Thursday, September 10, 2009

We Get Letters--Doping and Science

From RL, in CA:

This piece- on whether Lance's blood levels show possible indications that he doped during Le Tour de France is interesting, but the science is either not well explained or unclear or both.

The main accusations seems to be based on a study of seven riders in 2007. All seven saw their hemoglobin and hematocrit levels decrease by just over 10%. Thats a small sample for the Tour, and I think its debatable whether the riders represent a homogenous group from which one can draw a random sample from, or whether the different types of riders - "General Classification (GC)" competitors who are in peak condition and trying to win the whole thing, sprinters who maximize their speed only at the end of flat stages, climbers who only maximize effort on mountain stages, domestiques who are the unheralded pack horses, and the others who try to get lucky one day here or there and conserve their energy the rest of the time (since they cannot beat the GCs, the climbers, or the sprinters unless they get really, really lucky and find themselves on one day with more energy and the right set of circumstances).

I think it is possible that the GC's train in such a way (or are special to begin with) that their blood levels do not decrease during a three-week grand tour without a study of the GCs. Or they are cheats. Armstrong was not peaking during Italy- in fact, he struggled- so comparing his blood levels from Italy vs two months later in France may not be fair - a better comparison would be to a previous TdF he rode.

From our perspective, the best part of the article is that the proposed solution: have a group of "experts" deliberate... And we all know how effective and unbiased a group of SCIENTISTS can be... Especially if, say, a political scientist or a lawyer, gets to enjoy agenda setting powers.