The UCI, Lance Armstrong and the 2001 “suspicious test”

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

On his way to winning the Tour of Switzerland in 2001, Lance Armstrong underwent several anti-doping controls. On two occasions in this race Armstrong’s samples were suspicious with data suggesting the strong probability of EPO use but crucially not firm enough to launch a formal prosecution.

A major athlete with strong suspicions of heavy doping? You’d think this would have set red lights flashing and alarm bells ringing within the UCI. Did it?

Let’s go back to June 2001. If this feels like a long time ago, I’ll explain in a minute why it’s relevant for today. During the Tour of Switzerland Armstrong had five anti-doping controls. Two samples came back with a remark from the Lausanne laboratory that there was a “strong suspicion of the presence of EPO” but “the positivity criteria are not all met.”

To explain more, the EPO test isn’t like litmus paper where you dip a stick into the urine sample and it turns red or blue, positive or negative. Instead it is a mix of qualitative and quantitative analysis involving a percentage of isoforms where a reading over 80% was positive and would result in an anti-doping prosecution (for more on this, pull up a chair  in the Podium Café). In short a score over 70% was seen as suspicious, indicating a strong probability but crucially not prosecution-proof certainty.

For Armstrong’s two suspicious samples, the Lausanne lab produced a complete analytical report. One sample showed a score of 75.1%, the other 70%. For the record 70.2% was the “suspicious” threshold but the Lausanne lab still flagged Armstrong’s 70.0% sample.

So here we have two suspicious tests. You’d think alarm bells should be ringing and the warning lights were flashing in the UCI only there seems to be little follow-up.

Minimal testing at the 2001 Tour de France
I can now reveal the UCI tested Armstrong ten times during the 2001 Tour de France. It might sound good but was in fact the minimum number possible given Armstrong was third in the prologue, won three stages and held yellow jersey for the final week. It’s normal for the race leader and the first three on the stage to get tested by default every day. Additionally only five of these ten tests included EPO tests. So the “strongly suspicious” lab data appears to have got no follow-up, Armstrong was only tested in set-piece anti-doping controls and half of these didn’t have an EPO test.

Why rake up the past?
Because it’s contemporary. Six months on from the USADA verdict the UCI is still trying to defend its actions from 2001. In briefing documents the UCI is trumpeting the fact that it did not cover-up a positive test for Lance Armstrong, refuting the claims made by Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton. Indeed from the evidence this seems to be true: there was no positive test and it’s almost impossible that one of could have been buried.

But in defending themselves against Landis’s and Hamilton’s wilder claims they’ve inadvertently pointed out that Armstrong provided strongly suspicious data and yet little was done with this intelligence. Not one extra test during the Tour de France according to their own defence documents. Who knows what happened, perhaps the data wasn’t shared and that’s why then UCI President Hein Verbruggen was led to believe that Armstrong never doped, telling Dutch magazine AD the following (my translation added):

“Ik herhaal het nog maar eens: Lance Armstrong heeft nooit doping gebruikt. Nooit, nooit, nooit”
I repeat it once again: Lance Armstrong has never used doping. Never, never, never

What is certain is that the Lausanne lab produced a complete report on these suspicious samples. We can’t know the reasons why there were no extra tests in the 2001 Tour de France. Note in 2001 the UCI ran anti-doping testing, it wasn’t for the French or WADA to decide who to test. Appendix F of the USADA verdict includes a copy of the UCI’s anti-doping rules from 2001. The governing body decided who was tested both in and out of competition and note the 2001 rules say out of competition includes stage races as well as periods between competition.

It’s not about Armstrong
This story has only come out because of the USADA investigation, the claims by Hamilton and Landis and the UCI’s need to refute them. So if you think Armstrong got some kind of special protection, then think about the other riders. What if other riders were ringing alarm bells with suspicious data too? We know EPO use was widespread in the peloton at the time. In 2001 the UCI conducted 271 EPO tests and caught nine riders but we now know many sailed through the net. What we don’t know is how many others were in the suspicious camp and whether the UCI thought to act on this intelligence or not although we know some riders were given private warnings (here and here etc)

The problem for the UCI here is that if they were to say nobody else provided suspicious samples then their lack of follow-up looks protective of one rider, if they say many riders gave suspect data then it looks like they didn’t follow-up on a range of cases and ignored a chronic problem despite obvious warning signs.

Perhaps the good news is that this is all in the past, the UCI has taken down many big names in recent years, using data with an intelligence-based approach to catch some.

It turns out even the UCI had grounds for suspicion

It might all be in the past but it’s only in the last month that we’ve finally been able to get the question about how many follow-up tests Armstrong got after the suspect data from the 2001 Tour de Suisse. The UCI is still deciding on measures to take in the wake of last October’s USADA report.

In rejecting claims of a cover-up of any positive doping test for Armstrong, the UCI’s revealed that when it was given suspicious test data there seemed to be little follow-up. Certainly during the Tour de France Armstrong appears to have got the minimum number of tests possible, only controlled because of his stage wins and race leadership. And when tested only half of his samples were subjected to EPO tests. Crucially we don’t know if this was a general policy applied to suspicious data from other rider. It’s only because of the Armstrong case and the fallout that we know this much.

The lesson from all this is known already. You don’t catch dopers with tests alone, you need to use intelligence and data to target the cheats. The sport has improved this a lot and tools like the bio-passport are reliant on finding suspicious data to test and test again. More than ever – as the recent Deloitte report reminds us – the UCI needs to separate its anti-doping function and ensure the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation’s controlling board members are separate from the UCI, if only for reasons of perception of meddling.

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Johannes May 29, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Very interesting. We can add more to the story because the UCI was taking cash donation from Armstrong and soon after the Lausanne center arranged a meeting with Armstrong/Bruyneel to discuss the testing methods with the manager.

The Inner Ring May 29, 2013 at 12:58 pm

The donation and the meeting with lab director Martial Saugy are interesting but doesn’t this involve some “dot joining?” where you’re making the leap from one suspicious thing to another? None of this looks good but in the piece above I’m trying to work with the facts – for example we now know the amount of tests conducted in the Tour de France.

But as the Deloitte report mentions, perception matters and the past still looks murky. I gather the UCI will announce an “independent investigation” into this but time is dragging on.

Martijn May 29, 2013 at 12:53 pm

“the UCI needs to separate its anti-doping function and ensure the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation’s controlling board members are separate from the UCI, if only for reasons of perception of meddling.”

This goes not only for the UCI, because all sport federations have strong incentives to deny there are problems with not only doping, but also match fixing and corruption. Just check how officials react when there are accusations of either in the news in e.g. tennis or football. It’s pretty well known that not only the UCI, but also the US athletic federation and Italian football association covered up doping scandals, because doping made their athletes and teams successful.

The Inner Ring May 29, 2013 at 12:55 pm

I agree. The UCI has been told this by Deloitte and it’s taking steps to make it happen. It needs to work with WADA to make this happen.

Oliver May 29, 2013 at 12:53 pm

Yeah, lets not leave out the fact that Lance gave money — lots of it — to the UCI. That would seem to be relevant here.
And oh, common sense dictates that the UCI was aware that Lance dope and either didn’t care or was bribed. Not sure which is worse. But I am sure their leadership should be fired and Lance forced to return all prize money at the very least. Instead the same folks run the UCI and Lance is free to fart around on twitter (on which his former “critics” now banter with him — I guess they’re star-struck…) , ride and swim in Hawaii, dope his way to koms on Strava, as well as drink girly drinks and watch the sun rise. Lovely.

ChrisO May 29, 2013 at 1:10 pm

Yeah, it’s hard to see that it was all worth it isnt it ?

Agree about the UCI – any basic sense of accountability would have them resign or leave office, but not these guys.

They seem to have trouble with the fairly well-established concept that whether or not they were individually and directly involved, they were still responsible as executives and managers.

They will cling to that gravy train with every last ounce of strength in their grubby fingers.

Andrew May 29, 2013 at 4:11 pm

I agree about the UCI leadership wholeheartedly, those at the top should be responsible for their organisation, full stop. Get rid of them.

I don’t believe Lance should return all prize money though. He should be fined an amount, a huge amount, (not sure who has the responsibility to do this though) and the funds should be placed back into drug testing to help the future fight.

The trouble with returning prize money, and even more so with returning sponsorship money he received is that those who paid the money benefitted from the endorsement. Using a simple example, if Trek had all money that they paid to Lance for endorsing and using their product return by him, they would get the benefit of having those funds back as well as selling all the bikes over the years because his name was linked to their brand. That is not fair either as Joe Bloggs only bought a Trek bike as Lance rode it, so should Joe Bloggs gets his money back from Trek?? Where do you stop with this? I went to the Tour Down Under one of the years they paid Lance $1m in appearance fees. If they get their money back am I also entitled to get my money back for attending as I was lied to also?! The hotel should return my money as I would not have gone if I knew Lance was on drugs (a stretch as we all knew he was glowing anyway) and the government should return my money as they would be benefitting from false advertising given Lance may have been on drugs then and not legally allowed to compete.

In simple terms, we can’t change what has been done in the past, but I can’t think of a person or company that paid money to Lance, through sponsorship or prize money, who didn’t also benefit from it themselves also. That includes the Tour of Swiss and TDF as they used Lance’s image to increase profits for themselves. Based on this fact, the financial repayments would be a waste of time.

Simply fine the guy and move on. I don’t know how much to fine him, that is for some expert to work out, but $50m has a nice ring to it and if given to WADA it would help them immensely.

Prospero June 3, 2013 at 3:33 pm

That is definitely relevant to Floyd’s whistleblower case. The POTENTIAL fine is $90+ million (USPS sponsorship totals x3 for punitive damages). But this is only the case if USPS did not reap any benefit from the fraudulent activity, i.e. they did not get increased exposure/business from the sponsorship deal, regardless of whether or not the terms of the deal were violated. In the end, the attorneys who figure this out will be the ones going home with the most cash, not Floyd or the government.

Anonymous May 30, 2013 at 8:32 am

Oh man! You are spot on. You really tell it as it is and how I think about it. You should consider writing more.

Samuel Gamester (@LanterneVerte) May 29, 2013 at 1:21 pm

My hunch is that the UCI intend to overlook ALL top riders’ suspicious and positive test results, even in 2013. They have only gone public when either they realise they have lost control of the story (eg Contador’s clenbuterol positive was only revealed six weeks after the event when a German journalist got wind of the story) or when the UCI feel that a particular rider has become a serious liabilty or a threat to the status quo and reputation of the sport (eg Ricco, Di Luca).

Pat McQuaid Must Go May 29, 2013 at 1:22 pm

The removal of PMcQ and his ventriloquist friend Hein Verbruggen is the number one priority to restore some credibility in cycling. The fact that PMcQ was re-elected to the Olympic Council yesterday despite being banned for life from the same organisation (for his rule-breaking, sanctions-busting trip to S Africa in the seventies) says it all. He will do anything to anybody to remain in position (remind you of anyone, Lance?!).

Anonymous May 29, 2013 at 4:18 pm

For the sake of clarity, the body he was re-elected to yesterday is not under the aegis of the IOC. He was re-elected to the board of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), with the electorate consisting (as the name implies) of the 28 sport federations which compete in the summer Olympics.

His ban from South Africa is a ban from competing in an Olympic games, not from being a member of the IOC, indeed his status as IOC member derives ex officio due from his presidency of the UCI. Furthermore he failed last year to be elected to the IOC executive committee, and withdrew earlier this year from the IOC entourage committee.

GatorGene May 29, 2013 at 1:23 pm

Not positive? Hell yes, the tests were positive. Maybe only civil suit positive, and maybe not criminal prosecution positive, but positive nonetheless. And this has been confirmed by Lance himself. What those TdS tests detected was indeed intentional EPO misuse.

I realize that differentiating between the levels of proof is important to the column, but let’s not pretend the tests weren’t positive.

…two cents…

The Inner Ring May 29, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Indicative perhaps but you could not use them to prosecute. So in that sense there was no UCI cover-up. The question is how did react when confronted with the suspicious data, did it think about testing more often? Why did a rider not get tested more when the data suggested he needed to be monitored very closely?

Nick Evans May 29, 2013 at 8:14 pm

That doesn’t follow. He may have been positive, but the tests weren’t. You could categorise them as a “false negative” or simply an indication of how inadequate the tests were, as he almost avoided detection. But the *tests* weren’t positive enough to prove that *he* was positive, even though he was.

GatorGene May 29, 2013 at 8:36 pm

We’re back to ‘standard of proof’ versus knowing what’s positive.

Did OJ kill Nicole? Yes. We, as a society, seem to be sure enough of the ‘yes’ to have taken lots of money away from him in a civil verdict, but not quite sure enough of the ‘yes’ to have taken OJ’s freedom or life in a criminal verdict. But, yes, we know OJ killed Nicole.

Did Lance test positive? Yes, he did. Maybe not to the standard of proof to have taken away his bicycle riding privileges, but clearly in 2001 it was known that he was intentionally misusing EPO.

The higher standard of proof for suspension, the 80% threshold, explains why there were no formal suspension actions started. But, the results were still positive, and just as we all know that OJ killed Nicole, so too, did Pat and Hein know that Lance was doping.

…two more cents…

Robin May 30, 2013 at 11:34 pm

I’ve not read the details of what tests go into the overall EPO test and what the individual uncertainties of each component test are, but that 70.2% might reflect said uncertainty. That is to say below that level, it cannot be determined that someone did in fact dope given the uncertainty in the measurements. Unfortunately there is no way to remove all uncertainty from any given measurement.

Brian May 29, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Excellent article, as usual.

Apologies for the pedantry, but saying “the UCI is trumpeting the fact that it did not cover-up a positive test…refuting the claims” is not technically correct. My current pet peeve is the misuse of “refute” when “rebut” or “deny” would be more appropriate. Refuting would require the UCI to prove that there was no cover up, at present all they have done is denied the claims.

Nick Evans May 29, 2013 at 8:15 pm

To be even more pedantic, you can refute claims of covering up a positive test *either* by proving no cover up, *or* by proving that there was no positive test to cover up. The UCI did the latter (and opened up all these other issues our host so eloquently set out).

James Vaughan May 29, 2013 at 2:21 pm

As I’ve said before, what we should have is full public disclosure of the tests being performed. There is no shame in being tested or it being disclosed that you have given samples during a race.

I don’t know whether only testing for a subset of substances is an ongoing thing – can anyone confirm?

It would seem to be common sense that to effectively combat doping you would take both blood and urine (hair?) samples and subject them to all current tests and all future tests within a defined window. Get physiological data (ramp tests/SRM data) and analyse that too. I’d also look at the reverse – attack the system, look at how to defeat or marginalise it. Other industries do the same, and the UCI/WADA should follow suit. People will always cheat, unless you think like a cheater it’s unlikely that your controls will be effective.

GP May 29, 2013 at 2:52 pm

My understanding is that they no longer only test for a subset of substances, although specific substance testing does occur (di Luca tested positive for EPO) – but instead test for abnormal variations from biological benchmarks (bio passport system).

I wholeheartedly agree with your proposed solutions; hair, blood and urine samples should all be kept so that they can be tested when new detection technologies become available. Does anybody know why SRM etc data is not used? As far as I am aware there are fairly well accepted physiological limits of feasible power/weight ratios – using SRM data to flag suspicious performances should be encouraged. I can understand teams not wishing to share these data publicly , but surely there is no harm in allowing access to WADA?

No one technique is ever going to be 100% successful, the best chance we have is to use every possible tool in order to cover as many bases as possible.

The Inner Ring May 29, 2013 at 5:24 pm

The power-profiling aspect is probably a topic for another day but let me ask this: if a rider or even a team is going as far as manipulating blood values then would they doctor a spreadsheet or tweak a power meter to fool people?

James Vaughan May 29, 2013 at 6:32 pm

The potential abuses of Ant+ by rival teams is an interesting point. Given the protocol is open and has no authentication, if you know the ID you can read the data. How useful would it be to know the heart rate and power output of the rider next to you? Would be trivial to do.

Alex Simmons May 30, 2013 at 3:30 am

I’m not so sure there are well established physiological limits on W/kg. If you take the known un-doped individual best values for VO2max, gross mechanical efficiency and the % of VO2max sustainable at threshold for cyclists (the three factors that determine threshold power), you end up well north of the W/kg Armstrong was producing during his doping heyday.

So where is the arbitrary line to be drawn? What power output constitutes a level of sans-doping plausibility?

Already there are those that infer a certain power level as suspicious which is under that known to have been produced by clean riders. And worse, it can lead to the false belief that riders under that power level are not doping/suspicious, when in fact they may well be doping and keeping other legit riders out of a contract opportunity.

And as Inrng points out, all it does is invite an opportunity to add data doping and detection avoidance to biological doping and detection avoidance. Heck, it doesn’t even need post-hoc manipulation of the data (although it is possible is some circumstances to spot it with data forensics, as all power meters have their little signatures in the data patterns). A few seconds to adjust the slope on your power meter, or to perform a zero offset with your foot resting on the pedal can easily drop reported/recorded power by enough to be plausible but remove “suspicion”, whatever threshold might be set.

Besides, all riders at this level are under suspicion and should be subject to adequate controls.

Bundle May 30, 2013 at 7:57 am

Not quite sure about this… Even if it helped correlate surges in performance with sudden changes in biological parameters, it would amount to consider performance a doping indicator. If high-level performance, beyond or not what is generally viewed as a physiological threshold, is going to mean doping, we’d better close the shop straight away.

Oliver May 29, 2013 at 2:25 pm

What are we waiting for here, some sort of smoking gun? A document which shows a positive test from Armstrong with a hand written note at the bottom (signed by McQuaid) reading “lets cover this up”? A youtube video of Pat McQuaid kissing Lance Armstrong’s ass?
I mean come on.
At one point you have got to look at the totality of the circumstances and conclude therefrom that the only plausible explanation to all this mess is that:
(A) Lance Armstrong doped all the time;
(B) He was confident that the UCI would cover any and all suspicious or positive tests — which it did.

And (C) the UCI will now cover up the cover up — and it seems everything and everyone will go for it, if reluctantly, because the UCI’s cover up is not on video.
Lets also add as an aside that (A) might be in question now that velocity, festinafan, raceradio have all morphed overnight into Lance fanboys…. ;)
Oh, boy.

JuaKaliAndy May 29, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Once again a great summary of a complex situation…

One thing is clear from this – the lack of extra testing of Armstrong plus the infamous meeting where he was told of the test results means that best reading of the situation for the UCI is that they genuinely thought the ‘standard’ level of testing would be enough to detect doping. Given all of the evidence to the contrary this means they were incompetent. The only other option is that they simply didn’t want to catch Lance – and for what’s it’s worth I personally think that this must have been the case – and thus they were, effectively, corrupt.

It doesn’t matter whether or not the motive for this lack of interest in catching Lance was financial, or out of a misguided sense of ‘protecting’ the sport (and thus the UCI’s financial interest in it) it still adds up to corruption if this is the case.

So just to make things clear, it’s either incompetence or corruption – there are no other options. Either way Hein and Pat should go.

Tovarishch May 29, 2013 at 3:03 pm

I know it is a very long time since I used statistics but surely, if the fail threshold is 80% then 2 tests close together of 70% or greater would be just as much evidence of doping. You would need to see the graphs to prove it but it looks as if they were considered in isolation rather than, as they should be, together.

The Inner Ring May 29, 2013 at 3:13 pm

The statistical analysis has changed and it continues to change. At the time this was not so and there was the case of Bo Hamburger who scored over 80 in one test but below in another and so got off.

Regardless of where the mark is set we know in 2001 the lab prepared a full report and flagged two tests as suspicious. When presented with this new evidence what action did the UCI take?

Fred B May 29, 2013 at 3:45 pm

I doubt Armstrong was the only one scoring over 70% and am prepared to believe he was not subject to any special treatment. EPO misuse was quite possibly so widespread that only the most stupid/heaviest users reached the positive limit. Maybe the UCI donation was Armstrong arrogance that he would not be caught and a helping hand to catch rivals with less sophisticated programmes.

There is no hiding that the whole culture was wrong but the UCI cannot be blamed entirely for that culture when they are but one element.

Bundle May 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Excellent piece. Very instructive.

TdF Lanterne May 29, 2013 at 5:19 pm

According to Lance Armstrong, this piece is “spot on”.

Oliver May 29, 2013 at 6:13 pm

I feel a wave of nausea coming on… Why is that psycho Lance still talking publicly — has he no sense of shame?
And why are we still listening? Have we no standards? Or are we just a bunch of celebrity seeking wannabes; star-stuck idiot fans willing to believe anything said by a famous person?

Whatever Lance chooses to say or do today is not in line with genuine contrition and is part of a pr plan — which alas is working marvelously in certain circles. I say the obvious he was not contrite in the least (did you see that infomercial with Oprah?!?), but alas might as well speak to a wall — wish there some out there to tell Lance to fack off once and for all, instead of begging him for a meeting, an interview or an article. The guys a pathological liar and needs treatment, period. Come on everyone, have some dignity!

TheDude May 30, 2013 at 7:48 am

He’s bored man. And, also he is privy to some new sh*t. What he’s blathering about is that some new information has come to light. Also, he has to feed the monkey. LOL (x-ref lebowski) :-0

Tovarishch May 29, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Apropos of nothing – I note that Sky have announced that Froome is starting the Criterium de Dauphiné but have not yet announced the team. Adding to the pre Tour drama?

Larry T. May 29, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Hmmm…BigTex was a cheat and the UCI was/is corrupt. Is anyone surprised? The surprise should be that the crooks are still in charge in Aigle. Maybe it should be OUTRAGE rather than surprise?

Steve May 29, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Thanks all, great commentary.

Noel May 29, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Just goes to show though, he has admitted to taking all sorts of stuff, but still sailed through 10 drug controls in the 2001 tour.
I really hope the passport etc does a better job now. The peloton seems cleaner, but we’ve had a few caught this year, so clearly some still think its worth chancing their arm…

RabAusten May 29, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Powermeter’s are not without problems and inaccuracies +/-2% and that’s when they are maintained, calibrated and handled with care. The are so many loopholes here, including interference and hacking, that the evidence would likely not be admissible for a prosecution.

trounder May 29, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Many possible versions of a pat response to this blog post:

After learning of the suspicious test results from the 2001 TdS, the UCI fully intended to (and did) test the questionable rider more than any other rider during the subsequent 2001 TdF. This heightened level of scrutiny consisted of 10 tests in three weeks, averaging more than one test every three days for nearly a full month. All of those test results were negative. Unfortunately we now know that the doping program of this rider was much more sophisticated than the UCI could have imagined at the time. It is now obvious that no amount of testing would have been successful at stopping this rider’s unique and unprecedented level of deception.

And to clarify, contrary to the timeline implied in this piece, the meeting between the rider under suspicion and the Lausanne lab did not occur until 2002 after a full year of additional negative test results. With hindsight, it is clear why I stopped the previous UCI leadership’s well-meaning but misguided policy of meeting with riders in an effort to pressure or scare them away from doping practices. Evidence now shows us that these cheaters can not be persuaded to change their ways, and efforts to stop doping in our sport must rely solely on science to develop more effective tests. All sports have their own dark pasts, but I am confident that cycling has a bright future.

The Inner Ring May 29, 2013 at 10:45 pm

I’m not sure if the UCI have filled Enrico Carpani’s position but you could apply!

But I’d add that regular testing could have caught riders. It’s this technique that works today, applying intelligence and data analysis to ensure more targetted testing. How many riders in 2001 had suspicious EPO data?

trounder May 30, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Looks like someone was convinced. Maybe I should apply! You are right to point out that despite a reason for suspicion, it seemed to be business as usual with respect to the controls protocol at the 2001 TdF. If independent investigation is in the offing, it would be nice to know after which stages were the EPO tests not performed? Since the UCI was in charge of the testing program, the answer could be telling. Widening the lens is equally important as you mention.

Arounder May 29, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Well, given the UCI bashing, lets take a positive point: Armstrong was tested 10 (!) times in a 21 day race. I would think that this is not so bad?! Given that he was winning stages and wore the jersey, they did not have to target him anyways, as he was in the regular controls.

The Inner Ring May 29, 2013 at 10:39 pm

That’s the point, he was only tested because he won stages and then took the race lead. Despite being given a report suggesting the “strong suspicion” of EPO use weeks before the UCI didn’t seem to think it was worth testing more during the Tour.

Arounder May 30, 2013 at 6:32 am

? I do not understand your point “..the UCI didn’t seem to think it was worth testing more during the Tour”. I do not think that any more tests would have made sense. He was tested 10 (ten) times in 21 days..?!

The Inner Ring May 30, 2013 at 8:52 am

Again, that is the point. He was only tested when required, there seems to be no follow up to check, for example out of competition testing or extra scrutiny. They could have tested him before and during the race and, crucially when tested, half the tests did not even look for EPO despite the reports produced from the lab.

Wiaruz May 30, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Are the “regular” tests for leader/stage winner not full tests including for EPO? Is it only the ‘random” tests which also test for EPO? If some of LA’s tour tests did include EPO tests what were those results? Were they also suspicious?

BC May 29, 2013 at 9:44 pm

A rather detailed and balanced view from INRNG. Whilst I agree with your assessment of the position regarding LA and the UCI, I think we are in danger of taking the path that the UCI would prefer, by concentrating on one individual case. PMcQ is going to sit out the current situation knowing LA is unlikely to make any moves whilst he is involved with his own legal issues.

The doping problem has been with the sport since its inception but grew to far more concerning heights from the 1990s. There were endless names involved at the top of the sport during this period who escaped scrutiny by the UCI for over twenty years – remember the Brochard incident as an example. The claim from the PMcQ, presumably backed by the management committee, that they were ‘unaware’ of the situation is patently nonsense – in the realms of the idiocy we have become all to familiar with from riders when caught. The evidence has always been there for everybody who cared to look. The LA affair could still, at some time in the future see the truth emerge. We have a corrupt and/or cowered system governing our sport with its own high standard of omerta – which management member has taken a publicly robust view on the current situation, to which must be added a membership which is totally powerless in the democratic sense to force change.

It will probably take an independent body like USADA or even LA at some point in the future, to come out with the detailed evidence of what has transpired. This is possibly the only path available that will force much needed change.

The Inner Ring May 29, 2013 at 10:36 pm

The UCI is planning the launch of an “independent investigation” and this will be raised at the next Management Committee meeting in Norway. If this investigation gets going one of the first questions should be to ask how many times the UCI received notifications of “strongly suspicious” data. This takes it away from one rider/case and broadens it to the institutional problem.

jon law May 29, 2013 at 11:51 pm

God I’m bored with doping

Punching Bag May 30, 2013 at 12:36 am

So he was playing by rules of the cycling insiders of the day: dope, but keep it just below the legal limit. Landis and Hamilton were toooooo greedy. Especially Landis. What set Lance apart was not doping too much, but winning too much, and getting too famous, and then evolving into two separate and incompatible people at the same time: the cancer survivor savior champion and the manipulative controller, which finally combined like matter and anti-matter and blew his universe apart.

Yes fine, reform the UCI, I am all for it. But it’s only a drop in the bucket. Still we know that EPO doping control as currently implemented can be beaten by micro-dosing intravenously. The motivation for doing it has not changed. Publicity and idealism make a difference, but idealism tends to peak and fade with time.

The answer lies in effective testing. It can be done. For example, a testable and harmless fat soluble marker could be included in all batches of EPO. Fat soluble markers would remain in the body for weeks, instead of hours as intravenously micro-dosed EPO currently does. If the makers of EPO (e.g. Amgen) were to cooperate, the issue would be solved.

By the way, who sponsored the Tour of California this year? How much introspection did it cause? Zero.

robertsonscott007 May 30, 2013 at 7:17 am

Great post! Well written and certainly makes one wonder about the UCI…

Joe K. May 30, 2013 at 7:26 am

Seems like accountability for past deeds at the UCI is not being handled very well by McQuaid or staff, so lawyers are likely advising everyone to keep quiet. But that is bringing more criticism, so UCI is releasing bits and pieces–to no avail. This is a no win situation for the UCI. Need to flush out the house and let new tenants move in. That way, the governing body of cycling can move on while the past wrong doers can be investigated and held accountable. Without cutting all ties to the past officers and staff, the house of UCI will come crumbling down. If not crumbling, it will lose all efficacy since no one would, or should, take it seriously.

Joe K. May 30, 2013 at 7:47 am

On a side note, did you hear about the pro golfer Vijay Singh, who was suspended for using a banned substance under PGA rules, appealed the ban, and won the appeal? Singh then turned around and is suing the PGA. Don’t know what the substance was or what claims he brought against the PGA. How come this doesn’t happen in cycling? Or, why didn’t Contador bring a similar lawsuit when he was suspended for tiny tiny trace amounts of Clenbuterol well below the permissible levels? Did he admit to other banned substance abuse that was masked by Clenbuterol? Appears that much of the plea bargaining once a rider is caught or suspected seems to happen behind closed doors depending on who the rider is and how flagrant the abuse was that, to the public, it’s hard to understand the various types and degrees of punishment.

FermentedBrains May 30, 2013 at 9:19 am

Hi Joe
“Deer Antler Spray” made by SWATS (Sports with Alternatives to Steroids) [].
Clenbuterol is not a masking agent. Are you confusing Contador with Frank Schleck,
who tested positive for the masking diuretic xipamide in the 2012 Tour de France?
That was not a miniscule amount of xipamide.
Your conspiracy theory is wacky.

Derek T May 30, 2013 at 10:47 am

I’ll admit the Vijay golf story blows my mind, it is really starting to get me riled up.
What a mess this world is now that it’s run by politicians and lawyers.

In golf when a player publicly admits to using product on the banned list, WADA says he can’t be suspended and he ends up suing golf administrators for emotional distress and damaged reputation.
In cycling, a rider publicly admits to using product on the banned list and it’s a different scenario altogether.

The information I have seen may not be the whole truth, it all came through the interwebz after all – but it seems to me that the Vijay story gives Lance/Alberto ‘WADA approved’ defences to their recent troubles.
And I have the feeling it opens up a whole new can of worms that no-one has tested yet.

*confused by it all*

Nick Evans May 30, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I thought the problem with Singh’s ban was WADA’s view that you can only be banned for using this spray if there’s a positive test for the prohibited substance it contains. So Singh’s confession alone was not enough. I don’t know the reasons why, but it may be, for instance, that the substance is only thought to be performance enhancing above a certain threshold, and without testing there’s no way of knowing whether Singh used enough of the spray to exceed that threshold – or even if he was just lying, frankly. This contrasts with other substances where the amount is irrelevant, and any evidence that the substance was used can lead to a ban. My understanding is that all of Armstrong’s offences fell in this latter camp. And Contador is different again, because there was a test.

I can’t see Singh succeeding in his lawsuit, though. Even if the USPGA did breach any of its duties to him (a) he brought this on himself, by admitting to the use of a spray containing a banned substance, and (b) any humiliation he suffered will be just as much the result of the interview he gave as the PGA’s decisions. I can’t see a New York judge being that impressed.

thedude May 30, 2013 at 10:58 am

When the hell is that McQuaid guy finally going to be thrown out, or take responsibility for what happened in the last decade? Enough of all of his BS, he’s taking the sport down with his ridiculous presidency. If he continues four more years, cycling will be a marginal sport by then. Mark my words.

jeffdreadnought June 6, 2013 at 9:06 am

“You could just target the athlete during the next competition. This is what was done during the 2001 Tour de France on Armstrong.” Pat to CN 6 June:

You can’t keep a good piece of misinformation down, I guess.

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