Thursday, May 24, 2007

Catching the Criminals

At the Landis hearings the testimonies by Drs. Don Catlin, John Amory and Wolfram Meier-Augenstein add up in a surprising way. It never seemed possible—let alone likely—that the average public would follow the science involved in the IRMS testing, but the transcripts are comprehensible. Near real-time access to the proceedings has been possible thanks to Trust But Verify. Surprisingly, Catlin, Amory and Meier-Augenstein were able to paint a coherent picture of issues that seem to give any reasonable person pause to consider the contents of Mr. Landis’ urine last July.

Catlin has essentially testified that to be a WADA-accredited lab, one of the most important responsibilities a lab shoulders is not bearing witness against another lab. The distinction is significant in that it defines a lab’s duty not as fact-finding instrument but enforcement apparatus.

Amory provided testimony on the only peer-reviewed study of testosterone gel use as a recovery aid. This is exactly what WADA alleges Landis did. The study says it doesn’t work. Now, athletes have been known to be terminally stupid, stupid enough to believe that old wives’ tales will make them invincible. Considering that it is possible that Landis could, unfortunately, be that stupid (witness his dealings with one Will Geoghegan), Amory went on to testify that Landis’ test profile didn’t fit any known profile of metabolized testosterone gel. Put another way Amory said, “Eating a truckload of oranges won’t make you faster, but if you try it anyway, your urine will come out orange and as we can see, Mr. Landis’ urine is still clear.”

And flown in from Ireland, Meier-Augenstein told us in terms accurate to a thousandth of an inch close is good in horseshoes and hand grenades but the margin of error in the LNDD work was too great to consider positive. This is like dropping a bomb in Iran. It’s close to Iraq, and shares 75% of the spelling, right down to the order of the first three letters; could the difference between “Q” and “N” really be that big a deal? Only if you want to avoid an international incident. Oops.

Occasionally, an accused athlete will cry out that he or she is the subject of a conspiracy. Judging from the LNDD records, the work seems too shoddy to meet the standard for deliberate. So that brings up the question: Could it be WADA believes it must not only not lose any case it prosecutes, but it must also get results? Could it be that Pound, Tygart and company believe the organization must have periodic prosecutions no matter how tenuous the data? This smacks of the often-rumored scene in which Dick Cheney screams at the CIA: “Find me some damn WMDs!”

Catlin’s testimony is the most disturbing of the bunch. Testimony concerning the WADA laboratory code of ethics that Catlin drafted—but was changed by someone else—shows that labs are not to testify against other labs. WADA strategy is to circle the wagons first and foremost. In other words, prosecution trumps truth. What is shocking is that finding the truth is not a priority. Implicitly, the mission is to get positive tests and then to do anything necessary to support the result, rather than make sure the result is accurate.

Whether or not Landis doped, the system exposed in the course of these proceedings should not be tolerated. It is not based on a presumption of innocence nor does it place a supreme value on fact. American tax dollars should not fund this operation. It seems likely now Landis didn’t dope and WADA and USADA are colluding to cover the incompetence of the lab with an organizational structure designed not to protect the sport but to legitimize careless lab work as irrefutable proof. USADA is funded by Congress. If you vote, you get say in whether or not these practices continue. By writing your Congressman, you might help save cycling from a fate worse than doping.

This entry was written out of love, frustration and a desire to see some clean, healthy competition in the PRO peloton. Thanks to Padraig for this great contribution.


Forrest said...

I agree that the system is flawed and innocent people are being caught up in the dragnet, but at the same time its like we are all denying the elephant in the room, cycling has a major doping problem! Zabel's confession hit a nerve with me today. People looked up to him as one of the true hardmen. When people like Zabel admit there is a doping problem it makes me wonder why we are so quick to dismiss the controls? What is the answer? At the same time if they strip Landis of his TDF title, why dont they strip Basso's Giro's title, Johan Museeuw titles, etc... The last 25 years of cycling should have an asterik next to the winners names and we all know it but dont want to admit it. This is coming from a fan, a rider and someone who loves the sport, so people shouldnt discredit peoples views like mine.

blue squirrel said...

well done entry on the case at hand.

p.s. i am amazed by those that don't know that riders have been using some form of doping since 1900. i think it is time to have a serious debate as to what really is doping, what is harmful to the PRO riders [long term health issues] and what benefits the riders health. some would even go so far as to say that the electrolytes in our drinks or that flat coke in the last 30 mins of a race constitutes doping. doctors may even say that PRO cycling by its nature, is bad for a persons health. the other issue is what constitutes cheating, is it cheating cause you or your team doesn't have access / afford the latest enhancement technology or is it cheating because you HAVE to take a substance to go faster than what you can obtain from solid training? before i get too far down this road, let me say that i think the olympics should be contested by only amateurs and without any enhancements [zero doping products or procedures], true sport. i would like to end this comment by saying that i have lived my life drug free, but that is not entirely true per DICKWADA standards, as i race a bike [guilty in its self], drink espresso like a PRO and have a beer now and then [it is still a drug, even though most of what i drink has been brewed / blessed by a monk].

now go ride.

Anonymous said...

These guys are hitting up the bike crack all day long; fully 50% of the professional athletes participating across all sports today are rocking the grey area between legal and illegal. Cite baseball as another recent example.

Stripping the title is more about a message to kids, public, etc. than anything else. End of the day, sponsors have big checks and rides in private planes available - but you have to win to keep their affection.

I agree with the first post regarding the other winners over the years. Oh, and check this out:

Radio Freddy said...

You simply cannot win a Tour on mineral water alone. Today was an absolute debacle, Riis, Bartoli, Zabel, Bolts, Aldag, oh my! I honestly do not even know where I stand on the issue anymore. I predict that with this latest round of admissions, the big $ sponsors are going to be looking into arenas which are less scandalous and this will change the way PRO cycling operates. At this point, have we cleaned up our sport or f*&ked up our sport? I do know this, while Landis was busy defending his case, the dopers were busy confessing. Ironic huh?

Forrest said...

I also feel sad because I read there are only 9 millionares in cycling. Is there a sport where people work so hard to earn so little? And with all these doping scandals will the money leave the sport and make the peleton even more poorer?

Anonymous said...

Open your eyes - are you saying it's all a mistake and Landis didn't dope? The issue here is why did he get caught when no one else did...

Unknown said...

I was baffled to see that Joe Papp, admitted/convicted doper was brought in to say that he benefited from testosterone use. He has admitted to using many other substances, so how could he possibly know that the testosterone was giving him a benefit and not the amphetamines or EPO he was also on?

For the prosecution, this had about as much merit as bringing in an HIV-infected street hustler to give testimony about felatio in order to prosecute Bill Clinton for his indiscretions. Except of course Bill eventually admitted, as his partner did, that such actions occurred. Landis hasn't admitted to anything.

The fact that this case has gone on for so long shows that the governing and testing bodies are more interested in getting convictions than presenting clear evidence and air-tight cases. They have in effect done the exact opposite of what they say are trying to do, make cycling reputable and respected.