Thursday 31, Jan 2013

Operation Puerto Evidence Should Be Preserved, Says WADA

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Responding to an announcement that evidence collected in the Operation Puerto investigation would be destroyed, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has remarked that the evidence must be preserved.

“WADA continues to be very frustrated by the slow wheels of Spanish justice in this case,” said WADA president John Fahey. “We continue to emphasize that the evidence gathered by law enforcement during the investigation needs to be preserved for sharing with sport and anti-doping authorities.”

Judge Arturo Beltran will review and give the final ruling on the case against Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes who is accused of doping 200 athletes, including cyclists, footballers, tennis players, basketball players, and others.

“When the final ruling is issued, after a possible appeal, then it is likely that in the end all the blood bags and evidence will be destroyed,” said Beltran.

Fifty names have been made public since the case started with Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, and Alejandro Valverde being among the many cyclists but names of non-Spanish athletes do not fall under the jurisdiction of the case.

“One could probably find out which athletes doped with Fuentes,” said Madrid prosecutor Eduardo Esteban. “But since Spanish criminal law isn’t relevant to them, this investigation will not be conducted. And therefore is is most likely that no new names or sports will appear in the case against Fuentes.”

“While some of this evidence might not be necessarily used in court, it certainly can be crucial in the sanctioning processes for individual athletes who may have committed doping offences,” said Fahey.

Wednesday 30, Jan 2013

‘Operation Puerto’ Doping Trial Opens

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In Spain, a doctor accused of masterminding a vast doping network that snared dozens of cyclists went on trial along with four alleged conspirators.

The list of witnesses in the trial includes Alberto Contador, the Tour de France winner in 2007 and 2009, who made a return to competitive cycling after a ban of two years after testing positive for Clenbuterol. The trial in Spain is expected to do no good to the already tarnished image of cycling after retired US rider Lance Armstrong confessed that he used banned substances throughout his career to win the Tour de France titles.

In an investigation dubbed “Operation Puerto” in 2006, police busted the Spanish network and seized 200 bags of blood and other evidence of performance-enhancing transfusions. The most prominent defendant is the suspected mastermind of the network, 57-year-old doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. Six of the 58 cyclists have been suspended in the scandal (Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde, Germans Jan Ullrich and Joerg Jaksche and Italians Ivan Basso, Michele Scarponi and Giampaolo Carus), Carus was however later acquitted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The other four defendants in the trial are the doctor’s sister Yolanda; former Liberty Seguros cycling team director Manolo Saiz; former Comunitat Valencia team chief Vicente Belda and his deputy, Jose Ignacio Labarta. The defendants are charged with endangering public health and not incitement to doping as a Spanish anti-doping law was passed only in November 2006.

The investigating judge, Antonio Serrano, had closed the Puerto case saying that the alleged acts of doping were not illegal at the time and that the small amounts of blood-booster EPO that were found did not constitute a health risk but the Madrid Provincial Courts obliged him to re-open the case.

Tuesday 29, Jan 2013

Suspicious Doping Results Were Shared By UCI

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Denying that there was ever a cover up of positive results, the former head of world cycling  said that the International Cycling Union (UCI) previously warned riders that they were at risk of failing drug tests.

Hein Verbruggen, president of the UCI when Lance Armstrong won seven straight Tour de France titles, maintains that the UCI did what it could to warn riders who appeared to be at risk of failing doping tests because their hematocrit or red blood cell count was too high.

Armstrong recently admitted to using blood booster EPO, blood transfusions, and human growth hormones. The cyclist was banned for life and stripped of his wins back to August 1998 last year, plunging cycling into crisis.

“The UCI took the line, as did other sporting federations, to talk to racers whose blood test results appeared suspect,” he was quoted as saying in an interview with the Dutch news agency ANP. “That sent out a signal to those who were doping but who had yet to turn in a positive test, that they risked getting into hot water. And if the anomaly was not down to doping that allowed the rider to have a medical analysis. The managers and team doctors were kept up to date.”

Armstrong had received such a warning from the UCI in 2001 on the way to his third Tour win, according to an article in Vrij Nederland Weekly.

Verbruggen, UCI chairman from 1991 to 2005, told the publication that “the UCI’s objective was always to clean up its sport. Sometimes you could convince [riders] to stop doping and sometimes not,” he was quoted as saying.

“When the biological passport was brought in [in 2008], the abnormal blood readings could be used as proof of doping,” added Verbruggen, who insisted that “cycling has always been in the vanguard when it comes to fighting doping.”

“Nothing was ever covered up,” Verbruggen told ANP. “The UCI has always fought against doping.”

Monday 28, Jan 2013

Cookson On Lance Armstrong Donation To UCI

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Brian Cookson, who has emerged as a top contender to become president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), recently said that the world governing body of cycling erred in accepting donations from the disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.

‘The idea they accepted money from Lance for anti-doping education and equipment was certainly an error of judgement and I cannot imagine what they were thinking at the time.’

He, however, praised the work of McQuaid’s efforts in pursuing drugs cheats in recent years and said, ‘I know Pat McQuaid very well and I think he has done a good job in the last few years in pursuing dope cheats, and cycling has a far better record now.

‘I think mistakes were made during the Lance Armstrong era but it was a difficult time because EPO [the blood-boosting agent] was undetectable.’

Meanwhile, new pressure group Change Cycling Now wants current UCI president Pat McQuaid to leave the leadership after the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, especially after IOC member Dick Pound questioned its Olympic future.

The group’s founder Jaimie Fuller, owner of the sportswear company Skins, said today: ‘Cycling runs the risk of being dumped from the Olympics with the UCI continuing to obfuscate.

‘The sport has to be open and honest and not afraid of truth. That is, quite simply, the best way of ensuring it keeps IOC status.

‘Any change that reflects a positive move towards restoring cycling’s reputation would be welcomed.’

The pressure group has also made calls for former UCI president Hein Verbruggen to resign from the positions he still holds on the governing body.

Sunday 27, Jan 2013

French Rider Receives Two-Year Ban

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On Tuesday, French rider Steve Houanard was banned for two years by the world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, after testing positive for banned blood booster EPO.

The cyclist has no major wins to his credit and raced for the AG2R La Mondiale team, which has not renewed his contract. Houanard, a professional since 2009, tested positive in an out-of-competition urine test on September 21, 2012 and accepted the sanction imposed by the UCI.

The 26-year-old rider was provisionally suspended by the governing body last October pending a disciplinary case by the French cycling federation and was pulled from the Tour of Beijing by the Ag2r-La Mondiale team when news of his out-of-competition positive test emerged ahead of the stage race.

In the meanwhile, the world governing body of cycling has asked the Belgian cycling federation to instigate a disciplinary procedure against retired Belgian rider Leif Hoste “for an apparent violation of the anti-doping rules, on the basis of information provided by the blood profile in his biological passport. The 35-year-old rider rode with Lance Armstrong on the Discovery Channel team in 2005 besides spending the 2006 season with the American team.

“Mr Hoste shall be accorded the right to the presumption of innocence until a final decision has been made on this matter,” the UCI said.

“In accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code and the UCI Anti-Doping Rules, the UCI is unable to provide any additional information at this time.”

Saturday 26, Jan 2013

Cookson Emerges As UCI Leadership Contender

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The man who helped transform the fortunes of British Cycling has emerged as a strong contender to become president of the International Cycling Union (UCI) in case the Lance Armstrong doping scandal force the resignation of the current leadership.

Senior figures within the International Olympic Committee and cycling believe Brian Cookson may be the right man to restore the reputation of cycling that is at crisis point with some members of the International Olympic Committee even questioning whether the sport should remain in the games.

One senior IOC figure said, ‘His name is already well-known within the IOC and he would be trusted by the Olympic Movement, given that some people are questioning cycling’s future in the Olympics.’

In 1997, the 61-year-old Cookson transformed British Cycling from the verge of bankruptcy and took it to a  position now where it is the most successful national governing body in the world.

His leadership has not only facilitated the way for British cyclists to dominate both on the track and on the road, but it has also been able to portray the stance of British Cycling on doping as an example of best practice among sports bodies.

Cookson recently remarked, ‘I know Pat McQuaid very well and I think he has done a good job in the last few years in pursuing dope cheats, and cycling has a far better record now.

‘I think mistakes were made during the Lance Armstrong era but it was a difficult time because EPO [the blood-boosting agent] was undetectable.’

Friday 25, Jan 2013

Betsy Andreu Blasts ‘Weak Women’ Around Shamed Cyclist

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The whistleblower at heart of exposing Lance Armstrong’s doping, Betsy Andreu, has remarked that it is ‘unthinkable’ that Sheryl Crow did not know that Armstrong was doping as the disgraced cyclist ‘decimated’ the lives and reputations of those who spoke out against him.

In an excoriating interview to MailOnline, Betsy reserved her harshest criticism for the ‘weak women’ around him.

On Sheryl Crow, who dated Lance Armstrong, Betsy said, ‘Sheryl was by his side when he was trying to destroy people and she said nothing. That’s unconscionable. I mean it just astounds me.

‘You should know people are telling the truth and you’re silent. It’s sick.

‘My God she was engaged to the guy. She, like Kristin, like so many other women did not speak up.  If they went through what we went through, would they want somebody to speak up? She could have done something.’

She said: ‘I am appalled and ashamed at how weak women were in this whole saga. It is an embarrassment.’

‘I didn’t decide to take Lance on,’ she has said. ‘I decided not to lie for him; there’s a difference.’

Betsy revealed that Armstrong admitted to using EPO, testosterone, cortisone, growth hormone, and steroids and was critical of the cyclist’s ex-wife, Kristin Armstrong, and her allegation follows comments from one former teammate of Lance Armstrong.

In his sworn affidavit, Armstrong’s former teammate Jonathan Vaughters states: ‘On the day of the road race at the [1998] World Championships somebody decided that cortisone should be made available for the team; I recall that Kristin Armstrong was wrapping cortisone tablets in tin foil and handing them out to the team. ‘Someone made the remark, “Lance’s wife is rolling joints.”’

Thursday 24, Jan 2013

Armstrong Doping Scandal Has Hurt Every Sport

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Swiss tennis ace Roger Federer recently remarked that he is saddened by the entire Lance Armstrong doping scandal and added that the doping confession of the Texan rider has not only hurt cycling, but every sport.

The tennis icon remarked that the confession by Armstrong that he cheated all the way to seven Tour de France titles would leave a negative impact on every sport. In a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey, the disgraced cyclist said he made use of banned performance-enhancing substances to establish himself as one of the biggest names in sport.

Federer added that it is sad to see that the cycling champion cheated everyone for such a long time and further remarked that Lance Armstrong has hurt his sport in a big way, even though he helped it in the beginning. Winner of seventeen Grand Slam championships, Federer, said now every sport would face the burden of Armstrong’s misdoing and went on to remark that he just needed to see the first few minutes of the interview and then he knew what the deal was, and the rest he didn’t really care about.

Armstrong admitted that he made use of a wide array of banned drugs including testosterone, blood doping, EPO, human growth hormone, and anabolic steroids to stay competitive and excel in professional cycling and use these drugs to win all his seven Tour de France wins. The cyclist said the doping program followed by him was professional and smart when asked if USADA CEO Travis Tygart was right to say that Armstrong and the US Postal team pulled off the most sophisticated, professional and successful doping program sport has ever seen.

Wednesday 23, Jan 2013

Anti-Doping Officials Not Impressed By Cyclist’s Confession

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During the first part of his interview with Oprah Winfrey on Thursday night, disgraced cycling champion Lance Armstrong did little to impress executives at two of the world’s largest anti-doping agencies.

In the interview, Lance Armstrong admitted to using performance enhancing drugs, lying about them, and bullying his accusers.

“Lance Armstrong finally acknowledged that his cycling career was built on a powerful combination of doping and deceit,” Travis Tygart, chief executive of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said in a statement.

“His admission that he doped throughout his career is a small step in the right direction. But if he is sincere in his desire to correct his past mistakes, he will testify under oath about the full extent of his doping activities.”

John Fahey, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said, “He was wrong, he cheated and there was no excuse for what he did,” and added, “If he was looking for redemption, he didn’t succeed in getting that. My feeling after watching the interview is that he indicated that he probably would not have gotten caught if he hadn’t returned to the sport.”

“The evidence from USADA is that Armstrong’s blood tests show variations in his blood that show with absolute certainty he was doping after 2005,” Fahey said. “Believe USADA or believe Armstrong? I know who to believe.”

“If he’s serious about wanting to redeem himself, he only had one course of action that he could have taken, and that is to go before an appropriate tribunal under oath, and give evidence that subjected him to cross-examination, where he would have to name names, tell of the officials, the entourage, who supplied the drugs, when, where, and which riders were associated,” Fahey said.

Tuesday 22, Jan 2013

Testosterone Supplements Can Help The Prostate

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According to data from a preclinical study recently published in Cancer Discovery, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, the use of androgen deprivation therapies for preventing precancerous prostate abnormalities developing into aggressive prostate cancer may have adverse effects in men with precancers with specific genetic alterations.

“The growth and survival of prostate cancer cells are very dependent on signals that the cancer cells receive from a group of hormones, called androgens, which includes testosterone,” said Thomas R. Roberts, Ph.D., co-chair of the Department of Cancer Biology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass.

Androgen deprivation therapy reduced the overall risk for low-grade prostate cancer, previous findings from two major randomized, placebo-controlled prostate cancer chemoprevention trials revealed. However, both of these trials also revealed a high cumulative risk for high-grade prostate cancers that is a matter of big concern among experts.

Roberts and his colleagues using a mouse model of PTEN-driven high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia investigated whether surgical or chemical androgen deprivation could prevent the cancer precursor from progressing to more aggressive disease.

“When we castrated the animals, we thought the tumors would shrink and they did initially,” Roberts said. “However, they then grew back and became invasive.” The results of this preclinical study suggest that prophylactic reduction of the most active form of androgen, or blocking androgen receptor function, might have unintended consequences in some men.

“Stretching our data even further, these findings suggest that as men age and their testosterone levels decrease, loss of testosterone might actually encourage indolent prostate tumors to become more aggressive,” Roberts said. “This suggests that testosterone supplements might be a good thing for the prostate, even though current wisdom suggests the opposite.”

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