Sunday, July 30, 2006

Political underpinnings

Floating in the pool with my wife, we mused that to be soft on doping was like being soft on crime, or being a cut-and-runner in either Vietnam or Iraq -- just not politically possible without some cathartic event. In this blog, a bio-ethicist makes the modest suggestion that a World Pro-Doping Agency be created to make the argument for the other side. Otherwise, all we get to hear is Dick Pound's pontificating.

The moral outrage of the zero tolerance position is clearly as much a political problem as an ethical one. We allow riders to take antibiotics, and spin tales how this isn't performance enhancing -- as if their performance wouldn't be worse if they weren't taking them. Ah, but that is to get back to normal levels, we say. Gatlin's first 'positive' was for a drug he'd been taking since he was nine years old (obviously part of a Ferrari-like plot to raise an army of super-runners), for which no slack or sanity was allowed. Yes, asthma is epidemic, but now 25% of the peloton "has" it and gets waivers for things like albuterol. At the same time, marijuana use is also disallowed in events for which it couldn't possibly be performance enhancing. So, the rationales limit athletes to, well, basically being Christian Scientists, I guess, and that seems easier and clearer than applying intellegence and judgement.

Ray Cipollini writes an amazing piece on the dailypeloton considering some saner options - but they are too rational to be considered politically acceptable.

I'm not going to argue for allowing plainly dangerous practices. Neveretheless, the idea of having some things be acceptable when done under transparent and safe conditions seems worth investigating. It will be opposed by the same folks who are against birth control, abortion, and needle-exchange programs, for the same reasons.

On the other hand, consider the example of rules in NASCAR. These are intended to intentionally restrict innovation and cost escalation. They keep competition relatively even, which is good for the show, and the rules get jiggled to enhance partity often on short notice. Crews traditionally take a creative view of the rules, and when they get caught in violation, sanctions are real, but not draconian. Would it be a better idea to give a lifetime ban to a driver or crew chief on a second career violation? Would that really be good for the sport?

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Unverified: IRMS Found Exogeous A Sample

Cyclingnews passes on reports by L'Equipe that the A sample had synthetic testosterone here, with some discussion on USENET here. Scary arguments are attributed to Jose Maria Buxeda, reported as one of Floyd's attorney about the use of IRMS being "not reliable". That's the first time I've heard anyone make that claim. So far, IRMS has been given as the definitive test to obtain the CIR, and use of either term seems more or less equivalent. If Buxeda is trying to hang hopes on this argument, things are indeed ugly.

We also see L'Equipe is once again receiving unauthorized information transfer, which raises questions about the credibility of the lab (update: or the UCI). One would want to check the chain of custody carefully.

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Did Floyd get an IV after stage 16?

I haven't heard a specific statement one way or another. While there is speculation he did, his own commentary didn't say, and sort of suggested he did not.

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Some new methods of testing

Are reported in this abstract and the related links.

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Aggression, heat and testosterone

It's fairly well established that a symptom of heat-stroke can be aggression. I haven't found anything that indicates whether this is directly related to testosterone levels. On the other hand, I do see things about testosterone levels that further suggest the stress/aggression correlation, for instance a popularization here.

In this article about aggression, we see

A disturbance in the body's chemistry or physiology - perhaps brought on by fatigue, hunger or lack of sleep - may alter a person's self-control. Medical conditions can sometimes play a role, eg a person taking medication for diabetes may develop low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) if they miss a meal and can become aggressive as a result.
Well, that seems in line. Then there is the chicken and egg argument -- which comes first, the testosterone or the aggression? Discussed here, with related articles.

Also, this, and this somewhat dubious page :-) on wiki.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

The prosecution narrative

To sell a case to a jury, the prosecution likes to have a clear narrative that explains just about everything. In reading the existing commentary from both MSM and blogdom, I imagine the story goes something as follows. Remember -- this isn't my opinion, but what a prosecutor might say.

Floyd left his sheltered upbringing and came to pro-cycling as a naif. The rebellious nature that led him to drink beer and Jack Daniels added slack to his moral anchor, and the cesspool of the sport may have carried him far away. He developed a Machiavellian personality, showing a surface of "Good Old Floyd" while darker things happened underneath. After stage 16, he was a desperate man facing the end of his career and his dream, and reached out for something that would feed a last attempt to get the glory he believed he deserved.

However, we need not look at his morals or intentions at all, only the facts. He had whatever it was in his body. A fact. Whether he took it knowingly is immaterial -- it was in him, and it fed his rage and helped him do what no-one believed was possible. This changed the outcome of the race, which is the worst sort of result, and it cannot be allowed to stand. We cannot allow our imagination of whether he could or would have won the stage without this chemical to affect our judgement. He had the exogenous material, which is not allowed, period. He must be held to our strict standard of accountability.
[update: echoed here]

My opinion: If it is exogenous, the game is over. If not, then the arguments of the endocrinologal defenses come into play, and there is more relevance to the character assasination in the first paragraph.

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What if exogenous?

For sake of argument, assume that the B sample (and maybe the A) are deemed to have foreign (exogenous) testosterone present. Two questions come up, "What happens", and "what happened."

What happens seems clear enough -- Floyd is nailed, loses the title and 4 years from the ProTour, and likely ending his career on the road. Is there anything he can do in the interim, like return to MTB?

"What happened" is intriquing, but probably doesn't affect the outcome. The possibilities as I can speculate include:

  1. Guilty, Guilty, Guilty.
  2. Contamination during analysis (consipiracy of stupidity)
  3. Contamination during transport (conspiracy of idiocy)
  4. Contamination during testing (conspiracy of dunces)
  5. Sabotage during or after testing (consipacy of evil theory)
  6. Other party doing something unknownst before or during the stage.
I am curious about the last scenario. In what way could Floyd have been doped by someone else without knowing? Is there a way to spike food or drink to produce these results?

If there is a way, who could have done it, and why? We're left with ostensible "friends", competitors, and third-parties as possibilities. It seems to me that all of those classes probably figured he was dead after stage 16, so it is hard to imagine competitors or third-parties bothering with a sabotage in anticipation of stage 17. That leaves us wondering if a "friend" might have tried to "help." This is a disturbing line of thought.

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The transcript of the Larry King show with Landis has the following interesting exchanges over questions from viewers:

KING: We have another e-mail from Tim in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. "Can you release or authorize the release of the actual document showing the test results, not only after stage 17 but others from the Tour and from before and after the Tour?"

Floyd, could you authorize that?

LANDIS: I don't know if I can, because I don't have the other tests in my possession. I don't have the actual test in which I was accused of having an abnormal reading. The team has a copy. I could get it.

The other tests we're in the process of trying to acquire. Ordinarily, we don't receive any kind of correspondence from the testers unless there is a problem, so I have never in my life received any kind of results from the tests.

KING: But Dr. Kay, would you have any problem releasing anything?

KAY: No, I think we'd all like to see it
Followed a little later by
KING: Nicholas in Medford, New Jersey, an e-mail. "During past race day drug testing, has Floyd exhibited a pattern of normal but high testosterone levels? If not, what physiological explanation can account for the spike?" Doctor?

KAY: Well, Floyd has been tested countless times. I think we talked about maybe 20 this year alone and all you are given after those tests are the negative results. He is normal. He has been normal on all the tests so he's never received the documentation of the actual laboratory values. You're not entitled to them.

KING: Should you be?

KAY: So we've had those questions over and over. It would be nice to see them now but I think that's their position.

Based on this, I think we should expect the same kind of openness from the Floyd camp on all the test results, both historic and future, that we've come to see with his PowerTap numbers. If yes, we'll have more belief in whatever arguments are made, and if not, there will be more reason to be suspicious. Recall that one of the awkward things about the Hamilton defense was that it didn't appear he did any follow-up testing to attempt to prove his hypothoses. Floyd seems to be willing to do such things, and make the results public, which is a favorable demonstration of his intentions.

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We should note that US sprinter Justin Gatlin has just announced that he's been found positive for the same infraction as Floyd. Reports are mixed -- some say it was by the same lab, other say it was a lab in Los Angeles. The Gatlin test is reported to have used the spectrographic test. Larry Gatlin seems nearly as unlikely a suspect as Floyd -- he's been outpoken against doping, and faces a life ban for a second offense having been nailed on a technical violation earlier. Things may really be that rotten, the tests may be bad, or there may be funny business going on.

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Landis as of Saturday, July 29

What I currently understand of the Floyd Landis testing situation is that he's have an "adverse analytical finding" on his A sample for a T/E ratio exceeding the screening value of 4:1. Rumours suggest a reported ratio of 11:1, but this is, so far, andecotal. German TV is claiming to have received a suggestion that there was a finding that something was artificial rather than natural; if so that would either indicate doping of some sort or test contamination. However, this allegation has not been confirmed, and it is not clear if the spectroscopic test necessary to make the determination was done on the A sample.

One suspicion is that Floyd has a naturally low E-value, making swings in the ratio more likely with changes in the T value. Of the 'natural' defenses I've seen, I'd probably want to try the exercise-induced-elevation reported here.

Generally, hormonal responses to demanding high-volume resistance exercise include increases in the first 30 minutes of recovery in testosterone, hGH, and cortisol. IGF-1 occurs after growth hormones have caused hepatic secretions, and insulin increases in the presence of elevated blood glucose and dietary supplements. Catecholamines are associated with demanding strenuous exercise and appear to be part of a psychophysiological response to high task challenges.


Implications. Tesosterone, hGH, IGF-1, and cortisol are tested in drug programs. Their elevation is likely to be unacceptable in individuals who naturally have above average resting levels, respond excessively to very demanding resistance training sessions, and are tested very close to exercise completion. To avoid invalid test results, athletes who are required to provide a urine sample after a body-builder-type resistance program should do the following:

  • Stall as long as possible before providing the urine sample.
  • Refrain from participating in any demanding resistance program, particularly those aimed at increasing muscle bulk.
  • Resist post-exercise dietary (high protein/carbohydrate) supplements, despite that resistance not allowing the best training response.
Athletes undertaking a muscle building program are likely to be at greater risk for a false positive test after exercise than at any other time, solely because of natural events that do not fall under the exogenous-endogenous classification.
If ever there were someone who had done a lot of stressful exercise preceding sample production, it was the effort that Floyd had made in the last climb and in his anaerobic sprint to the line. The picture told the story - he was jacked up beyond anyone's memory.

If I were trying to do testing with him to prove innocence, I would quite possibly want to duplicate some of the things on the stage, with tests before and after.

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