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Letters to Cyclingnews - April 22, 2005
So now we know - the W in WADA stands for witchunt, and the allegedly independent CAS is now nothing more than WADA's jack-booted thugs.
Let's review: the false positive for this test is unknown; there is no confirming test; the practice itself is unlikely to be in common use at the top level; Hamilton's result would most likely have been negative based on the only scientific study regarding this test, and the timing of the alleged transfusions is inconsistent with any reasonable use of doping for performance.
What's left to serve as a basis for their decision? There are no facts left, so the only conclusion left is politics - WADA staking out its territory by p***ing on an innocent athlete's career. Why else would it take the arbitrators this long to reach a decision? The most likely truth is that they reached a decision, and it was the wrong decision, so nothing was announced until the big shots had time to bully or bribe the arbitrators into reaching the 'right' decision.
WADA has promised to end doping, and has laid down an outline of aggressive use of technology to catch dopers. They needed a demonstration of their power to serve notice to teams and riders, to show that they're 'serious'. They also needed to prove their ability to ram through new and unproven tests quickly. And they also needed to firmly establish their power over other organisations such as USADA, UCI, and apparently even CAS. Make no mistake about this - the political pressures surrounding this case could not have been higher.
Outwardly, WADA has succeeded in all of these. The only problem is that within the profession, a great many people must know or suspect that this is a raw deal. So, internally, CAS is discredited, testing is discredited, and WADA is shown to be dirty. But this also has a positive effect for WADA - if it can happen to Tyler, it can happen to them. So it serves to keep the professional cycling community quiet about this travesty of justice, out of fear for their own career, and their team's Pro Tour status.
That's how witch hunts work.
Thomas A. Fine
Tyler Hamilton raises a 'defense' on his web site which you accurately reported, to wit, that Jim Stray-Gundersen had only seen one case of reticulocyte levels as low as Hamilton's, and that resulted from mishandling of the test sample. It should be noted that this defense is essentially a chain of custody/handling defense that was NOT raised by Hamilton at his arbitration. Raising this defense now illustrates nothing more than smoke and mirrors on Hamilton's part.
The scene: A doctor's office. (The names have been changed for obvious reasons).
Doctor Adasu: "Good morning, Mr. Terly. We have some bad news for you: your blood test is positive. You have a serious, incurable disease."
Mr. Terly: "But doctor - I haven't done anything that would have exposed me to such a disease. Are you sure your test is correct? Won't you please do a different kind of test to confirm, or at least show me that the only way my test could be positive is if I truly have the disease?"
Doctor Adasu: "The test is 100% infallible because the guy I paid to do the test says that it is. Now get out of here and don't come back for two years."
[Isn't it fortunate that this totally imaginary scenario could never happen in real life?]
Los Angeles, California
I do not pretend to know whether Tyler Hamilton used someone else's blood - that isn't the point of this email. The point is to state that the testing procedure was astonishingly bad science, devoid of all necessary validation and performed with the poorest of ethics.
The specific testing procedure has never been evaluated for false positives, in fact the closest analogy had a 1.1% false positive rate which appeared to be due to factors the would have high dependency. I.E. a single false positive would increase the likelihood of another false positive.
Using the published method and evaluation procedures the Athens lab that originally evaluated Hamilton's blood found it to be negative, and, according to the Dissenting Arbitrator, Chris Campbell, would have likely also found the Vuelta samples negative. In case you aren't up on your 5th grade science, repeatability is a cornerstone of the scientific method, a cornerstone that this test clearly failed.
Tyler's Vuelta samples were given to the lab that created the test and they knew it was Tyler's blood. The fact the testers were people who had a vested interest in seeing the test they were performing get the right results, and knew what that right result should be, should have been enough to invalidate both of the Vuelta tests.
This is compounded by the results being qualitative not quantitative. A person is likely to see what he wants to see when he has a vested interest in a certain outcome, it is harder to fudge numbers. -The above is further supported by the fact that the Vuelta results were less clear cut than the test preformed at the Olympics, a test that was, as stated above, considered negative by a unbiased lab.
This is terrible science, and the results are therefore highly suspect, certainly not anywhere close to being reliable enough to hold up in any sort of court or the scrutiny of the scientific community at large and the majority arbitrator's opinion, in clear opposition to the above, clearly shows that they are biased. The IOC, WADA, USADA, and the UCI have severely damaged there credibility by introducing this test, by the way this test was performed and with this arbitrary and asinine ruling. It is clear that our hunt for drug users has become a witch hunt and our arbitration courts have become kangaroo courts. I for one am not willing to sacrifice scientific integrity, reason, a mans right to a fair trial, and the idea of innocent until proven guilty at the alter of clean sport.
I am all for clean sport, testing, and bans but we have gone too far, this case was not fair, right or just, it was an abomination. I encourage all of you to voice your concerns to the above agencies about the use of this test until its results can be quantified, or at least repeatable, and its false positive rate can be determined.
Steven P. Adelman
I'm tearing up the web news agencies and I can't find where USADA has answered any of the questions concerning Hamilton's case; the questions very clearly lined up in Tyler's web page and those concerning the blackmailing of Phonak. Their announcement today is purely legal boilerplate and sheds no light on how they came to the decision, and since they took an extra three months to get to this point, they owe the public more information unless they want to be considered just a bunch of bureaucratic hacks.
Peachtree City, GA
Well, I must admit, I think Hamilton is guilty. And like all of you who think he's innocent, that's just my personal opinion after having read a lot of information about the case. HOWEVER, after reading 'Is he guilty and is the science perfect?' - especially the comments and concerns from the dissenting arbitrator - I can't help but think something isn't right and that there are valid reasons why Hamilton can claim that he has been treated unfairly.
Our society (most of it) is based upon the premise of innocence before the proof of guilt. In Hamilton's situation I believe that many high ranking officials and others presumed to judge Hamilton way too soon. It is one thing for sports commentators and journalists to comment and offer opinions, that's what we expect, but the comments of WADA, Rogge and others before the hearing are un-ethical, and can be interpreted to have impeded the due process that Hamilton was entitled to.
I think Hamilton should appeal, and I would not be disappointed if he won based on how the case was handled. I still think he cheated, but I think it is best to leave it to its natural line of justice. If the Pro Tour peloton think he cheated then he won't sign another contract with another team, if they take a chance and sign him then they will know that he will be target tested at every event. If he is successful in the future, and he passes all the tests that he will be subjected to then good luck to him, the US will finally have their very own Virenque.
I just wish doping would go away, I am sick of forever renouncing my once well founded admiration of one cyclist after another, and now Hondo has gone - when will it end!
Adelaide, South Australia
Regarding the Tyler Hamilton decision
I'm very sorry that so many believe Tyler "got his due" when in fact it is the USADA that needs to be investigated. As someone who has had considerable amounts of statistics, I found that the reliability of the decision was very low. I just thank my lucky stars that I'm not an athlete these days.
Below is what I wrote to USADA, with a few changes:
I just hope that the international board acts appropriately, but given the institutional need to "get people" I have little hope. This is simply the very un-American case of guilty until proven innocent, or ex-post facto ruling. A US body should be ashamed. I just finished reading your decision regarding Tyler Hamilton. I am stunned by the arbitrariness of this decision. Statistically you have removed someone from their sport with a very low level of confidence in the reliability of the testing equipment. Not the test but the laboratory and testing methods.
As pointed out by Campbell, the original BLIND test was negative, and it was not until his name was put on it a month later that the decision was made that it was positive. Indeed the IOC sample had a higher "positive" level than the one from the vuelta. The use of non-blind decisions are against UCI and WADA rules, and against all testing methods that I know of. His is, at best, the example of the inquisition. You are a sad and sorry lot and it is very sad what you are doing because you seem to have an axe to grind. I plan to tell everyone I know to protest this decision and where.
Has anyone asked this question: If Tyler was tested today, would his results differ from last year?
Jeff Wagnaar, PT
Call me naive, but I just can't believe Tyler Hamilton would cheat, at anything,
ever. I can't vouch for the science, but I do consider myself a good judge of
character and Tyler has loads. He also has incredibly bad luck. I feel for him.
New York City
I couldn't be more happy with the decision to ban Tyler Hamilton for two years. Cheaters are giving a bad name to the peleton and setting bad examples for riders and kids who look up to them. Hamilton's outrageous defenses (disappearing twins and extortionist theories) are laughable and the equivalent to the dog ate my homework excuse. Now, if they could just strip him of his gold medal. He certainly doesn't deserve to keep that.
Following Tyler's AAA/CAS conviction I have a burning question to ask. Post conviction, what happens to relationships between dopers and their immediate circle of families and friends? Whilst I accept depressingly that it's simply a case of 'win some/lose some' in the sports arena, my question is more around 'do the people that constitute the 'home' part of the individual's life change the way that they look at the inadvertently-revealed dishonest person in their midst?'
First, their family...How would you feel suddenly finding out that your husband/son was somebody whose conscience enabled them to enrich themselves at the expense of other competitors for years? Would you still look at them the same way, or would you change your opinion of them?
Can a wife/husband wake up every morning, eat breakfast and look at the person sitting opposite them and still respect him or her, or still love him or her, the way they did before the news was broken?
Secondly, their friends…Would you want to share a beer with someone you had just found out had been deceiving you for years? A person who had tried to gain money that was not due to them at the direct expense of other people, a person who had tried to take titles that were not due to them at the expense of other people and a person who had gratefully accepted public adulation that was not due to them again at the expense of other people - and somebody who could gleefully collect the spoils from all this with a clear conscience?
A momentary lack of judgement in any field is surely forgivable, but ongoing deceit and calculation is not a quality that I would want in a close friend. As a cycling fan I don't want anything to do with Tyler now. His IMAX film, his ten individual sponsors, his teammates, his 'gutsy' public persona - to me that is all now phoney. It became phoney the day he turned up at a laboratory and in the cold light of day injected himself (or someone else injected) with a substance that he knew meant he was cheating. But I don't have to see him every day because I'm not part of his family or his friends. I wonder what they think of him now.
I do not understand why the cycling press is not doing some serious investigative reporting on Tyler Hamilton's case. Mr. Campbell's dissenting view is intriguing in itself. Yet, so far I have not read or heard of any type of serious investigation on all the points he has made. Do not roll over like the American media has with our President and take everything he says as gospel (ie-WMD's). Wada has clearly made a mistake and it needs to be rectified and with a little investigative reporting you guys could help save the career of an inspirational cyclist.
Kurt H. Luedtke, R.N.
I have followed the Tyler Hamilton case since the whole affair started in the Vuelta of 2004. While I do not care whether he is really guilty or not, there is something else that I have been wondering about since the beginning. In one of the first press releases he said that he would not endanger his own or his wife's life by blood-doping. What does his wife have to do with it? As far as I know no-one has ever commented on this, or questioned Mr Hamilton to find out why he said that. Am I missing something?
Stellenbosch, South Africa
I must admit as far as pedalling a bicycle is concerned, I have not made one pedal stroke in well over a year. But, I still keep up on my cyclingnews.com. School has taken precedence over sport and I am a spectator in the greatest sense I like Tyler Hamilton, I really do, but as an outsider looking in, he is as guilty as sin!
I don't think I need to say anything else. It's unfortunate, but the truth. And for those of you who don't agree, you're entitled to your opinion, but two athletes on the same team (Santi Perez) found guilty of the same charge? Set your biases aside and look at the big picture! I wish only the best for Tyler, but being an outside observer I weigh the facts, and the facts dictate the notion that he is guilty. On a final note I will say this; I have known and met a lot of people in my lifetime for whom I have thought they would commit no bad act, but, they are the most deviant persons I have met in my life.
No bad ode to Tyler, but, take your medicine and give up the facade.
Santa Barbara, CA
The following is a quote from the April 19th edition of Cycling news: "One of the most surprising statements in the AAA/CAS report, and one that was argued against by the dissenting arbitrator Chris Campbell, was that "There can be no risk of a false positive" in this test. "In fact, in the 48 subjects reported in the literature, there was 100% accuracy. There is no risk of a false positive and no need to do so called validation studies." "If this quote is accurate, the people who just passed judgment on Tyler Hamilton either have their heads where the sun doesn't shine, are not qualified to perform or interpret scientific studies, or are simply dishonest.
The "100% accuracy" referred to in the above quote is 100% accuracy in determining, known, true positives, and known, true negatives - NOT, infallibility with regard to false positives. The bottom line is simple: the Ashendon-Nelson group has no idea what the rate of false positives is for the test they developed. Period. The test was originally developed to reduce the probability of false negatives with no way of confirming positives as being true versus false, since there is no alternative test. In addition to this, the background rate of true positives in a hospital setting (for which the test was originally designed) is very high; that is, any given donor blood sample is not likely to perfectly match the recipient. Thus it is unlikely that false positives outnumber true positives. However, in the case of athlete testing, the background rate of true positives is very low (as proven by the Athens blood test results). Given the rarity of positives among athletes, it is quite possible, even probable, that false positives outnumber true positives.
It is time for a new group of arbiters in this case. I would like to start the call for The National Academy of Sciences to step in. They can bring in qualified researchers and statisticians who can provide the critical review of the testing protocal that is so sorely needed. We need experts (independent of the court proceedings) who can point out and explain the shortcomings inherent in the test and cut through the clouds of jargon. This is not a job for lawyers and bureaucrats and should not be about simply winning an argument. Rather, this case is about truth, and to get at it will take a real understanding of the testing procedures - understanding USADA does not have in-house, and the NAS can provide.
John Winnie, Jr.
It really is this simple: Keifel, Lemond, Grewald, Hegg, Armstrong, Vails, Hamilton, and so many more are all my heroes and inspiration to my cycling career and love for the sport. But you can throw out all this testing, explanations, excuses, and 'what if's.' Truer than any laboratory test is life's rule of what goes around eventually comes around, and there is no way to avoid it.
I only wish Tyler had more back bone like David Millar eventually did, and didn't push that squeaky clean image all the time. Standard USA hypocrisy! I probably don't have to tell your readers that most people who adamantly deny or profess against wrong doings, are usually committing them in one way or another to deflect attention away from their actions. This is not some conspiracy against Tyler, and if its not, what is it then?
At some point, all the people I mentioned above have to deal with how they accomplished what they did. And it's their conscience that has to be at peace someday. Some have peace because it's a sport where nearly everyone has done something to that affect, and in some unfortunate way, it levels the playing field, because someone is always going to try and cheat. Hamilton's just got to move on with his life now and whether he is guilty or not, he has to find peace with whatever has happened. He has a very privileged life by anyone's standard; appreciate that and move on to other things now. Only he needs to know the truth - someone innocent knows that.
New York, NY
This is going to be so cool. If all goes to plan and Lance leaves the scene of professional cycling with a seventh consecutive win of the most prestigious bicycle race in the world this coming July, the 2006 edition will be a real hoot. No, not because we will (as some would say 'finally') see a different winner for the first time in a looooong while, not because the so-called challengers and favorites to win "la grande boucle" will finally be rid of "Big Tex", not because a new cycling era will start...
I have a better reason why the 2006 race will be excellent: the winner of the race will be constantly reminded that he did not beat Lance Armstrong to win the Tour de France so I am already looking forward to the excuses that the cycling elite will find of failing to win the Tour 2006.
Let's be honest...If anyone other than a fresh face (e.g. a young, unspoiled rider) will be on top in Paris at the end of July 2006, the stigma of "not having beaten Lance" in the years when he was still riding (and winning) will stick like glue to rubber on a hot tarmac road in Southern France.
So let's sit back and enjoy the show for one more time in 2005 before the speculations and predictions and expert opinions for year one post-Lance start sprouting.
Based on Cyclingnews' coverage of Klöden's comments about Armstrong, it's clear that Klöden is a jerk. To say that Armstrong's accomplishments could only have occurred on an 'American' team are silly and bigoted. Any person with a modicum of knowledge would realise that US Postal was comprised largely of non-US riders who worked hard for Lance because he was the best rider…not because he was an American.
To say that such a 'solo fighter' would never exist on a German team is counter-factual. Simply look at Ullrich. What has he ever done for Telecom/T-Mobile besides ride the Tour? You never see him riding the Classics. In fact, but for Armstrong, Ullrich would likely have won five Tour de France championships…on a German team.
(This may be the only letter not about Armstrong's retirement or Hamilton's penalty.)
I wonder about the Tour de France training methods this year. Ullrich was quoted saying that he noticed in 2004 Armstrong and Basso seemed to peak in their preparation, then rest a few weeks before the Tour actually began. A successful strategy, he admitted. Yet, he plans on sticking to a similar training routine as in past years. This year's Tour prologue (or opening individual time trial ) does not leave any room for those who plan on peaking after the Tour starts.
The first true mountain stage is Stage 10, from Grenoble to Courchevel, which has two tough climbs - a total of over 42km at 6% and the finish is all uphill. This will separate the peak performers from the hopeful contenders. After this stage, many riders will hope for the top ten on GC instead of their plan for the podium. Will Ullrich be ready for that day?
However, Armstrong and Basso have quite a different strategy this year. Basso is not only riding the Giro d'Italia but riding to win it. This could very well cause him to be less than spectacular in July (that is not really a major problem if he can win the Giro of course). Armstrong is moving some of his training to the USA instead of spending that time in France on the actual climbs he will face this July.
Last year, Mayo looked so good in June climbing up Mt Ventoux, but the pace on the first week of the Tour left him (and Heras) struggling to keep up with the peloton. Did Mayo peak too early as Armstrong hinted after the Ventoux time trial? True climbers, like Mayo, would do well to take a back seat during the team time trial, as this type of racing can leave a rider tired for days afterwards. Riders who are good time trialists, like Armstrong and Ullrich, can take the lead. It seems to benefit their later time trials.
Even the best training plans are of little benefit if one gets sick or crashes. I am sure Vino will have quite an appetite for the Tour this year after missing last year due to injury. There could be one other GC contenders quietly preparing as well. I won't tell.
To say that Tom Danielson's second place in a short tt puts him among the front runners for the Giro is absurd. I feel, however, that he does have the potential to break into the top 10, but to win it?
Tell me what were his major results last year? Oh yeah, the Mt Evans hill climb. He did demolish the record and the field, a field that had only one pro tour rider - himself. Maybe I'm wrong; this is just my opinion, but don't look for any grand tour victories this year.
Lance don't do it! Save us here. Save us all from a mistake that has been repeated so often in the past. Save us all from Yoko Ono.
You saw what happened didn't you? You saw how she dismantled a perfectly well oiled machine - a machine that operated like clock work, consistently producing quality, consistently producing success. Her screams, her shrieks, her personality wasn't one of them and the one she wanted couldn't be one of them with her. She took him away Lance! She took him away! Don't let this happen again!
We see you at award shows, we see you on Oprah, and we see her on TdF DVDs. We know you may like this new addition now, but Lance, what about the future? You are the greatest cyclist to ever race Le Tour, why not be the greatest cyclist...ever? What about the classics? The Olympics are only four years away. How about another World Championship? And for kicks why not throw in another Grand Tour or two? That rooftop performance in 1969 was the last we would ever see of them, don't let Paris 2005 be the last we see of you.
We need you Lance, we need you like Rock and Roll needs them. Please think this through and as they said "Don't let me down."
Firstly, just wanted to say "Bravo" for your coverage of the Tour Day Georgia (as Bobke pronounces it). Y'all are the bomb and a half and it's no wonder that you're everyone's first stop for cycling news. (Or maybe you just got lucky with the name...)
One thought for ya;
The most significant impact on Lance's pending retirement is...without a doubt...the motivation of one Jan Ullrich. Jan wants one more win, but he wants to beat Lance just as badly. Is it possible for him to lose this year but win next year? Yeah, maybe, but then his career would have the big asterisk of "never beat the man from Texas." So, we've said it before, but it's do or die for him this year.
This situation gives the advantage to one of the #3-10 contenders for lots of reasons. Attacks from multiple teams might be hard to cover and could stretch T-Mobile and Discovery thin. And maybe it's just as simple, as we have a damn strong field this year, especially if Basso rethinks going full out at the Giro. Again, this year's course will show which team is stronger and smarter just as much as it will show which rider is the best, so my big prediction is: too close to call but guaranteed chock full o' fun for the viewers.
If anyone doubts LA's effect on this sport, all he had to do was hang out in Autograph Alley these last few days and talk to the common folk. I met folks from all over the US and a few from the continent who came over to watch this little ol' race (Tour de Georgia). We have houseguests who got on the first plane smoking when they heard Lance was retiring and this would be his last race on US soil. The local paper is estimating that half of the fans at the race are from out of state. Granted, local heroes Jittery Joe's have strong fan support around here, but not too many folks booked flights to come watch them. We can only cross our fingers and hope that this kind of energy carries over to the Tour of Utah, the Tour of California, and the other races under development.
Again, good on ya for your excellent coverage of our little ol' race, but then again, I didn't expect anything else.
Peachtree City, Georgia (Home of the world's largest golf cart 4th of July
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