Friday, July 18, 2008

Fallout XIX

As far as we know Floyd Landis is still scheduled to take part in this weekends' Breckenridge 100 NUE mountain bike race.


Everyone is reporting Piepoli and Ricco have been fired by Saunier-Duval. There's no known positive test for Piepoli, but he's said to have violated the "ethics pledge." Velonews; Reuters;

The CyclingNews has a number of editions and features stemming from the Ricco bust for EPO yesterday starting off with UCI concerns about the way cycling will be run without its guidance, and the cloudy future of the "bio passport" program.

In an earlier edition the CyclingNews says the ASO wants the cheaters out. Then why don't they test everyone, including riders for whom they may harbor special interests? This edition also contains rider response to Ricco's downfall.

Finally David Millar chimes in on the Ricco situation saying he knew Ricco was too good to be true. Maybe the ASO should use David Millar to find the cheats. Also in the piece is news that WADA is ahead of the detection curve on the "new" EPO, CERA.

Private email chides us for the habit we've gotten into of snarking Millar. (Like above.) What do we want him to do or say? Like it or not, he's a focal point whenever these things come up, and he's answering questions rather than running away.

Fair enough. We know it's easy to snark on someone you don't know, on whose situation one projects, from a safe distance. We've reported plenty of examples of that with Landis. Therefore, we'll declare a voluntary Millar-torium unless he's involved in something particularly newsworthy.

The Herald-Sun (News Corp, AU), rants against those who thought the sport had cleaned up, and calls Pantani and Landis "grubs".

Ode Magazine looks at the societal issues surrounding doping in cycling and wonders if since many people take Prozac, and other life "enhancers" that can be dangerous, who are we to take such umbrage at athletes who use PEDs? Instead of condemning them, we should put less pressure on them to succeed thus eliminating the need to dope. Nice thought, but athletes function within stated rules, and last we knew it was not illegal to take Prozac for depression.

Mail and Guardian (SA) talks about Robbie Hunter, an ex-Phonak teammate, and typically for a sprinter, doesn't mince words. On doping:
"It will stop being in the headlines when you guys [in the media] stop asking questions about it. If someone is exceptional it doesn't mean they are using products," he insists.

On Landis:

How does Hunter feel about the ruling? "I don't really give a damn. Floyd is a friend and he will always be a friend, finished."

On the UCI
"The ProTour means nothing. It will fall by the wayside in the next year. The people with the money -- and that means the ASO -- will win out. The UCI aren't the ones who are making the sport into a spectacle. If they fall by the wayside it will make no difference. If the ASO falls by the wayside there will be nothing to watch."

Hunter thought Duenas was in good form, but the interview was before the positive test.

ESPN/Bonnie Ford
writes of the day after, noting the disbelief at Ricco's brazen behavior, and what clean riders ought to be taking pride in:

What separates these riders from the rest of us is not only their physical gifts but their incredible capacity to drive, motivate and discipline themselves. If a rider believes he has an edge, he does; so each of these teams has gone to extremes to experiment with innovative training methods, equipment and psychological support.


No detail is too small for the concept vetters on these teams. It all adds up to a process that should be a lot more satisfying than living in the clandestine world of injections, transfusions and drips.

ESPN also has a piece by Bobby Julich going every which way. He'd hoped it was an "old guard" problem, but Ricco, shows it's not, and he's frustrated.
I believe in the testing 100 percent. I have to believe the best riders of the Tour right now are performing naturally. Of course, when news like this comes out, you start to question yourself and ask, "Am I being naïve?"

Rant writes about "le Tour de EPO" and Ricky Ricardo, er um Ricardo Ricco and wonders who will be next to be busted?

The Service Course reflects on the betrayal felt by journalists who feel like they been used as conduits of lies by riders subsequently found to be dopers. He goes back in time to reflect on a race he covered where the winning break consisted of eventual winner
Vaughters, Scott Moninger (then Mercury), Chris Wherry (then Saturn), and Floyd Landis (then Mercury).

Since that time, Wherry, god bless him, has kept his nose clean as best I can remember, and has a notable domestic career to look back on for it. The rest? Vaughters was implicated by his little IM conversation with Frankie Andreau, and though he smartly keeps mum on the details of his past, I think he’s done his penitence for any transgressions in a far more valuable manner than spending a couple years on the bench at the UCI’s behest. Moninger had a steroid positive several years later, which he claims was the result of a tainted supplement. And, well, we all know what happened to Floyd. Sort of.

So that breakaway doesn’t look quite so good in retrospect, but at the time, and based on what I knew for sure – which didn’t include what anyone there was smearing, swallowing, injecting, or sticking onto or into their bodies – it was a good story. So I wrote it like I saw it. And without a crystal ball, that’s all we can really do, isn’t it?

The Steroid Report discusses Ricardo Ricco's positive at the TdF for the "undetectable" Mircera. Thanks for the nice blurb.

Smithers in Minneapolis says Floyd Landis joined a group ride a friend was part of recently, and talked "smack" about the "cat 3" Tour de France. Smithers doesn't understand why Landis still has any sponsors.

Stubby Holder continues to express his dislike of cyclists (long vented against Landis), hoping fellow Ozzie Evans loses, because he he hates all of 'em.


apoch said...

“The unfortunate thing is when things look like they’re too good to be true, they are too good to be true. He did look pretty good,” said David Millar of Garmin-Chipotle. “It’s just amazing that he’s that irresponsible and doesn’t have any love or respect for the sport.” from VeloNews.

This is the David Millar that was banned for a couple years for doping and being busted with a bunch of contraband in his hotel room, right?

bill hue said...

From Cyclingnews live coverage of today's stage:

15:21 CEST
News just in: The Saunier Duval has fired both Riccardo Ricco and Leonardo Piepoli for "doping practices."

There had been rumours that another rider tested positive for the same substance, CERA. While this is yet to be confirmed, it is clear that the team has serious doubts about the stage 10 winner.

The company is also understood to be considering stopping its sponsorship of the team.

woody said...

Floyd needs to take a look at this:

Internet Famous: Julia Allison and the Secrets of Self-Promotion

m said...

Spanish Media is reporting that Duenas has admitted injecting himself with doping substances. In reports of an ASO press conference, Clerc or Prudhomme confirmed that "drip bags" were found but could not confirm that "blood bags" were found. They state there is no evidence to show team complicity yet so Barlow World will continue. On the other hand, more than half of Barlow World's riders have dropped out for various reasons, including Duenas' roommate.


French media is reporting that prosecuting attorneys announced finding "items of interest" in their search of Ricco's room, but found nothing in the search of the team bus intercepted minutes from the Spanish border.

Later reports report more detail, syringes etc.

Google translation:

"It was found in the raid on his hotel room various medical equipment, syringes and catheters style unused. There were also pockets empty," said Leroy. "A priori, there was no doping as such.""

beeble said...

Slightly off topic for today but something I'm curious about...

Che, er Patty McQuaid, hero for the revolution, blowing smoke (again) about how the UCI is going to try and recover cash from the teams for bailing on the ProTour and their UCI licences.

The language I've been seeing on the news sites says the teams "decided not to renew their licenses" for next year.

My question is exactly what can the UCI recover if the teams haven't actually signed up for and haven't paid for next years licences?

The UCI can't exactly send a bill for services not rendered can they?

m said...

Thoughts on why repeated and targeted testing made sense.

On DP forums they note that third generation EPO, CERA, has a much longer half life (decreases by half), up to a week, while regular EPO can decay in as little as a day. But a new article on French Eurosports, reports that the characteristic molecule of CERA can decay in 2 days. Thus the need for repeated testing of the suspects.

Some other speculation is that the new test needed high volume of urine, because the marker molecule is so big it does not excrete easily in urine, so multiple sample collections.

inally, if you suspect someone of doping you can set a trap by testing them, and retesting them later. After the first test they may think they have a green light for doping.

It's a good article which describes how Ricco's suspicious samples at the GIRO led to a new test by LNND 2 months later at the tour.


9 of the protour teams are signed up for another year, so they would be terminating prematurely, and UCI is threatening them with damages should they do so.

m said...

From my reading, not yet complete, it appears that the French criminal laws being applied to Ricco, Duenas et. al. only punish possession and trafficking in doping products, not use. So they have to catch them with the actual doping substances. Up to now they have found syringes etc. but no doping subtances wrt to Ricco. They will have to analyze those "empty" pouches. This suggests that a failed drug test is not sufficient evidence in and of itself to prove a violation of these criminal laws.

There may be other laws however which might apply.

Larry said...

M, great posts, extremely helpful.

I will continue to push for testing of everyone in the Tour.

Can you say with confidence that only the riders on the target list could be doping? That if by magic all of these riders were to disappear from the race tomorrow, that we'd could say with confidence that the race is clean?

What happened to Saugy's 150 dopers from last year's race? Or Daamsgard's 20-50 EPO users in this year's race?

Are you saying that the resources of the ADAs are so meager, that their capacity for sampling and testing is so stretched to the breaking point, that the BEST they can do is focus their resources on 10 to 20 cyclists (depending on what report you read of who is being targeted)?

I say, get out there and collect those samples from everyone! If you want to target test during the course of the Tour, to try and get the most likely suspects out of the race before they reach Paris, I'd probably go along with you. (I'd like to understand better who is being targeted and why.) But I do not go along with the idea that the authorities KNOW who is doping and who is not before the tests are in. Neither does Daamsgard, for what it's worth.

jrdbutcher said...

At this point I'd only trust an expert cite regarding how Cera acts in the system and what the window is for testing.
Common recreational drug examples:
1) THC has very low solubility in water. Attaches to fat cells. Can be detected long after use. (a month +/-)
2) Alcohol is highly soluble in water. Can be flushed from the system relatively quickly. Small window of time for detection. (hours to a day +/-)
3) Cocaine: I have not researched the mechanism. Can be detected via hair sample several months after use.
I’m skeptical we will get accurate information on Cera via the press, except by random chance.

Patty is probably blowing smoke (or smoking something) again. The UCI didn’t exactly hold up their end of the bargain wrt the ProTour. My guess is that the teams will not have a difficult time showing the UCI broke the contract first (Unibet, Paris-Nice, etc…), if pushed to do so. McQuaid is bluffing again, and with a very weak hand.

m said...


I assume that they test the top 2 finishers and the yellow jersey. So when I say targeted testing I'm referring to the left-over tests, some of which may also be random. Of course they don't know exactly or even roughly who might be doping. But with limited testing resources, it makes more sense to use what suspicion indicators you have, blood values, suspicions from other races and performances, etc., rather than throwing darts blindly. No need to search the grandma or test the French unless their is some specific indicator.

Even with that, they've only returned 3 or 4 positives from a reported 60 or so tests. The test itself probably returns a lot of false negatives given the half life of the drugs involved. I seriously doubt random testing would have yielded any positives except for stage winners Ricco and Piepoli (reported positive on French TV).

I would be in favor of testing everybody, but I don't know what the financial and practical burdens would be. So you have to weigh that also along with the horrendous costs of taking these cases to arbitration because it's a new test and undoubtedly will be challenged. It's kinda like spending other peoples money. I have some great trades my favorite basketball team can make, but I don't have to pay for it.

beeble said...

Thanks jrd, that's about what I suspected

Everyone here raise your hands if you want to play poker with Patty McQ!! We'll be rich!

strbuk said...

Thank you Robbie Hunter, I needed to see that and so maybe does Floyd.


jrdbutcher said...

I kind of like Bobby. He had SVT corrected many years ago through a radio frequency ablation procedure when that operation was in its early days. The operation that corrected my Atrial Fibrillation is a close cousin based upon the one he had. He’s a rider who has put in some memorable performances and seems to be an amiable guy. However, if he believes 100% in the tests, then he is being naive. But then, we all hold some mistaken opinions and the subject has certainly had an impact on his career.

FWIW, I used to be fairly ambivalent about Robbie Hunter. That interview has changed my mind. He’s a stand-up individual with qualities to be admired. Now I finally have someone to root for when the roads are not too vertical and the finishes fast and flat. Go Robbie.

m said...

Interesting details.

El Pais is reports that Duenas's sample and Ricco's were taken the same day, but Ricco's test took 2 days longer because it was for the CERA EPO, while Duenas's was for the first generation EPO. Also 12 samples per day are performed, with this fractured google translation quote from Clerc:

"Anyway," said Clerc, "this shows that inspections work and the fact that it is a figure does see further that the Tour does not protect anybody. 12 checks are conducted daily and there are 180 runners: there have been only three positive, so the number of cheaters is minimal. " reports that the new CERA test was developed jointly between the Lausanne WADA lab and LNND. And that they targeted Ricco from the beginning.

First reported on DP forums.

Larry said...

M -

From the information you're reporting, it would appear that we don't know much of what's going on.

If the 3d generation EPO works for a month and can only be detected for a couple of days, that's

very bad news for the ADAs. It means that a doping cyclist could take the new EPO a week before

the Tour, and the drug would be undetectable by the time the cyclist enters France but would be

effective (potentially) throughout the course of the Tour. Also, because the new EPO works more

gradually, it may not be detectable even with blood profile testing.

Your point about repeated testing makes sense with respect to the need for a large amount of urine for testing ... though the WADA rules do not contemplate combining two athlete samples to perform a single test. But repeated testing makes less sense if the concern is that the new EPO can be detected only within 48 hours after administration ... because this new EPO only need be taken once or twice a month, the chances are that the suspected doping cyclist might take this drug once (at most) during the course of the Tour and probaby not until about now (as the race enters the Alps). If the drug did not show up in testing during day one of the Tour, it would not likely show up during day two, or three, or four.

Your point that we don't know much yet about this third generation EPO is a good one. Maybe the AFLD plan is better targeted to this drug than we can appreciate at the moment.

The frustration I feel has to do with listening to the ADAs complain all these years about how they are overmatched by the clever dopers and their clever doctors, how they can look at test results and see evidence of widespread doping but not be able to prove the doping under the WADA rules, and how the whole problem would just be solved if someone (always, someone else) would "get serious" about doping. Well, if their idea of "getting serious" is to effectively test a couple of dozen riders and produce a few shaky AAFs, I'm not impressed with how serious they are.

Larry said...

M -

From my read of DPF (yes, I do it sometimes, though I wear a disguise when I do so!), a few interesting facts, mostly from OMJ:

OMJ says that CERA (the third generation EPO we've been discussing) is about twice the molecular size of endogenous EPO and should be easy to test for. He clearly thinks that AFLD has come up with a new test for CERA and is not just interpreting the old EPO test in a new way (as I had thought). I'm sure he's right, now that I understand the facts better.

OMJ claims that (despite the report about a 48 hour half life for CERA) CERA has a much longer half-life than either natural or earlier forms of recombinant EPO -- a week or longer in some studies, and he cites a Roche Study, which I haven't read yet. OMJ seems to think what I've suggested, that the long half-life of this drug gives the testers an unprecedented opportunity to look for and verify the presence of this drug in cyclists. TEST EVERYONE! (That's my recommendation; OMJ is silent on this question.)

There's also the suggestion that a reason for the repeated testing of certain targeted riders is to generate multiple AAFs, which would be helpful proof either in arbitration or in criminal court given the fact that the test is not yet validated.

jrdbutcher said...

larry & M,

I trust OMJ’s opinions on the subject of Cera much more than any number of links related to press coverage on the subject, especially when mechanically translated. With few exceptions, the press is just not equipped. I don’t agree with everything OMJ writes, but when he’s not working an agenda and provides an authoritative cite, then I’m not likely to quibble. If the press goes to the trouble of educating themselves and using expert sources, then those particular members of the press will become credible on the subject. Until then, the press reports on Cera are just background noise.

M, I think I follow you, except on the point related to using several un-validated tests resulting in an AAF to support upholding the AAF. That can only be logic that works in WADA World, the French franchise. Validated tests can yield positives or negatives. Tests that are not validated can yield nothing, no mater how many times the same result turns up, wrt declaring/upholding an AAF.

m said...


"With few exceptions, the press is just not equipped." I tend to agree, so I treat everything with a grain of salt even OMJ's post (which I also read) and note all the conflicting reports at least in my mind.

As to the number of tests performed, today on NPR Andrew Hood of Velonews reported an "unprecedented 200 controls" fojavascript:void(0)
Publish Your Commentr the first 4 stages or possibly first week. I've also read that 60 samples were taken on the first day alone. So we have Clerc 12 a day, Hood 200 total, etc. At any rate many more than in past tours.

jrdbutcher said...

My point did not relate to the frequency of the testing being done @ the TdF this year. Thanks for the info anyway.

jrdbutcher said...

M, Misunderstood your post during a quick read. I apologize.

Larry said...

M, we spent some time over at RYHO trying to figure out how many samples they're taking per day at this year's TdF. The NPR report was mentioned there as well. I hope you're right that they're taking a ton of samples. TEST EVERYONE!

But we're guessing that they're taking something like 8 - 10 samples a day. Bonnie Ford (a reporter I trust) said that AFLD took 13 samples after the stage 4 time trial, that this was "an almost unheard-of number", and that they needed two testing rooms to accommodate that many samples. Bonnie reported that after stage 1 they tested Beltran, the top three finishers and "an interesting collection of selected riders", which does not sound to me like 56 other guys. With two testing rooms, it's hard to imagine 60 samples taken -- there would have been a lot of guys at the end of both lines hopping on one foot, as it were.

So I tend to disbelieve the NPR report. Or maybe NPR included the pre-Tour blood tests in the count of 200+ samples.

By all reports, AFLD is collecting more samples per day than in previous Tours, so we can be happy about that. However, with repeated testing of guys on the targeted list, they may not be testing a greater percentage of the peloton than usual. It WOULD be nice to know what's going on. TEST EVERYONE!

m said...


Regarding whether the test is "validated" or not.

If I recall correctly, the CAS decision in the Tyler Hamilton case stated that you can use a new "unvalidated" test but that the lab/federation has the burden of showing it's reliable and valid.

Moreover, I read the WADA ISL to give leeway to the Lab to develop and validate new tests on its own.

Compare ISL section that requires a "WADA accepted validation method" in screening tests only, with ISL section which states the lab shall develop methods and validate them, and ISL section 6.4.3 which says that the lab can add methods and analytes so long as they are approved in the next ISO audit. Note also that the language is "accepted" by WADA, not "validated" by WADA. Depending on what was done to "validate" this test, I think arguments can be made that any resulting AFF is entitled to the presumption under the WADA rules and ISL.

Finally, there is a post on DP forums referring to a Danish news article if I recall correctly which claims the new test was approved by WADA just a day/days before it's first use by LNND.

Larry said...

JRD, I think that "M" correctly points to the Hamilton case as providing the kind of analysis that the CAS will do for AFLD's CERA testing.

I am working on a quick analysis of the Hamilton case, in response to questions I've received at RYHO. I will post the analysis there.