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Monday, February 16, 2009

Tour of California 2009: The dopers return

Cycling season starts with doping on center stage

This weekend saw the start of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California. It has become a popular local race in California and the USA and with several top pro teams have races in recent editions, it is becoming an event not to be missed by serious teams in the peloton.

However this year it is notable for a slightly different reason. Doping seems to be ever present in cycling, and it seems like you can't talk about the sport without doping being part of the conversation. And so it is with this year's Tour of California, because we are seeing the return to the pro peloton of three cyclists who have been banned over the past four years:

  1. Tyler Hamilton: banned after a positive test for blood doping in the 2004 Vuelta Espana (he raced mostly locally in the USA in the second half of 2007 and last year)
  2. Ivan Basso: banned when he admitted to working with Efumiano Fuentes in Operacion Puerto but never admitted to actually doping
  3. Floyd Landis: banned in 2006 after testing positive for synthetic testosterone
At the pre-race press conference former pro Paul Kimmage posed a really interesting question to Lance Armstrong:
"You've spoken recently about the return of Ivan Basso and Floyd Landis, who have returned after their suspensions, compared to David Millar – that they should be welcomed back like he was. But there was one obvious difference in that Millar admitted his doping whereas these guys have admitted to nothing. What is it about these guys that you seem to admire so much?"
In response Kimmage's character was attacked, as is Armstrong's normal tactic when dealing with these issues. He told Kimmage that he was "not worth the chair he was sitting on" for daring to raise Armstrong's doping past, hiding behind the accusation that Kimmage had somehow offended cancer survivors when he implied that Armstrong was the "cancer of cycling". It was a classic case of shooting the messenger. But Kimmage raises a really important question: "What do we do with these athletes?"
None ever admitted to actually doping, although in two cases (Landis and Hamilton) there is a mountain of physiological evidence against them even though they still to this day vehemently deny they ever did anything wrong. It makes it difficult to reconcile how to view them. Interestingly, Dwain Chambers, of track and field, has been widely cast as a pariah, despite admitting, apologizing, and trying to start afresh. He was quoted recently as saying that he should probably not have confessed. Cycling seems to welcome these men back with open arms.

A first for cycling: The return of the doped contender

This is a new situation in cycling, because although we had the Festina scandal in 1998, the highest profile rider on that team was Richard Virenque, whose claim to fame is winning the climbing classification a total of seven times, before and after 1998. Alex Zulle was 2nd overall in the 1999 Tour, but faded into relative obscurity after that. But now we see a former tour winner (Landis), an heir-apparent to the throne and Giro winner (Basso), and an ambitious 4th place tour finisher (2003) and Olympic gold medalist (Hamilton).

These are not the run-of-the-mill domestiques who have thin palmares and leave the sport without anyone taking notice. Instead these are all high-profile team leaders found guilty of doping. Now they are back, having served their time, so is it then an issue of redemption and forgiveness? Do we wipe the slate clean just because they served their ban? Even though Hamilton and Landis deny to our faces that they ever doped even though the data and evidence say otherwise?

As fans this puts us in a tough position as we try to reconcile how we feel about forgiveness and redemption as we watch these athletes return to the pro peleton. Honestly I am not sure how I feel about this yet and likely will struggle with this issue. On the one hand they did serve their time. . .but on the other hand we listened to them deny any wrong doing again and again when we have seen the evidence against them. And in fact we can put them in the same category of athletes like Marion Jones and Alex Rodriguez. All of them initially denied, denied, denied, even in the face of mounting evidence. Eventually they admitted to doping, but tried to tell us they did not know what they were taking at the time, as if that somehow makes it OK that they doped. So we will watch the Tour of California and the rest of the season with much anticipation as these three make their comebacks.

Doping and the other comeback of 2009

The other comeback story of this year's TOC is of course that of Lance Armstrong. He already raced in the Tour of Down Under in January, but as the TOC is taking place in the USA the hype is considerably higher. Of course it all started last year when he announced his intention to return to competition this year, and the relevance here is that concurrently he announced a one-of-a-kind anti-doping program with none other than Dr. Don Catlin, he of BALCO and THG fame among others. It was intended to show once and for all that he was clean, even though there was no talk of Catlin testing any samples from previous years. Quite how riding clean now has any relevance to riding clean over three years ago is beyond us, but in any case we will never get to see how this plan was meant to work.

Catlin was meant to be Armstrong's personal doping officer, testing Armstrong every three days and publishing the results. However Armstrong announced at the end of last week that in fact Catlin was not going to serve this role, and that many months of negotiations had broken down and the two parties could not reach an agreement. So in fact the announcement of Catlin as chief anti-doping officer was never formalized, even though it was announced way back in September of 2007, and not a single sample was analyzed.

When announcing his comeback, Armstrong insisted that he would not talk about doping this year, saying that "I am not going to tell you how clean I am, and I'm not gonna insinuate how dirty the others are. I'm going to ride my bike and I'm going to spread this message around the world and Don Catlin can tell you if I am clean or not."

Or not - Catlin is no longer part of the equation and Armstrong will be tested by the UCI and Astana's internal anti-doping program run by Rasmus Damsgaard. Armstrong also said that, "By shifting things from Dr. Catlin to Dr. Damsgaard, in conjunction with WADA, USADA, UCI... I still maintain it is the most comprehensive testing programme in the business." Which begs the question----if it is so good then why did he need Catlin in the first place? The original proposal called for testing every three days, but at the pre-race prss conference Armstrong stated that this was not needed given the International Cycling Union's (UCI) biological passport and all of the different testing agencies. . .again, why use Catlin in the first place then?

What is an internal anti-doping program, anyway?

The problem, as we have mentioned here before, with internal anti-doping programs is that the teams still hold all the information. Sooner or later this will lead to a team altering data or failing to report data that might implicate one of their riders---there is too much conflict of interest and therefore too much for a team to gain by witholding or altering information. In fact, I believe, and have it on good authority, that this is already happening, which is not surprising when you consider the massive conflict of interests between team, riders and the "independent" testers. You have riders who are paid to win, team sponsors who will withdraw their money for a positive test, and a situation where doping is crucial but announcing it is business suicide.

And in the case of Astana and Damsgaard it appears that the program lacks any real teeth beyond the UCI testing, anyway. In a Belgian interview Damsgaard stated that "the official anti-doping authority for all the tests I take, that’s the UCI. Thus it follows the customer's requirements. I only get the results after the UCI has received them." This seems to indicate that there is not much of an internal anti-doping program at all, and instead the team has hired an expert to have a look at the data to see if anything looks suspicious. If it does, then what? The poor team manager is now in the position of knowing riders are doping, when he has to produce winning results for sponsors, but sponsors will withdraw their money if riders are found to be doping! It's an impossible dilemma.

So how do these programs function? That is a question that we would love to know the answer to. Regardless, if anyone is asking our advice we propose a wiki approach where data is collected published by a third party for anyone and everyone to see---that includes the UCI, the teams, the athletes, and of course the fans like us.

In the mean time, enjoy the Tour of California! The course this year is a good one with plently of climbs including one on the final day that hopefully promises some fireworks and maybe even a new leader/winner on the final stage.

Jonathan

31 Comments:

Mike LaChapelle said...

I watched the tape of Lance's response and actually thought it was appropriate and somewhat restrained.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7fV-48DT3E

Kimmage crossed the line and attacked Armstrong personally.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

I don't believe Kimmage's words were a personal attack. They were a comment on cycling and Armstrong's comeback. Remember, he is a journalist, it is his job to propogate his opinion and reading on the sport, and given the hype surrounding Armstrong's comeback, he did exactly that. It was personal in as far as he addressed Armstrong, because it had to be - he was passing his comment, as a journalist, on Armstrong.

Just this past week, I've seen at least a dozen articles in the media criticizing, vilifying, slandering athletes for their performances, behaviour etc. That's what journalism is about - you can't write a story without a personal slant. So when Kimmage writes that "Armstrong is the cancer of the sport" as he returns to it is not an excessive personal attack. He has commented in the context of the return to the sport and all the controversy he has carried with him.

For the athlete, who, bear in mind has a co-existential relationship with the media, to insult a journalist as not being worth the chair he is sitting on is, however, a personal response, and was hardly restrained. It was premeditated, vicious and very hateful.

Where I do think Kimmage was at fault was raising the point that he wasn't granted a personal interview (I have seen the tape). That was an attempt to lure Armstrong out, and I think he could have done without it. Also, I think the latter part of his question could have been phrased differently. But to suggest someone is worthless in response is very personal. To say they bring back the problem with the sport (because that's what Kimmage did - he used the metaphor of cancer to do so) is not personal. It's journalism. Whether one agrees with Kimmage or not.

Mike LaChapelle said...

You don't think that these quotes from Kimmage's interview are a personal attack on Armstrong?

"This return, he wants us to believe that it's all about saving the world from cancer. That's complete bullshit. It's about revenge It's about ego. It's about Lance Armstrong. I think he's trying to rewrite his exit from the sport. He's sat back and he's watched the last two years and he cannot stand the idea that there are clean cyclists now that will overtake his legacy and buy the memory of all the crap that he put the sport through....

I'm really looking forward to my first interview request with him and seeing how that comes back. Because that would really make it interesting.

This guy, any other way but his bullying and intimidation wrapped up in this great cloak, the great cancer martyr . this is what he hides behind all the time. The great man who conquered cancer. Well he is the cancer in this sport. And for two years this sport has been in remission. And now the cancer's back."

The Sports Scientists said...

Hi Mike, and thanks for the comment and for the link to the clip from the press conference.

I agree with Ross, I think Kimmage could have done without the bit about not being granted an interview. In this case both Armstrong and him are guilty, Kimmage for adding that little caveat, and Armstrong for injecting the story about Kimmage's cancer metaphor. It was a tactic to justify his subsequent insults to Kimmage, i.e. "you're not worth the chair. . ." and "I am not sure you deserve it, but I'll answer the question. . ."

I think Armstrong would have done better just to answer the question, but instead he kind of went out of the way to identify that it was Kimmage and then rail him for a prior piece that was unrelated to the question.

I think if Armstrong is really so confident in his string of negative test results, he should let the data speak for itself and just ignore comments like those from Kimmage. Although in my opinion negative test results have in the past been proven by other athletes to be meaningless, and I would not use that argument if I were an athlete.

Thanks again commenting.

Kind Regards,
Jonathan

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Mike

No, I don't. As Jonathan said, Armstrong used the question as the door to attack Kimmage for that article, when he might have just answered the question. Incidentally, his actual answer to the question was excellent, but the bit before it was vicious and pre-meditated.

Returning to the article though, one thing to bear in mind is that Kimmage knows Armstrong, and the sport of cycling intimately. Far more intimately than anyone of us ever could. As I wrote a while back, I had the pleasure of meeting and spending a couple of days with David Walsh, another Sunday Times journalist, a good friend of Kimmage's and a man who Armstrong has also described as a "fu%$ing troll".

If half the truth could be published, were it not for "business decisions", then Kimmage's opinions would seem standard. I don't agree with Kimmage's language, I think he might have done without it. But this is a man who is commenting on cycling, first, and Armstrong's comeback, second. And his explanation for the comeback is not unique, I might add. A number of prominent cyclists have suggested the same - "whitewashing his reputation" is the terminology used.

So Kimmage is reporting, and yes, it's his opinion mixed with his comment on the sport. But to call someone unworthy of their chair or not answering their question is the act of a bully. It would not be the first time Armstrong had been accused of that, incidentally.

I suspect one's opinion on this is largely determined by whether you believe Armstrong or not. If you disagree with Kimmage (and the many other journalists), then you'll never buy this position, and you'll see Armstrong's response as totally appropriate. If you agree with Kimmage, different story. I know Kimmage's position, personally and through reading, and he is commenting on the doping problem in cycling, using its most controversial figure at an entirely appropriate time.

I've no doubt others will see it differently. And that's fine. I wouldn't suggest they're not worthy of their chair for feeling it.

Ross

Byron Vleminckxx said...

I agree with Mike. How can you make an argument that Kimmage's quotes were not a personal attack?

I respect, and generally look forward to, your posts, but regarding "all things Lance Armstrong" it is abundantly clear what your personal inclinations are, and frankly, for scientists, your objectivity is questionnable when it comes to the verdict on Armstrong and doping rumors. You are analyzing this with a double standard. Kimmage was by all accounts out of line, and Armstrong did what any other self-respecting individual would have done, if attacked that way. What Armstrong said in defense was nothing worse than the words Kimmage used, which were, without question, biting and insensitive. Just because you don't like the guy doesn't mean that you should look for any and every opportunity to side with his critics, despite a lack of evidence. I am not convinced, myself, of Armstrong's innocence. However, whether he is guilty or not, please let the facts dictate and direct your analyses, and try to keep things more objective. Your posts are more refreshing that way.

Byron Vleminckxx

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where I stand on Armstrong, but Kimmage's question and statements were deliberately inflammatory and offensive. Firstly, he implies that Armstrong admirers dopers, when Armstrong has, at worst, been ambivalent about doping. Second, by comparing Armstrong to a cancer -- Armstrong's pet cause -- he was obviously trying to draw Armstrong out into a confrontation. So, Kimmage is not simply "reporting", as you state; rather, he is provoking. Fair enough, you might say, but then so is Armstrong's reaction.

Jonathan, Melbourne said...

Add Mancebo and Sevilla to the mix and you have to wonder how much progress has been made at getting the cheats out of the peleton. Mancebo getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar immediately 'retired' when Puerto broke. Sevilla was dismissed along with Ullrich from T-Mo. Hamilton also has faxed 'programs' from Fuentes. Cycling looked like having a sea-change for a while there, now it just looks like 2005.

I agree with the other posts - you guys don't appear to be objective when it comes to LA. I don't think we'll ever see the science from his previous 7 years, but now that his blood values are posted publicly maybe you could on occasion have a look at his current blood values and tell us what it actually means (if anything).

Anonymous said...

To Byron and Mike and Anonymous

You guys are obviously welcome to your opinion on Armstrong, but do us all a favour and keep your stupid advice on the site's content to yourself, Byron.

If you want a scientific objective opinion, then get a scientific journal. The beauty of this site is that it's opinionated. Everything on this site is opinion, it's just that Ross writes with more insight than most others. I have no doubt this topic is the same. You are just as biased as you accuse them of being, perhaps more so, because you lack the ability to add facts or scientific evidence to your opinion.

Take out a subscription to a journal. Preferably an engineering one...

James

Ron G said...

Ross & Jonathon,
Now who's not being objective? If you did your homework on Landis you'd see that it was a bit lopsided in his case...who would need those elevated levels of testosterone for a one day romp on the "pro" ranks? If you met Landis, and spoke to this passionate young man you'd know he was all about the bicycle and racing & dreaming about being a TdF winner.
And if this ToC is such a doper-fest then why hasn't any of the riders been caught with elevated levels of dope? That's where you are following the "journalist" perspective and not the scientific view you so often claim to be leading. Following Kimmage and his "everyone is guilty" till I prove them innocent 21st century rag magazine crap is getting old. Should we point our fingers at Cancellera and accuse him of cheating because he claims stomach flu and pulls out early? Do we accuse Sastre because he comes in sick with flu symptons? And lets punish Lance for anticipating his naysayers by being proactive with Dr. G and yet not using him. I trust that you have all the inside names of people working at the French and Belgium labs so when a big name cyclist or athlete has a positive/elevated level of banned substance you'll be the first to point your fingers and say I told you so...Let them race and let them be tested according to the rules of the sport. If they caught, after all the proper channels have proven them so then put them on a slow train home...hell, let them ride those carbon fiber bikes home.
Cie la Vie,
Ron G
San Diego

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Oh Dear

I seem to have offended many people with my lack of "objectivity" (except for James - thanks!). And while I don't approve of personal attacks in the comments, I must say that I agree somewhat with James - it frustrates me when people purport to tell me how to write and to remain objective, because they've obviously not read the Mission of this site. So they've missed the purpose entirely.

Can I just point out, for example, that in the last year, I've written on:

dehydration and Gatorade,
muscle cramps,
fatigue,
Oscar Pistorius,
Dwain Chambers,
drugs in cycling,
South African sport,
government and politics in sport,
money in sport.

Every single one is chosen because I have a personal interest and then apply some insight and knowledge to it.

This is no different. Based upon my professional opinion, experience, training, and work with professional cyclists (because, contrary to what you may believe, I have actually worked with Tour riders), I have a very strong opinion on doping in sport, and on Lance Armstrong in particular. Just as I had a very strong opinion on Oscar Pistorius and his advantage from his carbon-fibre blades.

Evidence? Just as with Oscar Pistorius, dehydration, muscle cramps and fatigue, there is evidence to support my assertion, and there are people out there who disagree, based on their own evidence. I am not here to be a 100% objective voice - I am delivering comment on those issues based on my evidence. And while I will present the evidence of the other side, I do so to argue my case. In this way, I am more a lawyer than a scientist, because I have a side. If that is unacceptable to you, then you are in the wrong place for your news insight.

Just go back to the Pistorius posts and you will see the anger inspired by those posts. People will still argue that dehydration causes cramp. Yet I believe that I am correct in both cases. Again, we both have evidence, we both have an opinion. And I will, based on that evidence, form mine. So it seems to me that what bothers you is not the lack of objectivity, but rather that I have formed an opinion based on the collection of knowledge and insight into any matter, including Lance Armstrong (and believe me, I have more than you might think)

Objective? No. Informed? I'd like to think so (some of you will disagree), and based on that information, I put forward my opinion. If people are offended by it, or disagree, that's fine.

I don't mind those posts like Mike's that argue, I enjoy it. But it is, as I said, frustrating to read your suggestions that I stick to "science", because you have all missed the purpose of this site. "Sticking to science" means writing in scientific journals - I do that already. If you'd like, I will send you a list of those papers. You can read them for your fill of objectivity. This site was never created to be objective. Of course, I'd like to think I can add some insight that you won't get on other sites, hence the fact you choose to subscribe. But it was created to be insightful - my insight, jonathan's insight, into sport and sports science.

We'll never agree on anything - be it dehydration, Pistorius, or apparently, Lance Armstrong. But I will not apologize for my "subjectivity" because that is the fuel behind this site. Without it, we'd be another scientific journal.

And as I said yesterday, your current views on my objectivity (or lack thereof) are determined almost exclusively by what you believe. I dare say that none of you questioned my stance on Oscar Pistorius, or on Gatorade (unless you were a family member or a Gatorade scientist, of course), because back then, when you didn't have a conflicting opinion, it didn't strike you as subjective. Now it does. Yet this is no different, it's only that we disagree.

Which is fine by me. Someone is wrong on the issue of Armstrong, someone is right. History might judge that.

Ross

therealmince said...

Has Lance Armstrong failed a drugs test?

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

HI Realmince

Two, though neither constituted a positive test. There was a test for cortisone in 1999 for which a backdated prescription was obtained (it's legal with medical permission). Armstrong first denied that he had ANY medical exemptions, and then later produced the certificate in response to a positive sample and the issue was dealt with.

Then there was the famous EPO positive from a sample taken in 1999 but tested as part of research, completely blinded, many years later, by the French lab. Because of the A & B sample both being required, it was never a legally positive test. So the answer to the question is "it depends".

I guess also one has to bear in mind that Marion Jones, Dwain Chambers, even Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich never tested positive (Chambers did eventually), so that alone is not criteria enough. That's why doping control is moving closer and closer towards being handled just like a criminal investigation, where evidence gathered towards a case does not necessarily have to be catching the criminal on camera, with a smoking gun in his hand, which is the equivalent of a positive drugs test (and even that is disputed - ask Hamilton, Landis etc.)

Ross

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

The other thing I just have to add is that I have it on good authority, from within Professional cycling, that the doping control guys can tell that the elite guys are doping, but cannot prove it. That is, they know doping is being done, but the level of sophistication is too high for the testing authorities to reliably enforce anything - samples and passport values are suspicious, not conclusive. I believe doping is still many years ahead of doping control, and it will take a long time to catch up.

That provides some context to the answer above - testing negative or positive is relatively meaningless in today's climate, and even more so 9 years ago.

Ross

Vleminckxx said...

James, James, James. No need to get heated up there, Sport. Blogs are obviously going to be opinionated. But, think about what you are getting testy about. This blog is called Science of Sport isn't it? Shouldn't there be some "science" thrown in? Jonathan and Ross do an otherwise spectacular job of breaking down the world of sport, and most of us regular readers are in strong agreement about that. It is simply an observation of mine (and apparently of many others) that their posts on Lance Armstrong come across as less than objective. Agree to disagree.

But "stupid"? Who even uses that word? Certainly nobody who should be posting on this site. I do happen to be an exercise physiologist, so if you would like me to recommend journals to you, all you need to do is ask (politely, if you would). Leave the posting for the rest of us academics and respectful enthusiasts. If you are going to contribute to healthy discussion, please do it professionally, my friend. Agree to disagree, but don't be rude. I am sure that Jonathan and Ross can agree to that.

BV

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Byron

THanks for the comment. Agreed on the personal nature, but most definitely not on the "leave the posting for the rest of us other academics", I couldn't disagree more strongly - this is not a site for academics, though I'm flattered and appreciative that they deem it worthy of reading. But if I sent a 'non-academic' away for anything (even an over-enthusiastic, over the top personal comment), then I might as well shut down this site altogether.

I have recently experienced, incidentally, at my own university, this same thing, where a series of seminars I arranged on applied sports science in the build-up to the Olympic Games were criticized for being "too unscientific". I feel those scientists have lost sight of the ground they once left - I don't wish to alienate the readers.

For the rest, I agree 100% with your comments, especially the one about "lacking objectivity". If you read my lengthy comment here, and the Vision and mIssion of this site, then you'll appreciate that "science" as you understand it is not my version of it. Sorry if that disappoints you, by my vision extends beyond the journals. The post above explains it.

So I don't intend to be objective, I intend to present my views with insight.

Ross

Vleminckxx said...

Ross:

Thank you for the post. And, likewise, my apologies for any misunderstanding. Moreover, I agree that this should be a forum for all. Allow me to clarify: I simply took issue with the uncordial tone of James' post, and intended my comments for those wishing to write disrespectfully.

In any event, thank you for your understanding and keep up the colorful site.

BV

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Again BV

No worries! Thanks for reposting! And, as I said, for reading the site - it is a great privilege to know that academics do visit!

And I'm sure James will understand! A rush of blood to the head!

Anyway, thanks and keep reading!

Ross

The Sports Scientists said...

Hi Ron G,

Thanks for chiming in here with a comment.

Perhaps I did not make the point clear enough in the post, but I never meant to insinuate that the 2009 TOC is a "doper-fest." Instead the point is that for the first time ever we have real contenders returning from doping suspensions. The idea for this post came weeks ago, and while fact-checking and gathering info I came across Paul Kimmage's question to Armstrong. It was relevant and fit in nicely with the theme: "What do we do with these guys now that they are back?"

Carrying on from that was the point about the teams' internal control programs, which to us seem farcical and problematic and provide only a veil of control while they are trumped as the final solution. It is a step forward, but currently the plan is flawed and hopefully will continue to evolve.

Contrary to what you might think, we do not know anyone at any of the doping labs, and do not await messages from them about positive tests. And we are happy to let the UCI and WADA institute their tests. However the issue is that the testers are so far behind the dopers, and too many athletes have passed under the radar for years only to admit to being doped later (Jones, Chambers, A-rod, Riis, to name a few from different sports).

So catching the dopers is becoming multi-faceted and we cannot rely solely on the drug testing, as it has been proven to be largely ineffective. Yes, some get caught, just look at last year's Tour de France, and again that is a step forward.

When athletes can challenge a positive test much in the same way a criminal can challenge and appeal a guilty verdict, the testers and scientists must also look to other evidence in addition to or in the absence of a positive test to support the claim of doping.

Believe us when we say that our opinions are evidence-based. We do not form these kinds of views on bias. However our views are just that---opinions---but everyone here is welcome to disagree or agree with us so long as we keep the debate going and keep the language and tone above the table. James, I am referring to you, please keep it civil here and avoid name calling. Kimmage and Armstrong already showed us how two grown men can behave like kids on a playground!

Thanks again to everyone for contributing to this discussion!

Kind Regards,
Jonathan

Anonymous said...

I have three comments: first, as a cancer survivor as well as an athlete (albeit nowhere close to ever winning anything), I am unhappy with Kimmage's potrayal of LA as a 'cancer'. I am perhaps not as offended as LA himself appeared to be, but to imply that the return of any rider has the potential to kill a sport/organism is stretching it and to some extent 'trivializes' cancer. I understand metaphor, but given the subject, it was an obvious provocation.

Second, I think you did LA a disservice in your original post, in that you stated that 'in response, he attacked the messenger', not mentioning until one of your comments that he did actually have an excellent answer to the actual question.

Finally, back to (one of) the intent of the post - how do we treat returning 'convicts', whether they admitted to wrongdoing or not? Think about society in general. Do we care if a released prisoner ever admitted doing wrong? Generally, I think not, unless they continue to yammer on about how they were wrongly convicted. In that regard, it seems to me that both Tyler and Floyd have shut up and are just trying to make a living. We should let them.
Laura

Anonymous said...

Wow lots of things to think about.

First I think Kimmage was not acting as a journalist. In journalism school your taught to report facts. Kimmage has given his opinion as fact (Armstrong is the cancer) and there is a difference. I wouldn't blame Armstrong for taking it personally. That being said if LA wants the celebrity he should be prepared to deal with these situations.

Is Armstrong an egotistical, bullying, blowhard. I don't know and I don't really care, he's an amazing athlete who runs a cancer charity, unless you have to deal with him on a daily basis why should you care if he's a jerk or the nicest guy in the room.

Back to Basso, Hamilton, Landis they broke the rules, they did their time according to the rules. What else would you have them do? Crawl on the ground and beg for everyone's forgiveness? Would that appease the dopers are evil crowd? It all just makes no sense to me, get over it move on and enjoy the TOC for what it is a bike race.

To the subject of doping in general...if HGH and testosterone occur naturally is it really doping to supplement with something your body already contains when your body runs a little low....

Love the site keep up the good work.

Rob, NY said...

Ross, Jon, for what its worth, I'm with you guys on this one.

Where theres smoke theres fire, and in this case with LA, theres been too much smoke for far too long.

What hasn't been brought up in the comments so far is that in Kimmages article he spent time with the Slipstream team and he writes this:

I spent the whole Tour this year with Slipstream, the Garmin team. That wasn’t by accident. I chose that team deliberately, because of what they were saying about the sport and the message they were putting out. But also the fact that so many of that team had raced with Armstrong during his best years and knew exactly what he got up to. And the stuff that I learnt on that Tour about him and what he was really like was absolutely shocking, really shocking.

Now, I'm hoping that he is working on an article or book which will include this news.

Anonymous said...

http://www.livestrong.com/lance-armstrong/blog/armstrongs-testing-results-to-be-posted-at-livestrong-com/Blog:e7230ee9-8736-45d9-aaff-ebad3773fc8cPost:4d1f78a2-14b5-4790-9dec-b18b3721f0c9/?utm_source=otwl&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=febnewsletter

A rather long link but it provides explanations and results from Lance's recent tests.... Kimmage was inappropriate and unprofessional, to suggest otherwise is ridiculous, and I think anyone would be defensive against such comments. As an individual that has been deeply affected by cancer, Kimmage's inflammatory remarks are extremely insulting. Watching the TOC, LA is getting the Livestrong message out there and if what he's doing creates greater awareness towards a disease that causes much suffering than all the better. As far as I am concerned, he doesn't need to prove anything. There will always be naysayers and detractors. The man is a great cyclist and is spreading an important message doing what he does best.

Experthasbeen said...

Thanks for all your hard work and opinions on the subject. I believe like you do that where there's smoke there's fire. Doping athletes are nothing more than 'sports thugs'. They will lie, cheat, steal, and dope without as much as single shred of remorse.
The reality is this: If there is money to be made, then there will be cheating on some level. Most people are not surprised to hear about Enron CEOs getting arrested for essentially 'stealing' someone's money. But somehow when it's their sports hero getting implicated they just can't believe in the accusations.
Wake up people! The doping has been going on since the early 1900's, and it hasn't missed a beat yet. It just gets more sophisticated. And like a common criminal it attempts to stay one step ahead of the police.
Do people actually believe that Armstrong beat all those dopers for 7 years while he himself was somehow clean?

Anonymous said...

Kimmage V Armstrong, great way to start the year; two ways to look at this, if you think LA is the greatest thing ever to put his leg over a bike then Kimmage was bang out of order.

If on the other hand you tend not to follow the crowd, if you do not follow the written word of the second coming of St Lance, If you have the ability to look rationally at what's been going on in cycling in the last decade then maybe just maybe you'll see that lies and nonsence that has accompanied the Second Coming is nothing more than a source to assuage Armstrongs ego.

Paul Kimmage is probably the most effective cycling journalist there is in the sport at the moment, why? Because he's been there, he's made his own choices he walked away and the cruch is, Armstrong can't handle Kimmage honestly and TRUTHFULLY therefore he responds to abuse and bullyboy tactics.

Kimmage is spot on, it's about ego, it's about money, it's about Nike's millions, it's about the L'Equip rolling over on their doping investigations, it's about the millions of extra Euros that the Tour and the Giro will pull in, it's about taking the sport 5 years backwards, OMERTA, dodgy doping practices, pay off's to ensure the TUE's are inplace, payoff to ensure there are no failed tests, it's about one man and what he wants and if he doesn't get it he'll stamp his feet and squeal like a baby until he does.....

To me cycling is split into two, the Armstrong Fanboys and those who love the sport of cycling, it's just a shame the sport will be ruined for a year......sad isn't it.

bianchigirl said...

There has been some gloriously somewhat selective quotations from Paul Kimmage's original piece. Those who haven't read it and simply bristled self righteously may be interested in what he has to say on 'transparency, the great buzzword of Armstrong's comeback. What he says seems entirely prescient:

'When Armstrong talks about transparency, this is the greatest laugh. When he talks about embracing this new transparency … I’m really looking forward to that. I’m really looking forward to my first interview request with him and seeing how that comes back. Because that would really make it interesting.'


In light of the Catlin fiasco, I am unsurprised that Kimmage's words on this matter remain stubbornly unquoted - after all, they make it look as if the man, months before this incident, actually knows what he's talking about - which, of course, he does. I look forward to this week's Sunday Times and thank Paul Kimmage for having the guts to voice what many will not for fear of the famous blacklist. As for standards of journalism, quite frankly if some of the fawning obsequiousness I have read on the subject of Armstrong is what now passes for journalism in America then there are some editors who should habg their heads in shame for allowing it.

Rob, NY said...

A couple more points in addition to my earlier posting.

Kimmage brings up the fact that this is all about money and ego.

Nothing showed this off more clearly than the joke of a press conference last week with ARod.

He came across as arrogant, deceptive and unapologetic. Yet no one there had the balls to make him admit to cheating. He wouldn't even admit that the dope was of any advantage to him.

But will the Yankees remove him? Will his fellow players go against him? Heck no.

The same with LA and his biking buddies and the various races he will ride in. Too much money will be lost.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi again everyone

Thanks to the latest commenters. I really enjoyed your view on it - which again highlights that if you agree with someone, you enjoy them, if you don't, well, you take out the "stick to science" club and beat them over the head with it.

But I find your insights, Rob, Bianchigirl and the two anonymous posters, very insightful.

I wish that people would step back and assess the sum of all the evidence, rather than making the emotional judgment that leads one to what I must express is a blindness to the overwhelming collection of facts. Rob, you referred in your earlier post to the fact that "where there is smoke, there is fire". In this case, with Armstrong, there's more than smoke - it's a raging furnace.

Three journalists - Paul Kimmage, David Walsh, Jeremy Whittle. All respected, highly regarded journalists. All followed cycling for decades, longer than I have been alive (each). All used to be great fans of the sport. All used to admire Lance Armstrong. All three are now saying the same thing. And that's just three cases. And for what motive? Then throw in the dozens of other people who have come out with their reports of what is going on.

And then, last but most definitely not least, since people want the "science" - we know that EPO makes at least a 5 to 10% difference to performance. That's a fact. Some people say it is as high as 20%. Now, you have Tour de France winners since 1996 having confessed to doping. Every single rider who has finished first or second in the Tour de France has either been caught or confessed for using drugs. Except one.

So physiologically, you have to now make the case that Lance Armstrong is just 10% better than anyone else! Find me another sport where that is true, where one athlete is 10% better than the next best. It doesn't happen. There is a very good way to work out that Lance Armstrong's Tour performances are "unphysiological", and I will work on that in due course.

Of course, it will once again come down to what you choose to believe. And if you wish to believe the fawning obsequiousness of the journalism that covers Lance Armstrong (well put, Bianchigirl), then all this will be offensive to you and you'll disregard it. But I once bought into it myself, but as facts emerge, as circumstantial evidence emerges, eventually you have to step back and try to be a little objective about it.

Evidence based? Definitely. I just hope history records it that way.

And the notion that his cancer campaign somehow exonerates him from scrutiny is a joke. Good for him for his position on cancer, and I really admire that. I have been through family with cancer, I know the disease and would not dare trivialize, but do we now say "let him be" because he's out there promoting his foundation? Not a chance, because his success on the bike is built of the biggest fraud in the history of sport. This is not an accounting ledger with debits and credits - his work with cancer is entirely separate, and commendable, but the doping and his "split" of cycling (again, well put to the anonymous poster) is not.

Ross

Frank Day, MD said...

Ross and Jonathan,

Your claim to scientific objectivity when it comes to matters relating to LA continues to not impress the masses it seems.

We went through this before on your criticism of the Coyle study, which was pretty much without merit. Then, in your latest rebuttal you wrote:

"I wish that people would step back and assess the sum of all the evidence, rather than making the emotional judgment that leads one to what I must express is a blindness to the overwhelming collection of facts. . . "

Please let us know what the overwhelming collection of facts really are compared to the overwhelming collection of innuendo that keeps being thrown out. There is a difference you know.

" Rob, you referred in your earlier post to the fact that "where there is smoke, there is fire". In this case, with Armstrong, there's more than smoke - it's a raging furnace.

Three journalists - Paul Kimmage, David Walsh, Jeremy Whittle. All respected, highly regarded journalists. All followed cycling for decades, longer than I have been alive (each). All used to be great fans of the sport. All used to admire Lance Armstrong. All three are now saying the same thing. And that's just three cases. And for what motive? Then throw in the dozens of other people who have come out with their reports of what is going on."

Ugh, while it may be a fact that three "respected" people are saying these things, it is hardly a fact worthy of indicting someone. How about a real fact or two.

"And then, last but most definitely not least, since people want the "science" - we know that EPO makes at least a 5 to 10% difference to performance. That's a fact. Some people say it is as high as 20%. Now, you have Tour de France winners since 1996 having confessed to doping. Every single rider who has finished first or second in the Tour de France has either been caught or confessed for using drugs. Except one."

You do realize that the benefits of epo are transient don't you, similar to training at altitude, as soon as you come down the benefits start going away. Then, unless you know something that I don't about the effects of epo, the effects of epo have to do with increasing red cell mass to increase oxygen delivery to the tissues. Lance is posting his data and participating in the "biological passport" program right now, as are all the riders. Where is the evidence in the past or presently that Lance is using epo. Here he is out of the sport for three years and comes back at the very highest level despite "normal" hematocrits. Where is this raging furnace for his current performance? Or, maybe that 10% efficiency improvement that Coyle demonstrated actually means something to help explain his dominance?

"So physiologically, you have to now make the case that Lance Armstrong is just 10% better than anyone else! Find me another sport where that is true, where one athlete is 10% better than the next best. It doesn't happen. There is a very good way to work out that Lance Armstrong's Tour performances are "unphysiological", and I will work on that in due course."

Well, it can happen if he managed to improve his efficiency 8% (as demonstrated by Coyle) when everyone else didn't.

"Of course, it will once again come down to what you choose to believe. And if you wish to believe the fawning obsequiousness of the journalism that covers Lance Armstrong (well put, Bianchigirl), then all this will be offensive to you and you'll disregard it. But I once bought into it myself, but as facts emerge, as circumstantial evidence emerges, eventually you have to step back and try to be a little objective about it."

It has nothing to do with who you choose to believe. It has to do with what you believe is a "fact" or not. Innuendo is not fact to me."

"Evidence based? Definitely. I just hope history records it that way."

Again, where is this supposed evidence?

"And the notion that his cancer campaign somehow exonerates him from scrutiny is a joke. Good for him for his position on cancer, and I really admire that. I have been through family with cancer, I know the disease and would not dare trivialize, but do we now say "let him be" because he's out there promoting his foundation? Not a chance, because his success on the bike is built of the biggest fraud in the history of sport. This is not an accounting ledger with debits and credits - his work with cancer is entirely separate, and commendable, but the doping and his "split" of cycling (again, well put to the anonymous poster) is not."

Of course his cancer should not exonerate him from scruitiny. But, it seems to me that there is little more than innuendo to make this case against Lance. Perhaps he did in the past, perhaps he didn't. But there certainly is zero evidence he is doping now and there is little doubt he is much less of a cyclist now than he was 3 years ago.

Your bias is showing.

Frank

Jim Thompson said...

Guys,
I'm a big fan of your blog but I've got to disagree with your characterization of Armstrong's response to Kimmage. Kimmage's job as a journalist is to get out information and not incite the people he covers. While many people seem to think there's a mountain of evidence against Armstrong, when you give it a good look it's really not that impressive. I covered Lance's final Tour and while I find it astounding that he's been able to beat all these guys that were doping, he's never tested positive. Until that changes (and he's been tested an insane number of times) guys like Kimmage can't call him out in public like that and not expect to get bitch slapped. It was a bad question and he got a surly response. But I might suggest, it was the kind of response you would expect from any athlete or person for that matter with an "off the charts" amount of aggression roiling around in their body. Whether he was doping or not, Lance won seven titles because he's got a killer mentality. His response, whether guilty or not, is what you would expect to such a churlish question.
BTW Have you written about the doping in rugby? I was in Val d'Isere two years ago and the French rugby team walked into the hotel I was staying at. They looked like a science experiment gone horribly wrong. I've also worked in the NFL for several years and they looked like pikers compared to the French.

Anonymous said...

Those who believe that Armstrong was not doping in his TdF rides should read David Walsh's latest book. Along with the positive test from 1999, it provides an extremely strong (but not absolute) case that doping was an important, if not key, aspect of his team's planning and execution of the tours.