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Letters to Cyclingnews - September 24, 2004
Tyler Hamilton is one of the most upstanding riders in the peloton. I, like anyone, was surprised to hear that two blood tests he had taken returned positive, one of which was still positive after the "conclusive" second test was performed. There is no way that Tyler is guilty. I'm not naive about the doping problem in Europe, but I would sooner believe that Lance Armstrong dopes than Tyler Hamilton. Not only do I believe that he wouldn't dope, he would never use someone else's blood. Using someone's blood is an extremely risky practice that even Tyler pointed out, if he were to dope, it would be asinine for him to use this method.
Fortunately, Hamilton will keep his Olympic medal since the sample from the Olympic B test was determined to have too few red blood cells to be conclusive.
To those who think he's guilty, bear in mind that the tests for homologous blood transfusions were just recently developed and Hamilton is the first person to be found positive under the test. It is possible, if not highly likely, that these tests were hastily developed so that they could be rolled out for the Athens Olympics. A hastily established test would most likely be inconclusive and inaccurate.
If Hamilton did in fact dope, which I don't think is the case, he still commands respect. The majority of the general public doesn't know the extent of the doping problem in cycling, so it would be hypocritical to come down on Hamilton and single him out. It would be devastating to American cycling and the peloton to lose such a rider.
Tyler Hamilton is a classy and honest man; he should be vindicated.
Tyler Hamilton #2
I am sure there are many letters, in support, in disbelief and simple sadness with regards to the announcement about Tyler Hamilton. I have a couple questions.
Why are only hearing about the Olympic sample now?
Tyler, if there was a "surgical intervention", as you put it, then simply get the surgeon, have him discuss the procedure, and let's be done with it. If the surgery is a private matter, then I am sure that you will be able to get some lawyer to draw up a letter of privacy, yet still show documentation to the UCI, and remove the cloud. Tyler, why aren't you doing that?
Nothing more need be said, because it is all speculation.
Michel van Musschenbroek
Tyler Hamilton #3
I fully believe that Tyler is innocent, and I'm very disappointed that Rihs and Phonak so quickly reversed their stance from Tuesday, suspending Tyler on Wednesday.
If you feel as I do, I would like to encourage you to contact Tyler's sponsors (especially those who are already considering dropping him) and let them know how you feel: that you stand behind Tyler 110%, and that you'll be very disappointed if they drop Tyler -- so disappointed that you may stop buying their products.
Long Live the Man from Marblehead!
Tyler Hamilton #4
If Tyler Hamilton's B blood tests come back positive, then I say it is the testing organization that is corrupt. They are either guilty of using a test that is not reliable, or they are guilty of out-right corruption by creating false positives. Tyler is absolutely a guy who can push through adversity and has the integrity to let it all play out on the road, and I believe in him 100%.
I will warn every American youth away from professional and Olympic cycling because it will be apparent that whoever has an agenda to target cyclists is getting away with it. Of course, there are cyclists who indulge in doping and should be caught, but at the same time, this will prove that even innocent athletes can be successfully targeted. I hope that Lance Armstrong is watching this closely, because I would hate to see his legacy tarnished by corrupt officials who are willing to target innocent cyclists.
I also will be ashamed of any cyclist or cycling journalist who proceeds to attack Tyler because of this horrendous turn of events.
Tyler Hamilton #5
I trust there are many cyclists who believe Hamilton's remarks. Why are the results being discussed before the second test results are finished? Why did the Vuelta and the Olympic tests surface at the same time? I find it hard to fathom that a top cyclist would take a homologous transfusion knowing that they are detectable.
The bigger issue is, are autologous transfusions common? If they are, could there have been some accidental contamination with another rider's blood? Or, did the testing and the testing equipment become cross-contaminated?
Autologous transfusions (your own stored blood) are illegal. However, the 1984 USA cycling team later admitted to this practice. There were no penalties given. Those comments certainly cannot be applied to every rider on the team. Without testing for this, can it be a punishable practice? If daily testing of riders would be necessary, how much blood would be drawn over a 3 week Tour? Too much for any rider to bear.
The other sad part of this news, by putting it in the headlines, it becomes a shadow over other riders. People start to question every result, every rider. It would be best if positive (or non-negative) test results are not made public until all the results are finalized.
Tyler Hamilton #6
If I was Tyler I would go to one of the top European hematologist inviting the press and UCI to go with me and observe every step from my blood being drawn, handled and tested.
I wish him all the best.
Michael G. Skardasis, M.D.
Tyler Hamilton #7
Dear bicycle racing... Well, it was fun for a while but now that Tyler, a man of gentle honor, has been destroyed by the wolves of jealousy I feel compelled to boycott what once was a most beautiful sport. I have been riding a bicycle for over 50 years and have come to believe that this simple recreation has been ruined by commercialism, standard setting snob recreational riding clubs and glory seeking scientists bent on building their careers by destroying the careers of talented athletes. Tyler's poster of his struggle to win the l6th stage of the Tour is still on my wall and will remain there as an inspiration to never give up no matter what the adversity. He is my All American Hero. Maybe the rest of you want to muddle around in the morass of fingerpointing witchhunting but for now I think I'll climb on my $300 bicycle and go back to just enjoying the simple pleasure of moseying down my favorite rail trail.
By the way just what do you suppose Fausto Coppi used to enable him to thrash his competition?
Tyler Hamilton 8#
Tyler Hamilton has been such an admired and squeaky-clean individual for so long that it is truly hard to imagine him doping. The blood tests appear to indicate two separate populations of blood cells, a finding compatible with doping. Could there be another explanation? Yes. There are two other possible explanations. I can't say how rare a likelihood they represent, because that knowledge is not, to my knowledge, available.
First, Tyler could be a natural chimera. A chimera is an individual who is genetically two people. Fully chimeric individuals are usually the product of two fertilized ova fusing into a single embryo shortly after conception. This could produce two colonies of blood cells.
Second, Tyler could be a product of microchimerism. During embryonic development, maternal and child blood cells can pass across the placenta, leading to double sets of blood cells which effectively set up lines of cells within each person that have been shown, in some cases, to persist for decades. Whether or not this is a real explanation, or whether Tyler is simply guilty, I have no way of judging, but I hope these possibilities are at least considered, especially in light of the newness of this method of testing.
Peter E. Pool
Tyler Hamilton #9
I don't know why everyone's so concerned that Tyler is suspected of using blood transfusions.
The answer is obvious to me: After his beloved Tugboat passed away during the Tour de France, Tyler decided to inject a little of Tugboat's blood as a way of making sure the spirit of his faithful little family member lived on.
All we have to do to clear up this mess is test Tyler's blood samples for canine DNA.
After reading Dr. Ashenden's interview and his journal article in Haematologica, I had several questions and concerns that most readers probably share. I am not a haematologist or even a researcher, my knowledge in research methodology is amateur at best. But, it seems that medical procedures and medications go through a more rigourous series of clinical trials before being considered acceptable to the public. The fact that Tyler Hamilton's IOC samples came out both negative and positive is also not evidence enough that this test is either effective or non-effective.
Like most readers, I like to know the information and fact behind the public statements. My concerns are as follow. First of all, is it prudent for both the UCI and the IOC to consider this article as evidence to the validity and reliability of the test? If so, do you believe that 25 subjects is an adequate sample size to base these assumptions? And, is a within-subject design (the same subjects tested before and after a transfusion) evidence enough to warrant the use of this test on an international sporting level, or would it be more prudent to use an experimental design with a true control group and a larger sample size (with adequate representation of gender, race, and other variables such as endurance athletes, non-athletes, power athletes, etc.)? Also, the article and the interview did not state actual reliability scores (although, from reading the article it appears that the assumption is that the test is 100% accurate). Are there more published studies that may attest to the reliability and validity of this test? If so, could you please provide those citations. As a disclaimer, my knowledge in research methodology is based on a research and stats 101 course I took twelve years ago as an undergraduate. So, my concerns may be way off the mark. I also admit that I desperately want to believe in Tyler Hamilton. The guy swore on his wife and dead dog that he was clean!
The new blood test #2
Dr. Michael Ashenden is disingenuous when he states categorically that "There's no way ... for an individual to have a mixture of red blood cells from different minor blood groups, other than for him to have had a transfusion."
It is well known that certain kinds of cancers and several different hematological diseases can produce two different sets of red blood cells containing different patterns of minor blood groups. In these people, even the "major" blood groups ABO and Rh can be affected (See, for example: Winters JL, Howard DS, "Red blood cell antigen changes in malignancy: case report and review", Immunohematology 17:1 (November 2001), available on line at http://www.redcross.org/pubs/immuno/171sm.pdf.)
Given that such things can happen in abnormal conditions, it is fair to ask how often they happen in otherwise normal individuals -- and especially, how often do they happen in competitive athletes such as elite cyclists? Obviously, you need to know how often such "false positive" cases occur in order to use the screening test reliably.
In addition, it is not possible to determine -- at least from Dr. Ashenden's published description of the test -- whether the test itself has a "false positive" rate due to factors other than whether the person being tested is truly "positive". Although the United States Anti-Doping Agency and the World Anti-Doping Agency had enough money to pay for the development of Dr. Ashenden's test, I suspect that it would cost them a lot more to do the kind of larger-scale study they would have to do to establish the true reliability of the test.
If I knew that I had never received a transfusion, but that I nevertheless tested "positive" using this new test, I would want to be carefully tested by some other means in order to confirm the "positive" result. I would also want to see some good data regarding the false positive rate of the UCI's test. This is the normal standard of practice for other kinds of medical testing such as screening for HIV/AIDS, and it ought to be the standard in elite cycling as well.
Richard Wilton, MD
The new blood test #3
The published report in Haematologica states 25 patients were tested for blood transfusions, and 22 of the transfusions were detected. The other 3 patients actually didn't have the transfusion after all, therefore the fact that these THREE patients were correctly identified means that the test won't give any false positives, or as they state: "These results show the potential for flow cytometry to identify illicit homologous blood transfusion in athletes, and SUGGEST the risk of false positives MAY be low. " (emphasis added). Because of a SUGGESTION based on only three people's blood, an Olympic Champion is under immense scrutiny defending his abilities and reputation.
Or maybe we should believe that they actually tested more people, but they are keeping secret about them. This is entirely possible since Ashenden is quoted as saying: ""Even if they read the article [Haematologica. 2003 Nov;88(11):1284-95] and found a match for the antigens mentioned - one in a million - there is no way they can get a match for the other 'mystery' antigens." Secret antigens. Unpublished results. Could somebody let this guy and the IOC know that that is not valid science?
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool." These words from Richard Feynman should be hung over every scientists' desk as a constant reminder to not jump to conclusions so quickly just because you want them to be true.
John Spevacek, Ph.D.
The new blood test #4
Dr. Michael Ashenden is incorrect in saying that there is "no way" for an individual to have a mixture of red blood cells. A person could be a full chimera from birth, in which case he/she would look like they have blood from two people (mom and dad). Or they could be microchimeric as a result of a previous transfusion, which could have very well been legit. Considering the number of people that have had previous transfusions and the vast differences in people's immunology, it would be very difficult to standardize a titer for this type of thing. Its used in court to verify parental identity quite accurately because they can get blood from both parents to make sure of all the proteins the kid could have inherited (genetically, not necessarily as a chimera).
This test can establish potential cheats but calling it conclusive is a far cry from the truth. What it does say is that some people have mixed red blood cells/proteins/tags and some people have more than others, which could be cause by a huge number of events.
Researchers are supposed to conduct their research with a dispassionate interest. From what I've read about this guy and where his encouragement and money come from, I would say that this is hardly the case. They may have pushed an incomplete test to market.
The new blood test #5
John Stevenson's interview with Dr Michael Ashenden is highly suspect and extremely one-sided. While interviewing the father of the test in question, John Stevenson failed to ask any questions addressing shortcomings or potential problems with the test. In fact, there was no discussion regarding the probability basis for determining a positive test. In the blood, was conveniently published right about the time Cyclingnews started discussing the possibility of Australian rider Michael Rogers being bumped up to the bronze. We know you root for Aussie riders, but it's not an excuse to compromise your journalistic partiality.
I look forward to seeing additional articles and information that will shed light on all the facts surrounding the test in question.
I obviously cannot comment on the truth of Mr. Aberg's claims to not having taken anything performance enhancing (it's a bit like Tyler Hamilton - you want to believe him, but...) but the rules on doping seem quite clear. A missed test is the same as a failed one - see the Rio Ferdinand story in British soccer. I also took part in the Masters World Championships and it was well known beforehand that (finally, as this was not previously the case and has long been demanded) the first three of each age group would be tested. In any case there have always been tests for randomly selected riders and it is the rider's responsibility to find out if he was picked out.
Most saddening is the fact that doping tests are necessary at all at such events. The participants are all old enough to know better, there is no money involved and still the need to deceive oneself and the competition overrides good sense and fair play.
And you don't think having Landis win the Vuelta is in Phonak's best interest (neglecting the idea that a Phonak rider was capable of winning)? Come on...Tyler was thinking only of himself and Phonak's future. Think of the sponsorship boost the team could have gotten with a Landis win. Why riders can transfer mid-season for next season is bizarre. Name another profession where you say, I've signed with so and so for next year and am continuing to work here.
Tyler, USPS and Bruyneel #2
You can't be serious - "be more respectful"? If anyone should have been more respectful, it should have been Tyler. I like Hamilton very much but for him to question the efforts of a "friendly" team toward their race leader in such a public fashion is absolutely beyond reproach. Last I checked the job of Team Director belonged to Johan Bruyneel. I could be wrong, maybe Johan is moving on and Tyler sees an opening in light of his recent troubles and possible career change. In all seriousness, Tyler should feel lucky that in a way he was only told to stick it, someone could have taken it upon themselves to stick it to him. Better words have not be spoken than that of Bruyneel, "..perhaps he should make sure his team is OK first".
Tyler, USPS and Bruyneel #3
I believe that Mr. Brayton is thinking a bit too emotionally about Tyler Hamilton's public anger in la Vuelta a España. I think that it shows us the reason that Tyler left US Postal to begin with. I think that down deep he didn't believe that anyone but Lance could get full support from Bruyneel.
Johann has shown himself to be an extraordinary director and well capable of estimating the capacity of his charges. And the results of the latest stages demonstrated him correct.
Let us assume that Johann had Triki bury himself for Floyd. Now in the later stages Beltran would have been much lower in the overall. He would have destroyed his chances for a decent finish in la Vuelta merely to leave Landis just where he is presently. And let us not forget that Beltran's points stay with the team whereas Floyd's will be going with him.
I think it's best not to pay a lot of attention to rider's anger during or shortly after a stage when they're being physically stressed. Often judgment and propriety are at a low ebb during these times and things are said that would otherwise not even been thought.
Tyler, USPS and Bruyneel #4
What! You've got to be kidding, David Brayton. By what stretch of the imagination does Tyler have the right to yell at Triki Beltran to go faster in Stage 10 and then afterward to tell Demol that Postal is not supporting Floyd sufficiently? He's on another team! To express his opinion publicly and loudly like that shows he's clearly lost it. What gall! Yes, Floyd is foolishly going to ride for Tyler next year but that doesn't mean he has any say this year. What does he want, more UCI points for Phonak? If Tyler wanted more help for Floyd, why didn't he position himself in front of him and pace him up the mountain, if he could hang on, that is? Besides Floyd has repeatedly expressed gratitude for his team's work. Why would a "friend" so publicly call your teammates and team strategy into question like this. It makes those early morning meetings between Tyler and Floyd on the Phonak bus highly suspicious. Next year's team makeup should never effect this year's racing. In fact, riders need to scrupulously avoid even the appearance of that.
Are you watching the Vuelta, David? Triki was turning himself inside out on stage 10, as he has every mountain stage. Anyone could see that. No wonder Triki was surprised by Tyler's rudeness. And then who came in ahead of Floyd on Stage 12? Triki Beltran. So Postal's strategy of protecting both Floyd and Triki doesn't seem far off at all.
I'm frankly sick that Tyler, because he's a "nice guy," keeps getting a pass for all his silliness. And this one was beyond silly.
Claudia W. Harris
How about an unconventional pick: the 35-year-old Cofidis rider from Belgium, Peter Farazijn, started the Tour de France on 2 hours' notice after poor Matty White crashed during his warmup.. and he made it all the way to Paris. I hope he got a sweetheart bonus for that remarkable, although unheralded, impromptu performance.
Rider of the Year #2
I agree with Raymond Martin (and others) about Rebellin - he's had a great year. Anyone know why Ballerini left him off the Olympic squad? Any votes for Petacchi? 20+ wins and counting, plus the Giro record!
I don't think anyone would disagree with Oenone Wood for the Female Rider of the Year, though Petra Rossner has been very strong of late.
Rider of the Year #3
How about Gunn-Rita Dahle? I know she's a woman and a mountain biker but Olympic World and world-cup champion all in the same year! Hot and dry or cold and wet she still wins, a true champion.
Barry R Taylor
Thanks for the continued coverage of Sr Ochoa's racing exploits. It is great to see him riding so well. I hope that his personal life is as rewarding as his life on the bike.
Remember that time (I think it was in the Giro) when Cipollini needed to dump an empty bottle - he looked around and then tossed it straight into the hands of a kid at the side of the road, actually during the race! and if you spend long enough watching the big (and not so big) tours you'll see similar things happening all the time. A lot of these guys haven't forgotten how they started out by watching; power to them.
Barry R Taylor
Justin Quinn made some good points. But what he misunderstands is the view most American fans have. (Just most, not all, folks.)
Yes, many are there to cheer Lance Armstrong and Lance only. This is more out of nationalism and patriotism than celebrity status. They would cheer Hamilton or Julich just as loud . (We would have to get rid of our 'Texas, bigger than France!' shirts for a more appropriate 'Mass., snobbier than France' slogan.) True, many cycling fans do not feel such strong nationalism, myself included. They may root for Cipo or Petacchi, not caring for what country they were born in. As for most Americans, they only know of Lance for two main reasons.
First, cycling is seen about as often as events like bobsledding here. Very little is said in mainstream sports news. Sports Illustrated only has a page for the Tour champion IF the winner is an American. Otherwise, nothing. Many newspapers only list the overall leaders in the race, saying nothing of the daily events or stage winner. Lance, like Lemond, is the only active cyclist they know. Until recently, the only coverage from the media was a weekly 60 minute review of the Tour de France. Thus, the blame should really fall on the US media.
Second, since the media coverage is minimal, few Americans understand cycling and the importance of stage victories. No importance at all is placed on the stage wins, especially when the peloton finish with the same time. You might hear:"Why were those guys trying so hard to win when they all got the same time?" Even in this years Tour finish, many were puzzled that Lance lost a minute on the last stage. "Must have been the champagne" They may see a clip of a stage winner celebrating what has been a life-long struggle to win a stage, at any cost, even if only a second ahead of a charging peloton. Then they will say," Why does this guy seem so happy? He is an hour behind Lance." The sad part of this? When Lance retires, cycling will once again be forgotten here.
My left hip joint was replaced by surgeon Andrew Shinar, M.D. at the Vanderbilt Joint Replacement Center, Nashville, Tennessee on August 9, 2004 and I resumed riding bikes on the road four weeks later on September 4th. Prosthesis is titanium with a ceramic ball and plastic socket. It does not wear out - in the lab! I do not understand how preparation was accomplished and the prosthesis put in place with only two small incisions at my hip. Well, muscles hurt afterward! I grimace imagining how my hip was dislocated in preparation for surgery. On September 19th, one day after my 61st birthday, I rode seventy miles with a group of youngsters at an average speed of eighteen mph and I shared some of the work. My cumulative mileage is approaching three hundred. For those who don’t know this, Florida, is generally flat. I admit that climbing any incline right now is challenging and I get gapped often but I close those gaps. My spin is back and a cadence of ninety plus easy to maintain. Oh, if anyone worries about falling, I did! Flush on the outside of the new hip. Of course falling is discouraged but it is important to understand that after total hip replacement we are not fragile. I don’t wish I had THR sooner. It was a quality of life decision. The risk of doing collateral damage to my back and knees by shifting weight bearing from my hip was a factor in my equation.
X-rays were taken and evaluation done by Dr. Shinar yesterday at Vanderbilt. My next appointment is June 2005.
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