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

Steroid passport to be introduced this year

Category: Sport

World Anti-Doping Agency president John Fahey says that a new weapon in the fight against performance enhancing drugs will be introduced by the end of 2013: a steroid passport.

It will be a complement to the biological passport. The biological passport measures changes in blood profile, and with it you can detect differences from an athlete’s established levels that might indicate doping. The steroid passport will work in a similar way.

“The biological passport is a key component against doping and has been recognized by the courts as evidence,” Fahey said at the International Olympic Committee’s annual meeting in Buenos Aires.

Fahey's four-year term as WADA president is coming to an end. But before quitting, he said that WADA is likely to double the ban for first-time doping offenders from two to four years at its congress in Johannesburg in November.

“The athletes have demanded a tougher approach to cheats and instead of the current two-year ban, the penalty will be doubled for first offenders,” Fahey said.

Maybe time for harder rules for legal pain killers

Category: Cycling & Doping, Sport

Pain killers can be fantastic. I used to have dysmenorrhea, the worst kind of menstrual pain you can imagine. There was no chance that I could live normally with that pain. During the worst days, I threw up all day and all night and of course, I had to stay home from school for two days every month because of this. It took seven years before I found the solution to my problem. During these years I overdosed painkillers. I nibbled one package of it every month. At least. Sometimes even two. It's true, I needed it to survive, but it was hardly healthy. And the fact is that they did not help much, which made me take some more.

In many elite sports, such as alpine skiing and gymnastics, analgesics are constantly used. Somehow the pain must be hidden away for the results to come. It's not easy to make difficult jumps with an injured foot, believe me. Even though normal painkillers are legal, that constant eating of them can lead to a pill addiction and it can also lead to other kinds of tablets and drugs, leading to doping.

Hopefully, today's younger riders enters the sport with a view that doping is not to be used under any circumstances and choose to remain outside the nasty world that some still engage in. It would've been good to clear away the riff-raffs but also to improve the doping controls.

In pro cycling, painkillers are, of course, used sometimes, because it is a painful sport and it hurts. Unfortunately, the problem is that some riders use it more than others. Taylor Phinney has been in the pro peloton for two years now and says that he thinks the use of painkillers can be dangerous and that it could contribute to crashes.
Taylor Phinney
“Some people find it surprising that riders would take pain killers or caffeine pills in races, but it is actually really, really common,” Phinney told Velonation. “In my first year I tried pain killers a couple of times in races, stuff like Tylenol, but I didn't really get it. Yet there are a lot of guys who do it regularly.

“I’ve always been someone who likes to rely on my own body to solve any sort of sickness, a cold or fever, as opposed to just jumping into taking Tylenol or whatever. So I wasn’t really comfortable with the whole painkiller/caffeine type of thing. In addition to that, it just felt uncomfortable that I would be fooling my body into feeling something that it wasn’t supposed to be feeling.

“Particularly with everything that has gone on in the past, I think that if we move away from taking anything, we have a great opportunity to become pretty much the cleanest professional sport out there.

“I feel comfortable talking about this right now, in light of recent events.”

Painkillers makes you tired, unless they contain caffeine (which I've never tried, but because I get sleepy of caffeine I don't think it would work for me). The head starts to doze, and oh, how easy it is to miss a bump on the road when you are tired.

“You see so many late-race stupid crashes that I almost wouldn’t be surprised if some or most of those crashes are caused by people taking these hard-hitting painkillers at the end of races,” he said.

“There is widespread use of finish bottles, which are just bottles of crushed up caffeine pills and painkillers. That stuff can make you pretty loopy, and that is why I have never tried it. I don’t even want to try it as I feel it dangerous.

“Another issue is taking something for an improvement, getting into that mentality. You have to ask why are you taking a painkiller? You are doing that to mask effects that riding a bike is going to have on your body…essentially, you are taking a painkiller to enhance your performance.

“But the whole reason we get into sport in the first place is to test our bodies, to test our limits. If you are taking something that is going to boost your performance, that is not exactly being true to yourself, not exactly being true to your sport.”
Pain killers

I'm against doping, but I am also aware that I could easily be persuaded to take EPO, for example. Perhaps because I never was injured by my crunching of paracetamol/acetaminophen pills and the fact that I'm still not immune to antibiotics, despite all my ear infections as a child. In my world medicine helps. They help me to reduce the fever, they've got me ready for school/work several times, they've made it possible to continue living despite stomach pains. I would have no problem to use doping, I know that, and I imagne that's the danger of painkillers; it is a relatively innocuous beginning to a dangerous addiction. The athletes who eat painkillers often, ought to see a doctor, a psychologist, anything that can get them to reduce the amount of pills.

“I do think in a way that painkillers could either be a stepping stone to something bigger, or perhaps a step down for maybe an older pro who has had a sketchy past, who has got used to racing with something and has to have something,” Phinney said.

“From there, there is a whole argument about things like cortisone; people can invent a knee injury and get a TUE for that substance. Using that would definitely enhance your performance.

“If it was up to me, I would say if you need cortisone, you shouldn’t be racing. You should get that injury fixed and then you can come back, but you are not racing any more in the meantime.

“It is the same thing with painkillers or something like Sudafed. If you wake up with a fever and you need to take some sort of painkillers to be racing, then you probably shouldn’t be racing in the first place and your team doctor should be worried about your health and send you home.”

I feel so sorry for you

Category: Cycling & Doping, Olympic Games, Sport

There are a couple of different ways to find the dopers. Often the ways are called anti-doping controls or biological passport. Sometimes someone starts wondering if there may be something wrong with an athlete and suddenly this person will undergo many controls in a short period of time. Perhaps the person is caught, perhaps not.

When David Millar won the world time trial championship in the year 2003, I knew that he was doped. I could see that he didn't smile, he wasn't happy, everything about him told me that he was ashamed and disgusted. It took a little while, but suddenly he was involved in a doping story that ended with him confessing to having used doping and was banned for some years. Today he is a completely different person.

Since then, many years have passed, but the doped athlete's shame can still be seen in their faces and movements. Yesterday I saw a Russian athlete who had won Olympic gold medal in hurdles the day before and I could only shake my head and silently beg her, in front of the TV, "please, go and admit it.". She has doped, cheated, and I'm 101% sure about it. There is no way this woman had raced clean.

Believe it or not, athletes are human beings. They know when they've done wrong. And really,, it is difficult to lie. Even for mythomaniacs and other people who live. I have all the sympathy for athletes who take doping substances to improve performance, most likely I would have thought of it myself, but it's very seldom that doped athletes are proud of their decision to cheat. Almost everybody are ashamed. I'm pretty sure many of them would like to be caught and have a reason to stop, but for it's not that simple. When athletes get to a certain age or stage of life, at least that is my feeling, they decide to talk about it. They do no longer want to be ashamed of what they have done.

Today, the anti-doping controls work well, although they could be better, but hopefully the controls today and in the future, can help reduce the number of former athletes who walk around with secrets in the future.