Archive for July 2006

Tour de France winner Floyd Landis accused of testosterone doping. Here we go again.

July 28, 2006

I’ve been reading the news about this all day. The director of the Tour says he is “Surprised and angry.” So am I, but for very different reasons. French jurisprudence has a distinctly ambivalent quality about it: If you’re one of a gaggle of French (oh, let’s be kind) photographers who just happen to be in a high-speed chase of the Princess of Wales’ car when it crashes into a concrete abutment, killing her, you’re probably in the clear after a slap on the hand. If you’re even a French cyclist such as Richard Virenque (who is a gifted cyclist—this is not character assassination), busted in the dirtiest doping affair known to the sport, you can still return to be a national hero.

If you’re Lance Armstrong, and your wife is in labor, and you’re rushing out the door to the hospital when the Random Drug Check Squad arrives (off-season even), you’d better make time to fill up a specimen cup and fill out the paperwork, like it or not. And still you will be judged and pilloried for the slightest appearance of wrongdoing, not just by the foreign fans, but by the French tabloids media and even the honorable director of the tour and members of the World Anti-Doping Agency themselves.

What a slap in the face it must be, after Armstrong departed the sport to the cheers of France’s L’Equipe newspaper, which published, “Never has an athlete’s retirement been so welcome,” that yet another American has won the race, and further that the top Frenchmen were 7th place Cyril Dessel, and the talented Christophe Moreau in 8th.

A few bits of background are in order. First, each tested rider (the stage winner, the overall leader, and two random cyclists per race day) always gives two samples, A and B. The A samples are tested after each stage, and if a positive result is found a rider has the right to request a test on the B sample in case sample A was somehow tainted or mishandled. Second, the French laboratory where all these tests are performed is Chatenay-Malabry, which is closely linked to the French paper L’Equipe, both of which have had their share of ethical missteps on the subject of doping, American doping in particular, and, to my knowledge, have have yet to retract their baseless accusations in the face of lawful findings. These are the same lab and newspaper that started the libelous “The Armstrong Lie” story after last year’s tour. Anyone see a pattern here?

So, as in the last case with Lance, when Jean-Marie Leblanc immediately labeled Lance a cheat, another official, this time UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani, has stated (in a divergence from WADA B-sample regulations) that “We are confident in the first [test]. For us, the first one is already good.” In other words: Guilty. Even the WADA chairman himself, Dick Pound, an avowed enemy of Lance Armstrong (who never tested positive), has said “a huge black mark” would remain on the sport, regardless of the backup test result. Again: Guilty! I’m sorry sir, but to my thinking, the Huge Black Mark here is the summary judgments that you, Mr. Carpani, L’Equipe, and former Tour Director M. Leblanc have been so quick and so willing to publicly hand down. Doping must be excised as a factor in all sport, but when did you all get into the judge, jury and executioner business? What if Mr. Landis’ other approved prescriptions might have skewed the test? What if the sample was tampered with? What if it’s just plain wrong (more detail on that in “Read the rest of this post“)? Would that be a concern for you, or is it just easier to ruin careers from your lofty positions?

It gets worse. At this point, to my knowledge, Landis has contacted only one journalist, someone he seemed to think he could trust, because the man talked to Floyd on the day of his miraculous performance: Sports Illustrated’s Austin Murphy. Here’s his piece on the discussion. Go ahead, read it. I’ll wait. Then click “Read the rest of this post.”

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ABC News’ Person Of The Week: Tour de France bicyclist Floyd Landis

July 22, 2006

Tour de France winner Floyd LandisABC News got it right. In short, Floyd went from being Lance Armstrong’s super-domestique to being the leader of his own team this year. He looked very strong, a likely winner of the 2200+ mile race around France and surrounding countries. Unfortunately, he had a very, very bad day in the penultimate mountain stage, losing ten minutes, and going from 1st to 13th place. It seemed to everyone, myself included, that he was finished for this year’s Tour. Even Phil Liggett, “The Voice of Cycling,” a veteran reporter of 34 Tours de France, when asked if Floyd still had a chance, said simply, “No.”

Little did anyone know that Floyd Landis still had “the greatest single-day ride in the history of the Tour de France” still in him. See the OLN TV’s recap of the bad day and the super day here (broadband required).

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2006- Ride #9 19.4 miles, 181.9 total

July 7, 2006

Another fantastic, dry day in the low 80s. Another great ride with Dad out to Carlisle, Concord, and back. The bike is back from Belmont Wheelworks after having a new bottom bracket installed for free! Life is good.

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Tom Lehrer sings “The Elements”

July 3, 2006

One of the touchstones of sanity and comedy in my life has been Tom Lehrer, a college professor who rose from complete obscurity to moderate obscurity in the 1960s. He sold many records of his songs: catchy, brilliant, insightful, hilarious songs about then-current events and issues, as well as light-hearted views into things academic. The Onion A.V. Club interviewed Mr. Lehrer in 2000, which is a good read. For something a bit more fun, see Mike Stanfill’s flash animation of Lehrer’s “The Elements,” one of his most popular songs. It’s merely a list of the chemical elements set to “a vaguely recognizable tune.”

If you like what you hear, I suggest you follow the links on Mike Stanfill’s site to the various books and CDs of Tom Lehrer’s work. Listen to some of the samples of his songs on Amazon–you may discover a new joy!

The 2006 Tour de France has started… How hard is it really?

July 2, 2006

Nothing short of actually trying to climb, say, Mont Ventoux, averaging 18mph on a bicycle, could ever make you wish you were dead understand what just one day is like in the Tour. This article in The Christian Science Monitor may be the next best thing.

There are ways us mere mortals can ride some of the stages of the Tour. Various companies offer this service, which usually entails riding the stage or a part of it the day before the pros come speeding through. If you get The Travel Channel they show folks doing it, and they look like they’re having the time of their lives. I’d love to do it some day, even on my recumbent, but since the pro climbers usually weigh 130-140 pounds, I’d have to lose… Oh forget it.

On a side note, some fool of a sports journalist made the mistake of questioning if Lance Armstrong was an athlete at all, never mind a great athlete. This fool’s reasoning was great athletes must be able to do more than “pumping your legs up and down while your feet are strapped to bicycle pedals.”

The article is archived here, but be warned: the public was pretty graphic in their disdain for the guy.

I would pay good money, really good money, to see this fool’s feet strapped to bicycle pedals, and watch him pump his legs up and down as he completes any mountain stage of any Tour in the last twenty years.

2006- Ride #8 19.4 miles, 162.5 total

July 1, 2006

The weather was supposed to be mid-80s and dry. The temperature was close, but it was windy and muggy. Still in all, a good ride through Concord and Carlisle. I did have a bit of mechanical drama, however, and got some good customer service…

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Asteroid 2004 XP14 will visibly pass quite close to Earth Sunday night/Monday morning

July 1, 2006

Asteroid sky map North American stargazers are about to be treated to something quite special: an asteroid will pass by Earth just outside the Moon’s orbit. At its closest approach, the asteroid will appear to move 1/2 (the width of a full moon) every four minutes. See this Sky & Telescope article for more information and finder charts. Space.com also has coverage of the asteroid’s close encounter. They write (and this is backed up by other sources) that 2004 XP14 will be nearest earth at 12:28 AM EDT July 3, or 9:28 PDT July 2. The asteroid is expected to brighten for a few hours to 11th magnitude, too dim for the naked eye, but within the reach of a 6″ or better telescope. Hope for clear skies!

(Image Courtesy Sky & Telescope magazine)

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