I barely have to change the leadin for this reposting. Last time I said “Sports doping is in the news again this week.” It was a previous round of Lance-fest. Well, he’s finally confessed to doping through his 7 TdF wins and a lot more besides.

Doping has been with cycling since forever.

I put this up at the original DrugMonkey blog on 8/21/2007.


We’ll start off our discussions on sports doping with the classic psychomotor stimulants, the amphetamines. You know, good old “speed”. A class of drugs primarily considered indirect dopamine agonists because they bind to the dopamine transporter with good affinity (dopamine reuptake inhibitor) and also act to facilitate dopamine release from the terminal. As with similar compounds they also tend to have some affinity for other monoaminergic transporters and will thus modulate norepinephrine and serotonin. Nevertheless, the major action usually under discussion is to increase dopamine levels in the synapse. Read the rest of this entry »

The recent news about Lance Armstrong and his numerous teammates, who are now confessing to having doped, raises parallels to cheating in the profession of science. I suggest you read the linked stories which all contain a fair bit of excuse making from the confessed cheats. “Everyone is doing it”. “I always wanted to be a cyclist”. “I was ambitious” and “They told me I had to if I wanted to survive at this level”. You will also notice that to a rider they appear to say that they made it all the way into the professional ranks without cheating. The hard way. With work and talent. So far the cycling doping stories are free of anyone claiming that they started out as a cheat from day one as a 15 year old amateur. And larded up with stories of long, hard hours on the bike as a teen.

Sounds a lot like academic scientists who make excuses for their scientific fraud, doesn’t it?

Another consideration which fails to emerge is the very nature of the top level competition, 20 days worth of hard racing, 4-8 hrs per day in the Grand Tours. Not clear it is possible for feats of sustained excellence to occur without doping, is it? Do you wonder about what it takes for a record of sustained excellence represented by multiple Cell, Nature and/or Science publications year in, year out from the same lab? You should.

Anyway, I thought I would revisit this personal observation, reposted from my blog.



BikeMonkey Cross-Post
It was someplace in the middle of my college years and I was home for the summer. I went to a circuit race that I’d raced a few times over the years. It was maybe a mile per lap, around a park.

Normally the circuit race is my game…..crits (under a mile, four corners around a block, typically) were cool, in theory, but I didn’t usually have a team capable of support and I’m kind of a wuss at the high-speed, elbow rubbing, apex cornering mid-pack thing. So a full-mile, maybe 1.5 circuit suited me well. Slightly less importance on repeated, high-speed cornering, lengthier straightaways to group up and the possibility of a short rise. Now, I sucked ass at hill climbs, true, but short power climbs, taken up out of the saddle were doable. Short enough and they were actually an advantage to me.

The course had a hill early in the lap after four right angle corners. Then it was about 30 feet of gain from 0.22 mi to 0.37 mi and then it was drifting up, almost flat up to 0.7 mi, then back down to the start line. Just after the course started downhill there was a acute turn, sharper than 90….crank it up to the 1.0 mi mark, bank a 95-100 degree left and it was about a tenth of a mile to the line.

Races were maybe 45 min at that point? I was in the Cat IVs so that seems about right. That would make it on the order of 18 laps or so? maybe 20. Not so far but believe me, you were hauling ass the whole time.

I always loved this course and had managed a prime (intermediate sprints within the race) or two over the years but had never won. My memory suggests that I was never in there for the finish…for whatever reason. Most usually because the climb had me at my limit. I could hang for most of the race, and be at the front enough by the start of the downhill to dice for primes at the bottom of the course. But in the end, someone would light it up enough over the climb late in the race for me to lose contact with the front.

Not this year…..

I was FLYING. I mean, I didn’t feel like Superman, toying with the other riders. I didn’t feel like I was riding a motorcycle. I was working my ass off, dicing it at the front through the danger zones, then sitting in. Chasing down breakaways a few times…. and above all else, strategically climbing the hill. No big deal, I was racing. And I’d get tired….and have to back off for a lap.

But every lap, I was in there. Coming through the left-hand turn that started over the crown of the hill, I would gain places, slip up to the front….shut dudes down. I may even have had to chase down some real climbers on a lap or two. And my HR would spike. But then I’d settle down and catch my breath and get back to where I needed to be.

And there I found myself, last lap. Up the right-hand side as we hit the corner in the middle of the hill…jamming up to the slightly strung out front 10. Slipping into the top five just before the turn onto the downhill…and then I nailed it. It was downhill so I don’t even remember the usual dramatics….flat or uphill and my back wheel was typically jumping around a bit when I spooled up a sprint. But I was goooooooone. Flew into the final bend a bit hot and I do remember juuuuuust not clipping the curb on the outside…and then it was up again and across the line.

FTW.

Of course, I hadn’t been doping, not really. But I HAD been training and racing above 6,000 feet for many months prior to this race. No doubt I had a significant red blood cell advantage over many of my competitors that day. I certainly had one over my own historical races on that course.

This is what EPO does, of course. Increases oxygen carrying capacity. So does blood doping.

Several years ago I started to realize that this is why you see so much explaining and defending out of the cycling dopers that get caught. “Everyone is doing it”. “I had to if I wanted to keep my (domestique) job”. “I had a bad day and needed to stay with the team”. “You still have to put in the work!”.

Yeah….yeah you do. And no, you don’t feel like you are cheating.

What you feel like is …”finally! I feel right. Like I’m where I should be based on my training!”

I can see how it would be very easy to convince yourself it wasn’t exactly cheating.

But it is.

I might be a plagiarist…

January 3, 2012

When it comes to performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in sports, aka doping, I’m a confirmed cynic. Each case of a later life confession for prior doping habits, when the person wasn’t ever caught by the system, just reinforces cynical suspicion about other athletes. Suspicions based on mostly circumstantial evidence in the absence of a confession.

Marion Jones...before and after


The circumstantial evidence will depend on the sport….in some sports it is the player’s amazing physical transformation. In others it is the amazing, short-duration transition from from a relatively pedestrian* level of performance to the top of the heap. In other cases it may be sustaining top level amazing performance for a longer duration of time than seems reasonable. Additional grist is added via comparing athletes to those who are confessed dopers and concluding that if Manny, Moe and Sarah doped, those who were competitive with them likely doped too.

Common Man has been cracking me up lately. For those that don’t follow @commnman, he styles himself as some sort of baseball pundit. Big baseball fan. Seems like a decent dude, other than this clear character deficit (no?)

Common has been holding his fellow baseball writers’ feet to the fire over cynical suspicion about suspected PED use in baseball, specifically related to the Hall of Fame voting for one Jeff Bagwell.

We asked you to find us more writers who believed, without evidence, that Jeff Bagwell was too “suspicous” to have naturally played baseball so well, knowing that it would be equally fair for all of us to collectively suspect those writers of being dirty, stinking plagiarists based on the same lack of evidence they use to punish Jeff Bagwell for his big arms and for the era in which he played.

The original complaint:

The point of this exercise is obviously not that we should hang the lot of them. It’s that trying to play this game of who played with whom and asking whether or not that should make us suspicious is a stupid one, especially when, by The Common Man’s count, just 42 clubs out of 408 436 possible teams (bah, I included from 1992-2006, just 10.3 9.6% of clubs, were devoid of players who have thusfar been accused of PED use. It touched every single franchise in Major League Baseball, and presumably every single player.

By the ridiculous standards used by many of baseball’s HOF voters, no one is enough above suspicion to warrant consideration. Just stop everyone. Stop. It was an era of rampant cheating in which relatively few players actually got caught. We cannot ignore an entire era of baseball history, and we cannot delegitimize the Hall of Fame by refusing to recognize some of the greatest players of all time for nothing other than our own suspicious natures.

If you want to see the raw data from TCM’s study, you’re welcome to click here. The second sheet on that spreadsheet will give you the team-by-team breakdowns.

Mark McGwire, before and after ?


And then the shit got totally, hilariously funny with

Plagiarist who (might) write among us

This led The Common Man to the realization that, if it was fair for writers to penalize Bagwell* because of their own suspicions that they were apparently too busy to investigate during Bagwell’s playing career, it was equally fair to suspect them of being plagiarists.** After all, sports reporters tend to write an awful lot, and so many of them seem to be writing about the same topics and coming to the exact same conclusions. Are we really so naïve as to think that they are doing this naturally?

These plagiarists, who violate the public trust and unfairly compete against their fellow writers on a daily basis, need to be called to account in a public forum. And thanks to our friend LeoKitty of The Girl Who Loved Andy Pettitte and her Hall of Fame voting tracker, TCM was able to find several writers who seem incredibly suspicious.*** Until they are able to definitively prove otherwise, the following writers are hereby suspected plagiarists:

Which of course put some people into a terrible snit, which I am inferring from the content of this:

Every so often, I get an objection in the comments or on Twitter about my use of a pseudonym, especially when I use this forum to criticize others who are not similarly pseudonymous. This happened to me the other day, in fact. It’s an entirely reasonable and justified objection to raise, and my reasons for remaining pseudonymous are not easily explained in 140 characters or less. So I thought it would be appropriate to have a place to which I can point people to explain my decision. If you are not at all interested in why I choose to write as The Common Man…well…feel free to skip this post.

You will recognize the above topic as being of interest to me. I am fascinated, as always, that people who find themselves on the pointed end of sharp criticism feel the need to go after the person who is criticizing them, rather than the critique itself. Especially when the criticism is so. damn. obviously. correct.

Which brings it back to me. I’m totally guilty of the charge Common is making. Overly suspicious of athletes without direct evidence of PED use. An unshakeable belief that despite the limitations of circumstantial evidence analysis, dammit, those dudes clearly doped. So I’d better take it in good humour if someone like Common called me out for it.

__
*don’t get me wrong, anyone who makes the professional ranks, olympic or other serious international “amateur” level is an amazing athlete. But not everyone can be a superstar.

Sports doping is in the news again this week. Some 60 Minutes program accusing Lance Armstrong, yet again, of being a doper who just didn’t get caught. Prof-like Substance has a few thoughts on the matter under a title which questions whether pro cycling can survive if Lance is proven to have doped. Are you kidding? Doping has been with cycling since forever.

I put this up at the original DrugMonkey blog on 8/21/2007.


We’ll start off our discussions on sports doping with the classic psychomotor stimulants, the amphetamines. You know, good old “speed”. A class of drugs primarily considered indirect dopamine agonists because they bind to the dopamine transporter with good affinity (dopamine reuptake inhibitor) and also act to facilitate dopamine release from the terminal. As with similar compounds they also tend to have some affinity for other monoaminergic transporters and will thus modulate norepinephrine and serotonin. Nevertheless, the major action usually under discussion is to increase dopamine levels in the synapse. Read the rest of this entry »

Dopes

July 13, 2010

Are we going to get to the bottom of the doping scene in US professional cycling? The FDA is on the case

George Hincapie (BMC) and Tyler Hamilton are among the riders who have been asked to cooperate with the federal investigation into doping practices in American cycling at large and the US Postal Service team in particular, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The criminal investigation, led by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) special agent Jeff Novitzky, is focused principally around Floyd Landis’ recent allegations of systematic doping practices at the US Postal Service team.


BikeMonkey Guest Post
ESPN is reporting that Floyd Landis, previously a world-level professional cyclist, is now admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs for “most of his career”.
You will perhaps recall that the Landis case has appeared on the DM blog a time or two before.

In a brief fan’s overview for those too lazy to Google, steadily improving journeyman* / domestique Floyd Landis started to show some real prospects as a Big Tour winner with some big performances as a super-domestique in 2004, and an initial foray as team captain in 2005. Landis was showing excellent signs of class in the early 2006 Tour but the usual Tour deal-breaker of a few great performances from competitors and one bad day had Floyd on the ropes. Stage 17 saw Floyd come out and just slay the competition with an all day break to put himself back in the race he would eventually win. It was a great stage to watch. A desperate attack in the early going which was surely doomed to failure. (This is a common rhythm for the bigger bike race stages- one man is usually unable to hold off the peloton until the finish if the teams are determined to catch him.) Yet Landis did. Despite the fact that the main General Classification teams knew he was riding back into and possibly away with the entire race. They couldn’t catch him. Floyd just kept hammering away the kilometers, obviously suffering like a dog and continuing to pour on the power. It was amazing.

He tested positive for testosterone doping in samples collected after that fateful race day. Given that this is a substance to be found in humans anyway, the conviction hinged on analysis of the ratio of carbon isotopes in the detectable testosterone. This ratio analysis indicated the presence of exogenous testosterone- i.e., that not manufactured naturally by Landis’ body.
Allegedly, anyway. Landis fought tooth and nail to overturn the conviction. The reporting from ESPN gives us a little clue as to why a now-admitted long-term doper would have fought so hard in that particular conviction.
He didn’t do it.

Read the rest of this entry »

“I am not a victim. It was my decision to dope. I can assure you, I have never told by a boss to dope, but I have also never experienced a rider being asked why he suddenly became so fast,”


BikeMonkey Guest Post
The latest pro-cycling cheater is one Thomas Frei, recently of the BMC team. He was caught using EPO, unceremoniously dropped from his team and spoke to the press. His comments are refreshingly honest.

“Of course I would have gone on doping. The money tempts you, it is the same for everyone,” said Frei in an interview with Swiss website NZZ.ch.

Ahh, the fight for glory, right?

As for himself, he said that he started his pro career clean. “Then came the hard stage races, and I learned that infusions were used for recovery. Everything was legal, but I still didn’t want any of it. But at some point it started [for me], because everybody does it. The doctor gives you the first shot, and then it isn’t long until you give yourself the first illegal shot.”

There’s the rub. It ain’t physiologically possible to do that job, even just the job of domestique, on pasta. They all know that. We all know that. The circumstances are ripe for doping just to survive. Just to have a paycheck. Just to have a team slot for the next season.
There couldn’t possibly be a lesson for science careers in here anywhere.

roids_mcgwire.jpg
Just milk? source
This week’s sports doping kerfuffle relates to the recent confession of retired Major League Baseball player Mark McGwire that he indeed used performance-enhancing drugs during his career. This confession, from what can be deduced (one of many professional opinionating comments here), was sparked only by McGwire’s desire to become a hitting coach for the St Louis Cardinal team and MLB head Bud Selig’s insistence that he come clean first. McGwire had previously refused to confess to his performance-enhancing drug use at a Congressional inquiry which had a lot of positive-role-model impact upside but zero financial upside. (In case you were wanting to evaluate McGwire’s motivational claims at present or anything, you know.)
This is by no means news to anyone with half a brain who followed the duel between McGwire and Sammy Sosa to raise the single-season home-run hitting record in 1998. So that part is not particularly interesting or instructive, although our good blog friends the BM and Anonymoustache have opined anyway (noted Yankees fan Comrade PhysioProf has been uncharacteristically silent on the issue). AM was in particularly fine form:

Here’s the ‘roid confession I’d like to hear one of these days:
Yeah, I did steroids and HGH. I’m not proud of it, but I did it.
And it pisses me off that all of you people are getting all freaking high and mighty over me because of this. The hell with you all. The writers knew something was going on. The managers knew something was going on. The owners knew something was going on. The fans knew something was going on. What….a record stands for 40 years without anyone getting close to it and suddenly it gets broken 5 times in 3 years, and you all seriously thought it was because of better [redacted] Ovaltine?

I’d like to hear that type of confession for a scientific paper retraction one of these days, wouldn’t you?

Read the rest of this entry »


BikeMonkey Guest Post
Professional sports continues to suffer from doping scandal. Although it is understood that preparation for the highest levels of competition involves considerably more than “training”, most sports have enacted rules to distinguish allowable training/preparation aids from “cheating“. This is by no means new. Nor is it over, the cycling world is poised for the now-traditional pre-Tour revelations of doping which will re-shuffle the lineup on July 4th.
But rules violations are in some ways uninteresting. There are rules to sport and if you break them you are penalized. Within that context, the nature of cheating and the ethical concepts of fair play are operationalized. Boring.
More interesting is to consider the essentially arbitrary distinctions that create the rules in the first place. Take Lance Armstrong. Winner of a record number of Tours de France, dominant rider and all around cycling icon. Did I mention he was making a come-back at his ripe old age and after a several year layoff? Great stuff.
And this was all possible only because he decided to have cancer.

Read the rest of this entry »


BikeMonkey GuestPost
I had comments in the past on the topic of cognitive performance doping. You know, taking drugs to artificially improve how smart you are so as to gain a competitive advantage over your non-drug-taking peers. Doping. Just like sports doping. My prior comments on the WP blog were in these two posts.
Doping is A-Okay According to Nature.
November 14, 2007

Ha. Of course this is a considerable misrepresentation and minimization. Caffeine (prescribed by BM for “falling asleep in 4pm seminars”) and nicotine (ditto by a colleague) are also good for focusing of attention, improving memory and other GoodThings for complex brain function. Considerably more than 15% of students and “anecdotes” of “postdocs and academics” use these cognitive enhancers I can tell you. Sucks that they are addictive drugs, but them’s the breaks. I mean, we gotta function in our jobs, right?
But let’s get right down to the point in the Nature editorial, eh? Wouldn’t you become addicted to crack if it would cure “tumor development”? I mean surely if Nature believes a little chronic Ritalin (methylphenidate) is called for just for “memoriz(ing) a postulated signalling pathway” relevant to cancer they can get behind addiction for a cure, right?

Performance Doping in Academia, Take 2
December 19, 2007

The original commentary then asks, in essence if it is “cheating” for otherwise normal people to use cognitive enhancers. The central consideration is that we’ve already crossed that Rubicon. Caffeine and nicotine being the primary examples. It is completely acceptable, particularly in the case of caffeine, to brag on use of this stimulant to confer unnatural and unfair advantage over the competition in academic performance. From undergrad, to grad to professordom. Any argument that tries to overlook or minimize this reality is completely bogus. “I wrote my last grant on Modafinil”, “I wrote my last grant at the local coffeeshop” and “I wrote my last grant on Adderall” should have precisely the same ethical implications. The legal status, common acceptance, route of administration of the compound, specificity of the compound, etc have nothing to do with the ethical question of “cheating” by taking a cognitive enhancing compound.

This story just won’t go away. Today’s offering is from a PBS broadcast on smart drugs on a program called These Days.

Read the rest of this entry »

A rash of ADHD diagnoses…

January 12, 2009

We have a bit of a running joke in my neck of the woods which stems from a newspaper report many years ago detailing a high rate of diagnoses for ADHD in a local high school. The surprising part was the rather upscale demographic of the high school. Of course, once one became aware that having a diagnosis of ADHD or some other mental/behavioral disability permitted all sorts of extra attention and breaks to be extended to the school kid in question, the suspicious mind was satisfied.
Well of course. If darling kid is not performing above average, there must be SomethingWrongzOhNOes! Get some drugs, quick! (and, oh btw, let him get extra tutoring and untimed tests and some other stuff as well).
Today’s tip is from The Common Man who points to this AP article.

Baseball authorized nearly 8 percent of its players to use drugs for ADHD last season, which allowed them to take otherwise banned stimulants.

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates 3 percent to 5 percent of children have ADHD, according to its Web site [ED-link].

Just eight TUEs were granted for illnesses other than ADHD: three for hypertension, three for hypogonadism, one for post-concussion syndrome and one for metabolic myopathy. The 114 overall TUEs was up from 111 the previous year.</small

Lord knows MLB players would never use amphetamine class psychomotor stimulants to improve play. Nor could there be any reason to seek a legal exemption to use stimulants. That would be just cynical talk.
Maybe they should just switch to benzothiazepines.
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small caveat, ADHD rates are 2-3 times higher in boys than in girls (this cites NIH info for the summary). Given that pro ballplayers are all male we need to think of this 8% rate in that context.

Caffeine

January 9, 2009

The 2007 WADA list has caffeine in the “2007 Monitoring Program” but it is not a “Prohibited Substance”. The 2007 US AntiDopingAgency (USADA) list seems to directly quote the WADA list on stimulants, so ditto. It used to be one of the threshold substances (under 12 micrograms/ml of urine and you were OK) but was delisted as of Jan 1, 2004.

HA! I just noticed this draft from 11/30/07! Dang if I can remember where I was going with it, just a stub and all. Reminded me about something over at Zuska’s diggity dogs. Caffeine really is a drug. Gee ya think?

no longer quite the n00b scicurious recently had something about adenosine and caffeine so I’ll just point you there for the science.

one of PalMD’s podcasts ( I think it was #2 or #4 but I could be wrong) talked about the wonders of coffee and how medicine can’t really find much to worry about. Sure, save the addiction part.

Anyway, I’ll just snap this up in case it jogs my memory of what I was thinking about. Probably some papers on cycling performance I guess….

Now this is interesting. VeloNews is reporting that Lance Armstrong is coming out of retirement to race the big races again next year.

Lance Armstrong will come out of retirement next year to compete in five road races with the Astana team, according to sources familiar with the developing situation.
Armstrong, who turns 37 this month, will compete in the Amgen Tour of California, Paris-Nice, the Tour de Georgia, the Dauphine-Libere and the Tour de France — and will race for no salary or bonuses, the sources, who asked to remain anonymous, told
VeloNews

Interesting sporting angle, what’s all this about the doping, DM?

Read the rest of this entry »

Marion Jones, former golden girl of track and field has been released from jail.

A federal Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman says Jones was released Friday morning from a halfway house in San Antonio after serving most of her six-month sentence for lying to federal investigators about her use of performance-enhancing drugs.

The BM had previously noted her “Guilty” plea and subsequent sentencing.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Summer Olympics are finally upon us. No doubt there will be some interesting sports doping cases arising. While we’re waiting, might as well beat a dead horse and see if we can get anything out of it. The latest issue of Nature contains a commentary from Donald A. Berry on the “flawed statistics and flawed logic” of detecting sports doping. I’ll get to that after the jump but first the Nature editorial team issued a fairly strident position:

Nature believes that accepting ‘legal limits’ of specific metabolites without such rigorous verification goes against the foundational standards of modern science, and results in an arbitrary test for which the rate of false positives and false negatives can never be known. By leaving these rates unknown, and by not publishing and opening to broader scientific scrutiny the methods by which testing labs engage in study, it is Nature’s view that the anti-doping authorities have fostered a sporting culture of suspicion, secrecy and fear.

Preach on! [Update 8/7/08: roundup of commentary on this story from Trust but Verify blog]

Read the rest of this entry »