Saturday, December 10, 2011

Alberto Contador: A Lot of Blather

Whew.  There was an incredible amount of simpering about the mistaken positive test of Alberto Contador for clenbuterol: a known anabolic steroid commonly abused in cycling to enhance performance.  Equally perplexing was the incredible amount of leniency shown by the Spanish authorities who concluded that the positive clenbuterol test could be explained by eating contaminated steak imported from Spain into France during a second rest day dinner of the 2010 Tour de France.  The Spanish Sport Federation acceptance of the Alberto Contador alibi was an incredible leap of pariah faith; meat as a source of contamination that would test positive by modern valid and reliable testing currently used by WADA accredited laboratories was declared an impossibility by some medical experts. The whole farce was compounded with an incredible exoneration by the Spanish Spot Federation that supposedly adhered, as a World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) signatory to the sacrosanct, ironclad rule of strict liability, or the notion that an athlete is responsible for the chemicals that are contained within their bodies, in proper ratios, whether legal or illegal.  The concept of strict liability was the guiding principal of the Richard Young WADA code; sacrosanct and unsuccessfully unchallenged by any athlete in the history of doping arbitration, and this bedrock principal should never be modified under any considerations ever.  There must have been a breakdown in communication, or a brief period of lunacy, by the Spanish Sport Federation who for inexplicable selfish reasons, forgot to enforce the golden standard.  WADA calls for harmony of all adherents whether it be the laboratories or case management and detractors are sadistically prodded back into line with electric devises, like cattle.

It must have been quite a shock to WADA when the Spanish decided to protect their cycling hero by accepting insidious propositions by blatantly ignoring the universal concept of strict liability; a concept that has caused an amazing amount of pain and suffering among innocent athletes who made silly mistakes or who acted in ignorance.  But under the WADA dialectic silly mistakes or ignorance are unforgivable and indicate intent.  Even in rare cases where it can be conclusively proven that intent be absent, suspensions and loss of income and prestige continues unabated, only for a shorter duration.  And this cornerstone founding principal of the war against doping; strict liability: would continue a gilded guiding principal, except for the fact that these nation states continue to insist on ignoring the obvious test results that prove doping, and substitute fictional fables in order to protect their favorite sons reputations against unfair onslaughts from vindictive skeptics who are intent upon debasing a honest athlete's character.

Not that WADA or it's signatories need any examples on how to defame character, although after the demise of Dick Pound there has been a vast improvement.  Alberto Contador and his legal team have insisted that the Court of Arbitration of Sport plug the leaks, after all, the arbitration hearings are to be held in "strict confidence" to protect the athlete from arbitrary and unfair assaults from the media, blogs, and other assorted riffraff.  Perhaps the paranoia generated from the cruel and unreasonable assault upon hapless Floyd Landis made these WADA people reconsider their own orchestration of the media and riffraff attacks.  Incredibly, in the new evolutionary theory of fairness WADA has initiated a new era of caution; warning their people to shut up and let justice prevail.

So will justice prevail?  There were hints that WADA was even considering modifying the golden standard of strict liability and concede that accidents happen even in the presence of a prohibited substance residing within the body of a "cheater," considering the formerly unheard of pleas of accident or ignorance, but only in exceptional cases, and only with certain known anabolic steroids, like clenbuterol, and only if the athlete happens to be an international favorite like Alberto Contador.  As of days of yore, all other athletes and performance enhancing substances would have to adhere to the "old standard of strict liability" and serve the minimal bans as before, without exception.  Whether modification of the strict liability rule would have been an improvement or a liability in the case of Alberto Contador, with his lame excuses, and accepting the fact that other athletes would provide similar lame excuses as to the cause of known anabolic steroid positive tests, it is difficult to conceive of a proper cost- benefit analysis as a guide for leniency in relaxation of the enforcement of strict liability rules as a proper action, considering human nature and the need to succeed under any circumstance where the ends justify the means.  So you see the modification of the rule does not seem so clear cut and may invite others to engage in practices that would support a deception of detection, a hoodwinking of the fools, and money and fame in a sport event that is based on evil acts.

In any case the Court of Arbitration of Sport decision, rightly or wrongly, will closure on Alberto Contador  soap opera.  At last.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Human Growth Hormone Testing Goes Viral

There are some new and interesting developments in anti-doping world that deserves some attention, and if some action was forthcoming instead of interminable delays there would be a need for some commentary as well.

Alberto Contador

First, there is the never ending Alberto Contador saga, which, after two years of delay and possible re-structuring of the strict liability rule appertaining to the possible accidental ingestion of clenbuterol, an anabolic steroid that promotes accelerated lean muscular mass and acts as a bronchial dilator; also a substance incidentally, that has been abused for years to gain an unfair competitive advantage in cycling; as an incredible substance that could be ingested accidentally at the dinner table, causing a false positive test, and a possible two year suspension from professional cycling.  This tale of woe could not possibly get any more bizarre, but believe it or not, a final resolution to the problem may be forthcoming in November, 2011. Break out the champagne!  An issue that, according to the history of the WADA anti-doping crusade strict liability rule, is like everything else in the WADA world, a slam dunk conviction, no need for supplemental evidence that probably will not be admitted into evidence, like an excessive level of plastics consistent with blood doping.  For as history will show with a constant consistency, a rare value in WADA, a constant, anyone who has any amount of an endogenous steroid in the body is subject to suspension, intent be damned.  Not like any endogenous substance that seems to have variable values that could sustain a averse analytical finding, based upon a weak lab document package, or no lab document package, depending on the flavor of the International Standard of the day, as interpreted by the WADA signatory of the day.

NFLPA, the NFL, and Human Growth Hormone Testing

Boomer Esiason shocked me with his well founded assertions that as much as twenty percent of all current National Football League players may be abusing human growth hormone, as he stated on a syndicated radio channel Westwood One. Boomer Esiason claims that this information comes from contacts within the professional teams.  What knowledge do these people have that support their  claims that human growth hormone abuse is as high as twenty percent of all current football players?  Are they providing the dope?  Do they know of others who are providing the dope?  Are they injecting the dope?  Boomer Esiason claims that the National Football League Players Association is dragging their feet to protect their players from testing. And depending upon the level of punishment, suspensions from games and fines, will these punishments not lead to an astronomical decline in quality of the games, chaos that will be created from absences in the rosters? These factors could devastate the game as we know it.  Who wants to watch a third string quarterback blunder away the ball with a half a dozen turnovers a game, or a defensive lineman who can't block, or a safety who can't cover a receiver?  Without the human growth hormone is the game of football going to become a second rate affair without all of the former speed and power of the former juiced athletes?   

This undocumented estimate of current use of human growth hormone within the NFL better be wrong, or there are going to be some very disappointed fantasy football fans, and a great deal of interest and revenue in the NFL is generated from fantasy football.

It is an academic argument that has no potency since there is not human growth hormone testing currently in effect in the National Football League at the present time and the arguments over whether the union is stalling for time because the players want to eliminate all of the synthetic methods, or markers, or isoforms, or metabolites of synthetic human growth hormone abuse before they agree to allow WADA accredited laboratory testing is absurd.  Probably, more important than the cheaters trying to appear innocent, is, as Boomer Esiason admits, the concern over the trustworthiness of WADA accredited laboratories, and the proven ability of WADA accredited laboratories to conduct tests in a competent fashion.  But in the rush to prove the existence of synthetic human growth hormone in players in the NFL, reasonable objections as to competence of the laboratories to measure accurately human growth hormone supported by a reasonable amount of independent peer reviewed scientific literature that demonstrate the un-contestable WADA scientific conclusions that their testing has reliability and validity seems trivial and unnecessary.  After all WADA has used the current human growth hormone testing in the Olympics without the test results being contested.  Independent peer review of WADA testing seems to be an unnecessary bother to people like Boomer Esiason, independent peer review of scientific assertions, seem more like weak fabricated excuses and stalling tactics designed to delay the commencement of human growth hormone testing. After all, the collective bargaining agreement contract between the NFL and the NFLPA called for human growth hormone testing and this testing should have been done long ago.

A wonderful mess, maybe they will resolve all of these issues and commence testing by the 2012 season, and maybe by then Alberto Contador will be stripped of two  grand tour titles.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

USADA : International Standards Need Not Apply

It is simply astounding the amount of ignorance that exists among the representatives and senators of the United States government in relation to the World Anti Doping Agency and it's signatory(s) satellite U.S. taxpayer funded organization(s) such as the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). In a rush to testing of human growth hormone (hgh) among players in the National Football League, the good representatives invited the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) Corporate Executive Officer Travis T. Tygart and several World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) officials to a tete a tete conference and demanded to know why the testing had not commenced to "protect the interest of the children from the ravages of performance enhancing use and abuse."

Forgotten in all of these assurances of the incontestability of the WADA science and test results was the athletes who, sure as twice two make four, will certainly be accused of testing above threshold for human growth hormone based upon voodoo science and a rambling disagreement on what constitutes a criteria for a positive test, and his or her name will be dragged into a media circus by the blowhard pundits on ESPN Sports Center and the "beer and brought" herd on ESPN Radio, who will quickly scatter cow pies of calumnies on the trail.

Because as the cowherd assures us, according to the bogus scientific self report questionnaire he conducted on his audience, nobody gives a crap about cycling races, but they sure do care about football.

Alright. The U.S. Congress has about as much awareness of reality as a visitor from Neptune, and they seem to forget the little guy in almost everything. They certainly forgot to invite the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), Maurice Suh, his group of concerned scientists, and worried football players who are intelligent enough not to trust WADA, the accredited laboratories, the testing, the results, the threshold values, or USADA.

Should there be concern among the players about the behavior of USADA? Absolutely. USADA has one goal, to continue it's own existence and financing by convicting athletes of doping infractions. The ends justify the means and Travis T. Tygart is a man who is not loath to circumvent the exactness of the judicial process with subterfuge if he is losing the public relations campaign. Indeed, in the Floyd Landis arbitration case Travis T. Tygart presented an argument to the American Arbitration Association that destroyed the very foundations of WADA code and International Standards.

Background: The 2006 Floyd Landis Tour de France Alternate "B" Tests. The USADA justification for the necessity of this testing, and the Floyd Landis defense counterargument.

USADA argued that since the Stage 17 carbon isotope ratio confirmation "B" test that was required to prove the existence of precursor(s), metabolite(s), marker(s), or method(s) of a prohibited substance [synthetic testosterone] were inconclusive, and because Floyd Landis challenged the methodology of the WADA accredited laboratory LNDD who performed the Stage 17 tests, that alternate "B" testing would be required on the urine samples Floyd Landis provided during Stages 11, 15, 19, and 20 of the 2006 Tour de France. USADA argued that supplemental testing would provide supplemental evidence that Floyd Landis used synthetic testosterone during the entire race. Floyd Landis and his defense team argued that the testing would not be done in a random double blind fashion, that the people doing the testing would know the identity of his samples, and that this would motivate the testers to confirm the Stage 17 adverse analytical finding. The Floyd Landis defense team also argued that there would be no "A" sample confirmation tests since it was determined that so much of the "A" sample urine(s) had been used in previous "A" sample testosterone/epitestosterone screening tests that there remained an insufficient quantities of urine for carbon isotope ratio "A" confirmation tests of the alternate "B" test results. There was another concern: the Stage 11, 15, 19, and 20 urine samples were domiciled at the WADA accredited laboratory at UCLA where they had been shipped for storage after the French WADA accredited laboratory at Chatenay-Malabry, France had done the initial "A" testosterone/epitestosterone screening tests on Stages 11, 15, 19, and 20. Unfortunately, UCLA laboratory director Don Catlin announced that the GC/MS and GC/C/IRMS would be off line and unavailable for testing due to routine maintenance, thus there would be a need for further transport of the sample(s) to a suitable WADA accredited laboratory for carbon isotope ratio testing. Due to the unavailability of the UCLA testing facility the Floyd Landis legal team also argued that the samples would encounter additional chain-of-custody problems, problems with security of the samples, and possible contamination and degradation of the samples that could result in false positive results. After the AAA panel ruled in favor of USADA Mr. Landis was given a choice of laboratories for the additional "B" sample testing, LNDD where the original tests were conducted or at the WADA accredited laboratory in Montreal, Canada. Mr. Landis objected to the Montreal laboratory because the director Ms. Christiane Ayotte had made several inflammatory statements to the press of her conviction that the stage 17 carbon isotope reflected the presence of the precursor(s), and metabolite(s) of synthetic testosterone even before the commencement of the oral Pepperdine law school arbitration arguments, and Mr. Landis was concerned that her testing would reflect her convictions. Therefore, the remaining "B" samples were tested at Chatenay-Malabry, France.

Here is the discussion in the AAA Floyd Landis Award.

a. Additional Sample Testing
31. On 27 December 2006, the Applicant notified the Respondent of its intention to
perform further analysis of the samples the Athlete had provided after seven
stages of the Tour other than Stage 17. In answer to this notification the
Respondent sought to prevent further analysis of the Respondent’s remaining B
samples from the Tour.
32. Written arguments in relation to this matter were received by the Panel on 5
February 2007 from the Respondent, 9 February from the Claimant and a Reply
was received from the Respondent on 13 February 2007. The oral arguments
were presented to the Panel on 22 & 23 February 2007.
33. In response to the Respondent’s numerous allegations regarding the flawed
testing methodology at the LNDD, the Claimant proposed to test the
Respondent’s remaining “B” samples to use as corroborative evidence in these
hearings. The Respondent’s position in relation to this matter was that the anti doping
rules prevented the Lab from testing these samples as there were no
accompanying “A” samples remaining and as such the “B” samples could not be
used as proof of a positive test. The Claimant argued however, that as a result of
its contract with the Respondent, the “B” samples were now the property of UCI
and they could do as they pleased with the Sample
. Furthermore, they would not
be using the results of these tests to charge the Athlete with an anti-doping rule
violation, but rather the results would serve as corroborative evidence in
response to the Respondent’s arguments methodologies at the
Lab were flawed.
34. The Respondent also submitted that the re-testing would not be blind and this
would significantly impede the process and would not allow for an unbiased
result. The Claimant in response however pointed out that the “B” sample
testing is rarely ever completely blind and the Athlete and/or his representative
would be present during this re-testing to ensure that the proper procedure and
protocol was followed. Accordingly, a compromise was reached between the
parties and it was decided that additional samples other than those of the Athlete
would be added to the “B” samples to create a blinded analysis.

Christopher Campbell dissented from this conclusion. Under the heading:

I. The LNDD failed to provide complete documentation on the Adverse Analytical Findings for the additional tests done on the B samples from stages 11,15, 19, and 20.

Mr. Campbell made the following rebuttal argument to the testimony of USADA witness Ms. Mongongu that the Floyd Landis carbon isotope ratio urine sample results of stages 11, 15, 19, and 20 were "adverse analytical findings."

Mr. Campbell argued that LNDD did not meet the minimum requirements to declare an adverse analytical finding on the additional tests because:

38. WADA Technical Document TD2003LDOC ("Documentation Package") mandates that all documentation packages provided shall contain the following information. "A" sample confirmation procedure data [and the]"B" sample confirmation data. The International Standards define a "confirmation procedure" as follows: An analytical test procedure whose purpose is to identify the presence of a specific prohibited substance in a sample. [Comment: A confirmation procedure may also indicate a quantity of prohibited substance greater than a threshold value or quantify the amount of a prohibited substance in a sample.]
39. Regarding the "A" sample confirmation the International Standards states presumptive identification from a screening procedure of a prohibited substance, or marker(s) of the use of a prohibited substance or method must be confirmed using a second aliquot(s) taken from the original "A" sample.
40. WADA code Article 6.4 titled "Standards for Sample Analyses and Reporting" Laboratories shall analyze doping control samples and report results in conformity with the International Standards for Laboratory Analysis.

It is interesting that in spite of the panel's assurances of anonymity of the samples, when the samples were shipped from UCLA to Chatenay-Malabry they were marked with a piece of tape, and a laboratory worker testified under oath that she knew of the identity of the person of whom the samples belonged to. Was there pressure from supervisors during the testing to confirm previous results?

Mr. Campbell also raises another pertinent issue:

42. Given the amount of tests done on the Stage 17 sample [four different testosterone/epitestosterone tests that resulted in three different test results: one was discarded: forever refuting the reliability of the testosterone/epitestosterone test forever] why did the LNDD run out of urine for the "A" samples in other stages?

Why indeed? Where was the "A" sample urine for the other stages? Gone from repeated testing to find a "surprising result?" On Stage 17, the test results read:
4.7:1, 5.1:1, and 11.4:1. Considering the incredible performance of Floyd Landis on stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France the only correct value had to be the 11.4:1 result, which was promptly reported to the press.

But, you can read the rest of the Christopher Campbell dissent for yourself and draw your own conclusions.


The arbitration panel should have never agreed to allow the additional stage "B" tests without confirmation. The "B" sample tests should never have been allowed into evidence to support the existence of doping by Floyd Landis during the 2006 Tour de France because it forever lowers the bar as to what constitutes an adherence to WADA code and International Standards by WADA accredited laboratories and the USADA. And by allowing the additional tests to be submitted as evidence the AAA panel forever undermined the protections written into the WADA code and into the International Standards to protect the athlete from prosecutorial abuse.

USADA like WADA considers every step of the judicial process from sample collection to the final award in the Court of Arbitration of Sport to be variable in nature. The number of tests can be variable, the criteria that constitutes threshold is variable, the International Standards are variable, WADA technical documents can be interpreted in a variable way, the rules can be modified at a whim for every arbitration hearing, and former awards have no bearing on the case at hand.

I am tired of ringing the clarion bell: warning if this sort of behavior on the part of USADA can happen to Floyd Landis it can happen to you. I hope the National Football League Players Association considers this sort of conduct on the part of USADA and WADA before they agree to any human growth hormone testing. You must demand that International Standards and WADA code be adhered to and not subjected to a surprise "fishing expedition" by the prosecution.

Because if you test positive to a false positive and the prosecution demands unconfirmed tests from samples that you provided in other won't stand a chance.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Congress Ignores WADA Pitfalls

In a rush to "protect the children from performance enhancing drug use" some representatives from the United States government have met with some WADA people and with Travis T. Tygart of the United States Anti-Doping Agency to pressure the National Football League to rush through WADA testing for human growth hormone (HGH), according to the New York Times. Not included in the discussions were the National Football Players Association (NFLPA), concerned NFL players, or Maurice Suh and his scientific team concerned with resolving scientific reliability and validity claims made by WADA about their human growth hormone tests. Reviewing the past history of WADA behavior in testing and adjudication of tests for performance enhancing drug use in sport, there are a rational grounds for concern.

This discussion is not intended to be a dissertation of the complexity of the scientific issues involved in determining the presence or absence of performance enhancing substances in an athlete sample. For example, in the Floyd Landis synthetic testosterone case, there were multiplicitous issues. Serious students of the anti-doping process interested in the minutiae of the scientific issues raised by the Floyd Landis case should visit the excellent and very comprehensive Internet site trust but verify. Some of the scientific issues raised by the Floyd Landis defense are very technical and very alarming and should serve as dire warnings to all athletes never to trust WADA. In a football analogy, WADA would change the rules in the middle of the game to ensure that no matter how many yards they rushed on any given play, the result would always be a first down. For the defense, every play would result in a forth down, no matter how many yards they gained. Thus, it would be impossible for WADA to lose the game.

Accusing an athlete of doping is a very serious concern and cannot be taken lightly. The burden of proof, in the current anti-doping system, is pointed straight at the athlete. The athlete has the burden to prove that the laboratory made a mistake in the testing process to clear his or her name. The athlete must provide his or her own legal counsel, expert witnesses, the athlete must pay for any antecedal information that would support his or her contention of innocence, and if an award goes in favor of the prosecution, must pay additional legal costs. Meanwhile, anti-doping agencies are flush with legal counsel, expert witnesses, and cash. It costs nothing for USADA to refuse to provide documentation under it's control to the defense, even after oral argument and a arbitration panel order, but the cost to the athlete is exorbitant; needless delay while the defense team examines the evidence to prepare a proper argument. Travis T. Tygart refused to comply with an arbitration order to release evidence to Floyd Landis until moments before the oral arguments in at the Pepperdine law school were about to commence. In a normal constitutionally convened court of law, all of the prosecution evidence would have had to be surrendered to the defense. Prosecutorial surprises, in most cases, would be deemed inadmissible as evidence.

WADA repeats tests until it gets the desirable results:

First there was the repeated testosterone/epitestosterone samples conducted by the French accredited laboratory LNDD located in Chatenay-Malabry, France. I have mentioned these tests before as an example of WADA incompetence and chicanery. As a justification for a necessity for a carbon isotope ratio test to determine the justification for the presence of synthetic testosterone in Floyd Landis, the laboratory ran three separate testosterone/epitestosterone tests to determine threshold, even though after the first sample result of 4.7:1 further tests were unnecessary. Perhaps the additional tests had an ulterior motive: press rattling sensationalism. When the 11.4:1 test result was measured, an employee of LNDD raced at full speed to the office of Amaury Sport Organization owned L'Equipe writer Damien Ressiot with the startling news. Before the ink was dry on the lab document package, news organization all over the world repeated the myth that Floyd Landis had tested positive for high levels of testosterone. And in a rush to judgment most media outlets were claiming that Floyd Landis would also test positive for synthetic testosterone as well.

WADA changes the rules on what constitutes a positive test:

There was a problem with the metabolite androstanediol in the Floyd Landis case that created a nightmare scenario for WADA. The problem centered around a generally understood criteria that for the presence of synthetic testosterone to be conclusively proven in a sample two C13 metabolites must have a three delta unit separation from C12 background endogenous metabolites to establish threshold, since synthetic testosterone is derived from C13 based supplements, stigmasterol, for example, and these supplements must be metabolized in order for it to be utilized by the body, and while being converted into energy a waste bi-product is produced, metabolite(s) of C13 based testosterone, androstanediol, 5-alpha androstanediol, and others.

Very well, the science seems quite clear and the criteria on what constituted a positive sample seemed as clear until the metabolite androstanediol did not meet the WADA established criteria for threshold. A separate tested metabolite 5-alpha androstanediol did meet the three delta unit threshold value at -6.39 delta units and was therefore not in contention. A single metabolite above threshold, however, did not meet the WADA requirement for detection of synthetic testosterone in the sample. This would require a second metabolite, androsterone, because the other two metabolites measured did not reach threshold, the delta unit separation was below three delta units. The "B" sample confirmation score for androsterone was -3.51 delta units, and at first glance one would come to the conclusion that this score was above three delta units, therefore constituting threshold. But not so, there was a catch, known as the published lab uncertainty of +/-.8 delta units, meaning that the score could be argued by the prosecution as above threshold and by the defense as below threshold, and both versions would be the correct answer.

WADA was so desperate to avoid a determination that the test was inconclusive that they changed the rules as what constitutes a positive test for synthetic testosterone by exploiting a loophole in a WADA technical document. The document stated that C13 based metabolite(s) above three delta unit threshold constitute the presence of synthetic testosterone in the sample. Therefore, the technical document did not necessarily require the presence to two metabolites above threshold.

The American Arbitration Association (AAA) Panel of Patrice Brunet and Richard McLaren agreed with the WADA single metabolite requirement over the strenuous objection of Christopher Campbell, and the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) voted against Floyd Landis in a 3-0 unanimous vote. So you see, changing the criteria on what constitutes a positive test has the most desirable results: a perfect conviction rate of "doping" athletes.

Of course, it cannot be forgotten that the actual uncertainty of LNDD carbon isotope testing was not the published value of +/-.8 delta units, but actually the measured values were incorrect by a factor of twenty percent! So all the raging academic debates that occurred during the Floyd Landis hearing were moot, uncertainty had no bearing on the case, the single metabolite 5-alpha androstanediol was so far above threshold at -6.39 delta units that it could not possibly be effected by a twenty percent uncertainty in measurement, as the Court of Arbitration of Sport pointed out in the Floyd Landis award.

WADA got lucky with Floyd Landis, he doped during the 2006 Tour de France and was caught red handed. Next time with variable rules and with repeated tests to obtain a desirable result some innocent person may be the next WADA victim. With some of the lower profile athletes who do not have the financial where with all, in the form of millions of dollars in ready cash to challenge "clear laboratory results" they may have already been victimized, helpless to defend themselves. It is imperative that the NFLPA does not become another UCI and that before any HGH testing takes place that issues in technical document wording, and other issues of this nature are addressed before testing commences, to assure players that WADA is not operating with a variable playbook that changes depending upon the results of any given test, and to assure players that WADA is adhering to it's founding principal of "harmonization" and "fair play."

The United States government needs to wake up to the problems that WADA and people like Travis T. Tygart create with unfair practices that only serve to feather their caps at the expense of athletes. Congress needs to give the defense a chance to express their concerns too, in a special meeting. Congress would be shocked to learn all that Maurice Suh knows, but perhaps they simply don't care about a "fair process." There is plenty of time to test athletes for HGH. Better is to work out all of the problems in advance before another rush to L'Equipe.

Friday, September 30, 2011

NFLPA: Stand Firm Against WADA!

This is the most amazing development, a sport union refusing to capitulate to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Forever sports have been dictated to by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and WADA under the threat of exclusion from the Olympic Games, and sports governing bodies such as the International Cycling Union (UCI) have been rendered as impotent as de-fanged, claw-less tigers. Pat McQuaid, president of the UCI, has no option but to join with the chorus of defamation of athletes, and Pat McQuaid must eagerly praise and defend WADA accredited laboratory test results; instead of defending his athletes against defamation by WADA.

Not so the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) who are fighting for their players, an original "anti-defamation league." NFLPA is demanding that WADA provide documentation related to WADA Human Growth Hormone (HGH) tests for independent scientific verification before the players union will allow WADA to conduct tests upon players in the NFL.

According to Juliet Macur of the New York Times, the NFLPA group demanding the documents is being lead by former Floyd Landis lead attorney Maurice Suh. Mr. Suh is complaining that WADA is refusing to release documents required to validate through independent research their scientific suppositions pertaining to HGH testing. Mr. Suh is also complaining that without the documentation, once a case reaches arbitration there will be no scientific basis to challenge a false positive test result.

Athletes the world over should applaud the efforts of the NFLPA scientific group and encourage them to continue to pressure WADA for scientific information. If the NFLPA forces WADA to lay their cards on the table before the case goes to arbitration this will save athletes millions of dollars in legal expenses and fees. These issues of scientific validity and reliability of HGH testing must be resolved by independent analysis of the data before the first drop of blood is drawn and before WADA tests the first sample, otherwise the testing will never be verified by independent means. WADA will enforce omerta, the code of silence among it's operatives and challenges by innocent athletes of WADA accredited laboratory generated false positive results will be so expensive and time consuming as to be prohibitive. Dr. Olivier Rabin and David Howman will be popping champagne corks over the successful prosecution of another convicted "doper," who lacked the time, energy, and resources to challenge "a clear laboratory result."

From the New York Times:

WADA officials said the false-positive rate [of WADA HGH tests] is as least one in 10,000 or that the test is 99.99 percent accurate.

Fine. That is a perfectly acceptable statement taken on trust. But as Ronald Reagan so aptly stated, there is a need to verify.

From the New York Times:

The Union said it wants to prove that false positive rate itself by letting its scientists examine the raw data. That includes data regarding the population studies done on athletes that helped set the limit that triggers a positive HGH test.

Ah yes, the classic threshold argument. What ratio of 22 kilodaltons to 20 kilodaltons constitutes threshold and synthetic HGH use? If the threshold is lowered, is it not also obvious to conclude that the false positive rate will increase?

From the New York Times: WADA science director Dr. Olivier Rabin replied to the NFLPA requests for documents this way:

What they want to do is to dig into more details and more things and we say that is not necessary because you have seen our results and we aren't hiding anything from you.

Trust us. You have seen our results and you have to accept our false positive rate. Therefore, you need not verify our conclusions through independent examination of the evidence. If Dr. Rabin offered me prime ocean front property in Arizona based upon this logic, I would refuse to cut him a check until there was independent verification of the property. Thus the problem: WADA truth may be nothing more than opinion, spin, and blue smoke blown up your posterior. Best to make sure through independent verification the validity of preposterous statements rather than to be swindled by deceptive promises that may not exist anywhere else but in WADA reality.

From the New York Times: Dr. Rabin raises another concern.

We are also very careful because people can misuse the information we used to generate the test. We have to protect our information from people who may be advising the athlete on how to cheat.

Yes, of course. Independent examination of WADA raw testing data is going to provide doping doctors with clues on how to deceive WADA laboratory detection! How quaint. That statement is quite scatological and even calamitous if it is directed at Maurice Suh and his independent group of scientific investigators. Even libelous!

This dispute is would be hilarious if so much was not at stake. But I have a solution that would go far to resolve the reliability question, a simple experiment.

A control sample containing a given ratio of 20 to 22 kilodalton isomers of HGH would be distributed to every WADA accredited lab in the world. This would be a simple double blind study because the person providing the sample to the laboratory and the people doing the testing would be blind as to what the sample contained. The instructions would read "test it, and keep a complete laboratory record of your work." At the conclusion of the testing all of the results would be shipped to Maurice Suh and his scientific team for analysis along with a team of WADA scientific experts. If all the laboratories have identical results this would prove once and for all that the test is reliable. If there were many disparate results this would suggest the following possibilities:
1) The test is unreliable.
2) A laboratory or several laboratories doing the testing are incompetent.
3) Therefore: any single result could be construed as a false positive result.

A test is only as good as the person doing the testing. If I hand a person a piece of paper with a one inch line drawn upon it and a ruler, and tell him to measure the line three times, the measurement should be one inch three times. If the measurements do not equal one inch every time, then I can conclude that the problem is not with the line or the ruler, but with the person doing the measuring.

Yes. WADA accredited laboratory Chatenay-Malabry did three testosterone/epitestosterone measurements on one urine sample of Floyd Landis and arrived a three different results. There is a great deal of certainty that the urine sample heated up during the testing and provided at least two false positive results. So, you see, WADA accredited laboratories are capable of making mistakes. WADA accredited laboratories are fallible and capable of generating false positive results and never should be used to test cyclists, football players, or any other athlete.

WADA should not object to my little reliability experiment should they? There is still a question of validity which would not by proven with my experiment, but that is a topic for another day.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The NFL and WADA: A Unholy Alliance?

Football? For your information I am a J-E-T-S fan. Naturally, the Patriot and Dolphin fans will think I am an empty concrete head. Unlike some asinine egocentric pundits, I embrace more than one sport and I worry about the consequences of dubious performance enhancing drug use and testing at all times, in all sports.

USA Today has an outstanding story about the current brouhaha over human growth hormone testing that was negotiated between the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). There seems to be questions raised by the players union over the validity and reliability of the WADA HGH testing.

NFLPA has requested WADA to provide documents related to the scientific validity of the WADA HGH testing, according to NFLPA spokesman George Atallah. To quote from the USA Today article:

The players have asked WADA repeatedly for information related to their testing program. Those requests have been denied. For us to move forward with a fair, safe and effective testing program, it is critical that we receive that information.

David Howman WADA director general responded to the NFLPA request:

The union is seeking information that does not exist. There is nothing that we can give them.

Welcome NFLPA to WADA world, the land of fruits and nuts! It is reasonable, prudent, and justified to question WADA about the reliability and validity of their HGH testing in advance of any testing of NFL players. Why? Because if you don't work out ironclad legally incontestable stipulations with WADA, once they get their foot in the door, it will be much too late, too expensive, of too long duration, and too litigious to force them to provide legal documents to justify their methodology and laboratory practice to the defense, if, an athlete contests WADA laboratory results.

NFLPA has a reasons to fear for their players, but there is hope depending upon how NFL commissioner Roger Goodell deals with with truculent WADA director general David Howman. The best possible result for the NFL would be to force WADA to comply with NFL requests for information in an ironclad non negotiable agreement. The NFL is not an Olympic sport and, therefore, must be exempt from International Olympic Committee (IOC) blackmail. The case should be an internal NFL matter exempt from the WADA strict liability rule. If commissioner Roger Goodell acts as czar, if commissioner Roger Goodell imposes a sanction after a positive test for HGH, and if the sanction is contested by a player, in the interest of fairness, he must demand all of the relevant lab document package information be released to the league, and, any other requested information that pertains to WADA accredited laboratory testing that could be contested by the athlete. WADA would also be forced to comply with NFL requests for information pertaining to adherence to International Standards for Testing (IST) or Laboratories (ISL), or to issues pertaining to calibration of equipment, chain-of-custody, security of the samples, or to any other information that would be considered germane to a case. Then the NFL could provide all of these requested documents to the defense team for consideration, before a potential arbitration hearing or civil trial could be convened. Of course, this may force WADA laboratories to become a transparent organization for the first time in history, the sloppy laboratory practices exposed, the cover-ups exposed, the whole system vulnerable, unprotected by the IOC umbrella.

Wouldn't it be better for the NFL to reconsider the necessity of using WADA accredited laboratories UCLA and UTAH (PAC-12!) and instead seek another organization with an accreditation in International Standards for Laboratories and Standards, and avoid all of this nonsense?

Because the scientific issues of HGH testing seem to be very straight forward according to David Burns, pathologist, University of Virgina:

HGH comes in two isoforms weight 20 or 22 kilodaltons. Synthetic HGH comes in only one weight or the other and can't easily be mixed to achieve the "proper ratio."

The proper ratio? Whatever that means. The NFLPA wants a population study done to establish a "baseline," rather than to accept an arbitrary "normal" physiological "range."

Perhaps the NFL could establish the NFL Biological Passport and establish a baseline for all NFL players. The concept seems so basic, the International Cycling Union (UCI) has used one for years, they have even suspended cyclists in the absence of a "clear laboratory result," based upon red flag tendencies voted upon by a committee convened for the purpose to establish the presence of doping. And the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) has determined that banishment of riders by committee consensus is appropriate, incontestable, and has no appeal to a higher power! Of course, the NFL does not come under the jurisdiction of the UCI or the CAS, so, they can invent their own committee to establish doping offenses based upon suspect biological parameters, if desired. And they could even convict some poor guy from the practice squad and use him as an example of how successful the program is, and how this justifies the contribution made to the program by all of the teams in the NFL. Besides, if you are going to select a scapegoat you sure are not going to highlight film suspect values from Payton Manning or Aaron Rogers, and you sure are not going to use them as examples of dopers in the NFL, even if you are convinced that they are using HGH, because they put butts in seats and generate revenues. In sport, money is the bottom line. In football, careers are short, competition is intense, performance is demanded in a violent environment. In football, injury is a common occurrence, and injuries can terminate lucrative contracts. So the goal is to recover as quickly as possible from injury, and HGH has been alleged to speed recovery. Therefore, there is a temptation to cheat! Baseline scores are all well and good, but be careful what you wish for, baselines can be manipulated by micro-dosing of prohibited drugs, which make individual differences meaningless, and a biological passport system can be manipulated in the interests of money. For example, WADA has an interest to modify the strict liability rule in the interests of a single athlete, Alberto Contador, because the organizers of the Tour de France are worried that even a one year suspension of a Spanish cycling idol, required under the WADA strict liability rule, would cause the television stations in Spain to stop televising the race like the German television stations did a couple of years ago. And non televised races cost millions of Euros in sponsorship fees and advertising!

Roger Goodell, don't invite corruption to stain the shield. Dump WADA before it is too late.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Cycling: Doping Femme Fatale?

Just when you thought the doping news was on the wane, unexpected things happen. Jeanne Longo, the French female cycling sensation withdraws from the UCI Road World Championships after allegations that her husband and coach Patrice Ciprelli was linked to a purchase of rEPO in 2007. To make matters worse, the French Cycling Federation (FFC) has reported that Jeanne Longo has missed three random out-of-competition drug tests because her whereabouts were unknown. The FFC has announced that they are considering disciplinary action that may result in a two year suspension.

Does it not seem suspicious that a fifty two year old woman is trouncing young twenty something femme fatales, in their primes, at the height of their athletic abilities, in a time trial, with a normal physiology? Doubtful. In any event, this episode reminds me of Michael Rasmussen, who missed random out-of-competition tests, misreported his whereabouts, and then was fired by Rabobank during the 2007 Tour de France while wearing the malliot jaune. Michael Rasmussen was and then suspended for two years by the Monaco Cycling Federation. The Michael Rasmussen suspension was affirmed by the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) on appeal. And under normal conditions the fate of Jeanne Longo seems certain, but...

These are strange days. WADA has gone off the deep end by admitting that athletes can be contaminated by performance enhancing drugs without wilful intent to increase performance. This accidental contact seems to be limited to a single drug, clenbuterol: a drug that theoretically could be transmitted from a contaminated beef stake into an athlete by ingestion. However, this hypothetical contamination by ingestion argument is not shared by all biochemists, some experts have reported that for a beef stake to infect an athlete, the concentration of clenbuterol present in the meat would be toxic enough to kill the athlete.

Well, this is certainly a curious argument and one wonders why WADA would suddenly consider a single anabolic steroid beyond the Richard Young standard of strict liability. One wonders if there is not some conflict of interest involved here. Perhaps the motive is to protect a single athlete? Never, in all the years of the current anti-doping Inquisition, has a single athlete escaped the wrath of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), WADA, and the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS). Never have the powers relented and accepted a rational argument in a humane fashion under the declaration of human rights.

Until now! It should be obvious to everyone that WADA and the UCI never had any interest in appealing the Spanish Sport Federation (RFEC) exoneration of Alberto Contador. Now, WADA wants to exempt clenbuterol from the strict liability requirement before his case is heard before the CAS....where under appropriate pressure there is a high probability that the case will be dismissed.

Why? Because WADA wants only one disgraced Tour de France champion who will live in infamy for doping...the son of a poor American Mennonite farmer, Floyd Landis: a man who was vilified in the most inhumane way by WADA, USADA, the UCI, and the CAS. Unfortunately, during that period they were burning one hundred heretics a day at the stake during the splendid auto de fe.

But, when a European prince is accused of wrong doing and faces certain expulsion, WADA has suddenly abandoned the stake in the interests of humanity. Ye reek of hypocrisy.

Behind me hence, Satan. If I were running the UCI, association with the IOC and their maniacal satellites would terminate henceforth. The IOC thinks that the UCI and many nation states can be blackmailed and forced to comply with their agenda as signatories; their threat? submit or be excluded from Olympic athletic competition. I would call their bluff, begone! cycling would end the incestuous relationship with WADA. WADA accredited laboratories would be excluded from all cycling testing, including Tour de France testing, and replaced with competent testing laboratories from internationally accredited organizations independent of WADA and the IOC. Appeals of decisions of national cycling federations would be directed to an arbitration panel independent of WADA. If, in retaliation, the IOC decided to eliminate all cycling sport from the Olympics as punishment, the UCI would encourage outraged cycling fanatics to demand that the sport of cycling be returned to it's rightful place in the pantheon. Then the UCI would demand that the IOC publicly apologize to the riders and their supporters, then demand that the IOC make further concessions.

If the national cycling federations insist upon protecting their favorite sons with outrageous exoneration of "clear laboratory results" then the UCI would be responsible for the direction of the final appeal to an judicial review board independent of the UCI, the IOC, and their alphabet soup affiliates. Got it?

Good. And don't even think of doing Jeanne Longo any special favors!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

WADA: The Death of Strict Liability?

Wow, astounding news. WADA is considering relaxing the strict liability rule for clenbuterol, a prohibited substance, anabolic steroid, and bronchodilator that has been abused among professional cyclists to increase performance for years. The pretext for relaxing the rule comes under the auspices of accidental ingestion by athletes of the drug through contaminated meat products. According to the British Broadcasting System Radio large quantities of clenbuterol are used in China and Mexico to induce lean muscle mass among cattle destined for slaughter.

Wonderful. WADA has finally admitted that the draconian, unreasonable strict liability ethos of mere presence of a prohibited substance detected in an athlete constitutes a grounds for criminal culpability and a grounds for punishment; regardless of intent. For years WADA has treated athletes who by accident came into contact with a prohibited substances through ignorance, or by chance, or through the carelessness of pharmaceutical companies, or because of changes in chemical formulations; the same way as they they treated athletes who used prohibited substances to gain an unfair advantage. Even in cases where it was clear that the athlete was not to blame; WADA still exacted a year long suspension.

This farce has always been considered as an unfair judicial process that dehumanizes the athlete, subjects the athlete to prolonged media attacks, introduces into the process unfair characterizations and innuendos, and jeopardizes future career opportunities. Also, the concept of strict liability exacts an outrageously large and prolonged financial burden on the athlete in legal expenses, a financial burden that is not equally shared by the anti-doping authorities who are publicly financed. Cases that are complex in nature may require complicated arbitration rulings, additional testing, discovery challenges, appeals: all the while the athlete is expected to live in limbo as to the final resolution of his or her case. Certain cases have had litigation costs into the millions of dollars, and have taken over to two years to resolve.

It is commendable that the WADA executive committee should consider allowing for a possible extenuation in the case of accidental exposure to clenbuterol; but why not expand the same reasoning to include all substances on the prohibited list? It is as likely to be accidentally exposed to one drug as another; and in the interests of harmony all accidental exposure should be treated in an equal fashion.

However, there is the danger that in reducing the criteria of strict liability for prohibited drugs detected, to a new standard of drugs detected explained away by an argument of accidental exposure; that this relaxation in policy will encourage recreant behavior by athletes, team doctors, professional medical consultants, or coaches, who may encourage the use of micro dosing techniques; in effect, rolling the dice in the hope of foiling the current doping detection methods with an obvious intent to gain an unfair advantage over the competition. And, as in the case of clenbuterol, once the genie is out of the bottle, it is most convenient to explain to the anti-doping federation that the meat was most unfortunately imported from China, and shipped to the dinner table in a hermetically sealed blood transfusion bag. A preposterous story of this nature attempts not only to justify the presence of a drug, but even better, the unusually high level of plastic residues found in blood and urine tests of this hypothetical athlete. And, of course, this fable explains away everything in a most convenient fashion. If this fable is successful in eliciting an exoneration by the anti-doping agency responsible for case management of the athlete, instead of a suspension for the athlete, this will encourage fables of a similar origin. Fabricated excuses will be invented ever and anon every time a doping strategy is detected by the laboratories.

Catch-22, damned if you do, damned if you don't. There are perils in both arguments. But the reform of the WADA code has taken much too long to evolve.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

1987 Trek 1000

Facts about the old classic aluminum frame trek bicycles link here.

Parts list:

Bontrager handlebar gel tape.
Cateye Enduro 8 cycling computer.
Suntour Cyclone 7000 front and real derailleurs.
Suntour 6 speed freewheel.
Decals: Trek (white with gold streamers.)
Down Tube Shifters: Suntour Cyclone 7000 (black/gray.)
Side Pull Breaks: Dia-Comp Alpha-Tau 400 (black with white lettering.) Date Stamp B86.
SR Sakae "250" Oval Tech chain wheel rings: 52-42.
Matrix Titan S Wheels. Made by Tru America, Waterloo, Wisconsin. (black rims)
Trek TX Aluminum Alloy Tubing.
Paint: metallic gray/gloss black.
Pedals: Shimano 105.

Here are some updated photographs of my 1987 Trek 1000 Aluminum Tube Bicycle. The bicycle has one drawback, poor acceleration off the line, and the SR Oval Tech chain wheels are difficult to adjust to, but they were in vogue once. Compare to Shimano Biopace. At a certain point in the stroke, the oval wheels were supposed to increase power from a 52 to 53, or a 42 to a 43. I doubt whether an increase in power is helpful on a difficult mountain climb, and there have been suggestions of knee damage with oval chain wheels.

This bike is in excellent condition and has received many flattering complements from people. Yes, the bicycle and the Matrix wheel set are original and were built in the United States of America at Waterloo, Wisconsin. Nowadays, Trek is a huge behemoth and the lower end Trek bicycles are built in China.  Bikezilla thinks the imported 1000's are junk.

Aluminum frames have a very short lifespan, about five years. Every time I rebuild an old bike it is like rolling the dice, you never know when the frame will break, you never know what people did to the bike before you found it, and believe me, I have had steel frames break at the most unexpected moments. But as Tommy Simpson says, get off the pavement, dust yourself off, and "put me back on my bloody bike."

Notice the Shimano 105 pedals and the beautiful, exceptional paint job.

Notice the unique front derailleur mount.  Two hex screws inserted into the seat tube.  Suntour Cyclone 7000 derailluer.  Matrix Titan S Wheels.

Trek TX Aluminum Alloy Tubing

SR "250" Oval Tech Chain rings 52-42 and Suntour Cyclone 7000 Front derailleur.

The classic steering tube Trek logo.

White decals with gold streamers. Down tube shifters. Suntour Cyclone 7000.

Suntour cyclone 7000 real derailleur and Suntour 6 speed freewheel.

The cockpit.  Bontranger gel tape.  Cateye Enduro 8 Cycling computer.

Aluminum spelled out across the top tube, 1000 on the chain stay.

The side pull breaks are Dia-Comp Alpha-II, black with white lettering.

Thanks for looking at my steed!  Have a nice bicycle ride today!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tour of Utah: Stage 4 Photographs

Yes, the Tour of Utah is over and yes, defending champion Levi Leipheimer won again. The results of Stage 4 link here.

Stage 4 of the Tour of Utah consisted of a loop throughout the downtown area with climbs and descents with varying degrees of difficulty. Some of these photographs were taken at the intersection of 11th Avenue and Virgina Street and others were taken at President's Circle on the University of Utah campus, they will be marked accordingly. The photographs show the lead group followed by the chase group for a few of the laps, stragglers are not shown. Although the quality of the photographs are limited due to an archaic digital camera shutter speed, they are shown as a part of the historical record, and serve to document the changing composition of the pack during a criterium style race.

The Stage 4 temperature was around 98 degrees Fahrenheit. The pavement was dissolving in some places on the Virgina Street descent with an oily, slick, shiny sheen. I can verify this fact from personal race time experimentation, because after watching a couple of laps on 11th Avenue, I told a race marshal that I was going to ride down to President's Circle via Virgina Street. Happily, I hopped on my trusty steed and loosened the reigns, zoom! On the descent I felt just like Joseba Beloki moments before a momentous crash. Very lightly feathering the breaks, my cycling computer instantly hit 34.5 miles per hour, vortices's and eddies of air streamed off my body into space. Exhilarating! No time for riding in the drops, no time for an aerodynamic tuck. Suddenly, I spied a policeman frantically waving an orange flag and blowing a whistle, at me! The police ordered me instantly to exit the course at 5th Avenue thus ending the experiment, but unimpeded, I could have rode down Virginia Street, up University Street, and in triumph around President's Circle like one of my heroes without interfering with the race in any way, shape, or form.

Imagine the riders drafting in the sweet spot down that hill on 53x11 carbon fiber steeds. Whee!

For general information: Ski Utah had some of the men's team riding the course handing out long red plastic horns. I shook my head "no." I didn't want to be any part of the girl who kicked the hornets' nest.

Steve Miller would do every radio race fan a favor and fire 1320 KFNZ. It is obvious to every professional bicycle racing fan that the local KFNZ sport jocks know nothing of bicycle racing and it seems too much of an effort for the Tour of Utah to either hire or provide a professional racer to explain stage racing tactics to them. KFNZ has an idiot who can croon out refrains of Queen, [Bi-screech-cycle!] and then giggle uncontrollably for fifteen minutes, but KFNZ does not have five minutes to spare during a local show to include an exclusive Tour of Utah segment that contains an intelligent discussion of the daily stage, the general overall classification, the teams, and other rudimentary points of the race. Unfortunately, in addition, the Tour of Utah real time race updates were so rare that it did not seem worth the time to listen to the third rate rants and obscene shouting arguments over every trivial point of the local Brigham Young University versus University of Utah rivalry that seems to obsess these people.

All in all, the Tour of Utah seemed to pass like a thief in the night, but one stage was better than nothing at all, since unlike years past, the prologue and most of the stages no longer funnel into Salt Lake City. Maybe the expanded stages to include more of the state was an improvement, it is probably a matter of perspective.

Lap 1. 11th Avenue and Virgina Street. Here comes the pack!

The team cars. Lap 1. 11th Avenue and Virgina Street. At the turn pandemonium ensued with screaming breaks and several near collisions as riders and team cars fought for position.

President's circle. University of Utah Campus. The lead group riding hard, the gap board read 2:20.

Team Radio Shack setting the chase tempo.

The breakaway group: "Paco" Mancebo attacks out of the saddle!

The pack descends from President's circle, across University Street, and down 200 South.

Stage 4 had 7.4 laps around the loop, I think this is the end of the chase group.

Team Radioshack on the front. Yes, that is Levi Leipheimer in yellow, and yes alumni, that is the Park Building.

Thanks to all the teams and riders who participated in the 2011 Tour of Utah. See you all next year!

Monday, August 8, 2011

2011 Tour of Utah Preview

The 2011 Tour of Utah touted as America's Toughest Stage Race, with thirty thousand feet of climbing, begins with a prologue time trial at Park City, Utah, on August 9, 2011. The race has been updated to from a USA Cycling sanctioned race, to UCI 2.1, which has increased the stature of the race, and the quality and number of participating teams. The course has been altered significantly, the Ogden, Morgan, Big Mountain, Emigration Canyon, Research Park stage has been changed to a loop starting and ending in Ogden, Utah. And the downtown criterium that circled in a flat loop around the Salt Lake City Public Library has been expanded to include a very large area downtown, with a steep uphill wall past the Utah State Capitol Building on Bonneville Boulevard, a loop and descent to flat riding past the Salt Lake City Cemetery on 11th Avenue, then a quick hair raising descent down Virgina Street, to a turnaround point on President's Circle on the University of Utah Campus, then a short and quick descent to South Temple and flat riding with a slight downhill slope back to Bonneville Boulevard and back up the wall. Virgina street seems to have a very rough pavement surface with numerous exposed sewer lids, beware! but the University of Utah seems to be engaged in a resurfacing project of President's Circle, for aesthetic purposes? the condition of South Temple looks bad in some spots too.

The time trial at Miller Sports Park has not changed and the queen stage up Little Cottonwood Canyon has not changed.

Who will win the 2011 Tour of Utah? The best team, if everyone stays healthy, would be BMC, with Jeff Louder, Winner of the 2008 Tour of Utah. Brent Bookwalter, and George Hincapie. In 2010, George Hincapie had an unexpected crash and withdrawal from the Tour Of Utah after a freak accident on the Mount Nebo climb which injured his knee. Nevertheless, BMC has the most experienced team and should be dangerous contenders.

Team Radioshack has fielded a team with defending Tour of Utah champion Levi Leipheimer and rock hard teammate Jason McCartny. Even though Levi Leipheimer did not have an over successful 2011 Tour de France, suffering from multiple crashes, and finishing the race twenty minutes behind race leader Cadel Evans, he should still be regarded as the favorite to win the 2011 Tour of Utah.

Then there is pure climber Mancebo Francisco "Paco" Perez the winner of the 2009 Tour of Utah and runner up in the 2010 Tour of Utah. If there is not a major accident or illness the race may come down to a duel up Little Cottonwood Canyon in queen stage 5 between Levi Leipheimer and "Paco."

However, there are other competent contenders who could throw a wrench in the mix. Garmin-Cervelo sports Christian Vande Velde cannot be ignored, a very consistent, tough UCI pro tour rider. United Health Care features Rory Suterland a exceptional professional with a very extensive history of success. And HTC Highroad features Danny Pate who was under twenty three time trial champion, who should not be considered a threat on general classification, but who could win the time trial stages and provide a great deal of entertainment for raced starved fans. Then there is the wild card team Gobernacion De Antioquia-Indeportes Antio with a group of Coumbian riders born to climb and an unknown factor...

The Final Podium

1) Francisco "Paco" Mancebo Perez
2) Levi Leipheimer
3) Christian Vande Velde

See you there!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cadel! Cadel! Cadel!

Abandon hope all who enter here

Or the admonition written on the gate to sinners destined to hell, in the epic poem The Inferno. Indeed, there were doubters, cynical people who insisted, with some justification, that the Australian sensation Cadel Evans would falter somewhere on the torturous cols of the Alps. There was some very strange behavior on the Alpine climbs: on the south side of the Galibier Alberto Contador struggles to survive, on the north side of the Galibier Alberto Contador attacks then inexplicably soars up L'AlpeD'Huez like a falcon. Thomas Voeckler crashes his bicycle into a roadside automobile, he loses contact with Alberto Contador on the Galibier and slams his water bottle into the pavement in frustration, his legs finally lock up on L'AlpeD'Huez, and after ten heroic days his quest for the malliot jaune ends. Then there was the bewildering, almost fatal tactical blunder. On the col Izoard, thirty miles from the finish, Andy Schleck attacked the Evans group and amazingly no one responded. This was a brilliant move by Leopard Trek because Andy Schleck joined a teammate down the course who had escaped from the peloton in an earlier breakaway. Therefore, Andy Schleck rode as a protected rider: paced and sheltered from the wind by his teammate. Meanwhile, Cadel Evans seemed to be waiting for someone to chase down Andy Schleck who was gaining more and more time, and when nobody responded, he was forced to lead the chase himself, unprotected: fighting the wind, in a brutal out of the saddle effort. This worked to the advantage of Frank Schleck who rode protected in the group and was required to do no work to keep pace. What happened here? Obviously, Frank Schleck was not going to chase his brother and teammate. Thomas Voeckler was riding on borrowed time, so he had no inclination to chase. The other riders in the group were not serious enough contenders in the general classification to have an incentive to chase. There is unwritten etiquette in cycling races: there comes a time in every Tour de France where the riders will back off and let the two men with the highest certainty to win fight: mano a mano, in single combat. The reasoning: if Cadel Evans wants to win the Tour de France he has to prove it by chasing down Andy Schleck by himself, without help, and if he founders he will get no sympathy from us! It is astonishing that Cadel Evans and his team did not realise the danger and the implications of not responding in a responsible manner. Andy Schleck gained 2:15 on the col Izoard, won the stage, and moved into second place in general classification. Frank Schleck moved into third place in general classification, and Cadel Evans dropped from second to fourth in general classification. Malliot Jaune? Thomas Voeckler.

In retrospect none of this mattered. Andy Schleck was crowned malliot jaune on L'AlpeD'Huez after Thomas Voeckler faltered. But the critical time in general classification between the Schleck brothers and Cadel Evans did not change on L'AlpeD'Huez. The "race of truth" would decide the issue once and for all.

Cadel Evans standing on the podium, on the Champs Elysees, in Paris, malliot jaune. A proud man. There is hope for cycling yet.

Andy Schleck will win the Tour de France. Andy Schleck is most likely the true winner of the 2010 Tour de France. There is a WADA doping appeal pending in the CAS against Alberto Contador. Abandon hope all who cheat here?

Au revoir mesdames et messieurs until next year.

Next stop? The Tour of Utah.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2011 Tour de France: Second Rest Day Reflections

The second rest day of the 2011 Tour de France is past; hopefully without a performance enhancing repast as of days of yore. Very suspicious the performance of past champion Alberto Contador: in the early stages he suffered from numerous crashes and bruised his knee, he looked weak and unable to keep pace with the attacks of Andy and Frank Schleck, he lost time, he looked cooked. But wonders! After the second rest day Alberto Contador seemed to regain his form, attacking on the Category 2 Col de Manse, out of the saddle in explosive bursts, only Samuel Sanchez and Cadel Evans were able to keep pace. The Schleck brothers were dropped like a rock. Perhaps this recovery in the performance of Alberto Contador is a little too unusual? It would be no surprise to anyone, given the past doping history of Alberto Contador, if Christian Prudhomme arranged UCI and WADA sanctioned anti-doping chaperons to sprint to the finish line, urine sample beakers in hand, and escort Alberto Contador to dopage control for a sample forthwith! It is equally astonishing that the French gendarme did not invite themselves to the second rest day Saxo Bank team meal, darbies in hand, to taste the meat before it was served to the riders. Thus the police could have provided samples to confirm the concocted alibi with self examination of the evidence.

Alexander Kolobnev tested positive for a prohibited substance during the 2011 Tour de France, hopefully this will be the last positive test.

UCI President Pat McQuaid assures us that because Thomas Voeckler maintained his malliot jaune throughout the demanding Pryenees stages that this is an indication that anti-doping efforts are working. Pat McQuaid also assures us that if dope was not detected during the Tour de France then the anti-doping efforts are a failure.

Perhaps the logic of Pat McQuaid is flawed; Thomas Voeckler was malliot jaune during the 2004 Tour de France; riding against a large collection of suspected and convicted dopers. A wonderful film exists on youtube called Jan's Attack. In the film Jan Ullrich is hammering up a hors categorie (beyond category) climb at an astonishing rate of speed, attacking and dropping Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis, and the US Postal squad like a rock. Meanwhile, Thomas Voeckler is wearing the golden fleece and he is clearly suffering, cycling for dear life, out of the saddle, in a fruitless attempt to keep his jersey. There is an astonishing number of miscreants in the film: Ivan Basso, Richard Virenque, Floyd Landis, Jan Ullrich! Probably the only person not juiced to the gills on performance enhancing drugs is poor Thomas Voeckler! Thus, the Pat McQuaid logic seems flawed at best and irrelevant at worst.

There is still L'AlpeD'Huez to come and if Thomas Voeckler is still malliot jaune, he may win in Paris. But Thomas Voeckler is such a practical man that he admits that this possibility is very remote, if not impossible. A very honest assessment from a very likable man.

Unlike Pat McQuaid who is an idiot and an embarrassment to cycling!

Cadel Evans will win the 2011 Tour de France.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thomas Voeckler: Malliot Jaune

Thomas Voeckler is the current malliot jaune of the 2011 Tour de France; [per Stage 11] a Frenchman and very charismatic man who fights to maintain his laurels with honor, a very rare quality among riders these days. Thomas Voeckler is a man of supreme tenacity and the golden fleece will not be easily lifted from his back; but alas, Thomas Voeckler is not a gifted climber, his time gap over the best climbers is not large enough, he will be caught and dropped on the cols of the difficult Alp and Pyrenees stages yet to come. Although Thomas Voeckler will be malliot jaune on Bastille Day and though this may briefly re-assure the patriotic athletic sentiments of the French people, on the Champs Elysees in Paris, a Frenchman will not win 2011 Tour de France.

Some favorites are still competing although many have dropped from the race in bloody crashes. Gone are Tom Boonen, Alexandre Vinokourov, David Zabriskie, littered along the road in wet, bloody, bandaged, broken heaps. Inexplicably, collisions occurred between riders and motorcycles, riders and press cars, sending riders into barbed wire fences and off to hospitals.

Rain has pounded the race with a vengeance causing a great deal of suffering with the mountains still to come! Long descents in the pouring rain can lead to incredible accidents if not managed properly; Bobby Julich in a decent during the 1998 Tour de France left the road and ended up plowing into a recreational vehicle while trying to negotiate a turn. Luckily no one was seriously injured! The 2011 Tour de France seems to be haunted by a pernicious kami.

Barring another catastrophe one of the following riders will win the 2011 Tour de France.

Cadel Evans. Very good climbing skills, very good time trial skills, formidable. May finish on the podium. Grade A
Andy Schleck. Excellent climbing skills, good time trial skills. Second to Alberto Contador in 2010 Tour de France. May finish on the podium. Grade A-.
Frank Schleck. Excellent climbing skills, good time trial skills. May finish on the podium. Grade B+
Andreas Kloden. Very good climbing skills, very good time trial skills, past podium finisher. Grade B
Ivan Basso. Excellent climbing skills, good time trial skills. Won Giro d' Italia. Grade B
Damiano Cunego. Very good climbing skills, very good time trial skills. Won Giro d' Italia. Grade B+
Alberto Contador. Excellent climbing skills, good time trial skills. Three time winner Tour de France, winner Giro d' Italia, winner Vuelta d' Espana. Grade A-

Levi Leipheimer can no longer be considered a threat after his acrobatic crash and loss of time. Leipheimer lost traction after riding on a wet zebra stripe and nearly impaled himself on a roadside guardrail. Only a miracle of misfortune will find Levi Leipheimer on the podium this year.

Final Podium
1) Cadel Evans
2) Andy Schleck
3) Alberto Contador (if he is not disqualified before the end of the race for blood doping or performance enhancing drug use.)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

2011 Tour de France: Year of the Aussie?

Blood and carnage everywhere you look in this year's Tour de France with multiple crashes on multiple stages. Christian Vande Velde went down in a rush and his head went bang right off the pavement with terrific force; the best argument ever for wearing a helmet, protecting your dome. The asphalt is hard enough to crack your skull and fracture your bones; as most riders can testify to; pain twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, for years...then arthritis.

Yeah. Alberto Contador went down too and has lost time from being caught behind an earlier accident. After stage 5 Contador is 1:42 behind mighty Thor Hushvold: world champ and maillot jaune. Cadel Evans beat Alberto Contador by a tire width in stage 4 on a climb; even though Contador tried an out of the saddle attack, an attack that dropped nobody and may have shown his vulnerability; "man where is the clenbuterol!"

Yes, yes, yes, time for a change! Back in the olden days the British Empire transported the garbage to Australia and America, the poor people, the criminals, the Scots, the Irish. The American exports came back to Europe and dominated your Tour de France for eight straight years! The Europeans hated the American dominance so much that they had to make an example of the American riders as performance enhanced drug fueled cheating rotten liars. Alas, not so the European riders and most certainly not the French contingent. Bernard Hinault, the badger, how did he suddenly evolve into such a fearsome competitor, the snarling, roid rage induced snears? How about the Deutsche Telekom erythropoietin fueled Tour de France victory of Bjarne Riis, the only serious threat was teammate Jan Ullrich. Doped to the green gills. Ah, yes, then there was Festina and the French darlings. A double standard in cycling does not exist! Alberto Contador is allowed to race unmolested; the Spanish darling. Tyler Farrar sprinted to victory! take a lab sample and run every number! American riders cheat!

Yeah, right. Cadel Evans is a good man. He has never been implicated in anything except exceptional athletic ability on a bicycle. He has never been accused of attacking a malliot jaune with a dropped chain on a col, or of eating imported contaminated meat, or of anything else suggesting nefarious race behavior. Cadel Evans is a "diesel" a guy with great big legs and a great big heart, and barring injury hopefully will stick it to the Europeans and win the 2011 Tour de France!

Serves them right for throwing us under the bus in the first place, stinking hypocrites!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton Barroom Brawl?

Just when you thought nothing else could happen in the perpetual Lance Armstrong versus the world federal doping investigation; a strange encounter ensued at a popular Aspen restaurant, which Lance Armstrong frequents: Tyler Hamilton entered with a complete legal team and supporters to dine at the establishment, and alas a confrontation erupted between the two former US Postal teammates who unfortunately happened to be in the bar at the same time, a verbal confrontation, which Tyler Hamilton claims contained threats to his reputation as a potential prosecution witness. Lance Armstrong was reported to have said, "We will rip out your lungs on the witness stand and make your life a living hell," according to Chris Manderson, Tyler Hamilton's lawyer. Manderson accuses Lance Armstrong of witness tampering and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) thinks the encounter serious enough to do an investigation into the matter. Problem is that the witnesses to the Armstrong/Hamilton discussion have no recall of what the conversation was because no one could hear them talking, there may have been some choice words spoken, but certainly not fisticuffs, the body language postures between the combatants suggested nothing of the sort. And so on. Another in a long series of he said/she said unverifiable accusations that seem central to the Lance Armstrong doping investigation, and after hours of grand jury testimony, still no indictment.

Yes, the wheels of justice move slowly, ask Alberto Contador. Declared innocent by the Spanish Sport Federation as a victim of clenbuterol meat contamination innocently introduced into the Alberto Contador diet by an unsuspecting friend who provided beef stakes from Spain. During a Tour de France rest day team meal, no less. You can't get more imaginative than that for an excuse. A work of art! Soon to be emulated by other athletes. Horrible. Anyway, the nutcase WADA and UCI faction that is supposed to be ensuring "fair play" appealed the whole contaminated meat charade to the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) who promised a speedy resolution to the case, at least before the beginning of the 2011 Tour de France. Christiane Prudhomme, the Amaury Sport Organisation guru, is befuddled by this development and is in a quandary. The 2011 Giro d' Italia winner, Alberto Contador, is a man who is accused of doping, lying, and cheating in the 2010 Tour de France and has a pending doping case before the CAS. Alberto Contador could be suspended from the day of the offense if found guilty and forced to forfeit all of his prizes from that day forward. Yes, indeed, Alberto Contador could be the first man in history to forfeit two Tour de France titles and one Giro d' Italia title on the same day: an eternal monument to scoundrels world wide. Christiane Prudhomme could circumvent this possible disaster by refusing to invite the Saxo Bank Cycling Team as Tour de France participants because the Tour de France is a privately owned entity and teams are allowed to enter the race by invitation only.

Racejunkie made me laugh with her Ben Hur allusion to bladed wheels in a race, not bladed spokes. The epic Ben Hur criterium, four horse power chariots, with beautifully matched horses, and a bum dressed in purple who has an uncanny resemblance to Pat McQuaid. The chariot race can be seen here and is good for a laugh. The moral is quite clear, cheaters never win: even with bladed wheels, bullwhips, and doped horses. The tactics used in the chariot race are deplorable but so adaptable to modern bicycle racing, criteriums, classics, and grand tours. And unlike the movie, cheaters do often win, often frequently, and they never get caught! And Pat McQuaid is still dressed in purple.