|Cyclingnews TV News Tech Features Road MTB BMX Cyclo-cross Track Photos Fitness Letters Search Forum|
Letters to Cyclingnews - May 6, 2005
As a cyclist in Northern California near the winetasting and tourist region of Sonoma and Napa Valley, I see this type of thing annually. Irresponsible drivers, impaired by alcohol, hit and kill bicyclist. This issue, this protest, should not be contained to just cyclist. It should include every individual in the society since the event would be no less tragic if McGee hit another motorist, or a pedestrian.
Until legislation gets passed that toughens the punishment of drunk driving, each year more and more families and communities will have to deal with similar tragedies. My vote, if you drive drunk, you should be charged with something with consequences similar to Involuntary Manslaughter. If you kill or injure someone, you should be charged with felony manslaughter. Each sentence should be standard and include mandatory jail time. And the car should be sold by the state and the proceeds going to fund state or federal public services. Safer streets and more Head Start programs for children.
I challenge any representative to give a good reason why this type of penalty wouldn't work.
Christopher J. Carey
I think it says it all when the Premier of South Australia calls McGee a "white-feather lawyer" and "coward". McGee's defence came out with the usual crock that "my client is suffering from trauma and stress" after prosecuting South Australia's biggest murder case. Once again the judiciary pander to the "it wasn't my fault" story. When are people going to take responsibility for their actions?
If I go out and drink a considerable quantity of wine, drive home in an erratic manner (yes there were witnesses to this that the police didn't seem to worry about), run over a cyclist and bugger off; I would hope that I had the decency and guts to say it was MY FAULT. It seems that McGee was so stressed that he had time to make four calls to his lawyer (another cockroach) and wait two hours, so that he couldn't be breath tested, before turning himself into the police.
I wonder what sort of stress and trauma Ian Humphrey's family have gone through? McGee must be having a hard time shaving now because surely he is having a hard time looking at himself in the mirror.
I would be on the ride if I lived in South Australia and hope there is a huge turnout.
Albany, Western Australia
Outrage is building among the wider public, and now in support of the SA Wheels for Justice ride, a Melbourne Wheels for Justice Ride will happen at the same time to raise awareness to this travesity of justice in other states too, to encourage lawmakers and enforcers to recognise riders have rights on the road and to bring accountability to those who breach those rights.
Enough is enough, maybe at long last, something will finally be done to raise in the wider community the levels of education, awareness and accountability that have been lacking for so long.
How many of us are sick and tired of being harrassed by motorists, threatened with near death experiences on just about every ride, and it is too widespread to say, just a few of them are crazies, all drivers before they get a licence should have to ride a bike on public roads in a certified group before they can sit for their licence, and all drivers found guilty of an offence against drivers should do likewise. Then and only then will we remove this ridiculous attitude; responsible cyclists share the road, responsible drivers will allow us all to feel more comfortable that our future rides and the rides of our children will be safer and more enjoyable.
Safe enjoyable riding is a massive benefit to the community, its wider general health, the cost to society and the environment, all benefit from more people riding more often...but it needs drivers to know, be aware and be accountable for stupidity or ignorance.
Beaumaris, Victoria, Australia
If I were there instead of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and not nurturing a fractured hip due to a bike crash, I WOULD BE IN THE LINE UP! Protest, my biking friends, and make a huge beautiful noise! My condolences go out to Mr. Humphrey's family and friends.
So, it wasn't a once-in-a-lifetime event - this was my second Tour de Georgia. But I came away this year with a new appreciation for the cyclists and the fans. Last year was easy. The weather was sunny, and Armstrong was cruising through Georgia on his way to a sixth Tour de France victory.
As you may have read, the weather at this year's Tour de Georgia was indeed "freaky." In the early stages, it was warm with blue skies, but as the race approached the mountains, spring turned angrily back to winter.
We had just settled in on the lawn in Dahlonega to await the finish of Stage 4. The dark clouds rolled in, and it began to sprinkle. In less than five minutes, the sky turned black, the winds howled, lightning flashed, and hail came down. It was scary. With a cast on my foot, I hopped to the closest building and leaned against a wall that gave a bit of protection. We were grateful when someone unlocked a gate so we could seek shelter in a hallway. There were mothers with baby carriages caught out in the storm - one woman had twins! There were fans in t-shirts and shorts who clearly didn't watch the morning's weather forecast. They were soaking wet. We all waited it out, and very few of us left.
But what about the riders? They were cycling unprotected through this storm in the mountains. Were they tough? Yes. Crazy? Well, yes. A story in the Atlanta Constitution that said cycling enthusiasts have some type of "fever" suddenly made more sense.
The weather for Stage 5 to Brasstown Bald wasn't much better. The winds were cold and strong, and it threatened rain/hail/snow. The race organisers were restricting the number of cars on Brasstown Bald, so we elected not to give up our car and went instead to the summit of another significant climb, Hogpen Gap (don't you love the name). The place was packed with every kind of fan imaginable. Mothers and fathers with small children. Young and old. Men and women. One family camped in their van overnight with a three-year-old child. Amateur cyclists rode up the incline while a father coaxed his two-year-old son to yell "attack."
No one complained. We all wanted to see Armstrong, Ekimov, Julich, Landis, Leipheimer, and the young, upcoming riders. It wasn't anything close to the circus on L'Alpe d'Huez, but chalk up more kudos to the determination of the fans.
I've watched various Tour de France stages where the weather was treacherous and thought, "geez, that looks really bad," but this was the first time I actually experienced just a hint of what the cyclists endure. More power to you, guys. Thanks for the adventure and another great race.
Andre Tchmil, Johan Museeuw, Mario Cipollini, Andrea Tafi, Slava Ekimov - just a few legendary names among the many riders who have persevered through the declining years of athletic prowess to reap glorious new palmares as aging warriors.
It will be very interesting to see how Zabel evolves, now that he has passed his prime as a straight up, elbow to the throat sprint killer. At only 34 years of age, he still has 3 or 4 potentially fantastic years ahead of him as a classics man and world champion.
In this day and age of opportunistic specialists, it is always refreshing to see a Zabel racing for the pure joy of speed and stomping 187 other speedsters, and willing to adapt to the changing circumstances of his career. Lance is a great tour champion, but Zabel is a great cyclist, which to me is worth miles more. This Giro may not yield the glory he is seeking, but here's to hoping that Mr Green Jersey, Milan San Remo has a few more epic victories left in the tank!
It was with great distress that I read about Ekimov's crash and the prognosis that he will miss the Tour de France this year. I have always admired this most excellent of riders. The glory he has achieved for himself (twice Olympic Gold among other things) since he rode with Panasonic in the early 90's...boy, he seems to have been riding forever. But it's also a marvel since becoming a domestique "par excellence" for the Lance-man in the Tour and/or for George Hincapie in the Classics. Wow. If there ever was a great rider, Eki (or Slava as his teamates call him) would certainly be one of my favourites.
But with the crash he will probably not be in a position to break a certain record that I thought would be his for sure - Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk has partaken a total of 16 times in the Tour. Viatcheslav was only two participations shy of this record and (at the pace he was going in recent years) I was hoping for him to break it...sadly this year will only be the second time he's missed it, the first time since 1999 (when his team did not qualify).
Despite the Discovery Channel team's comment that Eki is not poised to retire, I feel that the cycling world will have to prepare itself for the day Eki WILL call it quits. In any case, Eki, the fans are rooting for you, so let me wish you all the best and a very speedy recovery by repeating the chant I got going on the Mur de Grammont in the recent "Tour des Flandres", when you rode by in the bunch: "Go Eki! GO GO GO!
Spare a thought for Viatcheslav Ekimov who crashed during a training ride with Discovery. The thirty-nine year old has ridden an unbelievable fourteen Tour de France circuits and has finished every one of them! As a time trialist he was special, and is still darn good. A tower of strength in the 'Blue Train' it is hard to believe he will not be there to ride alongside Armstrong, win or lose, in Paris this year. Ekimov, what a moment to crash! We will miss you.
In the article from May 6, 2005 titled "Ribeiro out of Giro 2005 for high haematocrit" by Tim Maloney, Manolo Saiz is quoted as saying, "The team, in spite of the apparent discrepancy of the analyses, does not question the result offered by the experts of the UCI, who deserve the maximum credibility."
Mr Saiz has never been one to shy away from controversy, but he certainly appears to be afraid of the UCI in this instance. It seems as though he's saying that even though the test has a high margin of error and Ribeiro's 52% test result is well within the standard deviation in this case, Ribeiro has been declared unfit to race.
If the UCI is going to enforce such strict rules, a better test needs to be developed. It is unfair to Ribeiro, his team, all cyclists, and sport in general to have such a wildly variable test with such strong enforcement.
Kaysville, UT USA
I am sure you have your reasons for the statement that you released about retirement. However, as one of your legion of fans I must ask can you please, please, please ride one final ride. This would allow all your fans to wish you Arrivederci fitting the true champion that you are.
If you must not ride again - please allow us all to say thank you for all that you have gave to cycling. I saw you last year at the Tour de Georgia - you enlivened the event and endeared yourself to the Georgia people, and were greatly missed this year. My parents were lucky enough to meet you at the airport afterwards and were so impressed by your kindness and sincerity - I am proud to carry the autograph you gave them around in my wallet.
Hopefully Super Mario the Lion King will ride one final time - you are already missed.
So, let me get this straight:
1) A group of researchers proclaim that, "Blood doping is the scourge of endurance sports..." (Nelson et al.;Haematologica, 2002, 88:1284-1295).
2) These same researchers develop a new testing protocol from a test originally designed to reduce the probability of false negatives with no regard for, nor data pertaining to, the rate of false positives. Twice, in print, they claim that false positives do not appear to be a problem, despite never having determined a false positive rate, and never having formulated or tested hypotheses addressing the false positive rate (Haematologica, 2002, 87:881-882; Haematologica, 2002, 88:1284-1295).
3) Independent labs perform the test on athletes at the Athens Olympics and technicians declare ALL samples are negative. That is to say, "Blood doping is NOT the scourge of endurance sports..."
4) The researchers who developed the test say something like, "How can this be? We were so certain of ourselves and our test. Let us examine results from Athens!"
5) The researchers who developed the test (who have a financial stake in the test's success or failure), override the initial findings of the Athens officials and (against WADA rules) declare Tyler Hamilton to be positive for homologous blood doping. WADA waives its own rules, rejects Hamilton's original negative result and accepts the secondary findings.
6) Hamilton appeals the findings and the case is sent before USADA.
7) During testimony and arguments, it is revealed that:
a) There is no fixed standard as to what constitutes a positive. In other words, the researchers claim they can't tell you exactly how, but they know 'em when they see 'em. (Notice that even in the official findings presented by the AAA-CAS, on page 5 the scales on the two graphs are not the same - the scale on the right has been changed to exaggerate the peak height and make it look as high as the peak on the left. A peak is a peak, regardless of height, so why bother doing this unless you are trying to manipulate someone's perception of the real differences between the two? Were Hamilton's results presented like this?)
b) The researchers who developed the test have no idea what the rate of false positives is.
c) The researchers don't know what causes false positives.
d) The researchers don't have an independent test to confirm positives as either false or true.
e) The researchers don't know if the factors that cause one antibody type to yield a false positive are the same factors that cause another antibody to yield a false positive. This is VERY important, since one of the arguments against Hamilton is that 2 antibodies indicate positives, and that by using this "Two peak" standard, WADA is being conservative in their judgment. However, if the things that cause one antibody to yield a false positive also cause other antibodies to read false positive, then simply adding more antibodies to the test proves nothing - it just reinforces the initial false positive.
f) Despite the criticisms of peer reviewers of the original research used to develop the test, the test's developers and WADA pushed ahead without addressing these criticisms, deploying the test for use on athletes.
g) At Hamilton's hearing, a USADA lawyer declares the test beyond reproach and in no need of validation, despite the fact that outside experts, including scientists who reviewed the initial research used to develop the test, have stated that the test needs further validation to determine the frequency, and causes, of false positives, and a quantitative cut-off point for determining positives.
The above makes several things stand out in this case:
1) USADA's role in this case was clearly prosecutorial.
2) USADA felt no burden to critically analyze the test itself by seeking objective, outside expertise. Rather, since their role was prosecutorial, they sought testimony that would condemn Hamilton.
3) Hamilton was burdened with proving his innocence rather than USADA being burdened with proving Hamilton's guilt (BOTH USADA lawyers and Hamilton's lawyers clearly established reasonable doubt, yet he was still censured because he didn't prove his innocence).
4) The original research is suspect and the researchers have failed to address aspects of the test that are very important when testing athletes - that is, false positives. This is particularly important given the Athens results - positives are very rare (only one alleged among all the athletes tested). Given this, and the structure of the testing protocol, even an exceedingly low false positive rate per antibody can yield more false positives (read false accusations) than true positives.
5) The motivation of the test's developers is suspect:
Everything about this case makes me ill: the bad science; the lame statements of the researchers claiming false positives aren't a problem; advance statements from high ranking officials condemning Hamilton before his hearing took place; the overriding of the initial Athens negative results; lawyers pretending to be scientists and weighing in on the test's validity; and the list gets longer with every new press release! Make no bones about it, this is a witch hunt, and as in the past, there are essentially no witches to catch - mainly the innocent. Endurance athletes everywhere should be very afraid - even if you are clean, you could be the next "positive". And you know what? USADA doesn't care - to them it is simply about winning the case.
John Winnie, Jr.
In response to Thomas Richter's letter…
You want to cut through the crap. First find out where the crap is. At what threshold level is an athlete guilty of transfusions? Why did WADA choose the level that they did? WADA asks us to accept that other possibilities for a positive test result, because they are unlikely or unknown, are not worth consideration. Therefor the athlete must prove his innocence. This is unreasonable. We should want WADA and the UCI to convince us. Not Tyler. Tyler's guilt would be indisputable if the process were more credible.
The idea that Hamilton should have had tests done to refute the results is uninformed - WADA wouldn't release the validation data of the test so that it could be duplicated. Aren't the developer's of the test the only people ever to catch someone? They did it only after being told who they were testing. Can someone else confirm these results?
Tyler Hamilton did release his blood work going back to the Tour of Romandie (see the LA Times article). Not the act of a guilty man. When WADA moved the hearing up for Santiago Perez it looked very suspicious that they knew Perez couldn't defend himself and they wanted a guilty verdict prior to the Hamilton hearing. I don't know if this is true, but it's another thing that brings WADA's professionalism into question. Dick Pound declared Hamilton guilty before they had a hearing - not helping the credibility of his case.
Wasn't the Athens sample twice declared positive? If the Athens sample is not a valid positive, then why do we know about it? This should never have been made public. Again, unprofessional. WADA's credibility and professionalism is not high enough for the UCI to allow them to ruin someone's career and reputation. I don't want Hamilton let off the hook. I want to know for sure that an athlete is guilty before they take him down and ruin his career. No grey area. Hamilton does not have to be honorable or trustworthy. But WADA and the UCI must be.
There are some mistakes in Thomas Richter's reasoning in this letter about false positive results: "false positives are cases where a mixed blood population does not constitute blood doping, but where another cause is possible." A false positive is a statistical test where a diagnostic test identifies the presence of a condition in a sample that is identified by a gold standard as not having that condition. In this case, the "condition" is the presence of two or more minor blood group antigens where only one should exist.
It has nothing at all to do with the cause of the incorrect result. All six causes that could lead to a positive result that you listed are TRUE POSITIVES as far as the test is concerned. A false positive would occur if none of these conditions were present, but the test identified a mixed antigen population. If the test only identified individuals with known true positive diagnosis, then there would be no false positives with the test. There could be alternative explanations for the diagnosis, but the test would be 100% specific.
If you decide that the "positive condition" is blood doping, rather than the presence of mixed antigens, then the test is evaluated differently - now the other causes are indeed false positives.
Laboratory handling or even the robustness of the test do play into this equation. The fact that there is a threshold value below which the test is considered "negative" suggests that there is overlap and a spectrum of outcomes - it is not a dichotomous statistic.
In response to the last paragraph of Thomas Richter's letter: " Should Hamilton be let off the hook simply because there are of yet no established standards in the analysis of the test data, even though the test data clearly indicates that he has a mixed blood population? Again: Hamilton's defense did not challenge the find of two populations and they could not give an explanation for it. They simply said that because there are no standards in reading the data it should be deemed invalid."
Yes the test should be declared invalid; these cyclists depend on the sport for their livelihood, as do the people testing for drugs. Where is the credibility if cyclists can be banned on a whim? What do you think the sponsors will do if they can't have confidence in the tests? Picture this - you turn up to work and get tested for drugs (the mining industry, for example, do drug tests), you test positive even though you know you don't do drugs - the test was conducted poorly and was contaminated but, and here is the kicker, they don't let you do another test.
As a result you get sacked. You can no longer work in the industry; you and your family suffer financial loss. Well this happened to me once except I did the test again straight away and it turned up negative - the drug kit that turned up the positive result was out of date.
If the mining company tried to sack me, I would have been able to go to the union or the industrial tribunal for unfair dismissal and I'm sure your job has safeguards to make sure you are not unfairly treated. The point is the test was not fair, there are questions about the validity of the test and no one should be treated unfairly. I am not a Tyler Hamilton fan - I am a fan of Australian cyclists kicking everyone else's butt. However, I admire Tyler's fortitude both as a person and a cyclist and hope that he is able to ride again as a professional.
I, for one, am sick and tired of people who haven't met Tyler Hamilton, or spent time with the person, vouching for his good character. Basing an opinion of a public figure based solely on how they portray themselves to the media is excruciatingly naive.
Tyler Hamilton cannot explain why he has two different blood populations in his blood. He openly admits it's true (not a testing fluke). Tyler Hamilton can't explain why his hematocrit levels were just below the limit of the UCI automatic two-week suspension (way higher than his normal hematocrit readings) last season. Tyler Hamilton can't explain why he failed a test that NO OTHER professional has failed since it's inception. Oh yeah, except his teammate. And wait, wasn't there a third teammate who was banned for using EPO? Open your eyes, folks.
I'm not ready to decide on Tyler Hamilton's character, but the shadow of doubt is foundering quickly. I admit his performances are awe-inspiring - to endure that kind of pain. I hope his appeal goes in his favour. Lying to the public and cheating are two things that constitute a BAD moral character, and far outweigh publicity stunts with his dead dog, and stories of capped teeth from grimacing through pain. A man's actions are the essence of his character, and I'm tired of HEARING about what a great guy he is. Great cyclist? Yeah, if he's clean. Good guy? We'll see.
Doping is cycling is usually blamed on the moral failure of a rider. The rider alone is seen as guilty of injecting or ingesting a prohibited substance to improve their own performance. Only rarely is a doctor or assistant implicated, as in the Festina affair.
Blood doping is a greater worry as it points to organised doping by individuals and teams - you can't get a blood transfusion from another person on your own, and it is not likely that you are going to improvise a siphon in your hotel room. Doctors and other people have to be involved (and keeping quiet about the practice).
Adelaide, South Australia
Congratulations to Cyclingnews and to Shane Stokes for your email interview where Tyler Hamilton with the help of his advisers, defends his position most ably, though not entirely convincingly.
In particular I would like Tyler to reflect upon the managerial and medical regime he encountered at Phonak. He does this a little when he describes [rather scarily I thought] the team's monitoring of its riders' blood. But what of Camenzind, in addition to himself and Perez? And what of the clean sweep that the owner of the team has brought through in the period since these matters were reported. A new Director Sportif, a new Team Doctor, and dismissals and new appointments elsewhere in the team, I believe.
Tyler calls for a more robust scientific base for testing but evidence can be circumstantial too. How does Tyler deal with this circumstantial evidence from within his own team? The team owner has certainly felt the need to do so.
Isle of Arran, Scotland
Recent letters pages