sjh - mountain biking running linux vegan geek spice - mtb / vegan / running / linux / canberra / cycling / etc

Steven Hanley hackergotchi picture Steven




Other online diaries:

Aaron Broughton,
Andrew Pollock,
Anthony Towns,
Chris Yeoh,
Martijn van Oosterhout,
Michael Davies,
Michael Still,
Tony Breeds,


Linux Weekly News,
Girl Genius,
Planet Linux Australia,

Canberra Weather: forecast, radar.

Subscribe: rss, rss2.0, atom

Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun



Archive by month:

Fri, 01 Oct 2004

Drug testing not open enough? - 18:40
The US professional cyclist Tyler Hamilton has recently been suspended on charges of blood doping. I don't know whether he is innocent or not, however it is interesting to look at some of the issues related to the new test he was apparently caught by.

When the news first hit Cyclingnews carried some of the details, in particular this paragraph.

Tyler Hamilton's case is the first ever positive for a blood transfusion, as up until very recently, doping via this method has been undetectable. A powerful blood test developed by Australian researchers was implemented at this year's Tour de France. The test didn't look for a particular banned substance, but instead examined whether there were any abnormalities in a person's blood as a result of artificial manipulation. At the Tour, it was announced that homologous blood transfusions could be detected, but autologous transfusions could not.

Of note is that it is a recently developed test and this is the first time anyone has ever been caught with this test. That would not be so bad, however it appears there may indeed be serious problems with this test. Cyclingnews spoke with Dr Michael Ashenden (this interview also contains a good glossary of terms on the issue). In this interview the Dr was very closed about some details of the test. Today some researchers and specialists in the field commented (search for the letters "The new blood test #1", "The new blood test #2", "The new blood test #4" and The new blood test #5) in the Cyclingnews letters columns.

First it is interesting to note "Clinical trials for a diagnostic product used in a hospital require 10-20,000 repetitions for approval", however if the papers on this method are to be believed this test has only been performed on a sample of 45 people known to have had transfusions and it was not tested on people known not to have had transfusions. Thus there is no knowledge of the possible false positive rate. (the letters I reference above discuss this much better than I). A noteworthy quote from one of the letters. attributed to Dr Ashenden of "Science and Industry Against Blood Doping".

He said they will not reveal all the details of new tests, moreover, "Dick Pound [head of the World Anti-Doping Agency] has said that we don't have to announce a test before we start using it," says Ashenden. "Athletes will know when it is developed because they will be caught. If an athlete chooses to carry on using a particular form of doing when they know we are bringing in a test, they will be caught."

This approach is flat out wrong. In order to restore confidence to the cycling world, dope testing has to be open, transparent, and extensively validated by professional peer review like any other medical standard. This essential process cannot be discarded in an effort to keep ahead of the team docs. Cycling cannot tolerate any doubt in the integrity of the process, even less than we can tolerate doubt in the integrity of athletes.

The test development process must be improved. It's true that the development of tests is in the hands of scientists, but its management is not. I would be much more comfortable with the anti-doping process if it were managed by a professional medical body rather than a quasi-political or commercial body like the UCI or IOC. They need to turn over this process to more independent groups before it's too late to repair the damage to the credibility of the tests and our best hope for recovery.

I comment on all of this to a large extent as it appears the information about the test is being kept secret and that is in itself damaging the entire process. This whole episode reeks of what computer people call Security by Obscurity, and as we all know that really never works in the long run.

[/various] link

home, email, rss, rss2.0, atom