Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tuesday Roundup

News
The CyclingNews has no direct Landis content, but Bijarne Riis wonders why Rabobank would select Michael Rasmussen in the first place only to send him home from the TdF under such strange circumstances. Later, Alessandro Petacchi explains what it feels like to be accused of doping:




"I was considered doped for an incident in which doping does not even come into consideration. It was a medicine and I had a prescription, taken with good faith and transparency for documented allergies. And if the limits were passed the experts have demonstrated why." He was asked if he could have done it all over again. "It was not an error or even a lack of discretion but a necessity. You are not able to breathe, you think twice, maybe three times, then maybe take the medicine, hoping that the conditions don't happen that make you surpass the limits." He remarked on the bad publicity. "The magistrates know what they do, and do what they have to. The journalists, if they mistake an adjective, risk ruining your reputation. ... The suffering, physically and morally, leaves you with more grit, more resolution.

If Petacchi is correct, Floyd Landis will return as one gritty, resolute cyclist.


ESPN reports that the IAAF will lobby for even stronger doping sanctions at the Madrid WADA conference in November, but that the proposed 4 year, rather than 2 year, suspension for major doping offenses is likely to be defeated. It's never been clear to us why anyone thinks longer bans would be more effective. Why not a death sentence for the first offense? That'dl teach 'em.

VeloNews photo contest provides a good look at the damage visible at the Leadville finish:

Now that is a Raspberry, and a set of shorts that are headed for the trash. Click for the bigger gory view.
(Photo: Velonews/John Payne)


Blogs
Dugard runs down a number of endurance events, and is down on the Tour and Ironman triathlons.
Irrelevant: The Tour de France. At least as a competitive endeavor. Until they get the drug stuff fixed, we'll all be happy to watch, but there will always be this sense that it's all make believe.

Jamie at MySpace says that the Michael Vick horror show is not "Floyd Landis doping" but much worse. For the willful killing of another creature Vick should rot in jail.

Nahaul comments on getting noticed and in the process also mentions Floyd Landis' delayed justice and that in the majority of Europe you are guilty until proven innocent. Yeah, his troll worked.

Cycleiola read Positively False over a rainy weekend. While aware it's a one-sided version, he comes away thinking Landis is getting jobbed.

Hayley went to Leadville to crew for Dad, and got a Landis picture. It was dark in the AM. Her site also has some recipes for Strbuk to check out.

Fatty's pal who is really the unworthy who crashed out, sobs his story in "Close But No Cigar: Part VI, Dug's Tragedy"

Blog is Thy Name blurbs Fatty's participation this year at the Leadville 100 and even posts Fatty's portrait with Floyd Landis.

Velo Swiss is reading "Positively False" and something in the Landis story and the way it's written, and who did the ghost writing, doesn't ring completely true.

Kevin at MySpace has a grudge match between "doper" Michael Rasmussen from this year's TdF and Floyd Landis representing last year's race. Kevin has Rasmussen testing positive for doping at this year's Tour, which is wrong, and gives the match to Floyd for whatever reason.

Sons of Sam Malone digs into Michael Vick, and lists Landis in a rundown of athletes who "pissed their lives away" -- behind Hook Mitchell, Rae Carruth, Pacman Jones, Len Bias, Vick, and Pete Rose.

MOChassid notes the publication of "The Outcast" with no comment othere than it's compelling.

12 comments:

wschart said...

Re the idea of stricter sanctions for doping violations, mentioned in the ESPN site as well as on numerous other occasions, I am not sure that this will work as a deterrent. The history of extreme sanctions is spotty at best. Cycling (and perhaps other sports) has more severe sanctions than most mainstream American professional sports; it is unclear whether it is any cleaner than the NFL, MLB, NBA, etc.

A 2 year ban, the current sanction for most first-time offenses, is often a career ending ban, when the cyclist involved is either of marginal abilities, or the older cyclist, near the end of his career anyway. Yet there are some cyclists who still will take PES.

Part of the problem is the perception that doping is wide spread, that many are "getting away with it", and that doping is of such benefit that the only way to have any hope of being competitive is to dope also. Assuming this is true, it may well be worth the risk (to some, at least) regardless of the level of sanction if caught. Add to this what often appears to be a capricious system of enforcement, where the athlete who innocently and inadvertently uses the wrong nationality of inhaler, with no possible performance benefit, is still given the same punishment as the athlete who deliberately and knowingly takes a strong PES in attempt to gain an unfair advantage.

If we go to a 4 year ban and doping still continues, what next? Lifetime ban? And if doping still continues, what then? Capital punishment? There has to be a better way.

Larry said...

Before we can discuss the right punishment for a doping offense, we need to look (again!) at the process of drug testing. I think we can say that even at its best (as performed by the UCLA lab?), the process is not all that great. There are going to be false positives, and there are going to be a lot of cheaters who escape detection.

The imperfect nature of drug testing affects the determination of the appropriate sanction for doping. On the one hand, if you expect that most cheaters are going to escape detection, you have to consider a penalty severe enough to scare riders from cheating. Let's say, for example, that a rider thinks there's a 10% chance that he'll be caught if he uses a drug like EPO ... but that using EPO will make him an elite cyclist ... and that if he's caught, he loses only two years from his career. A rider might reasonably (if dishonestly) conclude from this calculation that taking EPO is a good career move. Do the same calculation, but with a 4-year ban. The decision to dope no longer looks as good.

On the other hand ... you have to consider that the current testing system is likely to generate a lot of false positives. That argues for lesser sanctions. It was bad enough that, for example, Alberto Contador lost the opportunity to ride in the 2006 Tour de France because he was linked to Operation Puerto. But if a false positive results in a 2-year ban, or a 4-year ban? That would be much worse.

My own opinion is that the drug testing authorities are in no position at this moment to ask for tougher sanctions. They need to clean up their processes to the maximum extent possible. Then they need to quantify (to the extent that they can) the reasonable worst case odds of an athlete being falsely accused of doping based on the imperfect nature of the current science. With this information in hand, we'd be in a position to think about an appropriate level for sanctions.

nahual said...

Tuesdays NY Times ran this Associated Press piece:

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Citywide-Drug-Test.html

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Researchers have figured out how to give an entire community a drug test using just a teaspoon of wastewater from a city's sewer plant.

What's the drug of choice in your town?

nahual said...

.........and thanks STR for the pick-up today, just baitin' the stream. Cheers, N.

Bill said...

The comments coming out of WADA vis-a-vis imposing stiffer penalties on "dopers" reminds me of a quote from the (now defunct) POGO comic strip: Having lost sight of our objectives, we redoubled our efforts.

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

Bill,

And then there's another quote from Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Pretty much sounds like WADA to me...

- Rant

bi_anne2001 said...

WADA, WADA, WADA, always going on at them like they're the bad guys.

Next you'll all be attacking the vets and animal rescue teams in the Vicks case. Are we sure they handled the rescue effort entirely correctly, or did they mislabel a dogs name. Anyhow, they're only do their job but I'm sure they're corrupt. Set him free!

Let me re-state that all these people are doing is trying to stop cheats, but you guys out there are so biased and blinkered that you've turned them round into the bad guys! Cyclists are the problem here, and when these labs and WADA are given more money to try and improve testing, you guys complain about budgets going on. How are they ever supposed to win? because of the prevelance of the drug taking I'm afraid the Inncoent until proven guilty should belong ot the labs, not the riders.

It would be interesting to look at the entire history of the posts on TBV. i would be willing to bet that 95% of the posts attack the USADA,WADA, LNDD etc, and 5% or less attack the root of the problem, the cheating, immoral cyclists.

And before you all start replying with the usual, oh but it's the LNDD's fault or something, don't bother! Try starting a post with Yes I agree that the root of the problem is the doping cyclists, and these poor guys have a hell of a job keeping up with the highly financed drug cheats, what I think they need to help them is......

calfeegirl said...

OK, I'll take the bait...naive and simple though I be....

Yes, I agree that the root of the problem is the doping ATHLETE (not just cyclists, my dear bi-anne).

I agree that the antidoping agencies have a tough time of keeping up with the task before them, for a variety of reasons. Perhaps one reason may be, as you say,"highly financed drug cheats".

But I would say the number one reason they cannot keep up with the drug cheats is because they have ignored the science before them. They ignore the reasoned, scientific formulas and procedures accepted by the greater scientific community in order to try to look relevant and useful.

What I think they need to help them is:
1) More careful and stringent training/licensing/supervision of technicians at the labs that do the tests.

2) Lab supervisors who know how to do the test themselves and can be sure all equipment is running properly and being run properly.

3) Reliable, proven tests, not just tests that they think are accurate. NO tests that are still deemed in the "trial" mode should be allowed for in competition testing. There should be more funding for the more advanced (and independent of WADA) testing of the new tests before they are allowed as evidence against an athlete.

4) Independent accredidation for each individual lab and technician within those labs who do the sports drug testing.

5) A set of procedures and rules that athletes and enforcers can agree upon, where both parties can have fair and equal representation and then FOLLOW their own rules.

6) Repercussions for labs/techs/etc for NOT following the rules, just as there are for the athletes.

7) Respect. There needs to be a system in place that has the respect of the scientific community at large and the athletes. One that is dependable, and known for fairness.

8) There have been many great suggestions of how to revamp the system so that it is fairer to the athletes, and yet still stringent enough to catch the cheats...given here and at other venues on the internet. While I can't recall details, I do know that a lot of them made sense.

Questions for you...why should "innocent until proven guilty" be given to the labs over the athletes? What makes the lab technicians any more moral or apt to take the high road than an athlete?

Aloha,
Kate

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

bi_anne2001,

Part of the problem is the athletes who dope. But they're not the whole problem. There are structural problems with our anti-doping system, such as it is, and while most lab techs do their jobs as best they can, we need to help give them the tools to do their jobs better and more accurately.

But back to the athletes. We don't have as good a sense for just how widespread the problem is among athletes. By WADA's own statistics (using percentages of positive tests) about 1 in 50 tests positive for some prohibited substance. 1 in 25 for cycling. That's not nearly as endemic as the scare mongers would have us believe.

For the athletes, better education and information about what is banned is needed. The list is long, and hard for many to fathom.

For the athletes, the list needs to be clear, and it needs to be simple. For each sport, ban those drugs and techniques that offer an advantage specific to that sport, and not those that have little or no effect.

A one-size-fits-all approach does not work. That may make the jobs of the anti-doping warriors more difficult, but it's not about their convenience, it's about crafting a rational system.

Sure, the athletes who dope bear some responsibility. A lot, even. And more needs to be done to encourage them not to.

But WADA is not made up of saints, and the system should not be deified. It should be open to criticism, because through good criticism will come a better system overall.

- Rant

Michael said...

Bi_anne,

Simple question. If WADA is so confident in their testing and processes, why has it taken so long to render a verdict in Floyd's case.

From your perspective, it should have been an open and closed case. Isn't that correct?

Obviously, it's not that easy.

Mike

nahual said...

bi-anne2001 your wailing reminds me of the quote attributed to the scientist and science ficton writer Isaac Asimov: "Critics are like eunuchs in the harem, they can tell you what's wrong, but they can't do it themselves."

Larry said...

bi-anne2001 -

You are SURPRISED that 95% of the comments on this site are pro-Landis? !! This is a pro-Landis site. It is friendly and respectful to people who hold other opinions, but it is a pro-Landis site.

Is the "root of the problem" the doping cyclists? Yes, but that's an obvious statement, and completely unhelpful (something like blaming viruses for a flu epidemic). Some cyclists cheat. It is an unalterable fact of human nature that some people will try to cheat. As there's nothing any of us can do to change human nature, we don't tend to focus on the humanity of the racers when we discuss what can be done to improve cycling.

If there was a crime problem in your neighborhood, what would YOU do? You could blame the criminals, but you wouldn't stop there, because blaming the criminals is not going to reduce the crime rate. No, if there was a crime problem in your neighborhood, you'd focus on measures you could take to prevent crime and catch the criminals. You'd focus on the people responsible for writing and enforcing the criminal laws.

In cycling, the people responsible for writing the anti-doping laws are the folks at WADA, so we FOCUS on them. The people responsible for enforcing the laws at the Tour de France are the LNDD, so we FOCUS on them. Why do you find this surprising?

As for expressing sympathy for those "poor guys" at WADA and LNDD ... well, you don't know me, but I happen to be a very sympathetic guy. So I'll express sympathy for any folk at WADA or LNDD that are sincerely dedicated to the fight against doping ... stuck as they are within organizations that are inept, cannot follow their own internal rules, cannot maintain a simple chain of custody, cannot maintain the confidentiality of their own information, and cannot resist the temptation to declare cyclists guilty of doping without proof. It must be very frustrating for these good folks to have to work under such terrible conditions. They have my sympathy.

As for "what I think they need to help them is ..."? I'd start with better leadership, at the top -- leadership dedicated to establishing, following and documenting good scientific procedures at each step of the drug testing process. I'd ask this improved leadership to exercise the kind of oversight you'd expect to see routinely in any policing effort, to make sure that these procedures are being followed to the letter.