My name is Elin - A pro cycling lover's reflections

Diego Ulissi will return to racing in April

Category: Cycling & Doping

Diego UlissiIn April, Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) will return to racing. He tested positive for nearly double the allowed limit for Salbutamol last year. But now he has escaped a possible two-year ban.

The Swiss cycling federation ruled that Ulissi was negligent in his use of Ventolin during Giro d’Italia. However, the federation did not call it outright doping. Now he can return to the Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) in April, which starts a few days after the conclusion of his backdated, nine-month ban.

The allowed levels of salbutamol is 1000 ng/ml, but Ulissi had 1900 ng/ml.

During the race, he won stages 5 and 8, when he passed tests. He then abandoned after stage 17, suffering from bronchospasm. According to the rider, he took ventolin before the stage because of the bronchospasms, and he was allowed to use an inhaler to treat asthma during the race.

Because this is not a doping case, there are no Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) rules to stop Lampre-Merida from putting him right back into the peloton. This means that Ulissi can start the Vuelta a País Vasco in early April.

Roman Kreuziger takes a lie detector test

Category: Cycling & Doping

Roman KreuzigerRoman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) will start his season in February with the Tour of Oman. It is difficult to plan much further ahead as he awaits the ruling on his biological passport case. In a way to prove that he did not dope, the Czech underwent a lie detector test, which he passed.

“I don’t have anything to hide, and I am doing everything in my power to clear my name,” he said a few days ago.

According to him, he has not used EPO or blood transfusions. I really hope so. I think he is an interesting rider, and surely I hope that he has never used any kind of doping to become a better rider. But really, passing a polygraph test is quite simple. Tyler Hamilton for example claims that he beat the test. The results may be accurate in Kreuziger’s case, but to some people it looks like a desperate move in the final hours before the court hearing. The test result may not be accurate.

The idea of a polygraph is that telling a lie will give a stress reaction and that this reaction can be measured and identified. It normally consists of simultaneous measurement of three different bodily functions; heart rate, breath and palm sweating - the last being measured by electrical conductivity changes in the skin due to the moisture from perspiration.

The candidate for the test has to answer some questions. A couple of them should be answered with the true answers, others with a lie. In this way, the investigator seeks to establish the stress pattern of that individual person, using the measurements from the control questions to try to interpret the measurements during the interrogation by comparing it to the control-question responses. And this will purportedly tell whether the candidate is lying.

First of all - as described by its form of measurement - it doesn't measure lies, it measures emotional and physical stress. This means that the investigator has no idea exactly why the candidate responds to the question in matter. It could be largely anything. And this is reflected in the results. Proponents of the lie detector sometimes claim above 90% accuracy. But most hold it to be around 80% accurate, maybe 85 at best.

These above guessing percentages of 80% accuracy applies only if the candidates are not trying to fake their way through the test or does not know how to do so. There are many things affecting these physiological parameters. The faking methods can broadly be divided in to two types. 1: Making yourself startled by secretly pinching yourself or thinking of something frightening during the control questions. 2: controlling your response by mental techniques or slow breathing during the actual interrogation. Thinking of happy things or just being generally joyful and confident are known to really affect the results. Or you could take a substance altering your body’s stress response so that it is permanently heightened or lowered.

I do hope that Kreuziger has not done anything, but the lie detector test really does nothing to prove that he tells the truth. According to CAS, a hearing date has not yet been scheduled. So he still has to wait for the verdict. If believed to have cheated, he could face a a two- to four-year doping ban.

Armstrong: “I would probably do it again”

Category: Cycling & Doping

Lance ArmstrongIn recent days, I have heard several people being surprised by the fact that Lance Armstrong has said that if he was taken back to 1995 with the same circumstances, he would choose to dope all over again. I cannot understand why anybody is surprised. If I was in the same situation, I would have done the same. I believe most people would. Most of the guys who doped that time did not want to cheat. They knew that they did something bad. Something they would rather not do. Something they were ashamed of. Most of them would rather have raced clean, on bread and water.

We all know by now that Armstrong was a cruel idiot back then. Armstrong has been banned for life after the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) collected hundreds of pages of witness testimony, which showed that he did not only dope, but he also was part of an organized scheme to cheat in order to win, and he discredited and ruined anyone who dared threaten him.

In an interview with the BBC Armstrong says that:
"For 15 years, I was a complete asshole to a dozen people. I said I'd try to make it right. Anyone who gave me an audience, I was there."

In the interview he says that he would "want to change the man who did those things. Maybe not the decision but the way he acted. The way he treated other people, the way he just couldn't stop fighting. It's great to fight in training and in the race, but you don't have to get in a press conference or a personal interaction and fight. That's the man that really needed to change and who can never come back."

Still he says that he would have doped again if he could turn back time. According to him, all of the riders in that era were in a bad position. However, he also says that if he was a rider today, he would not do the same. The culture has changed.

"If I was racing in 2015, no I wouldn't [dope] again. I don't think you have to. If you take me back to 1995 when it was completely and totally pervasive, I'd probably do it again. I look at everything when I made that decision, when my team mates, and the whole peloton made that decision. It was a bad decision in an imperfect time. but it happened.

"When Lance Armstrong did that, I know what happened because of that. I know what happened in the sport of cycling from 1995 to 2005. I saw its growth, I saw the expansion, I know what happened in the cycling industry. Trek Bicycles went from sales of $100 million to a billion in sales. ... Do all those people want us to make a different decision and take that all away? I don't think anybody says yes," Armstrong said.

It is easy to say that 'I would never have done the same thing', but if I look at the people that I know, very few of them would be strong enough to say no. Most of them care too much for money and having a good life. And without the doping, it was unbelievable hard to make yourself a career back then. Some may have succeeded, but many didn't. They had the options between doping or go back to school/get a job. And if you were in their situation, if you had spent so much time training hard to be able to become a pro cyclist, what would you have done if you had to choose between doping and retirement? When really thinking about it, many of you would probably take the risk. Especially in a time when the anti-doping controls were poor.

Doping is bad. It really is. We can all be pleased that the world of cycling has changed now, and that doping is no longer a requisite. I know not everybody is going to believe it, but after following cycling for more than ten years I'm sure that doping is no longer as common.