Saturday, December 12, 2009

2010; A Year of Hope For Clean Cycling?

It is a sad state of affairs this doping in cycling business. Everyone was enamored with the prospect of an Italian rider winning the Giro d' Italia, for national pride and to support the unfortunate victims of the earthquake that devastated so much of Italy. Bah! EPO-CERA was detected, the dream vaporized into thin air.

This will continue. Every time we hope for improvement, every time we dream of a clean season, people screw up. Greed is always a factor for risk taking behavior. People are so clever in applications of prohibited substance use, newly designed drugs, genetic manipulations, synthetic haemoglobin. There still is no perfect way to detect artificial growth hormone use in athletes. Test samples are stored on ice and the laboratories hope that science will catch up in time to right a wrong. Athletes who cheat roll the dice and take chances of beating the statute of limitations, hope that they will not have to forfeit prizes and money. Gamblers.

Hope that you will not be detected, perfect the methods, beat the tests. In the old days that Pat McQuaid seems to dream of, cyclists used artificial bladders to pass clean urine samples. This method was finally rectified after several cyclists were caught red handed by dutiful examining doctors. The examination process was changed to prevent these events from occurring again. But no matter how clever the examiners are, the cheaters will adapt and succeed, for a fashion.

The treat is always there. Victor Conte and Balco designed the "clear" a designer performance enhancing substance that was undetectable until an honest coach sent a sample to the United States Anti Doping Agency for laboratory examination. Next athletes thought they could use EPO-CERA because EPO-CERA stimulates red blood cell production for several weeks. Clever, trying to alter the isoform profile and metabolite syntheses by masking agents or flushing the system with water, or by other means. Fortunately for the anti-drug crusade, ROCHE developed and supplied testing data to WADA and other agencies that provided the exact molecular model to look for. Otherwise, with the lack of commitment that WADA shows toward funding of scientific studies to detect newly formulated substance enhancement use, the use of EPO-CERA and other newly synthesized performance enhancing substances would have and will continue unabated, perhaps forever.

We can only hope that 2010 will be the year when everyone will come to their senses and compete in a fair and equitable manner. This is a very desirable outcome and it could be achieved very simply. Ride clean. Resist temptation. Respect yourself and others. Give the sport of cycling some dignity.