Doping

Wiggins on Marr on TUEs

This morning Sir Bradley Wiggins appeared on The Andrew Marr Show to discuss the leaked TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) documents leaked by the hacking group Fancy Bears.

Wiggins has come under increasing pressure over recent days with cycling fans and the media accusing him of legally doping before 3 Grand Tours and in particular before his 2012 Tour de France victory.

So, what do we actually know?

  • It is common knowledge that Wiggins suffers from asthma and a pollen allergy
  • Wiggins has had 6 TUEs.  3 for Salbutamol, Formoterol and Budesonide administered by inhaler from and 3 for Triamcinolone Acetonide administered by intramuscular injection
  • Salbutamol, Formoterol and Budesonide are asthma inhaler drugs
  • Triamcinolone Acetonide is a strong treatment for asthma and allergies
  • Triamcinolone Acetonide has performance enhancing qualities, hence the need for a TUE
  • The TUEs were not specifically requested by Wiggins, or did he ask for those specific drugs.  A specialist saw him, diagnosed him and then applied for the TUE.
  • The TUEs were approved by the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency)
  • Wiggins never mentioned the injections in his autobiography
  • No rules have been broken by Wiggins or Team Sky

What we don’t know and will probably ever know is:

  • Did the Triamcinolone Acetonide give Wiggins an unfair advantage over his rivals or did it just get him back to the level he would be at without his asthma and pollen allergy?
  • Do Team Sky request TUEs for other riders before Grand Tours to give them an advantage?
  • Did the UCI turn down other riders requests for similar drugs but let Wiggins have a TUE because of who he is?

The main point of discussion is Wiggins won the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2012 then had an injection of Triamcinolone Acetonide prior to winning the 2012 Tour de France 3 weeks later.  On Marr Wiggins stated that despite winning the  Dauphiné he was still struggling with his breathing so saw a specialist who then prescribed the injection.

In an effort to understand if this was standard practice at Team Sky did they do this for Chris Froome prior to his Tour de France wins?  The answer is no.  His TUE’s were also leaked by Fancy Bears and he took nothing prior to any of his 3 TdF victories.

As medical records are confidential we will never know if the UCI jut let Wiggins off because of who he was but looking back at the time he wasn’t the massive star that he is now.  Of course he had won gold medals and races but it was the 2012 Tour de France win and subsequent Olympic time trial win in London that catapulted him to his current status.

 

Cycling has a dark, drug addled past and those who follow the sport are fully aware of this. Cycling’s past is the main reason why people are accusing Wiggins and Sky of un-ethical practices with regards to TUEs.

I’ve seen a lot of tweets and articles and they all are black and white.  A lot of the tweeters minds were made up before the TUEs were leaked as they were anti-Sky.  There are many neutrals who are unhappy with all of this, me being one of them, but I place the blame not with Brad, but with the UCI and WADA.

I have been told that if you need the injections that Wiggins took you wouldn’t be able to race.  If this is the case then the application of the TUE should have alerted the UCI and WADA that something dodgy was going on and rejected the application.  This didn’t happen.

I agree that the TUE process and guidance needs to change but that isn’t the fault of any rider.  It is for the governing body, the UCI, to identify problems associated with drugs in cycling and put in place sufficient rules and governance to prevent abuse.

 

If you browse through my blog you will see I’m certainly not a doping apologist, and have been angered by British riders in the past.  I just think that where a guy has followed the rules he doesn’t deserve the treatment that Lance Armstrong got.

Then there is the whole ethics debate but it’s Sunday, I’m going to go for a ride, after all we enjoy cycling don’t we?

Oh Lizzie, oh why? The whole thing stinks! 

Lizzie Armistead, World Champion, has won her British Cycling backed legal case against UK Anti-Doping for 3 missed tests within a 12 month period and avoiding a potential 4 year ban. 

Firstly let that last bit sink in. Miss 3 tests, get a 4 year ban. That is how seriously missed tests are taken.

Lizzie is World Champion, former National Champion, my cycling crush and Yorkshire lass. Basically in my eyes she was perfect but this saga has not only tainted Lizzie and British Cycling in my eyes, it has and will do so in the cycling community in general.

Test 1 was missed due to a UKAD error, CAS accepted this. Test 2 and 3 (according to Armistead) was her own admin error and a serious family illness. It would appear that the first test has only been challenged after tests 2 and 3 were missed and resulting in her provisional ban of 3 weeks.

There are a few major issues with this story:

  1. Why was missed test 1 not challenged at the time?
  2. Why, when cycling is your job, has Lizzie allowed herself to miss a further 2 tests?
  3. Why was the World Champion’s doping violation provisional ban not reported?
  4. Why was her CAS case not reported?
  5. Why are British Cycling funding legal cases with membership money?

I suppose 1 is possible competency, thinking she won’t miss another. 2 is a mystery, only Lizzie can answer this but we have to take her word for these missed tests. The problem is with all the secrecy surrounding her ban and CAS case it reminisces of the dark days of cycling making her word harder to accept.

3, 4 and 5 are disturbingly obvious. The media secrecy must have been so British Cycling wasn’t mentioned as the world was slating Russia’s doping athletes and subsequent bans. They kept it out of the media until the hearing was over and won so it was less of a story. British Cycling had to fund and win the case or every athlete would be under scrutiny at Rio. Basically when that third test was missed the shit hit the fan and lockdown occurred.

For me the whole thing stinks. Even if Lizzie is clean the way that British Cycling and has gone about this is wrong. It’s like the Omertà all over again, secrecy and damage reduction. 

British Cycling stands for transparent, clean cycling. This story is riddled with secrecy and missed tests. I’m disgusted with them. 

Seb Coe Is Laughing At You

Seriously, he’s pissing his pants at you lot.

Just heard Chris Evans describing him as the kind of guy you would want to sort out the mess at the IAAF – honest, trustworthy and a man who gets things done.  Really…

Seb Coe is lucky to be the President of the IAAF.  The Paula Radcliffe suspicious blood passport story broke a couple of days after the IAAF Presidential Election and I wonder, considering the slim margin that he won by, if the story had come out prior what the effect would have been.  Paula still maintains her innocence and obviously never failed a doping test, but we have heard that one before eh Lance?

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Seb, the man with a six figure salary from Nike – a company who have no issue sponsoring convicted dopers such as Justin Gatlin, who also sold his company in January 2013 t0 Complete Leisure Group (CLG) so may need that six figure salary a little more that before (see link here from Private Eye).

This Daily Mail article highlights the two sides of Seb Coe, how he stands up for such people as Alberto Salazar, is the chair of a Sports Agency (another conflict of interest), but then claims to feel queasy if Justin Gatlin was to win gold in Beijing.

I saw an enjoyable interview last night with Seb Coe conducted by the excellent Jon Snow who had Coe squirming in his seat:

And Jon made a great point.  Seb Coe was No 2 in charge at the IAAF for the last SEVEN years and claimed to be close friends with the outgoing President, Lamine Diack but says he had no idea that the biggest doping scandal in the history of sport was going on under his Vice Presidency.  The report issued yesterday into this states that the IAAF were aware, so what was Coe doing?

I’ll tell you what Seb Coe was doing.  He was looking after number one as usual.  If you take off the blinkers it is pretty obvious that he’s just about making money, increasing his profile and lording himself about, literally as a Lord.

Coe, a former Tory MP, received his peerage in 2000, for what exactly?  Just remember Lord Coe voted for the Tax Credit cuts this year.  What a smug bastard.

Seb Coe isn’t fit to lead Athletics out of this mess.  As Jon Snow said, he’s either corrupt or was sleeping on the job.

Lack of drug testing in other sports lets cycling take the heat…

Cycling is the whipping boy of sport when it comes to doping.  It has one of the most vigorous testing programmes in the world but the sport, as today’s CIRC report highlights, keeps getting tarnished with the reputation of a dirty sport.

I would say that since I started following cycling a few years ago it has come access as quite an honest sport.  There are still skeletons in the closet from years gone by, but Astana aside it seems that every team is striving for a cleaner future.  And on Astana the authorities have moved swiftly to remove their racing licence – could you imagine the Premier League removing West Ham, for example, if they were found guilty of a violation?  No.

Speaking of football, our national sport, it is surprising to discover the lack of drug testing compared to cycling.  I would go so far as to say football is a dishonest sport, even more so when it comes to doping.  There was 1,604 tests in the 2013-14 EPL season shared amongst 654 registered players (based on provisional August 2013 squad list) which equates to 2.5 tests per player per season.

(Edit – The website doesn’t actually specify that is just Premier League teams and give guidance notes to parents and for ladies football so the number of players could be many times higher if it takes into account ladies and youth football)

Cycling on the other hand is much more energetic when it comes to testing.  Just in the Tour de France in 2013, during a 3 week period, there was 1,041 tests shared amongst 219 riders equating to 4.75 tests per rider in just 3 weeks, the cycling season lasts 10 months.

No wonder cycling catches more drug cheats when they test in such large numbers.  The real problems are sports like football who claim there is NO doping culture or problem and they barely test players.  Due to this they only caught 4 players in the 2013-14 season.  In the 3 weeks of the 2013 Tour de France no riders tested positive.

I can’t recall who the 4 players were, I imagine there wasn’t the interest in the media as they probably weren’t ‘big name’ players, and to be honest I’ve struggled to find the names of the players on the internet (spending 5 minutes searching).

Whilst searching for the 4 players who were banned I stumbled across the UK Anti-Doping website who handily provide a list of all UK sportspersons currently serving bans for rule violations.  Upon glancing through the list of banned athletes I was aghast at how many rugby players are serving sanctions – 26 out of 47 (55%) – (19 Union, 7 League).  Of the 47 sanctions only 3 relate to cycling.

In the 2013-14 rugby season there was 1,017 tests, including 481 tests in their ‘Illicit Drugs Programme’ which operates a counselling service (4 positive tests).  With the amounts of banned athletes this amount of testing is woeful and an insult to the fans of rugby.

Maybe the wider non-cycling media should concentrate on the total lack of testing in our other national sports rather than sticking it to cycling yet again.

Lance Armstrong – After Some Research

Yesterday I felt that Lance Armstrong was the victim of a witch hunt caused mainly by his success – after all, when a cyclist does good they seem to always be suspected of doping.

I looked through a variety of sources on the internet but this one stood out the most – an interview with Michael Ashenden, an expert on blood doping. (Read the interview here)

For more reading on Lance Armstrong there are also a couple more interesting articles here and here.

To me, the evidence would suggest that Lance has doped but has never been caught. Also in Lance’s press statement he says

“I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours. We all raced together. For three weeks over the same roads, the same mountains, and against all the weather and elements that we had to confront. There were no shortcuts, there was no special treatment. The same courses, the same rules. The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins. Nobody can ever change that”

which to me isn’t saying that he definitively did not dope.

All in all it is such a shame that this has come to light with all the good work the Livestrong Foundation does but yesterday donations were up, so if anything this doping story won’t effect the charity which is a good thing. The foundation’s website is below if you want to see some of the excellent work being done fighting cancer.

www.livestrong.org

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong, seven times Tour De France winner, cancer survivor and campaigner.

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I’m only a newcomer to the world of cycling having got hooked watching the 2012 Tour De France, but prior to this time I certainly knew who Lance Armstrong was. He was the man who won Le Tour despite having gone through treatment for testicular cancer – he was an inspiration.

If you or your family have been affected by cancer you will appreciate what sort of impact hope can have in a persons recovery, and Lance gave hope. He was a formidable athlete but overcame the odds beat the big C. We all need stories like that to give us hope, and he certainly gave all cancer patients one. He also has raised millions of dollars through his Livestrong foundation, and single handily made those plastic bracelets cool.

Now to my limited knowledge of cycling and doping I look at the allegations made against him in this way:

Lance Armstrong would have been tested through any professional race, more so in Le Tour, and more so later in his career. Why were they no positive tests?

Doping charges should be brought when actual samples or either blood or urine have failed tests, not due to testimony from former team mates etc.

Is it really in the interests of the sport to even bring these charges against Armstrong?

Despite what’s happened and been accused Lance Armstrong is an amazing athlete, survivor and cancer campaigner. This witch hunt only serves to damage cycling, which is surely not what the anti-doping authorities should be doing to a sport which is constantly being dragged down by doping offences.

Lance Armstrong cycled within the rules during his seven Tour De France wins and submitted numerous samples that were all clean. To me that says it all. How can you play a game within the rules then be subsequently disqualified? It’s a joke.