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August 15, 2006

Doping...Cycling...Pro Cycling...Media...Stupidity

Joe Baratto, a coach, a Category 1 bike racer, and fellow teammate, emailed the team about "Doping...Cycling...Pro Cycling...Media...Stupidity," and I'll quote it here

For what's it worth I'll give you my two cents. First and foremost, Floyd did NOT, and I'll put that up again DID NOT test high for Testosterone like the whole fricken world is being lead to believe. His Ratio was high... and seemingly the media has forgotten simple math which states that there could actually be TWO things that make a ratio go up or down. Now Floyd's T/E ratio is high so that means either T (Testosterone) is high relative to E (Epitestosterone) OR the E is LOW relative to the T. Floyd's case is the latter. His testosterone level was completely normal.

Now what about the isotope thingy? That shows exogenous (from the outside) testosterone. Good question, wish SOMEONE had the correct answer. It is seemly pretty good test but I'm also wondering to what degree are they seeing this? There are NO limits, just the presence of at least ONE Carbon isotope. Out of curiosity, it would be interesting to see the results if they tested ALL the TDF samples with that test. Then we'd see how many others showed this anomaly. The sad thing is people actually doping usually don't get caught since they know if you supplement with Testosterone you also need add some epitestosterone and WATCH your ratio. Most get caught by being careless or stupid.

Now, do I like this, not really, but honestly if anyone believes that's why these guys are pro's (because they dope) they really need a huge reality check. They are pro's because they are GREAT athletes. Period. They work very hard, and are very gifted. A couple years ago some dillweed wrote a stupid article in "Outside" magazine about how he took "the whole deal" EPO, HCG, HGH, Steroids, was medically monitored, given a good training program, and supervision. He made HUGE gains.... Compared to WHAT? He felt incredible, compared to WHAT? He said he could climb better.. compared to WHAT? No times, wattages, or anything concrete was given on his performance gains other then "I felt like superman." Gee isn't that scientific proof at its best. Do drugs work - depends on what is your limiting factors and what drugs you're using. HGH does nothing for anyone under 40, and then it works on those who are NOT physically active since physically activity causes HGH to be secreted (it's a bit more complicated but for 99% of pro's this does nothing). EPO - well again if your limiting factor is oxygen to the muscles then yes, but for most, the limiting factor is the oxidative capacity of their muscles.

The simple truth is that the highest hematocrit doesn't win the tour, the highest VO2 Max doesn't win the tour, nor does the biggest lung volume or lowest resting heart rate. No ONE factor makes you great. So when friends and family ask about this...cycling is no better OR worse then any other pro sport. Great athletes are great because they are great, NOT BECAUSE OF DRUGS. Weak, pathetic, lazy, people like to think they are tojustify why they aren't Pro's. Bottom line, work fricken hard and you'll get better. How much better... keep working hard and you'll see.

Joe makes some good points and considering "one carbon isotope," I was shocked by Pound's screed yesterday. What governing body speaks like that and is accountable to no one? It's that's stupidity of Pound that I hope Floyd fights. Same thing with all of the unproven allegations in Operation Puerto. Careers are ruined, sponsors abandon, years of hard work destroyed all on allegations. If anything is the "year of excrement," as Pound says, it's WADA and irresponsible leadership.

Posted by Byron on August 15, 2006 in Floyd Landis | Permalink

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> and seemingly the media has forgotten simple math which states that there could actually be TWO things that make a ratio go up or down.

What the media has forgotten is how to report. Report.

Posted by: matthew at Aug 15, 2006 11:38:59 AM

As a former Category 1 rider I want to ditto Joe Baratto's remarks; I know, it's easy to come around someone else's lead out, but I've about had it with moronic "journalists" who spout whatever drivel they read on the feed that morning and have no clue what they're even talking about. If Floyd's win on that 17th stage had anything to do with dope, it wasn't testosterone that did it. The whole thing stinks to high heaven. And the kind of vitriolic remarks from Lefevere and Pound defy description. I'm going for a ride...

Posted by: Jim Morehouse at Aug 15, 2006 11:43:38 AM

Agreed agreed. The problem has been making news where there isn't any. And, admittedly, Floyd scrambled to respond and said too much. Just today, someone asked me about it and cited his various stories. I think it's politics at it's worst.

Posted by: DL Byron at Aug 15, 2006 12:06:42 PM

Amen! Amen! Amen!!!
I've always said to everybody who will listen: all the EPO, steroids, etc in the world is not going to make me (38 y.o., 220 lbs, weekend cyclist) into Richard Virenque! The problem is less with "doping" than with UCI/WADA's hysterical, self-destructive War on Drugs mentality.

Posted by: vemos at Aug 15, 2006 12:50:49 PM

The mainstream media is not even interested in cycling to begin with. How outrageous that its careless influence over public opinion could very well frighten away the sport's sponsors and destroy a great career. Please, please let us give Floyd his day in court.

Posted by: LMcCall at Aug 15, 2006 1:06:37 PM

"As in alcoholism, or other addictions, if one refuses to acknowledge the existence of a problem, no cure is possible. The next step is to reach out for help."
Right on Dick Pound !
Joe Baratto reminds me of the neighbours of these criminals who always come up with the same line in front of the news cameras: "don't understand.....was a very quiet neighbour... kept him to himself... never thought he could do something like that..." Instead of trying to find excuses and brush everything under the rug it's about time that the sport engage in a little soul searching and start breaking down the "Code of Silence". Pound and McQuaid seem to be willing to clean the house. It's good. Who cares about how they express their frustration and anger at a system that needs a complete overhaul, as long as they are committed to do the job and not fall again for the corrupted schemes that have been the norm for too long.
To Baratto "... Floyd did NOT.." I will reply: "Floyd DID" like most of them. In this specific case I don't think Landis took testosterone in any form the night of the meltdown in the 16th (that would be so stupid of him and judging by most specialist accounts, inefficient), but rather another substance that ended up revealing his high T/E ratio (and subsequantly the exogenous T) after the 17th. Remember that testing is always one step behind the cheats, but in that case something went terribly wrong with the molecule mix recipe...

Posted by: Francois Chicoree at Aug 15, 2006 1:20:04 PM

It's been really infuriating to see cycling eating its own like this. There's just no accountability and no logic applied by anyone in charge or by the media. From Greg Lemond to Dick Pound to Pat McQuaid to L'Equipe everyone seems only to happy to pillorize the athletes with little concrete evidence and no questioning of the processes used to test and control for doping. Much easier to decry the sport of cycling and continue with business as usual than take a hard look themselves, at labs that can't control leaks (but don't worry the unprofessionalism stops there and doesn't mean they're careless with the samples), or all the turf wars and chest thumping. No, all of that is fine and in cycling's best interest: the athletes are *obviously* the problem.

Total wankers.

Time for a ride indeed...

Posted by: Jason at Aug 15, 2006 1:24:58 PM

While I agree with some of sentiments in this letter (in particular the part about "what would see if we applied this test to the entire peloton?"), I vehemently disagree with the "steroids and blood doping won't help a pro rider" comments. These are like the specious comments by the likes of baseball's Barry Bonds that "steroids won't make you a better hitter." True, there is no evidence that steroids will improve your hand-eye coordination or reflexes. BUT, if they allow you to increase your strength beyond what would be possible by mere training alone, and thus hit the ball FARTHER when you make contact, well - duh! Of course you're going to be a better hitter - line drives that might have been caught will now clear the infield quicker, and what would have been deep fly balls will now ne doubles, triples and home runs. And please don't insult my intelligence by telling me that guys like Bonds put on huge amounts of lean muscle and - in defiance of long-established physiological studies and all the known historical trends - suddenly experienced massive increases in their offensive output and home run numbers after age 35, simply through "hard training" and "better nutrition." What, Barry didn't have access to decent training equipment and nutritious food until the mid 1990s?

A similar specious reasoning informs the above cycling-related diatribe. True, no amount of steroids or training will turn an average weekend cyclist not blessed with certain genetic gifts into a grand tour winner. But that's not the point - the point is that ALL OTHER THINGS BEING EQUAL, a pro who takes performance enhacing substances will have an advantage over one who does not. And the science here is very clear, at least with respect to "can this class of compounds, when taken as part of an appropriate training regimen, enhance performance?"

Ask yourself: do you think the former East Germans spent all those decades and many millions of dollars on something that was bogus? (I cite them specifically because they were the most organized in this respect, and pioneered many of the kinds of doping regimens which are still used today, albeit often in modified form to reflect new drugs and new knowledge about side effects, masking to fool tests and such - nothing personal against the former East Germans.) And oh yeah, some of those "records" the doped athletes from the DDR set are still on the books, as are those of suspect athletes from other countries, e.g. the U.S.' Florence Griffith Joyner, Cuba's Javier Sotomayor - the list is long. These substances *do* exist (in both endogenous and exogenous form), they *can* help you increase endurance, not just muscle mass, and to recover faster from intense training and injury, and no, you don't have to be over 40 to experience the effects.

Sorry, but there's a just a lot of blatant hogwash and wishful thinking in the posted letter and some of the comments - denial is not going to get us anywhere on this issue, folks. Better science, broader-based studies to establish baseline data, and less screeching to the press by those involved - especially those in positions of authority - those are all desirable. But "steroids don't work" is just an incredibly ignorant comment. If testosterone "didn't work," why do humans (and lots of other critters besides) have it in the first place, along with all the other hormones in nature's cocktail? The stuff ain't exactly cheap to produce at the biological level, you know - lots of specialized biological machinery goes into that. Why do men have far more than women, and why do the levels correlate so strongly with puberty and all the attendant secondary sexual characteristics? Which, by the way, include prominently things like increased muscle mass and strength and increased aggression, which in nature is a key part of male competition for mates. Evolution has provided us whith these things for very good reasons, even if some have rather dysfunctional consequences within the extremely recent (from an evolutionary standpoint) context of large-scale human settlements and modern civilization. To deny these basic biological facts, or that perhaps artificially enhancing the levels of these natural compounds might also increase the accompanying effects, is either sheer ignorance or wishful thinking.

Posted by: ewmayer at Aug 15, 2006 3:25:30 PM

ewmayer, thanks for bringing some sense of reason to this debate.

I am absolutely blown away by the amount of people willing to defend Landis. He broke the rules. End of story. I am absolutely flabbergasted by the amount of people who think the media are somehow at fault for the fact that he couldn't stop himself from cheating.

Someone needs to write a book on the phenomenon of defending famous people. The same thing that is happening to Landis is happening to Mel Gibson -- people are making him out to be a victim, for crying out loud! It just astounds me how people are willing to lie to themselves for the sake of their heros.

Landis was a hero to me until the B test came out positive. Now he is nothing more than a five cent cheater until he comes clean about what he did. I absolutely refuse to play the fool to this guy, or any other professional athlete who refuses to 'fess up when they're caught doping. I'm aware only a handful of atheletes who, when faced with proof of doping, have actually admitted to it. Considering I've seen hundreds of incidents, that's pathetic.

Only the truth will set you free, Landis.

Posted by: Dave at Aug 15, 2006 7:46:08 PM

Mr. Baratto, two things: 1) You gloss over the issue of exogenous testosterone. Riders have taken testosterone in recent years because they could excuse a positive with the claim that they produced it themselves. Thanks to the isotope test, that didn't happen in this Tour de France and probably won't ever again, in any sport.

2) If drugs won't improve a rider good enough to make a living in the European pro peloton, then why was Willy Voet caught with a voiture-ful of them at Douane Lille all those years ago?

Posted by: Le Cynique at Aug 15, 2006 8:32:07 PM

Dave:

"He broke the rules. End of story."

With all due respect, he tested positive...and that isn't the end of the story. There is an process which has been set up, for better or for worse, by which an athlete accused of a doping violation can challenge that finding.

The legal appeals process must be allowed to go forward. Only at the end of that process can we truly find that he did or did not "break the rules".

Whether or not the process is fair...that is an entirely differnt (and valid) question, which needs to be addressed.

Posted by: rommel5 at Aug 16, 2006 10:28:46 AM

There's been a lot of goalpost-moving among Floyd's defenders so they can continue believing in his innocence. I know it hurts to have your hero dragged through the mud, but geez. The conspiracy theories are just embarrassing to read anymore.

Dick Pound is a weenie but that fact in no way explains away or excuses 2 positive results. If Floyd can really prove he's innocent then g_d bless him - but it would be a lot less embarrassing to read these discussions if a few more minds were open to the possibility that he may actually be guilty.

Posted by: noelle at Aug 16, 2006 1:19:49 PM

Noelle,

The same could be said for Floyd's attackers and absolutists are either side are going to bolster their opinions. As I've posted earlier, I don't believe anyone in cycling anymore and await the results and the process but it is very troubling to have Pound et al writing editorial tirades and if the mainstream press isn't going to call them out for it, bloggers will, as we're doing. Pound makes good headlines with no one asking, what exactly is your motivation for attacking riders this way and in this manner, and for leaking results.

To the comments on what Joe is saying in his email, testosterone or any drug is going to make marginal, incremental differences to very talented athletes and that it allows them to train harder and not turn a fat ass into a lean climber.

At any Tuesday Night Championships, there's the phenom racer that shows up one season and rides everyone off his wheel (I've seen 3 of them). Those racers go onto win events like the Tour and they don't do it on drugs alone. Joe is trying to put the Landis situation into context to your neighbors and friends that are trying to understand the sport without the knowledge of the training that goes into it, the fitness, and genetics. It'd be like me thinking Tiger makes it look easy, until I spend an afternoon slamming a club into the ground at a golf course.

It's Floyd's case to make and there's already reasonable doubt and if he proves it great, if not, he's pretty much done. Compare that to Tyler, who I didn't believe at all and had bloodwork done beyond one carbon isotope for testerone that "doesn't make sense on the surface. If he'd tested for EPO as Heras did, well then . . .

Posted by: DL Byron at Aug 16, 2006 1:49:57 PM

Anyone know what's up with Basso? He's still on team CSC (according to their website you'd never know anything is going on) and he hasn't been in the cycling news since the story broke months ago. T-Mobile wasted no time in sacking Ullrich and Phonak Landis. But CSC has kept quiet and Basso has managed to keep his head off the chopping block.

And to be quite honest, I think CSC is handling this correctly. Rather than throwing their boy to the wolves of public opinion at the first whisper of ALLEGED doping, they seem to be handling it internally.

I'm not saying Ullrich and Basso, or Landis for that matter are innocent. No one can say that yet, but i think CSC's handling of the allegations seem to be keeping Basso from being hung before the jury's even in. Cycling is viewed as the worst doping sport because cycling itself thinks that.

Just a thought.

Posted by: Brandon at Aug 16, 2006 2:46:03 PM

If positive drug tests aren't enough proof, than what is? I'm calling a spade a spade on this one. I feel like I'm defending evolution here.

Posted by: Dave at Aug 16, 2006 5:05:38 PM

One carbon isotope, possibly a naturally occurring level (as bad as Landis has made that sound with various theories) , the unlikelihood of a patch on his sack making a difference for one stage, his doctors that back him, . . . And that's why there's an appeal process. This is not the chimera defense and there are reasons to doubt it. It's also not an episode of Law & Order decided in one hour. I'm certainly don't believe anyone, especially Pound and WADA. They've discredited themselves by their own actions.

Posted by: DL Byron at Aug 16, 2006 5:17:38 PM

List of "dopees" busted over the last 100 + years
http://web.archive.org/web/20041012064953/http://cyclisme.dopage.free.fr/annuaire.htm
Please scroll down, and pick the name of your favorite racer :0))
Not one TDF dopee free podium in the TDF since 1948 !!!
1. BARTALI Gino (Ita)
2. SCHOTTE Brik (Bel)
3. LAPEBIE Guy (Fra)
Last winner never involved in any way: Greg LeMond in 1990
How's that for a reality check ?
"Constat de carence" means that the racer didn't go get tested that day. Today it carries a 2 year suspension.
Draw your own conclusion. I'm sick of it...

Posted by: Francois Chicoree at Aug 16, 2006 8:37:49 PM

Brandon, the latest I heard about Basso was from a news article in the Süddeutschen Zeitung (South German Newspaper) from just today, indicating that his name (along with that of Ullrich and several other top riders) appears on a hardwritten fax allegedly written by Dr. Eufemiano "Feelgood" Fuentes of Operacion Puerto infamy, allegedly in regard to getting doping products to various Giro d'Italia participants earlier this year. Here's the thread on the dailypeloton.com forum I first saw this on:

http://www.dailypelotonforums.com/main/index.php?showtopic=949

and here's the story links in the thread - the main story is in German, but you can view the picture of the fax and make out the names easily enough:

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/sport/weitere/artikel/887/82805/

and here's the enlargement of the incriminating fax - the signature "Eufuentes" is the good doctor's contarction of his first and last names:

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/sport/weitere/artikel/887/82805/zoom_0_0/

Posted by: ewmayer at Aug 16, 2006 9:06:26 PM

There's a nice op-ed piece in today's International Herald Tribune by John Eustice, a former TDF rider and sometime TV commentator:

http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/08/16/opinion/edeustice.php

Posted by: marc at Aug 16, 2006 10:16:24 PM

Dick will get hispound of flesh: he;s ben trolling long enough for it. And the cup of coffee folks like chicory above are brewing ist still as faux today as during the Civil War: Francophies seem to love to hate non-Frnech winers of the TdF. Innocent until presumed guilty is still the way most of the word, including US Courts nd journalists, work; and obeying the rules as specified is an exemption to the rules as practiced by the officials first and foremost. The tests are ot fully delineated, and anyone is vunerable to a spurious result withot a chance to verify (remember the single sample era), much less rebut. Political correctness and obedience to the curent power structure is growing much more mportant than whether you brak the rules: special favors exemptions and systematic attacks on favorite targets are the comon Get of the current lack of ethics. I hope to see doping slowed, and the ethics of the organizations themselves iproved: all indeendent of the Landis situation: which is still pendent, until he has his chance to Appeal as the rule specify. What do you think will happen if a flaw or abotage is found in one or more tests to the reputation and integrity of ALL sports organizations? If Landis is actually innocent (he still is legally) then: ruat et fiat. One thing I still find disturbing is that test _sampling_ is being done on a random, rather than full, basis. This means that data is not being collected properly to find where the tests have problems. Instead, the spottiness, unreliability, and expose style journalistic approach seems to be being maintained. It would be worth a doper to escape criticism to see an end to tht type of hypocrisy: but such would not accomplish that end. As one who has ersonally exceeded performance level norms and probably had out of bound chemistry to boot, I suspect that this type of sequence is just as injurious as how Linford Christie was aped from particicpation in his best moment of prepartion, on false starts that occurred AFTER the gun. WInning on the file of competition rather than at the judges table must need have a no doping attitude, but I really do not like the attitude Dick Pound seems to be promulgating.

Posted by: Roy Crabtree at Aug 17, 2006 8:23:39 PM

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