La Vida Wanker

La Vida Wanker

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dopage

Hopefully, this post will be read. Likely, it will languish on the interwebs unnoticed and lonely. In the off chance that you are a real human and read this post to its conclusion, I'm interested in your opinion and feedback. Disagree with me? Think I'm a misguided? Let me know in the comments section. And please, make your comments anonymous.

Motives

I’ve largely kept my head out of the doping game. Yeah, Pharmstrong jokes are easy to make, but I like to leave the accusations to the Cyclingnews.com forums. Reputations are too important to impugn on heresy and Internet innuendo. However, the recent Chicagobikeracing.com posts regarding an impending drug bust have aroused my interest.

The calculus involved in doping must be complicated. As one contemplates injecting himself with the product, he likely weighs the health risks, expected performance gains, monetary costs and odds of getting caught. Some might not even pause, but I’d like to think most do.

For the pros, the decision likely becomes a monetary one. And as is so often the case, greed rules the day. For the master cyclist, I’m not so sure what the thought process is. Perhaps ego is the motivating factor. Maybe it’s fear—of aging and finally slowing down.

Catalyst

Regardless of my rambling, it looks like USADA is acting on the confession of former pro cyclist doper turned pusher, Joe Papp. In coming months, expect a number of pro, elite, and masters cyclists to be busted for doping on behalf of Papp’s testimony.

(Papp is highly active on the Cyclingnews.com forums in the Clinic section. He also posts regularly to Twitter.)

Papp himself has an interesting story. In 2007, he was suspended for using synthetic testosterone at the 2006 Tour of Turkey where he won several stages. At the famed Landis hearings, he provided testimony regarding the benefits of testosterone for cyclists.

Explaining why he testified a the Landis hearing, Papp said, “By testifying here outside of clear conscience, and helping next generation of riders see that they have a choice. I don’t gain anything and I lose a lot.”

In reality, it appears Papp’s motives were not completely pure. Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to distribute performance enhancing drugs” while he was offering information against other athletes suspected of drug use, according to Cyclingnews.

As he claimed to be helping to rid cycling of dopers, Papp was actually providing riders with drugs—something few articles explicitly mention. They ignore the timeline, making Papp a hero. The reality is gray. Like with all men, the truth goes beyond hero or villain.

One Race, Two Wins

But the Papp story gets even more complicated. And it takes another turn for the confusing with the lifetime ban from cycling semi-local hero/villain Duane Dickey recently received.

On Chicagobikeracing.com, an anonymous poster with the handle "VeloDoc (Project 5)" writes “sucks when it happens to a genuinely nice guy.” All over the Internet, praise is heaped on Dickey. His doping conviction is ignored, rationalized, or dismissed with the anonymous clicking of keys.

I cannot comment on Dickey’s innocence or guilt. USADA claims he possessed and used EPO, possibly supplied by Papp. Additionally, he refused a sample collection. If USADA cannot be believed, then all sports—not just cycling—has an issue. So for the sake of this article, I will assume USADA’s claims have merit.

(And I realize the issues that this assumption brings.)

What is most disturbing about this case is the phraseology of "VeloDoc." “When it happens” implies Dickey was forcefully injected with EPO. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Dickey, like the rest of us, has free will. He chose to posses and take EPO.

And this statement is about more than Dickey.

On Free Will

Perhaps USADA is totally wrong. Maybe this is all one big mistake. Regardless of that, doping is a choice. And if Tyler Hamilton taught us anything, it’s that being a nice guy has nothing to do with doping.

Heck, if Cyclingnews.com’s Clinic forum is to be believed, Hamilton’s wife arranged the doping logistics and then may have had a fling with Lance. But hey, that’s Cyclingnews.com’s Clinic forum. So Tugboat, I’m sorry if the above turns out true.

(Sorry, I'm not providing the link to that one.)

Who Will Be Busted Next?

To return to the Papp situation, one should doubt his testimony. If history is any guide, he is an opportunist. However, his evidence should not be disregarded if it can be corroborated. I, for one, hope it isn’t. Likely though, it has been. And it appears to have great relevance on American racing.

Tweeting about the 2010 Tour of Utah, Papp wrote that McCarty had earned a 5th place. On the stage, he had actually finished sixth. Ahead of him were Levi Leipheimer, Francisco Mancebo, Ian Boswell, Darren Lill and Phil Zajicek. Papp’s Tweet (screw you NYT, I’ll use Tweet as a word) implies one rider who finished ahead of McCarty was a doper.

Again on Cyclingnews.com’s Clinic forum, Papp points toward Zajicek and Lill as the likely dopers. According to speculative posts by other members, Leipheimer and Mancebo are assumed to be part of more sophisticated doping programs. Ian Boswell is assumed to be too young to dope. Lill then becomes a suspect, but is ruled out based on the timeline of Papp's pushing. This leaves Zajicek, who is claimed to have been busted at the “Tour of Qinghai(?) [sic] when he took a legal decongestant (not on the banned list) which metabolizes in the body into an illegal substance that was detected in a test,” poster “Rupert” wrote.

Again, the above is pure speculation by a potential random Internet waco. However, the claims on the Cyclingnews.com forums have often been substantiated. And Papp’s commentary seems to support the above quotation.

Let History Be Your Guide, Lemmiwinks

The year is 1998 and the Tour de France is in shambles. The discovery of doping products in a Festina team car leads to the reopening of an investigation into the TVM team. Before the Tour is over, the existence of a systematic network of doping is revealed.

In one race, the veneer of plausible deniability is shattered.

The year is now 2010—12 years since the Festina scandal. And cycling is still plagued by the dopage. But is seems that the basic issues still remain. Dopers, when caught, deny and fail to implicate the networks. The anti-doping organizations are not trusted. Fans believe in cover-ups and some of their fears appear to be founded.

Meanwhile, bloggers write about theoretical limits on performance (FTP must be less than 6.2 watts/kg, for example). Yet their numbers are flawed. They fail to take into account the climatic conditions and weight difference for each rider. (According to Andrew Coggan and others.) In one swoop, an entire cadre of riders is assumed guilty. Perhaps some are clean?

Tolerance Camp

There is no easy way out of this quagmire. And if I knew the answers, I sure as heck wouldn’t be blogging about them. But some things clearly have to change in cycling. That much I can say.

For starters, dopers must be stigmatized in the style of The Scarlet Letter. The attitude toward them cannot be “oh, he’s a nice guy.” Frankly, it doesn’t matter if he’s the nicest guy in the world. He’s a doper. Ergo, he’s a cheat. Cheats don’t deserve respect or inclusion. Look what baseball did to Pete Rose after what he did to the sport’s integrity.

(Please, don’t get into the whole baseball doping thing. I’m speaking only of this case. And don’t bring up his one night back into the field. That was a poor decision.)

USADA/WADA must have credibility. When another Landis gets busted, there can be no question to the integrity of the system or the tests. A doping positive must be difficult to dispute. The organizations must be impartial and trustworthy.

USADA/WADA must have some accountability. At the CAS, athletes should be able to dispute cases and actually win—if their arguments merit victory. As much as every cheater should be caught, nobody should be falsely banned. So this means no more leaks to the L’Equipe.

Catching dopers must go beyond urine and blood tests. Clearly, they are easy to defeat. Informants should be used. And doping cases should be investigated by the police whenever and wherever possible.

The networks must be taken down. Behind every doper, there is a pusher. The people who supply the drugs must be found and stopped.

I’m no fool. (Well, I actually am.) I know my recommendations will not be easy to implement. In fact, they may be impossible to achieve. But as more doping cases are announced, the future should be on our minds. Our actions should be guided by our vision and values, not retribution, fanaticism or revenge.

9 comments:

  1. I am a real human being, read your post to the end, and found it interesting and thought-provoking.

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  2. i believe the past-tense of tweet is twat.

    e.g.: "did you read my tweet? that didn't make any sense. i was totally drunk when i twatted that."

    that's all.

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  3. Remind me to hire you when I need a professional blogger. I'll have to revoke your "pink text" rights, though.

    Good post.

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  4. It's *all* about the pink text!

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  5. You have captured human nature in all its duplicitous glory. The ability to operate in two spheres, both as informant and provider just boggles any rational explanation except for the quest for power, recognition and the desire to be an "insider". In my experience, passive voice as in "it happened.." is an attempt to discharge responsibility. Useful, but nothing about cycling is remotely passive. Not even watching a race is passive. Good comments about this thorny issue. No sport seems to be exempt. I guess it's that desire for power and recognition again. A worthy goal, if approached with integrity. Thanks for writing this. Hope you'll be doing more ForumExtra work this year. I'll be watching!

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  6. Appreciated the post

    JC

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  7. Thanks for all of the kind words. Hopefully, I'll have some follow-up articles with direct quotations and interviews.

    Scott

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  8. although you post has languished quietly in the depths of "the interwebs unnoticed and lonely". Reader can still find it, read it, and have it provoke thought. i came to this after you interview of papp and chose to comment here rather then there (although im in the background of the interview post...literally, one of the photos).
    first i like your post. in almost every doping case, EVER, there seems to be a point were the accused personality come into question. "but hes such a nice guy." or " yeah, hes a dirtbag." but whether or not a person is nice really has no bearing on if they have a propensity to cheat. everyone of those riders had a moment when they first saw a hypodermic needle and had to face a choice. The moment they choose to improve their own ability in a manor that is against the rules, they cheat. In the realm of sport they should be punished, but "they" will still be a person. a person who made a mistake and has to live on. This is really where the public opinion of a person comes into play. nice guys are offered grace, d-bags are not. the david miller's of the world are accepted back (after paying retribution) while Vino was booed wining leige.
    no one really doubts the validity of a scientific test, there is a reason each test sample is divided into two containers. but as a millionaire tour winner your only hope is loopholes. often times its like they were doing 120mph in a school zone, but got pulled over for expired tags. the infraction might be BS, but they are hardly innocent.
    lastly i'd like to insist the difference between a pusher and a provider. your opinion of papp may have changed since this post. while he sold EPO on the internet, he hardly 'pushed' his product, he simply made it available. 187 people, by whatever means, found his site and bought illegal drugs (i doubt any of them were actually dialysis patients, illegal). regardless of our opinions of papp or his clients they did something wrong. i would love nothing more for papp to release names for the sporting world to see. i know legally they have a right to due process but they have cheated our sport. and as one person has already prove, Cough..Phil Z, if a girlfriend or wife buys EPO with her credit card it cant be pinned to anyone else.
    so go USADA, they have protocol for a reason. sometimes it just doesn't work as fast as we'd all like. cleaner racing is coming... hell is USAC is right and they have a list of 30-40 elite and pro rider on papps list, there might be some more spots opening up on pro teams!

    anonymously yours
    chad

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