Friday, April 23, 2010

From Lance to Landis; A Review

Lance Armstrong accomplished one of the most remarkable sport comebacks in history after being diagnosed with cancer. There have been a number of people who have questioned this comeback as an impossible feat; some have even accused Mr. Lance Armstrong of using a systematic doping regimen for success; although no laboratory test has detected a prohibited substance to refute Lance Armstrong's seven consecutive Tour de France victories.  However, in spite of an absence of any clinical evidence of doping, people exist who insist that the performance increases of Lance Armstrong post cancer are impossible: they have formulated an agenda based on circumstantial evidence, or an agenda based on past witness testimony of people who had intimate contact with Lance Armstrong, or teammates, or support staff, who rode for or had contact with the professional cycling teams where Lance Armstrong worked.

David Walsh author of From Lance to Landis is a person who is convinced that Lance Armstrong used prohibited substances during his remarkable Tour de France seven year reign. David Walsh wishes to convince the reader that his circumstantial evidence is enough to convince, beyond a reasonable doubt (not to a comfortable satisfaction) the veracity of his claims. Statements made by Betsy Andreu, for example, that she recalls Lance Armstrong admitting to an Indiana University examining doctor, in her presence, that he used performance enhancing drugs while riding for Team Motorola is substantial evidence supporting the doping allegations. This testimony by Betsy Andreu although interesting (Lance Armstrong would insist that her testimony is delusional at best or pernicious at worst) the so called "smoking gun" is not verified by any hospital medical records or physician citations; although such references to past use of performance enhancing drugs would have most certainly been included in Lance Armstrong's medical history. Betsy Andreu may have simply been mistaken in her recollection (Frankie Andreu as well) although it is certain that Betsy Andreu was a hateful person with a score to settle with Lance Armstrong. After all, Frankie Andreu was a domestique for Lance Armstrong during the 1999 Tour de France.  Frankie Andreu bought vials of rEPO voluntarily from a pharmacy in Switzerland, he claims to support the team, and he voluntarily used rEPO during the 1999 Tour de France.  But Betsy Andreu may have irrationally blamed Lance Armstrong after she found a vial of unused rEPO in the ice box and demanded to know from Frankie how he could climb the cols so quickly.  It is certain that Betsy Andreu wanted revenge on Lance Armstrong whom she considered the kingpin who forced his lieutenants to use dope. Also, Betsy Andreu's testimony complicates the effort to pin down what exactly Lance Armstrong did to increase his performance post-cancer. If we discard the performance enhancing drugs Betsy Andreu claims that Lance Armstrong admitted to using during the Motorola years (a 20% increase in performance due to rEPO use, for example) finding the reason for the performance increase is extremely complicated.

One in a Million? Lance Armstrong

The most pertinent and best researched chapter of the book is Lance Armstrong: One in a Million? where the SCA Promotions vs. Lance Armstrong testimony is evaluated, where the Ed Coyle weight loss/performance increase theory is so eloquently refuted, where possible physiological factors that could account for the miracle increases in the post-cancer Lance Armstrong performance are disputed, where Michael Ashenden insisted that the capillary density, lactic acid production, heart stoke, and other physiological values of Lance Armstrong were not of an exceptional athlete, and where David Walsh states his hypothesis that Michele Ferrari was the doping doctor of evil who increased Lance Armstrong's performance with a program of blood manipulation that was never detected by WADA. Micheal Ashenden also insisted in his SCA Promotions vs. Lance Armstrong testimony, after a lengthy physiological parameter evaluation of Lance Armstrong, a conviction that Lance Armstrong improved his performance by using blood manipulations. Micheal Ashenden never offers any direct evidence in support of his blood manipulation testimony, so his conclusions are speculative.  However, Micheal Ashenden was a expert paid witness for SCA Promotions, therefore it is safe to assume that his conclusions were tailored to support the SCA Promotions accusation that Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs to win six straight Tour de France titles in order to be paid a six million dollar bonus.  Unfortunately, it must also be conceded that autologus blood transfusions had no test at the time (1999-2005) so the conclusion that Michele Ferrari did not use blood transfusions to increase Lance Armstrong's performance during all of his Tour de France victories is impossible to refute, or confirm.

Ed Coyle, the originator of the weight loss/power increase theory as the causal factor in Lance Armstrong's increase in performance made several errors in his methodology.  Even though his research showed a slight decrease in weight of Lance Armstrong between 1992 and 1999, the Tour de France weights are missing.  It is impossible to maintain a Tour de France weight in the off season when Ed Coyle measured his values, so the weights he presented are questionable as evidence to support his conclusions.  Perhaps ASO has Lance Armstrong's Tour de France race weights locked away in some vault. Sampling off season weights and using an average to make a point is very unscientific, although some might argue that this is the critical point of the chronology.  David Walsh and Micheal Ashenden also insisted that Ed Coyle did not calibrate his instrumentation properly, and after a lengthy peer review of his findings, Ed Coyle admitted that his computations were in error.  Therefore the weight loss/increase in power theory advocated by Ed Coyle was a myth.

Was I convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Lance Armstrong doped after reading From Lance to Landis? No! Nice try but no cigar, there is no proof of anything.  A midnight meeting between Lance Armstrong and Michele Ferrari in some camper van in the middle of the night just before a race could provide substantial evidence of foul play.  Unfortunately, no one witnessed what Michele Ferrari and Lance Armstrong did in the camper van, although witnesses stated that Lance Armstrong emerged from the camper van in a state of euphoria.  Then there is the Lance Armstrong telephone call at the airport to Greg LeMond, where Kathy LeMond states that Greg was threatened by Lance Armstrong.  In the telephone conversation Lance Armstrong allegedly admitted to Greg LeMond that he used rEPO and that if Greg LeMond did not play ball Lance Armstrong would 'find twenty people who will state that you [LeMond] used rEPO during the Tour de France.' These events sound more mythical, as did the Betsy Andreu hospital recollection, than factual. Very good circumstantial evidence, taken in context they collectively could amount to something, but circumstantial evidence is not proof.  Reasonable people, those without an agenda, will read the book with an open eye, and think for themselves. Those with an agenda will be lead like sheep. The information is all there, read and think.