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Kohl retires

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Apr 11, 2009
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On second thought, an "economic" approach to the doping problem has merit. :D

It does seem that the structure of incentives in cycling is wonky: it's all about punishment and ruin if you get caught, and huge rewards if you are not caught and are able to win thereby.

Hulkgogan, I think, would say we need to look at the structure of incentives driving the behaviour. I've revised my views about ethics vs. economics of doping. The purely punitive/"ethical" approach will not solve the problem; it probably buries it deeper.

I see that Alpe d'Huez on the Katusha thread has called for support for whistleblowers, i.e. something on the positive side of the ledger. Very odd that there's zero official support for whistleblowers. Almost comically odd, i.e. a really weird structure of incentives is in place.
 
Mar 10, 2009
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Here's the process used when making the "should I or shouldn't I" dope decision. Risk/reward is a very clear determinant:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-doping-game-payoffs

Of course, maybe Tammy Thomas didn't think about the obvious facial hair she developed. Maybe she forgot to shave. Or, maybe she liked the look?!?! :eek: In any case, she makes a great poster face for <you have to sound like Harvey Fierstein when you say this>,"Women, beware of steroids!"
 
May 1, 2009
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Alpe d'Huez said:
While I have said myself that low-dosages of EPO under medical supervision are quite safe, the doping world doesn't operate in such a simple vacuum. In a broad view you are correct, but exceptions cannot be ignored. Hockey player Alexei Cherepanov recently collapsed and died, while on a doping program. There are potential serious ramifications from blood doping, in addition to potential bacterial poisoning, which is probably what affected Manzano and Simeoni, which could have lead to sepsis, shock and even death. Patrick Sinkewicz spoke of getting a re-injection of blood that "improperly" clotted. This could have killed him. There are also possibilities of circulatory system overloads, internal clotting, and metabolic shock.

I think there are two arguments against doping 1) It's bad because it's against the rules and spirit of the game being played and therefore cheating and poor sportsman ship 2) It's dangerous to riders health.

The problem with the first argument is that the rules are so poorly defined, and the ethical grounds are so blurred, even as we have spoken about (in another thread i think?) differing from culture to culture. Look at things like caffeine, pseudoephedrine and salbutamol. Caffeine used to be banned, now its open slather. Pseudoephidrine is definitely performance enhancing and used to be banned. Andreea Răducan lost her olympic gold medal because of it! now its perfectly legal. How can something change morally? Also Salbutamol is banned. Is it a stronger performance enhancer than pseudoephidrine? I'd like to see that study. Its definitely a stronger PED than marijuana which is explicitly banned?

But I digress.

So that leaves the second, and i believe most important reason to stop doping. Protecting the health of the athletes. We have a responsibility as participants in the entertainment that is sport to make sure that we are not forcing people to kill or maim themselves for that entertainment. This can probably be achieved a lot simpler than some of the methods used now to detect doping. Test for symptoms. Same as the early EPO prevention methods. You get your crit tested before a race. If its over 50, you don't race. Simple. If don't get to race in the first place, you start to change your habits pretty quickly. There is no roll of the dice on whether you get caught after you have stood on the podium.

i agree that this is no silver bullet, and I am massively simplifing the whole process, but maybe its time to change the way that we look at, then tackle doping.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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boalio said:
You get your crit tested before a race. If its over 50, you don't race. Simple.

I used to agree, but I think BigBoat has pointed out that the 50% rule benefits riders whose natural hematocrit is in the high 30s and low 40s compared to riders with a naturally high hematocrit (high 40s). The use of EPO/blood transfusions to increase your hematocrit to just below 50% will result in better performances if it increases your hematocrit by 10% compared to 1-2%.
 
May 1, 2009
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elapid said:
I used to agree, but I think BigBoat has pointed out that the 50% rule benefits riders whose natural hematocrit is in the high 30s and low 40s compared to riders with a naturally high hematocrit (high 40s). The use of EPO/blood transfusions to increase your hematocrit to just below 50% will result in better performances if it increases your hematocrit by 10% compared to 1-2%.

But that's really an argument against the amount of benefit you get from a drug (point 1), not really its health dangers (point 2).

Just to play devil's advocate, and to maybe illustrate how murky the whole 'unfair advantage' argument is, should I be allowed to use EPO if i have a lower than normal hematocrit level? That would create a level playing field. It's the argument used for salbutamol with a TUE.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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boalio said:
But that's really an argument against the amount of benefit you get from a drug (point 1), not really its health dangers (point 2).

Just to play devil's advocate, and to maybe illustrate how murky the whole 'unfair advantage' argument is, should I be allowed to use EPO if i have a lower than normal hematocrit level? That would create a level playing field. It's the argument used for salbutamol with a TUE.

I know you're playing devil's advocate, but is there any such thing as a level playing field? Two options for a level playing field are no doping or no restrictions on doping (disregarding the financial aspect of those that can and cannot afford the products/doctors/programs).
 
May 9, 2009
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Well, they could just set certain levels that are acceptable and then test for those with everything, like they do/did with hematocrit. As long as the rider isn't over those levels, then everything is fine and no mention of "drugs" should come up since it's really unimportant if the rider got their from having good genes or from minor doping or epo usage. If the rider turns out to be outside of "normal" ranges, it becomes the riders responsibility to prove he didn't get their through doping.

I'm curious: how much difference would a boost from 39% to 49% hematocrit be in performance?
 
Jun 3, 2009
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I admire the personal choice Tifosa made and all others that do the same to quit rather than not being clean. It is not fair that they feel they have to of course.

There are people who can easily make the opposite choice and they are the reason we are in this mess.

There must also be those who fall somewhere in between. I'm sure that there are riders who are not clean but would prefer to be. Even if not everyone was clean but enough riders were (majority?) to allow them to not be sacked for comparatively poor results. Should these riders be as vilified if caught?

There is no way real way to tell the difference between the type of cheaters and perhaps if the later did make the same choice as Tifosa things may change but perhaps there would be enough people in the former category for it not to make any difference.

I do love the idea of having whistle blower protection. Do you give the same level of support to someone who is about to retire as opposed to someone who still has many years to go?
 
Mar 18, 2009
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stephens said:
Well, they could just set certain levels that are acceptable and then test for those with everything, like they do/did with hematocrit. As long as the rider isn't over those levels, then everything is fine and no mention of "drugs" should come up since it's really unimportant if the rider got their from having good genes or from minor doping or epo usage. If the rider turns out to be outside of "normal" ranges, it becomes the riders responsibility to prove he didn't get their through doping.

I'm curious: how much difference would a boost from 39% to 49% hematocrit be in performance?

BigBoat would be better to answer this question, but probably in the order of 20% improved performance if you are a good responder. Nowhere near as good if your hematocrit was normally 46% and you increased it to 49%.
 
Mar 10, 2009
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Not Riding Enough said:
IThere are people who can easily make the opposite choice and they are the reason we are in this mess.

There must also be those who fall somewhere in between.


Exactly. I believe in the rule of thirds on doping. One third dope once in their career, never to try again (perhaps they're known as "former cyclists"); one third dope on-and-off during their career for selective preparation for certain races; and, one third dope their entire career (because they dislike their lack of results when not doped--or cannot endure the thought of not "reaching their ultimate potential by whatever means possible".)

Amen to the whistleblowers - they are the ones who should be "protected" riders. To this day, the hair stands up on the back of my neck when I think of Armstrong chasing down Simeoni... An *** of the first magnitude, he is.
 
Jun 3, 2009
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tifosa said:
Amen to the whistleblowers - they are the ones who should be "protected" riders. To this day, the hair stands up on the back of my neck when I think of Armstrong chasing down Simeoni... An *** of the first magnitude, he is.

I actually liked Lance until then. My wife still does due to the cancer thing.

I had a soft spot for him as my first ever Tour stage was in Paris 1999 when he won the first one, Robbie McEwen won the satge (his first), and there was an outside chance Stuart O'Grady was going to get Green.

I did always want Ullrich to beat Lance though, as Riis stopped him wining his first tour when he first raced. I did try not to think about doping then and still do when I watch so I can enjoy it. I'm taking my 9 yr old daughter to her first stage this year (a mountain one) and won't talk to her about doping then either.
 
Mar 10, 2009
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CYCLINGNEWS: Fast forward to the present and the Italian looks like a shadow of his former self - a mediocre stage racer rider who can't climb, recover or even claim to be the leader of his own Lampre team. Yes, he managed to cling to the top riders on a few mountain stages at the Giro, but when the best you can hope for is a stage from a breakaway it's time to revaluate your future goals.

The combination of his clean stance on doping and his poor stage racing form must leave the Italian in a void of emotional turmoil, but will he finally realise he just can't cut it when it comes to a Grand Tour GC? Luckily he's not down to ride the Tour, so he saves himself a repeat performance come July and of course, there is the consolation that he's still one of the finest one-day riders of his generation.

I really wonder if this type of tabloid journalism is conducive to anti-doping in the cycling world.

Let's just assume, for the sake of the argument, that Cunego, contrary to most other GC contenders was actually completely clean, just 'because he said so'.

With statements like the ones above, which rider would want to be riding clean if your claimed 'clean performance' draws such negative and condescending remarks? Everyone is pretends to be anti-doping, but when is below 'expectation', you are mocked worse then a poor stand up comedian doing ugly 'you momma' jokes...
 
boalio said:
So that leaves the second, and i believe most important reason to stop doping. Protecting the health of the athletes. We have a responsibility as participants in the entertainment that is sport to make sure that we are not forcing people to kill or maim themselves for that entertainment. This can probably be achieved a lot simpler than some of the methods used now to detect doping. Test for symptoms. Same as the early EPO prevention methods. You get your crit tested before a race. If its over 50, you don't race. Simple. If don't get to race in the first place, you start to change your habits pretty quickly. There is no roll of the dice on whether you get caught after you have stood on the podium.

i agree that this is no silver bullet, and I am massively simplifing the whole process, but maybe its time to change the way that we look at, then tackle doping.

Yours is a noble response. The problem is, though, that it is often the athletes who are "killing" to get doped and not getting killed from it, whereas ours is a culture which thrives on achieving glory and fame and where, in this Machiavelian society, the ends justify the means. Naturally I'm generalizing. However this is the mechanism:a quest for fame, immortality, divus. And any moralizing on the subject, given the reality, falls into tasteless and unrealistic wishful thinking. Tasteless, and this has nothing to do with your argument, because human society wants the glory image to be pure, while it has developed every illicit means that can be bought and sold to obtain it. Sport in the buyers and sellers market will never change. Unless people do.
 
Apr 1, 2009
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Bala Verde said:
I really wonder if this type of tabloid journalism is conducive to anti-doping in the cycling world.

Let's just assume, for the sake of the argument, that Cunego, contrary to most other GC contenders was actually completely clean, just 'because he said so'.

With statements like the ones above, which rider would want to be riding clean if your claimed 'clean performance' draws such negative and condescending remarks? Everyone is pretends to be anti-doping, but when is below 'expectation', you are mocked worse then a poor stand up comedian doing ugly 'you momma' jokes...

+1...........
 
May 9, 2009
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elapid said:
BigBoat would be better to answer this question, but probably in the order of 20% improved performance if you are a good responder. Nowhere near as good if your hematocrit was normally 46% and you increased it to 49%.

So let's say I'm naturally 39% (true), and the other guy is naturally 46%. Does that mean he has like a 10% or better advantage over me even if we trained exactly the same and had same muscle, weight etc.? If so, would there really be anything morally wrong with me trying to boost my own levels up to the same? (I'm too old for it to matter, but there are lots of racers out there in this situation).
 
stephens said:
So let's say I'm naturally 39% (true), and the other guy is naturally 46%. Does that mean he has like a 10% or better advantage over me even if we trained exactly the same and had same muscle, weight etc.? If so, would there really be anything morally wrong with me trying to boost my own levels up to the same? (I'm too old for it to matter, but there are lots of racers out there in this situation).

I don't think natural hematocrits have much of an advantage. There are a lot of variables that combine together to produce the body's potential performance. Perhaps someone's hematocrit is naturally high because his heart volume is low or he has a low max heart rate or something else.

Curious though is that studies for altitude training seem to produce iffy results while EPO studies show large, clear gains.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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stephens said:
So let's say I'm naturally 39% (true), and the other guy is naturally 46%. Does that mean he has like a 10% or better advantage over me even if we trained exactly the same and had same muscle, weight etc.? If so, would there really be anything morally wrong with me trying to boost my own levels up to the same? (I'm too old for it to matter, but there are lots of racers out there in this situation).

Where's BigBoat when you want him?:)

I think BroDeal is correct, but I am not sure. Hematocrit is an indirect measure of your oxygen-carrying capacity. Red blood cells carry hemoglobin and hemoglobin is responsible for oxygen-carrying capacity. Total hemoglobin is much more accurate measure of oxygen-carrying capacity. In normal people, there hematocrit and hemoglobin concentration (I am not sure about total) are usually in rough proportion. So, as I am writing this through, I would assume that a rider at 46% would be better than a rider at 39% because they're oxygen-carrying capacity would be superior. Clear as mud!

However, to answer your question, I do not think it is moral or ethical to dope to increase your hematocrit to the same as the next rider. If everyone was created equal, then everyone would be professional cyclists and they would all cross the line at the same time. In an undoped (utopian) world, the winners would be the strongest and most gifted. If your VO2 max or hematocrit was lower than the next guy, then that's the way the cookie crumbles.
 
elapid said:
Where's BigBoat when you want him?:)

I think BroDeal is correct, but I am not sure. Hematocrit is an indirect measure of your oxygen-carrying capacity. Red blood cells carry hemoglobin and hemoglobin is responsible for oxygen-carrying capacity. Total hemoglobin is much more accurate measure of oxygen-carrying capacity. In normal people, there hematocrit and hemoglobin concentration (I am not sure about total) are usually in rough proportion. So, as I am writing this through, I would assume that a rider at 46% would be better than a rider at 39% because they're oxygen-carrying capacity would be superior. Clear as mud!

I hope this is right because I have a high natural hematocrit. It will be good to find out I am a mutant. I may have take up fighting crime.

One data point to think about is that in the 90s teams used to test potential neo-pros, looking for those with low hematocrits.

I thought I read somewhere that natural hematocrit in healthy individuals is not that highly correlated with VO2max. But I could be misremembering.
 
May 9, 2009
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BroDeal said:
I don't think natural hematocrits have much of an advantage. There are a lot of variables that combine together to produce the body's potential performance. Perhaps someone's hematocrit is naturally high because his heart volume is low or he has a low max heart rate or something else.

I hadn't heard that either of those things have anything to do with the percentage of red blood cells in the blood. How is it they can impact that?

Curious though is that studies for altitude training seem to produce iffy results while EPO studies show large, clear gains.

I'm curious how there can be any difference between naturally high percentage, one from taking epo, and one from altitude training. If the hematocrit level is the same, isn't the bodies ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles the same?

(altitude training's results may be iffy because it's harder to train at the same intensity at elevation and once returning to sea level the hematocrit will return to normal within about two weeks. but it does seem to produce a boost, no?)
 
stephens said:
I hadn't heard that either of those things have anything to do with the percentage of red blood cells in the blood. How is it they can impact that?

What I was trying to say is that there are a lot of variables that combine together to produce a rider's VO2Max. A rider may have a higher natural hematocrit than a second rider but there may be another variable (such as a lower max heart rate in the first rider) that evens out the performance of the two riders. Maybe some of these other variables could even be the reason why a person's hematocrit is higher than normal.

stephens said:
I'm curious how there can be any difference between naturally high percentage, one from taking epo, and one from altitude training. If the hematocrit level is the same, isn't the bodies ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles the same?

I do not know. It seems like the studies I have read produced dubious results in many situations. It seems that altitude training is most beneficial for racing at alitude while the idea of training at altiude and getting a huge boost at sea level does not seem as clear cut as initial studies indicated. Perhaps acclimatizing to high altitude affects some other performance variable.
 
May 9, 2009
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elapid said:
However, to answer your question, I do not think it is moral or ethical to dope to increase your hematocrit to the same as the next rider. If everyone was created equal, then everyone would be professional cyclists and they would all cross the line at the same time. In an undoped (utopian) world, the winners would be the strongest and most gifted. If your VO2 max or hematocrit was lower than the next guy, then that's the way the cookie crumbles.

I think I would prefer a world in which the winners would be those who prepared the best and were smartest in their training and racing tactics, and not those that were simply born with the biggest natural advantage. So I think I'd be tempted to support any sort of regulation scheme that allowed athletes to "fix", in a safe manner, any natural deficiencies they may have (anemia, asthma, whatever) to bring them up to at least a normal range and then let training and intelligence and guts take over from there to decide the winners.
 
May 14, 2009
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In L'Equipe there is more information about Kohl's confession. He said he had 2 blood liter taken half in August and November for 2008 TDF.

He had begun to "work" with Humanplasma in 2005. Interesting he added that 2008 was the first time that he had a major doping program.

According Kohl, it seems that AFLD was effective to limit the use of doping by their testing.

http://www.lequipe.fr/Cyclisme/breves2009/20090608_232214_la-confession-de-bernhard-kohl.html
 
Jun 3, 2009
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BroDeal said:
One data point to think about is that in the 90s teams used to test potential neo-pros, looking for those with low hematocrits.

Was this because if they were perfoming with low hematocrits they would get much better with boosted hematocits?
 
Yes. He confirms there is a two tier (at least) doping hierarchy within the peloton, the best and well off riders getting the best gear.
Not a surprised to we hardened cycnics.......or realists, if you prefer.
All you have to do is pick any top race and check out it's past winners.
Check out the Dauphine's winners and podium over the past 10 years.
2008 Alejandro Valverde (Spa)
2007 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz)
2006 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Christophe Moreau (Fra) Bernhard Kohl (Aut)
2005 Inigo Landaluze (Spa) Santiago Botero (Col)
2004 Iban Mayo (Spa) Tyler Hamilton (USA) Oscar Sevilla (Spa)
2003 Lance Armstrong (USA) Iban Mayo (Spa) David Millar (GBr)
2002 Lance Armstrong (USA) Floyd Landis (USA) Christophe Moreau (Fra)
2001 Christophe Moreau (Fra) Pavel Tonkov (Rus)
2000 Tyler Hamilton (USA)
1999 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz)


Frightening!