Dope on dope on dope …

Tyler-hamilton-lance-armstrongCoincidentally, the reports that Lance Armstrong is
mulling a confession for a career-long and systematic doping regimen that
helped him win the Tour de France seven times as well as an Olympic medal and
plenty of other races, comes just as I finished reading teammate Tyler
book chronicling those years.

Obviously, Armstrong’s admission is too little, too late.
But, with anything involving Armstrong one has to look for a Machiavellian plan
at work. What is the endgame for a guy who spent two decades attempting to
destroy any one who told the truth? It can’t be that he simply wants to race
triathlons or marathons again, could it? He can do that any time or anywhere.

Does he really need attention that badly?

An admission is a bit surprising because there are so
many obstacles for Armstrong to leap over. For instance, if he admits to doping
all those years, he’s wide open to an array of lawsuits. Over the years
Armstrong successfully sued or received settlements from entities that claimed
he doped. If it comes out that he actually did everything as reported by the
likes of Hamilton and Floyd Landis, there’s going to be a long line of folks
trying to get some money.

Armstrong also would be open to federal perjury charges
in Landis’ whistle-blower suit against the US Postal racing team. In other
words, in order to admit to doping, Armstrong would have to be reassured that
he would not lose all of his money nor spend time in jail.

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Finally coming clean

Lance_floyd NEW YORK — Let’s just get it out of the way at the top… Lance Armstrong is going down and he is going down hard. It’s not unreasonable to believe that jail time could be involved for the seven-time Tour de France champion when the government concludes its investigation.

See, the United States federal government does not like it when a person lies to them. It is quirky that way.

But the thing the government dislikes the most is when it doesn’t get a cut of what it believes it has coming. You know, it wants to wet its beak with a tiny bit of the proceeds as tribute for signing off on that whole Bill of Rights thing. Freedom isn’t free, as they say. It costs a mandated percentage of your yearly income unless you make so much money that you can pay an accountant to talk them down.

Think about it… when Michael Vick went to jail for nearly two years it wasn’t so much as for the dog fighting ring he was operating as it was because he didn’t pay a royalty. He served 21 months in prison for felony conspiracy in interstate commerce, which is a fancy way of saying he didn’t cut the government a slice.

What does this have to do with Lance Armstrong? Well, everything, of course. If the guy was riding for a team sponsored by the United States Postal Service, a government agency, and used the equipment supplied to him to sell for performance-enhancing drugs, well, that’s trouble. In fact, it was alleged last year by his former wing man, Floyd Landis, that Team USPS funded its drug habit by selling its equipment. This was realized, according to the accusations, when Landis wanted a training bike and couldn’t get one.

That training bike was injected as EPO.

Regardless, that’s not what this is all about. When word came out that Armstrong’s closest teammates, George Hincappie and Tyler Hamilton, testified for the federal grand jury it was pretty damning. It meant that the United States feels it had been defrauded.

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How much does it cost?

image from The Dodgers are in town for three games starting tonight and of course that brings the inevitable talk about Manny Ramirez. Forget that Larry Bowa and Randy Wolf are back in Philly or that the Phillies and Dodgers will square off in a rematch of last season’s NLCS, the big issue is about who will not be playing.

Yep, that’s Manny just being whatever.

Here’s the thing about PEDs that no one really can quantify with any accuracy, and that is how much do they help (or hurt) a team? How many more home runs did Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez or anyone else hit because they used whatever it was that they used? How many more innings could a pitcher pile on because he was taking something illegal?

Along those lines, how many games will the Dodgers lose because Juan Pierre is playing instead of Manny Ramirez for the next 50 games?

Or, how many games have the Phillies lost this season with J.C. Romero serving his 50-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance? Hey, manager Charlie Manuel said he would have used Romero to face the Braves in the seventh in the seventh inning of Sunday’s loss to the Braves. Instead the manager turned to Jack Taschner, who coughed up a pair of two-out runs on some chintzy hits.

So how many games has Romero’s suspension cost the Phillies this season?

It’s difficult to say because who knows what day-to-day issues the pitcher would have. Maybe he would have pitched in consecutive days and needed a day off? Or maybe he’d be used in the eighth instead of the seventh? Who knows? But for the sake of argument, let’s just say Romero would be 100 percent every game. In that case maybe last Sunday’s game against the Braves could have been saved by Romero.

Perhaps he would have pitched in the three-run eighth inning instead of Ryan Madson on April 17 in the 8-7 loss to the Padres. That’s doubtful, though. So for the sake of that argument, we’ll call it one game – one in 29 for a 15-14 club.

As for quantifying Ramirez absence, that’s a taller task. However, Ramirez is much more valuable to the Dodgers than Romero is to the Phillies.

Interestingly, there is a new report by ESPN’s Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn that Ramirez had a testosterone to epitestosterone ratio between 4:1 and 10:1. That leads some experts to suggest that he was using synthetic testosterone, a conclusion reached when one considers that people naturally produce testosterone and epitestosterone, typically at a ratio of 1:1. Anything at 4:1 and above is flagged by MLB.

The report indicates that Ramirez’s representatives argue against the synthetic testosterone, instead saying the player used DHEA. In baseball DHEA is not banned, however, it is in other sports. For instance, last month well-known cyclist Tyler Hamilton tested positive for DHEA, which is an ingredient in some vitamin supplements used to treat depression.

Hamilton copped to knowingly using DHEA and instead of fighting the positive test, he retired.

Meanwhile, experts have questioned whether the HCG Ramirez said he took for a “health issue” could cause such a large spike in the testosterone to epitestosterone ratio.

According to the story:

The synthetic testosterone in Ramirez's body could not have come from the hCG, according to doping experts, and so suddenly Ramirez had two drugs to answer for. Worse still for the ballplayer, MLB now had a document showing he had been prescribed a banned substance. This was iron-clad evidence that could secure a 50-game suspension.

So yes, it appears as if Ramirez has been caught red-handed. Now the question is, how long has he being using whatever it is he was using?

And what is the cost to the Dodgers? How about something pretty big, like credibility.

The blame game

image from It wasn't all that long ago that Tyler Hamilton was expected to be the next big name in American professional cycling. It wasn't one of those passing-the-torch deals either with Lance Armstrong completing his run and then giving way to Hamilton. Oh no. Hamilton was supposed to be one of those guys who could have challenged Armstrong.

Hamilton could have taken it all away.

But things have a weird way of working out sometimes. Armstrong won seven straight titles at the Tour de France reasonably easily. Hamilton certainly had a hand in some of those victories, first as Lance's top lieutenant for the U.S. Postal teams in the early part of the decade and then as a star-crossed/accident-prone rider for Phonak and finally as a suspended drug cheat.

Yes, sometimes folks take different paths and often the short cut is nothing more than a misnomer.

Certainly the first drug suspension for Hamilton is up for debate even if some of the arguments sound preposterous. Don't let anyone tell you that the anti-doping agencies are as pure as they pretend to be. After all, there's money in the medicine, not the cure, to use a popular phrase.

Nevertheless, in his latest comeback while riding on the domestic scene with Rock Racing, Hamilton tested positive for DHEA, which is an ingredient in some vitamin supplements used to treat depression. Certainly if Hamilton wanted to fight the performance-enhancing properties of an anti-depressant, he likely would have found a sympathetic audience.

But that's not what Hamilton did. Instead, he said that he not only took the supplement with DHEA, but knew it was banned and still did it. In the aftermath, Hamilton didn't win any races nor lead his team to big victories. He simply revealed what he had done.

Then he retired.

No fuss, no muss, no fight. One has to wonder if Hamilton didn't intentionally sabotage himself.

Meanwhile, J.C. Romero of the Phillies also drew a suspension for taking an over-the-counter supplement called 6-OXO Extreme. He tested positive, went through the arbitration and appeals process and lost. That meant 50 games right off the top of the 2009 season for Romero, though he pitched for the team after taking the supplement.

Here's the thing – the makers of 6-OXO Extreme (the same guy who invented drugs for BALCO) labeled the product as legal, which obviously it is. However, after some very rudimentary research it was clear that the supplement raised testosterone levels. I'm no scientist or doctor, but that sounds like a steroid…

Anyway, here's one published report on the effects of 6-OXO:

Also, after a steroid cycle, the compound may be used to shorten the recovery from the testicular suppression that can be the result of the use of steroids.

A recent United States patent application claims an 88% increase in plasma testosterone levels in men, while decreasing estrogen levels by 11%. The subjects took 300mg orally twice a day for four weeks without taking any other drugs or supplements.

Baylor University conducted an eight-week study to determine the effects of 300 mg or 600 mg of 6-OXO in resistance-trained males. Compared to baseline, free testosterone increased by 90% for 300 mg group and 84% for 600 mg group, respectively. Also dihydrotestosterone and the ratio of free testosterone to estradiol increased significantly. This study did not utilize a control group and was funded in part by two producers of commercial 4-AT.

In a warning letter dated July 7, 2006, the FDA argues that marketing of 4-AT (aka, 6-OXO) violates the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and as such products containing it are adulterated by legal definition.

On June 18, 2008, Health Canada issued a warning that 4-AT and 6-OXO had a health risk related to blood clotting and recommended all users immediately cease use.

image from Certainly Romero admitted his mistake and apologized. He also took responsibility for using the product though he likely received some bad advice. Shoot, he's a really nice guy who is always ready to answer a question or provide some insight. Plus, Romero's story has remained consistent. He made a (honest) mistake and is paying for it very much like Hamilton. After all, athletes are responsible for what they have in their bodies.

But unlike Hamilton, Romero has filed a suit against the makers of 6-OXO Extreme (as well as the Vitamin Shoppe where he says he bought the supplement) claiming they did not properly label the product to reveal it contained androstenedione.

"Testing positive and being suspended from baseball was one of the most painful experiences in my life and robbed me of the joy of winning the World Series and damaged my reputation in the process," Romero said in a statement. "I purchased an over-the-counter supplement that I was told and believed would not cause me to test positive. These events have hurt me deeply and placed a cloud over my career, accomplishments and family. It is my hope that I can finally start to put this event behind me and protect the interests of others who rely on manufacturers and retailers to be honest about their products. I look forward to rejoining the Phillies and my teammates at the end of my suspension."

So did Romero really know what he was taking? Who knows? But in one sense it kind of seems like one of those cases where someone sues McDonald's because the cheeseburgers caused weight gain.

Maybe Romero didn't know, but that's his fault.