The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Why I Don't Trust Keith Olbermann 

Keith Olbermann is pretty stupid. How have I come to this conclusion? Well, I read his brilliant reasoning why he thinks Lance Armstrong used EPO:

Five years ago, the people who make television commercials - much of the membership of the SAG and AFTRA unions - went out on strike. What Lance Armstrong did then has always made me doubt him.
Immediately, three prominent athletes said they would honor the commercial actors' strike. They would not make commercials. They knew they didn't have to go out with the rest of the crowd making $4,768 a year, but they felt honor-bound.

They were Andre Agassi, Lance Armstrong, and Tiger Woods.

Guess which one actually didn't make a commercial?

Armstrong's explanation was more direct, but no less shabby. He was a cancer survivor, after all, and had a family to feed. That he had been diagnosed in 1996 and had recovered sufficiently to win his first Tour de France in 1999, and lock in his first multi-million dollar ad campaign earlier than that, and that those striking commercial actors making $7,000 a year probably included a few cancer survivors and a lot of families to feed, didn't seem a factor to him.

Ever since then, I have had my doubts about Lance Armstrong.

There you go. Guilty as charged. Lance Armstrong, not an actor himself, crossed a picket line and made commercials even though SAG was on strike... an organization that Lance Armstrong is not even a member of. Lance Armstrong was a scab once, therefore he must be a cheat. What brilliant reasoning.

Let's look at the facts of what he's actually charged with shall we? Lance Armstrong took EPO. That's right. He once took it. It was prescribed to him by his doctor while he was fighting cancer. It's actually a common drug to use for patients on chemotherapy. He has admitted this several times, and it is not illegal. He then says that he stopped using it when he began training for the Tour.

Now for the rest of the facts. The tests this year were on 6 year old B samples. No sports organization allows sanctions to be taken on the evidence of a B sample alone. Where are the A samples? They were used 6 years ago during the original Tour de France testing. So Lance Armstrong will have this hanging over his head probably for all time, with no opportunity to clear his name, because after all... you can't prove a negative. Keith, you don't think that 6 year old samples could have been tampered with? Don't think someone might have it out for Lance Armstrong? No? You're kidding right? This magazine doesn't have the best reputation you know.

Here's something you probably didn't know. The EPO test that was used is actually not as good as people claim. There have been proven false positives. Recently a triathlete named Rutger Beke successfully showed that a person can test positive for EPO without taking it.

The Flemish government's disciplinary commission has cleared Belgian triathlete Rutger Beke of taking EPO, Het Laatste Nieuws has reported. Beke tested positive for the blood-boosting drug at a triathlon in Knokke in September 2004, and was suspended for 18 months in March this year.

Like many athletes, Beke insisted that he was not guilty, even though he returned positive tests from the anti-doping labs in Ghent, Belgium, and Cologne, Germany. He took his case to the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium, where researchers tried to determine whether he was an example of a "false positive" - someone who returns a positive result, despite not having taken the drug. That proved to be the case, as Beke was found to naturally excrete proteins that would yield a positive test.

So given that Lance Armstrong had taken EPO during cancer treatment, that he had his body full of chemicals during chemotherapy that messed with his body chemistry like you wouldn't believe prior to that first Tour, and that 6 years have passed since he last knew that urine even existed and he had control over it, you don't think there is good reason for doubt?

Personally I don't think the fact the crossed a commercial picket line means a whole heck of a lot. Maybe that's because I think that if an actor has to work another job because his commercial job doesn't pay well enough... well... that's how the market works. That and I don't put stock in unions anyway, I don't think they serve any good purpose any more. Not only that, but I think Lance has done more for cycling than anyone ever has, and has done so much for the cause of fighting cancer. I give him the benefit of the doubt, and I think there is good reason to.


EPO leaves the body fairly quickly, usually in a matter of days. If it was there, (and if no tampering occured, and that it was Lance's sample) it was because he cheated. The odds that some other reason explains the positive are too insignificant.

The case you cite was an anomaly. Armstrong has never claimed that his body chemistry would naturally produce false positives.

Cycling is rife with doping. It is inconceivable that Armstrong, an average rider who only managed to finish one TdF before beating cancer, could come back and win 7 times (against admittedly mediocore competition).

  Posted at August 31, 2005 9:18 AM by Blogger Pigilito  
First of all, I consider those two if's (that it's his urine, and that they weren't tampered with) to be huge if's... especially after 6 years.

Secondly... Lance's body chemistry has been shown to be abnormal in many ways (especially in how it expells lactic acid). I wouldn't be surprised if there was more to this.

As far as his being an average rider... yada yada yada. He has another 6 years of clean drug tests to his credit. You also have to remember that he was really a specialist in the Tour de France. While most other comptetitors in the TdF did a lot of other major Tour's throughout Europe, Lance always saved himself for the TdF. That makes a huge difference... a bigger difference then people realize I think.

  Posted at August 31, 2005 10:34 AM by Blogger Nick  
I agree about the two big ifs. I also agree on Olbermann.

Where we part ways is Armstrong's body chemistry. Being able to process lactic acid is wonderful, but others doubtless have this ability, as well as lungs the size of beach balls.

But nothing in his chemistry ever came up positive before, so that can't be the cause of positive EPO.

Armstrong, to my mind, simply became too good, too fast. I grant you that this is hardly damning, but combined with the other circumstancial evidence (and the rampant doping in cycling), I conclude he's a cheat.

I look forward to what the UCI says about the kerfuffle. My guess is that they will call the report troubling, caution others to keep their noses clean, and say their hands are tied.

  Posted at August 31, 2005 1:39 PM by Blogger Pigilito  
You can disagree with Olbermann, and in this case he may be jumping the gun, but he's not stupid (truth is, he's more intelligent than about 90% of the population). The worst thing he's guilty of here is letting what even he will admit is his sometimes highly set "bar of personal principles" (i.e., his belief that Armstrong's behavior in crossing the picket lines when he said he wouldn't made him an entirely untrustworthy person) cause him to assume that Lance might be a doper too. On the principle that if a guy said one thing and did another once, he might just have done it MORE than once. Which, while not incontrovertibly true, is also not incontrovertibly false.

He never said it was. He just said he personally doesn't trust the guy. That's his right. (As for the average woman who doesn't trust Armstrong, ask her why, and the answer is more likely to be: "He left his wife for Sheryl Crow! Give me a break!")

And he acknowledged on ESPN Radio that it was not a totally farfetched theory that someone in France might have actually tampered with the samples to prove a point, simply because they had it in for Armstrong. So...there you have it.

One point that has to be made here, about which he is right, is this: Being a cancer survivor does not give you a free pass to do whatever else you want to do in life and be forgiven, even if it is wrong. Too many people seem to have the notion that there is something politically incorrect somehow about criticizing any cancer survivor for a negative thing he may have done. That's nonsense. I'm one myself, and I don't expect people to give me a free pass in life just because of that.

  Posted at September 03, 2005 10:15 PM by Anonymous Anonymous  
I never said that Lance should get a pass due to his being a cancer survivor. I simply suggested that saying Lance is guilty of B because he did A is generally pretty ignorant... especially when A and B have nothing to do with each other.

Of course if you want to talk about trust... well I think his Live Strong work is a pretty good counter argument to him crossing a picket line.

  Posted at September 03, 2005 10:36 PM by Blogger Nick  
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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.

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