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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Weekend musings

An interesting read to continue a debate

Well, it was a very busy week last week, and a slow weekend so far. My apologies...

I am off to Dubai on Friday for the Sevens Rugby World Cup, where I will be traveling as a consultant and scientific advisor to the South African Team. Preparation for that trip has taken much of my time.

However, for the "slow weekend", no major opinion piece from me. Rather, there has been quite a lively debate in the comments section of our last post, which was the preview of the Amgen Tour of California (the irony, by the way, of having a cycling race sponsored by a company that makes EPO is quite unescapable. Thanks to Mike for pointing that out!)

There have been some interesting and divided opinions on this matter. Without doubt, one's opinion is very much a function of your starting belief (as most things are, of course). And when that belief does not match the opinions here, what has been frustrating for me personally is that the default response from those who disagree has been to whip out the "stick to science" insult, as though we discard our evidence based analytic approach simply because we express opinions that oppose doping in cycling and on Lance Armstrong's own doping past.

So to confirm what many of you have written - we are not objective about anything we write about, and nor do we intend to be. Just ask Oscar Pistorius, or Gatorade, or Usain Bolt, or Sammy Wanjiru, or Pose runners. Our opinions on all those matters was equally 'black and white' - the evidence demands an opinion in all these cases, including that of Armstrong. But opinion based solely on belief is different from evidence-based opinion, and doesn't, in my opinion, contribute much to the useful debate. It is isolated opinion, and is not what we are about, despite perceptions. Nor is the purpose of this site to sit on the fence and dryly translate science for you - read our Vision and Mission to see what we actually are about.

In any event, in doing some reading on the debate, I came across the following really interesting pieces, which I personally found to be excellent reads:

An excellent viewpoint on the scrapping of the Don Catlin anti-doping programme

The second is the letter below, written by a reader to VeloNews. You can read the original here. It doesn't deal with doping, it doesn't accuse anyone of doing drugs, but just puts out, very eloquently, an opinion on the Armstrong-Kimmage exchange.

Re: The Armstrong/Kimmage exchange
Editor,

Speaking for myself as one of the many "around the world affected by (cancer)," (In my childhood, cancer claimed my father, and later on, my sister as well.) I hold nothing against Mr. Kimmage for his recent characterization of Mr. Armstrong, and I surely do not appreciate Mr. Armstrong assuming the authority to speak for me — especially with such intolerant, hateful words telling someone that they are "not worth the chair they are sitting on."

Indeed, if even half of what has legitimately been alleged about Armstrong is true — the numerous firsthand accounts and sworn testimony of former teammates and associates, the undisputed test results, his conduct towards those who have spoken out about doping within cycling — then Kimmage's metaphor (and that’s what it was, not any sort of insult to those affected by cancer) is appropriate, perhaps even understated.

Armstrong has never credibly addressed these charges, choosing instead to respond with public displays of hostility that have now descended to the level naked aggression with his brutal verbal assault on the very worth on another human being. However unwittingly, Armstrong makes Kimmage look like a prophet in alleging revenge as the motive for his comeback, since we have just seen the first score being settled.

At least in his exchange with Greg LeMond last September, Armstrong insisted that the press conference would not "go negative" since he meant to "talk about the global cancer campaign, the comeback to cycling, and the credibility in and around that." At that point, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but any "credibility" he could have commanded is now gone, not only as a result of his treatment of Mr. Kimmage, but also his having reneged on a public promise to subject himself to "the most advanced anti-doping program in the world," which would be conducted in a "completely independent" manner because "ultimately…we as fans must get back to enjoying the race and respecting the riders and their performances." (Perhaps the drama of Armstrong’s press-conference "performance" is intended for the public's viewing enjoyment.)

This time, he did not even try to conceal his contempt, which he had the gall to wrap in self-righteous outrage on behalf of those he professes to represent and care about, but whom he is all too willing to exploit for advantage in his personal feuds. Such conduct is beyond the pale from a public spokesperson (even a self-appointed one) for any sort of worthy cause, and it lays bare the dark forces at work in this man – forces that may now be said to constitute an ugly blight not just upon cycling, but the fight against cancer itself.


Charles Howe,
Olmsted Falls, Ohio

Some of the comments in our previous post are also well worth reading, particularly those that disagree, just to get a spectrum of opinions on this one. People obviously feel very strongly about it. And it's no co-incidence that there is a very strong divide in opinions with many on one side of the Atlantic tending to have one opinion, and the majority of those on the other a completely different view (as Ron points out below, the other "watershed" in opinion seems to be the depth of involvement in cycling, which is really interesting - the more involved you are, the less likely you are to buy the media opinion)

That's not a judgment on the people, but rather a comment on the power of the media to mould our opinions. Now you need to ask who is controlling that media? Who is winning the public relations battle? Fueled by Nike, Oakley and the LAF, objective opinions are in short supply here. In the excellent words of bianchigirl, some of the journalism is nothing more than "fawning obsequiousness". I'll take Paul Kimmage's writing any day - it might be as biased as the other side, but it's closer to the truth.

I'm hoping to squeeze in a post on the aging and exercise series this week, time-willing!

Ross

61 Comments:

Ron Cook said...

In regards to your comments about peoples opinions on Armstrong being based on what side of the Atlantic they are on i do agree but one thing i've noticed is that the deeper you are into cycling, the less likely you are to blindly follow the Lance Armstrong effect. I race here in the States and i would say the majority of those i race with do feel that Lance doped and wish he wasn't back but we are definitely benefiting from the increased coverage of races here in the US because Lance is back.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hello Ron

You're absolutely right - I need to probably be a bit more prudent about generalizing, because you're right. It's a general trend, but you've hit the nail on the head.

As for the increased coverage, that's a double-edged sword for sure. The same double-edged sword, incidentally, that gave Armstrong the opportunity in 1999 to evade many of the big big questions regarding doping. The stories were already written when Armstrong won in Sestrierre - journalists KNEW they were not watching a clean rider. But the editors and the media could not allow that story, because cycling needed positive publicity. And the rest is history. So that's a strange consequence of the media involvement. Good for cycling? Depends how you look at it!

Thanks for the comment
Ross

A. Duff McLaren said...

Ross: Well said. Enjoy Dubai.
Keep on writing.

skidawg1985 said...

I should point out that USADA shows 1 test for Lance in 2008. That does not include UCI or WADA testing (and I could not quickly locate their individual testing results).

Mike said...

The bicycling doping saga continues. There seems to be no end to the doping debate with additional athletes getting caught and old cases being debated. Lance's change of heart for his self defined program does not help the situation. It just raises more questions. With all of the doping in the news (between cycling and baseball) I compiled a list of the top ten doping excuses for athletes to help the next one that fails a test.

Anonymous said...

Surprised you didnt report the death of Polish hammer thrower & Olympic champion Kamila Skolimowska, who died at age 26. Apparently she died from a pulmonary embolism.

Rob

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Rob

I read about that - meant to do a post, but I'm just heavily under the whip at the moment with some big projects to wrap up before Dubai on Friday, so it's kind of slipped through the cracks.

Was she lifting weights at the time? I know of a few cases where that kind of thing has happened during weight training. But my suspicions were definitely aroused, rightly or wrongly...

Ross

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Mike,

Thanks for posting the link to your compilation---that is a classic and timely list! It is also great to keep in touch with the lighter side of all of this.

Did you consider how the flax seed oil excuse fit in there? I guess it kind of falls under the Roger Clemens item you have, although Barry Bonds and then Marion Jones perfected this one for him to use later!

Thanks for the list!

Kind Regards,
Jonathan

Ron said...

When you go to Dubai, check out the Dubai Roadsters bike club if you can. I'm sure you could google it.

Oh, and don't miss the only 7 star hotel in the world. :)

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Ron

I'll try, not sure how much time I'll have with the programme for the team, but I'll keep an eye out.

And I certainly won't miss the 7-star hotel - we're staying in it (yeah, I know!). Though I think (and stand corrected) there are now TWO in Dubai - a South African named Sol Kerzner opened the second one last year November, if I'm not mistaken...

Regards
Ross

Anonymous said...

Armstrong never ever doped because his cancer would come back! He is the purest rider to ever ride a bike ! You are all the skeptics and cynics Armstrong talks about in this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DxtxQQLkJ0

I fell sorry for you all who can't enjoy the Greatest Bike Rider who ever lived. I am sorry you can't dream big or believe in miracles !

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

HI anonymous

Well, thank you for your sympathies...I find myself dreaming of miracles all the time, and I certainly thought I dreamed big. I guess the fact that a rider could win the Tour for 7 years out of complete obscurity, when everyone who has won the Tour, been second, third or fourth has doped was beyond my dreams.

The problem with your argument is that it assumes that Armstrong would not prioritize achievement more than you would. You assume, because you'd do the same, that he wouldn't dope because of a threat that is not established. In the 1980s, a survey was done on elite athletes, and a staggering 50% of them said that given the choice, they would take drugs even if it meant that they would be dead at 50! Read that again - elite athletes would dope to win, even if their lives were guaranteed to end at 50 as a result.

You don't understand the mindset of these athletes. So I may lack the ability to dream, but on the other end lies naivety, and you're off that scale. Note that this does not mean that you're wrong, but you're so dogmatic in your stance, that you've failed to account for any of the evidence. Your only "evidence" is your assumption and very apparent worship of the cyclist. What do you make of all the evidence? No idea. It's evidence that demands a thoughtful opinion, not a dismal of everyone who questions it as non-dreamers and sad souls with no hope. That's incredibly presumptuous.

Ross

Anonymous said...

Ross,

Fine, lets stick with the FACTS:

A] Armstrong is the most tested athlete in the world. And additionally he has agreed to a multi-million dollar private testing program this year with the worlds most renowned doping expert, in case you have not heard.

B] He has never failed a single drug test. Not a single one ! The other ones you talk about were not official – buzz, zap – case closed - thank you for playing.

C] Admittedly, there might have been a few guys caught with their hands in the cookie jar who were caught doping. However, it is possible that all the drugs did was bring these guys up to Armstrong’s level. Maybe without the drugs no one would ever hear from them. Did you ever think of that? If drugs were a serious threat to cycling Armstrong would be the first to complain – isn’t that logical - hello?

D] Armstrong’s support for the doper’s return to cycling is only natural. Because he could never imagine taking drugs himself I am sure he can’t imagine others taking them either. Also, the cases against Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton were paper thin and filled with falsified and shoddy laboratory work that did not stand the light of day. Go review the cases ! And, you will find there is scant evidence for most of the other doping cases as well. Also, a positive doping test means nothing because the majority of laboratories are incompetent and corrupt.

E] Because Paul Kimmage never amounted to a hill of beans as a cyclist he (along with Greg Lamond, a jealous has-been from the 80s) wants to destroy cycling by claiming the sport has a drug problem. The only problem cycling has is with reporters who can’t hack real stories trying to pioneer fictional ones like Lance taking drugs. It is a sad way to earn a living. So are ex-champions trying to get publicity that they can’t get on the bike anymore.

F] Finally Lance is trying to CURE CANCER, not further his reputation or career like Paul Kimmage. Anyone who questions Lance the way Paul Kimmage did should be banned from all races and from covering cycling in general. The ban should last 2 years – same as for the supposed dopers – only after they have written a year’s worth of good articles should they be allowed back.

Please cease and desist with all the hear-say. What you are saying on this blog is not too far from those guys who think aliens landed in Roswell, New Mexico.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Wow

A "cease and desist letter" accusing me of the same thing as people who believe in Roswell aliens.

If you were any less objective I'd say you were Lance Armstrong himself. And I'd also be a little more concerned with your criticism than I am, because it's so clear how blinded you are by the drivel you've read that you can't even comprehend the chance that these people have something behind their accusations.

It's impossible to debate this with you, because you're so resistant to facts that anything I say will be disregarded, because you obviously already know the answer.

Oh, and in case you haven't heard, the famous "million dollar programme by the world renowned expert" didn't happen - they didn't take a single sample because they couldn't agree terms. That was big news last week, along with a sighting of a UFO in Mexico. But I'm sure being as informed as you are, you already knew that, but just decided to disregard it because it didn't support your case. Like the rest of the facts.

And then of course, you have the small problem that being tested negative doesn't mean anything when half the products they test for are untestable. But then you knew that right? It went the same way as the other facts that don't support your case. And instead, you claim that any "positive tests can't be believed because ALL labs are corrupt or incompetent". That's incredible, I've never heard such an outrageous debate. I mean, that's a line of argument you could pursue, because I'll grant you that the testing process is not perfect. IN fact, if you were well read and read this blog (among others), you'd know that I myself have criticised the testing authorities and highlighted this problem.

But to say ALL are incompetent, well, you undermine your own position by bringing so much emotion to the table. And the Greg LeMond accusation, well, that's priceless.

THank you for making my day, I had almost forgotten how much emotion switches off judgment. But you reminded me, and gave me a good laugh at the same time. Enjoy keeping your head in the sand.

And your "cease and desist" means about as much to me as your "facts".

Ross

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Just one thing to add.

I believe the problem with your case is not its content, incidentally, but the extreme position from which you argue. I believe, based on the evidence, the reports, the tests (which you can dismiss as bang, zap case closed (what kind of debate is that anyway - how old are you?), but which exist nonetheless, that there is enough evidence to convince me, as a cycling fan and a fan of Armstrong until the 2002 year, that he doped.

I also base that assertion on my physiological insight and knowledge and the understanding that drugs exert an enormous effect on performance, and so success in the sport, as Armstrong has achieved it, is a difficult one to argue PHYSIOLOGICALLY.

However, I am still quite clear in projecting this as my opinion, the result of weighing both sides against one another. I believe it to be correct. You, however, present your case as fact, you believe your own case too much. So much, that you fail to present a clear argument, resorting instead to "zap, bang" style arguments and name-calling of former Tour Champions as "has-beens". Can I remind you that given that LeMond won the Tour in the 1980s, he's now almost 20 years out of the sport. Of course he's a has-been. It doesn't mean he's bitter, just retired.

Point is, you can't see the other side of the story, so my words are wasted on you. As are those of Kimmage, LeMond, Walsh, and any of the other 50 or so people who have a story to tell. You're just not listening...

ROss

Alan Sleath said...

I agree that emotions are not a good standpoint to argue from especially when it comes to a debate as intricate snd involved as drugs in sport.It is such a complex issue where even doctors are involved in assisting.Then there is the moral high ground,money(the root of evil)etc etc.One good thing, Lance Armstrong has helped and assisted to the fight against Cancer which requires drugs prescribed by Doctors.I believe doctors can play a role in monitoring and advises,but unfortunately man will always push himself to the limits to achieve success.Even regulation becomes an issue,but we need professional medical to guide us because our children who ultimately must benefit.Keep up the good work its what we need.

Anonymous said...

Kimmage is no saint. If you recall in his insipid book, that he himself doped. I think he and LeMond need to go to polishing school. Then maybe they can do something positive for the sport.

I'm no Lance-maniac. I find a few others much more exciting to watch. But, regardless he does bring a lot to our sport; most importantly (to me) TV coverage in the US (and lots of Saab commercials, ugh!). Until he tests positive, his critics need to shut the f*ck up. The funny thing is, the critics are too dumb to realize that Lance's greatest motivation is proving them wrong.

Bob NY said...

I have read numerous letters by Lances fans claiming his innocence and they all float around the "fact" that hes passed all his drug tests. Of course this is not true and once this FACT is brought up, they get defensive and claim the samples were tainted, the labs were bad, etc.

Heres a great line from "anonymous": If drugs were a serious threat to cycling Armstrong would be the first to complain – isn’t that logical - hello?

Are you serious? Think about this for a second. You see, IF he was clean, he would complain, because we all know that cycling is a dopers sport. BUT if he was on drugs and still complained then his fellow cyclists would turn him in. I believe this is the real reason he has kept quite. It is also the reason he has not been more forceful in his condemnation of Hamilton and Landis.

Now Lemond, theres a great biker!

Anonymous said...

Ross

I am not being emotional you guys are about your beloved anti-doping system and anyone who attacks it. For example, Howard Jacobs, who has "never failed to prove" that his clients never took doping products but never had the benefit of a jury trial by peers and was robbed of due justice:

a] Landis' attorneys had charged that the French lab LNDD, (which detected the testosterone in the rider’s urine) had falsified documents, fabricated records and deleted important analytical data to support its findings.

*** After the ruling was released Dr Wolfram Meier-Augenstein, Senior Lecturer in Stable Isotope Forensics at Queen’s University in Belfast, restated his view that the work of the French lab LNDD had been “atrociously bad.”

He deems the CAS-ruling “a tragedy for the sports community and a travesty of science and justice” and sees it as “a victory of corporate ego and politics over justice.”

Meier-Augenstein is so seriously disappointed with the unprofessional sloppy work of the LNDD that he plans to dedicate a whole chapter of his forthcoming textbook „Forensic Stable Isotope Analysis“ to the Landis case – under the heading “how not to do it”.

b] Hamilton claimed the UCI-sanctioned test was insufficiently validated (and may have returned a false positive result) and that some of the agencies involved had concealed documents that would support his case. He also maintained that, even if foreign cells were present, they were natural and not the result of a transfusion. Hamilton's lawyers said he might be a Chimera, something Hamilton later disavowed.

*** To others, including independent scientists who worked on Hamilton's defense, it underscores one of the most glaring flaws of the international anti-doping system - its reliance on scientific research performed hastily and on the cheap.

The novel blood test used to condemn Hamilton as a cheater and suspend him for two years was developed by researchers in Sydney, Australia, on a $50,000 USADA grant - that sum is a fraction of what's normally spent in medicine to develop and validate a diagnostic test.

"This test was not ready for prime time," says Carlo Brugnara, professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School.

Buzz-Zap... need I say more?

But I will in order to try and re-educate a few wayward thinking anti-dopers still capable of making a rational decision to rejoin the legend of Lance Armstrong and the Livestrong anti-cancer cause.

Instead of unbiased juries for the accused dopers we get the notoriously corrupt self-serving agencies like WADA, USADA and CAS serving as judge jury and executioner...ala, his excellency Dick Pound and his henchmen.

If you put someone like Lance Armstrong, Jan Ullrich or Marco Pantani or other cyclists (a jury of peer as in the US Constitution) on Tyler or Landis' jury you would get a totally different verdict...based on the scientific FACTS not on some fabricated anti-doping agenda.

Until you all accept the scientific FACTS of the cases, validated by phds, you all might as well be at Roswell, New Mexico awaiting the second coming with Paul Kimmage documenting it all.

Anonymous said...

This guys cracks me up. If the glove don't fit you must acquit. Are you a defense attorney by trade? Or maybe Bill O'Reilly?

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Buzz-zap, anonymous. No, you've said it all. With the crushing grip of reason, you've PROVED a negative.

Frank, have you read the posts about the purpose of this site? Do you bother to read things that don't support the position you argue? Or is the same as for your approach to that previous series which "was without merit"?

But yes, our bias is showing. But again, read more than just this, and then come here and throw around your opinion. "Little more than innuendo"? There is a body of evidence so large that it beggars an opinion, not an ostrich's head in the sand.

And then another anonymous posters suggests that people are too "dumb" - nice debate, that's certainly helpful to the intelligent debate. Can I just add that I'm not some arbitrary person who is sitting on the sidelines reading the same drivel you are (and selling PowerCranks may or may not entitle you to call yourself an "expert"). I have worked with Tour riders, I know the journalists who you are so keen to slander and dismiss, and I know the physiology of sport well enough that to suggest my arguments are baseless is disingenuous. But you'd make a good lawyer. Or a salesman.

I'm off to Roswell now!

Ross

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Buzz-zap, anonymous. No, you've said it all. With the crushing grip of reason, you've PROVED a negative.

Frank, have you read the posts about the purpose of this site? Do you bother to read things that don't support the position you argue? Or is the same as for your approach to that previous series which "was without merit"?

But yes, our bias is showing. But again, read more than just this, and then come here and throw around your opinion. "Little more than innuendo"? There is a body of evidence so large that it beggars an opinion, not an ostrich's head in the sand.

And then another anonymous posters suggests that people are too "dumb" - nice debate, that's certainly helpful to the intelligent debate. Can I just add that I'm not some arbitrary person who is sitting on the sidelines reading the same drivel you are (and selling PowerCranks may or may not entitle you to call yourself an "expert"). I have worked with Tour riders, I know the journalists who you are so keen to slander and dismiss, and I know the physiology of sport well enough that to suggest my arguments are baseless is disingenuous. But you'd make a good lawyer. Or a salesman.

I'm going to leave this post alone now, because I'm only repeating the same perspective each time, and because it's clear that people are mightily offended by my stupidity and lack of objectivity. Frank, look into scientific journals, I am sure you'll prefer them, until I right something you actually agree with, then all will be fine again.

and to all the anonymous poster without names who love a debate across a computer screen without putting down an identity, I am sorry for tackling the issue of doping in cycling. But bookmark this discussion, because maybe one day, like me, you will come to realise the fraud.

I'm off to Roswell now!

Ross

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

And yes, I am being defensive, because I've only written three posts on the purpose of this site and what my approach is, yet people continue to be selective in their reading, throwing out offensive accusations of stupidity, chasing aliens and poor science. They are, I have no doubt, among the greatest minds in the world.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous... "Kimmage is no saint."

You said: "Lance's greatest motivation is proving them wrong."

No question there! I can't wait to hear his next podium speach after winning his 8th Tour de France to all of the cynics and skeptics who believe (most living around Area 51 in Roswell, New Mexico, no doubt) there is a drug problem in cycling. Hopefully that will finally shutdown blogs like this and it does not become like the Kennedy Assassination.

PS The answer to your question to why Lance does not want his samples from 1999 retested was already stated by Dr Wolfram Meier-Augenstein who would see any such retesting by a WADA/USADA approved lab as "a tragedy for the sports community and a travesty of science and justice and a victory of corporate (ie Dick Pound's) ego and politics over justice."

Lance has never (N*E*V*E*R) failed a single drug test (ones that were not tampered with) so please cease & desist posting such lunatic stuff on this blog.

For a Science of Sport Blog there does not seem to be much science (or logic) followed here.

Buzz - Zap - Case Closed...

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To the latest anonymous poster:

buzz, zap, take a number, join the queue...

HOw big a fan of LA are you that you think that his winning an 8th Tour would shut down this blog? Wow, that is serious fandom.

And for a science blog, you're out of your league here, because you clearly haven't read the post, where I tried (again) to clarify what we do. Perhaps you were looking for a scientific journal?

But rest assured, we'll keep going on the internet, as I'm sure you'll keep going on Lance. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Ross,

I think the results from the Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis provided all the proof we need. How naive can the public be?

Then Lance nicely came on TV and finished it off by saying Floyd Landis can't say he is sorry for doping because "he believes he did not dope".

If there really was a doping problem in cycling why would corporations sponsor it? Look what one doping photo did for Michael Phelps with Kellogg's? How much worse would it be for Amgen who makes EPO to have it found out Lance was using their product?

Lance, Tyler and Floyd have more to lose with doping than they have to win. And what you also forget is that elite athletes would never tamper with their bodies by ingesting drugs. It goes contrary to all the training effort they put in.

Buzz, zap...

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

To the latest anonymous poster.

I really enjoyed your comments, and found it a little more thoughtful, until you joined the buzz, zap brigade at the end (who I was mocking, incidentally).

I'm not 100% sure how Tyler and Floyd's cases prove anything, other than that cycling has a problem. Much like the OJ Simpson case, I suspect your interpretation of what happened legally in those cases is a function of your entry point into the debate. As I said in those post, there is a "watershed" of sorts between those who want to believe and those that don't. To me, those two cases epitomize the problem in the sport. And yes, I do realize the problem with doping control, I've written on it before and it's real. But it doesn't prove anything and can't be the point from which one argues naivety of the public.

The other thing is that sponsors ARE PULLING OUT OF THE SPORT. In Europe, massive sponsors, who have been associated with the sport for many, many years, have now left because of the recent doping problems. Also, TV stations are refusing to cover events, papers are not printing stories related to cycling - it's an enormous problem for the sport.

I have in fact written that the biggest chance to save cycling is the sponsor pressure and the threat of its money drying up. That's the reality.

Also, consider that the sponsors have a massive conflict of interests - if they wish to receive exposure, they have to sponsor teams who win. But winning seems to require some level of doping (though I suspect you don't believe this), and so the sponsor is in a Catch 22 situation.

Finally, to say that elite athletes would not harm their bodies is simply untrue. Look at Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, Alex Rodriguez, about 100 professional cyclists, Jan Ullrich, Richard Virenque, Dwain Chambers, Mattias Kessler, Filipo Simeone, I could go on and on. I've worked with elite athletes and let me tell you - they are more than willing to try anything.

So no, I don't "forget" that elite athletes would never use drugs. In fact, I know that they do - they have confessed to it in the past and I know Olympic athletes personally, who have used or are still using. To suggest that they wouldn't for health reasons is disingenuous. Remember, a survey once found that 50% of elite athletes would take a drug if it helped them win, even if it was guaranteed to KILL THEM at 50! That's right, KILL THEM. Elite athletes are a different breed.

And then one last thing, you can apply something called game theory, together with probabilities, to work out that in fact, athletes would dope BECAUSE THEY HAVE FAR MORE TO GAIN THAN TO LOSE. A guy called Michael Shermer did this for Scientific American, it's worth reading.

The reality is that the benefits from doping far, far, far outweigh the risks. Sure, you might get caught, but chances are low - athletes have proved that for years (ask Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, Virenque - they got away with it for years and years).

Sure, you might become ill or even die younger, but athletes would dope even with that risk. So what then is the risk? As compared to the enormous rewards of winning if you dope.

So I believe it to be very naive to think that elites wouldn't harm their bodies - it's the complete opposite, in reality.

But thanks for an otherwise debatable post and for not being as offensive as some.
(until that last line, anyway)

Frank Day, MD said...

Ross and Jonathan wrote:

Frank, have you read the posts about the purpose of this site? Do you bother to read things that don't support the position you argue? Or is the same as for your approach to that previous series which "was without merit"?

But yes, our bias is showing. But again, read more than just this, and then come here and throw around your opinion. "Little more than innuendo"? There is a body of evidence so large that it beggars an opinion, not an ostrich's head in the sand."

And then another anonymous posters suggests that people are too "dumb" - nice debate, that's certainly helpful to the intelligent debate. Can I just add that I'm not some arbitrary person who is sitting on the sidelines reading the same drivel you are (and selling PowerCranks may or may not entitle you to call yourself an "expert"). I have worked with Tour riders, I know the journalists who you are so keen to slander and dismiss, and I know the physiology of sport well enough that to suggest my arguments are baseless is disingenuous. But you'd make a good lawyer. Or a salesman."

Not sure why my earlier post has seemingly disappeared. The purpose of it was several. One to simply ask you what the evidence is that is "so large that it beggars an opinion". As I stated, there is a difference between evidence and innuendo. I simple asked you to specify exactly what is this huge body of evidence? You keep telling us it exists without specifying as to what it is.

Second, I simply wanted to say that I thought there is a difference between an opinion based upon evidence and an opinion based upon bias. You state you want to inject science into the analysis of sport, don't you? Then, it seems to me that you should be trying to eliminate bias from your analysis (isn't that what science tries to do albeit, sometimes, imperfectly?).

Third, not sure why you tried to imply my supposed claim to being an expert in this area comes from "selling PowerCranks". I think my engineering degree combined with my MD is reasonable credentials at being able to evaluate quality of this type of "evidence".

Fourth, it was to state, that whatever evidence there was (as meager as it might be) that Lance doped in the past, it seems unlikely that there is any that he is doping presently since he is complying with the biological passport system and posting his values on line. Yet, here he is after 3 years out of the sport competing at the highest level. If his performance before was due simply to doping it is unlikely he would be performing at his current level now without it. Where is the evidence he is doping now?

Frank

Anonymous said...

Frank, MD...

Thanks, that was exactly my point! I could not have said it better !

See the Armstrong video to set things right:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DxtxQQLkJ0

And then what gets me even worse is the trumped up charges against Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis. International scientific experts and Harvard doctors said all of the charges amount to Bull Dinky Diddly Squat !!! Yet these anti-dopers persist.

Look at the Festina Affair and Operation Puerto. I ask: "DID THEY FIND ANY CYCLISTS ACTUALLY TAKING DRUGS?" --- NO NO NO !!! A car or laboratory does not mean a single thing! Suppose the car had a gun - so are cyclists murderers ???

Marco Pantani never tested positive for anything - yet they drove him out of cycling and to suicide because his hematocrit was too high from training in the mountains!

I am sorry, they want to do the same thing to Lance they are doing to Marion Jones - who never tested positive for drugs but was forced to make a confession to avoid other charges.

All you can see the utter corruption of Dick Pound and WADA / USADA / UCI / CAS etc. all lead by the most corrupt King Pins in existence - Paul Kimmage, Greg Lemond and Andy Hamsten.

All three amounted to nothing in life so have turned to drugs to make their legacy. Imagine using child molestation to help convict Floyd Landis ! What does that have to do with doping? Kimmage barley finished the Tour de France and calls that an accomplishment that allows him to talk to Lance Armstrong rudely. And Hamsten lives in Italy now not the USA.

I am just a lowly nothing on the education ladder, but now thanks to you I can see that there are actually real MDs who recognize the anti-doping effort are a total fraud and scam. Thank God everyone isn't drinking the Kool Aid or living in Roswell, New Mexico.

There is not a shred of evidence that Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton or Marion Jones ever doped !!! Not a shred ! Look at it for what it is: frame jobs or coerced confessions !

Frank Day, MD said...

Hey, annonymous,

I am not so sure I would go as far as you to say that there was not a shred of evidence against any of the named cyclists, including Armstrong. However, the evidence against many of them, especially Armstrong, is miniscule or suspect and there is evidence for
Armstrong that supports his past domination (an 8% increase in efficiency after becoming world champion which is consistently ignored by his detractors) is due to changes that don't involve doping.

I think the evidence is pretty strong that doping was rampant in the past in many sports, including cycling. The fact that no cyclist was ever found positive for doping in the Festina affair is not particularly good evidence that they were not doping because the ability to detect these things was in its infancy then. What the heck were syringes and drugs doing in the rooms? What is someone doing with drug paraphernalia if they are not doing drugs?

Finally, cycling is, seemingly, the one sport that is seriously trying to do something about it. Perhaps they have over reacted in some instances. Despite that, they have never had enough to even over react against Armstrong, despite the serious efforts of many to try to get him.

Anonymous said...

Frank, MD

Thanks for the response. I think people need to see it this way:

a] Lance was a cancer patient and would never risk taking drugs that would bring his cancer back.

b] There was the 8% efficiency (that I did not even know about) he got after having the cancer which makes the need to take drugs completely unnecessary.

c] He never failed an official drug test. (Not counting the ones tampered with in anti-American French Labs.)

d] For the rest of cycling there is almost no proof that anyone was actually doping, just sloppy, vindictive and dishonest scientists and lab personnel- or self seeking publicity hounds like Kimmage, Lemond and Hamsten.

e] Where they found the syringes - don't forget it is easy to plant those things - they are not proof. Stuff gets planted all the time by the police - just read the papers.

Finally, cycling has been probably the cleanest sport around since the 1980s because they do all the testing. Most cyclists are afraid to even take a vitamin now days. I would say the chances of any of us fans watching a dope fueled race or stage at about 0.1% or less. Whereas in baseball it is about 99% dope fueled record breaking - about as phony as professional wrestling.

Anonymous said...

Such a pity Lance won't combat the sickness in cycling

In his ongoing campaign against drugs in cycling, Paul Kimmage has shipped some flak for taking a cancer metaphor and using it to attack Lance Armstrong.

When Armstrong announced his comeback to the sport last September, Kimmage subsequently remarked in a radio interview that the sport had been in remission for three years -- but now the cancer was back.

Some believe the remark was in bad taste. Have to say, I laughed when I heard it. Then again, I don't particularly believe in celebrities and their charity crusades. Like Bono trying to save Africa, Armstrong needs a robust ego if he's to save the world from cancer.

The tricky thing is that, unlike Bono, whom as far as we know never died of hunger, Armstrong nearly died of cancer. And if I was to be struck down with a dose of the big C tomorrow, I'd be ordering a copy of It's Not About the Bike, Armstrong's apparently inspiring memoir about his cancer ordeal.

I've already read Kimmage's Rough Ride, a classic of sports literature in which he documents his struggles as a clean cyclist at the heart of that psychotic sport. When he blew the lid on it, he was ostracised by almost everyone in the sport he loved -- blacklisted, boycotted, banished. But he has fought the good fight.

Armstrong, on the other hand, is a cold fish. And when it comes to doping and cycling, I personally wouldn't believe the Lord's Prayer out of him.

So when the two came head to head at a press conference in California recently, we were rooting for Kimmage. For starters, it was a David and Goliath job. In the circles in which he moves, be they cycling, corporate or political, Armstrong is a deity: omnipotent and untouchable.

Armstrong was in Sacramento to do a meet-and-greet before the Tour of California got under way. Ivan Basso and Floyd Landis would also ride the tour. Basso's two-year suspension for doping offences had recently ended; Landis is the first winner of the Tour de France ever to be stripped of the title. Just days after he won the 2006 Tour, it was revealed that he'd tested positive. He took his case all the way to the Court of Arbitration in Sport. The evidence against him was overwhelming. Landis continues to maintain his innocence.

His two-year ban ended in January of this year and Armstrong publicly welcomed him, and Basso, back to cycling. Everything was going swimmingly in Sacramento until Kimmage had the temerity to question him. "These guys (Basso and Landis) have admitted to nothing. What is it about these dopers that you seem to admire so much?" It was an electric moment.

In reply, Armstrong first reminded the press conference of Kimmage's infamous remarks. Then he played the cancer card. "I am here to fight this disease. I am here so that I don't have to deal with it, you don't have to deal with it, none of us have to deal with it." Then, pointing his finger at Kimmage: "You are not worth the chair that you're sitting on with a statement like that, with a disease that touches everybody around the world."

Note the bullying tone. And the emotional blackmail. Then there is the Jesus complex: a man seemingly convinced that he is leading the fight against a global epidemic. The rest of it was just dumb: I wore the yellow jersey for seven years, now I'm wearing the yellow jersey in the war on cancer.

And Landis? "While some would say there is evidence against him, there is also evidence in his favour. He doesn't feel like he's guilty, he doesn't feel like he broke the rules."

So if Ben Johnson, Barry Bonds and Marion Jones don't "feel" like they're guilty, then, obviously, they're not guilty either.

The testers found traces of synthetic testosterone in Landis's urine. The sample was taken from him on the day he pulled off one of the most spectacular solo rides in Tour history. He finished nearly six minutes ahead of the peloton. It was the stage that won him the Tour. And in his blood that day were testosterone levels three times above the permitted limit.

And all Armstrong had to say about it, when questioned by

Kimmage, was that "some" people would say there was "evidence" against his old mate. But it wasn't people who were saying it -- the science said it. Presumably, he has slightly more faith in the scientists researching cancer.

But it's not about Landis, in the same way it's not about the bike: it's about the most successful cyclist ever. He has never tested positive for doping. The circumstantial evidence against him is strong, including the story, published in L'Equipe in 2005, that urine samples taken during the 1999 Tour were found to have traces of EPO when re-tested years later.

Armstrong last week announced that he will be competing in the Tour of Ireland next August. He will then headline a "global cancer summit" in Dublin, convened by the messiah himself. The problem for Kimmage and the few other dissidents on the trail of Armstrong is that drugs in sport, as an issue, is dwarfed by the cancer problem.

Armstrong never took a meaningful stand against the sickness in his own sport. But what does that matter when he is out there trying to save humanity itself?

From:

http://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/such-a-pity-lance-wont-combat-the-sickness-in-cycling-1657657.html

Chuck said...

Wow! I wonder if this is the intensity of emotional debate that once surrounded debates between science and religion like Creationism vs. Evolution...or maybe Earth Flat vs. Round? In this case Lance is the respected authority rather than religion and that level of worship seems to set the blood boiling. The whole discussion seems out of control and lacking for definitive evidence on either side.

I do not know much about cycling. I do not know much about the arguments and evidence for or against Lance, but from what I gather there exist some old samples that tested positive by European labs and there have also been some testimonials against Lance. Maybe the lab tests were inaccurate or tainted and the testimony biased and unreliable. There does seem to be legitimate jealousies or perverse incentives. On the other hand, when you see something walk like a duck then quack like a duck and swim like a duck it is time to question whether you are dealing with a duck. I am in no position to judge here, but one thing seems clear.

All this bickering supports the key thesis of the original article on this site. There is a need for independent, verifiable testing to dispel all the claims being made either way. In this day and age if there exist samples from the past they should be accurately tested and then let the chips fall where they may. That should be true for Lance or any other rider. Nobody is god and nobody is above the the truth!

Chuck

Frank Day, MD said...

Hey annonymous,

Can we agree that the most damning circumstantial evidence against Lance is that he was (and possibly still is) simply heads and shoulders better than everyone else? That might really mean something if there wasn't a published scientific paper (Coyle) that could explain his dominance, a natural improvement in efficiency equivalent to about the best that could be expected to be gained from epo.

All that other "evidence" including articles in newspapers about supposed results are pure crap. don't you bet that if those results were real and could be repeated that the French would have hung Armstrong by what used to contain his balls a long time ago?

Anonymous said...

Frank, MD

Thanks pointing that Coyle paper out - that explains things even more better. Even if guys like Marco Pantani or Bjarne Riis had Hematocrits of about 60% (not saying they took anything) there was still no way they could touch Lance who had the natural advantage due to Cancer.

People (studies/surveys) say that cyclists will dope to win even if it shortens their life. This I don't believe at all - no way - because how many of them have ever tried to get cancer? It would not be to hard to do either - just have your balls x-rayed for a week straight or glue some radioactive nugget to your scrotum. I think that theory is pure BS if you ask me.

People just don't want to except that Lance has enough talent to beat anyone on dope - no matter what they take or do. This is why he welcomes the dopers back into the peloton with open arms. He knows they can't beat him, no matter what they ingest or inject. And he knows that the race would be boring if he were winning all stages and had winning margins of 30-60 minutes. So he needs the dopers to keep things interesting - both for him, the fans and the sponsors.

This anti-doping crusade reminds of a religion - people are so blind and have blind faith in a system that is proven to be corrupt.

greenjersey said...

A regular comment from both the pro and anti Armstrong brigades is that he is the best cyclist ever. Well yes but only if you pretend that bike racing started in 1993. It is not even clear cut that Armstrong is better than Lemond. But forget about that local squabble and consider Eddy Merckx undoubtably the greatest ever. Eleven grand tours and nineteen, yes nineteen, Monuments. And Armstrong? seven grand tours and no, zero, zilch monuments. Armstrong the best ever, you're having a laugh.

Anonymous said...

To Greenjersey...

You speak too soon. Don't forget that Lance is still racing and it should be no sweat to add for more Grand Tours and start going after the single day races. All he needs to do is race 3 or 4 more years to get more monuments than Merckx and he can do that easily because he will focus less on the Tour. And that was Merckx's record when he was finished, Lance is no where near finished.

Also, regarding Greg Lemond, he said so himself, once EPO hit the peloton he was getting dropped by guys that he would normally beat. Lemond had one choice, get on EPO or quit cycling - he chose to quit.

Armstrong never had that problem. He could beat the guys on EPO no matter how high their hematocrits because of his cancer advantage.

That is proof right there that Lemond was a second class cyclist compared to Armstrong.

Given these facts Armstrong beat all those guys on EPO and Lemond could't (neither could Hinault or Merckx) Armstrong is the Greatest Cyclist in History of the World.

***It will only be a matter of time before Merckx records fall too. Look how many people have beat his hour records - oodles - so, get real, Merckx was not that good.

DaveC said...

Annonomous says…

“get real, Merckx was not that good.”

Really?

Eddy Merckx – WINS in major International bike races

Summarised from Rik Vanwalleghem's book on Merckx (The Greatest Cyclist of the 20th Century)

World Championships 3
Milan san Remo 7
Tour of Flanders 2
Paris Roubaix 3
Leige Bastogne Liege 5
Amstel Gold 2
Tour of Lombardy 2
Het Volk 2
Ghent Wevelgem 3
Fleche-Wallone 3
Paris Brussels 1
Scheldt G.P 1
Henninger Turm 1
Tour de France 5
Tour of Italy 5
Tour of Switzerland 1
Tour of Spain 1
Tour of Belgium 2
Dauhpine Libere 1
G.P. de Fourmies 1
Midi-Libre 1
Paris Nice 3
Tour de Morbihan 1
Mediterranean Tour 1
Catalan Week 2
Tour of Catalonia 1
Tour of Levante 1
Tour of Sardinia 4
Tour de Romandie 1
Paris-Luxembourg 1

There are 31 other wins in Belgium/Flanders Championship events (International) races…but I just got tired of listing them…

Oh heck..I nearly forgot; there are his major track victories…

Ghent Six days 4
Milan Six Days 1
Grenoble Six Days 2
Berlin Six Days 1
Zurich Six days 1
Munich Six Days 1
Dortmund Six Days 1
Maastricht Six Days 1
Rotterdam Six Days 1
Charlerois Six Days 1
Antwerp Six Days 3

Belgium Madisons 7
European Madisons 2

World One Hour Record

So either Lance Armstrong is going to be very busy winning bike races (the other Big ones) until he is I guess somewhere well past fifty or this is a..…could it be a…..?

Buzz Zapp…Case Closed?

Anonymous said...

Dave C,

Milan - San Remo is coming up, as well as Ghent Wevelgem and
Fleche-Wallone. In addition to the Giro and Tour de France.

Armstrong is in the best condition of his life and that will be 3 more monuments and two Grand Tours more.

Also remember, a Lance victory counts for twice what Merckx did because back then cycling was more of a recreational hobby than a profession as in this day and age. Cyclists never took it seriously and only Merckx put in any real training miles.

DaveC said...

Well Anonymous I think that you are too fanatical a supporter of LA for this to be an objective discussion. You have a blinkered outlook on LA's career/performances/abilities and are quick to write off other great cyclists (or in the case of Greg Lemond you simply trash them).
I agree it is true that professional cycling is very different now than in the 60' and 70's, and for many reasons, yet that does not make Mercks's performances any less impressive nor less unique. Also for many reasons I believe that the sheer volume of his wins accross such a variety of events and Tours will never be matched.
I know that average speeds are not the best way to compare performances since I would think there are too many variables involved (route make up and profile, level of team and individual competition so on); however I still believe that they are worth a look at - so consider this; in 1971 Merckx rode a TDF of 3608km at an average speed of 38.1km.hr-1 (in the age of 'recreational cycling' as you put it - therefore I guess inferior training methods, inferior technology, less financial motivation etc..).
In 1996 the TDF was 3907km and the winner rode at an average speed of 39.2km.hr-1. What is interesting to me though is the winner and the first three places; B.Riis, J.Ulrich, R.Virenque - it is pretty much conclusive now that those three weren't just drinking sugar water AND surely the late 90's, even by your standards, could be considered 'truly professional'. So (apparently) doped, highly talented cyclists, riding with superior technology, greater commitment, financial incentives and so on managed to improve on Merckx's best TDF average by about 3%.
My last word is that in my opinion LA is a very talented, highly disciplined, single minded, very driven, top quality cyclist. That said it is also my opinion that to win his seven Tours it is highly probable, despite his fanatical denials, that he made use of performance enhancing drugs; most likely some form of (at that stage undetectable) EPO.
Based on MY opinion I conclude that he is arguably the best (tainted) TDF rider to have ridden and won multiple TDF's in a drug darkened era of professional cycling - but the greatest cyclist ever? No, I don't think so.

The Sports Scientists said...

Hi again everyone, and thanks for all your comments here. I think this post takes the record for number of comments in our nearly two years of existence, and provides evidence that we should consider a discussion forum as we continue to grow!

I cannot even recall who said it now, but somewhere up there one of you mentioned that the original point of this post was that there is a massive need for a truly independent testing process, and that the current system is fraught with problems on many many levels. This was a correct summary of what we were trying to say.

What we did not mention in the post was anything about where Lance Armstrong lies in relation to his peers in cycling. To be sure, he is a superior athlete. One only has to look back to his early days in triathlon to understand this, because from an early age he was winning races even outside his own age group (which is how triathons are "scored").

One thing we can be sure of when it comes to exercise performance is that those who are genetically gifted enough to be at the top of their sport will continue to be so as they climb the ranks from amateur to professional. So it is not surprising that when Armstrong moved from triathlon to cycling he continued to be successful.

However when he went to Europe in the early to mid-1990s he was performing about 10% slower than the winner in all of the time trials in all the tours he competed.

How was this so? Because EPO (a)buse was rampant in the pro peloton during the 1990s. There was no test for this drug, and only a weak control method of a cyclist's hematocrit (Hct) was used to "test" for EPO use. The problem is that Hct is easily manipulated by the infusion of a few hundred milliliters of saline, and therefore it was very easy to circumvent this control.

In addition to this, the penalty for having an Hct above 50% was I think a 15 day suspension for "safety reasons" as such highly elevated Hct values mean more stress is placed on the heart. This was hardly a preventive measure as the rewards of using EPO far outweighed the penalty for getting caught---a short suspension and no public outcry or concern by the fans. Incredibly, this is similar to baseball's first set of penalties for a positive steroid test, namely, a menial suspension of a few days.

Therefore there is no reason to believe that cyclists stopped taking EPO until a test for the actual hormone was developed sometime after the year 2000 (at which time they switched over to autologous and homologous blood transfusions).

Baseball and cycling has shown us what athletes will do when not controlled, and the result, in case you live in a black hole, is that drug use (especially among the most competitive and therefore top athletes) is rampant and an "open secret" among players and officials.

So back to the early to mid-1990s when Armstrong made his European debut and was getting caned in all the time trials, performing about 10% slower than the winners. This continued until he was diagnosed with cancer in 1996, and we all (including me) read the books and know the story.

So as an exercise physiologist it is interesting to me how athletes can improve performance and how much improvement we can expect to see with various training techniques. Therefore it was really interesting to see that Lance Armstrong had a 10% improvement between 1996 and 1999, when he proceeded to win pretty much every time trial (prologues included) or finish only a few seconds behind the winner as when he lost the prologues to David Millar, David Zabriskie, and Fabian Cancellara.

So how does that work? A 10% improvement in less than two years? I think Ross mentioned up there somewhere that we just do not see those kinds of improvements at the top of any sport because the athletes are so physiologically similar that they are separated by only small margins when we test them in the lab.

So go back and look at the results for yourself and do the analysis as I have. You can find all the historical data from many years of tours at a French site called Memoire du cyclisme.

And let me add a further point about our "un-scientific" opinions as so many here have complained about our biased conclusions. The conclusions I mention above are informed by the available evidence, for example the performance analysis of past tours.

So we do not pull these things out of thin air because we have an axe to grind or for any other reason. As early as five years ago I was reading all the books, buying all the Postal and Discovery kit, and pretending I was Lance Armstrong attacking Jan Ullrich on L'Alpe du Huez when cycling up hills in Cape Town by myself. So it was a memorable and depressing day when I looked at the data and came to understand what it told me, and reached my own conclusions based on that data.

We all have the right to our own interpretation of the data, scientists or MBAs or just a cycling fans, and so long as you apply logic to your argument and refrain from name calling, you are only welcome to express those arguments here on this site. We do not have a patent on the analysis of any data, nor do we have a patent on conclusions about any data. All we have is our own opinion and interpretation.

Thanks again for all the comments here, and apologies for writing a post in the comments section! I think now I also will have to prioritize future posts, as lively and interesting as this debate has been, and keep moving forward with the mission and aims of our site.

Kind Regards,
Jonathan

Ray said...

To Frank Day MD,

It's interesting that you keep bringing up the Coyle study as a proof of -- well implying that it can actually prove something.

What I recall from the Coyle study was his peers complaining about the sub-standard way it was performed:
- Methods were not described in sufficient detail.
- Calibration information not given at all.
- Too few samples taken.
- Samples taken at weird times of the year, and never during a winning Tour.
- Some of the data used wasn't even measured in the study, but taken from reports in the media.
- Not making missing information available to his peers upon request.

But the icing on the cake: He used the wrong formula to calculate efficiency. Coyle's response: "Yeah, that's right, but it doesn't matter."

I think it's premature to draw any conclusions from the Coyle study.

Even granting that there was an 8% increase in efficiency, I would then ask:
- Is an 8% increase in efficiency unusually high? What is the average value and high values for other athletes?

I know for running, improvements in efficiency are a key source of performance improvements, once the aerobic improvements have maxed out, and that everyone improves in efficiency with enough training. Is cycling different?

We would need another comparative study to put Lance's improvements in efficiency into perspective.

Frank Day said...

The Sports Scientists said...

. . . (regarding Armstrong) "However when he went to Europe in the early to mid-1990s he was performing about 10% slower than the winner in all of the time trials in all the tours he competed.

How was this so? Because EPO (a)buse was rampant in the pro peloton during the 1990s. There was no test for this drug, and only a weak control method of a cyclist's hematocrit (Hct) was used to "test" for EPO use. The problem is that Hct is easily manipulated by the infusion of a few hundred milliliters of saline, and therefore it was very easy to circumvent this control.
"

Let me get this straight. Here Armstrong is the World Road Race Champion before he gets cancer but you are using only his improved pre and post cancer time-trial results as the evidence to suggest he doped? Is that correct? Do you think is it possible he spent some time learning to become more aerodynamic in the interim as a way of explaining his better time-trial performance after cancer than before? Now, if you have HCT levels in him that are near 50% (without having been at altitude) at the time but they are running 42% now, that would be some compelling evidence. But, I haven't seen that evidence and I doubt you have either or you would be throwing it out.

"In addition to this, the penalty for having an Hct above 50% was I think a 15 day suspension for "safety reasons" as such highly elevated Hct values mean more stress is placed on the heart. This was hardly a preventive measure as the rewards of using EPO far outweighed the penalty for getting caught---a short suspension and no public outcry or concern by the fans. Incredibly, this is similar to baseball's first set of penalties for a positive steroid test, namely, a menial suspension of a few days."

Was Armstrong ever given a 15 day suspension for having a HCT above 50%?

"Therefore there is no reason to believe that cyclists stopped taking EPO until a test for the actual hormone was developed sometime after the year 2000 (at which time they switched over to autologous and homologous blood transfusions)."

Then I take it you believe that all cyclists doped until 2000. At what level would one have to go to to find a cyclist who was not doping, according to this evidence?

"Baseball and cycling has shown us what athletes will do when not controlled, and the result, in case you live in a black hole, is that drug use (especially among the most competitive and therefore top athletes) is rampant and an "open secret" among players and officials."

I think you can add pretty much any sport to this list. It is human nature for some to try to take an unfair advantage of others by circumventing the rules. That, by itself, is not evidence that Armstrong is or was one of these individuals, IMHO. The fact that you think everyone was doping does not mean that everyone was.

"So back to the early to mid-1990s when Armstrong made his European debut and was getting caned in all the time trials, performing about 10% slower than the winners. This continued until he was diagnosed with cancer in 1996, and we all (including me) read the books and know the story.

So as an exercise physiologist it is interesting to me how athletes can improve performance and how much improvement we can expect to see with various training techniques. Therefore it was really interesting to see that Lance Armstrong had a 10% improvement between 1996 and 1999, when he proceeded to win pretty much every time trial (prologues included) or finish only a few seconds behind the winner as when he lost the prologues to David Millar, David Zabriskie, and Fabian Cancellara.
"

So, again, I take it that, to you, doping is the only explanation that can explain such an improvement in time-trial performance, an aspect of the sport which is so dependent on good aerodynamics.

"So how does that work? A 10% improvement in less than two years? I think Ross mentioned up there somewhere that we just do not see those kinds of improvements at the top of any sport because the athletes are so physiologically similar that they are separated by only small margins when we test them in the lab."

I submit a good bike fit and some time in the wind tunnel might be able to generate such an improvement in the time trial.

. . .

"And let me add a further point about our "un-scientific" opinions as so many here have complained about our biased conclusions. The conclusions I mention above are informed by the available evidence, for example the performance analysis of past tours.

So we do not pull these things out of thin air because we have an axe to grind or for any other reason. As early as five years ago I was reading all the books, buying all the Postal and Discovery kit, and pretending I was Lance Armstrong attacking Jan Ullrich on L'Alpe du Huez when cycling up hills in Cape Town by myself. So it was a memorable and depressing day when I looked at the data and came to understand what it told me, and reached my own conclusions based on that data.

We all have the right to our own interpretation of the data, scientists or MBAs or just a cycling fans, and so long as you apply logic to your argument and refrain from name calling, you are only welcome to express those arguments here on this site. We do not have a patent on the analysis of any data, nor do we have a patent on conclusions about any data. All we have is our own opinion and interpretation.
"

I think your conclusions are biased because I believe I have provided perfectly plausible explanations for the improvements you document that do not involve doping. The data you provide may be compelling to you but I suggest that is simply because you are not taking a full look at all the possible explanations. I see no data here that seriously suggests anything other than we have a genetically gifted athlete who has worked very hard to maximize every aspect of his "game". He was a world champion. His improvements in TT can easily be explained by maintaining his pre cancer power and improving his aerodynamics. His subsequent TDF domination can then be further explained by his improving his cycling efficiency and improving his power to weight ratio, as documented by Coyle.

"Thanks again for all the comments here, and apologies for writing a post in the comments section! I think now I also will have to prioritize future posts, as lively and interesting as this debate has been, and keep moving forward with the mission and aims of our site."

One of the aims of the site is to stimulate debate. Topics such as this one seem to do that very nicely.

Kind Regards,
Jonathan

Frank Day said...

Ray said:

". . .But the icing on the cake: He used the wrong formula to calculate efficiency. Coyle's response: "Yeah, that's right, but it doesn't matter.""

That is because it didn't matter. His critic's simply used a different method of calculating delta efficiency. The error the critics made was they recalculated the first calculation of Coyle and then compared it to the last calculation of Coyle to show there was no difference. However, if they had recalculated the last measurement also, the difference would have been essentially the same. His critics made a worse error in their analysis of that data than he did initially. At least Coyle was consistent.

". . .Even granting that there was an 8% increase in efficiency, I would then ask:
- Is an 8% increase in efficiency unusually high? What is the average value and high values for other athletes?

I know for running, improvements in efficiency are a key source of performance improvements, once the aerobic improvements have maxed out, and that everyone improves in efficiency with enough training. Is cycling different?"

The only things really noteworthy in all of the numbers was his change in efficiency and his weight loss while maintaining his power. While cyclists drop weight all the time such changes in efficiency are unheard of in cyclists of his calibre. It was so noteworthy that Coyle tried to hypothesize that this could only be explained by Armstrong changing the composition of the muscles in his legs. Regardless, such improvement in efficiency cannot be explained by doping.


"We would need another comparative study to put Lance's improvements in efficiency into perspective."

Don't hold your breath. I suspect this is the only time we will ever see numbers like this in any individual winning 7 TDF in a row. We are lucky to have them. They can be compared to everyone who has not done that to see what the difference might be.

Ray said...

Hi Ross and Jonathon,

Boy, I go on vacation for 10 days, and there is a huge commentary that I couldn't take part in.

I'm largely uninformed on the subject, but still believe I can contribute anyway.

I was surprised by some of the comments here, and there are too many points to rebut, but enjoyed reading the broad array of responses, stretching as far as Roswell, New Mexico, and perhaps even beyond this world, and just what seems to pass for facts for some people.

Combating the issue of drugs in sports is certainly a complex one. In a few discussions I have had, I've asked people to define what a drug is, and the definition they give, something like a foreign substance that enhance performance, would include bananas. Is the definition of drugs just an arbitrary black-list. If a new drug is not yet illegal, is it wrong? Lots of gray areas here.

I thought your original two posts asked some interesting questions. What shall we do with convicted users who have served there time? Is it correct to penalize them further? Let Dwain Chambers compete, but not in the Olympics. Those were the rules of the game for him. Why are some welcomed back, while others are scorned. Seems like multiple standards are being applied. I also appreciate your pointing out the obvious conflict of interest which incentivizes teams to conceal incriminating information.

My stance on the subject isn't completely defined, especially concerning agencies like WADA. It just seems that drugs have been overshadowing cycling and the Tour de France a little too much. Drugs and sports is not new, so I'm wondering why is it getting so much attention now? I wonder if this is simply because it makes for good media, or more cynically, if the media is being manipulated so that agencies like WADA gain more funding. Hence the timing of some of the "positive" tests to sensationalize and maximize exposure and impact, and infuriate fans into reacting.

Some other random points:
- I always thought Lance was clean, but maybe that's just wishful thinking. It would be interesting (did Jonathon say this?), to see a future post with a kind of statistical analysis that shows how unusual Lance's improvements really were. Also would be interested in some more peeks at some of the mountain of evidence against Lance (I'm largely ignorant), but maybe I can do my own research there.
- I used to think that drug testing was more conclusive. If it doesn't work, or cannot work, then maybe funding more expensive for drug testing is not the right solution.
- Hardly seems the place here to retry Landis to establish his innocence. Innocent or not, faulty lab handling or not, he was heard by an arbitration committee who had access to more data than I do, and they were not persuaded. Who am I to rejudge him? Would be interested in seeing some of the data and arguments though.

Let's see how things play out though, now that drugs are getting more visibility.

Frank Day said...

Ray wrote:

"It would be interesting (did Jonathon say this?), to see a future post with a kind of statistical analysis that shows how unusual Lance's improvements really were. Also would be interested in some more peeks at some of the mountain of evidence against Lance (I'm largely ignorant), but maybe I can do my own research there."

Nice thoughtful post overall. I give you an excerpt from the Wikipedia page on Lance:

In October 2005, in response to calls from the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for an independent investigation, the UCI appointed Dutch lawyer Emile Vrijman to investigate the handling of urine tests by the French national anti-doping laboratory, LNDD. Vrijman was head of the Dutch anti-doping agency for ten years; since then he has worked as a defense attorney defending high-profile athletes against doping charges.[41] Vrijman's report cleared Armstrong because of improper handling and testing.[42][43] The report said tests on urine samples were conducted improperly and fell so short of scientific standards that it was "completely irresponsible" to suggest they "constitute evidence of anything."[44] The recommendation of the commission's report was no disciplinary action against any rider on the basis of LNDD research. It also called upon the WADA and LNDD to submit themselves to an investigation by an outside independent authority.[45] The WADA rejected these conclusions.[46] The IOC Ethics Commission subsequently censured Dick Pound, the President of WADA and a member of the IOC, for his statements in the media that suggested wrongdoing by Armstrong.

Yes, there is so much evidence that the investigation of Lance results in censure of Pound. Mountain of evidence indeed!

Frank

Ray said...

Frank Day MD,

How sure can we be that he measured any increase in efficiency at all?

Neither Coyle nor you have bridged the gap to cover all the flaws that were identified.

Thanks for the Wikipedia excerpt. One thing for certain is that drug testing today is not highly effective at proving anything. I guess the mountain of evidence comes from other sources, like sworn testimonies, and interviews with insiders, which are not sufficient to constitute proof.

Frank Day said...

Ray wrote: "Neither Coyle nor you have bridged the gap to cover all the flaws that were identified."

It is not possible for me to bridge any gaps in Coyle's paper. But, it is not necessary as Coyle has done that quite nicely, answering all the objections of the critics. (one published objection and answer can be found here: jap.physiology.org/cgi/reprint/99/4/1630.pdf another critic and answer is here: http://www.edb.utexas.edu/coyle/content/letters%20to%20the%20editor/martin,%20quod,gore,%20coyle%202005.pdf ) If you don't accept the data for delta efficiency then accept the data for gross efficiency as there has been no objection to that number by any observer that I know of. Gross and Delta efficiency parallel each other at high loads.

Coyle is a very experienced and highly respected researcher. It is not very likely that his data on a subject such as Lance is not reliable. That is not to say there are not problems with the paper. I criticize it greatly, not for the data he collected, but for his interpretation of what that data means.

Frank

Ray said...

You simply take way too much on faith, relying on a series of plausible conjectures because Coyle has otherwise acted professionally. Why did he withhold this measurement data when requested? Why did it take a case of misconduct lodged against him, to finally produce data? Even when compelled to produce data, he only provided the 1993 measurements. Why did he withhold the other measurements? (The Australian scientists couldn't make the other calculations, because the measurements were withheld at the source!) However professional he has been otherwise is irrelevant. It has been clearly shown that this particular "case report" has been given far more credibility than it deserves.

I can only refer you back to the post and comments last September, for a more detailed point by point discussion why Coyle did not address any the objections of his critics "quite nicely".

Calibration of VO2 measurement equipment once in 1994 is not "quite nicely" addressing this objection.

Calibration of an ergonometer once in 1991, two years before any measurements were taken, is not "quite nicely" addressing this objection.

What about the VO2 measurements and weight measurements included in this "case report" that were not measured, but "simply reported" in the media?

Statistically speaking, what is the 95% confidence interval of the VO2 measurements? Of the power measurements? How about when you include the unmeasured, but passively "reported" data?

If I take for granted an 8% gross efficiency change, what can I assume is the % change for delta efficiency? Is it still 8%, or could it be 6%, or 4%, or simply statistically insignificant? I don't know -- the uncertainty should be discussed and bounded before drawing any conclusion. I might concede that there is still an improvement in efficiency, but I simply have no confidence that the magnitude is still 8%.

I wonder if we hired Emile Vrijman to independently investigate the handling of Lance's tests conducted by Coyle, if he would experience a strong sensation of "deja vu".

Frank Day said...

Ray Wrote:

"You simply take way too much on faith, relying on a series of plausible conjectures because Coyle has otherwise acted professionally. Why did he withhold this measurement data when requested? Why did it take a case of misconduct lodged against him, to finally produce data? Even when compelled to produce data, he only provided the 1993 measurements. Why did he withhold the other measurements? (The Australian scientists couldn't make the other calculations, because the measurements were withheld at the source!) However professional he has been otherwise is irrelevant. It has been clearly shown that this particular "case report" has been given far more credibility than it deserves."

I certainly cannot answer for Coyle regarding the "deficiencies" you quote. However, I suggest that perfectly innocent explanations exist and that such explanations are more likely than some conspiracy to manipulate this data.

I can only refer you back to the post and comments last September, for a more detailed point by point discussion why Coyle did not address any the objections of his critics "quite nicely".

I would also refer everyone to that dialogue. There just isn't much in this criticism.

Calibration of VO2 measurement equipment once in 1994 is not "quite nicely" addressing this objection.

Calibration of an ergonometer once in 1991, two years before any measurements were taken, is not "quite nicely" addressing this objection.

What about the VO2 measurements and weight measurements included in this "case report" that were not measured, but "simply reported" in the media?

Statistically speaking, what is the 95% confidence interval of the VO2 measurements? Of the power measurements? How about when you include the unmeasured, but passively "reported" data?"


May I remind you, this was not a scientific study but simply a reporting of the results of testing this man did on this elite cyclist over many years. It was only published because in the intervening years he became the most winning and celebrated cyclist of a generation, which made it of particular interest, especially in view of the changes in efficiency he found.

Coyle has addressed the calibration issues and he is satisfied the data is good. You are, of course, free to believe otherwise if that is your need. There simply isn't any data though to suggest that Coyle doesn't keep his equipment calibrated in a manner that would invalidate these results.

"If I take for granted an 8% gross efficiency change, what can I assume is the % change for delta efficiency? Is it still 8%, or could it be 6%, or 4%, or simply statistically insignificant? I don't know -- the uncertainty should be discussed and bounded before drawing any conclusion. I might concede that there is still an improvement in efficiency, but I simply have no confidence that the magnitude is still 8%."

Well, that is pretty easy. the difference between GE and DE is the attempt to subtract the basal metabolic demands from the total oxygen demand when calculating efficiency, trying to look at the specific cycling work efficiency. Basal metabolic oxygen consumption for someone like Lance is probably about 150 ml/minute. This is only 3% of the total oxygen consumption when working at 5 L/min. so, even if there is a large error in the basal metabolic uptake between these different tests for whatever reason it would have a tiny effect on the delta efficiency calculation and you can see that the delta efficiency calculation will be very close to and parallel the gross efficiency calculation. This broohaha over the delta efficiency calculation is a red herring. The improvement in efficiency was steady over many years and many tests. Whether the improvement in efficiency is 7.8% or 8.5%, it is large and real.

I wonder if we hired Emile Vrijman to independently investigate the handling of Lance's tests conducted by Coyle, if he would experience a strong sensation of "deja vu"."

No, I don't think so. There is a substantial difference between the requirements for forensic laboratory work and that of someone doing private testing. It just so happens though that the editors of the Journal of Applied Physiology found the data compelling enough to publish. As, they have published some of the criticism and Coyle's rebuttal. We are stuck with what we have and will have to live with it.

Frank

Ray said...

Everything is in the criticism.

I still read a lot of faith in your response, suggesting that innocent explanations exist, and believing that equipment was regularly calibrated.

Because Coyle provided insufficient data, even appending his rebuttals, it still requires faith to conclude that the 8% difference in gross efficiency is in fact mostly due to Lance, because all of the unquantified measurement errors can be ignored. That Coyle screwed up the DE equation is just the icing on the cake.

You told me that such improvements in cyclists are unheard of. I think it takes more than a set of measurements from presumably calibrated equipment over several years, sprinkled with some "hearsay" data, mixed together with faith, to show that Lance improved in a way that no one else ever has before or since.

Set your bar a little higher.

We have what we have, which is nothing.

Frank Day said...

No, we would have nothing, in the case of the Coyle data, only if Coyle had not published his testing data. With this data, we have "evidence" that could explain Lance's dominance without the need to invoke the use of performance enhancing drugs.

Now, it is possible for Coyle's data to be flawed but, I submit, that the track record of the researcher who performed the testing suggests this data is probably pretty good. It is possible it is not but that involes much more speculation, imho, than the opposite.

What is true though is what is almost "nothing" is the hard evidence that Lance is a doper, either in the past or currently. If you need to invoke doping to explain his dominance then you need to denounce the Coyle testing data.

Anonymous said...

To Frank Day:

Thanks for putting time into defending against these idiots. But I think it can be made simpler without quoting all the statistical gobbly-gook. After all statistics can say anything and are mostly meaningless. So lets just stick to the FACTS:

1] All I can say is that Lance has NEVER tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. This means they looked and found NOTHING !!!

2] Second, of all the cyclists who were accused of doping, ALL of the lab tests were deemed faulty by the regular scientific authorities. (Harvard and Belfast] All of the others were coerced making people claim something when they did not. Or people like Riis trying to get in the newspaper.

3] People like Kimmage, Lemond and Andy Hamsten are fast buck artist has beens trying to get headlines when they can't ride anymore. I have no doubt these guys are all crooks - especially Lemond at the Landis hearing with the fabricated molestation story. What the bleep does he know about cycling and doping anyway!?

4] Add to this mixture Dick Pound and Fayhey and Prudhomme all has been wanna-be athletes trying to start a new industrial complex around anti-doping. Where would Pound be without WADA anyway - pushing broom some place.

5] Okay, they got proof that Simpson took speed up the mountain stages of the Tour. He died and they checked his blood. Got him stone cold. He was guilty. After that cyclists stopped taking illegal drugs because it could kill him. I mean duh!

6] Statistics prove Lance got an 8% advantage from cancer. This is more than enough to offset any stray EPO that might have gotten into the peloton. That is a scientific fact - even if the others were hypothetically doped - they still would not stand a chance with a natural specimen like Lance.

Given all of this it is more likely that Lance is the most pristinely pure athlete in the world. He overcame cancer and now he most overcome all you idiots who claimed he doped. Who are you all going to produce next for evidence? Nostradamus?

Give the Armstrong his due and Cease and Desist!!! I hope he sues this website and all you derogatory people who post negatively about him!!! unfortunately, we have freedom of the press - so he can't. I bet you won't hear stories coming out in China or Russia like this about their athletes? It is a sad thing about the free world we live in, people can shoot their mouth off without getting called on it.

Ray said...

To Frank and "anonymous". I was only talking about the over-interpretation of Coyle's paper.

I'm actually on record here as saying I believed Lance was clean, and that hard work and seamless suits and wind-tunnels are part of his success.

To "anonymous", you should re-check your facts. I only found two.

Ray said...

So your series on aging is aging. Please hurry -- I'm not getting any younger.

-Ray

Ray said...

Ooops -- put that in the wrong place...

The Sports Scientists said...

This comment is in reply to the anonymous poster who has replied to Frank Day just above.

Everyone's comments, logical or illogical, biased or unbiased, are are welcome here. However the personal attacks you make in your comment do absolutely nothing to move your argument forward, and we have asked numerous times for readers to refrain from these personal attacks.

We have made the point repeatedly that never testing positive is a meaningless argument. To be sure, it does not indicate guilt, but please note that there has been a long line of athletes who never tested positive yet later admitted to doping---often times after adamant denials of their guilt. This list includes:

Marion Jones
Tim Montgomery
Dwain Chambers
Alex Rodriguez
The entire Festina team in 1998
Bjarne Riis
Bo Hamburger
Franky Andreau
Jorg Jaksche
David Millar
Frank Vandenbroucke
Genevieve Jeanson
Alexi Grewal
Jacques Antequil
Francesco Moser
Claudio Chiapucci
Erik Zabel
Rolf Aldag
Udo Bolts
Christian Henn
Brian Holm
Filippo Simeoni
Bert Dietz
Luc Leblanc
Per Pedersen
Laurent Roux
Gianpaolo Mondini
Philippe Gaumont
Jesús Manzano
Marc Lotz
Michele Scarponi

These athletes never once tested positive, yet admitted to using EPO and/or other drugs. So the testers were looking, and found nothing, yet all of these athletes were doping. Again, this does not prove that any athlete who passes a doping control is doping, but you must realize that this argument---"I have never tested positive"---is meaningless coming from any athlete.

In fact many have changed their approach when caught, as evidenced by some of those who tested positive in last year's tour. Cyclists such as Riccardo Ricco and Bernard Kohl tested positive and promptly admitted to taking EPO. They (or their) agent perhaps realized that using the "never tested positive" argument is baseless and without meaning.

You are correct that in America we have freedom of the press and individual expression. However the same laws that protect us in expressing our opinions also protect you in making your public personal attacks here on this site.

You refer to statistics as "gobbly-gook" yet then use them to support your own argument, saying that "Statistics prove Lance got an 8% advantage from cancer." This is classic. Use associate statistics as pure junk when used to argue against you, yet subscribe to them when you would like to make a point.

Finally, after calling us idiots and also attacking other individuals in your comment you elect to hide behind a veil of anonymity and not sign your comment.

If you choose to comment again please do not use personal attacks and we encourage you to sign your comments and take responsibility for your opinions.

Kind Regards,
Jonathan

Anonymous said...

This is just classic stuff.

a] If they never tested positive and are still guilty of doping then what is the point of testing anyways?

b] If they do test positive, and the tests are faulty (not ready for prime time) then why accuse an athlete of doping when you don't know anything but a bad test result?

c] Don't forget a confession is not proof anyone doped either. Marion Jones pled guilty to doping to avoid more prison time. People plead guilty when they have interior motives.

d] As far as statistics go: what do you have "anonymous button" on this blog if you don't want people to use it? Why condemn an anonymous poster for using a feature you offer? If the feature annoys you, then discontinue offering it. This is within your power. Isn't it easier to make this one change than chastise a whole gaggle of anonymous posters?

In summary, all I (and Lance) am advocating is an abolishment of all drug testing in sports since it is meaningless to have a positive or negative result. It is the drug testing and the drug testers (Dick Pound)and drug obsessed media (Paul Kimmage) that are ruining sports. We should go back to the time before the Festina Affair when one could really enjoy the races and not have to wait years before lawyers tell you who won or lost a race.

Signed,
Andy Monomoose

The Sports Scientists said...

Hi Andy,

Thanks for your comment.

The problem is that in the 1990s there was no test for EPO, and only "health checks" to measure the hematocrit. So no one was ever going to test positive for EPO because the test did not exist. In spite of this, a large number of cyclists from that era has confessed to abusing this drug.

Currently a test exists, and the number of positive tests has increased---although the test is not without its limitations, and many scientists (hematologists and the like) believe it is still possible to circumvent the testers by using different dosing methods that were used before they developed a test. The approach is called "micro-dosing" and involves more frequent yet smaller doses as compared to a couple of big ones in the past.

When we have a positive test, most of the time it is a done deal. Only rarely is there a legitimate problem with the analysis that results in an "A" sample positive being overturned. So the validity if the tests is not an issue.

However you have correctly identified a major problem with the current system---athletes can appeal a positive test in much the same way a criminal can appeal a conviction. The result is that as fans we are left in limbo while the legal teams are left to argue it out over the next ten years. This is a major problem which the UIC hopes to fix by implementing the biological passport system. This should provide more evidence than just a single blood test that an athlete was doping.

Your point is taken that Marion Jones might have had ulterior motives when she confessed. However this ignores the other evidence such as individual testimonies and also the performance data that suggest she was using steroids. Taken together we can believe her confession.

In addition, the cyclists from the 1990s have no incentive to confess to their EPO use. Even if retroactive testing was in place, the samples do not even exist to test. They could have kept their mouths shut and quietly gone into retirement, albeit with many questions about their performances and drug use especially if they were on the podiums.

Indeed we can prohibit anonymous posting, however normally anonymous posting is never an issue as 1) most individuals sign their comments anyway, and 2) personal attacks are rare here owing to the high intellect of our readership. The vast majority of anonymous posters make meaningful insights or add relevant points to the debate. So people are welcome to use it, but I think that most people will agree that attacking someone in anonymity is not the best practice.

Thanks again for responding.

Kind Regards,
Jonathan

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

And yes, I am being defensive, because I've only written three posts on the purpose of this site and what my approach is, yet people continue to be selective in their reading, throwing out offensive accusations of stupidity, chasing aliens and poor science. They are, I have no doubt, among the greatest minds in the world.

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Ron

I'll try, not sure how much time I'll have with the programme for the team, but I'll keep an eye out.

And I certainly won't miss the 7-star hotel - we're staying in it (yeah, I know!). Though I think (and stand corrected) there are now TWO in Dubai - a South African named Sol Kerzner opened the second one last year November, if I'm not mistaken...

Regards
Ross