The sad Landis saga, and other doping casualties, continued

It’s too hot and/or rainy for an amateur like me to get out for a ride, so I continue with more musings on the most recent cycling debacle, namely poor Floyd Landis, and the cycling regulatory organizations that appear to go out of their way to sully their own sport.

The news about the Tour and Mr. Landis has been a Gordian knot of contradictions and, to my mind, professional misconduct. Contradictions first: Floyd himself said on Larry King Live that he has not been suspended from the Phonak team at present, only that he has been asked not to race. Yet the media outlets continue to report that he has been suspended. Which is it? I can’t find a Phonak representative quoted as saying that Floyd has been suspended, so where is this coming from? An overactive media, ICU, or WADA? I don’t honestly know. Also, and more significantly, the latest news speculative reporting suggest that Floyd’s A sample was subjected to the modern CIR (Carbon Isotope Ratio analysis) test for testosterone, and that it shows synthetic testosterone in his system. (It is true, this test is the only known test that can distinguish natural from synthetic testosterone, which is identifiable by the number of neutrons found in the nuclei of its carbon atoms.) I’ve read three different versions of this story so far: first, the source is anonymous, but “an ICU member has knowledge of the test;” second, that the test shows synthetic testosterone is present in the A sample; and third, that UCI counsel Philippe Verbiest would not comment on the results and “UCI president Pat McQuaid said he had not seen the test results.” I guess they don’t have to say any more. The damage has been done.

As an aside, I must provisionally retract my previous statement, given in response to UCI spokeman Enrico Carpani’s statement (below), that cycling officials would have no use for the more modern testosterone test in Floyd’s case. I am confused as to why it wasn’t performed originally, whether it was legal to do so without Landis’ consent, and especially why the authorities are still leaking unsubstantiated results that make Landis look dirty to the media and the world, then refusing comment. This still smacks of trial by manipulated public opinion. Is there no concept of medical privacy in France? The public should not even have known of the atypical A sample until after the B sample protocol was finished. No kidding. Still, when you consider L’Equipe‘s rush to publish Armstrong’s unprovable 1999 EPO results (the French lab even refused to answer investigator’s questions) in the wake of last year’s Tour, is it this surprise?

Here’s another contradiction. In the last cited article, the UCI (International Cycling Union) president “emphasized that Landis was presumed innocent until found guilty and guaranteed the cyclist would be given the chance to defend himself before an arbitration panel before any penalties would be imposed.” This is in direct contradiction to UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani’s statement a few days ago (in a divergence from WADA B-sample regulations), that “We are confident in the first [test]. For us, the first one is already good.” Further, if Mr. McQuaid is sincere, why were so many cyclists banned from the Tour with no proof? I have read recent statements from the Swiss Olympic Disciplinary Committee (see the second, Ullrich story, regarding Operacion Puerto) totalitarian rubbish like Prof. Gerhard Walter’s statement, in reference to the now-fired Ullrich’s claim that he’s innocent until proven guilty, “The presumption of innocence applies for those in normal courts. But we are dealing with a disciplinary procedure. The WADA code applies, and the athlete must prove his case. One could draw conclusions from Ullrich’s reluctance to work with us.” Hey, Prof. Walter, here’s a better idea: hold Jan under water, and if he survives, he’s guilty! (Non-American readers might not know that this was a technique used in all piety and sincerity by early American witch hunters. Sarcasm-impaired readers should probably not be reading this at all. I have great respect for “The Kaiser,” whom Lance always regarded his most serious competitor.) To make matters even worse, now Spanish courts are nullifying parts of Operacion Puerto. For instance, the entire Comunidad Valenciana team has been cleared of any suspicion. Too bad the truth came too late for them to race in the Vuelta Espaa, and that their Valencian government sponsor has withdrawn sponsorship based on their reported and presumed guilt. In a similar miscarriage of justice (and in the same link), many of Alexandre Vinokourov’s Astana teammates have also been cleared. Vinokourov, a serious podium contender for the Tour, was not allowed to race since Operacion Puerto disqualified so many of his team that there weren’t enough to start the race. And if that isn’t enough of a kick in the teeth, the UCI still considers them “under investigation”, and still won’t let them race, even though the mere hint of possible guilt has been negated. Naturally, no UCI member is willing to put their name to that statement. Is it becoming clear yet that the UCI and WADA are doing cycling far more harm than good?

In a related story, former Tour Champion and self-appointed judge of American cycling dopers, Greg Lemond has used the Landis story to restate his belief that no American other than he has won the Tour cleanly. Contrary to what Larry King read on his segment with Floyd (an honest mistake on King’s part, I think), Lemond has pretty much concluded that Floyd is dirty, Tyler Hamilton’s dirty, and he has for years made no secret of his identical opinion of Lance Armstrong. Since this is my blog, I get the final word here: Greg, shut your damn pie hole. You were an American hero. After your time, you used to sound like a bitter ex-champ with an axe to grind after you’d been surpassed. Now you just sound like a broken record. I cheered you when you beat Laurent Fignon in 1989, and I was genuinely happy you returned to championship form after your hunting accident. You were the first American to win the Tour, and you did it legally: with talent, and by using new aero technology that your peers scoffed at. You were right, and they paid the price. So, I have a lot of respect for your performance, your vision, and your legacy. Even so, the sport of cycling has too many self-appointed judges these days that hurt rather than heal, and your whiny, self-serving input is no more helpful than anything I’ve heard from the UCI or WADA. Pipe down.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Bicycling, Bicycling- A Fan's View, Steve's Peeves

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