Friday, June 10, 2011

Last doping blog this week

Last time I printed the list of riders and the level of suspicion ascribed to them for likelihood of doping in the opinion of the UCI during the 2010 TdF.  A couple of thoughts.  First, I think you have to recognize that the UCI is a very political entity.  I'm sure that they use science in their process, but they aren't above using a bit of national bias both for and against people.  Second, as I look through the list, there are surprising positions at both ends for me.  I was surprised to see Christian Vande Velde in the same category with Lance, because I thought that the UCI would just put Lance at a 10 for general purposes.  Of course, maybe that isn't fair to say about the UCI, but certainly some organizations (ASO, I'm looking at you) would.

Michael Rogers at a 7?  I thought his lack of climbing compared to some would have left him lower in the list.  Wiggo at 5?  Sorry to see him half that high.

Notice a suspicious number of large riders who seem to be particularly strong hill-climbing domestiques very high up on this list?  I do.

Here is the same list spread across nations instead of teams:
1. France 1.23 (based on the average of 35 riders)
2. Netherlands 1.25 (8)
3. Switzerland 1.60 (5)
4. Portugal 2.0 (3)
5. Slovenia 2.25 (4)
6. USA 2.37 (8)
7. Belgium 2.69 (13)
8. Denmark 2.80 (5)
9. Austria 3.0 (3)
10. Germany 3.27 (15)
       Australia 3.27 (11)
12. Spain 3.27 (32)
       Great Britain 3.27 (8)
14. Italy 3.70 (17)
15. Belarus 4.0 (3)
16. Russia 4.33 (6)
17. Kazakhstan 5.33 (3)
       Ukraine 5.33 (3)

Link -

I am surprised that Great Britain and Belgium weren't flip-flopped on this list.  I do think that some nations are more prone to doping than others, certainly because of the attitudes of the coaches and organizations, but also traditions and national attitudes.  It seems to me that of the cycling powers, Italy, Spain and Belgium stand together in the "anything you can get away with goes" category, while the younger generations in most place, notably Great Britain, Australia, US, appear to be against doping; a changing of the guard if you will.  I don't know quite what to think of the French, in part because they are so sanctimonious about their anti-doping, but it wasn't that long ago that Virenque was a national cycling hero and his cleanliness was always in doubt no matter what the French housewives thought.

All in all, I thought the list was interesting and noteworthy that the UCI created such a list.  I don't think that there is nearly as much doping in cycling as there was, but then again, going from 95% to 50% is a dramatic drop.  I just don't know how dramatic to think it is.

Lastly, while I hate the problem and it substantially decreases my enjoyment of professional racing, I do think that there is an effort to remove it from cycling.  US football, baseball and basketball could not be more hypocritical in their drug testing.  It might as well be non-existent for the way they go about it.  My understanding is that in the NFL, the drug tests are scheduled months in advance.  It is obviously possible to avoid testing positive even when you are subject to random tests; it is a virtual impossibility to fail the tests when they are scheduled well in advance.  Also, in the NFL, if you fail a test, the first and ONLY notification goes to YOUR AGENT.  Not your team, not your coach and definitely not the public - just your agent.  It is only after you fail the second test that your team and coach find out and I don't think there are sanctions until your third failure - which means that you have to be a complete idiot AND want to be caught, to really have a problem with drug testing in football.  Which means to me, that at least cycling is serious about stopping the use of PED's.  In other sports, they are more worried about the level playing field, and as long as everyone is doing it, it is level, right?

I think it is time to move onto something more fun than a discussion of doping, don't you think?  How about some decent weather and riding bikes?  I think so too.

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