Saturday, September 01, 2007

Dara Torres Doping Poll Closed

My posts asserting Dara Torres is without doubt cheating brought several ardent supporters to her defense, or more correctly, to attack my position as incredibly obtuse and disrespectful. The final tally saw 41% saying Torres definitely has never used drugs; 17% believe her performance possibly is the result of doping but on balance much more likely she is clean; 29% think she is doping but require actual physical evidence before taking any action against her; and bringing up the rear were the 12%, me included, who think there is enough circumstantial evidence to justify banning her outright, a la Michael Rasmussen. Yea OK, banning someone on purely circumstantial evidence is a little radical but there’s a lot of frustration in Torres’ case.

It should be obvious I have nothing personal to gain from questioning Torres’ achievements. It’s only my aggrieved sense of justice and empathy for what today’s elite female sprinters must be thinking when they line up beside her that led me to write my article. If our best aren’t to be forced into doping to remain competitive they’ll have to be protected. Still many readers took it personally. It also became manifestly clear many had no desire to seek the truth but rather only sought to have their own beliefs dominate, right or wrong - often aggressively attacking opposing viewpoints with false statements or employing ad hominem comments. This led to some head shaking posts. One individual thought he could counter my observation Torres had added nearly twenty pounds of muscle in just one year’s time (actually now known to have been seventeen pounds) by saying it wasn’t unusual to see this in kids headed for the NBA. It’s difficult to anticipate these arguments - to my knowledge there hasn’t been a single woman to play in the NBA, much less one who started in her early thirties. Am I wrong that they have all been young males? The same individual, incensed by my certainty Torres is doping, then proceeded to slur Mark Spitz’s comeback attempt by stating he “just did this for attention” ignoring my very careful explanation why Spitz had every incentive to take it very seriously indeed. He actually cited the fact Spitz’s best comeback time was slower than the current Masters 100 fly world record as proof the attempt was treated as a lark (Mark Spitz would rank fifth fastest all time for males 40-44 if his best time had been achieved at a Masters sanctioned meet). This bizarre logic would label the majority of swimming's past greats, such as the likes of Don Schollander¹ and Dawn Fraser² among many, many others, as out right slackers for not being faster. It also avoids dealing with my point his time is about the best you can expect from two years training when coming back after years of retirement. More readers gave arguments which clearly showed they hadn’t read preceding responses where their issues had already been addressed. Several argued points which weren’t salient to my central hypothesis. Some even took exception to me taking exception. When I dismissed the opinions of those who voted Torres had definitely never taken drugs as clearly flawed (in that her extraordinary performance and today’s reality made it impossible not to call at least into question the possibility of her doping) a reader wrote what was the literary equivalent of spitting in my face. When I responded with a figurative punch he actually complained, going so far as to point out my comment about ad hominem attacks. Apparently he thought that while he could stoop to personal attacks my ethics would prevent a like response. He was wrong. Later another reader, evidently thinking attacking me directly wouldn’t be worth the trouble, decided to instead ridicule a blogger supporting my position. Unsurprisingly his justification rests on deliberately misrepresenting the blogger's argument “that training hasn't changed or technique hasn't changed” when Damien actually wrote “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”. Clearly Damien is arguing the amount of improvement Torres has shown in her thirties and forties isn’t supported by an equivalent improvement in swimming technique and training practices; not there haven’t been significant improvements over the past couple decades. And he’s right. Overall world records in women’s swimming are 1.91% faster than those existing in 1988, yet during this same span Dara has seen her 50 meter free time improve by 5.30%³ and her 100 free improve by 1.97%. Improved technique and training alone cannot explain her late rise to greatness even if you ignore entirely the fact she’s fifteen years older, has put in only minimal training, and that for the most part the current records are held by new swimmers – not the same 1980’s record holders simply swimming faster.

I’ll have some more posts about Dara Torres later on. For now I’ll end with another one of my “dumb quotes” from a Lane Nine News August 1, 2007 article on Torres winning the U.S. 50 and 100 free titles at Indianapolis, setting a new American 50 free record in the process.
Evan Morgenstein, Torres' agent, was justifiably "thrilled that she did what she did - she focuses on a demographic in which there is no competition. She didn't make any money today - she didn't make a dime. She came because she wanted to win a national championship."
Wow, what a woman. Imagine swimming at the National Championships for nothing. Perhaps when the Church finishes canonizing Mother Teresa they’ll take a look at Dara Torres.

¹Schollander’s 1968 200 free world record and PB was 1:53.3; in Masters men’s 35-39 age group the world record is 1:52.84 held by Vlad Pyshnenko
² Dawn Fraser’s 1964 100 free world record and PB was 58.9 and remained a world record until Jan/72; in Masters women’s 35-39 age group the world record is 58.87 held by S. Neilson-Bell
³Measured from her 1988 Olympic Trials 25.83. Her personal best in 1988 (as can be determined at the time of writing) was 25.61 achieved four years earlier on July 21, 1984.

P.S. The last line is I believe my very first triple entendre – a rather rare word play I’ve only encountered twice outside of Shakespeare. I’ll give a bottle of scotch to the first person who can tell me the three ‘meanings’ contained therein and so prove I’m right.


Joe said...

> 50 meter free time improve by 5.30%

OMG! That's Barry Bonds territory!

Rob said...

This is your 4th post about Dara (as well as numerous replies to comments to those posts). Some people might start thinking you're a wee bit obsessed.

Scott said...

Oh so true. Even I'm starting to think I'm a wee bit obsessed! In the cold harsh light of reality however Torres is just the focal point of something much larger than her. When we argue about her doping we necessarily touch on every facet of swimming - from technique and training techniques, the hows and whys for swimming faster, minimum levels of training, up to the biomechanics and biochemistry involved. So I think I'm up to about six planned posts addressing various aspects which have been raised in earlier discussions about Dara Torres and therefore will refer to her. I recognize, however, that bashing someone even when it is richly deserved is deeply negative and invariably reflects poorly on the speaker. Plus the Torres posts require considerable time to be spent on research and composition I really don't have. Consequently I will be emphasizing blogging on much more innocuous subjects and taking a break from the subject. The fresh air will do me good.

Anonymous said...

Those who believe Torres is not doping are deluding themselves. She's not just winning in sprint events at 41 she is blowing up records. They say "She works out so hard, with trainers and massueses" to explain her comeback from shoulder and knee injuries, multiple retirements and having a child. No kidding!?! That's what performance enhancers do! They allow athletes to more quickly recover from the tissue damage caused by gruelling workouts. They say "She offers herself for unprecedented regular testing-including blood tests". Think people. There is no reliable blood test for HGH or other designer PED's. Submitting to testing when you know the tests can't reveal the drugs you're taking doesn't prove your clean. Although it may demonstrate a shameless ambition to win at all costs. Right Marion?


Anonymous said...

Of course Dara Torres is on an illegal medical program (steroids, blood doping, crticoids, and amphetamines). So s Michael Phelps and natalie Coughlin, who are also destroying world records and then letting NBC suggest it was the new swim suits! Everyone on the USA Natioanl team uses gear (steroids, insulin, hGH & EPO and other stuff)

Lance Pharmstrong doped BEFORE, durng and AFTER his Cancer! Lance has two dead teammates who are NOT doping anymore.

In baseball, they all are doped too, but only Baroid Bonds & Jose Canseco get labled as goats.

Scott said...

There are strong incentives in elite sports to cheat so the possibility of doping when an extraordinary mark is achieved must always be considered, but I can’t agree with automatically discounting such events merely because of that possibility. I picked up on Dara Torres because her comebacks are, without any reasonable doubt, a product of doping. Lance Armstrong is also widely thought to have doped – primarily because virtually every significant opponent he triumphed over has later been shown to have been doping; and in the ultra endurance sport of cycling beating a doped elite cyclist just isn’t possible without doping yourself. Yet in spite of that fact I have no problem asserting he was still his generation’s best cyclist so I would place an asterisk beside his asterisk¹. But I think you go much too far when you accuse Michael Phelps and Natalie Coughlin of the same crime. Both were marked as superstars in the sport from a very early age and have never exhibited any of the usual tell-tales which mark most cheaters (see my post “A Different Way of Looking at Aging in Elite Women’s Swimming”). Plus the new suits definitely do reduce swimming times – so much so that the possibility of banning them is being considered at Lausanne this very month. So I agree with you about being cynical when observing some spectacular sporting accomplishment but try to let in enough light to acknowledge the reality that, in a world with six and a half billion souls, great achievements are still possible.

¹*Probably doped. **But everyone else was doping too.

Anonymous said...

They all dope.

Nobody gets on the US National Team without accepting the PED program of (cow blood , steroids, hGH, hCG, EPO, corticoids and stimulants)

Michael Phelps BONG is optional, steroids REQUIRED else no roster.

Dara Torres is beating other doped fssh.

As do Nike dopers Marion, Tiger, Kobe, LeBron, A-Roid, Lance Pharmstrong and Serena!


Scott said...

Personally speaking I don't believe all the 'great' athletes today are doping - there is more than enough population on this planet to produce at least a few mind boggling performances. I was having lunch just last week with a friend and conversation veered towards the upcoming Winter Olympics in our fair city. While we both believe these Olympic games are just one big rip off for us taxpayers she, like you, believes today's Olympic and professional athletes are all using performance enhancing drugs. That's a real shame. Athletes should be inspiring - they represent the very best that humanity can produce - and by their amazing feats demonstrate that self-improvement is always possible with hard work and some talent. And that's a life message which should get out more.