Monday, July 21, 2008

Fallout 22

ESPN/AP says CONI has sprung a surprise doping test on CSC/Saxo which of course includes Frank Schleck the TdF yellow jersey wearer. Results have not yet been announced.

Bloomberg reports pay cuts of as much as thirty per-cent in the peloton. Some are getting about $ €1.38 a mile for the Tour, which is a tough way to make a living.

A BBC investigation reveals grave concerns over inadequate EPO testing and the "obvious cheating" that may be occurring in various sporting events, as well as the trouble that may ensue from this at the Beijing Olympics:

(But) the BBC's sources are highly critical of the performance of the WADA-accredited laboratories that carry out EPO tests

Danish researchers recently set out to test how well the labs can detect EPO by medicating eight student volunteers with the drug over a period of weeks. The athletic performance of these students improved in some cases by 50%. But when over 100 urine samples from the students were sent anonymously to two WADA-approved laboratories, they produced very different results. One of the labs declared none of the samples positive

Damsgaard writes an Op-Ed for the BBC, where he decries WADAs conservatism on declaring EPO positives.

[W]hy do neither the WADA accredited laboratories nor WADA themselves declare the samples "positive"? Despite numerous enquiries, WADA refuses to make any changes.

The simplified "legal answer" from WADA and the laboratory is that they are not in possession of the specific kind of artificial EPO that the athletes have used.

As long as the kind of EPO is unknown, there will be no positive test results. WADA has promised that as soon as they track the right EPO, the samples will be declared positive.

And he makes some constructive suggestions:

There are ways to catch or convert the cheaters. First of all, blood profiles must be implemented in all relevant sports federations. Large, unnatural deviations from the individuals' own previous tests results should lead to a "no start" sanction for a given period.

Not before the blood profile has returned to normal is the athlete allowed to compete again. In addition, blood tests should be used to target urine samples.

Then WADA's criteria of a positive EPO urine test should be re-evaluated. Instead of defining a specific signature for each and every different kind of EPO, the definition of a "normal test result" should be developed.

Every test result deviating from this "negative reference" should be considered positive. An alternative approach is to arrange a meeting, where the suspected athlete, a representative from the sports federation and an external anti-doping expert should attend.

Factors like illnesses, genetic factors, strenuous exercise and so on, which could explain the suspicious results, should be disclosed.

In truth, this meeting should be arranged with the sole objective to show the athlete that the federation knows what is going on, and make it clear that from now on the athlete will be tested excessively.

We like "no starts" for profile violations, but don't much like easing the positivity criteria because of the presumptions in the WADA Code that an AAF is a definitive result. The "chat with the boys" is also a good idea.

The CyclingNews writes about the claims stated in the above BBC piece by Dr.Rasmus Damsgaard that WADA is sitting on "a mountain of EPO":

According to Dr Rasmus Damsgaard, an anti-doping expert who oversees the internal testing programs for both CSC-Saxo Bank and Astana, WADA laboratories are sitting on "a mountain of positive EPO" from athletes that have not failed a test. Dr Damsgaard inspected the electronic profiles, or gels as they are known, of five samples declared negative by a WADA laboratory, and said they showed clear signs of EPO being present.

"It was very obvious that the gels were very un-natural or very different from natural distributions," Damsgaard told the BBC. "But I also saw that they were declared negative because they didn't fulfil the WADA criteria of a positive test; although they looked suspicious and had no natural bands at all, they were still declared negative.

The Columbia Tribune (tip from a reader) has an op-ed that wonders about the difficulty of moving to "clean" sport.
What did cycling officials get for being willing to turn over all the rocks? They got a reputation for presiding over the dopiest sport in the world. So when we wonder why our favorite professional sports leagues wont clean up their acts, we should realize the answer is that we cant handle the truth.

A reader points us to a forthcoming book, A Guide to the World Anti-Doping Code. At $160 for 256 pages, the economies of the copier come to mind, but it would be wrong. It is blurbed:

Doping is the biggest problem facing sport. The World Anti-Doping Code has been adopted by sporting organisations worldwide at both national and international level to provide a consistent and harmonised approach to anti-doping measures. The adoption of the Code, and its interpretation and application by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, has brought about great changes in sports law. This book provides a guide to the Code, illustrated through summaries of decisions by the Court of Arbitration for Sport and national level tribunals which show the Code in operation. It will assist all those involved in sport, whether as administrators, coaches or players, together with those who advise in the area and those interested in the operation of the current anti-doping regime. The book also explains the Amendments to the Code agreed in 2007 which are scheduled to come into force by January 2009.

Case summaries illustrate the key principles of the Code and earlier anti-doping regimes Reviews the amendments due to come into force in January 2009 Written by a barrister who regularly represents athletes and sporting bodies in tribunals and before the Court of Arbitration for Sport

Contents Introduction; 1. The development of principles relating to anti-doping regimes: the role of the Court of Arbitration for Sport; 2. Overview of the Code and the World Anti-Doping Program; 3. The international standards in more detail; 4. The nature of the Code and its interpretation and application; 5. Articles 1 and 2 of the Code: anti-doping rule violations under the Code; 6. Article 3 of the Code: the proof of anti-doping rule violations under the Code; 7. Responsibility for testing and investigations, results management and hearings; 8. Sanctions for anti-doping rule violations: Articles 9 and 10 of the Code; 9. Article 13: appeals under the Code; 10. Challenges to the Code in the Courts; 11. The way ahead: the 2007 amendments to the Code.

It doesn't say if there are any Forewords, but we'd guess Richards Pound or Young would be likely candidates. There is nothing in the contents about fairness or equity, which are equally absent from the Code itself.


Steroid Report cites Larry's excellent discussion posted last night on the legitimacy of the new "secret" CERA test and how its use might be further illuminated by the Hamilton case.

The Philly Turkey imagines a scenario that has not occurred since the award. It's one of the better attempts at satire we've seen, and 'splains why Landis has been silent in reality.

On, Mike Jacoubowsky makes an interesting point. Valid or not, if Landis' A sample report had shown up a few days earlier, it's likely he would have been tossed out of the Tour as we've seen with others recently.

This is part of a long thread which includes some good discussion, to which we'll highlight this by 2bowl...

(2) I have discussed some of the doping detection issues with a few individuals from WADA and related labs. It is not unreasonable to suggest that some (but not all) of these individuals have lost perspective. Those individuals are convinced that everyone cheats and all should be punished. A scientific issue thus becomes a religious quest. This is a huge problem as objectivity is eliminated.

[A]lthough we would both like to see the same outcome (elimination of doping) I simply don't agree that encouraging poor testing and political agendas is the right way to do this

To which Mike replied

There's very little you've said that I disagree with, and I think you've misunderstood my position. I feel there should be draconian penalties for the labs and the ASO or WADA or whomever when they get it wrong, and the threat of those draconian penalties should
provide for more-accurate results and fewer screw-ups.

As we know, there seem to be zero consequences in the WADA Code or in practice for Labs, Agencies, Federations or Organizers who Get it Wrong.

Noble the idea may be, 2bowl... uses math to trump sentiment:

Here's the problem - it isn't necessarily a screw-up on the part of the labs. It is a statistical probability that the tests will result in an occasional false positive and equally an occasional false negative through different tests have different rates of both failures.

Unfortunately, numbers and statistics about false positives are not something WADA World and CAS like to talk about, or have brought to their attention.


wschart said...

The 5 samples that Damsgaard cites may or may not be good evidence of doping for those particular instances, but to infer that WADA is ignoring a "mountain" of violations based on that sample alone is ridiculous.

Thomas A. Fine said...

I do agree with a few things that Damsgaard is saying, but...

The message that anti-doping is being way too conservative? If people take that message to heart we're in big trouble.

And one thing that stands out - he lists "strenuous exercise" as one of the factors that could cause unusual test results. Does competing in the TdF count as strenuous exercise?

Damsgaard is in a position to understand this better than anyone. He's running a program that could over time help determine more clearly what is natural and what is not. It seems odd, then, to write such a piece, while sidestepping that issue.


pensum said...

An interesting report from the Canadian Press:

CUNEO, Italy -The Italian Olympic Committee performed surprise doping tests on new Tour de France leader Frank Schleck and his CSC team after Sunday's stage, which concluded in Italy.

As many as six riders were tested at CSC's hotel, CONI confirmed Monday without providing further details. Fifteen more surprise tests were carried out by CONI on unnamed teams Monday morning.

Labs usually require several days to analyze doping tests and no results were announced.

The Tour crossed into Italy on Sunday with a stage that ended with a climb to Prato Nevoso, during which Schleck took the overall lead from Cadel Evans. The teams remained in Italy for a rest day Monday before Tuesday's leg was to bring the race back into France.

The French anti-doping agency is controlling drug testing at this year's Tour. CONI, which oversees doping within Italy, indicated that Sunday's tests were part of a pre-race agreement with the French authorities.

The CONI tests will be examined at the committee's anti-doping laboratory in Rome, after which the results will be sent to the French agency, which would likely announce any positives. However, if a rider is found positive, they could face ordinary court proceedings in Italy, where there is a law against doping.

Three riders have been ejected from this year's Tour for doping: Spanish riders Moises Duenas Nevado and Manuel Beltran and Riccardo Ricco of Italy, who won two stages before testing positive for EPO.


Eightzero said...

CONI has a "pre-race agreement" with French authorities." Presumably that is with FFC? Or AFLD? Or ASO? Or all 3?

I deeply wonder what that "agreement" says. NB: there has a been abrupt silence from L'Equipe regaridng positives in the last week or so. If I was going to go all Fox Mulder on the issue, I'd wonder if maybe there wasn't a plan to fire some warning shots, then clam up a bit while, as Velonews puts it, "we got ourselves a bike race."

Follow the money, people.

m said...

In the lead up to the Tour, ASO or AFLD announced that the testing for the stages crossing into Italy would be conducted by the Italians. So no surprise or nefarious plot here. Wouldn't be surprised though if any EPO and CERA tests weren't farmed out to the French, Lausanne or other lab competent to conduct the new CERA test.

Larry said...

WOW! The Damsgaard comments are VERY critical of WADA. Of course, he's being critical about possible false negatives, where we tend to focus on possible false positives.

THEN: CONI performs an unannounced surprise doping test on Team CSC. CSC is, of course, the only team in the Tour that employs Dr. Damsgaard. And to my knowledge, there were no surprise tests conducted during the Tour before this CSC testing.


Maybe not. The AP reports that there were 15 more surprise tests conducted by CONI on Monday. I'm assuming that these are tests on 15 CYCLISTS, not 15 TEAMS.

Also, AP reports that these surprise tests were conducted as part of a pre-race agreement with French authorities. This is odd: why wait until the riders are in Italy to do this surprise testing?

The AP reports that these samples will be analyzed in Rome, not in Lausanne or Paris. Maybe the idea was to try to spread the work around, as the Paris lab is probably already working overtime to process samples.

pensum said...

And if the excitement of the next two stages isn't enough, reports this gem:
Rumor mill churns
Despite a quiet couple of days on the doping front, rumors are still churning that the hammer is about to drop on the Tour de France again.

One reporter from a French news wire service said an official from the French anti-doping agency said something could break early this week. Why? Because the French like to take their weekends off and said they won’t get to the paperwork until Monday morning.

bobble said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wschart said...

Interesting column in tonight's Columbia Tribune:

bobble said...

Minor correction:

s/$1.38 a mile/1.38 euros a mile

Not a big difference unless it's your check ;)

m said...

"The AP reports that these samples will be analyzed in Rome,"

When ASO first announced the testing by the Italians, the news reports said they would use the Rome lab. When I read the headline, I thought they had farmed out all the testing to Rome, but it turned out it was only for the Italian stages.

Re: unfounded rumors. Was reading some Spanish paper on the net, and the reporter claimed he heard from a "good source" (LOL!) that there would be 4 more positives, including 1 more for Saunier Duval.

Unknown said...

TBV I think you made an error up there in stating "results have not yet been announced". I think you meant "results have not yet been leaked".

m said...

Cyclingnews reportin Matxin of Saunier Duval is now denying the El Pais report that Piepoli confessed to doping in the team bus. Per Spanish media Matxin is now saying Piepoli was fired because he gave evasive and non responsive answers to Gianetti as to whether he (Piepoli) knew anything about his roommate Ricco's activities.