Friday, February 13, 2009

Armstrong Bails on Transparent Testing Program

When Lance Armstrong announced that he was coming back to competitive cycling five months ago, he also stated that he would embark on “the most advanced anti doping program in the world” to silence the doubts that have persisted throughout his career.

All of that changed Wednesday according to the New York Times, when it was announced with much less fanfare that the testing program has been abandoned without ever starting. Don Catlin, the former chief of the U.C.L.A. Olympic Analytical Laboratory who was supposed to run Armstrong’s program, said that they decided to mutually part ways, without Catlin’s analyzing a single blood or urine sample from Armstrong due to the program's complexities and costs.

Armstrong would still be tested by the internal anti doping program of his professional cycling team, Astana. This abrupt change is startling since Armstrong made his private anti doping program one of the cornerstones of his comeback and had Don Catlin with him in announcing his return.

Perhaps misspeaking or "misremembering" like the plague that has struck many baseball players, Armstrong said that his customized anti doping program was under way, but did not publish all of his biological data online as he said he would, before the Tour Down Under in Australia last month. A news release by Astana on Jan. 18, the first day of the race, said that Armstrong would be tested about every three days by Catlin’s program. Per the NYT, at that point, Catlin said, Astana had paid him a “small contribution” to begin taking samples. Asked about the program’s details, Armstrong said that Catlin would answer all the questions.

With a lack of transparency about the program, criticism ensued. Dick Pound, the former chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said last week: “Armstrong made all the big announcements, and the testing has dropped right off the radar. No sign that anything is actually getting done.”

Making matters worse, was Catlin's silence after Armstrong pushed all the questions regarding the program on him. Catlin remained ominously quiet since the September news conference announcing Armstrong's return to cycling, not returning or responding to more than a dozen phone calls and e-mail messages — until Wednesday.

Lance is a shrewd marketer; he knew that "the most advanced anti doping program in the world" would hit the right buttons with the media. At some point, the media will need to ask about these broken promises. You can never escape the suspicion of doubt if you make these grandiose proclamations of stringent testing and then slink away from it and hope no one calls you out. So far, it's a plan that has worked to perfection.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Apology Fallout: S-Rob v. A-Rod

In his Monday interview with ESPN, Alex Rodriguez claimed that the Sports Illustrated reporter, Selena Roberts, was stalking him and tried to break into his home while his daughters were asleep.

"What makes me upset is that Sports Illustrated pays this lady, Selena Roberts, to stalk me," Rodriguez told Gammons. "This lady has been thrown out of my apartment in New York City. This lady has five days ago just been thrown out of the University of Miami police for trespassing. And four days ago she tried to break into my house where my girls are up there sleeping, and got cited by the Miami Beach police. I have the paper here."

Shocking accusations for sure during his confessional, if only they were true. According to the New York Daily News, there is no record of Roberts' alleged crimes. This latest development further diminishes A-Rod's credibility for being completely honest during that interview. Only used PED's during a three year period? About as likely as a reporter "breaking into" your house.

Per the Daily News, "I haven't been able to find anything to corroborate that she has tried to break into his home," Detective Juan Sanchez of the Miami Beach police said. "I haven't been able to find anything that corroborates the statement Alex Rodriguez made to ESPN.".

Regarding the trespassing at the University of Miami, police Sgt. Janette Frevola added that none of the recent trespassing reports from the university matched the description provided by A-Rod. All UM incidents are recorded and then passed to the Coral Gables police. She added that it was possible that the reporter was asked to leave, but the incident didn't warrant filing a report.

Scoreboard reads Roberts: 1, A-Rod: 0.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The A-Rod Apology

Give A-Rod credit, yesterday, Alex Rodriguez did the right thing and admitted to using PED's from 2001 - 2003 in an interview with ESPN. However, he did not go far enough and all his admission did was lead to more questions.

In admitting his use, he framed it this way:

"When I arrived at Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure, I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me and I needed to perform, and perform at a high level every day. Back then it was a different culture. It was very loose. I was young. I was stupid. I was naïve. And I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time. I did take a banned substance, and for that I am very sorry and deeply regretful.”

First and foremost, per SI, he tested positive for two banned substances (primobolan and testosterone) not one raising doubts on this confession. He also took a page straight from the juciers manual stating he didn't know what the substance was (one of the PED's was primobolan aka methenolone, a more expensive steroid that was able to leave your system faster than the more commonly used roids of the preceding years). The highest paid player in baseball not knowing what he's putting in his body? Doesn't quite pass the sniff test. What also doesn't pass that test is if he thought the pressure in Arlington, Texas was intense, what about New York freaking City? He felt less pressure moving to the Big Apple playing alongside Derek Jeter, switching positions and ultimately getting even a bigger contract? Tough pill to swallow A-Rod.

A-Rod decided to stop using PED's in 2003 after suffering a neck injury in spring training , he explained:

“I realized, ‘What am I doing? Not only am I going to hurt my baseball career, I’m going to hurt my post-career.’ It was time to grow up, stop being selfish, stop being stupid and take control of whatever you’re ingesting. And for that I couldn't feel more regret and feel more sorry, because I have so much respect for this game and the people that follow us. And I have millions of fans out there who won’t ever look at me the same.”

Crisis of confidence occurs when MLB institutes drug testing, yet allegedly you were tipped off by the union of an upcoming test in 2004? Why would the union need to tip you off if you weren't using? Too much respect for the game and the fans...then why roid up in the first place? I, for one, am not buying.

As for lying on "60 Minutes": "And in my mind, as I did my interview with CBS last year, I felt I haven’t failed a test, I haven’t done a steroid. And that was my belief. Whether I wanted to convince myself of that, that’s just where my mind was.”

That response was well crafted, but again, he doesn't fully admit to his mistake. He lied on national television: admit to it and move on. Earlier he says he used a banned substance and then later goes with the dopers credo of "since I didn't fail a test, I haven't doped". Are you kidding? You can't have it both ways, my man. Marion Jones thinks that line of reasoning is played.

Finally where the admission fails is in the timeline: it's as if there is a small chapter in his life that has been examined and his professionals have crunched the numbers, saw the spikes and said this is the period that we want you to address and only this period. No need to address Jose Canseco's allegations or when you were first exposed to PED's. Being evasive of how he was introduced to roids and how he obtained the PED's in the interview did not bolster his credibility or the strength of his apology. Come spring training, when reporters have additional questions, he'll fall back on this interview as being the only time he'll address this subject.

Total transparency is always the best policy, just ask Marion.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A-Rod is Truly A-Fraud...Allegedly

Apparently, Jose Canseco was right again. This time, it was Alex Rodriquez and using PED's.

According to, Rodriquez tested positive for 'roids (primobolan aka methenolone and testosterone) in 2003 when the tests were supposedly anonymous and there were no penalties for a positive test. MLB issued a statement in response to the SI story stating that it could not comment on the accuracy of the report since it was an anonymous test, but did raise the concern of union officials tipping off players of upcoming tests back in 2004.

During the survey testing in 2003, 104 samples were positive. For reasons not yet known, the samples were not destroyed to ensure confidentiality. In 2004, all 104 samples were seized by the government relating to the BALCO investigation.

Initially the government requested just the 10 samples relating to the players who testified during the BALCO investigation including Barry Bonds; the players union refused and the government secured search warrants for the 10 samples and then gathered the samples for all positive tests from two different labs.

A-Rod can't catch a break. The tests were anonymous and should never have been made public. A serious breach of trust, but at the same time, if A-Rod was using, he lied when he appeared on "60 Minutes" and said he never used PED's and didn't need to. He needs to admit to his mistake and move on.

The timing is horrendous for Alex since it's a week after being called "A-Fraud" by his former manager, Joe Torre, in his new book, "The Yankee Years", co-written by Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci. Now A-Rod has to maneuver through both firestorms as spring training approaches. Were the players calling him A-Fraud because they knew or suspected he was on PED's? Is there a Sports Illustrated conspiracy against A-Rod? Let the suspicion begin.

Barry Bonds perjury trial begins March 2nd. When evidence was unsealed earlier this week, Bonds was tied to four positive tests among other damning pieces of evidence. Roger Clemens' DNA has been linked to the syringes provided by former trainer Brian McNamee. Joe Torre has now had an epiphany by seeing the Clemens 2000 World Series bat throwing incident at Mike Piazza in a new light, speculating that the incident could have been roid rage. In his book, "The Yankee Years", Torre does not openly suspect any players of using PED's.

And now A-Rod...Down goes another mythic hero.