Sunday, August 24, 2008

Irregular Report 13

The CyclingNews notes that the "John Doe vs USADA" lawsuit has been dismissed. posts a piece about doping at the Olympics in which it's noted that far fewer "positives" have been found than expected at this year's games.

Pommi shows what could potentially happen if you don't wear your helmet when you ride. He also gives us some very detailed "pictures" of himself. Keep the faith!

Racejunkie notes more defections from the beloved Vuelta, "doping" horses at the Olympics, and "Boom Boom" Boonen is back.

Rant writes about the low number of doping positives to come from this year's Olympics in Beijing and wonders if some athletes may be finding other less detectable ways of "cheating".

And:F looks at Berry, and starts to have questions about Landis.

Cheat or Beat points the finger, mostly at the Games. Bonnie Fishman would like a hero too.

Cycling 4 Charity ran into Landis at an event at Hearst Castle


Unknown said...

Commiserations for the accident and heal well. Your helmet story though is not what you think. A helmet that has cracked has failed by brittle fracture and absorbed little or no energy. A helmet is designed to work by compressing the lining, not by cracking it. As in drugs testing you need to understand the science before you pronounce on the results.

Pommi said...


the purpose of the helmet is to absorb the impact energy and crush the foam not the head. so as far as "my helmet story" goes, it did the job, and that's all I care about.

Russ said...

Awhile back, I hit the road, just after I hit the dog.

I was knocked out for a couple of minutes.

The helmet external of the helmet looked great except for an area that had the imprint of the road surface.

The inside had many cracks. I guess I'd be dead or a severely brain damaged now without the helmet.

I'd guess the foam did both compression and cracking, after all the cracking came after more deformation occurred than the foam could stand. It was a 29.95 helmet.

So, is there a brand/model that stands the impact, doesn't crack and is certified safe for reuse?

If I had not seen the cracks, I'd have been tempted to reuse the thing, especially since it had a hard to find sticker on it :-).

TBV and Pommi, get well soon!!


Ali said...

I'd like to echo Russ's sentiments. Sorry to hear about your misfortune, TBV and Pommi. It's never much fun when the realities of gravity, hard road surfaces and the human body converge. Ouch !.

And Russ, thanks for the good luck message on the job front. Much appreciated. I'll let you know how it goes (fingers crossed)


wschart said...

Way back, I did a flyer over the handlebars and landed square on my forehead right above the left eye. This was in the days when the only "helmet" available was the notorious leather hairnet, and no self-respecting rider wore one outside of competition. I got a nice laceration to the bone, a couple of nasty bruises on my thighs where they hit the bars on the way over, and in a couple of days, a beautiful shiner from all the internal drainage from the laceration.

A couple of years later, a doctor enquired about my scar, and when I told him the story, shook his head and said "you have a hard head". My wife probably would agree.

Anyway, I now wear a helmet all the time, except when riding in my basement.

TiGirl said...

Just fyi: a crack in the foam does not signify failure by brittle fracture...the foam is designed to break and crush...not just crush...nor can it physically absorb shock...see physics 101 for converts the energy to another type of energy...

(Any physics text will tell you that the Law of Conservation of Energy means that the energy of the crash cannot be "absorbed" but can only be converted to some other form of energy. So we refer to what a helmet does in a crash as "energy management" rather than "absorbing" energy.)

here's a great description of how a helmet works from the snell memorial site:

How do helmets work?
Helmets are normally comprised of four elements; a rigid outer shell, a crushable liner, chin straps or a retaining system and fit or comfort padding. The rigid outer shell when present adds a load-spreading capability, and prevents objects from penetrating the helmet. It's kind of like an additional skull. The liner, usually made of EPS (expanded polystyrene) or similar types of materials absorbs the energy of an impact by crushing. The chin strap when properly buckled and adjusted along with the fit padding helps the helmet remain in position during a crash.
Helmets work kind of like a brake or shock absorber. During a fall or crash a head is traveling at a certain speed. Since the head has weight, and is moving there is a certain amount of energy associated with the moving head. When the helmet along with the accompanying head impact an unyielding object; a rock, a wall, a curb or the ground the hard shell starts by taking the energy generated by the falling helmet (head) and spreads it over a larger portion of the helmet, specifically the internal foam liner. The foam liner then starts to crush and break which uses up a lot of the energy, keeping it from reaching the head inside. Depending on how fast the head is traveling, and how big, heavy and immovable the object is the faster the head slows down, and the more energy is present. In short everything slows down really quickly. A helmet will effectively reduce the speed of the head by breaking and crushing which reduces the amount of energy transferred to the brain. The whole process take only milliseconds to turn a potentially lethal blow into a survivable one.

Here are two great links fyi:

for more detail:

ONe of the more interesting factors is that the outer shell isn't designed to help keep the inner shell together or anything like that, but to help your head slide on the ground, therefore transferring more energy away from the impact to your head.

Sorry for the lesson, but if you need a new helmet, there's some good information out there.

It's my job...I teach bicycle safety to 4th graders throughout my state.

Helmets are the single best investment you can make as a bicyclist...and like Pommi said, if it does the job, that's what's important! Just thank the scientists who DO care about how it works!!! ;-)


Rosemary said...

Do helmets have an expiration date like child safety seats?

whareagle said...

Rosemary - I think the rule of thumb is to replace your helmet every two years, or after every crash! :)

Calfeegirl - you ought to come out here and teach. My state is a LOT bigger! :)

Rosemary said...

@ Whareagle, Thanks, I'm sure my husband will be thrilled to have my blessing for buying a new helmet. I just "ordered" him to get a LED/HID light that he has to use during daytime road rides.

TiGirl said...

Hey...maybe you could get one of the helmets used in the Closing Ceremonies!!!! Did you notice the drummers were all wearing bike helmets????

Whareagle....I'd have to get up awfully early to make it across the state to teach....though the traffic here is so bad, maybe the travel time will be the same!

apoch said...

I've been thinking about the Berry article ever since it was first posted here and I read it. One of the things I took away from it was we don't know how many false positives and false negatives show up during testing. We don't know because WADA won't tell us and there is a good chance even WADA doesn't know.

But what if WADA does? I can see two scenarios, besides the tell nobody nothing on general principle, in which they would want to keep this information from the public.

If they have a signifcant number of false positives they cannot release it because it'd under mine the whole system. If it was high enough nobody could believe any of their results.

The other possibility that has been haunting me is, what if they have a large number of false negatives and know it? They couldn't tell anyone because if they did it'd be giving athletes a license to dope. It'd explain why Ricardo Ricco was only busted once when he should have been caught on every stage. It'd explain why Dr. Damsgard says there are tons of EPO positives that never get punished. It'd also explain why they are so zealous about punishing the people they do catch. If they know they miss a large chunk of the people they think are cheaters, you have to set an example of the ones you do catch.

Of course, we don't know what the false result rate is, positive or negative. So this is all just speculation.

nahual said...

And another thing about those helmets others than myself may have been unaware of is the proper placement of the V straps locating just under the ear so as to prevent rolling of the helmet before or during an impact. So cinch up those straps so you have to get your big flappers inside the formed V at each side.

TiGirl said...

That's a great point about the V straps under the should hear those 4th graders whining and complaining when we make them wear those straps as they are supposed to be worn...(the chin strap is the worst)...the drama is hilarious! (but of course, we always win, since they don't get to ride unless they follow the rules and wear their helmet properly).

Mike Solberg said...

Do we know where the Olympic drug testing is being done? Do they rely on temporary digs near the events (i.e. in Beijing)? Or is there a WADA lab in China? Or are they sending stuff to the WADA lab in Japan?

Might Japan may have significantly different positivity criteria than other labs, and thus we see fewer positives?


wschart said...


In order to have false negatives that are known about by WADA, there would have to be some other independent method of establishing that any particular athlete had doped. In Ricco's case, if we take his statements at face value, we have that. In other cases, we may have some degree of suspicion that an athlete is doping, perhaps based on performance, or being on a certain team, etc., but that does not constitute proof of a false positive. Damsgaard's allegations seem to me to be less about false negatives than the idea that he says he see evidence of doping in results that WADA rules declare are negative. To me, that's sort of like a state says that one has to have a BAC of 0.10 when others say 0.08 is enough.

Then there is the question of timing. If Ricco had doped during the Giro, then laid of during the Tour, assuming enough time had passed for the drugs to clear his system, there would have been no false negatives during the TdF.

WADA might have some idea, in a general statistical way, of how many tests of a certain kind are likely to be false negatives, but I doubt it would know that any given test was a false negative.

apoch said...


My pondering depends on the assumptiont that they've done the kind of verification of their testing protocols Berry was calling them out for not doing and releasing.

Unknown said...

Its curious that a community that prides itself on the importance of what the science tells you should so ignore what the science tells you about helmet efficacy. I would recommend three sources that look at the science that might change your mind (unless you have a WADA-ish approach to any science that contradicts your beliefs).

As for cracking and crushing, Calfeegirl, you're wrong which is all the more worrying if you are teaching this stuff. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau said in a very detailed experimental assessment of helmet performance:
"In an impact situation involving a motorcycle or bicycle helmet, cracking through the thickness of the foam liner (slab cracking)is undesirable as it renders the foam liner of the helmet useless in its ability to further absorb an impact force. As a result the foam is unable to distribute the focal impact over a larger area and to decelerate the blow at the point of impact."
Improved Shock Absorbing Liner for Helmets, July 2001

Ali said...

Helmets work. Let's all wear them.

End of.

Bill Mc said...

As Ali said "Helmets work. Let's all wear them."

Now onto beating a dead horse: As to whether or not, or how much, cracks degrade the impact absorbing capabilities of helmets, there isn't a single easy answer because no one here has addressed the issue of when the cracks occur. Without question, preexisting cracks will degrade the ability of the helmet liner to dissipate and distribute the impact energy. Cracks which are created later, such as during the impact will have varying effects on the helmet's performance depending upon how much of the impact's energy has already been dissipated before the crack(s) form. It is also quite likely that crack could form as the liner material attempts to return to its original shape after the impact, in which case the cracks' effect on the helmets performance would be negligible.

All of that notwithstanding, it is in all of our best interests to wear helmets which meet reasonable standards for impact resistance and to never reuse a helmet that has suffered a significant impact.

In closing, my belated sympathies to TGV and Pommi for their mishaps and a sincere wish for their rapid recoveries.

DBrower said...

Thanks to Bill Mc, I am not much, much faster as "TGV", but unable to compete in cycling, though now eligable for events on steel rails.

My helmet got some scratches, and it's the Phonak one, so I ain't throwing it out.

Pommi absolutely got the worst of the meetings with the road surface, needing internal screws and plates, and x-rays with circles and lines and paragraphs of explanation. I got some painkillers, and am about back on the bike after some boring weeks on a trainer in the middle of the glorious summer.

Thanks to all those who have sent sympathetic vibes. With luck, I'll have learned my lesson about descending on roads with obviously loose gravel.


Bill Mc said...

TBV, sorry about the slip of the finger. I should have included my usual disclaimer in that post: that all errors & omissions are due the fact that I was in a weakened state (sober) when I wrote it.

Glad to hear that you are back on your bike again and yes do look out for the gravel!

TiGirl said...


Well, in the first article you reference it says right on the first page: (quote)
"Movement of a helmet
about the head and breakage of
the helmet shell also assist with
the reduction of some energy."

The second article makes no mention of the science involved, just argues that death/injury can occur while wearing a helmet, and makes a good argument for drivers treating bicyclists well, and giving bicyclists priority for safety.

The third one just reiterates and quotes studies, but no proof of anything.

Your last quote can be argued here:
Helmets work kind of like a brake or shock absorber. During a fall or crash a head is traveling at a certain speed. Since the head has weight, and is moving there is a certain amount of energy associated with the moving head. When the helmet along with the accompanying head impact an unyielding object; a rock, a wall, a curb or the ground the hard shell starts by taking the energy generated by the falling helmet (head) and spreads it over a larger portion of the helmet, specifically the internal foam liner. The foam liner then starts to crush and break which uses up a lot of the energy, keeping it from reaching the head inside. Depending on how fast the head is traveling, and how big, heavy and immovable the object is the faster the head slows down, and the more energy is present.

(from the Snell testing website)

I'm not sure what you are arguing at this point...

That helmets can cause more problems than they cause??? That we shouldn't be wearing them??

I'm not sure what "science" you are talking about at this point. The laws of Physics are what they are....and you still haven't refuted the main argument you brought up...that the foam liner isn't designed to crush.

If you're thinking that I'm claiming that helmets are a perfect science and solution, then you are mistaken.

I know about the rotational forces problem, the over confidence problems, the not wearing them correctly problems....but the first step is to get people to wear them properly and TO WEAR them period.

But I have seen the results of helmet vs no helmet crashes, and I would rather take my chances with one than without. Having experienced concussions and broken helmets, I know what my head would have looked like without the helmet. I'll take the risks involved with the helmet over non-helmet any day.

You can make the same arguments for seat belts. It's the same debate.

It is the law where I live that children wear helmets while riding.

I teach children the skills they need so they WON"T get hit by a car due to their ignorance. I teach children to keep caution as number one priority while riding their bikes with traffic, and else where. I teach them to know and obey the traffic laws. I teach them how to pedal, how to coast, how to brake and stop. We have them ride narrow lanes, do slalom courses and show that they can ride with only one hand and still control the bike (and signal for a turn or that they are stopping).

I have taught full grown adults who have never been on a bike before how to ride...who have gone on to Ironman races and beyond.

What do you find scary?????


TiGirl said...

excuse me, I mis-spoke (or mis-typed).. not"what do you find so scary?" but

"what do you find so worrisome???"

Pommi said...

The website of the anti-helmet mafia

Don't know why, but they're trying to refute the simple effectiveness of a bike helmet with shady numbers and facts.

It's a good laugh; hear this:

"The most effective way to reduce the likelihood of injury when cycling is to increase the number of people who cycle. "

DBrower said...

Wow, that sounds like our Ozzie friend, "Stubby Holder".

Kind of like the argument that smoking reduces net health care costs, by killing people early, before they become gerontology cases needing long-term care.


Unknown said...

Sheesh Pommi,TBV, your comments are the equivalent of saying forget the science, you know Landis is guilty. And that from a site that prides itself on the science. I suggest you read the research. Its well proven that safety increases with the numbers cycling to the power of -0.35. Its why when cycling in London doubled over 2000-2005 the number of accidents fell by 28%. Read Jacobsen's summary paper "Safety in Numbers: more walkers and bicyclists, safer walking and bicycling"

Far from being the anti-helmet mafia, are the TBV of helmets and they include senior academics, statisticians and helmet testers. Read who they are at

The science is solid, the facts are solid. So can anyone tell me if helmets are so good why neither Australia or New Zealand saw any reduction in head injuries when helmets were made mandatory and usage went from 40% to 100%? Or why despite girls in the UK being twice as likely to wear a helmet as boys they suffer exactly the same head injury rate or why the Netherlands has the lowest head injury rate in the world and yet nobody wears a helmet?

There is an entrenched WADAish view out there that turns a blind eye to the science in favour of what they know to be true. Its sad to see TBV/Pommi infected with the very sins they accuse WADA and LNDD of.

I'll say no more.

TiGirl said...

OK, since trax isn't going to say anything more I'll conclude with this. (tee heee)

First of all, if helmet wear rate went up to 100%, and wearing a helmet increases the risk of head injury, why didn't the head injury rate GO UP????

Second of all, the issue doesn't address the severity of the injury sustained pre vs post helmet law.

Thirdly, there are just too many unanswered questions in all of these studies to really learn much from them.

Fourthly, why then, does Australia have the most stringent helmet testing protocols if they think helmets aren't all that effective?

Lastly, I speak only for myself, I am not WADA, I am not a governing body for sport, my beliefs and values are mine. I base my belief in the efficacy of helmets not just on what I read, but on what I have experienced. I have read the pros and cons, both supposedly based in science, with differing conclusions. Here is the primary reason why I will continue to wear my helmet when I ride.

I watched another human being die right in front of my eyes due to a head injury. I watched as she collided with a small diameter metal pole and hit the ground. As we got to her, the blood was flowing freely from her head and her body convulsed into the fetal position. By the the time EMTs got there, she had died of blood loss, and her brain had swollen so large, there was no hope. The EMTs all said that it could have been prevented had she been wearing a helmet.

Fast forward a bit, I'm in a criterium race and the woman in front of me goes down. I go down over her, and literally fly head first into a stationary small diameter metal pole, land on the ground, hitting my head again (though not nearly as much force).

I sustained a head injury even though I was wearing my helmet, and broken ribs and road rash. However, even though the collision I had was a HIGHER SPEED than the one I witnessed, I hit with much more force, because I was wearing my helmet I can sit here and type this anal argument with you. I got up and walked away (eventually). The non-helmet wearer did not.

If you want to equate that to WADA-esque blind eye science as you call it (which I'm not sure TBV has ever called it or implied) then feel free.

I hope you wear a helmet when you ride anyway.