Monday, August 04, 2008

No Sense Flogging a Dead Horse

Time to make a tactical withdrawal. For the past month I’ve been struggling to finish off some of my unfinished doping articles before dropping the entire sordid venue and resuming my blog’s original purpose – to be an informal training log for my own, ineffectual swimming. Several times I sat down and spent an hour or so trying to make head way – all to no avail. It was like doing breathing drills for an entire practice. So I’m killing my final Dara Torres piece as well as the article on WADA. In order to salvage something from my efforts, however, I'm going to keep my ethics post around for the day when I can stomach polishing and refining the arguments presented by proponents for legalized doping.

My dedication to pursue the subject was also hobbled by some recent revelations. The Jessica Hardy incident, where a swimmer tested positive at her Olympic Trials for a banned substance, hit me hard. Not that she cheated – I mostly concur with the speculation she ingested the clenbuterol as the result of a tainted supplement – but the fact by miscalculating the timing of their doping test results her federation missed the deadline for naming replacements and deserving individuals were denied their chance to participate in this year's Olympics. Executive Director Chuck Wielgus should have done the proper thing and fallen on his sword. Resignation is the only appropriate response for such a massive failure of office. But, alas, accepting responsibility is not something we see anymore.

Then there is the horrible Nick Fahey, current President of WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). Late last year former French sports minister Jean-Francois Lamour was slotted to replace what must be considered the disappointing oversight of Canadian Dick Pound. The well respected Lamour was reported to be planning implementation of a much more intensive out-of-competition program with less random, more targeted testing when he took over the reins; that is until the United States weighed in and had Fahey appointed instead. No doubt USADA wanted more control over the anti-drug agency after the numerous doping scandals it had recently undergone. Fahey, a former Australian politician, more than adequately demonstrated his incompetence for the post when in his first public statement as head of WADA he made the completely fraudulent claim the Agency was responsible for Marion Jones’ confession. Another unfathomable, counter-intuitive appointment by the Bush/Cheney Administration. This past month he once again put his foot in his mouth when he falsely announced Ricardo Ricco had been caught using a third generation EPO due to the addition of a molecular tag. His statement was later retracted by a WADA spokesman who was reduced to saying that “his words may have been misinterpreted”. No, he just didn’t know what he was talking about. Worse, in a telling recent interview, Fahey came out during this year's Tour de France and stated, “Unless cycling changed how it dealt with the problem, "they are in real trouble" and "they have recognized this … but we haven't reached the point where we can give them the stamp of approval” Apparently he feels aggressively going after the cheats and prosecuting them is the wrong way to go. Thankfully the French Cycling Federation (FFC) has decided to tackle the problem head on, warts and all, in a desperate effort to clean up their sport. I applaud their efforts and indeed this year’s Tour was the closest and most competitive in years. In a similar fashion the International Association of Athletics Federation has just recently taken the extraordinary action of ordering additional tests because of suspicious circumstances and caught virtually the entire Russian women’s middle distance team substituting urine samples. Yes, another painful black eye for the sport. But a necessary and unavoidable step I think towards deterring doping in sport. Nick Fahey, one of those despicable career politicians, would disagree. To him all these positive test results are a public relations disaster better to have been swept under the rug, never to see the light of day. The idea of actually going out and looking for cheats must strike him as organizational suicide.

So that’s it for my foray into performance enhancing doping. But wait ... one last parting shot. After posting several times about the impossibility of Dara Torres not being guilty of doping I have to admit I was depressed at how often the same, disproved arguments continued to be raised in her defense, along with the idea we must assume she isn’t doping without a positive test result in hand. Most of her supporters of course are ignorant about swimming and of elite athletes in general and could be easily discounted – but from the key group I most wanted to hear from, the elite swimmers and coaches themselves, only silence was heard. I could and did explain their reluctance to speak out in terms of their desire to protect the sport, the fear of losing sponsors, and of basic good sportsmanship; but my assertions that I was saying the very same things they were surely saying amongst themselves did place me in a rather uncomfortable position. Facts and logic only go so far.

It was with some relief I could finally see some cracks in that wall of silence when I wrote “Asking All the Wrong Questions”. As time goes on more carefully worded expressions of disavowal have appeared in the community. In a Southern Cal Aquatics Swim Club blog post Janet Evans is quoted saying, “Although I do not consider her the favorite to win this race, we can never count out Torres and her incredible will to win, especially because this race could represent the first and only individual gold medal of her Olympic career.” No one could find fault with that last statement could they? Certainly not.

On Gary Hall Jr.’s Race Club Message Board the man himself (who while very outspoken on the subject of doping in sports and swimming in particular was, until now, very careful never to come out and say anything directly about Dara Torres himself) quotes Mark Spitz as saying, “"I am a big advocate of the way the IOC does its drug testing," he said. "They have a list. If you take something on that list, you get caught. If you don't take anything on that list, you won't get caught. There's just no other way to look at it." So Torres? "She's obviously drug free of what they test for," Spitz said. Ouch! Read Hall's post further and you'll discover after retiring from swimming he's become a lot more forthright about his thoughts on Torres.

At least I go away from this smiling.


Anonymous said...

dara's 41 year old olympic performance is staggering, o fthat there is no doubt.

it makes sense that one would ask "why?" why can dara to this? how can she do it? there must be a "special cause" as they might say in the field of statistical process control.

i believe their is a special cause. so do you. your special cause is illegal drugs. you have no direct evidence of this being the special cause, but you are unaware of anything else that might lead to this kind of performance, so you go with what you know.

let me suggest that the zone diet is the root cause. when dara gained her 17 lbs of muscle before the 2000 games, she was on the zone diet. i've heard you claim that 17 lbs of muscle in six months (was it a year?) is not possible for a woman. on a bad diet, it is highly unlikely.

on the zone diet, i find it quite believable as long as the female zoner has good genetics - and i don't think either of us would argue about dara's good genetics.

if you read dr. sears' first book, enter the zone, you'd know of a study he did with marv marinovich, a former nfl lineman and nfl strength coach. 9 male athletes were put on the zone diet and did marv's training regimen. they gained an average of 16 lbs of muscle in 6 weeks. that's more than 2 lbs of muscle per week.

compared to an average muscle gain of 16 lbs in 6 weeks, 17 lbs of muscle gain doesn't seem so unlikely.

i've been on the zone for 14 months now. i feel better in my 40s than ever before - and by a lot. after 23 years of never running over 100m, i'm well on my way to running faster than i have ever run in my life - and i ran cross country in high school. i will be stronger than ever before this year - and i have a daily battle with elbow nerve damage - so you can imagine working out can be more difficult for me than the average person.

my guess is that if dara had followed the zone diet since she was a kid, phelps still wouldn't have as many medals as dara. she had dietary stress issues that surely impacted her swimming through her first 2 or 3 olympics.

you might notice the name of another zoner - jenny thompson. she's the person phelps passed as the #1 medal winner in history. jenny is still 2nd.

anyway, i agree dara is on drugs and this enhances her performance. that drug is called food.

until you understand the power of a hormonally balanced diet, you'll continue to flail around wondering what in the world could dara be doing to fool the drug testers and perform so well as a 41 year old.

then again, some folks enjoy the flail.

Scott said...

Obviously diet is crucial to an athlete's performance. In Dara Torres' case, however, and despite constant monitoring, I've never come across a source where she's mentioned her diet for the past couple of years. Normally I delete obvious attempts at advertising but your comment clearly was written reflecting knowledge of both this blog and the physiological underpinnings of swimming. Still I'd be much happier if you could link to a source which backs up your assertion Torres uses the Zone Diet. Can you?

JC said...

Scott -- Just discovered your blog. Always a pleasure to read someone as smart as you writing about swimming. I couldn't agree with you more about Torres; I posted the above on the Race Club message board back in May (scroll about halfway down the page and you'll see my post).

Scott said...

I don't think you need to be especially smart to recognize the likelihood of Dara Torres doping must be rather high. Of course I left caution to the winds and stated categorically there's no possible way she's not using illegal enhancements - not something I'd recommend for anyone who wants to claim to be impartial. Regardless the damage has been done. Now all we can do is see what impact PEDs will have on swimming's future.

JC said...

C'mon now, don't fish for compliments: I said you were smart AND I agreed with you about Torres, not smart BECAUSE you saw through Torres.

Anonymous said...

Scott, sorry for not following up sooner - i didn't see the blog again until now.

i do not know if dara had taken drugs or not. i do know she wasn't caught and i do know she had a great big target of suspicion on her - maybe as much as anyone in history.

dara is on record as praising the zone diet during her first come back. it doesn't seem likely that she'd discard something that worked so well in the past.

in fact, it stands to reason she shut up about it to keep her competitive edge secret. if everyone did it, there would be no more edge, would there?

dara isn't alone. jenny thompson also started the zoned diet - but in 1992. i think these two are the best female swimmers in history - bar none. including all the other swimmers that have done drugs through the ages - even those who got caught so there is no doubt.

valentina vezalli won her third straight fencing gold medal as a 38 year old - the only human to do that - male or female. actually, to win a gold at 38 and to win 3 in a row.

so no, i can't verify for sure that dara is drug free. there is just no evidence that she's used drugs and the zone diet's anti-inflammatory properties optimize human performance - so she's going to have better performance than other people.

many people used drugs in swimming, but not many did so after 27, let alone 36 like thompson or 42 like dara.

if it was as easy as taking some drugs, more people would do it.

as an aside, the oldest swimmer on the US olympic team has been a zoner - 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008.

is dara still zoning? i can look at her and tell she almost certainly is. look at vezalli - these elite athlete zoners tend to look alike. super lean with solid muscles.

check out nicole (and she's not as gifted as dara)...

see the trend here?

as for evidence dara is still a zoner, even if incognito...

high dose fish oil is a key part of the zone diet.

dara's nutrition guidelines fit into the zone diet framework... these are current recommendations.

search zone diet along with...

marv marinovich
steve finley
troy polamalu
manuel uribe
randall mccloy
minnesota volleyball
robin pbs losing it
zone diet revisited (note rob's testimonial)

this diet is the only diet designed, from the ground up, to be anti-inflammatory and, therefore, optimizes human performance.

if dara is doing drugs then she deserves having the book thrown at her.

maybe she is, maybe she isn't.

i guess my point here is to say that an anti-inflammatory diet can have and incredible impact on performance so i don't exclude a drug free dara or jenny or valentina achieving super human athletic results.