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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 4, 2006, part 4
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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 4, part 1:
I will prove it, Doping, Landis, tests, Why process matters, Robbie Ventura,
Rubbish!, Leadership & cleansing, 21st Stage, A few minor thoughts, Stage 17
water consumption, Was it a recovery prep?, Anti-doping transparency, Bad for
cycling - are you kidding?, Best way to deal with doping
Losing hope against the dope...
I've been reading the letters on various sites (sorry cyclingnews for straying and cheating, you'll always be my first and it didn't mean anything) and have been looking for the science behind testosterone and its effects on athletic performance and frankly, I'm more confused than before.
It looks as though the evidence says that effective Testi doping must take place over a number of weeks or months for efficient muscle mass building and performance enhancement but the recovery effects of a scrotal patch can be relatively immediate, i.e. a period of 24 hours to prepare for another high intensity athletic endeavor.
So are these guys testing positive for Testi just using it for recovery and getting caught for that spike in their urine or can it be similar to the micro dose of EPO where it is there and just undetectable? It would be interesting to go back to see when the positive tests occurred for all athletes under the WADA Code i.e. in competition/out competition to maybe see if there is such a prevalent pattern of using it to recover. One would think there would be no out of competition positives because riders/managers/doctors, etc. would know how to adjust Testi/Epitesti levels to fly under the radar of a surprise test during training, but in the midst of a competition, the necessary measures can't always be taken to account for all the variables.
Also, why is the veracity of the scientific testing always called into question? If it looks like a duck, walks like duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck.. It's a duck, right? Is it that it is the last ditch effort to save oneself? Haven't these people in the labs been doing these kinds of tests for years on hundreds of athletes' samples that didn't show any abnormalities and weren't questioned? Are they all completely incompetent? Should they have to go back and retest every sample they've received?
I'm desperately hanging on to the end of the rope regarding Landis and hoping for a positive outcome but who of us REALLY KNOW what happens behind the scenes when the stakes are so high; it's looking pretty grim. I, as much as anyone else, want a reason to keep the faith and keep watching after the events prior to the start of Le Tour in Strasbourg ( I was at stage 16 of the Giro on Monte Bondone yelling 'allez le tour' to Jan at 10K to go). In the end, I'll most likely keep watching and following on cyclingnews, of course, but now with a grain of salt toward the 'major race contenders'.
Allez Jens Voigt and Erik Zabel!
In response to this letter I have some experience. A novice fan of 5 years I have become enamored with the sport and really am in awe of what riders can do even if they are doped or not.
Regarding the comparison to prize fighting and testosterone. I know quite a bit about this sort of thing. I was a professional kickboxer and amateur boxer, wrestler. The fight or flight instinct raises everything in the body from blood pressure, awareness, adrenaline and testosterone. When the moment the bell rings, you have unusual strength and endurance because your body has demanded it. The mind produces these chemicals under 'combat stress' and lasts long after the bout is over. If Landis is a 'fighter' and it sounds like he is and God what a ride that was, I'm sure his whole mind body process was going haywire. If the reports are true about tirades and aggressive behaviour before and after, His Test was probably going thru the roof.
I know a bit about steroids as combat sports have too many people on them that I find it hard to believe that after many negative samples throughout the race he used test. Test takes weeks or months to produce any real effect. Floyd was just plain mad and angry and wanted to kick some butt.
I'm not a scientist but I'm aware that no one has failed to win an appeal on this very subject. Maybe Floyd has some major balls and fighting spirit.
I'm aghast at all the letters from people who either don't seem to care that riders dope, or seem to believe that we shouldn't judge them when they fail tests, or immediately go on the attack against doping controls and laboratories doing the testing.
Reader Auden Grumet wrote, "...who really gives a damn whether or not an athlete is or is not using certain substances? "
Who gives a damn? I for one do. Why? Because of the one little fact that it's, oh, CHEATING! You see, there is a line drawn on illegal drugs, just as there is a line drawn that says you must ride the entire course yourself, you can't hold on to car handles going uphill, you can't purposefully crash your opponent, and so on.
Do people really think there should be no doping controls at all? Letting riders jack themselves up on whatever they can find? If you don't care that they are on EPO, steroids and growth hormones, would you not care if they were on massive amounts of PCP? Crystal meth? Cocaine? Various other amphetamines? Gene doping? And would you just say "too bad" when riders who didn't want to potentially ruin their bodies with this junk would lose and never have a career. Is this really the type of sport you want?
Larry and John, how good to see a couple of guys from the US who see doping in the same light as the rest of us. I am used to reading letters from Americans, who try to defend their own cyclists when they are caught out (the Tyler Hamilton case being a good example). Doping in sport is cheating, and it does change my attitude towards the athlete.
Whether they are guilty or not, they always trot out the same story - it was something in my food/drink/medicine and that they are totally innocent. Why can't they save time as Larry suggests, and just come clean? I gave up competitive cycling years ago, but even now, friends outside the sport are convinced I must have been on something at the time, which is a bit of a joke given my mediocre performances. These fiascos tar us all with the same brush. The only thing is that other sports such as athletics (Justin Gatlin etc) have problems just like us.
Larry North must have been toking something after all. His message about Floyd Landis, in which he also drags Tyler Hamilton and Lance Armstrong into the mud, is disappointing, but not as disappointing as the state of drug testing in cycling. Team directors like to point out that football, tennis, and other professional sports don't receive the scrutiny our sport does (hint: all of those other sports have unions to protect their athletes). If we look at the facts, we see a picture that would make even the Keystone Cops blush with embarrassment:
1. Lance has never tested positive, yet has constantly had to battle the press and Dick Pound to prove himself clean. When his B samples from the '99 Tour were analyzed against WADA and UCI protocol and ethics rules, the UCI's own investigator found that the tests couldn't be counted on for a multitude of reasons and found Dick Pound largely to blame. Dick Pound should resign. He likes the sound of his own voice far too much to do a competent job.
2. Tyler's testing was rife with problems. First his Athens A sample was negative, then positive (how'd that happen?). The other gaffes of his debacle are too numerous to list. Again Dick Pound spouted off so early in the process that Hamilton was guilty that he HAD to have a positive just to save face. Not a great way to run an organization whose goal it is to protect riders and ensure the integrity of the sport.
3. Landis' A sample comes back positive for an adverse ratio of testosterone/epitestosterone. First, this test is admittedly not a great test and has many flaws. Couple that with the fact that none of us should even know about it (another violation of WADA's code of ethics and protocol only Landis, his team, and the governing body for cycling in the US should be aware of this now). How embarrassing would it be if the B came back negative and we all put Landis and his family through this for naught?
4. Comunidad Valenciana is implicated in the Operation Puerto affair, with many team members supposedly up to their elbows in dope. Now none of them are being looked at by the authorities and all have been cleared. Too bad for them, since they were booted from both the Tour and the Vuelta and have now lost their sponsor as of Dec. 31 of this year.
The system is broken. In their haste to rid cycling of cheats, the UCI and WADA have plunged the sport into despair and ruined or tarnished the reputations of athletes who have done nothing wrong. Of course there are cheats in cycling, but I'd much rather see a few of them get away with it than see athletes who have sacrificed and worked so hard for so long lose their livelihood and reputations as the result of overzealous enforcement and shoddy testing.
Three things need to be done to clean up cycling and it's reputation: 1. tests need to be developed that are clear and scientifically sound. 2. old tests that don't fit this bill need to be done away with. If you don't have a good test for testosterone, don't test for it. 3. WADA and the UCI need to actually abide by their ethical charter and protocols in order to protect the riders from unjust allegations. 4. riders who are convicted of these tests need to be severely punished for their infractions
Rather than rushing to see who can be the first to admonish Landis, the cyclists of the Pro Tour and other continental teams should form a union to protect themselves from this type of systemic abuse and mismanagement. Then we can all focus on the sport rather than the soap opera surrounding it.
Is it just me or has the cycling world missed the wrong that has been done to the team of Comunidad Valenciana?
Here's a time line. They get booted from the Tour for alleged involvement in Operacion Puerto. Despite all of the team's riders offering to take drug tests to clear them, ASO, the Tour organizers, refuse and basically decide that they must be guilty why else would the Spanish name them.
On July 28th: The team is informed that their sponsorship is getting pulled, and to add insult to injury the Vuelta declares that Comunidad Valenciana is not going to be allowed into Vuelta. Yep, again the organizers decide that Comunidad Valenciana must be guilty.
July 30th: It is announced by the Spanish judiciary that ALL the riders from Comunidad Valenciana are clear and not under further investigation.
All I can say is NICE job by the directors of the Tour and the Vuelta! In their effort to lead the anti drug crusade you convicted innocent people, damaged their careers, and caused a team to lose its sponsorship.
I hope the Vuelta directors will see the error of their ways and reinstate Comunidad Valenciana. I've noticed ASO hasn't even offered so much as an apology for their actions.
There's a reason why there are courts of law and in most cases people are presumed innocent until proven guilty in the court of law, not the court of media.
I hope race directors every where will take notice what happened to Comunidad Valenciana, and learn from it.
It seems like cyclists and others dope because they make an analysis on the benefits of doping versus the risk of being caught and the penalties associated with being caught.
What most people are arguing is that the risk of being caught needs to be increased. That is fine, but it's only one way of making cheating less attractive - the other is to increase the penalties associated with cheating.
In professional sport, the penalties for cheating could be raised to the level associated with other types of professional misconduct.
By which I'm suggesting taking a cue from insider trading, tax evasion or other sorts of professional cheating, which can result in significant jail time. If an engineer, journalist, stockbroker or lawyer deliberately flaunts the standards of the profession, they can expect real punishment - why not professional athletes?
Maybe the prospect of real, hard punishment - big fines and jail time - and a couple of high and low profile examples will give those considering doping a little more food for thought.
I was loving the tour, cheering on Cadel Evans, until Landis' solo break. It was just too extreme from the previous day's events. I immediately lost interest in the tour. I just knew something was not right.
I am an Australian Paralympic cyclist, winning two gold medals and a bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games. I won these medals through sacrifice and endless commitment to excel in a sport I love, drugs were never in the equation. I didn't want to win that much.
Out of all the cyclists to be tested in Athens, the only one to produce a positive result was a pilot on a men's tandem. I remember feeling so sorry for the blind rider who was stripped of his silver medal because his pilot juiced up.
After six years representing Australia as an athlete with a disability (AWD) I am yet to hear of a positive result from any cyclist. A much better record than athletes without a disability. Maybe more attention could be put on AWD to be used as an example.
Whoa! What year is this? 1950? I smell McCarthyism and witch-hunts. For those not familiar with McCarthyism - he was an American wacko who was going to rid the US of communists. He was so focused on eliminating every communist in America that someone/anyone suspected of speaking to someone suspected of speaking with a member of the communist party would be labeled as 'suspect' and brought before a tribunal, labeled as a communist, and WHAM! Career, income, livelihood -- over. Did WADA learn their tactics from McCarthy himself?
WADA is so focused on ridding cycling of doping that they are branding riders based on suspicion! Why are we letting them get away with this? Why isn't the media taking on WADA? Why does WADA get to work under the rules of 'Guilty until proven innocent" How many cyclists have been 'cleared' of doping in the past few months - AFTER their lives had been turned upside down? Landis is not the only one hurt by WADA, he's just the most recognized prize WADA can claim at the moment. The whole world should be hammering WADA to produce the evidence banning their favorite cyclist.
Cheating and doping are sad elements of pro-sports. But being banned by suspicion is just as sad and is equally devastating to the sport.
I haven’t read them all, but of those I have, the only letter written to Cyclingnews.com worth the ink it was printed with, was from Deborah Hunter. She points out the obvious, glaring, irrefutable mathematical flaw in the entire testing process that lawyers like Dick Pound, and even some doctors, don’t seem to be able to comprehend. The real answer to the question of whether Landis did or did not take testosterone is that no matter what the medical lab analysis test shows, positive or negative, it can not be trusted to be correct.
All we ever talk about is how a rider will be punished for a doping offense. It’s time to apply the same rules to the testing labs and other organizations like WADA. I suggest that any time a particular lab is shown to have reported a false positive test, by a second independent lab test or other evidence for example, then the lab that made the mistake, and the organization that certified that lab (or that particular lab procedure e.g. WADA in many cases), should be banned from participation in testing for two to four years. A length of time equal to the ban for a cyclist found guilty of a doping offense. A second violation would mean a lifetime ban. When WADA and their band of mafia hatchet men have to live by the same rules as the riders, then they will think twice about the methods they are using to condemn athletes around the world, and we will have a much more balanced system. As it is now there are no penalties whatsoever for egregious errors by WADA and or the labs, so they can destroy anyone at any time without recourse.
The testing procedure is a joke. Why do they publish the result of an A test, make all the headlines, and then say it will take a week to test sample B to see if the rider is really guilty or not. Kind of late isn't it?
They should simply take sample A send to one lab and send sample B to another lab at the same time. The test result of both samples will be known immediately either the two samples are the same and the rider is positive or negative. If the results from both labs are different ( one positive and one negative) There is a flaw in the lab or testing procedure so the result is thrown out . Get it right the first time or don't do it.
You contribution is a joke, sorry, but Landis has been caught with a 11:1 ratio and the exogenous testosterone level has been established using Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) procedure.
So don't be so naive just because you probably are emotionally involved. Landis is a cheater and I hope it will be suspended for the rest of its life.
As we all open-mindedly await the B sample test results, we must fully examine the motions of the defense. I personally am willing to try these tests. First, establish your threshold level by riding as fast as you can for as long as possible. Second, prepare to do it again the next day. Preparation should include at least one beer. It must be American beer. Sierra Nevada is rumored to be the prime choice of Lance Armstrong. Also, take one shot of Jack Daniel's Whiskey. (Note the old number 7 brand on the label. It must have something to do with the previous 7 Tours.) On your next ride, try to drop everyone. Make sure you zip up your jersey before the finish line. You may want to practice a few fist pumps in front of the mirror the night before this race. Cool shades are a must also.
I am sure some of you will see some major errors here. I too, was doing everything backwards. I was drinking the alcohol after the race rather than before it. Now I know better. Also, try to drink what the locals drink. Do you really think that a French lab would allow someone to have an advantage over French riders by drinking Jack Daniel's? Cognac would have been the wise choice here. Sure the British have quietly contained the Guinness secret for years. But now that the cat is out of the bag, I fully expect Whiskey, Tequila, and Cognac sponsorships to be popping up at every race. Perhaps next year, we will see the yellow jersey holder riding into Paris sipping a very dry martini.
I am not a professional cyclist. I am not even a decent novice. I doubt I could complete an HC climb without the aid of an overnight hotel stay.
There are reasons for this. While I love to ride my bike I have neither the free time nor the inclination to spend dozens or hours per week on it, pedaling up the steep sections and passing cars on the way down. I don't want to endure searing pain in my legs and back and arms to improve my riding. I watch my diet somewhat but don't possess the discipline to pay too much attention, taking care to ingest enough carbs to fuel tomorrow's ride but not too many lest my body fat nudge upward.
These things, more than drugs, separate me from professional cyclists. They are willing to dedicate their entire lives to improving their performance on the bike. I see very little difference between sweating out mile after mile in training and ingesting performance enhancing drugs. The risks of the latter are well overblown and the question of causality is far from answered. Did EPO give Lance Armstrong testicular cancer? Did steroids kill Lyle Alzado? Was Jason Collier using drugs?
What we have is an arbitrarily arrived upon list of rules to decide what constitutes cheating. A team with funds to spend more time in the wind tunnel isn't cheating. Better tactics on the course are fine as well. A more effective masseuse, higher quality food, buying an altitude tent, more time on the bike, hiring better domestiques. All are acceptable. A team can ask its riders to do virtually anything in pursuit of a win apart from ingesting a handful of chemicals.
I'm not sure why this is. Certainly no rational person truly believes that the leaders are where they are solely because they took drugs. Virtually anyone with the funds can purchase EPO or testosterone. The methods to evade detection are readily available. It is naive to believe that Floyd's performance, or the placement of any particular rider, was due solely to doping.
Cycling is already giving us what we want: The fastest, most competitive racing possible. The rules that bring subsequent disappointment should be abandoned.
It would be a whole lot easier to get to the bottom of the doping problem in cycling, if French labs would keep their mouths shut and stop leaking details of every test - especially those performed on Americans - to L'Equipe. If this was Dessel or Moreau, would we have as many leaks? It's not helping anyone that these things begin to appear to look like witch hunts and that L'Equipe is starting to look like the New York Post of sporting papers. If the French really want to save the health of the sport, why not simply present the facts as they arise and let the truth, courts and officiating bodies decide?
They could learn something from the much classier way in which the Spaniards have handled Operacion Puerto.
In response to Alan Switzer's mail and a few other people's on here.
Are you guys forgetting what it means to get a positive on your A sample? That's means you're busted, caught, done like a dogs dinner. The B sample is split from the original sample and tested again so that no one can say that the result was a 1 in a million error. Don't kid yourselves thinking that it's a 50/50 chance to give a false positive. He's gone, I'm glad, I thought it was so obvious he was on something on stage 17 it made me incredibly pi
Regarding to you being appalled at other riders quotes, the Pro's who are riding with Landis and who submit themselves to testing all year round think he is guilty as they all know if your A sample is positive then you're gone! But yet for whatever reason you think they are all wrong and they should give Landis the benefit of the doubt.... Of which the benefit of the doubt equates to about 0.01% chance.... are you seriously suggesting those are good odds for benefit of the doubt? Dude here's a tip, don't take up gambling.
It's ironic that he is getting done for testosterone when that wouldn't have been what gave him the big advantage on stage 17. The test that popped him was done in the evening so it could be that it was a sneak test done after they'd already administered the dose when they thought he was clear of testing?
Whether Landis doped or didn't dope is of no consequence to me. If he did, he will be punished. If he didn't, he will recover and race on. The thing that sticks in my craw the most is the way the doping control community ie UCI, WADA, the people doing the tests, etc, fry every rider by leaking test results before any official announcement is made.
Most of the time, the news is out before the "B" sample is even confirmed, and always before any "official" press release. If the folks managing this testing and control process ever expect credibility from the riders, fans, and other true sporting organizations around the world, the first thing they need to do is shore up their internal processes. If the process existed to insure the riders were being given a fair shake, the respect and credibility of the anti-doping organizations would increase exponentially. The practice of throwing the witch in the water to see if they float has to stop. Too many good riders may be drowning in the process.
Here's a solution for the current doping "problem" that has "plagued" the sport of cycling: Legalize the doping. The current pro teams are so rich that they can certainly afford to supply "doping products" to each of their athletes. Heck, the drug companies could use cyclists as testers for their products--we all know how well EPO can work. Doing this would be the easiest way to eliminate this "scourge" from our beloved sport. I know I wouldn't feel bad knowing that so-and-so won the Tour using EPO.
Why is it that Floyd's winning the tour is a mere sidebar on most news and sports channels in the US, but as soon as a possible scandal breaks, it's front page news?
When will the idiots running the UCI and WADA realize that their actions are as reprehensible as the riders who cheat? Every time there is a leak from an "important source inside the investigations" they compromise the integrity of their organizations and their testing. The most admirable thing I have heard during this whole Landis debacle is that U.S. Cycling will not comment on any rider under investigation. Their European counterparts obviously do not have the same standards. EVERYONE is chiming in and they all make me sick.
If newspaper journalists have such an inside track to "confidential information" how do we know that someone else doesn't have an inside track to tampering with rider samples? I mean literally every single step, of every single investigation this year has been compromised... every single one. What if someone in France who cannot stand the idea of another American winner of the Tour de France has "unprecedented access" to the sample given by riders. THIS is the kind of speculation that can arise because of the poor handling of each and every single investigation into doping. As far as I am concerned there are leaks all over the place in the European testing process and I cannot take them seriously anymore. Just look at the controversy surrounding the 1999 Lance samples leaked to the media... Pound basically manipulated that entire debacle. How am I to trust that someone else doesn't have access enough to "spike" a sample or two. I think I am done watching this sport (I'll never stop riding!) not only because of the cheating riders but because even the regulators of the sport itself are cheaters. They can't seem to follow the very rules they institute.
Well, no matter what happens, the whole situation is heartbreaking. Landis' performance may have only been possible with "assistance". But I'm not sure handing the TdF crown to Pereiro is an obvious choice. Sure he finished 2nd overall, but his performance in the final TT was above and beyond anything he had done before. Was he tested after the stage? More than likely not, since the yellow jersey fell from his shoulders anyway and he, of course, didn't win the stage. I guess that brings up why so few (3?) are tested each stage? If cycling really wanted to catch the cheaters, they'd test more riders more often, especially during the grand tours.
Why is it taking so long for the UCI to forward the evidence in the Operation Puerto case to the National Cycling Federations? Can it be that they are so taken aback by the Landis affair that they want to slow things down and give the sport a rest? I say let's get on with it. I find it funny that as the days go by more and more of the riders that were supposedly so involved have now been receiving letters to the effect that they are no longer under suspicion and can go back to racing (Caruso, Davis, Beloki, Nozal, Paulinho, Contador and the entire Comunidad Valenciana team).
Where is all of the damning evidence against the many riders that have had their careers more or less ruined by Operation Puerto? If the others listed above are now innocent (but apparently so guilty during the Tour) then maybe the evidence against others (possibly, Basso, possibly Ullrich) is not very strong either. Maybe this has all been a huge conspiracy to remove many of the favorites from the Tour in hopes that someone else would win (hey we still don't know who won, do we?).
I am not saying that Ullrich, Basso and the others are not guilty, they very well may be up to their necks in it, but let's see the documents now. Once again the UCI are looking like idiots. I say pass on the files or announce that the riders were falsely accused and let them back into racing. And for god's sake, let's get the Landis B sample analyzed and move on with his case as well. Stop dragging your feet UCI. Your delays aren't going to make things go away, they are just making things worse.
I wholeheartedly agree with and applaud this letter. The rider's do bear responsibility, but I think the sponsors, coaches, trainers and other support staff who enable, empower and facilitate cheating bear as much or more. And here is another side: what about the procedures, facilities, personnel and organizations that are doing the drug testing? Are they without corruption? Don't tell me that riders cannot be setup or that it is not possible for samples to be either unintentionally or intentionally mishandled or spiked. Unfortunately we are dealing with the human race here, and every area should be scrutinized.
Eric B. Massey
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