Friday, May 02, 2008

Friday Roundup

News
The CyclingNews contains a few items of interest today and among them Patrik Sinkewitz is still looking for a ride, and Jan Ullrich's news is not ALL bad.

ESPN writes about the UCI's bio passports and the fact that they are issuing 854 of them to riders who have provided profiles. See the story below on one of those who got "caught".

The VeloNews reports that the UCI has snagged its first doping cheat through the "bio passport" program, though the identity of the cyclist was uncharacteristically not reveled:

"The hematological profile shows changes in several key blood parameters and provides scientifically robust information on the likelihood that a rider is blood doping," said a UCI statement


"The steroid profile shows changes in hormonal parameters, which are a sign that the rider is doping with testosterone or similar substances."



Blogs

Racejunkie takes note of the NY Times rehash of the genetic flaw/testosterone cheating story which fails to note the fact that some people have false positives due to genetics.

Josh's Blog has a survey of "60 sports pariahs", and Landis has dropped out of the top 10, 20, 30, and nearly 40, barely hanging in at #49. He's behind, if that is the right word, Tonya Harding, and just "ahead" of Kobe Bryant.

Finally, in the "please say some prayers department", The Fat Cyclist gives us all reason to be thankful for the mundane problems we face. Send some good thoughts out his and Susan's way -- they are needed.

8 comments:

jrdbutcher said...

If reports of the UCI is making bio passport results available to WADA are correct, in spite of WADA pulling out wrt its agreed funding share in the wake of the UCI lawsuit against Dick Pound, then the UCI would seem to be taking the higher road, if this is real and not mere spin.

If true and not spin, then it is an indication the UCI is becoming more credible about its anti-doping efforts, and WADA less so (how low can you go, limbo much?). It would also indicate WADA has trouble distinguishing between Dick Pound, the blowhard and WADA, the organization. Dick Pound, the blowhard, sot his mouth off plenty and had the education & training to know the limits of what he should, or shouldn’t have said. He doesn’t need WADA to defend him now that he is no longer an officer of the organization.

The accuracy of the bio passport system remains to be seen/proven, but shows promise. It should be a given, yet I’m impressed that the UCI is not yet naming names wrt riders who’s bio passport test results indicate doping. That is a great turn-around from past confidentiality violations clearly attributed to certain WADA approved (joke) labs (LNDD, cough), high ranking WADA officials (Dick Pound), and high ranking UCI officials (Pat McQuaid). The UCI seems to be making an effort to follow its own rules wrt the new bio passport system.

Time will tell.

In the meantime, I’ll look at the bio passport system in a positive light. If it is administered well, it has the potential to keep a one off bogus result, like the one against Floyd from LNDD, from getting too far. I’m still in the camp that believes LNDD did not present the documentation necessary to sustain its claim against Floyd and there was too much wiggle room to massage the material they did present.

FWIW

racejunkie said...

Some people have false positives? Never!

Many thanks to you and jrd for filling in what was left out. Tell me again how the folks at WADA can look at themselves in the mirror when they get up in the morning?

Bill Mc said...

Some of my thoughts about the Biological Passport Program.

As I understand it, the idea behind the Biological Passport is simple and compelling, i.e., that all other things being equal, an individual's metabolism should be relatively stable within a certain range over time and that deviations from that range are indicative of an external influence, possibly the use of PEDs. So, each athlete will have their own personal biological profile established by a longitudinal biological record based upon periodic testing. Then if an athlete uses PEDs, the resulting deviations from the norms of their biological profile will provide an alert that something may be amiss.

Please note, that I used the phrase favored by economists when they discuss their theories, "all other things being equal" as a preface to my description above. I am concerned that the people proposing the Biological Passport Program, do not know what the other things are that must be equal, or at least accounted for, in order for this program to have any validity. The human body is an incredibly complex mechanism, which does have stable states and functions, but is also susceptible to a vast array of external influences, of which PEDs are just one example, that can have both short and long term effects on bodily states and functions. So, it is not enough to detect a deviation, the cause of the deviation must also be known.

From a scientific perspective, I am curious about what clinical trial(s) have been conducted to validate the assumptions behind this program, or (as I suspect) is the program as it is now being implemented really that clinical trial. From a due process perspective, I worry that deviations from an athlete's normal biological profile, however they are measured and with whatever thresholds are applied, will be treated as de-facto evidence of PED use rather than just an alert which would trigger further testing to establish whether or not any banned substances were used. The past behavior of the anti-drugging establishment doesn't give me any reason the believe that this new program will be very rigorous from either a scientific or due process perspective.

strbuk said...

Racejunkie they can't look themselves in the mirror every morning, because as I understand it a vampires reflection never shows!!

str

jrdbutcher said...

Bill MC’s points are well written and well taken. I’m hopeful the efforts of some of the teams having independent testing in place, coupled with a legitimate bio passport program (tested, peer reviewed, recognizing the human body is incredibly complex, outside parameters tests triggering further testing – rather than a de facto AAF’s…..), and doing the small/easy things correctly, such as proper respect for confidentiality rules on the part of the testers, is a small, but promising sign that the bio passport program can be an improvement over the capricious system previously employed.

This attempt may not have been necessary had WADA concentrated more on substance over style. The jury is still a long way out wrt the bio passport system. One can watch and hope for a system that better respects the athletes it tests, on all levels.

Bill Mc said...

JRD:

Thank you for your comments about my earlier post. It will indeed be interesting to see how the Biological Passport program unfolds over the next several years. I just hope that WADA, et.al., never figures out that autopsies are the best way to discover what substances are in an athlete's body.

("Eightzero") said...

I'm not impressed. This still smells of Annie Gripper rounding up the usual suspects. Roughly one percent require "further scrutiny." Well, I am really curious now. Just what further scrutiny would that be? And are your protocol and procedures so conforming to the rigors of scientific proof that you can, with the necessary degree of accuracy, say that you have evidence of cheating?

Show me that evidence.

Otherwise, I smell a little bit of a paper tiger. Last time you showed me evidence, it was essentially bullsh*t. We'll see in a few weeks if CAS agrees.

jrdbutcher said...

Eightzeero could well be right. I’m not the one who will be on the hotseat, so it’s easy for me to pontificate.

I’ll be interested to see whom the usual suspects end up being. I’ll be interested to see if rules are followed wrt when the suspected athletes are announced to the general public. I’ll be interested to see if the if proper testing procedures are followed and correctly documented. I’ll be interested to see if CoC is correctly carried out. In short, I’ll be interested to see if the labs, their staff’s work product, and the sanctioning body’s work product are held to the same rigorous standards as those the athletes are held to.

That said, if you have to have testing, then I’m in favor of longitudinal testing. It’s more expensive and has the potential to be more accurate. It also seems to me to be more difficult for the labs and/or sanctioning bodies to massage or falsify.

Kudos to the teams with their own testing programs, especially if a portion of their motivation for such testing programs is to help safeguard their riders from bogus doping claims. In my view, it can help keep the testers honest.