannot prove it in an open, fair system, you (individally or collectively) are liable.

I believe, as others have said, that cyclists need to unionize. One of the functions of that union, beholden to no one rider, is to retain impartial third-party representation to be present at all doping tests, and preserve a C sample, with all the chain of custody responsibilities that requires. When ill-trained, gagged techs at LNDD test both the A and B sample with the same uncontrolled methods, teams and riders will not be at the mercy of ADA officials for timely, accurate, and complete information. And there will be certifiable evidence from the best lab available, instead of the current system which deletes important computer files, and suppresses any exculpatory data it may have.

In such a secretive, biased, PR-driven ADA environment, I would not be surprised if this year's aggressive anti-doping activity was in reaction to the Landis case, as if to say, "See? It's like we said, everybody dopes! You need us on this wall, protecting the sport!" Whatever it is, I want the truth. In the meantime, all I know is this:

It does no good to fix a crooked problem with a crooked solution.

Ken ( said...


There is no denying that Rasmussen missed four (yes four) out of competition tests in the last 18 months. Two were from the UCI and two were from his national cycling federation. From what I read, if a cyclist misses an out of competition test they are not allowed to compete in any Grand tours within 45 days of the missed test. Since at least one of his missed tests was in June, he should not have been eligible to start this year's Tour de France. The question is why the UCI authorities did not tell TDF authorities about the missed tests. A spokesperson for Rasmussen's now former team Rabobank stated that when confronted about the issue Rasmussen confessed to being in Italy not Mexico. Furthermore as Rasmussen is a Danish citizen, if he was in Mexico as he claimed, he could prove it by simply showing his passport, which would have Mexican customs entrance and exit stamps. So if he were telling the truth it would be easy enough for him to prove it.

pcrosby said...

I agree with a great deal of what has appeared above - the Rasmussen situation is different from those responding to a disclosed A test result. What really concerns me, when I distill it is:

1. WADA/UCI has effectively moved to the non-analytical positive or elimination of the B test. Small as the chance is, Vino will have no effective vindication if the B does not confirm the A.

2. WADA/UCI will ignore the confidentiality requirements on A test results with impunity. Rules only apply to dopers.

3. The shock wave from this week is going to smother the voices of folks educated by Floyd's arbitration process that could give rise to greater certainty by uniformity of standards, true enforcement of sample handling and testing procedures, and research on the assumptions underlying the tests.

Unless and until the ADA powers make a patent, clear, and obvious error in booting a competitor the sponsors, race administrators and public are going to cheer them on.

I can only hope that the decision in the Landis case does not open with: "With the able assistance of Dr. Bostre...."
Pete Crosby

ShepFan said...


"From what I read" is one of the issues I'm trying to underscore. As I mentioned, I'm reading conflicting reports, so I can't believe any of them. You read (if I understand you) that one missed test is grounds for a 45-day suspension. I read variously that it takes three tests, and elsewhere that it has to be three tests by the same agency but Rasmussen's were split 2-and-1, so there was no infraction. Like you, I've read that Rasmussen confessed, and I've also read that he says he did not. I see many people, perhaps uncomfortable with uncertainty, believing some bit of whatever self-contradictory pablum the media serves up. This is what happened to Floyd a year ago, and it's wrong now, too. The truth is, we don't know the truth. In the meantime, I think that Tour officials had better have more than old news to pull the leader out of the race days before the finish. If they failed to act, that's their problem, and they can't wait this long and do something so extreme. This could ruin Rasmussen's career, so I dearly hope it's based on more than hearsay.

I've read that Rasmussen has been booed constantly during the race. So far as we've heard, he hasn't failed a single urine test, so why the booing? Fans, even predominantly French teams in the peloton (can anyone say, "Festina?" or "Virenque?") are certain the man is guilty, based only on media reports. If this keeps up, Dick Pound will wonder aloud why we even need an A sample!

I've also read about the passport idea. Maybe it's true; personally I'm not rushing to any judgement right now. Hopefully in a week or more, when all the principals have had time to calm down and tell their stories, we'll have a better idea. I have no bias in this, except I'm ripped that Floyd is still in limbo when he should be racing. I think Vino's talented, and I have little opinion about anyone else in this Tour. If Rasmussen is found guilty or confesses, I don't care. I care a lot if he's innocent, and this was all a witch hunt.

I understand people's need to know. It's uncomfortable to not know. As a sometime scientist and cancer researcher, I'm familiar with the feeling, but giving in creates bad science and makes it harder to find the truth. A well-meaning poster recently said all we need is a 100% accurate test. As I'm sure you know, trying to rigorously quantify many environmental qualities, such as the varied biologies of a few hundred men in the peloton, will always be subject to false positive and false negative results. Better tests can lower the inaccuracies, but tests are designed by imperfect people with imperfect knowledge of an imperfect world, and performed by the lowest bidder. In Floyd's case, the testers were technicians with word-of-mouth, undocumented training; using old software and faulty technique on improperly maintained equipment; and by manually picking a point on a graph to distinguish which peaks represented various substances. I speak from experience--in the US the FDA would shut down a lab like that until it could recertify itself.

Here's another example of media-induced hysteria, though far less sad. Yesterday, Apple stock was down 6% on news that AT&T's earnings call stated they'd only activated 147,000 iPhones in the first weekend of sales. The business news was full of doom, gloom, and dire predictions. Then Apple's earnings call said they'd sold 275,000 iPhones that weekend, in the 36-hour window before the quarter ended. Today, the iPhone's a golden boy again, and Apple stock was reported to be "soaring" in after-hours trading last night. It's up $9.33 today, bucking the market's 300 point loss, which is calling "The Second Worst Day in 2007."

Or a scarier example: On 9/11, at least one network reported live that there had been a bombing and fire on the Washington Mall, the implication being another plane had crashed there. Now we know there was never any such thing.

What's the old saying, "Believe half of what you see and none of what you read?"

Ken ( said...


I'll try to clear some of your confusion. My understanding of the rules are as follows:

1) If a rider misses an out of competition doping test as Rasmussen did they are supposed to be ineligible to compete in a Grand Tour (e.g. the TDF) for 45 days.

2) If a rider misses three out of competition doping tests by the same agency (e.g. WADA) then it is considered a non-negative test and the athlete is suspended for two years.

Rasmussen missed three tests in 2007 and one test in April of 2006. Two of the missed tests were to be conducted by WADA and two of the tests were to be conducted by the agency associated with the Danish National Team. Thus while he missed a total of four tests it is not considered a non-negative test because only two of the tests were by one agency. Because the last missed WADA test was in June of this year, he was supposed to be ineligible to start in this year's TDF, however for some unexplained reason, the UCI did not tell TDF officials about the missed test and thus they did not exclude him from the race.

The press releases I have read from Rabobank and comments I have read attributed to their spokeswoman stated that when they confronted Rasmussen on the issue, he confessed to them that we was in Italy not Mexico as he had initially claimed. Separately Rasmussen made other comments to the press claiming he did not lie. My take on this affair is that if he did not lie and he was actually in Mexico, it would be very easy for him to prove it by showing the press his passport, which would contain entrance and exit stamps from Mexico. Without Rasmussen providing such an easy to provide alibi as to what country he was actually in during the time frame in question, one has to conclude that his team was telling the truth when they said that he lied to them.

The big difference with Floyd Landis' case is that Floyd provided us with all of the evidence and made his hearings an open affair thus, we didn't have to take Floyd's word that he was innocent, we could look at all the evidence for ourselves. Without Rasmussen providing very simple to provide evidence to support his case (e.g. his passport), all we have are his words. I know that personally if I were in his shoes and I was really in Mexico like I claimed, the very first thing I would do is to show the Mexican stamps in my passport and dig up any other documentation I had to support my case (like used airline ticket stubs).

The only reason I believe Landis' defense is because I was able to read the hearing transcripts for myself and was able to look at the evidence presented in the trial. If Landis had kept his hearings closed and not made the evidence public, I would have been forced to write him off as I was forced to write off Tyler Hamilton.

In regards to Rasmussen's guilt/innocence. It is an undisputed fact that he has missed four out of competition tests in the past 18 months and that one of those missed tests was less than a month before the TDF began, thus he should not have been allowed to enter the TDF to begin with. I think the only reason he was allowed to continue is because the UCI screwed up and did not tell the TDF until later.

In regards to Rabobank firing Rasmussen, we must remember that they sponsor cycling to promote their company and to help create a positive public image of their company. The revelation of Rasmussen's habitual missing of out of competition tests; failing to keep testing authorities informed of his whereabouts as is required of cyclists; and then being evasive as to his whereabouts when the issue of whether he was in Italy or Mexico, really left Rabobank with no choice but to fire him, because he was hurting their public image. One should remember that it wasn't UCI or TDF officials who fired Rasmussen, it was Rabobank's directors and he was fired for violating Rabobank's rules. The only tragedy that I see in this issue is that it didn't happen BEFORE the TDF started. So that his blatant disregard for testing requirements did not affect the TDF.

As Lance Armstrong has stated, we should have no pity for cyclists who miss out of competition tests because they did not keep officials informed of where they were. This is after all part of their job as professional cyclists and Rasmussen was getting paid really well. I'm certain that if any of us violated similar rules our employers would have fired us as well.

Ken ( said...

Let me preface this comment by stating I'm not claiming that this is what Rasmussen did.

Bob Roll and Phil Legit on Versus was asked why a rider would want to avoid testing one month before the tour. His answer was that by taking EPO while training in high mountains like the Dolomites of Italy one can significantly increase one's hemoglobins. Then ten days after ceasing to take EPO, it is no longer detectable by testing measures. Thus as long as one can avoid being tested during that time frame, one can gain the benefits of doping without testing positive during the tour.

In Rasmussen's case, it is interesting that all cases of reported missed tests and unknown where abouts were just prior to the Tour de France in 2006 and 2007. Again this doesn't mean that he did dope, just that he was dismissive of the rules and thought that they didn't apply to him. said...

As far as I can tell, Ras should have had a problem with a missed test in late June, and been ineligable to start on that basis alone. Why the UCI, which apparently knew of it, did not enforce their own rules is highly suspicious -- allowing it to go into the tour and blow up at the worst possible time seems almost calculated to hurt ASO and the Tour.

As far as other missed tests go, as far as I can tell so far, Ras was right at the limits of what is allowed in the rules in terms of misses by agency in a timeframe. There's no rules violation there, though some might like the rules changed. If the rule is three per agency per period, it's like three strikes per at-bat. If a player gets 4 strikes in two at bats, he didn't strike out. If we want to change the rule to span at bats and agencies, we can do that, but it's not fair to apply different standards retroactively.

We also don't yet know the truth about Ras's Italian presence when he was supposed to be at home in Mexico. It's suspicious, and if it is true, the team had every right to discipline him for the duplicity. That is not just an oversight on his part-- it's one of his main jobs as a pro cyclist.

If he was actively doping, they have 17 tests to go back over with everything they can get their hands on to try to figure it out. If there was EPO while training in June, we may never know.

There does appear to be one clear violation that should have led to Ras' exclusion, though it would have been better to happen before the start.