Saturday, July 28, 2007

I Came to Praise Torres, But Intend to Leave Seeing Her Drowned

Part 3 – Can it Possibly be True?

This is the third part of a three part series looking at the question of whether Dara Torres has used performance enhancing drugs to enable her remarkable return to elite swimming at the age of thirty nine.

Well if superlative talent doesn’t dictate comeback ‘success’ how is she doing it?

(Richard) Quick (Torres’ coach in 2000) told USA Today, “She’s packed in three years of training into one.” – Web Biography “Beat the Odds”

“Age I’m realizing is just a number. I’m just going to keep training hard and hopefully make the Olympic team”- Swimming World interview July 16, 2007

Quick doesn’t seriously expect us to buy that does he? I’d like to take a poll of Olympians and physiologists and see if they believe Torres can train three times more effectively and harder than anyone else. At least without doping. Heck, even with doping!

With this latest comeback, however, she’s taking a completely different approach to training than she used to qualify for Sydney.

Torres already has begun laying out a Beijing training program with Coral Springs coach Michael Lohberg. She says she can't do the near around-the-clock training and body work she did for Sydney but will focus on quality workouts - and plenty of family time - USA Today “Torres has a New Reason to Seek Gold” Aug.17, 2006

Even people 10 years younger than Torres will be delighted to learn her training program is dramatically different from that which took her to the Sydney Olympics. Her secret: less is more. She weighs less than when she competed in Sydney and she is swimming about 5.5 km each morning, five days a week (half the workload of most elite sprinters). She also does four strength and conditioning sessions a week, three stretching sessions (which last two hours each) and has two massages – The Australian “Stopping the Clock at 40” Jun.20, 2007


It was reading about her current training program which convinced me there was no possible way her performance could be clean. Ever since the great athletics coach Arthur Lydiard introduced his training concepts in the fifties about the importance of maximizing aerobic conditioning the pathway to the elite ranks in every sport where endurance plays a role is paved in hard work and then more of it. But the fact the more you swim the faster you race has been known by swimmers decades before Lydiard even if the underlying reasons weren’t understood. There hasn’t been a swimming champion since Duke Kahanamoku who hasn’t put in countless hours in the pool. You just have to look at the workouts of our current and recent stars to know this sporting axiom hasn’t diminished over time: Michael Phelps, Ian Crocker, Janet Evans, Ian Thorpe, Laure Manaudou, Alexander Popov, the list goes on and on without an exception; all spend or spent prodigious amounts of time in the pool whether they were distance specialists or sprinters. It’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of heavy training workloads has in modern swimming. American George Haines, widely recognized as one of history’s great swimming coaches (Santa Clara Blue Bells), talked about the importance distance training has in swimming by referring to the case of sprinter Matt Biondi who lowered the 100 free world record by nearly a full second over four years. In an excellent undated piece by Cecil M. Colwin (likely an excerpt from one of his many swimming books) titled “Learning from Great Athletes” Haines was quoted saying:
Matt went 41.8 for the 100 yards. He still holds the record. The reason he went 41.8, and the reason he went his 48.4 world record for the 100 meters in Korea, was that the guy was training overdistance; he was training for the 500, he was training for the 200, he even swam the 500 in dual meets, and he was our greatest 200 swimmer. But, as soon as he stopped training for the 200, and overdistance, he never ever, even in the 50, swam as fast again.
So for my mind Dara Torres making a phenomenally successful comeback at age forty in a matter of months after several years in retirement, all on only half the mileage normally put in by world class sprinters, is difficult to comprehend to say the least. I especially like the reference to her concentrating on ‘quality’ workouts, as if the rest of the world’s elite swimmers and their coaches are deliberately scheduling crappy ones.

“I don’t remember going through this in 2000,” she says, “but even when I am swimming I an having these conversations in my head, about whether I can swim fast again – The Australian “Stopping the Clock at 40” Jun.20, 2007

The fact Torres shows a pattern of quitting and then coming back just before the Olympics is most illuminating. There was a lot of suspicion the reason for the absence of any top ranked Chinese women participating in the major international meets the past couple of years were because they didn’t want results which would allow FINA to test for drug enhancement on site or commence unannounced testing. The unstated belief was they were heavily doping right up until the very last moment and then would ‘coast’ into the Olympics on the overwhelming advantages thus gained. As it turned out the Chinese didn’t have a good world championships at all this past March which seems to pretty well put the kibosh on that theory, but the idea you can avoid being caught by not competing internationally until the last moment is perfectly valid and well known.

Torres says she is prepared for the naysayers. She has seen a few blogs questioning whether she is using performance enhancing drugs. "If people came to the pool, they would see how hard I work,” Torres said. “My whole career I swam against swimmers who were taking drugs. That’s not me.”- South Florida Sun-Sentinal “Olympian Back for More” Jun.3, 2007

Torres’s results have drawn doping allegations, which she understands and is prepared to openly address. She faced the same insinuations in her previous groundbreaking comeback, so she knows they will resurface. She has asked US head coach Mark Schubert to organize extra drug testing, including blood testing, so she can answer the doubters – The Australian “Stopping the Clock at 40” Jun.20, 2007

National head coaches aren’t responsible for drug testing, especially for arranging special testing for someone who’s not on the team and located a continent away in Florida. Has anyone asked Mark Schubert what testing he’s actually instituted for Torres? Nor would having her current coach Michael Lohberg monitor her be appropriate or practical. If she was serious about being squeaky clean why didn’t she instead contact USADA, or even FINA or WADA, the institutions actually responsible for keeping drugs out of our sport, and request to be placed on their testing lists immediately? I’m sure with her history they’d have loved the chance to test her early in her comeback.

"Is a relay spot doable? Yes," Torres says. "Can I do what I did in 2000? Absolutely not. But could I make the team? I've got a shot. Why do this? Because I want to!" - USA Today “Torres has a New Reason to Seek Gold” Aug.17, 2006

“Now I hope I can do my best times ever. I was hoping to make the Olympic team, but I am much further ahead than I thought” – The Australian “Stopping the Clock at 40” Jun.20, 2007

Of course the money which could be earned from winning an Olympic medal at forty one would be really nice too. In a discussion thread on the popular swimming website Timed Finals a reader raised the point Dara had had her Olympics and if she qualified again she would be taking an Olympic berth away from a younger and more deserving swimmer. This attitude was universally rejected by the rest of the website’s readers who maintained the Olympics were for the best and fastest bar none; all which is perfectly good and true, but then we swimmers are perhaps individualistic to a fault. Someone with a background in team sports may understand better given at the start of every new season sports teams everywhere have to decide whether to stay with proven but aging veteran starters or go with young and inexperienced players and hopefully see them step up their play to their full potential. Looking at Torres’ attempt from that perspective I have to say for U.S. Swimming it seems better for some promising fifteen or sixteen year old gain some Olympic experience instead of seeing Torres swim another relay yet again.

There are many other aspects of Dara Torres’ remarkable success I’d like to discuss; how closely her swimming career parallels those of known drug cheats, or how after the mid-twenties any cessation in high-level training results in permanent, irretrievable performance decline¹, or ... but this post is already too long. If you haven’t come to a decision from what you’ve already read here throwing still more facts at you probably won’t help anyways. And there will be those who believe without actual evidence of Torres taking prohibited drugs she should receive the benefit of doubt and be considered innocent, even though I’ve pointed out it’s exceedingly unlikely Torres will be caught by a drug test at this late stage. Yet the evidence is everywhere, circumstantial but overwhelming. I, for one, will be cheering for everyone but Dara Torres when the U.S. Olympic Trials finally do roll around; and if she doesn’t qualify outright for the team then I’ll be crossing my fingers and hoping the selection committee does the right thing and leaves her behind when the team heads off to Beijing. Unfortunately for those of us who believe she cheats there’s little more we can do other than voicing our collective disgust, for until we can make the costs of cheating higher than the profits gained swimming will continue to be plagued by this. So if by chance you do attend one of Torres’ meets give her a whistle – let her know we don’t accept what she’s doing – for the good of the sport.

“The older I get, the less I do, the faster I go,” Torres says – The Australian “Stopping the Clock at 40” Jun.20, 2007

¹ The Competitive Edge, Clarence Bass, undated: about the positive impact of high-level training has on deferring most deterioration associated with aging up to possibly early seventies for males, and argues actual physical peak for male swimmers closer to early thirties than conventionally accepted late twenties.

Web references:
The Competitive Edge: http://cbass.com/SWIMMERS.HTM
The Jewish Virtual Library: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Torres.html
San Francisco Chronicle “Back in the Swim”: http://www.sfgate.com/
cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2000/08/09/SP61405.DTL
The Australian “Stopping the Clock at 40”: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/
0,20867,21934254-28737,00.html
USA Today “Torres has a New Reason to Seek Gold”: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/olympics/summer/
2006-08-17-swimming-torres_x.htm
Web Biography “Beat the Odds”: http://biography.jrank.org/pages/3227/Torres-Dara-1967-Olympic-
Swimmer-Model-TV-Reporter-Announcer-Beat-Odds.html
New York Times “Near 30, Swimmer Resumes Sport for the Young”: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/01/sports/
othersports/01swim.html
Learning from Great Athletes: http://www.swimmingcoach.org/hof/coaches/haines_article1.htm
South Florida Sun-Sentinal “Olympian Back for More” - now archived and available for fee
Swimming World interview podcast July 17, 2007: http://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/tv/preview.asp

49 comments:

Scott said...

In a fast-on-the-draw response to the posting of Part 1 Mike raised two points where he disagreed with my post’s premises. The first point was the very duration of Torres’ career was a strong argument in favour of her not using drugs, and Mike used the tragic example of the East German women of the ‘70s and the Chinese women of the ‘90s who were victims of a systemic program of doping and have suffered widespread organ failures and other severe health problems later on in life. As a consequence these regimes are marked by with swimming stars having unusually short careers, often times only participating in one Olympics. With Torres going for her fifth Olympics her career is just the opposite. I believe this premise, however, makes a fatal error in assuming all doping programs and athletes are the same. Mike himself admits this possible flaw in his argument when he follows making the point with, “So I suppose it's possible that she's just start doping 'a little' and late in her career - perhaps just to facilitate recovery as she's built momentum in the last couple comebacks” Precisely so. It needs to be said I’m not saying Torres is not a great swimmer, she’s a legitimate Olympian. I cringe when I read my writing her being “an also ran” or “only” winning Olympic team relay medals but unfortunately I have no choice. If she realizes her dream of another Olympic medal at the age of 41 she will have accomplished one of history’s greatest sporting achievements and it’s to that exceptional standard which she must be compared. I believe the problems encountered by the East Germans and Chinese were mostly because they were forced to use athletes who were not true Olympians, athletes who were ‘only’ national champions and not, say fifteenth or twentieth in the world, a quality of athlete which would need only a boost to stand on top of the podium. As a result they had to use massive amounts of pharmaceuticals in their doping programs and, just like a machine, the harder you run it over the redline the more chance you face seeing it breaking down. It is interesting to note that, as important doping is to Dara, the real key to her plans are to exploit the fact as an American woman all she needs to win an Olympic medal is to qualify sixth and let her fellow teammates carry most of the burden. She only needs to reach the top 20 or 25 in the world to accomplish something which will make her both famous and financially secure for the rest of her life. As a citizen of any other country in the world except perhaps Australia her current attempt would likely be doomed to fail.

In his second point Mike tackles what he believes is a straw man argument of mine whereas I would counter and say it is his premise which is the real straw man. Taking the position because the rest of the swimming world has seen improvements over the last fifteen years those improvements can be also attributed to Dara Torres he ignores the thousands who have been forced out of international swimming because they couldn’t. Indisputably Torres’ fame is entirely due to her surmounting seemingly impossible odds and the laws of nature to continue improving and remain on the international scene. Clearly my article needs to be changed and elaborate more on why Torres cannot have seen improvement without performance enhancing drugs. Trying to refer to this obliquely by mentioning how long she trained at the elite level doesn’t seem to be working. If it’s all right with you Mike I’ll continue with your use of masters swimming but to disprove rather than prove your argument.

Let there be no misunderstanding, no ambiguity about this: as we age beyond our twenties our physical abilities decline. This is undisputed medical fact. The only questions are in how long we can maintain ourselves at maximum performance and by how much can we minimize the inevitable decline. In applying this rule to an individual, however, we cannot immediately assume improvement is not possible after his or her physical peak has passed. Improvement is certainly possible if the standards being measured against were established at something less than existing maximum performance. For example if you ran casually during high school and then in your late thirties took up running in a serious manner and started running 10k and marathons your running would almost certainly improve. But you wouldn’t be running faster than you would have been if you had put in the same effort as a teenager, because as a teenager your maximum performance potential would have been naturally greater. For an elite athlete already performing at or very near maximum, however, improvement isn’t possible, and over time performance must, and does, follow the natural curve of declining performance to eventually force them out of international competition. When you look at the masters swimming community you’ll find very few ex-Olympians for this reason. While most masters are curious about just how fast they can swim ex-Olympians already know. Having nothing more to prove but the extent of their physical decline most decide not to compete. Of course what constitutes someone’s maximum performance can be difficult to establish. Wes Musial, a fifty year old Canadian holding masters world records in backstroke, was a member of Poland’s national swim team and is swimming faster now than he did when he was on the team, something he attributes to better training conditions. Had Musial been born a Canadian it seems likely he would have been an Olympian, perhaps even a medalist. Still, by the time a swimmer reaches the Olympics it is safe to assume they are swimming at or very near maximum performance. Certainly this holds true for any swimmer on the powerhouse U.S. Olympic team which Dora Torres belonged to three Games in a row. Logically we should expect a decline in her performance after her late teens to early twenties, the span of time generally characterized as representing the peak racing years for female swimmers. Just to hammer in the point this decline happens to everyone I’ll use a few examples.

Janet Evans set her world records in 1988 and 1989 at the age of seventeen and eighteen. In the 1988 Olympic Trials she swam the 400 free in 4:06.43 and 800 in 8:23.24. In the 1992 Trials she swam the same two events in 4:09.47 and 8:27.24 respectively; and in her last Trials in 1996 she swam 4:10.97 and 8.33.60 respectively. A minor but steady pattern of slowing is clearly seen. For males physical peak is reached somewhere from the mid to late-twenties. Alexander Popov set his first world record at 23 and his last in 2000 when he was 29, the same year he won the 100 meter free silver medal in Sydney. But by the time Athens rolled around in 2004 he too found himself shut out, not even capable of making the finals. For Popov thirty three was too far down the curve to overcome the rabid competition coming from younger competitors. Gary Hall, Jr. was a late starter, missing the 1992 U.S. Olympic Trials when he was 18, but rolled through 1996, 2000, and 2004 Games garnering ten medals, half of them coming from individual events including a gold in the 2004 50 meter freestyle with remarkably consistent times. This year though Hall, now almost 33, has seen his times slow marginally and has dropped out of the top 20 world ranking in both the 50 and 100 free events. And these are men noted for their longevity in the sport. Ian Thorpe set all his world records before he turned 21 and retired only four years later.

So when we observe Torres carving seconds off her previous personal bests at the age of thirty three, an age when seeing a male merely match the times set in his youth would be exceptional, what should a logical mind think? And if we see her at forty still improving even after taking several years off, does not something seem awry? The only possible explanation is that offered by Donna de Varona - she’s the greatest swimmer who’s ever graced our planet by far, just that for whatever reason she didn’t show it until she hit her thirties. I say nonsense. I’ll opt for the obvious and say she’s cheating.

Mike said...

I certainly have some thinking to do and may have to revisit this comment in the future but at this moment there are a couple things I feel worth mentioning about the athletes you chose:

Janet retired with long term shoulder injuries that may or may not have impacted her ability to train the way she did at the levels she did.

Alex came into his third Olympics after being stabbed in the stomach. Albeit some years earlier.

Gary Hall was diagnosed with diabetes a year before the 2000 games.

We're continuing to see older athletes making finals at the Olympics. I'm not sure that's because they're suddenly better or their doping more efficacious but because they're training better. The 'california school', a sort of yardage cold war, is some way behind us. Technical improvements are on going. Sport science tells us more about recovery, nutrition and training specificity. Endorsements and other funding are, at least for a few, making training as an adult a little easier for athletes beyond their regenerative peak.

I do wonder if we won't see world record sprints by athletes much older than we're used to seeing. Certainly we don't look at a 20year old kid and think of them as being washed up the way we would have in the 80s. I see lots of reasons to expect longer careers. Perhaps, with better science and coaching we'll expect kids born today to peak at 35. There's some evidence to suggest that strength athletes who train consistently and avoid injuries should expect to get stronger into their thirties. Even if they don't recover as quickly.

I don't see lots of reasons to expect long term doping though. It just doesn't seem to have a lot of evidence for long term abuse. Yes perhaps there are edge cases and no I don't consider myself to be on any sort of leading edge on such matters.

At first glance I really have to wonder about myself that I might assume that any statistically aberrant performance necessitated a pharmaceutical origin. Extrodinary claims and all that. With a population exceeding 6 billions there must be a large number of edge cases. I might well claim some sort of chimerism. But the devil you know....

I certainly agree that Dara's performances are highly unusual and certainly bear serious thinking about. Especially if they're ethically repeatable. Wow. I'm not convinced, though, that her beamonesque (who really only had the one marvelous jump) efforts come with enough evidentiary baggage to indelibly mark them as doped. Certainly there's the suspicion (and I wonder what her WADA program looks like) but I hesitate to taint a career with accusations without certainty beyond all doubt.

Scott said...

It took me some time after reading Mike’s heartfelt response to come up with a proper counter to his words. It was only when I realized his comments were not directed at defending Torres but rather it seems to expressing his own hope and desire for the possibility of us doing great things later on in life that these words came to me. Mike’s comment opens by pointing out why great athletes like Evans, Hall Jr., and Popov possibley saw their performances decline for reasons other than age. The rest of his opinion does not offer any further explanation or justification for Torres’ successful comeback but instead lays out various hypothesis on why human beings should be able to remain at their peak into their thirties and even forties. It is an important question for many, especially those who have gone so far as to compete as master athletes, but not germane to the topic at hand – is Dara Torres ‘the One’, history’s first human being, that statistically freak, to show it is possible to defy aging. I don’t think so. Certainly in every example I used there are other possible explanations for their decline beyond simple age, but I’m not going to fall into the illogic of using individual cases to argue a matter concerning an entire population. I have all history and our entire species to support my position. It is up to those who say improvement is possible in someone’s thirties and beyond to provide the evidence rather than speculation. I just flat out don’t believe Dara Torres meets any objective standard of reliable evidence. In every fraud there is a victim who wants what the perpetrator is saying to be true and so happily hands over their money, in many cases continuing to do so well beyond the time most start to question the perpetrator’s words and actions. Mike ends with the statement “I hesitate to taint a career with accusations without certainty beyond all doubt” but unfortunately the world doesn’t work that way. Even our common law says it is right and proper to convict on the basis of “no reasonable doubt.” If we can incarcerate people on such a standard, if Americans can execute them on such a standard, why cannot we shun someone on that standard? In my mind, and I believe this to be true, Dara Torres has to be cheating.

Damien said...

I for one definitely agree with you Scott. It is a genetic certainty that with age, cells and thus the body as a whole will lose its ability to perform physically. There may be ways in which we can delay this but in the end, time always catches up and we become weaker.
You are also right on another major point. I was thinking about the times that Dara did back in the late 80s and early 90s compared with the ones she has done recently. The argument that technology has improved and better training methods have caused this to happen is nonsense since it was not that long ago and technology hasn't progressed that much. Some world records from the late 80s and early 90s are still standing (such as Krisztina Egerszegi's 200 backstroke and Janet Evans 800 freestyle respectively.) I honestly believe that if they swam today given current conditions, they would probably only swim marginally faster. Thus the training really hasnt' improved that much. So if Dara did a 55.48 for 100 free only 15 years ago, it certainly doesn't make sense that she improves by a second at the same time she ages 15 years. Another case in point similar to Dara's story are Inge de Bruijn and Michelle Smith (who was caught cheating fortunately). Both of these athletes came out of obscurity late in their careers and won olympic medals and broke world records in the case of De Bruijn which she still holds. I think Dara is a more extreme case but defintely something similar is going on. I for one will not be cheering for Torres at the US trials. I hope she gets her ass blown away to be blunt. Serves her right.

Scott said...

Several readers who have participated in the Dara Torres poll have voted she's definitely not using performance enhancing drugs, but haven't made any comments as to why they believe as they do. Come on guys - speak up and tell us doubters why you're so confident Torres isn't doping. Here's your chance to show why we're wrong!

Rob said...

As a US Nationals winner, Dara will be drug tested. If the results come back negative, I assume you will print an equally long winded apology.

Tony Austin said...

Coming back negative on a drug test means you tested negative for PED drugs not that you didn't take any.

It took years before Amgen's EPOGEN was detectable.

As for Dara, I have to presume her innocent but it sure does seem extraordinary.

Scott, I blogged your three part articles today since you ar3e the only jornalist, blogger or individual to come out and say this.

Tony Austin said...

I want to add that everybosy is probably thinking it but you had the guts to say it. It may not be true but it deserves scrutiny.

Rob said...

I thought Scott is an accountant, not a journalist.

Erik Hochstein said...

"But the fact the more you swim the faster you race has been known by swimmers decades"

This is by far the most idiotic thing I have ever read. A little knowledge is a very dangerous thing and obviously you only know very little about the sport of swimming. By your accounts, Jason Lezak would also be doping. And why don't we add Gary Hall to that list and while we are at it add anybody who swims for Mike Bottom and David Salo to that list.

And that is just one example - I bet you I can come up with nine more really dumb quotes from your "analysis".

Erik Hochstein said...

1 - "Dara Torres was an insignificant figure in international swimming until her comeback in 2000" - that not true, she made 3 US Olympic teams and she was probably ranked in the top 10 in the world for 8 years.

2 - "effectively leaving as an also ran in the quest for glory" probably the absolute worst comment of them all. Scott - you are clearly showing here that you have no understanding of what it means to go to the Olympics.

3 - " Twenty pounds of muscle! The Chronicle mentions she left a career in acting, modeling and broadcasting in July, 1999 so in a year’s time she added close to a kilo of muscle a month. Wow, any twenty something male would be absolutely delighted with that!" -- how often have I read this about a kid going to the NBA ? Are they all taking steroids ?

4)"Less than a year ago I returned to competitive swimming after a long absence to rehabilitate a back injury – a case history I believe is very much comparable to Torres’ situation." I have to correct myself - comparing yourself to a world-class athete is even worse than Number above...

5)"Even the great Mark Spitz cannot reach peak performance in a couple of years " -- Again a true lack of knowledge, Spitz just did this for attention. His training was part time at best. His times were slower than the current Masters records for that age group - that should tell you something

6) "Allison Wagner comparison" -- what exactly do you know about her training ? Does she train and live for swimming full-time ? If not, you can not compare this - it's just stupid.

7) "There hasn’t been a swimming champion since Duke Kahanamoku who hasn’t put in countless hours in the pool." ahhhh Gary Hall or Anthony Ervin or .....

8) American George Haines - he was coaching from the 60s to the 80s - we have actually moved on from that

9) "If she was serious about being squeaky clean why didn’t she instead contact USADA, or even FINA or WADA, the institutions actually responsible for keeping drugs out of our sport, and request to be placed on their testing lists immediately?"

And the final is just another example of how misinformed you really are. Torres was not able to perform at any swim meets other than Masters because of the "doping rules". A swimmer of her caliber actually has to sit out of competitions for 1 year "AFTER" announcing her comeback, so she will be tested during that time.

Scott said...

Well Eric, I just couldn’t help but feel I had to immediately respond to your initial comment lest some incredulous readers take your opinion too seriously. My response to the second will have to follow at my convenience as I’m rather busy right now. First of all it’s important in polite discourse not to resort to personally attacking someone instead of their opinion as it’s considered an attempt to browbeat rather than argue your position’s merits. It even has a name - an ad hominem attack - and whenever experienced debaters see it they know the speaker is simply blowing smoke out his ass. I must admit that “idiotic” remark has me a little ticked off: I haven’t been called an idiot since … well I’ve never been called an idiot. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.

I’ve already pointed out in my follow up commentary using individual cases to disprove a conclusion based on analysis of the entire population is incorrect. But if you want to use Gary Hall I did do some supplementary research on him before I wrote my piece (assuming you’re referring to Jr, as Gary Hall Sr. swam in those infamous high-mileage years you so quickly dismiss) and I couldn’t find any reference sources which referred to his typically daily or weekly mileage. If you can find any which show he swims less than 30k a week like Dara then please link it as I’d love to read it. In fact I’ve used Gary Hall Jr. as an example of someone who can be safely assumed to not be doping because of his long history of excellence. Course in later commentary on this very post I note how Jr’s times have fallen off recently and speculate perhaps it may be because he’s now 32 pushing 33. Please remind me Erik, Torres is how old now?

But of far greater interest to me was your assertion my statement about the more you swim the faster you race I had presented as fact was actually false! Huge, simply huge! Because one of us is absolutely and conclusively wrong: game, set, match! There are obviously different training philosophies and each individual athlete’s requirements must be taken into account, but generally speaking I have taken the position training a certain minimum amount of meters is required for elite swimming (something around 60k/week). Frankly I’m stunned you are taking such an extreme position on this. Not only am I merely parroting the coaching icons of our era, Doc Councilman and the quoted George Haines, but given Phelps’ 80,000 meter weeks and Evans’10,000 meter workouts, you’re also calling Bowman and McAllister idiots as well. Grant Hackett is swimming 60,000 meters/week right through this year’s race season to get ready for Beijing. An idiot. As a German you’ll be familiar with the great butterflyer Michel Gross who after announcing he was going into ’maintenance’ training very quickly disappeared from the world stage. But Germans are getting a reputation for being ’slackers’ and therefore underperforming aren’t they Erik? It seems to me I read a recent article in Timed Finals about this problem in German swimming. Published May 11th this year and titled “German Swimming - Under Trained and Over Analyzed?” it was written by ‘Erik‘. In the article the author notes Orjan Madsen‘s, the German national swim coach, excuses for the country’s dismal performance at this year’s FINA World Championships. The title pretty well sums up the alternative reasons why Erik thinks the team failed. In it Erik (that would be you wouldn’t it Erik?), states, “Even if one believes in quality over quantity, you have to put in 9-10 workouts a week at 1.5 to 2 hours per workout”. So while in this article you agree with my position a minimal level of training is necessary in your comment you take the opposite position and call me and the rest of the world swimming community idiots. There’s a word for someone who deliberately misrepresents something to others: we call them liars (or politicians). You attacked my assertion regarding training rather than try to prove why Torres was not doping, and then you took that single point of mine and attempted to use it to discredit my entire argument: something referred to as a “straw man” or “ red herring” technique. And while you can’t throw out the logic of an entire argument on one point you certainly can throw out the entire argument if the presenter is a known liar. And this is a whopper of yours. I’ve never caught anyone in so blatant a lie over the age of eight. I'm going to speculate the reason you had to stoop to such a low and demeaning act, beyond the fact my argument Torres is doping is very strong, is because you were outraged that someone of my low talent dared questioned an Olympian. You Germans and your fixation with elitism - you’d think German history would be enough of a lesson a sense of superiority only gets people hurt. I’ve looked at your follow up post and see more of the same. It’ll be a pleasure to give you my “analysis” of your points. I leave you now with another one of my “really dumb” quotes (I’ve lots of them):

Revenge is a dish best served cold - Ancient Klingon Proverb

Rob said...

Wow. I mean, really..... wow. That was absolutely amazing.

Erik Hochstein said...

I thought you were done with your rather silly comments - again it is so obvious that you simply know very little about the sport - so why do you try to make these arguments ? Here we go again

" rather than try to prove why Torres was not doping"

We are proving now that people are not doping ?

And to compare the training of Michael Phelps and Janet Evans to the training of a sprinter simply shows again your lack of knowledge. Do you think that Michael Johnson was doing the same workouts as Sebastion Coe ?

Yes - you have to put in the work. You have to make this more or less a full-time job. But right now, there are a lot of sprinters that "only" swim about 30K a week. They are also spending about 2 -3 hours per day working on land. Torres said she starts at 8:30 and comes home at 2:30 and then still has a massage later on. She is putting as much time as any world class swimmer. She is training for a 50 and then trying to stretch it out for a 100. Dara Torres is very fast in the 50, but her 100 time is that of a sprinter. Most swimmers under 25 in the 50 go under 54 in the 100.

This may be news to you - but sprinters need to train differnt than middle distance swimmers. I don't have to find training yardage about Gary Hall to know that he does not swim 60K a week. But go to the race club website and ask.

So it's not a lie - it's a fact. Just because you do not know the facts, it does not make it a lie.

AS far as the German comments go - I am not sure what to respond. It just seems wrong. I did attack you based on your attempt to discredit a swimmer based on very incomplete arguments and limited knowledge about the sport. But you attack an entire people.

Timothy said...

Erik Hochstein is absolutely familiar with Michael Gross as he was on a bronze medal winning relay with Gross at the Seoul Olympics. I think part of Erik's biggest problem with your (Scott's) post is that you are comparing yourself to someone who has achieved the greatness that he worked so hard for. I admit, while I agree 100% with the rest of the blog, that part didn't do much for me in terms of proving your point.

What I don't understand is that while Erik was working his way to become an Olympian for West Germany, across the border the East Germans were doing their part to cheat out the rest of the world including many of his own western county men and women. In that situation, I could only feel contempt for East German swimmers. I don't understand why Erik would defend someone who, with so much circumstantial evidence abound, has taken a similar path.

Scott said...

Erik, on my casual reference to Germany's past you have a point - as a keen student of military history I often find myself defending National Socialist Germany as the natural result of a people following a pathway most of us would have travelled in the same circumstances; and whatever mistakes were made Germany paid thrice over for it. It was a cheap shot and I apologize for making it (anyone taking bets this statement might get me even more flak than my Torres blog?)

Rob said...

Scott - I don't believe your reference to Germany's past to Erik was "casual" at all. Your written opinions of the German people came across as sincere beliefs. You have displayed your aggressive personality with your talk of revenge and wishing to see Dara drowned (i.e. dead). Because of this I read your apology as being shallow at best.

Your writtings are an excellent example of blogs gone bad.

Scott said...

Comparing my own experience in returning to competitive swimming to Torres’ comeback was primarily a literary device intended to bring the reader to the obvious counter argument: that the broad variance in our respective talent and accomplishments wouldn’t support such a comparison (i.e. Torres is doing it on talent), and then I would effectively destroy that counter-argument using my examples of Mark Spitz and Allison Wagner. Once I wrote that, however, I hesitated at leaving the intended self denigrating statement and so couched my answer with “You’d be wrong, but I freely admit I’m a nobody”. I found myself unwilling to concede Torres is clearly several orders of magnitude better than me as a swimmer, and I believe so for a very good reason - because her recovery is unbelievable and I’m not going to grovel at her feet regardless of how it sounds. I fully grasp the achievement of being an Olympian, it’s actually those who think it’s possible for Dara Torres to go from nothing to elite status in little over a year, several months of which she was pregnant, who are the ones who don’t understand the work and effort which goes into an Olympic attempt. With her recent 54.41 Torres is about 10% faster than a top ranked male masters over fifty, she’s about a third faster than a typical 10&U girl, but I’m supposed to accept her breaking a masters world record three months after giving birth while I’m having to work to beat those same ten year olds? I’m not that bad of a swimmer and, much more to the point, she‘s not that good.

Scott said...

Obviously Rob is not a student of Shakespeare, and in taking a quote of an "Ancient Klingon Proverb" seriously after referring to Erik's "dumb quotes" he shows he's without a sense of humor either. But his rejection of an apology, one not even addressed to him and thus not any of his business; even to go so far as to question the spirit in which it was offered, is just plain bad manners.

Erik Hochstein said...

I don't really want to keep going back and forth on this - but I did think of this discussion when I read the following - he actually trains 50% LESS than Dara Torres. Yes - he is younger, but I think this should put your "the more yardage the faster" idea to rest.


Stean Nystrand - 2nd fastest 100 FREE - EVER !!!!
Explaining the big drop, Nystrand said: "I started to have a better diet and [have been] sleeping more. I was pretty lazy with sleep and missed a lot of sessions. I was working at 25 per cent. But now [more recently] I got better and better. I have not missed one single exercise [practice] in the past two years."

Consistency has become a daily habit. Asked about technique, he said: "Everything feels better. I have experimented with technique and it feels better than in Melbourne. The starts too, I've been working on that since March and it's getting better and better."

When he looked up at the board to see 47.91, he thought: "I don't believe it: it's like Christmas."

He noted that his training sets are some of the shortest in world swimming. "I average 3000(m) per session. Landwork twice a week. One time is medicine balls. I do presses and lifts, chins and dips, lots of stomach work ... the aim is to get stronger but not gain too much heavy muscle."

His weekly max is about 20km. I only swim easy and swim max, nothing in between," said Nystrand.

Bill Ireland said...

The references to Germans are really in poor taste--flaming your critics is really a bad idea--particularly when the critic is making good points and not engaging in ad hominen attacks.

I do not know if Dara Torres is doping. But Erik Hochstein actually knows something about modern swim training for sprinters. If you had followed Gary Hall's career in any detail over the years, you would have found he prided himself on non-traditional training and much less time in the water than traditional swimmers. That's Junior, of course. That's one of the reasons he founded The Racing Club--to encourage training that explores different ideas instead of just pounding yards.

If you had looked at Masters swimming you would have noticed that there are swimmers who are swimming faster than they did when they were younger(unfortunately I'm not one of them). It is possible for a 40 year old woman to be faster than when she was 20--Karlyn Pipes-Neilson, Caroline Krattli, Laura Val. On the men's side, look at Rich Abrahms and Jim McConica. And there are others.

Sprinters used to train just like distance swimmers--which had the effect of preventing them from maximizing their performance as sprinters. Now they are trained for strength, explosiveness and technique. Not for endurance. Michael Johnson not training like Sebastian Coe is a pretty good comparison--43 seconds versus 3:30 for the length of their events is pretty comparable to a 100 free versus a 400 free. Those are the factors that make a giant difference. Men's sprinters in track are peaking much later than was common thirty years ago. Look at the length of Carl Lewis' career versus Jesse Owens. There are other factors truncating Jesse Owens' career but it was the one Olympiad and done back then.

There have also been significant advances in swim suits in every Olympiad. I'm not sure how much of Dara's improvement is better equipment, and how much is more efficient training or how much is anything else. I don't see how anyone can tell. Have you reviewed any studies on how much faster swim suits are now than earlier? Is it a second a 100 versus 1992? That would not surprise me based on how much faster swimmers are going. It might be more. I know that when I have swum with a speed suit--made with second or third level technology, I have swum much faster than without. Maybe closer to 1 1/2 seconds per 100. That's some of her improvement right there. I'm pretty sure there is propreitary data owned by the swim suit companies showing some estimation of how much difference better suits make--its significant.

Two more points--first she has always been an immensely talented swimmer. I don't think you appreciate how much of a prodigy she was and how talented her historical perfomances were versus the world levels. Part of that lack of insight is because the earlier part of her career is not as readily available on the internet because it predates the internet. But from reading swimming world over the years, I remember her putting up pre-college times that were truly remarkable.

Finally, and I don't know all the facts on this topic but I have seen articles on women in other sports(track and field in particular) which have found that post-childbirth, many women have shown increased levels of performance on an international level. I don't know if that is true because I haven't researched it, but I do remember seeing articles that concluded that childbirth is not the end of an athlete's career despite traditional misconceptions.

In looking at other sports, we are finding that athletes can perform at an exceptional level for longer than anyone thought possible. Smarter training, better training makes a difference for Jerry Rice, Jason Kidd, Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, etc. Look at the average age of the swimmers at the 2004 Olympic Trials versus the 1984 Olympic Trials--the average is much older because swimmers are swimming longer and peaking later.

Women swimmers used to stop competing when they went to college, then when they graduated from college, and now it goes on from there.

After all of this, I cannot tell you if all of Dara Torres is clean but I don't think her career can only support your conclusion. If you have some one with superior talent, better equipment and better training swimming faster, that alone isn't enough to show that she isn't clean.

One more bit of circumstantial evidence in support of Dara Torres swimming clean--her times at Stanford Masters Champs in the Summer of 2006--she had given birth some months before and showed up and swam outstanding times that point to her current level of performance. Every single pregnancy guide is terrifying for the mother about not taking anything except water during pregnancy. Those guides say no smoking, no drinking, no taking medication of any kind during pregnancy. Its a pretty safe assumption that she was completely clean during that period of time, and immediately afterwards she swam great times.

Oliveme said...

Gentlemen-

I find it more than a little ironic that only men have, until now, commented on Dara Torres career. Assessing the possibilities of a particular woman's body, based on the self assessed possibilities of a particular man's body seems to me to be folly. To assume that pregnancy is a malady to be recovered and rehabilitated from in the same way one would rehab and recover from , say a back injury, seems even more ridiculous.

First, let me say that I trained at USC with Dara and her sister for a period of time. When I say with, I mean at the same time. I was a breaststroker so my training was very different and we seldom shared sets. And while we are on the subject of true confessions, I was a friend and teammate of Jill Sterkel. Jill Sterkel made the Olympic team in 80, but was deprived the opportunity of attending four Olympics by the president's boycott. In anycase, for a long time, Jill dominated the fifty and hunred freestyles until an upstart beat her in 84. That upstart of course, was Dara so while I respect what Dara has accomplished, I can't help but wonder what might have been if Jill had the opportunities to train, that is to say to train with that as one's primary employment. That out of the way let's deal with the matter at hand.

Scott, in both your initial blog comments and then in replying to posts, you indicate a familiarity with the rules of logic and rhetoric. That is admirable, I think, except that you have omitted one of the very most fundamental propositions. That is that it is impossible to prove a negative. It is this difficulty which allows you to take negative test results and answer that all they prove is that she has not been caught.

I think Dara is not guilty of any kind of
using any kind of illegal performance enhancing drugs. I say illegal because in one article she cites using creatinine, a substance that first came to attention when Mark McGwire was the best hitter in baseball.

The way in which you assess Dara's performance is only in relation to others. However, when you take Dara's times as a body, plotting each on a single graph what you see is a gentle upward performance curve. As I am sure you know, most people who use substances, show, sudden marked improvement not only against the field, but most tellingly, over their previous performances. I think that most of Dara's coaches and certainly nearly everyone who shared a lane with her would tell you that Dara did not train up to her potential and probably did not race at her potential either. Donna D's statement makes good sense.

Second, the kind of doping you are talking about cause radical physical changes. Last month's Harper's Magazine sites the increase of Barry Bonds' foot and hat size in the span of a season. Leaving aside the puns about a swollen or fat head, Dara has not experienced that kind of physical growth. She no longer possesses girlish curves, but a woman's body.

Third, your argyment assumes that pregnancy is detrimental to a woman's body. While pregnancy strains a woman's body, as even heavy training will do, it may also change the body's potential, just as heavy training will do.

During pregancy, a woman's blood volume is nearly doubled. While it is doubtful that the immediate effects of this natural blood doping would persist past breast feeding, there is no real way to mesure what kind of advantage may be gained by being able to "supertrain" for a year.

Another change that the body goes through during pregnancy is that is produces lots of growth hormone. After all, the primary purpose of the body at that time is, in fact, to grow a human. Testosterone levels also increase during pregnancy, even more so when a woman is carrying a boy.

Another effect of pregnancy is to maximize the efficiency of the body, to get the most amount of energy from calories possible. Why does that matter? During pregnancy and nursing women have a greater capacity to convert calories into energy rather than into fat storage. In effect, this is much like putting higher octane gas in an engine.

Another reason I think that your comparison between you and Dara fails is from long experience of training with men. The boys contingent of my high school swim team possessed no great talents, not even any well trained talents. In contrast I was relatively accomplished, and very well trained. For four years, I led nearly every set of every practice. Not by a slim margin either. Nevertheless, these same boys generally swam at least a little faster than I did. In my Division 1 college, I saw the same thing happen to other women who were accomplished swimmers. I will grant that I didn't swim to my potential, but that certainly can't be the case of every woman. I came to equate this with the fundamentally stronger musculature of men, plus the fact that they generate higher measures adrenalin.

Too, I am not certain that women's swimming is as far along in its evolution as mens swimming is. The less evolved the sport, the greater the possibilty of big improvements. Since men have been competing longer, it is reasonable to think that they might be closer to that point where there will be no or only incremental improvements.

I also wanted to make a comment on weight. Most female swimmers get secondary amenorhea, cessation of the menstrual cycle. In fact, I know coaches who measure the success of a woman's taper based on whether she gets her period. A woman will not get a period if her body fat percentage is too low or if overly tired. Many coaches feel that women should keep their weight at the level where amenorhea occurs. In fact, one of the articles about Torres talks about developing amenorhea developing bulimia in college. Another article focused on the difficulty she experienced getting pregnant. Both of these can be seen as the body lacking and it is only now, when she is a little heavier, but more healthy, that she is able to swim faster. I do not know if the same held true for men, but I observed both in college and in the "senior" meets a phenomenon where women would lose ten pounds and suddenly never be able to get near their best times. For some reason, and counterintuitively, some women swim faster when they are a little heavier.

Finally, on a personal note, I wanted to let you know that while I am not a great fan of Dara's, I still think that she is doing this without performance enhancing drugs. What bothered me most about your article is that it seems like you would prefer that Dara's acheivments be lessened or dismissed. I don't think that anyone would argue that a god part of swimming is in the mind and if Dara's swims make us rethink what our limits are, what our possibilities are, that is a good thing.

About the training vs. times arguement, surely you have also felt the effects of over training at some time or another.

Oliveme said...

The value of relay swimmers. Scott you also denigrate Dara's Olympic acheivements on the basis that some of those were relay medals and that she was an alternate on those relays. You may not know this, but unlike nearly every other meet in the world, the Olympics runs relays in the same heats and finals manner that they run individual events. As such, generallly, but not always, the number five and six swimmers compete in the morning swim while the top four compete in the finals. But it should not be assumed that those swimmers whoswim in the morning do not make an important contribution. Too slow, and they don't make finals, meaning that no matter how fast the team swims in the evening, they can't finish above ninth.

tony said...

Regardless of whether she's doping or not, I don't understand her motivation. Does she still think she can win an individual gold? From the best of my knowledge she doesn't have a facility or program anywhere from which she is trying to promote her own teachings. What does she have to gain? Is it just pride? Thats just sad if a grown woman is measuring herself to girls.

Personally I believe the verdict is not out on the whole age vs performance issue. Athletics is a novelty of the youth, yes, and everyone grows up eventually. The real world makes them get jobs and actually experience responsibility... but without those stresses and still holding onto the motivational zeal, why couldn't someone continually improve a skill - even if they have always been amongst the best?

I know I could have improved my swimming, as well as many of my peers who I swam with in high school and college could have improved. We never hit an absolute peak... we all just moved onto things we considered more important in relation to our finite time.

Mike said...

Ok there's been all sorts of things said here that make my grit my teeth a little but I'd said my piece and didn't have much else to add. This one comment, though, I just can't figure out:

"From the best of my knowledge she doesn't have a facility or program anywhere from which she is trying to promote her own teachings. What does she have to gain? Is it just pride? Thats just sad if a grown woman is measuring herself to girls." -- Tony

What else is there beyond pride? This is not a sport where even Olympic performances can be considered an efficient road to riches. And what if she is racing girls? She's racing the very best the world has to offer... and winning.

How many people ever get that opportunity to pit themselves against the planet and emerge victorious? How are her performances not amongst the the very best in any discipline? We might argue back and forth over whether a shred of circumstantial evidence says they're tainted or not. We might profess to belong to some subset of fandom or not. We don't denigrate some of the very best swimming the world has ever seen at any age in any time simply because you think they're something you do as a youngster and then grow out of.

If that were the case why would anyone of us here give a damn about anything she did regardless of whether she as doped or not. On what planet does it seem fitting to pooh pooh world class performances in any endeavor?

Please.

Tony Austin said...

Where is Dara Training; USC?

Mike said...

Coral Springs, Florida

Scott said...

I’ve read some very good arguments on how Dara Torres is achieving her great feat, enough to start me questioning my near certainty she’s doping. I think back to my opening comments on how the speculation is purely circumstantial as she hasn’t shown up positive on her tests (and she’s been tested at least once by USADA and reports two more tests this past year) and wonder why I’ve taken such a strong stand on the probability of her doping. Faced with this uncertainty I’ve reverted back to an old logic exercise of considering the extreme form of each side to determine the overall more compelling argument; something which at least determines the side where the actual truth likely lays, even if precisely where is open for debate. On one hand we have made considerable technical progress over the past twenty years and have clearly improved our ability to swim faster. I’ve also learned there are fervent supporters of the ‘less-is-more’ training philosophy for reduced mileage being better for some swimmers, especially sprinters: perhaps Torres was coached incorrectly in her prime and has only recently received the training she needs to reach her physical peak. On the other hand out of all of history’s swimmers Torres is not the name I would have chosen to be the one trailblazing the way for world-class performance over forty. And if improved training is what has brought Dara her new found speed then with only three years out of the last fifteen she’s done remarkably little of it. I never would have thought being a world-class athlete could be so efficiently and easily achieved. One has to pity all those tens of thousands slogging away in pools right now thinking their hard work is the way to Olympic gold. So after careful consideration and despite my going around in circles I find myself coming down once again on the side that says Torres is doping. When you see a magic show and experience a particularly good performance it doesn't make you believe in actual magic – you realize the feats are accomplished by tricks neither understood nor seen. The same rules must apply to Torres. I do not know how she’s doing it but on balance I’m convinced doping must be involved. The answer is out there. If I’m wrong then we’ll be seeing more and more swimmers competing and winning into their middle and late thirties. Certainly there’s enough money’s now to allow it, but I don’t see it happening. Twenty years will be enough to find out if Dara Torres is for real.

Rob said...

Just curious, Scott...... What are your thoughts about Kate Ziegler's 1500 WR at a mid-season, non-taper meet? She beat the WR by 10 secs (not to mention obliterating her previous PR). It's been widely considered an "unbeleivable" feat just like Dara's. Doping? Not doping? Reasons why?

John said...

Scott, You are overweight, middle aged, and unrecognised. The one thing you are lacking is specific evidence. If there is some "doping" here, then Dara has clearly discovered the fountain of youth and has been drinking from it. A secret this valuable will come out in her book and make her millions. I will buy!

Scott said...

You mean after ignoring her age, training and performance history? It isn't unusual at all for someone to obliterate a best time sometime during their career. Most of us can refer to a personal experience or two. Besides, the 1,500 is famous for huge chunks of time being taken off at one go, likely as the actual pace necessary to break a world record isn't unreal - the neat trick is maintaining it. The only thing unbelievable about Evans' 800 and 1,500 world records (every other one of her other WRs having been broken long ago) is how long they've lasted in a world where virtually every other world record in swimming has been set after the turn of this millennium. You just don't get it. Read this slowly so you can grasp the essential point of my diatribe: it isn't people can’t improve and improve dramatically, but that they can’t if 1) they're already operating at peak performance as most Olympians and professional athletes are, and 2) in combination with the first point, the same Olympian or professional athlete is beyond their physical peak: which for women is thought to be no more than the early twenties and for males around their late twenties. Most of us can have every expectation of improving on times we set as an indifferent teenager if we put enough effort into it. But Torres didn’t improve in the last eight years of her first experience being an elite Olympian, and quit at 25. It was only after returning to the pool in her thirties did she show enough improvement in her times to become a contender for an Olympic medal. And today, after a break of several more years, she’s returned with a vengeance to close within a fraction of her best times after only 1½ years. At the age of forty. I have no problem with people disagreeing with my assessment on Torres, where I have problems is a significant percentage of my readers think Torres is definitely not doping. How anyone can make such bald and all encompassing statement about any professional athlete when he or she is accomplishing extraordinary things in this day and age is beyond me. It irks because in the back of my mind I’m thinking it when I come across Michael Phelps’ name – and it bugs the heck out of me. Oh, and John – there are a few dozen drugs out there which will find you the fountain of youth, at least for a moment or two (I’m sure you’re already familiar with Viagra), the secret is finding a doping regime which isn’t detectable using today’s science. And that secret is worth millions to Dara Torres.

Scott said...

As a correction to my earlier comment Janet Evans' 400 free world record also lasted a long, long time, only being broken this year by Laure Manaudou. No doubt about it, Janet Evans is one of history's great swimmers.

Rob said...

"..... where I have problems is a significant percentage of my readers think Torres is definitely not doping. How anyone can make such bald and all encompassing statement about any professional athlete when he or she is accomplishing extraordinary things in this day and age is beyond me."


This explains all I need to know about you.

Scott said...

Just as there are people who can judge people only on the basis of the colour of their skin. But then I have you down as an obsequious syncophant so I shouldn't be holding you to a higher standard than I do myself.

Rob said...

".....it’s important in polite discourse not to resort to personally attacking someone instead of their opinion as it’s considered an attempt to browbeat rather than argue your position’s merits. It even has a name - an ad hominem attack - and whenever experienced debaters see it they know the speaker is simply blowing smoke out his ass."

Although this is your blog, I suggest you watch your manners and try to live up to your own standards.

I'm done with you.

Jake_Shellenberger said...

Scott,


While the time and research you put into this story is impressive I don't know how you can take yourself seriously when you quote research from the 1950's.

By using that example all sprint swimmers should train using the Fartlek method because according to your beliefs the more you swim the faster you are right? Are you aware that Steffan Nystrand is quoted as saying he did his 47.91 on about 20,000 a week?

Do you have any idea how much volume Roland Schoeman does down in Arizona? Ryk Neethling? Any one of the South Africans from Athens 2004?

How about Gary Hall Jr, are you aware of how much volume he does?

What about the American record holding 200 yard free and 200 yard medley relay teams from the University of Arizona?

Are you aware of how much volume those women are doing down there in the desert?

You must remember there are two variables to training... volume and intensity. Your idea of a "heavy workload" seems to only include volume with no thought given to the intensity of a training program.

You think aerobic / endurance training is tough, try taxing your neuromuscular system 3 days a week and see how tired you are. The fact is MODERN exercise physiology is proving that volume is not the deciding factor when it comes to sprint swimming. The old saying that "more is better" is being reversed every day in the US collegiate ranks and elsewhere in the world.

The exception is the 90,000 a week that Popov did but be reminded that MOST of that was drill work and was done at a very low intensity. Also, be aware that Popov's coach has developed one swimmer with that approach to training and that was Popov. It worked for Popov but that kind of training hasn't exactly worked for everyone else. Who else has that coach developed? How many world class sprinter has the Popov 90,000 meters a week program developed compared to say, what Mike Bottom and Rick DeMont are doing?

If you look at the best sprint coaches in the US right now... Rick DeMont, Mike Bottom, David Marsh, and Brett Hawke, the overwhelming thing that all three of them have in common is a low volume, high intensity approach to training.

When it comes to sprinting, aerobic development is simply NOT the most important component that determines speed and how long you can hold it. The 50 meter freestyle, by exercise physiology standards, by your coveted scientific standards, is not an aerobic event. The 100 freestyle is not aerobic either, the two of those are both anaerobicly dominated events and while aerobic conditioning is important it will never be as important as how well the anaerobic system is developed to be able to continue supplying creatine phosphate to the muscles long after the initial stores have been depleted.

You can find this information in any modern book on exercise physiology and again, quoting research from the 1950's seriously hurts your argument, especially to those trained in the science of ex. phys.

To understand this concept one must look no further than track and field. Track coaches realize that the 100,200,400 (Comparable to the 25, 50, and 100 in swimming) are anaerobic events and not aerobic and so the majority of training for these events is of the anaerobic nature.

You simply don't see 100 meter dash guys out running 5 miles at a time because

A. V02 max is not important for success in that event and

B. Aerobic training actually reduces strength and power

The second part may shock you but yes, if you strength train and train aerobically it will be the strength that suffers. The two have a very hard time getting along together and it has to do with increased mitochondria in the muscles from aerobic training.

Again, you can find this in any modern exercise physiology book.

You state on some of the responses here that it takes 60,000 meters a week to compete at the highest level. One thing you are forgetting is the huge difference between sprint training and distance training and even the difference between middle distance and sprint training.

Back in the 70's and 80's volume was nothing more than a pissing match between coaches and it was about trying to one up the other guy and put in more yards/meters that week. No one bothered to take a look at what the science was saying except for the track coaches and only lately have swimming coaches gotten on board.

You point out Biondi - he was also a 200 swimmer and our American record holder and so of course he had to put in more yards than a swimmer who only swims the 50/100.

Back in 1991 when Tom Jager went 19.05 in the 50 yard freestyle at NCAA's people thought that it was the limit of human performance. They didn't think 18 was possible and for a long time no one got under 19.05 and so the critics seemed correct.

Along game Fred Bousquet and David Marsh and a power sprint program at Auburn University with a completely different mindset than what we saw in previous years. Gone was the long stretch out stroke with a huge hip / shoulder roll and in its place was a power stroke with 30-45 degree hip rotation with an extremely early catch and no glide on the front part of the stroke.

The rest is history and now there are three US college times under 19.00 and more to come in the future.

To say that training hasn't changed or technique hasn't changed as Damien said in his post is extremely foolish. I am interested to hear who he has trained and what research he has done to make such a statement.

Again, one only has to look at the volume that programs like Cal, Auburn, and Arizona are doing. Intensity is up, volume is down. Weights and dryland are extremely important, especially for sprint swimming. Right now it is the power oriented programs that are producing the fastest college sprinters in the U.S.


Why are men faster than women? Why are 8 year old girls faster than 8 year old boys? In both cases the faster swimmers are usually bigger and stronger than the slower swimmers and they produce more power in their stroke. Training has most certainly changed in this matter, as both male and female swimmers have embraced the weight room and we are seeing the results of it. Even Phelps, with his incredibly high volumes has embraced strength training now and he is quoted as saying it gives him an extra pop in his stroke.

I would also note that he went 1:43 after he started lifting seriously and again, is quoted as saying it gave him alot more power in his stroke.


Damien, if you are reading this, I find it ridiculous that you actually believe that training hasn't changed since 15 years ago. Talk to any coach today who was coaching 15 years ago and ask him/her that question. The only time that may be the case is with distance swimming, where high volumes have been the norm for quite some time.

The fact is that sprint and middle distance training have changed dramatically since the 1950's where Scott quotes his science and certainly since 1992 where you talk about Dara's swimming.

I could talk all I want about it but the truth is in the numbers, and numbers never lie. Damien, if you really don't believe training hasn't changed since 1992 I encourage you to take a look at the list of current LCM world records. Scott, I hope you are not foolish enough to agree with Damien and think that training hasn't changed....

The oldest LCM record on the books on the men's side is from 2000. If training hasn't changed since 1992, why aren't the books filled with records from the 80's and 90's?

The same holds true on the women's side, with only 3 records being set in a year that began with 19. The 200 IM you can throw out because Wu Yanyan was part of the Chinese doping machine and distance swimming as I've said has not changed as much as sprint training and so it would make sense that Janet's mark is still there.

Now what does all this have to do with Dara? I won't comment on that situation but know that when it comes to the sport of swimming -

#1. More is not always better for sprint swimming

#2. Less is more when it comes to sprinting

#3. High volumes of 60,000/week are not needed to sprint at the high school level, college level, international level, or elite (WR) level

#4. Sprint / middle distance training has changed significantly since 1992. How else do you explain the world records? Is everyone doping? Certainly not. Have we advanced genetically in 15 years? Hardly. Are we doing things differently now than we did 15 years ago? VERY much so. I don't know who said it but it's brilliant... "If you do the same thing every year expect the same results"

#5. A stronger swimmer is a faster swimmer assuming technique is not sacrificed and drag is not increased



Again, my conern lies not with Torres but with the concept that a volume based sprint program is needed to produce fast swimming...If you look at what the best college programs are doing today and how the fastest sprinters are training throughout the world you see something very different from the 1950's science you were quoting.

I will look forward to your response as there is little in this world I love more than debating swimming and specifically sprint training :)

Scott said...

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – attributed to Albert Einstein

Hello Jake:

I hope this comes not too long after you posted as I’ve been off doing other things. You’ve made an eloquent statement of the extensive changes seen in training over the past decade, as well as the differences to be found in training for sprint versus long distance events, but that really was a secondary issue to my central point on Torres’ minimal training to achieve world class status. Out of necessity I only touched on a topic which dissenters seized upon to refute my ability to even question her accomplishments. I agree with you the differences in training regimes is a fascinating topic and one I’m planning to address in a separate posting devoted to just that topic. But for now I’ll briefly address two issues: the comparability of Arthur Lydiard’s 1950’s training methods to today’s practices, and the amazing recent advances in world record times. The over emphasis on distance training (‘junk mileage’) in the 70’s and 80’s didn’t come from Lydiard, Haines, or Councilman, it came from lesser coaches who, seeing only the high mileage called for by their training methods, merely increased it to gain an advantage. To the contrary Lydiard et al very much emphasized quality workouts in conjunction with quantity – the overall objective being to match aerobic conditioning with strength; something very pertinent to all swimmers regardless of their distance (presently anaerobic capability is believed to last no more than twenty seconds at the very outside). We now have alternate methods to build strength, and with a better understanding of human physiology we place more emphasis on cross-training, but the core concepts propounded back then haven’t changed. Again all this is a very complex subject and even my planned post will only touch upon the subject. As for the recent advances in swimming’s world records they have garnered considerable attention from the sporting community. Mostly in the form of raised eye-brows. You ask if I’m aware of Steffan Nystrand – I counter whether you were aware he has claimed to have done it with virtually no weight training. Truly a case of ‘less is more’! Now most of the advances in swimming WRs I think can be rationally explained by advances in technique (with significant assists from extraordinary talent such as Ian Thorpe and Michael Phelps), but I have some serious questions about the prevalence of doping in swimming, especially where it concerns our sprinters. What with BALCO, the monetary windfall winning now brings, and the willingness of individuals to cheat to gain success (witness Sports Illustrated’s famous survey of elite athletes of whom half, faced with the hypothetical choice between doping and being unbeatable for five years and then death or staying clean and obscure, chose doping) I have real concerns. Dara Torres just was too much for me to remain on the sidelines. I look forward to discussing these points and others with you.

Scott said...

Jake: I've tried to find some references to your assertion Michael Phelps has changed his training program to include serious weightlifting and have come up dry. As Phelps is famous for not being able to do weights for safety reasons this is quite a turn about. Could you point me in the right direction?

Scott said...

Over the past several months I've on occasion come back to this post to see if Jake ever did come back and state where he obtained his Michael Phelps quote about how weight training added "pop" to his swimming. But nothing to date. Today, however, a January/08 article in Outdoor Magazine revealed after the 2003 FINA World Championships Bob Bowman placed him on a strength training regime which has seen Phelps add 14 lbs. of muscle.
He doesn't use weights (as they are considered to dangerous for someone with hyperflexible joints) but rather he employs plyometrics, a type of exercise using explosive movements to develop muscular power, especially bounding, hopping, and jumping. I used this when I ran competitively, and I believe it is big in basketball. But no weights for Michael Phelps.

Danny said...

Parts of various accusations are supported by "it's only logical." when it's actually just path dependent thinking. It's never happened before, so it can never happen.

I'm interested in what compounds you're speculating Torres is using? HGH, Winstrol, EPO, testosterone, thyroxine, some exotic bovine blood cell booster? Funny thing is the primary benefit of half of the drugs (the anabolics) I mention is enhancing recovery from more training (volume/intensity) than is normally possible. So if she's getting more, out of training less, it's not logical that she's doping that way.

So you must have some ideas. I'd be very interested since this type of speculation is an indictment of so called policing organizations like USADA/WADA more than it's an attack on athletes. This endless doping witch hunt is a strange reflection of our anesthetized, erection challenged, pharmaceutical domestic lives but it sure is more interesting than talking about swimming.

Scott said...

Actually Danny I do believe she's taking some form of undetectable steroids. Unfortunately there's lots of them around. I'd like to point out in both her 1999 comeback for the Sydney Games at the age of 32, and her current comeback which started when she was 39, that she had been away from the pool for years. Getting to swimming even 20,000 meters a week (nothing to the typical elite Olympian who puts in around 60,000/week) from zero takes a long time for age group swimmers. One of the greatest coaches in the world, Bill Sweetenham, figures it takes ten years training to make an elite swimmer. She did it in a matter of weeks right off of child birth. That requires a lot of muscle building in a very little amount of time - which to me spells steroids. And don't forget her age which compounds the problem. When you mention all this speculation is more of an indictment of WADA than the individual swimmers you're right on the mark. There will always be cheaters, especially when there's fame and fortune to be found, but the IOC and WADA have made only token efforts to identify them. I'm not alone in thinking this. In the sport of swimming there are many who share this belief. I'd speculate there's more than enough to make it a consensus opinion amongst elite athletes and coaches.

Robert said...

Scott, because of recent high-profile doping cases, one can understand you having your stated point of view. We've been disappointed by athletes too numerous to name in just the last couple years. I have to admit myself that this remarkable comeback by Dara Torres evoked a skeptical reaction in my own head.

However, I don't want to address whether or not she's doping. She could be taking undetectable drugs, or have taken drugs while "retired". She could be completely clean. She's never tested positive in her life for anything.

I want to address, as some previous posters already have, your lack of knowledge about the sport of swimming. You know a little about swimming. Just enough to be dangerous. Dangerous enough that I wouldn't want you anywhere near a pool deck coaching children or masters swimmers.

You also make some bold statements about the body's [in]abilities that you provide no references for. You intermixed your personal beliefs in a manner that make them appear to be fact. However, when you see through the smoke and mirrors, your argument rests on baseless assumptions.

I personally know many masters swimmers who re-entered the water after considerable layoff and returned to their previous levels of competition, and even faster. And most of them do it on 3 workouts a week. Why should it be that Dara Torres could not re-enter the pool and return to her previous level (world class) and then surpass it? We're all human and we all have limitations. But masters swimmers have shown time and again that they can return to and surpass their personal previous level of competition.

I think that you have a good topic to work with, but I'd like to see you remove your personal agenda and anecdotal arguments from the piece. I want to see you back up your claims about physiology, and show modern research behind your swimming-specific statements.

P.S. I believe that definition of insanity is attributed to Benjamin Franklin?

Scott said...

Hi Robert:

Well of course I disagree with you, first and most of all with your statement about my “lack of knowledge about the sport of swimming”. Actually I have a long history of competing at a reasonably high level in several sports as an adult and consequently possess what I consider a reasonable grounding in physiology as it applies to performance, even if swimming wasn’t included in the mix. But when I wrote this article I consulted many scientific sources to establish the veracity of my statements, as well as discussed my opinions with friends who happen to be in the medical profession. It’s as objective as I can make it and now, after over a year of accumulating quite a file of books, articles, and scientific papers on athletic performance, current practices in the training of elite swimmers, and the physical effects of aging and detraining, I’m gaining considerable confidence in the truth of my position. If anyone is flinging unsubstantiated personal beliefs around surely it is you.

To compound your problems you then raise a very common rebuttal to my position – that many, many masters swimmers have seen improvements in their times, so why can’t Torres? This is a completely fallacious argument and invariably comes from individuals who have never competed at a high level in anything, certainly far below the level Dara Torres has competed her entire life. She’s now more than 4% faster than the fastest she ever went during the span of her first three Olympics (not counting her recent improvement with the LZR Racer) and that percentage, in Olympian terms, is a massive improvement. Olympians improve by tenths and hundredths of a percent, not several. Read my rebuttal in the above comments. Just what is she doing now so differently that she didn’t do in ten years of performing and coaching at an elite level? You are also totally disregarding the negative effect of aging on athletic performance. I think that’s a pretty big deal. How can Torres beat the finest sprinters in America but then joke about how her failing eyesight makes reading her time off the board difficult? How can she swim as fast as she does, but then be forced to drop an individual event, a sprint event mind you, because of concerns over her ability to recover adequately enough to compete in her remaining individual and relay events? It’s illogical – on one hand she’s showing the performance and athleticism of a twenty year old, but on the other she’s exhibiting plenty of evidence of a deteriorating, middle-aged body. Bob, you’re looking at Dara Torres with Pollyanna eyes and you clearly had made up your mind before you even read my post. If you want to argue my position is premised upon baseless assumptions the very least you must do is identify those assumptions and state why they are so. If you do so I’ll be more than glad to defend my position and critique yours.

P.S. Though a great admirer of Benjamin Franklin the definition of insanity quote wasn’t his. According to a recent Wikiquotes, however, apparently it wasn’t Einstein’s either, those two most commonly being misattributed with the now famous line. It seems to be the creation of Rita Mae Brown, an American playwright.

Robert said...

I don't think you read my whole post very well. I clearly told you that I am skeptical, and that I thought you have a good topic, but I wanted more fact and less fluff.

I quote you:

"Obviously she has never been tested positive for contraband drugs so I’m raising the question of whether she uses them on entirely circumstantial evidence."

So you admit you are basing your entire post on circumstantial evidence. Not exactly the way to convince anyone of anything.

"It should be noted I have not obtained third party verification of any facts or statements presented by the sources used below unless stated otherwise."

One and done? Check your sources. That would be good journalism.

"... Wow, any twenty something male would be absolutely delighted with that!"

That's an opinion. Ask the twenty-something male elite athletes entering the world of professional basketball, baseball, and football if they'd accept 20 lbs. of muscle. That would be an average result at best.

"Less than a year ago I returned to competitive swimming after a long absence to rehabilitate a back injury – a case history I believe is very much comparable to Torres’ situation."

How is this similar? You were injured. She was pregnant. Whether or not you return to your previous form after an injury versus her returning to form after a pregnancy is irrelevant.

"But I almost immediately ran into problems overtraining and perforce had to ease off and recuperate."

Again, you are assuming your situations are similar. You have never trained at the level at which she has. Her body has experience training at that level, and it's likely she had the proper guidance to prevent over-training.

"When Spitz started his comeback attempt in late 1989..."

17 years after his legendary Olympic performance. Not similar to Dara's situation.

"There are many other aspects of Dara Torres’ remarkable success I’d like to discuss; how closely her swimming career parallels those of known drug cheats, or how after the mid-twenties any cessation in high-level training results in permanent, irretrievable performance decline¹, or ... "

That's the biggest tell of all. Since your entire argument is based on circumstantial evidence already, you should have expounded on those statements. Name the athletes that her career parallels. Show me the studies that show that cessation of high-level training result in permanent performance decline.

To address her dropping the 100m FR from her program, that is a P/SF/F event. It's likely that for the relays she won't even swim the preliminaries and will only have to compete during the final. It is not "illogical" for her to drop the 100.

Also, your claim about Olympians dropping times just tenths of a percent may be true for single swims but not over the life of the swimmer. Michael Phelps has dropped his 200m FR time 2.1% in 4 years. Ian Crocker dropped his 100m FL time 2.7% in just 3 years. The women's 100m FR WR has dropped a similar percentage to Dara's personal time over the same time-span.

I'm not a huge fan of Dara. I think she was always a bit overrated. I feel she needs the spotlight. Her personal life has been nothing to write home about, and certainly is not a role model for our younger girl swimmers. But she's swimming a 50 and a 100 FR for God's sake! It's not unfathomable that a 41 year-old human could devote years to competing in 2 races at the elite level and succeed.

-Robert

Scott said...

I did read your whole post Robert, my point being I needed specific criticisms to answer rather than a blanket critique. Your latest post is exactly what I was asking for. Let me say right now, because my response is inevitably going to end on a highly critical note, that I appreciate the obvious effort you’ve gone to state your position. I only wish you had selected a more meritorious individual to defend.

My entire position Torres dopes is necessarily circumstantial. Common sense says you can’t prove a negative – and in trying to defend herself Torres can only repeat the improvable – that she doesn’t dope. And without a positive test I’m left arguing she’s doping by currently undetectable means. But the fact my case is circumstantial does not invalidate it for many have been legally executed on purely circumstantial evidence. The key phrase is “without reasonable doubt”. I think the circumstantial evidence I’ve assembled reduces any doubt she isn’t using PEDs well below “reasonable”.

Actually with regards to the quotes most of my sources appear to be the original source and therefore by journalistic standards acceptable. True, I should probably contact the writers and confirm they indeed were referring to their own interview notes and not relying on third parties, as well as to confirm any contextual issues which need to be taken account of, but give me a break. I’m a blogger doing this on his spare time. I issued the disclaimer – take it or leave it.

Regarding my opinion on Torres putting on 20 lbs of muscle you think that would be only average for those entering professional basketball, baseball, and football? That’s your opinion. Twenty pounds of muscle (not just weight) is a huge deal in elite sports – if you have a source which can decide as to who’s right here I’d be delighted to read it. Of course this doesn’t address the fact it was a 32 year old woman who (subsequently learned after the post was published) put on 17 lbs of muscle in some five months. For every elite women’s coach you can find who says that can be done without doping I’ll show you a hundred who’ll say it’s not.

Okay, on the comparative injury thing I’ll admit you’ve got me. It was a mistake to use my situation as a benchmark. But my intent was to show Torres going out and setting a new world masters record in the 50 free only a few weeks after giving birth is a stunningly phenomenal recovery. Quite frankly all the mothers I know agree with me (sure, I know, not statistically valid).

I won’t walk away, however, from the overtraining comparison. I’ve spent years competing and known hundreds of competitors who continued past their prime and we all agree our bodies don’t adjust to increased training nearly as well as they used to. Torres herself admits to this by her constant talk about how difficult she finds recuperating – witness her withdrawing from the 100 free in the upcoming Beijing Games because of these same concerns. Of course at the time I wrote this piece I was under a mistaken belief encouraged by Torres’ camp that she was training much harder than in reality. It later came out that she was only doing a third of the meters a typical Olympian did, not half; and that she wasn’t weight training four days a week but only “strength conditioning”. Irrespective of the above your criticism for using my own situation as a comparison is flying a false flag. Any reasoned and unbiased reader would understand my statement was simply a device leading up to introducing Mark Spitz as the real example to be measured against.

Likewise I’m going to disagree with your assessment that comparisons with Mark Spitz are invalid because their respective layoffs are too dissimilar. Certainly Mark Spitz didn’t swim for seventeen years before coming back out of retirement; but Dara Torres only swam one year out of the fourteen prior to her coming back in 2006. If we want we can go back another four years for Dara – that would mean only three out of the eighteen prior years were spent training. Fifteen versus seventeen years sounds to my ears as pretty comparable (of course I don’t think there’s anything comparable about their respective talent).

“That’s the biggest tell of all” Give me a break – my article was over 5,000 words. There comes a point when you have to say enough and move on. I provide a more than adequate explanation of why I didn’t continue. But this article certainly wasn’t my last: a simple search of my blog will show that. Take a look at my post “A Different Look at Aging In Women’s Elite Swimming”. That’ll give you some grist to chew on. I also have an incomplete outline addressing the issue of the impact of detraining and aging, the research for which is complete, that I intend to complete in a couple of weeks (one of those unpleasant negative posts I’ve stayed away from).

You don’t think someone dropping the 100 free individual to save themselves for the 50 free and two relays is “illogical”? Well first of all I used the term in relationship to someone claiming the athleticism of a twenty year old but having the recuperative powers of a forty year old so I’d argue you’re again raising a straw man with that statement. But I’d certainly argue with your statement if you substitute the word ‘unprecedented’ for ‘illogical’, which seems to be your intent, because I’ve never heard of someone doing that in the history of the Olympics. Crikey – we are only talking about 300 meters on top of the 350 meters or so for her other events spread over a competition ten days long. What’s her problem? Katie Hoff and Michael Phelps are looking at swimming what at Beijing?

And I have to love your next response about elite athletes dropping their times. You use Michael Phelps and Ian Crocker’s improvement over a selected period of time to support Torres’ own improvement. Not the two I’d pick to compare myself to, but what the hell, your choice. Individual time progressions are really difficult to establish because virtually no one publishes that sort of detail about individual swimmers. The only one I’ve come across was in Dutch by an absolutely fanatical supporter of Inge de Bruijn (bless her terribly misguided little heart). But Phelps and Crocker – with talent like that we can track their progression through the US record books. Phelps set his first American record in 200 free July, 2003 with a 1:46.60 and currently has the world record at 1:43.86. That’s an improvement of 2.57% over the last five years. Phelps was eighteen in 2003. Ian Crocker set his first American record in 100 fly September, 2000 with a 52.44 and currently has the world record at 50.40. That’s an improvement of 3.90% over the last eight years. Crocker was also eighteen in 2000. Now we can slice and dice their times and pick the best three or four years for improvement by percentage but lets not. Instead I submit a truly independent observer would limit him or herself to noting they both appeared on the international stage at the same age, which not coincidentally is close to the age many believe a male swimmer starts to enter his peak performance years. Satisfyingly Dara Torres set her first American open record when she was sixteen, an age likewise a little ahead of the years where many believe a female swimmer’s peak performance years rest. This same observer would also note for both the bulk of improvement occurred in the early years and then tapered off. Michael Phelps, for instance, has improved ‘only’ 1.39% since the Athens Olympics; while Crocker has not improved at all on his 2005 world record, which was ‘just’ 1.11% better than his 2003 world record. Of course I, among others, would be pointing out that by 2005 Crocker was 23 and at the end of his performance years so no significant improvement can reasonably be expected from that point of time on. Dara Torres ... well ... jeez Robert – do I have to spell it out for you? But I’m really confused over your choice of the women’s 100 free world record progression. What are you thinking? In the past four years we’ve seen the record drop by 1.45%, not your stated “similar percentage” (i.e. somewhere in the 2% range), and that improvement incorporates using the new suit technology. Can’t count that can we? Of course not! So let’s start with the latest WR set without the LZR Racer which happens to be Britta Steffen’s 2006 53.30 (ouch!¹). Even if we go back six years the record was still a fast 53.80 by Inge de Bruijn (double ouch!¹), a time only a mere 0.93% slower. Going back another six years brings us to China’s Jingyi Le and her 54.01 (too ... much ... pain) and we’re still only seeing a 1.31% improvement. To get an improvement in excess of 2% without any technological doping we have to go back to 1992 and Jenny Thompson’s 54.48! That’s fifteen years for a 2.17% improvement by the entire world when, in that exact same period of time, a forty year old Torres sixteen year older has improved by 5.91%!!! Dara Torres is a bit overrated? If she isn’t doping then she may well be the Second Coming! You have to consider that possibility when you meet up with someone who exhibiting all the signs of immortality.

And lastly your contention that by devoting years of training it isn’t outside the realm of possibility Torres can compete at a world class level in the 50 and 100 free. You know I’ve hacked away at you for so long my arms are getting tired but I promise I get on with it and finish you off quickly. Devoted? Eric Vendt is devoted, Katie Hoff is devoted, virtually anybody who swam in their country’s Olympic Trials is devoted – but unless you consider training just three years over the past sixteen devoted Dara Torres cannot be included in that list! She’s an affront to every swimmer who’s put in the thousands of kilometers of training to get to the elite level, just for the chance to participate at their Olympic Trials knowing full well they have absolutely no chance of making the team. And furthermore, Mr. Robert, you mark yourself as wholly ignorant of swimming science when you equate the 50 free, an almost entirely anaerobic race, with the 100 free which moves from ATP-Pcr metabolism, traverses glycolysis, and finishes with aerobic metabolism surging to the front. There’s a reason why Torres had to bow out of the 100 if you weren’t too mule headed not to see it.

¹ Have you read my “A Different Look at Aging In Women’s Elite Swimming” post yet?

Robert said...

I'm not going to be drawn into a long-winded debate with you about this because it's obvious you are blinded by something, either resentment or jealousy of her performance.

At age 41, I think dropping what is potentially three max effort 100m FR races from her program is smart if she wants to win the 50.

Have you seen this article by the guy from NBC...

http://www.nbcolympics.com/blogs/blo...believing+dara

It's pretty compelling when you consider the lengths that she (and some others) have gone to assure the public that they are racing clean. Which they shouldn't even have to do, but that's another discussion. Asking them to save samples for as long as they'd like, so that presently undetectable substances when they become detectable could be found if present.

In your previous response to me, you resorted to name-calling, personal attack, and sarcasm. You have turned me off from this debate. You haven't convinced me of anything that I didn't already know.

I'm skeptical because of what we've seen in sport lately, but consider that every generation has someone come along that does the unimagineable... Jesse Owens, Shane Gould, Mark Spitz, Carl Lewis, Lance Armstrong, Michael Phelps all come to mind.

Are we to instantly denounce their achievements because "they must be doping", or do we enjoy watching their feats? We've been turned into cynics. And you take the cake as one cynical, bitter man, that clearly wishes his sporting career had been more than it was.

P.S. I just read your recommended blog before posting. Good examples, but you throw out another unfound belief that Inge de Bruijn was a successful doping story. Never positive for anything. Do you think Jenny Thompson doped when she re-surfaced a few years back? I highly doubt it. Another fact you fail to address is that women move on faster from sport, families, babies, etc.

You can't just throw out blanket unfound accusations that all women returning to peak form must be doping. If they are, then swimming has collectively pulled off the greatest illusion since the Wizard of Oz.

Scott said...

Robert – when I get into one of these detailed debates it is never to convince that particular individual of the merits of my argument. Anyone who is prepared to put in the hours to set out in writing his or her opinions almost certainly has a strong bias towards their initial stance, and expecting that to change would be a forlorn hope. I answer back so that other readers, people who aren’t yet wedded to one side or the other, can see the exchange and come to their own decisions of what they want to believe. You marked yourself as someone who wished to proselytize rather than debate right from your first post when you wrote, “You know a little about swimming. Just enough to be dangerous. Dangerous enough that I wouldn't want you anywhere near a pool deck coaching children or masters swimmers.” Pretty harsh words to someone you’ve never met and know nothing about. And like the others of your ilk before you once I refute their beliefs they turn to ad hominem attacks such as “it’s obvious you’re blinded by something, either resentment or jealousy of her performance” or “you take the cake as one cynical, bitter man that clearly wishes his sporting career had been more than it was”. You do realize Robert that there’s really very little debate of this question of Dara Torres doping outside the United States? It’s accepted without question she is, just as the belief Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs is accepted as fact throughout Europe. That’s life – and both you and Dara Torres (and Lance Armstrong for that matter) – had better get used to it.

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