Friday, November 18, 2005

Doping

Like many other in the cycling community, I am following the "Heras doping case". As most of you know, Roberto Heras' A sample from Vuelta a Espana 2005, stage 20, tested positive for EPO. The B sample will be tested on Nov 27th, by 3 different labs, to ensure accuracy (and to make arguments of "lab error" more difficult). For more info, check out www.cyclingnews.com, or http://www.cyclingnews.com/news.php?id=news/2005/nov05/nov08news I am hoping and praying that the B sample comes back negative. This sport, and other endurance sports (cross country skiing comes to mind) has been plagued by doping scandales. Ask most people what they think about cycling and two things comes to mind - Lance Armstrong and doping. Some may even combine the two, but that is another story... The sport really needs to be cleaned up, completely. I believe that athletes that test positive (A and B) should be banned for life, not 2 years. If we really want to clean the sport up, lets get serious and increase the stakes for the cheaters. The athletes that willingly and knowingly use performance enhancing drugs do it because they feel the possible gain outweighs the risk of being caught (and the resulting penalty). So, lets put into effect much stricter laws and more unannounced out-of-season tests. We also need more effective control measures with regards to the team doctors' procedures. Much more control. There is simply too much "gray-areas" and "ethically questionable" medication and procedures used by most team doctors. Take testerone for example; when the body is subjected to hard training over time, the natural level of testerone decreases. Many team doctors would argue that it is legal, and ethically correct, to inject testerone to increase the levels and increase recovery rates. And I could mention many other examples like this. I am in many ways a "purist" and believe that all we need to take is a simple multi-vitamin supplement. That's it. Correct training, combined with correct natural recovery should be all we need. And, it should be all that is allowed, period. Too much "aid by doctors" in our training is bound to create situations that step into the "gray zones" and even further. To illustrate my point, I'll use another sport than my own, in order to avoid any "problems"; cross country skiing. Cross country skiing is in many respects very similiar to cycling. It puts the same demands on training and rewards the same physical attributes. One of the leading cross country skiing nations is Norway. The training culture in Norway is very simple and if I can say it, pure. Successful skiers became successful because of their simple, but very effective training methods - running, skiing, cycling and roller skiing through forests and mountains. Put together with correct rest, good backup from the national federation and a low-key medical staff, it has produced great results. The Norwegian national team uses very, very little "medical aids" compared to for instance the Finnish, Russians or any of the other big ski nations. As a result, not only do we have the best national ski team, we also have the best attitudes towards clean competition, with the use of no unnatural aids. We have one of the highest rates of out-of-competition tests and the lowest number of athletes using performance enhancing drugs. I believe that the reciepe for success in any endurance sport is very simple - lots of hard training, good simple food and water. Mix this with sleep and dedication and you have a top performing athelete. There is no need to mix in any other components. Of course, we also need a system that is void of any "hidden" agendas. An athlete is innocent until proven guilty, which means BOTH A and B samples has to be positive. We cannot create a system that punished athletes that did not knowingly cheat. The situation has become so bad that when we go to training camps in southern and central Europe we only drink from sealed water containers, never accept water from anyone outside the support staff and watch everything carefully. You never know who slipped what into your drink. Jumping from one thing to another - I wrote fairly long comment to a reader's post earlier today. For anyone interested, here is the link: http://roadrace1.blogspot.com/2005/11/musings-on-future-of-endurance-sports.html I had planned to go hunting today (upland game), but before I knew it, the day was gone... Or at least the time I had dedicated to hunting was gone. The wife wants to go see a movie tonight, so there will be no time to hunt later either. Hopefully I will find time this weekend. Tomorrow is a strenght-training day, again. Sunday will be a long ride (6 hrs), with varying intensities. The weather forecast is fairly good for the weekend, temps are up a bit from earlier this week. I'll take whatever I can get. :) Have a great evening!

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love reading your blog, but the only problem that I saw was one of giving athletes that were convicted of doping a lifetime ban....
i know you know who nina kraft is
http://www.nina-kraft.de/
I believe that people deserve a second chance at most things in life. Anyways, I am about to clip into the pedals.......

07:53  
Blogger mags said...

Thank you very much for the kind comments about the blog. I'm glad you like it. I understand your view-point and can even relate to it. But, like it or not, athletes like Nina Kraft, knowingly and willingly takes performance enhancing drugs. They are doing this in order to gain an unfair advantage over their clean competitors. They know the risk of doing this and are willing to take that risk. We cannot lose sight of the values of sport - the spirit of clean, fair competition. Using performance enhancing drugs not only "hurts" the athlete that is punished, it also damages the sport in the eyes of the public. Look at cycling - most people think that every elite cyclist is using EPO. In order to clean the sport up, I believe a life-time ban is needed and required. Even if it may seem a bit "harsh".

17:33  
Blogger Cosmo said...

Nice post, Mags.

My biggest problem with doping suspensions isn't so much that they're too short, but that they aren't inclusive enough. This year alone, you've had Tyler Hamilton win the Mount Washington hillclimb, and Raimondas Rumsas win a bunch of Grand Fondos, along with the Lithuanian TT championships. That's gotta be awful for the (hopefully) clean high-level amateur racers who train for those events.

22:59  
Blogger mags said...

Cosmo,

Great point. I agree 100%. I think the reaction to positive testers (A and B) needs to be stricter, across the board. With all the rumors in cycling and other endurance sports, we need to take control before the public completely loses faith. I believe in a clean sport and I think (hope?) that most athletes are clean. We just need to crack down on the few bad seeds.

13:49  
Blogger sarah said...

I, too, hope that Heras' sample comes back negative. Badly.

I also agree that we should ban for life. But I think the problem is that most everyone takes something. Should we stick to innocent until there is evidence for guilt? I also don't think they should allow labs/etc, to reveal if an athlete is positive or negative until they can prove it completely.

And where do you draw the line? Blood doping and EPO, but what about other kinds of doping? Or the stuff that can't be caught on tests? I don't think that anything will change if they use lifetime bans or not. Cyclists have to want to stop doping and, well, they don't want to.

14:42  
Blogger mags said...

Sarah,

First let me say that I don't think all elite cyclists, or other endurance athletes, use PEDs. As a matter of fact - I know they don't. Of course we should treat athletes as innocent until proven guilty. That shouldn't even be a question. There should be no "we think this athlete is positive". Positive means both A and B samples and they should be tested correctly. WADA and the IOC have guidelines and laws for what is legal and not. That is what should be followed. Maybe stricter penalties (lifetime ban) for athletes is not the entire solution, but it is part of it. At least it would prevent known "cheaters" from ever returning.

14:55  

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