Hope Rides Again

•August 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I think I enjoyed the Tour more this year than I have in a while.  From the battles at the finish lines to the great climbs in the mountains, everyday was exciting.  With Lance’s return to the sport and all the drama on Astana, not to mention the other numerous stories, there is so much than can be talked about that it is hard to find a place to start; but I was granted some perspective on Wednesday night. 

When Lance announced he was coming back, cycling erupted into a debate.  On one side you have one of the most popular sports figures in history, the winner of 7 consecutive tours, coming out of retirement to a sport in need of a new hero. But on the other hand, you have all the critics that come with him.  From those who accuse him of doping, to those who say he just couldn’t let go, there are lots of people who just don’t like Lance. They say he is trying to prove he used to be clean.  They say he can’t get over his own ego.  They say he is bad for the sport.  So why did Lance decide to return and was it good for cycling?

I don’t think I am really qualified to fully answer that question, but there are thousands out there who are qualified.  From the messages on roads of France, to stories on TV and the web, to thousands of yellow bracelets around the world, they will say Lance’s return was amazing.  For as much ballyhoo that he has been given, Lance’s return is not about Lance.  It is about cancer. 

It is about a cure.  It is about hope.  It is about a cause worth fighting for.  It is not about winning.  It is about giving people the courage and hope to do the impossible.  It is about fighting the fight and giving others the hope to fight for themselves.  Just ask The Fat Cyclist. 

His wife, Susan, has been fighting cancer for sometime.  Together, along with hundreds of other supports on Team Fatty, they have raised over $500,000 for The Lance Armstrong Foundation.  But Wednesday night, Susan passed away.  She left behind thousands of friends and supporters, but she left them better people.  Although her body was beaten by this disease, her spirit and her passion never were.  And neither were the spirits of those around her.  

It’s not about the bike.  It’s not about the trophies.  It is about hope.  And though Lance didn’t win it all, he fought with everything he had.  Just like Susan.  He did it not for himself, but for them.  And thus Lance, Susan and all the others who have fought, are fighting or will fight cancer can have hope.  And at the end of it all, even if overcome, they can smile and know they fought valiantly.  Like Susan.  And continue to inspire the rest of us to be the best we can every moment of every day.  So here’s Lance. And here’s to Susan.  And here’s to all the others who have survived and those who haven’t.  To all who have inspired us to LiveSTRONG; thank you.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a light to the rest of world in the midst of own darkest times.  Thank you.

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Greg Lemond Pt. II My response to comments

•June 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

1. At least you recognize that you don’t understand criminal courts and burdens, but why do you still argue with the lawyer about them?
2. It is foolish to say that crime scene testing isn’t structured. I have not found anything more meticulous and painstaking that crime scene investigation, evidence collection and testing. This is exactly why a comparison of burdens is relevant. Any flaws in the procedure and analysis in regards to evidence renders that evidence inadmissible or untrustworthy. Thus, it cannot be used to reach the truth, not just convictions.
3. The Innocence Project’s numbers are greatly overstated. The fact is there are very few actual innocence cases. One was is in my jurisdiction, and it was our office that did the exoneration, not the Innocence Project. Though they came in on the back end with the exonerated’s family and took all the credit, they had nothing to do with it. And this is usually the case. They use fabricated documents and unethical tactics to get press with the goal of ending the death penalty. They do not actually do anything trustworthy in seeking exonerations. It is the prosecutors doing their job even after a case is seemingly over.
4. Although the collection and transportation stage is the easiest place to corrupt testing, it is not the only place. Any expert in testing would know exactly how to fabricate the necessary paperwork, and by that I mean testing logs, etc., to fabricate a false test. Thus, your collectors, testers and administrators must be extremely trustworthy. And one can’t say that just because they are expert scientists that they are trustworthy. BALCO’s scientists certainly weren’t.
5. What does me prosecuting Marion Jones have to do with anything? But since you bring her up, she was charged with perjury, not doping. No one, by results or testing in anyway could show that she doped. There was nothing unusual about her progression and success as an athlete. She got caught through bank records and a paper trail and was convicted of lying under oath with regards to her association with BALCO. Secondly, take Floyd Landis. There was nothing unusual about his progression as an athlete either. And on that famous stage 17, his power numbers were at or below his training numbers. After his initial escape, which was not unusual, he made up his time on the descents. He was the fastest descender in peloton, and could surely do it alone better than a group. Also, there were very few flat sections for the peloton to really be able to chase, and we all know that they can make up much more ground on flats than on mountains. Also, the 70+ water bottles he used to keep himself cool played a huge factor on his fatigue. He had everything he needed right there with him to succeed that day. Thus, whether he doped or not, his performance numbers do not tell the tale, his urine does.
You may also look at Christian Vande Velde and David Millar, two athletes who are certainly clean. On the one hand, Christian’s performance has dramatically improved in the last couple of years, however, he has always had exceptional blood numbers. Thus, you cannot say he was doping, based on performance. The blood tells the story. And with Millar, his performance since his return from suspension has not fallen off. There is no real discernable difference in his performance when he was doping and since he has returned clean.
6. The Floyd Landis case also further proves my point on burdens of proof, procedural requirements and reliability of testing. First, USADA ruled that Floyd was guilty 2-1. In a criminal case, the verdict must be given unanimously from a jury of 12 peers. Second, Floyd was largely convicted by the isotope test, which was not approved for use in testing at that time. WADA and USADA violated their own standards in hearing that evidence. That would not happen in a criminal case. The isotope test would have been thrown out. (That is not a comment on its accuracy, however. It is extremely accurate.) Also, this is not intended to put me on one side or the other in regards to Floyd’s case. From what I know, I do not think he should have been convicted, especially when the USADA’s top lab would have called the same results a negative. However, I will not say that I believe he is innocent either. I do believe that the urine that was tested, that was claimed to be Floyd’s, did have synthetic testosterone in it. Given the discrepancies in the record keeping, only Floyd and those doing the collectin/testing know whether that was actually his urine and thus I have no opinion on whether it was or was not.
7. As far as the reliability of the other tests, they are the same as in criminal cases. They, and we, use spectrometry to identify substances. Whether it is cocaine, alcohol in a breathalyzer or PEDs in blood or urine, spectrometry is accurate. Every substance has a unique molecule that reflects light in a unique way, and thus can be identified in that fashion. Where it breaks down is in figuring concentration. The subject’s blood volume, lung volume, and blood composition must be taken into account properly. This is why the blood passport program must be in place.
8. With regard to circumstantial evidence, it is highly reliable. You and Greg, however, do not understand its definition. Circumstantial evidence would include blood testing, fingerprints, etc. It is reliable when collected and analyzed under strict standards, according to proper methods, by trustworthy individuals. Direct evidence is simply some saying it happened.
9. Greg does imply throughout his speech and in many other interviews that he raced against and beat clean people. This is largely because of his claim that Lance must be dirty because Lance beat dirty people. If Greg admits that he beat dirty people, he must also succumb to his own argument that he was also dirty.
10. Greg did admit that Pantani did something wrong in his death and in his lifestyle in this speech. He does not admit that Pantani was a doper. He also implies here that Pantani must have been beaten by dopers when he speaks of Pantani being beaten. In other interviews, he has claimed that Pantani was clean and that anybody who can beat Pantani or Pantani’s numbers must be doping.
11. Yes, I am mistaken about Greg’s date for meeting Ferrari. However, the Greg’s point does not meet scrutiny. Power meters were still rarely used until after 2000. Ferrari, like most physiologists, understands that blood monitoring is the best way to track results and improvements. I majored in exercise physiology, and all we did was blood test athletes. That is not to say that Ferrari wasn’t involved in doping, just to say he understood the importance of understanding the information in blood. WADA and UCI also understand this, hence the blood passport program.
12. Yes, plea bargaining is a good idea, if the information given by the accused is accurate. It must be investigated and substantiated. This is how we do it in the criminal world. We use little fish to get to big fish, but we use them for leads, then go build the case ourselves with real evidence. If this is done, then plea bargaining will work. Blind accusations will not fly.
13. If you don’t know what Greg said in his other interviews, then why bring it up? And if you admit you don’t know something, why do you feel the need to argue about it? You have already admitted you don’t know anything about it.
14. Yes, it is ok to tag your blog with all topics involving cycling. This is a relatively new blog and I would like to attract readers. To do that, you must get them here. To get them here, you must make your blog show up on their radar. It is done with all websites, which is why search engines come up with all kinds of seemingly random results.

Greg Lemond

•June 17, 2009 • 9 Comments

In my previous post, I referenced BikeSnobNYC’s post on the Velonews-Mavic situation.  In that post was a very interesting video of a speech by Greg Lemond at a Play the Game anti-doping conference.  In it, Greg blasts cycling, UCI, Lance, America and everybody else he can think of other than the French.  He now loves the French.  It was unbelievable.

He first talks about how he is simply the greatest cyclist ever solely because of genetics and that everybody since him that has been successful was doping.  Except Pantani.  He then goes on to talk about how he invented the hard shell helmet, power meter training, and aerodynamics.  Now, we do know he played a role in the development of those things, but come on. 

He trashes UCI for being corrupt, the riders for all being dopers and the directors and media for allowing it.  But claims that nobody doped in his day.  Again, come on.  Just read Joe Parkin’s book about his 7 years in Europe.  He was on ADR’s B-team the year Greg won with ADR.  Joe sure doesn’t deny that there was rampant amphetamine use during those days.  Does that not count Greg?  And what about Pantani? Do you really think that guy wasn’t doping?  Greg has claimed in the past and in this speech that everybody who has beat Pantani or his times must be doping. But not Pantani.  Really?  Pantani OD’d in a hotel.  And how can you say that it could only be drugs when you claim your own success was due to genetics?  Are you, Greg Lemond, the zenith of human evolution?  Are you the greatest genetics can ever give us in cycling? How arrogant! 

And lets not forget the technology you have created.  Even though you recognize that monitoring power and the use of aeroequipment certainly helped you, do you not think that 20 years later it can do a hell of a lot more than it did in your day?  The first day I rode a 15lb carbon S-Works I thought I was in bike heaven!!  I finished my ride faster and with much more energy than I had ever even come close to on a top-end aluminum bike.  Do you really think that faster times don’t have anything to do with these rocketship bikes that weigh half of what yours did and are torsionally stiffer several times over?

He also accuses Dr. Ferrari of not knowing what Greg’s SRM was in 1986 when they met.  According to SRM, that was the year they were founded, and Greg was one of the very first to ever use that sort of thing.  How would Ferrari know what it was?  Nobody but Greg and SRM knew what it was, and how does that prove that Lance doped?  Come on!! 

Then he goes off on how everybody blindly defends the all the American riders and that we all blame the French for anti-American sentiment causing everybody’s doping problems. He claims that they all cheat and there is no transparency.  Really?  What about Team Columbia?  What about Garmin-Chipotle?  What about the fact that Lance took his 31st unannounced out-of-competition doping control just yesterday, only to have UCI and USADA show up at his house again today for #32 and #33?  And he has passed every one.  He publishes his blood data for the world to see. 

He then praises the French and ASO and talks about how great and fair they are and how he has always loved the French.  Really?  What about your special you did a few years ago for OLN (now Versus) where you talked about how the French hated you and you and your family feared for your safety?  What about when you talked about how careful you were in doping controls to make sure your urine was not tampered with? 

Then, and most offensive to me as a prosecutor, he announces that WADA and USADA labs have higher standards than criminal courts in the US.  U-N-B-L-I-E-V-A-B-L-E.  I am proud as a prosecutor that I have the highest burden there is in the law.  Anywhere.  And from what I have seen, WADA, USADA, CAS, and UCI come nowhere close.  I believe their testing procedures are accurate, but even you, Greg Lemond, will agree that there are break downs in the chain of custody. 

The fact is, Greg Lemond thinks he is the greatest cyclist that ever lived.  Even said it in his OLN special.  He stated that he beat the best (Bernard Hinault) at his best, thereby implying that Greg must be the best cyclist in history.  He thinks that it would be impossible for anybody to ever be better than him without cheating.  Thus, every cyclist that can accomplish something that Greg never did, must be cheating.  That is the most arrogant thing anybody could possibly think.  Get over it, Greg.  They are better than you.  There will be some one day who are better than today’s best.  Get over yourself.  Its not about you any more.  Your day is done. 

Here’s the link to the speech for your viewing pleasure/disgust.

http://www.playthegame.org/conferences/play-the-game-2009/on-demand-streaming/presentation-by-three-time-tour-de-france-winner-greg-lemond.html

As an addendum, I must admit that he does make some valid points.  It is very clear that cycling needs a rider’s union to stick up for their rights to ensure that the labs, UCI and WADA are keeping up to standards and are transparent as well.  Also, I want to be clear that I believe DOPERS SUCK.  They ruin sport. See my other posts.  But Greg is still an arrogant punk.

Mavic Responds to VeloNews

•June 16, 2009 • 1 Comment

Recently, VeloNews posted an article regarding editor Ben Delaney’s crash on some post-recall Mavic R-SYS wheels. It seemed to be an unannounced, no warning, catastrophic failure of the wheel.  The link is below. 

http://velonews.com/article/93054

Mavic then responded as follows.

http://velonews.com/article/93240/mavic-responds-to-wheel-collapse-article

I was about post on this issue when I read BikeSnobNYC’s post.

http://bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com/2009/06/shot-in-dark-art-of-appropriating-blame.html

It can’t be said any better than that.  Remember kids, if you are riding R-SYS and have a flat and your wheels shatters from the simple flat, its not Mavic fault.

Product Review #1: Water Bottles

•May 27, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I have decided to begin some product reviews.  So manufacturers, feel free to send some samples!! 

First off, water bottles.  

 They are greatly over-looked but they are immensely important to the cyclist.  I have always been a huge fan of Specialized’s bottles.  they have great valves, they clean easily and you drink tastes like your drink, not plastic.  However, we had our first 100 degree day a couple of weeks ago and my bottles were boiling hot within 20 minutes.  Not cool.  At all.  I decided that was enough and I needed to find something that kept my drinks cool.  After all, maintaining a cooler core temp improves performance, even if it is only in perceived exertion.  see the following: http://www.sportsci.org/jour/0201/jpm.htm; http://www.nielsbogerd.com/files/Bogerd2005ICEEexcooling.pdf 

Thus, I decided to try some insulated bottles.  I had tried Polar Bottle in the past, and really didn’t like it.  I still have two in my bottle bin that I don’t use.  They didn’t fit in cages unless you got them just right, and they really didn’t keep the drink cold.  Plus, they are just big.  However, I noticed that they had updated their design, so I bought a new one.  I had also read about the new CamelBak Podium bottle with the Chill Jacket.  So, I bought one of those as well.  Here are the links to the two products.  I bought the 24oz in both bottles.  I’m a thirsty guy.

http://www.camelbak.com/sports-recreation/bottles/podium-chilljacket.aspx

http://www.polarbottle.com/

I filled the bottles up with ice and my preferred sports drink and set out on a long ride.  The first thing I noticed was the size difference.  The CamelBak bottle was much shorter than the Polar Bottle (I later realized this may be partly because mine measure out at 26oz.).  The Polar was much more cumbersome in getting it in and out of the cages.  There was hardly any clearance from my seat tube cage. On a frame smaller than 56, in sloping geometry, it may not fit at all. 

The second thing I noticed was how soft the CamelBak was compared to any other bottle, and how hard the Polar is compared to other bottles.  This has two consequences.  First, being stiffer means it’s not going anywhere.  Second, stiff bottles are hard to squeeze.  I was worried that the CamelBak would get ejected on the first little bump I hit I was also concerned because it has a non-traditional shape that appears as if it will not hold as snugly (is that a word?).  However, the CamelBakperformed admirably.  The Polar bottle is going nowhere.  Ever. (Performance here could also be attributed to my Arundel cages.  www.arundelbike.com) In the squeeze test, the Polar is tough, but not has hard as one would expect.  The CamelBak on the other hand, will shoot a stream of liquid to the back of your throat with just a little pressure.  This brings me to the next point of observation, the valve. 

Both bottles have quite a standard to live up to, given my fondness for Specialized’s bottle.  I even tried to make my Specialized lids fit the two test bottles before I gave them a chance.  It didn’t work.  The Polar bottle has a pretty standard valve that works well. No leaking when closed, and liquid comes out like one would expect when open.  It says it is removable for easy cleaning, and it appears to be designed to some out, however actually getting it out is a different story.  The CamelBak valve is in a class all its own. It is a pressure valve that does not leak at all. It has a close position, but it really isn’t needed.  The only way liquid is coming out is if you squeeze it, hence the jetstream referenced above.  I wasn’t real sure about this at first, because I usually put the bottle in my mouth instead of squirt the drink in the general direction of my pie hole.  I thought it would only be good for water, since I don’t mind getting that all over my face, but I got used to it. 

So that brings me to my last point, the most important for this little test: How well did they insulate the contents?  As for the Polar bottle, it did a good job of keeping my drink from getting hot, or even warm, but it didn’t keep it that cold.  By the end of a 3 hour ride, the liquid inside was about the same as water out of the tap.  The CamelBak, however, was cold.  Not just cool, but cold.  Of course, there are several factors that could affect this.  Being that the CamelBak was on the seat tube, it may be more shielded from direct sunlight. Also, rate of consumption could affect the results.  However, in the last couple of weeks of riding, I’ll take the CamelBak Podium Chill Jacket , hands down.

It’s About Time

•May 6, 2009 • Leave a Comment

It was announced today that Alejandro Valverde is suing CONI.  http://www.velonews.com/article/91670/valverde-to-sue-coni-prosecutor  It’s about time cyclists started standing up for themselves.  CONI has been on a witch hunt for years of Valverde and has been trying to use illegally obtained evidence to do so. 

Now, to be clear, I am very outspoken against dopers.  See my earlier post regarding Tyler Hamilton.  It is a huge problem that needs to be rooted out. But I am also very much against tyranny by self-righteous governing bodies such as WADA, AFLD, and CONI. 

How can anybody trust the results they come up with when in so many cases, their so-called evidence is compromised. They fail to follow proper procedures that ensure the integrity of what they do.  If the testers don’t have integrity, how can we expect the athletes to have integrity?  Cyclists are the most tested athletes in the world.  Lance Armstrong has had 25 out of competition doping controls since August.  He is averaging better than one every two weeks.  And these do not count the the in competition controls.  I am all for the testing, but these guys are being abused and they need to stand up.  They also need to make sure they clean.  I just don’t know how we can trust anyone in cycling when proper procedures are not followed and the athletes have no recourse.  Lives have been irreparably harmed by a lack of consistency and accountability for testers, labs, prosecutors and licensing agencies.   And remember, I am a prosecutor myself.  And I thank God that I get to live in a country where the State has to prove their case.

Thank you Alejandro for being brave enough to take the first step.  Hopefully others will follow and both sides of cycling will come out cleaner for it.

SDG

What a Week!

•April 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Last week ended with a great 110 mile ride up to a camp in the southern end of Palo Duro Canyon in Texas.  The ride was fantastic.  It was fast and the weather was beautiful (except for the 7 miles around mile 95-102 where we somehow found a tough headwind). 

For the weekend, we had a fantastic time just learning how to be better men.  It was awesome to spend time with lots of great guys investing in eachothers’  lives.  When we got back on Sunday, it was time put rubber to the road.  I think we are headed in the right direction.

Then I got some really sad news.  A local law enforcement officer was killed by a drunk driver while responding to another call.  He left behind a wife, two kids and a bunch of friends, colleagues and citizens who really looked up to him.  He was awesome.  He lived “Protect and Serve, ” whether in uniform or not.  He lit up rooms with his personality and lived everyday to its fullest. 

His funeral was yesterday.  It was truly amazing.  The tradition of law enforcement funerals is something to be in awe of.  It was really touching and extremely hard.  But all the outpouring of love and respect for him from the community and law enforcement was remarkable.  The largest church in town was packed full and had officers from all over the state and neighboring states lining the wall two deep.  It took 30 minutes for all of their vehicles to roll out of the parking lot in the processional.  And that’s not counting the civilian vehicles.  What a great man. 

And there’s still more to come.  Tomorrow I have a business meeting in Dallas, a rehearsal dinner back home, and have been nominated for an award that will be presented at a reception tomorrow night.  Then, of course, the wedding on Saturday.  I may not make it to ABF on Sunday morning.

Hopefully I’ll have some more detailed posts next week when I have time to catch my breath.