Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Big Tex

So on, there was a link to a pdf of a translation of LA Confidential. Interesting link as it was a site that basically exists to promote doping and gives doping information - what to take, how much, and testing issues (i.e. whether you'd test positive). It's main function is to sell Chinese EPO, or so it seems.

Anyway, I downloaded the section you can download without being a member. After I started reading it I joined the site and downloaded the other three sections. The pdf was like a Willy Voet book on steroids. Voet's book addresses some of the author's personal issues, but the pdf has no such baggage. The book appears to be about 195 English pages long and it's broken into 4 sections of 50 pages (the last section is 45 pages). As a service to those of us curious about racing and doping, I've summarized some of the book below. I, of course, fall under the category of "curious about racing and doping".

Some of its premises:
1. Armstrong's cancer could have been caught much earlier as one symptom of testicular cancer is an elevated level of a hormone, beta-hCG. That hormone is used by athletes to illicitly stimulate testosterone production. Normal levels are 1-2 nanograms per milliliter. Armstrong was at 52,000, 92,380, and 109,000 (according to Armstrong). Such high levels of beta-hCG should have been caught in anti-doping controls since it is a banned product. Either he worked around the tests (using a masking agent) or the tests were ineffective - after all, he was at over 100,000 times the legal limit. The hormone was specifically prohibited in 1988 so it was prohibited long before Armstrong didn't test positive for it.

2. The book interviews the USPS doctor, Dr Prentice Steffan, that was allegedly asked about doping by Hamilton and Jemison. His story seems particularly depressing because he just wanted to look after the racers, and his statement about doping at USPS, then hasty retraction, just leads me to believe that he used to believe the system worked but he no longer does.

3. The book points out that the 1995 ONCE team, with its doctor Aramendi, was known for its doping practices. Journalists even discovered 28 used syringes, used EPO vials, and a few other things in a room used by the good doctor. An infamous member of the team was its long time director, Manolo Saiz, known for his ability to carry both doping agents and cash at the same time. Another member of that team - Johan Bruyneel. Later, that same Bruyneel would direct USPS. The doctor he hired for USPS? Aramendi. Zulle, who would be caught up in the Festina incident, had recently transferred to the ill-fated team from ONCE. At ONCE, he took EPO under the supervision of the team doctor (Terrados) and "Jose". The only doctor at ONCE named Jose? Aramendi. Nothing explicit there but it just doesn't smell right.

3. The book points out that Armstrong's VO2 max increased substantially from pre-cancer to post-cancer. With a nominal weight drop (9-13 lbs, not 20 or more as some, including me, thought), it would be virtually impossible to increase one's VO2 max as much.

4. It includes a comment on how a trainer presents the original "Armstrong is stronger because he spins more" theory. Afterwards, in private, he is challenged by Lemond on the possibility of this being true. Lemond himself tested out this theory in search of more performance during his heyday. As Lemond (or anyone else) points out, it is logically not true. When you are climbing, when you want to go faster, you cannot just spin faster. If you do, what happens? You blow up! Although you may be demanding less oxygen per revolution, you have more revolutions demanding oxygen. There is no magic "lever" or multiplier. If you are burning through 90 milliliters of oxygen per kilo of body weight and you are a relatively efficient pro, there is nothing you can do to significantly increase power without increasing the amount of oxygen you burn. There is no free power! Yet this "rpms instead of power" is what USPS passed as the reason for Armstrong's spectacular climbing prowess. The only way this works is if the rider can carry more oxygen in his blood.

5. There is some detail on the Cofidis side of the whole "they abandoned Armstrong" story. I don't know who to believe here. But having seen Armstrong lie while looking straight at the camera (about him and Simeoni, after Armstrong chased him down during the Tour, allegedly to punish him for testifying against Michele Ferrari), I'd give Cofidis's side a chance of being partially or mostly true.

There is more to the book. The bullet points above represent to me some of the more interesting foundations of the book's allegations.

More on teammates, Actovegin, Lance's positive...

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