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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 11, 2006, part 4
Here's your chance to get more involved with Cyclingnews. Comments and criticism on current stories, races, coverage and anything cycling related are welcomed, even pictures if you wish. Letters should be brief (less than 300 words), with the sender clearly identified. They may be edited for space and clarity; please stick to one topic per letter. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.
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Massive response to Landis situation
Once again the Cyclingnews letters Inbox was full of discussion of the situation of Phonak rider Floyd landis, who returned an adverse analytical finding for testosterone after his solo win in stage 17 of the Tour de France. The result of Landis' B sample analysis is expected this weekend, and meantime the rumour mill has been working overtime.
Over these four pages we present a sample of your opinions, ranging from outrage to humour and scepticism to resignation. We're sorry we're not able to publish them all, but we believe this is a representative sample.
- John Stevenson, letters editor
August 11, part 1:
Patrick Lefevere, "The media knew before I did", A couple of questions , Distribute
the testing, A possible scenario for Landis, A real Tour, Anti-doping transparency,
Anyone hear Jack Nicholson?, Are we fighting doping or not?, Bad for cycling
- are you kidding?, Best way to deal with doping, Can some one please tell me...
, Case thrown out, CIR and T/E tests, Collect samples every day from everyone,
Complaining about drugs in cycling, Corruption in the system
There has been a lot of talk about Floyd Landis and doping in this space lately. Unfortunately, not all of it has been from an informed perspective. Among the ignorant comments:
"In this case the French are ticked that they haven't won since what 1985? They are capable of anything" Please, get real. The French could not care less who wins. They cheered when LeMond won. I was there, and have been back to France about 10 times since then. To imply that a professional lab will falsify results is preposterous.
"The critics & studies showing how the test methods are flawed are numerous." False. I do not work in a doping testing lab, but I am a physiologist. First, the gas chromatography/mass spectrometry method of testing epitestosterone and testosterone levels is the standard practice. It is a solid test. Critics of Landis's positive test might disagree, but what would you expect. Further, the carbon isotope testing method, that detected exogenous T, is a modern, very accurate test.
"Information leaks are being reported out of the French anti-doping lab at Chataney Malabry." I actually do not know where the leaks come from. But who cares? yes, it is unfortunate. It does not change two positive result. As far as "innocent until proven guilty", this is not a U.S. court of law. And let's not be so high and mighty. There have been plenty of folks on trial in the U.S. that have been presumed guilty before the trial started. In addition, leaks are a part of life. Does anyone complain when they come from the White House? Congress? State governments? It happens, deal with it.
Let's face the facts we have. Landis tested positive, in two samples, using two separate tests, that show a high epitestosterone:testosterone ratio, and the presence of exogenous T. Period. His relationships with Armstrong, Hamilton, and Heras mean nothing. Neither does his Stage 16 and 17 performances. Neither do his excuses after sample A tested positive.
This might be a great opportunity to question doping in cycling and WADA, but let's not make up excuses for Landis. The facts speak for themselves.
Perhaps the grand tours should have post race reunions. They could race, cut out the podium formalities and come back all together six months latter to receive flowers, champagne and announce the winners. It is getting so that these days club racing is much more interesting. At least we go home knowing who has won and sleep confidently knowing that the declared winner is just that.
Robert M. Bowers
Mount Tamborine, Australia
Robbie was rather vocal and indeed exuberant during Stage 17 coverage, it was then that he repeatedly made the assertions that Floyd's power outputs were consistent with results he had posted during training rides! As to wether he should make comment on a matter yet to be resolved by the authorities is another matter.
"I'd like to know what Robbie Ventura has to say... "
You have *got* to be kidding me. How about just being happy to see one publicly-known, involved person who is KEEPING THEIR YAP SHUT during the investigation?!
And of course, today we have some "doping expert" in Germany spouting off to the press: "I have the Ullrich dossier, and I've never seen so much 'bad stuff'!" Whether he's telling the truth or not, he's a buffoon. "Look, mein liebchen, my name is in the newspaper!"
Robbie has a grand-opening of a new training facility next weekend, so he's probably been really busy getting everything set up for that... Floyd's set to make an appearance, but that's probably up in the air.
On a side note, I'm just getting a little upset with trying to explain to people who don't understand cycling all the circumstances and tests. I wish that the US media could just tell a whole, un-biased story. Remember... in the US, innocent until proven guilty. It seems we're all quick to judge and to not give him the benefit of the doubt!
We had Robbie commentating on our SBS TV coverage down under. This was a live coverage of the stage and Robbie was like a kid and a candy store. Listening to him as FL came home was enough to sway you to the Feat not the Cheat.
I read your recent comments from Patrick Lefevere and I was in utter shock. He might want to avoid stepping on that soap box before he end up stoned by the skeletons residing in his own closet. Maybe this excerpt from Wikipedia could help jog his memory.
Unless we change the approach to testing and banning riders, its going to keep being a joke: they will find an Ulrich, Basso, or Landis each year and nail them to the wall, yet the doping will continue and who is to say that Periero just didn't get tested on the right day at the right time to be busted? Unfortunately, the regulatory powers want just that, power, and want to show that they rule over the riders, but what if they were willing to try one of the following ideas?
1. Run the tour next year with no penalties based on testing except, of course, for detection of illegal drugs (amphetamines, etc). Haematocrit and testosterone ratio tests would not be cause for sanction, but the top 10 riders in GC and the top 10 in each day's stage finish would be tested. They would also be tested immediately after the race and before the next day's stage. The organizers could use the test results to gather statistics on how haematocrit and testosterone levels affect results, I think we'd learn a lot. Based on that, the following year, they would have a better idea on the controls they want to put in place - AND - it would put riders who dope in an intriguing situation, I could blood dope in an attempt to win, but then I will be putting the world on notice that I am probably taking something, the test results could be made public on a web site. This might be the only way to finally break through the code of silence practised by these riders.
2. Simply set acceptable levels for haematocrit and Testosterone/Epitestosterone ratios and if a rider tests above that level, they will face a significant time penalty. Test and ban riders for any illegal drugs, but as long as a rider tests below the accepted level for, say, haematocrit, how they got to that level, whether through clean training, altitude chambers, or EPO would be irrelevant. Less variance in blood composition might be a good way to level the playing field. And lets be clear, it would still require a great performance to win the tour.
In world class competitive support with lots of money on the line, the temptation to cheat will always be there, but we could use our brains and find ways to make cheating more or less irrelevant. Or, we can just keep playing this power game between anti-doping directors and the riders, and continue to see the public grow weary with the sport.
I am getting a little sick of the revisionist history regarding Landis' "unnatural" performance on Stage 17. While I have no idea if Landis doped or not, a breakdown of time checks shows that stage 17 was as much of a psychologically dominating rather than a physically dominating performance.
Landis gained roughly 3 to 4 minutes on the descents and 3 minutes on the first climb alone, accounting for virtually all of his time gains. He did not ride everyone off his wheel on the Col de Saisies, but rather the other leaders were afraid and reverted to Lance-type tactics of waiting with their team until the final climb of the day. In addition, all of the other teams left Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears with only one to two riders doing all of the work against Landis. Surely a top tour contender will be slightly stronger than one to two domestiques by the final week of a Tour.
Once CSC and T-Mobile (mostly Honchar and Kessler (by the way what a performance by Kessler nearly every day in the Tour) came to the front, Landis immediately lost two minutes in about 8 kilometres. If CSC or T-Mobile had used some of their horses a little earlier, a smaller group of the top contenders would have started the final climb without so many teammates, but much closer to Landis.
In retrospect, did those teams really need to go so slow so that their teammates would be shelled in the first 500 meters of the Joux-Plane? The one unusual part of the day was how little time Landis lost on the climb of the Joux-Plane; however, with only two riders chasing him most of the day, Landis did not need to go full gas to maintain his advantage coming to the base of the final climb and could theoretically have had something left in reserve for a final big effort.
So please, do not say he MUST HAVE doped to win, but do look carefully at the fact that there was virtually no chase until 28 kilometres to go.
The riders couldn't stay with him? I thought most of the riders were quoted as saying something to the effect, "What the @#$% is he doing? Let him go, we'll catch him later." Yes it was a great ride, but you're right he's no Eddie Merckx. Part of what made it look so epic was the fact that the peloton let him go gambling that they would catch him later.
And I say further, innocent until proven guilty. I choose to believe Landis is innocent. That may be naive given all that has come out over the years, but...
Making the urine more dilute should not affect the T/E ratio. Using a lot of water was just smart riding, and not evidence that he doped (unless Landis had a similar misunderstanding of the test!).
John Munger, MD
Bill, If the amount of water Landis took in over the course of the ride left him with a net positive fluid balance, an unlikely scenario given the heat and the work performed, all constituent component in his urine would have been diluted and to a quantifiable degree, a problem simple math or a retest a few hours later would address. Given that the result causing the concern at the moment is a ratio of two types of endogenous testosterone, his degree of hydration will have no impact on this, as both substances will be diluted to the same degree.
Hindsight can be 20/20, but an understanding of the science helps as well.
Perhaps we should all wait and reserve judgements until they can be genuinely informed.
OK, let's suppose that Landis is guilty of testosterone doping. Oscar Pereiro gets the jersey. Does he get tested as the Yellow Jersey?
The problem it seems with T-E testing is that only if you test over 4-1 do they do further testing. If normal men have 1-1 or 2-1, what percentage of riders in the Tour de France have 4-1? I bet you that the answer is in the ninety percent range. Does anyone know?
The powers that be like to point out that over 200 test were performed at this year's Tour and only Landis tested positive? Why not go back and do the more expensive tests and see if anyone else tests positive for synthetic testosterone.
Everyone seems to be saying that was the only way Landis could have performed in such a way was due to the testosterone. Does no one remember that Pereiro gained 30 minutes in a breakaway of two? The main difference between the two was that in Landis's breakaway, the teams simply couldn't organize a chase. In Pereiro's case, in was a decision by Phonak to let the yellow jersey go for a few days.
Let's do the tests for exogenous testosterone on all samples. Would Pereiro feel like 99% the champion of the Tour if that happens?
Racing for Victory and free beer!
It appears from the account of how testing works that the Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry test is not applied unless the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone is above the proscribed level. This would mean that it would be possible for a competitor to maintain his ratio artificially close to this limit knowing that the use of exogenous testosterone would not be detected. If the testosterone doping was associated with epitestosterone then the 'athlete' could get quite a performance boost without fear of detection. Seems a complicated process but when one looks back to Willy Voet's account after the Festina affair (who can doubt all he said now) then it seems probable such a practice is widespread.
Supplemental question. Just how many honest people are there in this world?
So how does testosterone get into your body without your knowledge? I can only conclude that it was one of the following ten possibilities:
10.) A giant lizard smashed a nearby testosterone factory, thereby polluting the water source that filled all of his 48 bottles.
9.) Someone shook his hand prior to his urine specimen samples which became tainted by soap residue.
8.) He used sunscreen that was made by Viagra.
7.) Tainted massage cream was given as a gift.
6.) Chamois cream was produced in a factory in Spain.
5.) His espresso was so strong that it changed his manhood forever.
4.) His breakfast was tainted by a genetically-altered milking cow.
3.) He has a parasitical, testosterone-addicted twin.
2.) Potent motorcycle fumes were absorbed during his solo stage trek.
1.) Results of trauma from being probed by hormone crazed aliens.
What the hell, everyone is dropping their two cents in the bucket on Landis, et all, so I might as well myself.
In a completely unrelated setting, Greg Boyington, a World War 2 Fighter Ace once wrote "Show me a hero and I'll prove he's a bum." I think he hit the nail on the head. Before you start throwing stones you might want to understand we all live in glass houses. Be realistic; If you were a pro and your team said take this and you will win (thus keeping your job), would you say no? I doubt that. It is very easy to boast that you would never dope. Well, if your job is on the line, I would be surprised if you didn't.
One should recognize that the nature of competition and human psychology is the root of cheating; it has been and will always be there. The system for test and punishment in doping is in itself flawed and not just for cycling. No sport is without those who cheat so the suspicion of cheating casts a pall on those who do not, setting up what we have with Landis; guilty until proven innocent. The leaks coming from within the UCI and WADA further sets up a system where there is no way the innocent are protected during the pursuit of the guilty. Others had said it and I agree: Its time for a major shake-out in the UCI, WADA, and the drug test system.
Besides revamping the upper management of the UCI, the drug test system must be reworked to a cover all participants through the duration of their career. My thoughts (Probably not original) is that to recognize physical changes brought on by dope, all professionals should be tested for a set base-line values. As a season and career progresses, in-competition and unannounced tests should be taken. If a test series (A and B) shows a positive, a penalty (Suspension, etc) is handed out. If the series is a split (A positive, B negative) the results are confidential. Should a rider receive another positive, then his results are retroactively stripped and a penalty assigned. This would work not only for cycling but any sport.
In closing, for those claiming to be giving up on the sport consider this; Now is when cycling really needs you to be included among those who stand up and demand changes. The media, manufacturers, sponsors, riders, all have a vested and co-dependent interest in the sport. Instead of walking away with your tail between your legs from something that you love and enjoy, how about do something to make a difference? If we all remain committed and continually push for change, I am confident it will happen. I am not about to let cheats of any type take away my enjoyment of a passion I have had for 20+ years. To the leaders of the UCI, WADA, Sponsors, team managers, professional cyclists of all levels, do not hand out anymore bull sh$%^t; fix this problem or before it fixes you.
Which of the following is more likely?
A: A hero out of sheer courage beats an entire elite field of top climbers and take a victory with 9 minutes of advantage over everybody else (writing one of the most beautiful comeback stories in tour history), and the evil organizers/drug testing organizations tamper with the samples and fabricate a false result to ruin an American hero, because the French hate America;
B: A race favourite who lost a bunch of time in one stages, uses a little bit of "help" to make up the time in the following day, and the urine/blood testers merely did what they are supposed to do and discover BOTH samples are positive.
Also, would your judgment be different if you weren't American? What if you were Cambodian (or some other random country)? Should your nationality affect the TRUTH (i.e., what happened during stage 17 of the 2006 TDF)?
Come on, guys! Gimme a friggin' break.
Jeff; I have been saying this same thing for at least the last ten years. The only way to level the playing field is to legalize doping. It is pretty obvious that not only cyclist but virtually all athletes competing in world class competitions which involve high cardio and muscular demands use performance enhancing products.
Without question these practices are followed in the NBA, NFL, Pro baseball, Track and field, Marathoning, Nordic skiing, weightlifting etc... .There is too much incentive for pro athletes to win. Landis for example was looking at collecting a 2.5 million dollar bonus for winning the tour. It is also pretty obvious that doping controls are never going to keep pace with the doping practices. You have to wonder anyway whether or not the powers that be in these sports even want them to be cleaned up. Fans want athletes to be larger than life and produce god like athletic performances. Give the people what they want. Let the doctors and pharmaceutical companies really get involved in all pro sports and lets see what the human body can really do!
Perhaps the UCI and Pro Tour Teams can agree on the following without changing existing testing and monitoring:
NO Pro Tour Team can retain their own doctors. The UCI will maintain an accredited list of doctors. Any rider requiring non-emergency medical attention must be attended to by these doctors. Period. Any team retaining an un-approved doctor will have their racing license suspended for 12 months. Any Pro Tour Team with 3 riders in a 12 month period dealing with non-approved doctors will have their team license revoked.*
NOTE: This includes: Holding Companies, LLCs and any other entity used to obtain and run a team. Any potential team unwilling to adhere to the above prior to license issuance, will not be eligible for said license.
Similarly, NO Pro Tour Team Rider can retain a doctor, trainer, masseuse, soigneur, coach, etc. not approved by the UCI. Any rider dealing with these types (i.e. Ferrari, et al) will be stripped of their racing license for the year. The team director and support management should be able to manage the time of 25 riders and support staff. People in "real life" manage departments and companies with far more staff and all the applicable fallout from failure to adhere to performance and ethical behaviour.
ANY rider testing positive for any substance will be allowed the right of due process and appeal. Once those avenues have been exhausted and the rider is still guilty, they are done. No more 6 months, 1 year, 2 years. DONE. No more crap excuses like a chimeras, bad vitamins, whiskey, aliens, etc. Go away and earn a living another way. Are you listening Tyler Hamilton?
For the 3 week Grand Tours, the race can either retain their own staff of approved doctors, or utilize the UCI approved list. Riders in Grand Tours may be treated ONLY by the race doctors during the event. If a rider requires post race IVs, the UCI/Race approved doctors will provide and document the treatment provided with their signature and reputation on the line. Doctors do this everyday in the running of their practices, so there should be no problem.
In addition, let's assume 3 full time soigneurs per team in a Grand Tour. That is 20-21 teams = 60-63 soigneur. A random, computer generated assignment will take place each morning. Soigneur A will be assigned to Phonak for the entire stage; early morning to final rider going to bed. The next day, they will deal with another randomly assigned team. This will prevent the riders from being able to "tamper" with post-race recovery with the help of a favored soigneur, or that ridiculous Festina affair in 1998.
I am tired of the lip service from the governing bodies. If you are serious about stopping this, stop talking and start doing. This current process is NOT WORKING. Guys are still cheating with the help of shady doctors and creeps looking for a quick dollar. I am well aware that guys have to make it or face working on a pig farm and will do almost anything. Since most guys like Frigo, et al are shit anyway, that is more than a fitting end to their cycling career.
There are lots of great riders riding today and willing to ride drug free. Rid the sport of the cheats and these riders will rise to the top.
So, German anti-doping expert Werner Franke has expressed his amazement at the contents of a dossier on Jan Ullrich collected by Spanish investigators as part of Operacion Puerto. Not me or anyone else carefully watching his catastrophic performance immediately after the 1998 Festina raid. You could see in his face, here was a man who hadn't had his needed fix to cope with a mountainous stage. You cannot ride into 2nd place on the Tour clean being overweight and with only half the miles and races in your legs as everyone else.
It's amazing they way he perks up and performs just before the Tour, now the Operacion Puerto tapes and files tell us why. Good riddance to a blight on clean riders, he's cheated them out of so much.
Ted's comments are concerning the testing protocols and the breach of confidentiality are well taken. There is quite obviously a much too cosy relationship between ASO, L'Equipe and the testing laboratory.
When the rider's confidentiality is compromised at every turn, how can we the public have faith in the testing protocols or the system as a whole? Quite obviously, there must be some person (or persons) within the lab who finds great joy in leaking information to the press at great expense to the affected athletes and the sport as whole. I, for one, cast an ever more skeptical eye at the laboratory, for if certain persons will break the ethics and rules pertaining to the confidentiality of the drug testing system, it isn't too far-fetched to believe that sabotage is possible.
Once the rider gives his sample, he is at the mercy of others, whose motives are unknown. Certainly, the B samples should be tested at a different laboratory, perhaps even in a different country. As for WADA being the enforcer as well as the rule maker, perhaps a committee comprised of current and former athletes, trainers, managers, etc., could be formed to review the policies and procedures and make the rules that govern drug testing. A laboratory that breaches the confidentiality of riders should be banned from performing the testing.
Paul Keller sums the situation up when he suggests that it is utterly ridiculous to continue to support Landis. The shopping list of excuses that Landis and his legal team have so far come up with sound like the frantic cries of a child about to be punished by his daddy. The pros of the peloton are only too happy for us to proclaim what 'men' they are when they win a race, thanks to all their dedication, strength and suffering but when it is revealed that they might have had more than a little help from a doctor or two the 'men' slink away into the shadows. Landis has obviously justified all this away in the manner of, "I'm only doing what they are all doing so it isn't cheating" and his comments seem to suggest that fans are naive of the cold hard truth of the pro cyclist life and methods. I'd just love for him to have a read through these letters (and to have a gander at some of the cycling forums on the web) and maybe then to realise that his and his peers' reputations as men are paper thin and riddled with holes.
It is about time the journalists started asking questions too. Why is it only L'Equipe seems to care about this issue? Maybe because the French readers have no heroes to cheer so they instead want to read about the crimes of the other nations' stars.
We have two options, either to continue as we are, with a grand sport of even grander lies or to clean up and cure our sickness. The problem being it is not for men like me to make the decision. The power lies in the hands of little boys like Hamilton, Heras, Ullrich and Landis.
Good night and good luck
I was just sitting here reading all of the letters to Cycling News with regards to doping, Landis etc. It suddenly struck me what I would really like to see, "a clean sport". Maybe some don't care if athlete's cheat and lie, but I do. I would love to see a Tour where all of the favourites had "bad" days (maybe several bad days). I mean one day a rider would bonk (like Floyd did in Stage 16 this year) and then someone else would the next day and so on. What a see saw battle it would be.
The Tour would be even more exciting, even dare I say it, breathtaking. It would open up the field to even more potential winners and at the end of the day the winner would be the one who was strongest, could recover the best and had the most fortitude. Hey, isn't that what the Tour, Giro and Vuelta are suppose to be all about. Drugs and blood doping are all a means to an end. That is to say, athletes take whatever to put them in the frame to win the big one. It is naïve to think that sport will ever be completely clean but I still really want that to be the case.
I would like the Tour to truly be a competition between iron men and at the end the strongest, smartest and bravest man would stand on the top step of the podium. I haven't given up hope and if you are all fans of the sport you shouldn't either. Let's catch the cheaters and get rid of them. Even if speeds go down, more people drop out and stages are shorter, who cares, let the best man win! Cycling was more epic back in the early days when there were less cheats and less ways to cheat. Let's see cycling like that again (a la Coppi, Bartali etc., etc.).
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