Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuesday Roundup

The LA Times' Michael Hiltzik writes about this week's WADA anti-doping summit in Madrid where the doping agency faces some difficulties despite some "victories" this year including the arbitration decision that went against Floyd Landis. The crux of the conference will be to update and implement "The World Anti-Doping Code":

The new draft, which is to go into effect in 2009, is almost certain to be approved. It will stiffen the penalties for several categories of drug use and water down a key procedural protection for athletes -- the requirement that positive findings from an athlete's primary, or A, sample be confirmed by tests on a backup, or B, sample taken at the same time. Several cases against prominent athletes, including Jones and Kenyan distance runner Bernard Lagat, had to be dropped after their B test results were negative or inconclusive. Under the new rules, a B test would not be needed to confirm a doping finding if the prosecuting agency "provides a satisfactory explanation" for the lack of confirmation. "That's a huge change that the anti-doping agencies have always wanted," said Howard Jacobs, a Los Angeles-based athletes' lawyer. "The B test is one of the very few safeguards the athlete has, and now they want to do away with it." Another proposed change would lengthen the possible suspensions imposed on athletes accused of doping. For a first offense, athletes found with even a trace of a banned substance in their sample are currently subject to a two-year ban from competition. (A subsequent violation carries a lifetime ban.)

The attempt to toughen penalties and tighten procedures comes at a time when WADA took some lumps at the Landis/USADA hearings where criticism of the LNDD, a WADA sanctioned lab, was part of the Landis defense. But, the ugliest part of the conference may actually involve the selection of retiring president Dick Pound's replacement, stay tuned.

The CyclingNews provides more details on the Michael Rasmussen story this morning with Rasmussen's response to the investigation into his dismissal last summer due out tomorrow. Also it appears the UCI's Pat McQuaid has some issues to deal with himself in Belgium today as he faces calls from European event organizers that he respect the traditions of cycling there, or they may take their marbles and play somewhere else. In the PM update the CN provides more details from the investigation into the Michael Rasmussen saga from last summer. It also appears that Danilo DiLuca will not bother to appeal his three month suspension by CONI to the CAS.

The NYTimes this morning reports that the "Mitchell Report" on steroid use in baseball is due to be published very soon, and all anyone cares about is naming the names. And from the Health Section better living, or performing, through chemistry is discussed.

The VeloNews
posts a blurb for the appearance of Genevieve Jeanson, the Canadian cyclist who admitted to using EPO, on Bicycleradio.com this evening.

Reuters notes that few tears will be shed over Mr. Pound's departure from WADA, and cites Floyd Landis as one particularly dry-eyed observer.

ESPN reports that Patrik Sinkewitz's cooperation with German authorities has paid off. He will face a substantial fine of five figures, but will not be criminally prosecuted

The Boulder Report
reads like a Floyd Landis old home week entry, without Floyd Landis. Joe Lindsey writes about Dave Zabriskie's wind tunnel testing done with the scientific assistance of Allen Lim. Further down in the piece the PowerTap/Zipp collaboration is expounded on.

Rant catches us up on actual Floyd Landis news including comments on the selection and naming of the CAS panel which will hear the Landis appeal as well as Floyd's op-ed piece published yesterday on TBV.

Derwood remembers a seemingly long ago epic day, and he has photos to remember it by.

Dugard thinks that endurance sports need to reclaim their relevance, and that athletes in more popular sports genres who cheat need to be treated by the press just as badly as they treated Floyd Landis.

Racejunkie looks first at Rasmussen, and crystallizes our own thoughts on hearing the "independent" conclusions:
Rabobank Lied, and It's Still All Rasmussen's Fault

Doesn't that work out well for the backer of the report?


Bill Mc said...

WADA's proposed new Anti-Doping Code where they seek to impose more draconian penalties on the basis of less evidence gives new meaning to the old POGO quote of: "Having lost sight of our objectives, we redoubled our efforts."

WADA's simplistic "Crime & Punishment" paradigm which permeates the dialog about sports doping reminds me of the "Zero Tolerance" attitudes that are prevalent some segments of the educational community, especially K-12, in the U.S. These kinds of simplistic attitudes, which often make for good "sound bites" are largely dysfunctional when it comes to getting to the heart of a problem and finding solutions that really work. Doping in sports does exist, to what extent is difficult to ascertain, though some, like the anti-doping establishment, would have us believe that it is so rampant that it threatens the very foundations of civilization. Whatever the real or perceived scope of the doping problem is, it is a problem that needs to be addressed to assure the integrity of all competitive sports.

As a now retired college/university educator whose career included teaching, administrative, and labor negotiating roles, I cannot help but think that a multi-faceted approach to the doping problem which involved all of the stakeholder groups - riders, teams, sponsors, event organizers, the anti-doping establishment, etc. - in programs of prevention, detection, rehabilitation, and where appropriate, punishment, would be more effective than the current "track them down with dogs and tear their livers out" approach. To be clear, by involvement, I mean not just providing token input, but having meaningful participation that includes specific responsibilities and accountability. I would envision riders and teams having responsibilities and accountability along with all the other stakeholder groups. Responsibility and accountability must be matched with well defined rights and reasonable rules of due process for when an individual or a group is challenged for (i.e., accused of) a violation of the rules. The distribution of power within the resulting system must be balanced, that is all of the stakeholder groups should have the power of negotiation to assure that their concerns and interests are heard - yes, even the riders should have a place at the table. The current system where most things seem to be done by edict, with the riders having little or no influence, should be relegated to the dust bin of history where it belongs.

At this juncture, I do not see much to give me hope that such a multi-faceted approach will emerge any time soon. Maybe the current vigilante phase has to run its course first, but who knows how long that may take.

I apologize for being so long-winded - I only wish that my endurance on a bike was as good.

wschart said...

No need to apologize Bill, yours is an excellent, well thought out post. Having been a teacher for a number of years, I have seen some of the problems encountered with "zero tolerance" (or in WADA terms, strict liability) approach.

There have been commentators here and elsewhere in the Landis blogospere who suggest draconian punishment for convicted dopers as a way to "clean up the sport". Well, a 2 year ban is pretty strong punishment. For many riders this is tantamount to a life ban; either because of their age, or simply the problem of taking 2 years off and then trying to get back into competition shape, land a spot on a team and so on. If the current disincentives are not working, I doubt that harsher ones will.

Standard disclaimer: I am not suggesting that dopers be given the proverbial slap on the wrist or let off scot free. The punishment should fit the circumstances of the particular incident in question, and not be merely a one size fits all approach; an approach which some arbitration panels have felt binds them to a harsh penalty when they might like to be a bit lenient while other panels have actually taken the lenient approach.

Jon said...

If strict liability applies to the athlete it should also apply to WADA accredited labs. No exceptions.

WADA wants to ban athletes without a "B" test? The rational seems obvious, never again another Landis WIKI defense. The less testing the less errors, less probing and questioning of the WADA accredited lab, less "whiteout", less destruction of evidence, less points of contention in arbitration hearings. The decisions will be so simple. Nobody will fight WADA anymore.