Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Roundup

MSNBC/AP/Eddie Pells says USADA just lost a case, on a Landaluze problem: LaTasha Jenkins. She was represented by Michael Straubel, working pro-bono, along with some law students. Maurice Suh was sought out and gave this spin:

Suh said he wasn't surprised USADA's first loss came in a relatively low-profile case. Still, he thought it was a sign the explosive Landis case might have had an effect.

"I hope we brought attention to problems in testing and to the fact that rules are important,'' Suh said. "They shouldn't be enforced one way against one athlete and other ways against others depending on the political pressure that's going on.''

In the USAToday version of the same story, Landis gets a quote too:
"I want USADA, when accusing people of breaking the rules, to follow the rules," Landis said. "Here you have a person who is missing a year of her life. You can't possibly put a value on that."

We haven't seen a USADA press release. When they win, they come in our email pretty quickly. (Tip from an emailer)

Also at LA Times, by Philip Hersh.

The NY Times "reviews" yesterday's announcement of the Mitchell Report and there already seems to be trouble abrewing between former Sen. Mitchell, who recommends no punishment for those cited in the report, and MLB Comissioner Bud Selig who wants to review each case one by one and then decide who gets what.

NBC's Alan Abrahamson , 2004 IOC Sport and Media award winner, takes the cynical view stating that no matter what, baseball fans who are desperate for heroes will continue to support their sport, after all look at the Floyd Landis case:

That is the lesson of those who still believe Floyd Landis' story -- even after an arbitration panel ruled he had taken illicit testosterone, in violation of the Olympic-style anti-doping rules, in winning the 2006 Tour de France. There are still those, even in the face of compelling scientific evidence, who want to believe Floyd didn't do it.

which is pretty much the same thing he said about Landis before the hearing. The Olympic club hangs together. So, of course, he recommends MLB turn it's testing and adjudication over to USADA.

Some other likely suspects turn up: ESPN's John Helyer finds Gary Wadler , Mr. Pound, and Tygart chipping in, Travis liking the call for an independant drug-testing administrator, and Helyer offers USADA as a likely candidate. Sporting News' Gerry Fraley also finds Wadler, who likes an independant agency -- the headline suggest WADA, but the article doesn't. The Star-Ledger's Dan Graziano finds him too. The Denver Post finds USADA "offerring assistance" to baseball, finding Tygart and Wadler to hit their talking points.

WADA did a press release patting itself on the back, claiming to be the model for what Mitchell has proposed. It provides most of the quotes attributed to Mr. Pound today, including annoyance at the prospect of an amnesty.

The Canadian Press writes about Landis arbitrator Richard McLaren's participation in the preparation of the Mitchell Report.

The WSJ Law Blog also talks about McLaren, noting he was the first person Mitchell thanked.

The Duluth News Tribune, on the lighter side, feels it entirely appropriate that writers use PEDs, after all who would care? Time for a cup of Peets.

The IOL reports that Alexander Vinokourov thinks cycling is just a sport without much money which makes it an easy target for WADA to go after:

Vinokourov said WADA was closing its eyes to suspected doping in other sports because the professional federations running them were too powerful and would not submit in the way cycling had.
"If WADA is really fighting for clean sport, then why is it that if in Spain (doctor Eufemiano) Fuentes has a list of 150 athletes, they only announce the cyclists?" he said.

The CyclingNews reveals that team Telekom doctors falsified cyclist patients records ostensibly to hide doping practices. And in other Telekom/T-Mobile news Jef D'Hont is being sued for part of the profits from his tell all book.

Racejunkie has no Landis content today, but his comments on the Mitchell Report, not to mention Vino, are worth a look.

Rant wonders if the Mitchell Reports can really change things since it's kind of a "he said/he said" thing.

Go Faster Jim was wondering before the release of the Mitchell Report what, if any, effects it would have, and is convinced that PED use exists in all sports. He also wonders if the media will play this one the way they played the Landis story, stay tuned.

Dugard is pleased Tygart is finally listed as CEO of USADA. It's a business, after all. And he never hooked up with Floyd.

SportingGo gives Landis the "Who needs enemies award" for l'Affaire Geohegan.

Velo Vortmax rips the WADA report on "plea bargaining", wondering what crack someone was on about this:

Minutes of the WADA Executive Committee Meeting of 19 Nov 2006. Page 29 referring to the notorious fact that some athletes, particularly wealthy athletes, consider that they have nothing to lose by putting forward all imaginable defenses in the hope that one or the other may work with the result that anti-doping organizations spend significant amounts of money defending the validity of clear laboratory results.

VV rightly wonders in rejoinder:
It would be an absurd presumption to include cycling and cyclists as the wealthy athletes with nothing to lose who would resort to any tactic to subvert clear laboratory results! I have a difficult time recalling a cyclist who resorted to obstructionist tactics to defeat a clear laboratory test result. But then again I have a hard time recalling a clear laboratory test result.

The WADA Executive Committee could not possibly be referring to Floyd Landis as the ultra rich athlete who has nothing to lose by contesting a flawless lab performance? Floyd Landis has spent over two million dollars and will spend eighteen months of his life fighting the United States Anti-Doping Agency over a case be-fret of sound scientific evidence. Much of the money was raised through donations and auctions. The sight of Floyd Landis begging for alms like a pauper to defend himself was appalling. At present, with no resolution of his case in sight, Mr. Landis is destitute. USADA is doing quite well, thank you, with an operating budget of twenty million dollars funded by American tax payers.

Bleacher Report thinks the solution isn't better testing, but finding better people to play sports.


(Thinking about Ty Cobb, in whose blood flowed the milk of human kindness, and his sharpening spikes for hard slides into second base, or the second baseman, as the tactical situation required.)


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

Amen to the cup of Peets. Just finished mine. As the old saying goes, "A day without Peets is like a day without sunshine." :-)

atown, tx. said...

I'd almost rather have open doping in sports than the unprovable and always destructive he said she said/ "non-analytical positive". I'm sure some of it is true but I don't trust the naming of names without hard proof. and I'm not a fan of baseball but I'll give the listed player the benefit of the doubt just like cyclist and other sports, unless they have hard evidence they have doped.

I'm curious what Floyd's thoughts are on the release of the report.

Mike Solberg said...

USADA just lost a case.



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

Win some, lose some. Every unbeaten record eventually comes to an end.

Mike Solberg said...

Beginning a specificity discussion: this is "just" a daily round-up thread (thank strbuk!), but I would like to see the specificity discussion get off the ground. So I'll begin by describing the way in which I think specificity SHOULD be assured in a given sample.

But first, my understanding of the background (feel free to add or correct). GC/C/IRMS is not that old. It wasn't used at all before 1990 and because it is expensive and complex wasn't used very widely through the 90's. Because all identifying properties of a substance are lost in combustion, it has limited applicability in the world of analytical chemistry. Dr. WMA has been one of the world leaders in exploring ways GC/C/IRMS can be useful, and in developing processes for given applications.

From the beginning of the GC/C/IRMS method, achieving certainty that you are measuring what you are supposed to be measuring has been the key concern. Some of the early uses of IRMS were in forensic science, in which results had to stand up in a court of law and thus had to meet high certainty requirements.

At first, the only way to know what you were measuring in the IRMS was to compare retention times with the same sample run through a GCMS, under the same chromatographic conditions. But "the same" was never "identical," and "the same" was apparently not good enough for forensic science.

So in the mid 90's WMA developed a way around the problem. He took a GC (to separate the different substances in a sample, obviously), and as the sample was coming off the GC he split it - with part going to an MS for clear identification, and part going to combustion and IRMS for isotopic analysis. This solved the "peak identification" problem because the chromatographic conditions were identical (apparently it is easy to compensate for the combustion phase and whatever other time lag there is with IRMS because it isn't an issue in the stuff I have read).

This combo method goes a long way to solving the specificity problem as well, because your trouble spot is limited to good peak separation in the MS. If you have that, you are good to go, especially if you use complete mass spec data. If the mass spec data reveal co-elution problems, you run things again, change the conditions somehow and get better separation. Some co-elution can be compensated for, but even Brenna (I read somewhere) puts a clear limit at three intersecting peaks and with just two peaks overlapping by more than 70%. If you have either of those, you can't get good numbers and you have to run things again to get better separation somehow.

The process WMA developed was apparently technically tricky, as he had to fiddle with several types of connections / fittings and such. But that basic principle (of GC - split one way to MS, one way to IRMS) has been perfected in the world today. See here:

But remember that this was all still developing in the late 90's and it sounds like that type of combo machine is still a big deal today. And also remember that it wasn't until '94 that Aguilera et al. reported that you could test for exogenous testosterone based on the difference in 13C/12C ratios compared to endogenous.

I think Catlin and UCLA were the first to get approval to use IRMS for exo-t testing in 1997, and it has spread more or less quickly and broadly since then. In a USADA symposium in 2003 most of the main players were present, and at that time they recognized that IRMS methods had developed widely between the different labs, and there was great need for more uniformity. See various parts of this document:

At the time of this symposium, it sounds like WMA's combo machine was not in wide use in anti-doping labs, and we know that at least LNDD still doesn't have one today. To emphasize that this IRMS stuff was still all developing in 2003, I'll note that Tom Brenna was still emphasizing that "the most reliable isotope ratio results are obtained when GC-C-IRMS peaks are strong and cleanly resolved from all other peaks." And speaking of the evidence from a particular data set, he said, "Finally, these results demonstrate as dramatically as any, that precision is no assurance of accuracy, particularly in continuous flow IRMS. Good calibration standards are essential." (emphasis original)

Finally, I would note that the document that presumably controls GC/C/IRMS assays (TD2003IDCR) was written in 2003. As a non-scientist, that is very surprising to me, on two fronts. First, it sure seems like there was a lot still up in the air about IRMS in 2003 (not necessarily about the basic science, but about the implementation), and second, that's ancient history in IRMS terms. With the perfection of machines like the one noted above, they are able to do things much better now than they were in 2003. People are still being punished based on what seems like outdated equipment and processes.

Now, back to my basic original point here. It is clear from the history (and I put a lot of that together from something WMA wrote in his chapter about IRMS in "Forensic Human Identification" by Timothy Thompson - which is largely available through a Google preview, but which I can't link here), that the way to assure specificity in GCMS is with the complete mass spec data (we all knew that already). And the way to assure specificity in IRMS is to use chromatographic conditions as identical as possible to the GCMS, preferably by combining the two machines, to ensure the conditions are identical.

Identical chromatographic conditions were always the goal here - the need is taken for granted in all IRMS work from the very beginning. All the studies involving IRMS document the same conditions between GCMS and IRMS as part of the standard description of the study. In places they even say that you should not only use the same type of column, but a column from the same batch (same production run) so they are as similar as possible.

So, that's my understanding of the background, and the general scientific expectation (not the legal WADA expectation, which is a different issue) of how specificity is supposed to be assured in GC/C/IRMS.


Michael said...


So basically, Brenn and WMA contradicted themselves in the hearing, but deep down believe the same thing regarding the testing.

Am I understanding you correctly?

Is is possible that Landis' team just didn't have enough time to present their case properly?


Larry said...

Michael, it is not surprising that experts like Brenna and WMA would have 99.9% agreement on most general issues. They ARE experts, and the field of chromatogology is reasonably well established. Nor is it surprising that two experts who agree about almost everything in general will take sharply divergent points of view in a particular case. Happens all the time. In the law, we have a name for this: "the battle of the experts". The general explanation for why this happens in most cases is that, when the two experts appear to be saying different things, they're really answering different questions. IMHO when Brenna and WMA diverged in the FL hearing, this was mostly because WMA was answering questions about what was "good" scientific procedure, while Brenna was addressing what was "good enough" in this case in his judgment.

I will now move over and post on the new specificity thread.

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


Given that Team Landis had to spend an excruciating amount of time cross-examining LNDD's lab techs Mongongu and Frelat, I think your comment about not having enough time to fully present their case is right on. Had they been allowed to depose the lab staff in France, they would have had more time during the hearingss to present other parts of their case.

the Dragon said...

Swim & strbuk,

Just looked at USADA site for the Press Release on the Arb Action for LaTasha Jenkins.

I couldn't find anything.

I am at a loss since Travis Tygert is always going on about finding/protecting "clean" athletes, and NOW there is a demonstrably clean athlete, and nothing.

I would have expected banner headlines.


Mike Solberg said...


I think Larry's response to your 7:44 question is exactly right. There is probably very little difference in what each of them is saying. I think WMA just has a different idea of what is "good enough" than Brenna has.

The question is, which is the right standard for this case?

This should probably continue in the comments to the main post.