Doping and whistleblowing: lessons from academia

What do Betsy Andreu and Professor Robert Sprague have in common: a desire to tell the truth despite the pain it causes themselves and others. Sprague was instrumental in uncovering the fraudulent nature of a research collaborator: as a result he found himself under attack and under investigation. Eventually he was vindicated, but Stephen Breuning’s work is cited by researchers to this day, some of whom seem unaware of the fact that much of Breuning’s research was based on fake data (see e.g., Korpela, 2010; Goldacre, 2011), a fact that Breuning admitted in a court of law in 1988. I feel bound here to refer readers to the excellent nyvelocity interview with Michael Ashenden from 2009, where he suggests that Ed Coyle may have been more than economical with the truth in relation to data he had collected from Lance Armstrong (not just the analysis of those data), and describes the steps he and colleagues took to address their misgivings about Coyle’s findings.

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Something for Contador from the 1930s

There have been many vegetarian (and vegan) cyclists. I am not one of them, although I have been severely dropped by one (thanks, Tim) and they have organisation. In my other life I have been fascinated by the history of empirical psychology, and have found many examples where recent research papers cover ground forgotten (the extraordinary empirical work of Roger Barker comes to mind).

I was entertained to find a beautifully controlled study from the 30s by George Macfeat Wishart (in The Journal of Physiology) which looked at cycling performance under a number of different vegetarian diets. It turned out that animal protein helps, but not because it is better per se, just because it is easier to consume in the quantities required. Doing a quick cost-benefit analysis might make one feel the advantages of steak consumption are outweighed by the disadvantages of accidental contamination with growth hormones. Or not…

Zabriskie, anyone…

Why so quiet Chade O. Grey…

The emails and tweets of from Grey Manrod Ass. have provided some of the funniest and most incisive comments on the malaise that has befallen professional cycling since the early 1990s.

Doping has long been rife in the peloton, but the misuse of rEPO really changed the game, and the more recent re-discovery of self-transfusion (synthetic EPO can now be identified by the dope-testers) creates a playing field levelled to the lowest common denominator. Moreover, as the recent hospitalisation of Ricardo Ricco demonstrates, such techniques do more than distort sporting perfomance: they can make you critically ill.

After a few days of quick-fire emailing and tweeting, Chade O. Grey and partner have been rather quiet. I miss them…

UPDATE:

See Neil Browne’s live chat with Chade…