Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Some of these are ok. Others, not so much. Apparently.


Monday, December 28, 2009

So, what the hell is DHEA?*

Tyler Hamilton, Kenny Williams and now Tom Zirbel. Three names from disparate corners of the cycling world have all met the same fate. Positive for DHEA. 8 year, 2 year and a suspension tbd, pending the B-sample.

With these suspensions, DHEA has been thrown around in the cycling press as one of the next great evil PEDs. Evidence of the next generation of doping, a symbol of the sport's inability to clean up and go legit.

So what is DHEA?
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is an endogenous hormone (made in the human body), and secreted by the adrenal gland. DHEA serves as precursor to male and female sex hormones (androgens and estrogens). So, like many banned substances, it's a naturally occurring hormone, replicated in a lab, and sold in a store, in pill form.

What is it used for?
Over the counter anti-aging mostly. As the body ages, it produces less hormones (or different ones, i guess). DHEA supposedly will replace some of the lost good hormones and help increase the production of good ones, like, in theory, testosterone.

Does it work?

Why are so many riders using it?
Anyone who has spent any time at the upper-end of amateur cycling, meaning a Cat 1/2 parking lot crit, has probably heard of DHEA mentioned as a recovery aid. Walk into any grocery store, there will be a sizable selection of DHEA right next to the vitamins. And it's cheap. Really cheap.

Ultimately, a cheap way to convince a rider they're really doing everything possible to maximize recovery. And maybe give them the feeling of having an edge. Placebo, dog.

So it's obviously easily detectable. Really, why are people who make their living off cycling using this stuff?
Well, I don't think anyone in the coaching world is recommending that anyone use the stuff. But I think there's a couple reasons that DHEA is making some very prominent riders more familiar with USADA.

1. The shit is CHEAP. So it is not only sold cheap in stores, it's sold even cheaper to supplement manufacturers. Supplement manufacturers aren't regulated by the FDA, they can basically throw anything in their supplements and call it whatever else they want. As long as the materials are also not under supervision of the FDA, and DHEA isn't.

There may have been some evidence, at some time, that maybe, just maybe DHEA did in fact benefit somebody's athletic performance. So, if it's cheap, and there's any chance, real or imaginary, that someone will experience an increase in performance from XXXMusclePopper3005, then why the hell not, throw some in.

My guess, is that there is a fair amount of DHEA in any creatine/muscle milk/energy blaster that you buy at the local GNC, crap, there's probably a TON of DHEA in that stuff. Hell, you probably can't even walk into a GNC without getting enough in your system to warrant a call from your friendly neighborhood lab analysts.

I imagine a few of these positives, are legitimate, "it didn't say it on the label" tainted supplements. Supplements that should not be used by professional athletes who need to pass drug tests under any circumstances. Because everybody knows that you can't trust the labels on unregulated supplements. Everybody knows that.

2. Guys using legit PEDs will have DHEA in their systems when cycling off their hardcore PEDs. So you've been ramping up with steroids, are shredding everybody, kickin' ass and the big national profile pro race is coming up. Since your going fast enough to really turn some heads, you can't go in loaded to the gills on Trenbolone and blood boosters, since you know that all this stuff would easily show up in any tests.

Just dropping the PEDs will, in theory, cause your hormone levels to tank, your body will basically stall because it hasn't needed to produce hormones. So to avoid this, you're going to need a pretty impressive regimen of legal supplements to keep your levels up while you go kick ass at the big race. This is called Post Cycle Therapy. Even if all of these supplements are 'technically' legal, which they probably aren't, they're probably swimming in unlabeled DHEA.

3. Some guys just don't care and are buying supplements and really couldn't care less and are pretty burnt out anyways and might as well just retire before they get popped for the lamest drug you can test positive for.

So if it doesn't do anything, why is it illegal (WADA illegal, not law illegal)?
Probably a combination of marketing and chemical composition. A new product came out, it was EVERYWHERE in the supplement world, claimed to have anabolic effects, WADA probably didn't give it too much thought and added it to the list, effective or not.

I've also heard that DHEA does appear, molecularly, very similar to other more effective steroids. Ask your friendly neighborhood chemist for more on that one.

Ultimately, yes, DHEA can and should be avoided. Those who test positive are either being disingenuous or careless, gotta mind your p's and q's if you make your living in the pedal game. It's a curiosity that such an innocuous subastance can tarnish so many careers so quickly, but the rules are the rules and ya gotta play by 'em.

*I'm not a trainer or doctor or chemist. These people will know way more about this stuff than me. I've just spent a couple afternoons reading about it. I may make mistakes, but I think I'm on the right track. If you notice a mistake, feel free to speak up, I'm not trying to mislead anyone.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why Wait?

Great picture (PDXCross). Wish it was in color. Don't really understand b/w cycling pictures. But great great picture. Racing for all the marbles, winner take all, no pro's killing it solo off the front, 200m to go. What more could you want?

One question though....

Molly? You waited? Your opponent crashed on the last lap of the biggest cx race of the year and you waited? Seriously?

Amateur cycling seems to subscribe to the quaint idea that it is somehow respectable to wait for your opponent if he has somehow encountered misfortune. Nice idea.....but really?

Bike racing. RACING. R-A-C-I-N-G. Draw a line in the dirt, first one there wins.

Of course, recreational cyclists constantly point to Ulrich waiting for Lance at Luz-Ardiden, which was preceded by Lance waiting Ulrich on Peyresourde.

What is mentioned less, is that these are exceptions. If Lance had buried Ullrich after he overcooked a turn, fair play. Riding down the mountain is just as much a part of the game as riding up. Does anyone expect Boonen to wait for Flecha at this year's Paris-Roubaix? Nope. Hell, Chiapucci attacked Lemond after he punctured on Stage 17 of the 1990 Tour. Not really admired for it, but it got him the most aggressive rider award.

And to put it in a cx context, did Niels Albert wait for Sven Nys when totally shutting down his line and forcing him off his bike at Niel Jaarmarktcross? Nope, just rode like he stole something.

Sure, it's a sporting gesture, for certain riders, in certain situations to wait for a fallen competitor. Never. Ever. In a single day event, nave I ever heard of anyone waiting for anything.

So, again. Cross Crusade on the line and you wait? Really? Unless Molly totally caused Sean to crash, I just don't get it.

Bike racing is a race. It involves not only riding fast but steering, cornering and maintaining a working machine from start to finish. Positioning, judgment and skill also factor into success.

Molly and Sean are both talented hardworking racers who got landed on a nice stage and gave a hell of a show. Molly's decision probably cost her the race and the Crusade overall. It apparently endears her to the Portland Cx community even more, and she will sell more bikes because of it.

But Sean won the race.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Money Will Roll Right In

It is no longer a rumor, Kenny 'the Cash Register' Williams failed a USA Cycling drug control after setting a World Record at this year's Masters Track Nats. He tested positive for DHEA, an over the counter supplement, the same stuff Tyler Hamilton got busted for this past spring.

Kenny followed his instinct and announced the violation with an apology.

A fixture in the Northwest cycling scene. His nose for cash prizes earned his illustrious nickname. He would often race the Masters' race, scooping up as much cash as possible, and then repeat the process in the 1/2 race. He never had a professional career of note, apparently content to use amateur races to supplement his income, rather than seek out a paid ride. His age defying speed impressed Master's and Elite competitors alike.

He is also a popular coach of northwest based riders. Many successful Seattle and Portland based riders turn to Kenny for training plans and mentoring.

Given his place in cycling, it is extremely naive for Kenny to expect that anyone believe the positive was the result in a one-off dalliance with a single over-the-counter supplement. DHEA is widely used in a variety of supplements. Double blind studies have repeatedly shown that it has zero performance enhancing effects. The most common use of DHEA in competitive athletes? As part of a supplement cocktail intended to maintain hormone levels while cycling off stronger anabolic agents. (Sorry there aren't more authoritative sources on this one, but this is some back room of Gold's Gym, Venice beach bull shit.)

If Kenny recommends DHEA for performance enhancing reasons, it exposes him as an inept, ignorant coach. His services put his clients at the risk of USAC, UCI and WADA drug testing, with no possibility of experiencing any performance benefit.

If Kenny was using DHEA as it is commonly used in athletics, as part of a systematic PED regimen, then he should come clean. Lay it all on the table.

Like most riders, Kenny doesn't seem to be sorry for the results he's stolen from other riders. He's not sorry for the relationships damaged, the respect lost and the damage to the reputation of his clients and friends.

He's sorry he got caught.

Monday, October 12, 2009


It was reported today that Frank Vandenbroucke passed today at age 34. VDB defined style on the bike in the late 90's. His flair for the dramatic netted him a spectacular 1999 LBL win.

Ever since Lemond lost to Indurain, and up until the last year or two, pro cyclists have relied on large amounts of blood boosters, hgh and testosterone supplements to enhance performance. Nobody could not have a European pro career without them. Nobody.

A body on these PEDs is burning itself up at an impressive rate. The body can keep going, but the mind feels the terrible pain. Painkillers such as Tramadol help ease this pain without inducing numbness and fatigue. Tramadol is an extremely addictive drug, withdrawal induces severe, prolonged depression. Like performance enhancing drugs, the effects of drugs such as Tramadol vary greatly. No drug effects the same person the same way.

It is a constant disappointment that cycling cannot organize itself to maintain a minimum of health care, mental as well as physical, for riders. Unemployed riders are simply tossed to the side of the road like a bottle squeezed dry. Taken away from a sport that consumed them, saddled with the consequences of addictions acquired out of necessity, there is nowhere to go but down. And fast.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


If there's any justice, this guy will go down in history as one of the best riders of his generation. Thomas Voeckler is up there all year, every year racing the right way. Always on the attack, always looking for opportunities. His sheet probably has dozens of top-10s where he lost out to guys with better programs. He's always knocking and today the door opened.

Today's finish was one of those great moments where the good guy won because he wanted it more. There was no superhuman feat, or magical comeback. Just a pro rider, doing his job and finally getting what he deserves.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


"Genius is not a generous thing
In return it charges more interest than any amount of royalties can cover"
-Jim Carroll

Remember when you were a kid? When this was all for fun? Doing that dance singing that song, it brought so much joy to so many people. To see a kid like that without a care in the world, saying those words that everyone knew deep down in their heart to be true, but when you get to that certain age with the kids and the mortgage and the wife. The truth of those songs gets crowded out. But you, you are able to live those songs forever.

And the songs and the dance, they look so easy, so effortless. One foot in front of the other. Over and over again, every movement analyzed and rehearsed. 10, 12, 14 hours. Focused, precise. One foot in front of the other is all that matters, over and over again. Not just better than anyone else can do it. Better than anyone else could imagine doing it. Everything you have, everything that most hold dear is traded.

Every move, timed to perfection, every twitch of every muscle is watched, examined, obsessed by millions of people. But it's so simple, don't they know anyone could do this dance, if they take the time. Right?

But it gets you there, to the top. The very top. But what you find out is it's lonely up there. You're no longer a person, but an opportunity. A revenue stream. They're not 'friends' anymore, they're 'partners' with opportunities. Just cut them in for a little bit, they'll return more, maybe do lunch. But it's all there. Anything you ever wanted and more. And there was so much more.

And they keep you there. Slow getting up in the morning, there's something for that, trouble sleeping, there's something for that. Need help getting through the show...maybe THIS doctor can help you with that. Because good doesn't make this much money. Great doesn't make this much money, But being the best, the best ever........

But then it stops, and it has to stop. Because this game is not sane. But, you can't be insane, can you? Nobody ever said we went too far, nobody said this was too much. Not while it was happening, anyways.

But once the show stops, the money stops. The phone calls taper off. And maybe, maybe the rehearsals, the training was a bit much. It's nice to spend some time with the family, but they don't understand. Maybe go on vacation, take a break. But the eyes, the looks. Hey, it's him, who did that thing, but now doesn't....what does he do?.......what did?

Now there's new guys, with new songs and new dances. A new generation. Their names in the headlines. And they're good, but not THAT good. Do people even remember what good is? Do they know what it takes to be good? Don't they remember what I did? Do they even remember who I was?

Do they know what you have to give? Your health. Your family. Your life. They aren't giving that.

I know, I'll get the coach back. Get the Doctors back. The sponsors. The money makers, the money takers. The friends start calling again, ONE MORE TOUR!

Maybe, maybe I could do it again. Just one more time. Make damn well sure, that everyone knows just how good I was.