Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sunday Roundup

Botch of the Week

Iván Gutiérrez lost the lead of the Vuelta a Valenciana on Thursday after the group he was in was led off course by the motorcycle official in the final five kilometres of the third stage. The chasing group of 25 riders was bearing down on two escapees ... and had brought the gap down to less than twenty seconds when they were led the wrong way at a roundabout and onto a highway which was filled with rush-hour traffic.

The official response: "Sorry, nothing we can do"


The CyclingNews says the UCI is claiming the agreement reached by the pro teams to participate in Paris-Nice was in fact not unanimous:
But the UCI insists that not all team managers were present at the meeting, and some were opposed to the AIGCP's proposals. "After having consulted several team managers, the UCI notes that Mr (Eric) Boyer's statements do not correspond to the actual situation: several teams were not consulted. It is thus false to assert that the teams unanimously decided to participate in the Paris-Nice," read a UCI statement issued on Saturday.

Not only did a restricted number of team managers attend the AIGCP meeting, but the majority of these declared that they were opposed to the contents of the press release of 27 February." added the statement. "The truth is thus that the teams did not come out in favor of participation in the Paris-Nice irrespective of the conditions. In fact, several teams contacted UCI seeking to take part in the Paris-Nice under UCI regulations."

ESPN posts an AP interview with Astana's Johan Bruyneel in which, among other assertions, he claims that the now defunct Discovery team failed to secure another sponsor because of the continuing dispute between the UCI and ASO. He doesn't say anything about prejudice ASO may have against him or his ex-Discovery riders.

The Daily Peloton announces the choice of consultant Rock Racing has made to run its in-house anti-doping program, no surprise it's old friend Paul Scott:

“Rock Racing is proud to partner with Scott Analytics in our commitment to change this sport for the better,” said Team Owner Michael Ball. “The Athlete Passport Program will ensure the integrity of our team and reinforce our position that all of our riders should be eligible to race.
The program was developed by respected anti-doping researcher and Scott Analytics Founder and President, Paul Scott, who also served as Director of Clients at the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory and Chief Scientific Officer and Chief Operating Officer of the Agency for Cycling Ethics, Inc.

CyclingFans Anonymous considers the selection of Paul Scott for Rock Racing's anti-doping program by Rock (and Landis)' attorney Maurice Suh to be less than confidence inspiring. Noting that Scott seems to have left ACE, it strikes CFA as just too chummy.

Science of Sport
considers punishment for doping, and is taken aback by the vindictiveness expressed, and the confidence some people have:

O]thers within the IOC have even suggested that doping offences should be criminalized - jail time the result of a positive test.

The problem with increasing the punishment - testing will be even more vulnerable to attack

What interests me about this is that no one is looking at the testing procedure and systems, but rather assuming that testing is capable of reliably catching athletes who do cheat. For the implicit assumption when one calls for increased bans, is that the process that will ultimately give that ban is sound, and not likely to collapse under what would become even more pressure to be correct. If the system for testing and then processing positive tests is even slightly flawed, increasing the bans simply invites even more legal wrangling and controversy.

[i]f you're thinking I'm going soft of dopers, let me address the balance. Because while the chance of "false positive" is a real one, what concerns me more is that dopers who test positive will have even more chance of getting away with it, because the entire process that ultimately delivers their sentence would now be under even more pressure to avoid a false conviction.

There are some interesting comments as well. The Landis case is invoked as one that would probably need to be "let off" in a more punitive system with a "beyond a reasonable doubt" burden of proof. Floyd has said he'd be happy with that kind of system, in "Dopers must be stoned"

Archivists Corner

The Smoking Gun has the transcript of the Barry Bonds Grand Jury testimony. TSG's presentation of the indictment seems to show that the counts are about Bonds' memory of the timeline, and knowledge. It doesn't actually say, just underlines parts of responses deemed dubious.

Here's a summary of a quick read of the testimony.

There's 12 pages of discussion of granting him immunity from everything but perjury, then it gets into substance. Then discussion of background with Greg Anderson, and starting training with him as a coach in 1998. Suggestion of blood testing to identify deficiencies on page 19; About 6 blood and about 4 urine tests; Introduced to Victor Conte by Anderson on page 22, sees him perhaps 3 times; "Flax seed oil" around page 25; He doesn't seem to know what a lot of the stuff is, trusting his old friend. Around page 35, he says he did an ad for BALCO as quid-pro-quo because he believed Anderson was getting things from BALCO for free, and that he never paid for it. Page 36 starts discussion of "lotion" -- Bond's says Anderson said, "Here try this it might help", without discussing what it was. Bonds repeatedly says "whatever, just make the pain go away." He didn't think any of what Anderson administered did him any good, since what he was looking for was arthritic pain relief.

Around page 44 talks of learning young not to get into other's peoples business as part of celebrity childhood. He presents himself as intentionally uninquisitive. Page 44 denies Anderson ever injected him, or that he injected himself: "I'm not that talented, no." Page 47, reviewing documents and bills that Bonds says he's never seen, and denying blood draws in February and March when he'd be in spring training. On page 50, Bonds says that, "everyone talks about steroids at one point or another, players or whatever", but he never did one-on-one with Anderson. Page 55 denies EPO, and some other things, at least knowingly; Page 55 begins to have suspicions after BALCO broke in the media that some of the things Anderson gave him might have steroids in them. "If it's a steroid, it ain't working", he says, because he detected no effects. Page 58 shown some documents purporting to be from Anderson, "12-2-02, T, 1 CC, G"; he denies knowing what it is about, specifically that it means testosterone and HgH. Page 63 offers this gem:
Q: Did the Giants training staff have any involvement in working with you with Mr. Anderson?
A. No way.
Q. Okay. And back --
A: We don't trust the ball team. We don't trust baseball.
Q: Why not?
A. Because I was born in this game. Believe me. It's a business. Last time I played baseball was in college. I work for a living now.

[italics added]

On Page 65, he's shown paperwork that seems to be T/E test paperwork. He has know idea what it is about. There are values of 14.0, 10.5 and 1.3; and on Page 69, another test with 16.6, 5.5 and 3.0, which we take as T, E, and ratio. On page 71, we learn he paid Anderson $15,000 for year of training assistance. On page 76, we learn Conte used Quest Diagnostics Incorporated in San Diego for test processing. He's being shown test run by Conte that show apparent positives for Nandrolone and Methenolone. This is the first he's heard of it.

They take a break and come back. He says he always got stuff administered by Anderson at the park before a game, never at home; never got anything sent to him by Conte by mail or Fed-ex. He'd never heard Conte had sent his samples out for steroid testing until this session. On page 98 he specifically denies getting testosterone and Hgh from Anderson in December 2001, per a schedule on a document. On page 101, he does say he takes a bunch of pills, but doesn't know what they are. On page 104 says he could not have done a blood test -- he was at training in Ariziona, and only his doctor here draws blood. Page 108 denies Anderson ever went on the road with him, or that he had the pills, oil or cream with him on the road. On page 110, he thinks the "schedule" before him is odd if it's for steroid doping -- "I'm not overly naive, but I don't think you would do something and then -- I mean, aren't you supposed to do this every day or every other dan and every once a week or something like this? And you go through a cycle think? This is too irregular. It just seems odd to me." On Page 112, he's shown a lab report from BALCO, with a reading of 11.2 and a target rande of 9.5 to 29.7. He doesn't know why BALCO would be testing for it. On page 113, he admits he should have seen the test result documents, but he never inquired. On page 115, it is suggested that Anderson put Bonds' samples in for processing under his, Anderson's name. He's shown some more documents dealing with a Dr. Goldman, who he doesn't know anything about. "I'm shocked at some of these things that I've seen." On Page 120 they address some samples give for MLB testing, paperwork for which seems to have found Anderson's hands. Bonds may have had him check, because he doesn't trust baseball. There's a BACLO test referenced with Goldman that shows free testosterone greater than 5.00, with reference ranges 0.95 to 4.30. He doesn't know why BALCO would have been running such tests. He was never told of any results, except that he was "OK, everything's fine." When he worked out with Anderson, "I mean he works in a gym. I could suspece what goes on in a gym. I don't work out in the richie gym where everybody is rich. I work ina dungeon gym. You know, my thinking of what they may be doing is their own business. I don't get involved into their business. " He says he didn't talk with Anderson about steroids, many many times, and it was a line in their friendship that wasn't crossed: "I don't want to know anything. That's exactly right.", page 126. On pages 128 and 129, he denies planning legal strategies with Anderson. On page 133, some allegations are made about Steve Hoskins and some possible blackmail, and a discussion with the FBI about Hoskins. Bonds does not recall steroids coming up in that interview. The grand jurors ask questions, and he talks about giving big bonuses to lots of people after his 73 home run year, and giving out rings. They, and Anderson's training money are gifts; he doesn't consider Anderson his employee. He hasn't entered any of this on his taxes as gifts, or tried to write them off as expenses. He has another trainer, Harvey Shields, who has also given him different creams over time, but not recently. There is an answer quoted by Smoking Gun, about why he didn't build Anderson a mansion: he's a rare rich black man, and he's keeping his money. There is reiteration that he never paid BALCO, and that the ad was a favor for free protein shakes, including those given to his dad when he was dying of cancer. The end.

All of this, to us, seems reasonably consistent with the reports we've heard of about the testimony over time. He says he didn't know if what he was taking was steroids, and he probably should have checked more than he did.

For perjury, it seems like there would need to be some documentary evidence to contradict the knowledge he denies having about what Anderson was giving him, or testimony that showed he was lying about some point. It is far from clear that, absent the above, it can be proven he knew he was being given steroids. Willfull ignorance and confusion about dates doesn't seem exactly perjurious to us. I don't know that I'd have voted for this indictment absent some other information that is not public. Maybe Bonds is a ham sandwich.

This is the last we'll go into this. Our prurient interest got the better of us, just this once.


Unknown said...

I’m not sure it’s accurate to characterize the Astana team as having been “thrown out in 2006 by Tour director Christian Prudhomme because several of its riders were linked to the Operation Puerto blood-clinic scandal.” ???

If memory serves, Astana had a number of riders disqualified (suspended) from participation in the 2006 TdF as a result of their real and/or alleged links to OP and subsequent open investigations. That left Astana with too few riders to take the start (under the minimum number of riders to start) and there is no mechanism that allows replacements, at that late date.

DBrower said...

I think you're technically correct, but doesn't it amount to the same thing? The riders were rejected entry on suspicion, which effectively rejected the start of the whole team.

And, by the way, had Basso and Ullrich and Vino started, I doubt Landis would have been in a position to win.


Unknown said...

It yeilds the same result. However, ASO wasn't necessarily capricious in 2006. It was faulty UCI & WADA rules that was the trigger. There are many other races that would have come to the same result as the rider suspensions fell so close to the start (engineered that way?) and would not have allowed substitute riders either.

I don't know. Floyd was riding plenty strong. Those guys have been know to faulter too. Tactics would have had to have been different. It would have been nice to see, but we'll never know.

Unknown said...

This is kind of interesting:

The final paragraph is illuminating. It demonstrates why it may be easy for McQuaid to rationalize sanctioning the riders. He was once suspended, himself, for riding in an unsanctioned event associated with South Africa’s apartheid past:

“This latter possibility is not dissimilar to an incident that took place in 1976 at the Rapport Toer in South Africa, At the time, the South African federation was not affiliated to the UCI or the Olympic movement because of apartheid. Among the athletes who traveled to the event, and raced under assumed names, were Irish riders Sean Kelly and, yes, Pat McQuaid. The future king of the classics and the present president of the UCI were both suspended and banned from competing at the 1976 Olympics in Montréal. So anyone believing that the UCI will not invoke sanctions should the teams and riders go ahead and compete at an unsanctioned Paris-Nice need to be aware of McQuaid’s experience 32 years ago.”

strbuk said...

TBV, I have often thought about whether Floyd would have been strong enough to win the 2006 Tour de France had all of the best riders been there, and I have come to the conclusion that given the year he had been having, as well as the motivation to win considering the condition and uncertainly surrounding his hip, he would have won anyway. Just my opinion...


DBrower said...

OK, Floyd is a god, and his 1597 VAM was going to beat the "extraterrestrial" 1850 VAM that Basso did at the Giro.


Unknown said...

UCI/WADA/ASO changed make-up of the race. So, we'll never know.

That's why games are played and races are ridden, in spite of paper mis-matches.

strbuk said...

Now TBV I did NOT say that!! ;-) And I was a Basso fan too you must remember. But, sometimes numbers ect do not tell the whole story, sometimes variables like "heart" come into play. I know I know that's probably just me "romanticizing" the situation. OMG are we having out first fight? LOL


Mike Solberg said...

OMG are we having out first fight? How cute.

Strbuk, I am sure TbV would never have taken that tone with you (not unless he wants to start getting up at 4:00 a.m. again. He must have been in a hurry and thought he was responding to jrdbutcher.

TbV, I appreciate your prurient interest in Bonds. Based on your report, he seems much less guilty than I have assumed. His denials seem at least plausible. But he's still a jerk.


DBrower said...

Remember, Phonak withdrew some of it's strongest mountain riders because of OP implications before the tour -- long enough to have a full team, if not the strongest one present. Jan and Ivan got bounced right before the start, and their teams could not reload.

I'd have given Landis a better shot against the other teams if he'd had his full quiver of arrows as well, but with the team he did have, he'd have had some problems with Basso and Ullrich there. As much as he denies it, because he is a team player, he got isolated on S15 because his team wasn't strong enough. That would probably have happened on other stages too if the other guys had started.

No, I'm not romantic enough to think he was going to win with those guys there. I was hoping he'd fare well, but Basso looked absolutely super in the Giro. I was thinking that their absence gave him a chance.

As a fan, I am a worrier all the way to the finish line.


Unknown said...


Lots of “what if’s”. That’s one of the big problems when rules are written/enforced in such an ambiguous manner and are capricious enough to rely on mere suspicion for punitive action metered out (Duke Lacrosse is a non-cycling example). Of course that kind of thing is fine for the riders, but doesn’t apply to officials. (wrt Duke Lacrosse, the university, the city of Durham, and some individuals are facing the music with court dates being lined up and, in some cases, settlements have already been made)

That flawed system altered the character of the race (2006 TdF) to the point of radically changing the pool of favorites for a GC win. Some would argue conspiracy theories benefiting gambling interests of certain gamblers. Others have argued ASO was happy to give the French riders a better chance with many of the favorites out. There are many other theories, as well. There might be grains of truth in several?

If ASO was looking to have a non-North American winner, they screwed up and instead, got 8 years of American dominance at their flagship race. Steps have been taken to rectify that error. Now they are hanging their hat on a winner (engineered winner) who was seen as so little a threat, by his fellow riders, that there was no effort given to chase him down in an ~30 minute breakaway.

Bring on CAS and let’s see if there is any sanity in sport wrt pro cycling.

(Duke Lacrosse example given for contrast)

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

Regarding that botch: There was something the officials could have done. They could have neutralized the race, brought the riders in the breakaway back onto the correct course and restarted, giving the lead group the same time gap as they had when they were led astray.

I was in a race in 1993 (The Tour of the Mining Country in southeast Ohio) where a similar thing happened (except, in our case the chasing pack was sent the wrong way at a turn) and that's exactly what the officials did.