Saturday, August 09, 2008

Irregular Report 7

We encourage readers of the Berry piece and related Editorial to send informed letters to the Editors of Nature. We can be sure that those supportive of WADA's practices, and the LNDD in particular, will be sending plenty of mail critical of both pieces.


Emailers, and now Velonews are telling us the hushed-up fifth Tour positive is Jimmy Casper, a French rider who abandoned on L'Alpe, is a two-time Lanterne Rouge, and one-time stage winner. It is apparently for a cortico-steroid, an athsma treatment, about which he botched some TUE paperwork. Let us count the ways L'Equipe is not motivated to plaster this on the front page...

NPR's Science Friday interviewed Dr. Donald Berry about his Nature piece on the unreliability of present anti-doping tests. Find the podcast here.

The Boulder Report points out the Donald Berry article from Nature as being an "opinion piece" based on data from the Landis camp. But, Joe Lindsey does concede that better/different testing may be called for.

The Daily Peloton keeps the "Landis to Rock Racing" rumor afloat with a short blurb about it.

The CyclingNews reports seemingly "targeted" testing of cycling teams is taking place at the Olympics.

Some commentary at Salon rips the Olympic symbiosis with heavy supporters McDonalds, Budweiser, and Coke:

Do they think that by associating themselves with the games that people will suddenly, magically, believe that Big Macs are the breakfast of champions? That Michael Phelps achieved his ripped physique by shoving nuggets and fries down his gullet? Budweiser and Coke are also sponsors. When's the last time Nastia Liukin pounded a six-pack of weak beer before hopping on the balance beam and turning a back flip? Do you think Shawn Johnson gets all her stellar flipping energy from caffeinated sugar water?


For these corporate behemoths, the massive visibility and blunt association with jingoistic pride is more than enough to justify their multimillion-dollar investment. The point is that the Olympics are really all about money. Money for corporate America and money for the athletes that bring home the gold. The rest of us saps are simply being sold the opportunity to witness transcendent physical greatness, while kicking back with a greasy burger, super-size fries and an ice cold, piss-poor excuse for a lager.

Not to mention money for all the functionaries, bureucrats and media involved in the production and coverage of the events. Thus we are pitched to care deeply that the feats done in the service of McD/Bud and Coke are not be sullied by the scourge of performance-enhancing drugs, because that violates the "spirit of sport."

Outside Magazine's "Spoke Life" blog discusses the Landis/Rock Racing connection with a decidedly politic quote on the matter from team owner Michael Ball:

“At this juncture, I have not made any decisions regarding the 2009 Rock Racing roster. If—or when—Floyd Landis returns to racing, I hope people recognize that he has served his time and should be given the opportunity to showcase the talent that made him one of the world’s top bike racers. He has a right to continue to make a living in his chosen profession.”

Racejunkie says that IF Carlos Sastre is the thus far unnamed "positive" from the Tour de France she is through, and who cares about smog at the Olympics? It's nothing compared to what some of these guys put into their bodies, on purpose.

Rant writes about the Olympics and traces the evolution of the anti-doping movement created because of pressure from the public. He then goes on to discuss strict liability and the Nature piece from the other day.

At, a thread about the Berry article includes this:
Remember too that with

99% true positive rate
99% true negative rate
5% usage rate in the tested population

a positive test leaves a 17% chance that the testee is not positive.

This kind of calculation applies to all medical screening
tests of the sort used daily in the population at large.


Thomas A. Fine said...

If/when Floyd returns to racing, I think we'll get a whole new take on the phrase "targeted testing".


Unknown said...

"If/when Floyd returns to racing, I think we'll get a whole new take on the phrase "targeted testing"."

If I'm interpreting Berry's article correctly, increased testing results in increasing probability of a false positive, unless the specificity of the test is very high. I hope Berry's article is causing WADA to rethink this approach. In any case, after all the money they just spent convicting Floyd, I hope it's clear to them that going after him would be like picking a fight with a junkyard dog - they could pretty much count on another long brawl!

Eightzero said...

Last I read, the UCI ProTour is DOA. But I think I saw that the AToC (of which Rock Racing and/or Rock & Republic is a big sponsor) is a UCI registered race. Meaning you have to have a UCI team license to race in it? Those team that announced they won't be renewing their license will not be able to participate?

Larry said...

8-0, stay tuned.

You're right, you cannot race in an event on the UCI calendar without a UCI license. It is possible that the former UCI Pro Tour teams will all get UCI Pro Continental licenses (like Garmin-Chipotle). Or maybe the TofC organizers will put the TofC on the national U.S. calendar -- that would parallel what happened this year with Paris-Nice and the TdF being put on the French national calendar.

Or maybe all concerned will ignore the UCI rules and do what they want to do. This is actually a better explanation for what happened in the TdF, since none of the teams that rode in that race were allowed to do so under the UCI rules.

Thomas A. Fine said...

"I hope Berry's article is causing WADA to rethink this approach."

Should I fall down laughing or start to cry?

IMHO, this is highly improbable. There will be no change from WADA unless it is mandated by outside forces. Like the IOC. Or a collection of concerned sports federations. Outside of that, WADA will do what it does.

And that means when Floyd returns to racing, they will test him far more than any other athlete, maybe even more than once a day on occasion.

And if you're paying attention to the Berry article, you'll realize that this means they'll eventually find something, even if there's nothing to find.

In theory Floyd might protect himself by splitting
his samples and keeping some for himself, but the
logistics of doing that in a way that would be both legally and scientifically useful are probably cost prohibitive.


Unknown said...

If he goes to Rock, then Rock will need the services of Damsgaard or ACE to keep WADA World honest. That's the only practical check I see that's available right now. Let's hope Mike Ball will pony up for it.

Larry said...

jrd, I thought that Ball was using Paul Scott's testing company.

Unknown said...

Yes, I think you are correct Larry. My mistake.

Though not a complete solution, not to mention the expensive duplication of effort, independently administered in-house team testing is one of the very few checks/balances in place to help keep the official testers honest.

If WADA World strived to do their job and strived to live up to their mission, team testing might not be necessary.

It will be interesting when an AAF is declared by a WADA lab, but is in contradiction to data from team testing, especially if it's a Damsgaard client. He seems to be rather outspoken, direct, and wouldn't suffer well his testing being questioned by those with lesser skills. When it happens, the fireworks will be interesting to watch. (unfortunately Paul has already had his nose slapped by the anti-doping machine, so I'm not sure how much actual protection he can offer a Rock rider falsely accused?)

Larry said...

jrd, we don't know much about the program run by Paul Scott's company -- I haven't heard anything about it since his company announced the deal with Rock Racing in March. I haven't heard if the company has signed up any other clients. At the moment, it's easy to forget that the program exists.

Until this year's TdF, I'd assumed that the ADAs would try to steer clear of declaring AAFs on riders subject to ACE and Damsgaard team testing. However, it appears that AFLD targeted Team CSC very heavily, and that even David Millar of Garmin-Chipotle may have been targeted. I had wondered if AFLD's heavy testing of CSC was a form of retaliation against the highly critical comments made by Damsgaard of WADA testing during the Tour. Of course, we have no idea if riders on ACE and Damsgaard-tested teams are better protected against false positives than any other riders. The programs are run for the benefit of the teams, and the interests of the teams and the riders are not always the same.

bobble said...

Here we go courtesy of ESPN, frenchie tests positive (sorta):

Sorry I was too lazy to put the html link in...

Mainly due to the fact he forgot to reup his medical authorization.

I sure wish I could make use of the same asthma these guys do, they apparently have some sort of magical properties I'm missiing out on.

bobble said...

er, ...asthma meds...

Unknown said...

Larry, there is really no accounting for AFLD and their TdF alliance. To say the relationship between the French Federation, AFLD, LNDD, and ASO is incestuous, would be a gross understatement. That aside, AFLD’s apparent targeting of CSC riders and St. David didn’t seem to yield the results they were looking for. (kind of a waste of targeting and their limited resources) There seems to be a strong argument that supports the notion that Damsgaard and ACE are good and protective checks against a false AAF, Berry’s/Nature’s numbers crunching notwithstanding. It would be rater shallow of AFLD to target Damsgaard clients in retribution for his critical statements about their efforts wrt the TdF, but using the riders as pawns certainly isn’t a new concept to the alphabet soup.

Given Damsgaard’s comments, I don’t expect he will keep quiet if one of his clients pops a positive and his data doesn’t support the same. If Damsgaard, ACE, and Paul Scott are true professionals, and I believe they are, then they will fight long and hard for whatever result the science supports. Wada World is unencumbered by that sort of professional practice/ethic.

The eventual dust up between the official testers and the independent contractors will be interesting to watch. IMHO, that confrontation has as much potential to spark positive change in the system as practically any other occurrence outside of the open hearing in Malibu. I don’t think WADA wants to mess around too much with Damsgaard. He is confident in his expertise, has the goods to back his assertions up, has made his position plain, and is not shy about speaking up. He seems to take pride in his business and wouldn’t hesitate to defend it if threatened.

The programs (independent anti-doping contractors) are run for the benefit of the teams. Whatever the spin, they have been paid for and put in place to protect the teams’ investment. On one hand they are in place to discourage doping. On the other hand, they are in place to help keep a team’s rider(s) from being falsely accused of doping. The better independent programs essentially already have their own bio-passport in place. (It would have been interesting if Phonak had such a system in 2006) The greed and political posturing of both ASO and UCI has resulted, at least, in a long delay in the official bio-passport system being put in place. AFLD had no meaningful bio-passport data at the 2008 TdF. If there were a dispute, AFLD/LNDD would have the weight and support of the WADA system behind them, but the data and expertise would favor the independent testing contractor. That’s when it would truly get interesting, especially if you have near zero trust in the current incarnation of WADA, like me.

On another subject, Santiago Botero earned a 7th place in the Olympic RR. I’m happy to see him racing, but how do we reconcile him being excluded from the ToC when he was obviously allowed to ride in the Olympics, in the same year? Did someone forget to keep a file open on him in August ’08? Maybe we are finally seeing some long overdue signs that Operation Peurto is finally winding down? That was a cruel and protracted beating of a dead and decomposing horse.

Finally, Jimmy Casper (formerly of Unibet) doesn’t seem to be an ASO favorite. It’s not a huge surprise that he is this year’s token Frenchman to get his nose slapped by AFLD for lack of a TUE for his asthma meds. The whole subject of asthma meds and professional riders is too big a can of worms to get into in this posting, but I don’t expect Casper to get a 2 year suspension for it. Then again, he rode for Unibet. You just never know.

Thomas A. Fine said...

Someone pointed out in email that separate testing is not much protection.

It protects against botched tests, and manipulated tests. But it provides no protection against statistical false positives like the ones Berry was talking about.

So the only real protection would be properly formed anti-doping policy. Or as I like to say, policy should be formed based on the science you have, not the science you want.


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