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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 18, 2006, part 1
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Massive response to Landis situation
The Floyd Landis situation once again dominated our Inbox this week, though the initial Biblical deluge of reaction has now abated to a mere torrent as the war of words between the WADA/UCI and Landis camps has quietened down in the wake of Landis B-sample positive.
- John Stevenson, letters editor
August 18, part 1:
Natural process still possible - likelihood uncertain, Denial, Dick Pound, Oscar
Pereiro, UCI - Pro Tour drug solution?, The problem with legalising doping,
Changing the rules won't stop cheating, Scandal reduces respect, Blood tests,
Corruption, A couple of questions, A couple of questions, A German Pound?, According
to WADA: Who isn't doping?, Collect samples every day from everyone, Corruption
in the system
Natural process still possible, likelihood uncertain
As a recreational cyclist and racing fan, I have followed the Tour de France and the aftermath of Floyd Landis’s positive doping test. I am writing this letter because I have not seen my view reflected in the media or other reader contributed opinions. I choose to consider Floyd Landis innocent until he has received full consideration of his defence during the due process he is granted under the rules that govern cycling. I believe that it is still possible that a natural process can explain the results that have been reported in the media for Floyd Landis’s doping controls.
I am a scientist, and I think and read the scientific literature about testosterone continuously. I do this because I conduct research on prostate cancer, and testosterone and related steroid hormones play a central role in prostate cancer treatment and progression. For me, the fact that Floyd Landis was legally treated with cortisone is a very important aspect of the case. Testosterone and cortisone are both steroid hormones with very similar chemical structures. When administered as exogenous drugs, they have similar origins and the same carbon-isotope signature that is distinct from the carbon-isotope signature of endogenous steroid hormones present in humans. Thus, a key question in this case is the following: did a natural process in Floyd Landis’s body convert the legal steroid hormone cortisone to testosterone?
Cortisone is a steroid hormone in the glucocorticoid family and testosterone is a steroid hormone in the androgen family. We are all full of enzymes that can convert one steroid hormone into another, but conversion of a glucocorticoid into an androgen would not be expected in most individuals. However, it has been documented in the scientific literature that the conversion of cortisone to other steroid hormones varies from individual-to-individual, and the conversion of cortisone to other steroid hormones can be altered by disease. For example, it has been documented that cortisone metabolism is altered by prostate cancer.
In addition, we are all hosts to many bacteria, and the conversion of glucocorticoids into androgens by intestinal bacteria isolated from healthy individuals has previously been demonstrated. The secretion of bacterial-metabolized derivatives of cortisone into the urine has also been demonstrated in the scientific literature. Thus, Floyd Landis's initial claim that he would demonstrate that the positive doping test resulted from a natural process is possible if he can prove that the cortisone he took was converted into testosterone due to unusual metabolism by his own enzymes or due to the presence of bacteria that can metabolise glucocorticoids into androgens. Because no population studies on the potential metabolism of cortisone into testosterone have been conducted (that I am aware of), the likelihood that a natural process can explain Floyd Landis's test results are impossible to judge.
If I were Floyd Landis and innocent I would do the following: (1) recognize that in the current anti-doping climate that the USADA and the Court for Arbitration in Sports are extremely unlikely to rule that any currently accepted anti-doping test is flawed, (2) hire competent doctors and scientists to determine the exact cause of my positive doping results, and (3) archive samples of my intestinal bacteria prior to taking any antibiotics that may be required during the surgery and recovery associated with my hip replacement. Good luck Floyd, I hope you prove the skeptics wrong.
Paul Marker, Ph.D
Tim Maloney, Cycling News's European Editor, can't contain his anger towards Dick Pound, and barely tries to in his account of Pound's recent Ottawa Citizen essay. Pound's wild charges undoubtedly retard the cause he seeks to advance--but let's not allow his overstatements to obscure the basic truth that cycling has a massive drugs problem. One would have thought that the Puerto scandal had ended any debate about the pervasiveness of drugs in cycling, but denial is a resilient behaviour, as Maloney's editorialising suggests.
My favourite part of Maloney's article is the conclusion, in which the editor attacks Pound for acknowledging that cycling has the most aggressive testing program but also contending that "whatever has been done to date is sadly lacking in effectiveness."
"An opposite, statistical, view," writes Maloney, "is that if a sport does more testing, then it's likely to result in more positive dope tests."
This is one of the first lines of defence in the cycling community: we only look like we have a bigger problem because we test more. The problem, of course, is that the vast majority of the cyclists caught have proven quite proficient in passing the tests. How many tests did Ullrich, Basso, Mancebo, Gutierrez, Miller, Virenque and their many, lesser-known comrades fail?
Doesn't the fact that the top athletes in the sport have outwitted the tests suggest that "whatever has been done to date is sadly lacking in effectiveness"? Why should we have any confidence that others who have consistently passed the tests are clean?
The sport is in trouble. I wish that the cycling community would focus on effective solutions to the problem rather than circling the wagons and ripping on Pound, LeMond and whoever else speaks up.
Dick Pound is in the news again, writing a scathing op-ed piece where he blasts cycling.
This is the same Dick Pound who cut his political and ethical teeth under the tutelage of Juan Antonio Samaranch in the good, not so old days at the IOC. I think WADA deserves a lot better if anyone is to take it seriously.
I note that Dick Pound, Chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, keeps mouthing off about cycling and cyclists.
He seems to have little regard for fair judicial practices.
What does WADA do? How come they are not leading the fight rather than sitting
back rubbishing the UCI,
Aren't we all working together on this one.
Dick Pound failed to make president of the IOC, so does he pick on cycling just to keep his name before the press?
Dick, put your money where your mouth is and do something productive.
How can anyone possibly have any confidence in this man after his recent tirade, "Cycling News" 14 August, against Landis, USADA, and cycling in general? The only thing that he managed to prove is that he is a "shoot from the hip loudmouth" with no understanding whatever of due process. His use of the word 'Nazi' better describes his own behaviour. It is time for the countries that pay WADA's bills to withdraw their funding unless he is fired.
Your latest report on Mr Pound's opinion piece has me rather concerned.
How on earth does this man hold onto his position as head of WADA? His arrogance and stupidity are now more reliable than any test for banned substances! Mention any athlete under suspicion, as long as they are secure in the public eye, and DP is out there as Judge, Jury, Executioner and Saviour!
The man, in my opinion (to use a popular disclaimer), needs to be tested for illicit substance use, as well as undergo a very stringent Job review. Mr Rogge, it's up to you.
The recent pronouncements by WADA chief Dick Pound make me sick. Forget about whether or not Landis is guilty at the moment. If Pound is really concerned about cleaning up sports instead of building up an empire for himself, he needs to make a couple of changes. First, make sure that the tests that are used are good and widely repeatable at any accredited test lab. If there is a mistake in a test, when the same lab repeats the test, won't the same mistake simply be repeated? Let a different lab test the B sample.
The system is never going to work until the athletes trust that it is fair. The WADA needs to follow their procedures as strictly as they expect the athletes to adhere to their policies. The consequences of a positive doping charge are hugely damaging to the athlete, so the consequences of leaking information and not following due process should be equally as devastating to the test lab. If procedures can't be followed then the test results should be thrown out. It is that simple. If a lab can't follow the procedures correctly, then their accreditation should be yanked just as quickly as WADA pulls the cyclist license.
Dick Pound's evangelical style does little to get the support of all athletes, most of whom want to see the cheaters thrown out of their sport. Mr. Pound would get a lot more support if he would clean up his own affairs. I don't think that everyone believes that the current anti-doping campaign is catching the cheaters and not falsely snaring those that aren't. Get off your soapbox Mr. Pound and lets clean up the testing process so that there are much less possibilities for hurting the innocent. WADA is there to clean up sports, not make itself more powerful. Why don't you spend your time going after the NBA, NFL and MLB with the equal ferocity that you go after athletes who have not completed their due process (Landis) or those who have never failed a doping test once (Armstrong).
Mr. Pound, you make me sick.
Dick Pound is either an incompetent fool who doesn't know his own (WADA) rules for testing T/E ratio or he is a very bad man intentionally trying to ruin the sport of cycling and its athletes. He should have read the results of Floyd's test: Floyd's testosterone was within normal limits, it was his epitestosterone that was extremely low! and a low epi count can occur for a number of different legal reasons.
According to his own rule book (page 1 sec 2 in "Reporting and Evaluation Guidance for Testosterone, Epitestosterone, T/E Ratio and Other Endogenous Steroids"), "The concentration of epitestosterone is frequently low and it may not always be possible to measure epitestosterone precisely. In such cases, only the concentration of testosterone is to be determined."
You'd think that somebody at WADA would have known this little rule and would have informed Pound before he made any stupid public statements.
Its sick how Pound and the media are dragging Floyd and his family through the mud. And about the supposedly "synthetic" or "external" testosterone they found in Floyd's blood--not true!; at best it was inconclusive and again WADA didn't follow it's own interpretation rules.
Listen, Floyd is innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof "lies" with WADA and Dick Pound. Let them prove without a shadow of doubt that Floyd cheated. I believe when the evidence is seriously evaluated we will see that Floyd is the real champ and that the media and WADA (Pound leading the way) are the real chumps.
I, for one, can't wait to celebrate Floyd's victory again!
I'd quickly like to point out the gentlemanly conduct Mr. Pereiro has exhibited during the trial of his former teammate. I noticed that after Oscar mentioned that he would enjoy a ceremony of presentation, many people were quick to criticize his haste.
I agree, nothing should be said until Floyd has had his chance respond, and possibly clear his name. But when the news first leaked, I felt nothing but respect for the way Oscar handled the situation. He said he would rather remain in second place, and have his friend Landis hold on to the win. Of course, he voiced disappointment, but was quick to add that Floyd was, and still is a friend of his:
"He is my friend and he won't stop being my friend," Pereiro said. "Don't get me wrong, he deprived me of living a very beautiful day, but for him things are going bad enough for him as it is. It's a bitter feeling. I would have liked to have been there with my teammates, but it's not worth it to dwell on the past."
I think that's extremely admirable of him. A true gentleman, in a sport where lately gentleman are oft hard to find. A random sampling of peloton riders, put in Pereiro's position, would probably find 80-90% of them whining about how they have been cheated. Oscar is taking the situation in stride, focusing on the rest of the competitive season, and for that I thank him.
Mr. Spencer is on the right track, but needs to focus on the role of the doctors. Too often, the doctors who take care of the pros are hired specifically for their expertise in administering and concealing doping.
These doctors are extremely uncharacteristic of the medical profession as a whole. Most doctors take their Hippocratic oath seriously. My general practitioner would never prescribe me growth hormone and EPO just so I could race faster, because that would be bad for my health. That's the way most doctors think. If the pros could somehow be placed in the care of "regular" doctors, who answer not to the riders or their teams but to someone that actually wanted them NOT to dope, the battle would be half won. It's easy to fool the current testing regime (particularly since it wants to be fooled), but how easily could I fool my own doctor if he really wanted to know if I was doping?
So never mind about licensing soigneurs, masseurs, and trainers; it would be an administrative nightmare and would be unnecessary if you could get the right doctors on the case. You would have to do something about medical secrecy laws in Europe - maybe a clause in every pro's contract stating that he agrees to allow his medical file to be released to the public. The trickiest part would be finding someone credible to give the authority to hire and fire the doctors. The UCI? I don't think so.
Yet another writer suggests that we should allow doping in professional sports and puts forward the usual arguments to support the proposition. This latest letter sums it up thus, "Legalizing doping with supervision by a physician is the only realistic way out of this mess.". If we allow controlled doping, the theory goes, we won't have to worry about dope cheats.
Just as some (or perhaps many) professional cyclists break the rules now in order to improve their performance, in this brave new world they'll still be breaking the rules and using substances and protocols that aren't permitted. The only way to not have dope cheats is to allow any and all forms of doping.
Do we really want to follow a sport where our heroes die young, perhaps in front of our eyes while riding a Tour stage - like Tom Simpson? Count me out.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Several ideas have been presented by members of cycling's governing bodies and by members of cycling's public fan base -- such ideas as shortening Tour de France stages to a maximum of 160km, or even allowing riders to use certain performance enhancing drugs that are currently banned. But these ideas strike me as evading the core issues involved in fair competition.
The composition of the rules of any game or sport is pretty arbitrary. But fair competition mandates that the rules, whatever they are, be observed to the letter of the law. Conduct outside the rules is cheating.
Suggesting that the rules should be changed, and suggesting this within a debate about cheating, misses the point completely. If cheating is occurring within the current rules, it is folly to think that cheating will cease within a different set of rules.
Second, the news that the UCI has refused to hand over blood samples to Spanish authorities, on the basis of their own rules, is alarming. Were the UCI serious about cleaning up the sport -- and it would appear that vigilant surveillance and severe penalties are the only hope for doing this, then why would it pass up such an opportunity to show whether or not the riders in question under Operacion Puerto are truly guilty of any doping offense? It's particularly perplexing since the UCI stood party to these riders being disallowed from starting the Tour due to their teams' observance of the Pro Tour's Code of Conduct.
Shouldn't the UCI be pursuing truth and fair competition? If it is not the UCI's responsibility to attempt to eradicate doping in cycling, then whose responsibility is it? By refusing to hand over riders' blood samples, the UCI is effectively stating they have a greater responsibility to rider privacy than to fair play and, one could say, rider safety.
I am angry that there is so much scandal in cycling and I believe the general public will have less respect for cyclists in general because of it.
There should definitely be a systemic overhaul in professional cycling - maybe they should race for charity instead of their bank accounts and their egos (and lets face it, it all comes back to money fame/advertising whether it be on a corporate level or a personal level- if only it were for the exploration of human ability and achieving your personal best).
Take away the motivation to cheat and perhaps things would be better - but then again there aren't exactly tests you can do to find out if someone is truly honest, reliable, trustworthy and not solely motivated by money (yes I know there must be some riders who actually are not motivated by money - but their sponsors usually are). Is there a code of ethics for professional cyclists, the team managers and the doctors - all who are involved in the sport? If so does it mean anything to them personally?
I wish the UCI all the best in trying to make sure the sport is cheat free, I don't like their chances but for those who are fostering tomorrow's cyclists something needs to be done quickly. Cycling in general has lost credibility and it's a shame to see this 'sport' become another bad news story in the mainstream media.
Doping, Landis, tests part (August 9 letter)
Mike Capp wrote in part, "On to the Hamilton result. While I agree with Rob Parisotto that Hamilton and Perez might have got their RBC packets switched, they would have been lucky not to get terribly sick if they had done so.....".
You are correct in that Hamilton and Perez may have got very sick if their packs were mixed up. Equally though if they were of the same MAJOR blood group (A,B,O or AB system - although O blood can be given potentially to every other group and AB can potentially receive blood from any other group without major problems), then a reaction would have been unlikely. And with MINOR blood groups like Rh, Kell, Duffy and etc it usually takes the first exposure to 'prime' the immune system to recognize these 'foreign' antigens and a reaction tends to occur the next time these foreign antigens present.
Perhaps this was the first and 'only' mix up between the two (if that's want happened in the first place). It would help to explain how the foreign antigens ended up in Hamilton's blood but there was no reaction (that we know of).
The antibodies to these foreign red blood cell antigens may well still be detectable; even in the frozen sample from the Athens games!
Robin Parisotto, Author "Blood Sports"
The view presented by Rob Verbruggen's letter is exactly the opposite of the extreme that he criticizes.
Unfortunately the whole process is called into question when violations of protocols occur. Think about it this way:
People find out that some riders are doping and the next you hear it's the whole peloton. Well, why not the same for the UCI, WADA, and the labs involved? The lab - or one employee - knowingly violates protocols, as does the UCI. Then why not the whole system?
The point is, not one facet of this whole situation can be attributed the quality of 'trustworthiness'.
1 - I don't trust Dick Pound, who quotes unsubstantiated facts.
2 - I don't trust the French lab, or the chain of custody of the samples.
3 - I don't implicitly trust the riders.
4 - I don't trust the UCI.
5 - I don't trust the organizers of the Tour de France after their display of poor judgement in the L'Equipe/Lance affair.
And I know that I am not alone. And you know what you call a system of untrustworthy people, bodies and organizations who ignore their own rules?
One of your readers, William Byrd, raised a couple of good questions in his letter to you dated August 8, 2006. His questions touch on a couple of questions that I've had. You said that you're "working on a lengthy article covering these issues," and I wondered if you could add my questions to your list.
* I've been told that athletes attempt to beat the testosterone/epitestosterone test by adding epitestosterone to their system when taking testosterone. Is this correct? Could the balance be maintained in this way?
* If it is possible to dope with testosterone yet maintain the proper testosterone/epitestosterone balance by adding epitestosterone, is it possible to botch the job so badly that the resulting imbalance is 11 to 1?
Many of your readers have posed the rhetorical question, "why would Landis dope when he knew he'd be tested if his plan succeeded?" The foregoing goes to one supposed answer to that question, namely, he didn't expect to get caught because he expected his doctors and/or trainers to get the testosterone/epitestosterone quantities right when he doped. According to this thesis, Landis got caught because his doctors/trainers screwed up. This answer to Landis's otherwise illogical choice to dope has raised the foregoing questions in my mind, to which I've now added Mr. Byrd's well taken question about the timeline for the dissipation of these substances from the blood stream.
As to question one: I think the real answer comes from another question: If he has naturally high testosterone from time to time, then why, in his Bike racing career, and over a 7 year drug testing profile did he never show an abnormally high testosterone reading prior to this. It is precisely because he has never shown a high count before that this is an issue.
I want to believe, but I fear we Yanks are being yanked by one of our own.
I am so disappointed in this and the net result is I have to tell my kids that he is a liar after building him up as a hero. I support legal action.
I absolutely feel that everything he earned in cycling should be taken away from him.
David Millar came clean, served his time and came back to ride a strong clean Tour. Let's talk more about him now.
Time for me to put in the tapes of Oscar Pereiro yo-yoing off the back in the Alps pulling Kloden and Evans over the top to retain the Jersey. That was and is the moment of the Tour now for me.
FYI We all call Floyd "Roid Landis" now.
Christopher H. Donahugh
If Professor Werner Franke has such a detailed knowledge of the doping practices within Germany or Europe, why has he not spoken to the relevant authorities? Why does he speak to magazines and newspapers? His rants and revelations are meaningless unless they contribute directly to the identification and prosecution of those involved. To take the moral high ground and to admit inside knowledge of the deceptions is just a little too much.
Bobby Julich said it best: "I don't feel betrayed. I just feel disappointed that, again, we finally build up a guy everyone seems to really like and support and rally behind, then he's thrown into the same category of so many of the other big riders of late: being under suspicion for doping."
It is that last thought that cuts the deepest, who isn't under the suspicion of doping at this point? It seems like anyone who has had any success, is accused of doping. It is a sad state indeed, I can't even imagine being a junior/espoir in this day and age, who do you look up to, who is an example?
More concerning is Dick Pound, who has clearly already made up his mind regarding
Landis, and cycling in general. In his latest salvo, he made reference to "Nazi
frogmen". When is comes to cycling in specific, the only
Julich may be right: "we (professional cyclists) have only ourselves to blame". I wonder what will become of my beloved sport. With guys like Dick Pound lashing out at the sport, and pros just trying to make a living, you have to wonder what the next generation of cyclists is saying to themselves. It may not be worth the hassle to race anymore . . .
Athletes and their teams should also keep their own samples, with satisfactory proof of custody, to support any claim of tampering with the samples given to the enforcement agencies.
In my opinion, the UCI and WADA are organized to sanction and provide anti-doping processes and policies for amateur and Olympic sport competition. They are simply not suited to perform the same functions for professional sports competition. The problem with the UCI and WADA is they have no bosses and risk nothing.
Professional cycling needs new organizations that regulate the sport based on the equal input and control of teams, race organizers, and riders. They are the ones who take the risks, both physically and economically, and should be able to control their own fate.
It is time for fundamental change in professional cycling. We need a new sanctioning and doping organization that works for, and is funded by, teams, race organizers, and the riders. If they don't perform and follow the rules, they get fired! As far as punishment for doping riders and teams, the evidence is clear. Companies do not sponsor teams or riders that dope. They would get fired, and disgraced, too! But at least they would be governed by rules they had a hand in making. Especially the riders.
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