How unlucky

July 27, 2013

Imagine you’re a professional rider for almost two decades

Imagine all these years, against a tsunami of cheating, you ride cleanly

Except for two measly weeks

For two measly weeks you used EPO

Imagine that of all the weeks you could have done that, you picked two weeks before the Tour de France

But luckily you came to your senses and stopped. Phew.

Now imagine that at some point, years later, they decide to retest Tour samples

Imagine that of all the years they could have chosen, they pick the year you cheated

Fortunately, it’s for scientific research and the riders are never identified. Phew

Now imagine that another decade later, some country decides to waste tax payers’ money to look into doping

Imagine the chance that this country is France

Imagine the infinitesimally small chance that they not only target your sport, but also that one year, and that they manage to unearth the rider names behind the positive samples

Now imagine that although there is no real reason, they decide to make the names of the dopers public

There you are, always played by the rules, one little slip-up and you’re caught

Just like Erik Zabel really, oh no, wait, his claim to have used EPO only once turned out to be a complete lie

Now imagine that fans of the sport have gotten so accustomed to the excuses that they don’t believe you

How unlucky. Truly.

Note 1: Paris-Roubaix 2007 has always been one of my favorite races, making the recent revelations a pretty bitter pill to swallow

Note 2: Instead of only focussing on the positive tests, let’s also acknowledge that apparently several riders won stages in the 1998 Tour without using EPO. Maybe that should give us some hope for the future, and if nothing else it should serve to show the claim of “I had no choice, everybody was doing it” is off the mark.

25 Responses to “How unlucky”

  1. StevenWoo Says:

    Which riders did not test positive or have suspicious results in the French senate report?

    • Assuming all stage winners were tested (which I believe they were), Boardman, Svorada, Van Bon and Backstedt did not return positive or suspicious samples. And Steels is a “suspicious”, which I think deserves to get the benefit of the doubt simply because I wouldn’t want to live in a world where “suspicious” means “guilty”.

      • stevenwoo Says:

        Thank you for clarification, love the blog!

      • Paul Jakma Says:

        Boardman’s samples weren’t tested though, were they? His were “manquant” (which meant “used up in other research” according to the lab director).

        On the subject of Boardman, he’s an athlete who finished up his career with 2 different problems: a) low natural testosterone levels, b) early onset male osteoporosis. The former could be caused by exogenous testosterone abuse. The latter problems is *incredibly* rare in fit young men, outside of prolonged, corticosteroid use.

        • Shaun Says:

          I remember a Dutch study which showed that an event like the TdF caused low T levels unless hormone supplementation was used. Combined with the three weeks of little axial loading this can lead to exactly the sort off back issues Boardman suffered from.
          So ironically it was his health problem which supports the claim that he was clean. I’m told that he has acknowledged this, despite it rather pulling the rug out from the “drugs are bad” message.

        • Grant Says:

          actually replying to Shaun and Paul here, but ran out of nested replies.

          there is also the issue of causation vs correlation… Unless you know for certain that someone is actually clean, could the health problems not actually be caused by drugs? Besides, is there not a high correlation between TdF participants and drug use anyway?

      • Steve Says:

        O’Grady was “suspicious” too. Not that that means anything for Steels.

        • Paul Jakma Says:

          (replying to Shaun, but for some reason there’s no reply button on his comment)

          When was this TdF study? Got a link to it? Note, I’d be very careful about relying on studies that use data gathered from top athletes and making conclusions about how clean bodies respond. Even more so if those studies were done in a certain era. Also, I’d be wary of claims made by those inside the sport about what may cause odd hormone levels – they may potentially be trying to create smoke and explain away something that really was caused by hormone doping.

      • KS Says:

        In this case, suspicious actually means there’s synthetic EPO in your piss, just not enough for the authorities to label it a positive. You should read up on how the EPO test works or maybe give Saugy a call.

        • Actually suspicious does not mean there was EPO in the piss. Suspicious means the test indicates the presence of EPO but in such a small amount that one can not state it was actually present in the piss or if the reading is possibly caused for other reasons. If it is irrefutable that the positive reading comes from the piss, it’s a positive.

      • StevenWoo Says:

        OK, top three on each stage tested originally but no sample or paperwork from the original test was lost so for some riders they didn’t pass judgement – so in a still don’t know state based on tests for Boardman and Voigt

    • McEwen was one, but there were a couple of others. Certainly all McEwen’s tests were clean, while those around him on the stages he was tested were positive or suspicious.

      • McEwen didn’t win a stage in 1998, so hard to infer anything from that year’s tests since true to their sensationalist tendencies, the French Senate has gone a lot further in identifying guilty riders than in highlighting clean ones. (not to mention the lengths they’ve gone to to keep the 1998 football world champions out of the spotlight).

    • MATHEW Says:

      I doesn’t matter that it was only for two weeks out of almost two decades. The fact is that he still made the decision to use performance enhancing drugs, what a dick head. HE COMPLETELY DESERVED TO BE CAUGHT.

  2. Evan Shaw Says:

    The problem really is how sociologically sport is part of society. It exists in a parallel universe where athletes are over entitled and do not grow up to be accountable citizens.

    Hardened athletes yes. Adults who are responsible for their actions NO.

    And fans, sponsors, teams, etc. all endorse this either tacitly or unconsciously.

    As a court evaluator, the legal system is clear on these issues whereas our society is not.

    In court, the violation with a preponderance, civil, or beyond a reasonable doubt criminal is guilty or not guilty.

    Then the factors of mitigating or aggravating determine the severity of the punishment, and DO NOT influence the guilty or not guilty determination.

    IF, and the if is a big one he did this once and the violation is in its one instance a small violation (only the three weeks of the biggest event), then the charge is less than seven years of major infractions.

    The problem is that may view the violation as inconsequential even for seven years worth.

    And the playbook of facing these charges is to deny, minimize, rationalize, blame, and discredit.

    Conclusion: Many of these guys were trained as adolescents to be overly entitled athletes NOT adults. And they remain non accountable over entitled adolescents who are angry for being brought into the adult world of owning their actions.

    They see themselves as victims. They are not.

  3. Fausto Says:

    but WHY confess if you result is SUSPICIOUS just as Steels’ ? Steels hasn’t spoken.
    he should’ve waited and maybe kept silent. I say that because that Roubaix 2007 pill is a bit bitter for me too

  4. Rp Says:

    How unlucky indeed. You’ve hit the point exactly, nicely done.
    What is needed to bring testing up to the level of the ped’s these days? Is it that costly?

  5. Mike P. Says:

    yes, but the power of propaganda. think of all the people who believed Zabel, jalabert, etc. think of all the so-called cycling journalists who did not question it all. think of all the minimalizing still ongoing. what a world we live in, where truth has so little value.

  6. John Siviour Says:

    Great piece, excellent comments…esp E Shaw.

    S O’Grady has admitted to EPO use in the face of a “suspicious” finding…Credit.
    However he has also sought a degree of minimization. Credit halved.

    And as pointed out, who can say with any degree of confidence that the stated use was the only time O’Grady used PEDs in his career.

    Aside: I suspect that many otherwise “clean” cyclists, experimented with PEDs. This may have been as little as a once off to discover what effect a particular PED generated, to, an extended use in training or recovery.

    Back to O’Grady: truly, credit for admission. Shame he chose to ride his 17th tour rather than admit prior…that would have given him far more credibility.

  7. Last year i set a ” Petition ” ! Totally ignored ! Had Stuey & others thought it worthwhile , then WE , the public , would not be entertained by the ” Ire of the Journos , who feel they have been FOOLED once again !

    Joe Public in Oz , is probably saying ” WHO?”, as they read thier daily rag ?

    Just to remind yourself , take a look at :

    Perhaps Stuey has caused a few who changed terams to think twice about joining him in the spotlight ?

  8. Tony Geller Says:

    “Note 2: Instead of only focussing on the positive tests, let’s also acknowledge that apparently several riders won stages in the 1998 Tour without using EPO.”

    Vaughters has written that he believes everyone in the 98 tour was using EPO leading up to the race, but most stopped after the Festina raids. Therefore, those tested later in the Tour would not have shown EPO. That isn’t to say they weren’t using it earlier.

    • Nick Evans Says:

      Although the stage winners not on these lists include Boardman (prologue) and Svorada (stage 2), whereas O’Grady, Pantani and Ullrich won 14, 15 & 16.

  9. Andrei Says:

    Evidently it’s a bit like unprotected sex. Or driving drunk. Sometimes it only only takes once…

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