Monday, June 30, 2008
A three person panel from the the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld a previous panel's decision validating a positive drug test back in 2006 after Landis staged an improbable comeback in Stage 17 that was aided by synthetic testosterone.
In the 58-page decision, the CAS panel said that the lab performing the analysis did not have impeccable quality control, but did not involve any fraud or cover-ups as Landis alleged. The panel continued its criticisms of Landis by stating that he tried to muddle the evidence while blaming the lab and continued with that line of reasoning even when the evidence contradicted him.
The decision said, "Appelant's experts crossed the line, acting for the most part as advocates for the Appelant's cause, and not as scientists objectively assisting the panel in the search for the truth."
The case reached sports' highest court after his first arbitration case last May ended with the arbitrators disappointed in USADA and determining that the testing labs practices were less than ideal.
Most accused cyclists do not defend themselves the way Landis has. Athletes lack the funds to properly defend themselves in this type of case. Landis overcame this issue by creating a fundraising campaign in addition to several private sources contributing to his defense. His defense is estimated to have cost more than $2MM.
This case didn't lack in drama either. Greg Lemond testified that Landis admitted to him that he doped, but the panel couldn't use that testimony as an admission. However, before Lemond testified, Landis' manager called him the night before and threatened to disclose to the world "LeMond's secret" if he showed up the next day. LeMond showed up, and disclosed that he was sexually abused as a child and telling the panel that he told Landis this information...and then receiving a phone call from a member of Landis' camp the night before.
Do us all a favor and admit that you cheated. From the litany of explanations (drinking alcohol, naturally high testosterone, dehydration, thyroid medication, and a conspiracy against him), it just doesn't add up for a sane person - you might get the conspiracy theorists to jump on board, but that's about it.
That is the first step on the road to recovery for Landis. If you don't get past stage 1, there is no stage 2. Unlike Lance Armstrong, there is a smoking gun for you, the positive test so to "deny, deny, deny" is not going to get you anywhere. Your credibility is greatly enhanced if your current explanation is the same as your original explanation for the positive test. Look on the bright side, 7 months until the 2 year ban expires.
Frost Giant, a 40-1 long shot from the IEAH stable, won at the 122nd running of the Grade 1, $400,000 Suburban Handicap on Saturday at Belmont Park. Michael Iavarone, co-owner of IEAH, has stated that all horses in the IEAH stable will be drug free by October 1st.
It's unfortunate that a great underdog story is clouded by these facts: trainer facing drug suspension and ownership who says stable will be drug free in three months. If a 40-1 horse can win in an 8 horse field, this leads to some unsettling issues:
Either the odds makers are failing at doing their jobs and/or we are seeing the effects of "chemical horses" on the field of competition. Both are bothersome if the sport wants to be taken as a legitimate clean enterprise rather than "just a bet".
Saturday, June 28, 2008
The entire Bulgarian weight lifting team - 8 men and 3 women - was banned from the Olympics after testing positive for the banned steroid, methandienonea, in early June according to a statement from the Bulgarian weight lifting federation. This is not the first time Bulgarian weight lifters have been ensnared in a doping scandal. Three Bulgarian weight lifters were barred from the Athens Games. At the 1988 and 2000 Olympics, several Bulgarian weight lifters returned their medals when they failed doping tests after their events.
What's unique about this instance is that officials did not even wait for due process. All the positive results were from the "A" samples. If "A" is positive, the "B" sample is tested to validate the test. This was not done in this case.
Doping and weight lifting does not just go down in Bulgaria. Greece also had 11 weight lifters banned for two years for testing positive for a steroid in March. Luckily for Greece, not everyone on the team was doping (or at least not caught) since they are sending a team of four weight lifters over to compete in the Games.
Don't expect much from the Greek weight lifting team this year, but at least they will make it to the Games which is more than can be said about the Bulgarian team.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Salute the Count, one of his horses he trained earlier this year, tested positive for twice the allowable level of clenbuterol, a banned substance. Two drug tests were performed after finishing second in the Aegon Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs on May 2. Clenbuterol helps burn fat while promoting muscle growth. In humans, the drug is used to treat asthma. As a result of the positive test, Dutrow faces a 15 day suspension; he does have the option of filing an appeal within the next 10 days, but has already taken responsibility for his actions.
“I was there all week and am responsible,” Dutrow said. “I use that medication on many of my horses and only once can ever remember having a problem with it.”
According to the New York Times, "clenbuterol is an approved medication in horses, and is used as a bronchial dilator — which increases lung capacity — though it has steroidal properties. It is illegal to administer it on race day, but states vary on the length of time beforehand that it can be administered. In New York, for example, it cannot be administered within 96 hours of race day. In Kentucky, 72 hours".
With the recent Congressional subcommittee hearing on the sport, this state discrepancy as to when clenbuterol can be administered illustrates the need for a national governing body. Simplify the process: create a national oversight body, implement universal rules and provide a stringent transparent drug testing program so that the public will be more comfortable that they are seeing less of these "chemical horses" that recent breeders have been testifying to.
This is not Dutrow's first suspension. He has been fined or suspended at least once for the past 9 years for various medication violations — including positive tests for mepivacaine, phenylbutazone and oxyphenbutazone and clenbuterol. He also served a 60-day suspension in 2005 after two of his horses tested positive for banned substances and claiming there was a violation.
Given Dutrow's track record, would any owner want all the additional baggage and speculation that comes with employing this trainer? Apparently, the folks at IEAH do not have a problem with it.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Michael Iavarone, a co-president of International Equine Acquisitions Holdings (IEAH) which owns Big Brown among other horses, said that the more than 50 horses owned by his stable would be drug free by Oct. 1, and to quell speculation of roided up horses, that they would pay for tests to be administered by state or track veterinarians before and after each of their races to prove it.
He's confident that his stable does not need the juice to be successful out on the track. “I know Big Brown or any of our horses do not need this stuff to win,” he said. “I’m not worried about an uneven playing field, either. The cost of the drug tests are a small price to pay for the integrity of the sport. I’m urging other owners to join us, and let’s turn the game around.”
Controversial trainer, Rick Dutrow, is on board with the self-imposed ban on all medications perceived to be performance-enhancing. However, not all PED's and medications are off the table. The stable’s horses will continue to run on the legal anti bleeding medication Lasix when necessary.
IEAH might not have won the Triple Crown, but they struck gold when they brokered a deal to sell Big Brown’s breeding rights for about $60 million. For a relatively new outfit, IEAH has had quite a bit of success. So far in 2008, their stable has won more than $5.7 million in purses and won at a 23 percent clip. Bolstering their claim that their horses do not need the juice, they have won in Dubai, where the rules against drug use are the most stringent in the world. Dutrow, in written testimony submitted to the Congressional subcommittee last week, cited his horses’ victories in two $1 million races in Dubai as evidence that his horses could thrive in a drug-free environment.
Losing the Triple Crown was costly to IEAH. Besides the controversy of whether or not Big Brown is a "chemical horse", Iavarone said that performance cost at least $50 million in the breeding shed and in future marketing deals.
Just how costly was the Belmont? Try $60,000 - $125,000 per breeding session. According to the New York Times, "if Big Brown, a bay colt, never raced again, he might attract $40,000 to $75,000 for a breeding session versus the $100,000 to $200,000 he would have earned as a nobly defeated Triple Crown challenger or the 12th horse to sweep the series".
A novel twist to just going drug free for your stable was Iavarone's suggestion that racetracks and Daily Racing Form print in their programs that horses owned by IEAH, and any owner who adopts the policy, be listed as drug free. From a punishment standpoint, Iavarone also said that if any of his horses failed a drug test that IEAH pays for, the company would return the purse money. No word on what the punishment would be if a horse failed a drug test that IEAH did not pay for.
Whenever Congress gets involved in any one's business, that's when participants start circling the wagons. A few good ideas in this proposal and the glaringly obvious conflict of interest issues need to be addressed. Nice p.r. stunt to be an "early adopter" and "on the cutting edge" of drug testing and PED's in the sport. There is some history to back up IEAH and Dutrow's claims that they both won under the most stringent drug testing circumstances. Why not institute this policy before your most famous horse, Big Brown's, next race? The speculation will just continue to rise if Big Brown wins at the Haskell.
Given the conflict of interest, the general public will not buy that this process is being handled independently. This is exactly why Congress got involved and felt that the sport cannot police itself and is leaning to create a national, independent governing body. Nice try IEAH, a step in the right direction, but too little, too late and I'm not buying it.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Federal prosecutors have targeted former Barry Bonds' trainer, Greg Anderson's wife, Nicole S. Gestas in an effort to make Anderson testify. Anderson was imprisoned for approximately a year and half for failing to answer prosecutors' questions relating to Bonds' use of PED's. Anderson was released last November once Bonds was indicted on five felony charges - four for perjury and one for obstruction of justice - for testifying in front of a federal grand jury in 2003 that he had never used PED's.
The United States attorney's office in the Northern District of California sent a "target letter" to Anderson's wife in November after the indictment advising her that she could be charged with conspiring to commit a crime against the government. A federal conspiracy charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. This letter advised her to contact the public defender's office if she could not afford a lawyer while it conveniently failed to specify the crime the authorities believe she had conspired to commit. While not specifically stating that it was intending to apply pressure on Anderson the message was clear since it was signed by Matthew Parrella, an assistant US attorney who is lead prosecutor in the BALCO investigation.
Bonds' legal team filed a motion in January to have the original 5 count indictment against him dismissed and a judge ruled in February that the authorities had to narrow the indictment or bring new charges to proceed. The government filed a new indictment in May.
It was Malone from The Untouchables who said, "When they send one of your guys to the hospital, you send one of theirs to the morgue." This is, metaphorically speaking, the government trying to send Anderson, not to the morgue, but to the stand and testify against his former client. Now if Anderson continues his stance and refuses to testify, his wife could be going to jail with him.
Anderson's refusal to testify has made him spend the most time in prison than any other defendant in the six year BALCO investigation. He served a three month term in 2005 after pleading guilty to distributing steroids and money laundering. Anderson could still face more jail time since prosecutors could still charge him with criminal contempt or obstruction of justice if he continues his stance.
Greg: after spending a year and a half in jail and your wife of a little more than two years possibly going to the hole for up to five years and having to pay a $250K fine, why do you still refuse to testify? You could go back to the hole along with your wife! I guess that's what true love is, but to whom: your wife or Barry?
This stance does not make any sense, which is why the only logical conclusion is Mr. Bonds has determined to take care of you financially for not testifying against him. As the cards are laid out on the table, it looks like from your time served and the possibility of fines and time served by your wife, we're looking at approximately $750K to $2.5MM. This assumption does not include legal fees and would drop substantially if Ms. Gestas opts for the public defender.
Mr. Iavarone must know something about the dramatic recovery of Big Brown trainer, Rick Dutrow. Dutrow has been ill for the past two weeks after the Belmont and was too ill to travel to testify in person at a Congressional subcommittee hearing on horse racing last Thursday. Dutrow claimed he notified Congress that he would not appear, but Congress was not aware of this development. Apparently the owners of Big Brown are not concerned that this illness will linger any longer than an unpleasant Congressional inquiry. The question everyone will be asking the Big Brown camp: is he back on the juice?
The marvels of modern medicine continue to confound. Medicine is able to get a trainer to perform at a peak level through the Triple Crown and then once the desired outcome is not achieved, combined with a Congressional inquiry where the trainer is a key witness, a mysterious illness pops up that prohibits travel? Someone better check Mr. Dutrow's travel records for the past two weeks. However, travel plans and race information are confirmed for the trainer's next event in August...incredible and only in horse racing.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The proposals were endorsed by various parties - breeders, veterinarians and the operators of the largest tracks - a first in that various parties have come together to formalize a plan for cleaning up the sport. In addition the TSC will present recommendations on the use of illegal drugs and therapeutic medications as well as improving drug testing. The TSC will also propose toughing the penalties for rule violations including lifetime bans for major infractions.
Once steroids are banned in all 38 states where racing occurs, the U.S. will then be on equal footing with how the rest of the racing world deals with steroids. The toe grab recommendation will reduce the number of deaths at the track. Toe grabs and other devices worn on the front shoes of the horses have been found to put undue stress on the legs of the horses.
Today's hearing entitled, "Breeding, Drugs and Breakdowns: The State of Thoroughbred Racing and the Welfare of the Thoroughbred Racehorse," may ultimately consider a the creation of a central body to govern horse racing, similar to the British model. Some statistics released in conjunction with the hearing are troubling. Of the approximately 15,000 licensed horse trainers in the U.S., 9% have been cited for medication violations including performance enhancement. Unfortunately the one trainer who was expected to shed the most light at the hearing, controversial Big Brown trainer Rick Dutrow, will not testify, due to illness.
Dutrow has been ill since the Belmont, but did submit his written comments to Congress. He claims to have let Congress know in advance, but Brin Frazier, a spokeswoman for the subcommittee, was unaware of this development and stated that the committee members expected him to testify today.
Rick, aren't you a little bit past the age of playing the "sick card" to get out of an uncomfortable situation? Just over a week ago, you were talking tough, like the good old days before the Belmont about looking forward to testifying, but you would need to have your vet present.
To ensure the sport cleans up its act, the subcommittees ranking minority member, Representative Ed Whitfield, Republican of Kentucky, has decided to hit it where it hurts: their wallet. By threatening to reopen the Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978, which allowed simulcast wagering and provides the basis for online betting allows wagering to take place across state lines. This betting accounted for 90% of last year's $15 billion wagered.
Whitfield's goals include more transparency, more information regarding the use of drugs and concern for the animals safety. By placing the simulcast money on the line, he hopes to force some minimum standards regarding these concerns.
As I see it, the issue is the lack of a central governing body that oversees all 38 racing jurisdictions. If I was a breeder, it would be a herculean task to manage what shots I could give my horse if I wanted to race him in 4 different states. Simplify the process, level the playing field and then everyone plays by the same rules. Sure there will always be others looking for an edge, but at least the sport will be taking a step in the right direction.
Rick, there is such thing as video conferencing. If they did that, I wonder if you would have pulled a Sammy Sosa and conveniently forget how to speak English. At least Sammy showed up when called to testify!
Friday, June 13, 2008
The horse racing hearing was called due to the public outcry over Eight Belles being euthanized on the track after the Kentucky Derby. A statement from the committee called that recent deaths "point to a persistent and widespread problem, raising significant questions about the sport and its governance."
Controversial Big Brown trainer, Rick Dutrow Jr., will testify at the hearing. He has admitted publicly that he injects his horses with Winstrol on the 15th of each month. Steroids are legal in 28 of 38 racing jurisdictions including the three where the Triple Crown takes place.
He stated that Big Brown did not receive an injection in May. There has been much speculation that the reason why Big Brown finished last at the Belmont and did not have the "kick" that he normally has, was due to the lack of roids. Dutrow is aware that the committee will ask him about roids which is why he'll have his veterinarian with him so he answers the questions "fully and informed."
A world class trainer who has been shooting up his horses with roids needs his vet to be there so he can answer questions fully and be informed? Are you kidding me, RD Jr.? No one pops pills or puts anything in their body without "being informed". You make your living by training horses and I would assume you are already fully informed of the benefits and consequences of each steroid you inject in your animals. Something does not add up, and Dutrow can sense that the committee will see this. A little misdirection and preparing to be the sacrificial lamb for his sport seems like a nice p.r. stunt.
"I'm also interested in answering the questions about surfaces and fatal injuries. I'm coming here in good faith. And if they want to kill me, I'm going try to be prepared for that." Answering questions about surfaces? Congress does not call hearings regarding surfaces in horse racing. The topic is recent deaths and governance issues in the sport. Stay on topic or prepare for death, Mr. Dutrow, because Congress will be looking for blood.
"MLB has "done it once again" by appearing to be less than forthright in their 2005 Congressional testimony. Both MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and the head of the players union, Donald Fehr appear to have contradicted the Mitchell Report findings when they testified in 2005.
The issue at the center of the controversy is MLB's claim that positive PED test results were dramatically reduced from 2003 to 2004 (from more than 100 to 12). What MLB and the players union failed to disclose in their testimony was drug testing in 2004 was suspended for a portion of the season. Congress wants to know, if the program was suspended, why this information was not disclosed in their testimony. Congress also asked whether some players were given advance notice of upcoming tests and if this was the case, why this information was not disclosed in their testimony.
In the Mitchell Report, it was uncovered and confirmed by baseball and union officials that the random drug testing program was suspended for a large part of the 2004 season. Also in the report, at least one player was informed by Gene Orza, the chief operating officer for the players union, that he would be tested within two weeks.
Donald Fehr and MLB were both on the same page regarding the integrity of the testing program in 2005. Fehr said, "no player knew when he was going to be tested" and Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, wrote to the Congressional committee in 2005 "no notice was provided to players prior to testing."
The testing was suspended in 2004 after the 2003 positive results were seized as part of the BALCO investigation in April 2004. For the players who tested positive in 2003, they were not tested until the end of the 2004 season. It was determined that those players were not to be tested until they had been notified that their results had been seized. Orza did not notify the players until late in the season, leaving little time for the annual test to occur.
It doesn't take an average IQ MLB'er, who still thinks the pie in the face is high hilarity, to know when it's time to cycle off the juice. This group of 100 players who were being notified late in the season, already tested positive in 2003 and more than likely were still using. Orza already advised one player that he would be tested in two weeks, how many other players did he notify?
Gene Orza declined to provide additional details to George Mitchell when he declined Mitchell's interview request. Nice work on the transparency and legitimatizing your constituency Mr. Orza. You served your people well.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Like most of his past transgressions, Owens is not taking any personal responsibility for this latest mishap. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is the fall guy. Owens provided the NFL with contact information after the season for his agent and stated that the league had a previous contact number for him that he never provided. Owens included the agent's number "because I know he always answers the phone." Even for Owens, that was a bit over the top. If any other athletes are represented by Mr. Rosenhaus, you may want to check on his recovery because T.O. just threw him under the bus.
T.O. went straight to the Barry Bonds / BALCO playbook saying that in his 12 NFL seasons he has never tested positive "for substance of any kind." Track stars and baseball players were so arrogant and adamant in their denials because they were ahead of the curve. They could also boast the "never tested positive" line even when observation or circumstantial evidence made one question the truthfulness of their claims. It has been said Owens, 34, has the body of a 25 year old. Is that all from hard work or in conjunction with PED's?
I hope for Owens' case that he is not using any PED's. In T.O. land, this is a win-win situation. If he never tests positive, vindication with the ultimate, "I told you so" moment and even if he does test positive, there will additional media attention and someone on deck to be thrown under the bus so in T.O.'s mind, he didn't do anything wrong.
Monday, June 9, 2008
As mentioned previously, Jacobs was sentenced to three years probation and fined $25,000 on May 1 after pleading guilty last year in federal court in Dallas to conspiring to possess with intent to distribute anabolic steroids. He said he sold tens of thousands of dollars worth of performance-enhancing drugs to former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Matt Lehr in 2006 and 2007. Lehr's attorney has denied his client used banned substances after a four-game suspension in 2006.
Conspiracy theorists would love to believe that some NFL'er put the hit on Jacobs because he "ratted" people out to the league. Jacobs' father, David Arthur Jacobs, feared his son was in danger and would be hurt as a result of his dealings. He didn't think his son was suicidal. However, to think that someone in the NFL ordered a hit on a small time steroid dealer is giving the NFL too much credit. This is the league that after all added the phrase "making it rain" to the lexicon. We'll be on the lookout to see if his conversations with the NFL lead to anything.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
With Big Brown finishing dead last, contradicting Rick Dutrow Jr's contention earlier in the week that a Belmont win was a "foregone conclusion", Dutrow can expect, and should take some heat for his training methods. This performance will also shed some more light on whether steroids do improve a horse's performance. The initial evidence would point to yes.
The quotes from all members involved with Big Brown also corroborate that roids make a difference. The on site veterinarian noticed nothing wrong with the horse. Yet, the jockey stated that the horse had nothing to give and the owner said he was not himself today. Not having anything to give and not being himself is code for the drop off in production from a lack of Winstrol.
If the gamblers and fans really want to see history and true competition, ban roids and all other detectable PED's where horse racing occurs. It's that simple. No one is even talking about how the long shot, Da' Tara, won the race by going wire to wire...no word yet on whether that trainer shot up the horse with roids, but let the speculation begin.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
I'm sure Big Brown going off the juice had nothing to do with the firestorm that erupted after Dutrow admitted to shooting up the Triple Crown favorite with Winstrol last month. What happens if Big Brown doesn't win the Belmont on Saturday? People will say the horse wasn't roided up enough! The guy cannot win on this one.
More curious is why mainstream media has refused to question why Eight Belles was the only horse tested for steroids, yet all horses from the Kentucky Derby were tested for banned substances. I'm sure the horse racing honks would say it's because steroids are legal in 28 of the 38 states where horse racing occurs including the three states where the Triple Crown takes place. The honks would also toe the company line and say that there is no advantage gained by injecting a horse with roids. If there's no advantage, why are trainers doing it.
The simple solution to this controversy is level the playing field by banning all steroids in the 28 states where it's legal. At least the sport will appear it is out in front on this issue unlike baseball which had to be pushed to act by Congress. The cheaters will still move on to some undetectable PED, but at least we can stop reciting the same statistics and rehash the same annual controversy every May and June when discussing the Triple Crown.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
When Jerome Young tested positive for PED's in 1999, Pettigrew and Johnson discussed whether to give back the medals. Since Young was exonerated, Pettigrew convinced Johnson that they were in the right to keep their medals, even though Pettigrew "was guilty and the medal was tainted anyway."
Johnson has "been naive," but does not buy the excuses everyone needs to use PED's in order to compete because everyone else is using and that coaches are pressuring athletes to use PED's.
Johnson supports the crop of new stars: Jeremy Wariner, Allyson Felix, Tyson Gay, Christine Ohuruogu, Usain Bolt (current WFM) and Asafa Powell, but can understand how the public can be skeptical of their performance. Many of the athletes who admitted to using PED's never tested positive.
As I speculated in a previous post, when three of the four runners in the finals have admitted to using PED's, there are only three possibilities regarding the fourth: he was using, he didn't know or he knew, but took the high road and raced clean.
As for Pettigrew, is he out of the hospital yet? Johnson threw him under the bus! By taking the high road, Johnson forced Pettigrew to give up his medal. If Johnson didn't do the right thing now and return the medal, when would he?
Bolt, like many WFM before him, has denied taking PED's and has not failed a drug test. Skeptics are out on front on this one because Bolt has only run the 100 five times professionally, yet in that span recorded two of the three fastest times ever. Either he truly is the fastest man and will continue to get better, or he is working with new undetectable PED's.
Even with his lack of experience in the 100, Bolt is an accomplished sprinter. He has focused in the past in the 200 meters and was the first junior sprinter to break 20 seconds. At the 2007 world championships, Bolt finished second to Tyson Gay. Ironically enough, Gay, the 2007 world champion in the 100, finished second to Bolt on Saturday with a time of 9.85.
Mary Wittenberg, chief executive of NY Road Runners and race director for the NYC Marathon said, "I think we can believe these performances more than ever before. I think there's a higher level of fear among agents, coaches and athletes than ever before, and I think that is serving us well."
I disagree with Mrs. Wittenberg. Why do athletes use PED's? Because they work. The amount of money involved in becoming the WFM, endorsement deals, gold medals has become so big that the temptation to dope is overwhelming. Does Marion Jones regret cheating? No, she and Tim Montgomery regret getting caught lying to the feds.
When an athlete sees their former heroes shamed and admit to doping, it will only lead them to choose to dope. This naivete to think the controls and fear we have in place are sufficient has led track and field to become a fringe sport where the majority of people who follow it, assume some, if not most, athletes are doping of some kind.
Bolt's coach, Glen Mills, cited Bolt's conscience and the fact that Bolt does not even take vitamin C as reasons why his client is clean. Gay has voluntarily entered into a program where he is being tested regularly to diffuse some of the skepticism of his performance. Gay admited the sport has a credibility issue when he said, "People will have suspicions probably as long as track and field is going on."
Not taking vitamin C does not preclude you from taking an undetectable steroid and being tested regularly could be seen as a pr stunt if Gay is on an undetectable steroid. The cheaters are usually always ahead of the enforcers, but hopefully there are a few clean athletes who mean what they say and years from now don't have the mea culpa in front of the courthouse, but don't hold your breath.