Wednesday 30 January 2013

Jack3d and Claire Squire's death

The coroner has spoken 

I completely agree

My sympathies are with Claire's family and friends at this time. I do note that the new Jack 3D has been launched without the offending DMAA (methylhexanamine) ingredient.  The current ingredients look pretty harmless, but it is interesting they think the brand name is not tarnished and worth reusing.

The new ingredients of Jack 3D "ENOS Super Performance System"are L-citrulline, arginine and nitrate [1]. A weird combination of substrates, precursors and products of the enzyme Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase (hence the ENOS). As someone who has written a scientific review on this enzyme with over 2,000 academic citations (, I wish supplement companies would just leave my field alone and find somewhere else to go to peddle their non validated concoctions.

A bit more of a rant than usual I'm afraid, but this death was so unnecessary....

 [1]  Nitrate can have a performance effect but you can get it cheaper by eating a lot of vegetables (or drinking beetroot juice).

Friday 25 January 2013

Lance Armstrong: the science fights back

Michael Ashenden agrees with that that Lance Armstrong is lying about not doping in his comeback Tour in 2009/2010 (or I guess we both agree with Chris Gore).
 See Matt Slater’s story at It’s nice to be in such good company. People talk about Oprah not asking the difficult questions. She actually didn’t do too bad. But if the science of doping was in her blood (so to speak) she could have pointed out the anomaly with him supporting the blood passport’s accuracy, whilst seemingly making an exception in his own case. I think a Jeremy Paxman or a John Humphrys might have got this point. 

I think Armstrong still needs to be pressed on this point.

We shouldn't forget that Armstrong pulled out, ostensibly for legal and financial reasons, of Don Caitlin's widely publicised personalised anti doping program that was scheduled for his comeback Tour. It would have been very interesting to compare Caitlin’s proposed every three day testing regime with the more limited data from USADA and UCI that seem to damn him.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Swansea City ball boys

OK - this is not about drugs in sport, but I couldn't resist it:

In 1973 Swansea City  became the first team in football's lower leagues to have ball boys.

In the first batch was a certain Chris Cooper

I have two main memories:

1 We were ordered to all go to the side of the pitch nearest the tunnel for the last 10 minutes of the match so we didn't get run over when the skinheads invaded the pitch at the end of every game (this was the 70s after all). 

Oh and 

2 We were told to give the ball back quickly if Swansea were losing and very slowly if we were winning. And to try and avoid getting beaten up by frustrated opposition players in the latter case.

I was born 40 years too early - or I could have been famous ……  (or at least kicked by somebody famous) 

Friday 18 January 2013

Was Lance Armstrong lying to Oprah Winfrey?

To quote Gordon Farquhar at the BBC:

Armstrong is an accomplished liar. Serious questions remain over the analysis of blood tests taken from Armstrong in 2009 and 2010 following his comeback. Usada says the tests "built a compelling argument consistent with blood doping. Armstrong has not yet admitted to doping on his return to the sport in 2009. Wada president John Fahey doesn't buy Armstrong's assertion that he was clean during his comeback. Tests were carried out on 38 of his blood samples from that time by the Australian Institute of Sport, which concluded that the chances of the blood values recorded occurring naturally were one in a million. The tests were not part of the recognised anti-doping programme, but Fahey wants Armstrong under oath again on this”.

I couldn’t agree more. In his Oprah interview Armstrong makes the case that the sport is cleaner and it is harder to cheat because of out-of-competition testing and the athlete biological passport. Yet as I have said on this blog before, his blood samples in 2009 and 2010 were highly suspicious. The data that makes them suspicious (plasma volume, reticulocyte count) are the same that would raise warnings on the passport. This is the basis for the “one in a million” comment from Prof. Chris Gore mentioned in the above quote.

If Lance Armstrong was not lying to Oprah and he was in fact clean in 2009 and 2010, it calls into question the whole biological passport system. The only resolution is for Armstrong to work with UCI, WADA and Chris Gore to explore how such anomalous blood results could have occurred by chance. As some have suggested on my blog (step forward “anonymous”) perhaps he used hypoxic tents in Italy? If we don’t know how this happened there could be a whole lot of “false positive” passport results and athletes could be accused unnecessarily.

Or perhaps Armstrong was just lying? It has been known

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Lance Armstrong on the Oprah Winfrey Show

I can’t wait to hear the 112 questions Oprah tried to ask Lance Armstrong. None of them I think are likely to be the ones scientists want to know (or at least this scientist). So here are my alternative questions?

1               Who designed his doping program (though we can all guess this)?
2               Was his program more sophisticated than his rivals?
3               How was it evidence-based? For example was the performance titrated individually versus body haemoglobin or was there just an optimum hemoglobin concentration that the all the climbers in the team aimed for?
4               We know how blood doping worked. But what benefit did he feel he get from steroids (both corticoid and anabolic)? How was this evidence-based?
5               Did some people get doped and still not perform better?
6               Was the Armstrong phenomenon in part that he was ideally suited to being doped i.e. was blood oxygen content more rate limiting for his performance than his rivals?

Oprah won’t ask these of course (and to be fair they are not really prime time TV questions)

But she might ask these two

1                                 Would he still have win seven Tours if nobody was doping?
2                                 Would he still have win seven Tours if everyone had the same doping team?

On a non-science level I hope he doesn’t leave any grey areas about his moral standing. He should come as clean as Landis and Hamilton. I won’t hold my breath, however.