Thursday, July 17, 2008

Doping - 2008 Tour Or Why I Feel "Good"

The AFLD (French initials for French Anti-Doping Agency), the organization responsible for anti-doping controls in the 2008 Tour, has, over the past several days, announced that three riders have tested positive for some form of EPO booster type drugs.

Contrary to the suggestions in my last post on the topic, the AFLD has a policy of announcing a non-negative A-sample. In addition the Tour has a policy of ejecting any A-sample non-negative racers out of the race. So the three racers whose A-samples have tested non-negative are out. Although this may not be ideal, it is, for now, the way it is.

The first was a sort of unspectacular, simply another somewhat anonymous racer testing positive. The only interesting thing was that he's a former Lance Lieutenant (LL), "Triki" Beltran. He's the last in a line of LLs to test positive, after the likes of Heras, Hamilton, Landis, Andreau (self admitted but never positive), perhaps Vaughters (he hints at it), and finally, the only positive I know of while actually on the team, Joachim Benoit. Interestingly enough the test result was thrown out and he was quietly resigned, spending almost his whole career on Johan Bruyneel's teams.

I'm not counting Lance's positive with the post dated TUE because no one else seems to count it.

The second 2008 Tour positive was perhaps not unexpected. Someone who grabs the climber's jersey out of nowhere? When someone does well at all stages of his career, it would be no surprise for him to perform. When a somewhat anonymous racer suddenly wins a huge prize, that's a bit unexpected and therefore suspicious.

The third one is and probably (hopefully) will be the best known one - Ricco. I say "hopefully" because I actually hope there are no more stars which are doping. The brash young man will have no allies, no friends in the toughest battle of his career. Unlike the first two positives, reports show the team left the race. This to me indicates that this was a team doping effort, not an aberrant individual breaking the rules. The other two teams were okay with continuing on, but with Saunier-Duval, they felt it necessary to withdraw. I wonder if any more of their samples will come back positive.

Even more interesting will be whether or not later samples of the three who tested positive will come back positive. The various EPO drugs don't wash away after a day or two so samples from the days after the "positive" should come back positive as well.

However, all this pales in comparison to something that's been irritating me for a while - the ease at which racers, directors, and journalists throw around the word "positive".

In cycling, positive (now) should only mean one thing - a B sample with traces of some illegal performance enhancing drug or drug side effects. "Positive" should not be used anywhere else.

So let me ask, as a somewhat rhetorical question, why do racers and directors insist on using the word "positive" when describing the fight against doping?

For example, when asked about the third positive, George Hincapie has this to say:
"We can look at the positive side..."

It would be nice if he used a different word. I would suggest words like "good", "progress", "bright", etc. Admittedly they sound less sophisticated as the multi-syllabic "positive" but they get the message across.

"We can look at the bright side..."

This may be a bit too PC for some, but really, it makes sense, especially for sponsors. Using the word "positive" in a cycling sentence can have incredibly negative connotations, and even if the quote is something about how it's good that dopers are getting caught, there's got to be some negative little tic filed away by the readers of the quote.

Other (made up) potential quotes:
"It's good (not positive) sign of the times.."
"I feel that the sport has made progress in the fight against doping."

Racers also use the term when describing their form. Instead of "feeling positive" a racer (and journalists reporting on the racer) should use words like "good".

I should point out that "good" clarifies whether or not the racer is feeling doped or if he is feeling good. Racers, if they're doping, don't want to give it away, so if someone says, "I feel really posi.. I mean I feel really good" then journalists can check the guy out. If the racer just says, "I feel really good" then we can leave him be.

A better word might be "confident". It matches "positive" in syllable count and has an aura of invincibility about it.

"I feel very confident about tomorrow's stage."

Now, if they want to use an even better multi-syllabic word, they can use a word like "optimistic" - that word even has has four syllables, one more than the negatory "positive".

"I feel very optimistic about tomorrow's stage."

There are some even more esoteric words to describe an optimistic thing.

Sanguine might be a good one for describing one's mood.
"So, Cadel, how do you feel for the upcoming stage?"
"I feel very good, my mood is sanguine."
"Excuse me?"

Roseate would be an excellent one for a sunglass sponsored racer.
"George, tell me how you feel about your new shades."
"I love them, I call them my roseate shades because I feel good when I wear them."
"You mean rose-colored?"
"No, I mean roseate. You know, like optimistic."
"Um, thank you for your time."

Panglossian is a good one, another four syllable word that rolls off the tongue nicely. It would be a great Phil Liggett quote:
"And such and such launches another attack. Oh to feel so Panglossian, only a Tour rookie would attempt so many attacks in the first part of a long climb like this!"
"Phil, what did you just say?"
"Paul, I said that he's simply too Panglossian for a Tour veteran, only a neo-Tour racer would attack like that."
"Could I ask you what is in your coffee cup?"

There is a second and much more significant reason for not using the word positive except in describing the result of a dope test - it will be MUCH easier to Google for "positive doping" when looking for positive drug test results. Well I'm sure there would be some weird results as well.

But there'd be no question about "Panglossian" showing up, that's for sure.


Anonymous said...

Sanguine is an unfortunate choice, as its root is the french word sang which means blood.

Aki said...

specq - I had no idea. Okay, gotta nix the sanguine one.

Then 'sang froid' means something along the lines of cold blood, or cold blooded, or something like that?

I'll have to dig into that one.

Anonymous said...

Panglossian is a good word, but it has connotations of a misplaced optimism, a foolish insistence that the glass is half-full, when it's clear to everyone else that the glass, though half-full, is half-full of toxic sludge. I like "buoyant." It's bouncy. It's fun. It reminds me of an inflatable, unsinkable toy. Plus, I'd love to see Cadel (is he the most boring MJ ever? I just can't get buoyant about the guy.) say, "Well, Phil, I'm feeling especially buoyant today!"

Aki said...

hob - man, my vocab needs work. Now I don't think I'll get a chance to hear Phil say Panglossian.

Actually he could use it in describing a doomed breakaway where just before they get caught one of the guys makes a last minute move and goes clear.

Hm. We'll see if it ever happens.