Thursday, May 20, 2010

So much for Floyd Landis.

Full disclosure: I have, in the past, stood up for Landis, I believed him when he said he was clean because he presented a compelling case that he didn't use drugs, and his lawyers punched many holes in the testing protocols of the French labs. I was wrong, Landis is a liar and should be banned for life from cycling.

How can you take anything he says seriously?

(Landis, Admitting Doping, Accuses Top U.S. Cyclists, Juliet Macur & Michael S. Schmidt, New York Times)
After four years of maintaining his innocence about doping charges that ruined his reputation and caused him to be stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title, the American cyclist Floyd Landis has sent e-mail messages to several cycling officials in the United States and in Europe in which he admits using performance-enhancing drugs for most of his career.
He also throws Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer & David Zabriskie (almost every big-name US cyclist) under the bus without a shred of documentary evidence to back up his claims.

After (falsely) claiming innocence for four years he's suddenly come out and said that everything he's been fighting against, is 100% true. That he has, in fact, been lying to us all this time.

Yet we're supposed to believe him now....because he's having trouble getting back on a top team and he's got a book to sell.

At this point I think it's also fair to question the 'evidence' that Landis produced during his trial. Was it doctored to appear that it had been tampered with? We'll probably never know because Landis probably isn't going to say. Even if he did say anything about it you shouldn't believe it. Nothing that guy says should be given any credence from this point forward.

Goodbye Floyd, sport is better without you in it. I really feel sorry for all of those fans you fleeced into giving you money to pay for your legal fight. I'm sure you're not going to offer refunds.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A tarnished crown.

I predicted this would happen, yesterday after the Preakness....

(Derby and Preakness winners to skip Belmont, The Sports Network via The Miami Herald, 05/16/10)
Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and Preakness Stakes champ Lookin At Lucky will both skip the Belmont Stakes.
According to the Daily Racing Form, both respective trainers, Todd Pletcher and Bob Baffert, said Sunday morning that both would be kept out of thoroughbred racing's third jewel of the Triple Crown, set for June 5 at Belmont Park.

Read more:
Unless you have a horse who's won the first two jewels of the Triple Crown, why put a 3yr old in a situation where they're going to have to A) run at a distance (1 1/2 miles) that they'll probably never run again and B) be placed in a position where they have to run 3 races in five weeks?

Don't misunderstand this, I enjoy the Belmont Stakes and, while it's not my favorite horse race (that would be the Breeder's Cup Classic FWIW) it's still a meaningful race. The problem that The Belmont is facing is cost/benefit. There's the aforementioned distance, which can wear out a 3yr old colt being typically ran by older horses, coupled with a paltry (by modern horse racing standards) $1 MM purse. There are plenty of graded stakes races to ran some of which mach, or exceed, the $1MM mark. Given that, why would a trainer think about entering a worn out young horse into a race that's distanced for 4y/o and up?

It sounds as if First Dude and Dublin are going to run, and there will be the usual crop of 'new shooters' in the field which should make it interesting. If all else fails bet all of the Nick Zito or D. Wayne Lukas horses to win. based on recent history that's a winning strategy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Nothing wrong with pulling for the home team.

El Tri are coming to Houston, and ChronBlog sends out its beat writer to gush....

(Mexico is the star of this big show, Jose de Jesus Ortiz, ChronBlog)
Reliant Stadium will be packed and rocking tonight, with people from 32 different states and four countries on hand for an exhibition of epic proportions.

And no, the drawing card isn't a twin bill featuring power couple BeyoncĂ© and Jay-Z. Or teen idols Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift. Rather, it's El Tri — as the Mexican national soccer team is known — that should raise the roof, and don't doubt that the players have rock-star status here.
Ignoring the brutal prose and grammar errors above, get ready for the "send ICE to do a round-up" blather coming from the nativists. These things tend to happen whenever el Tri hits Houston. It's a way of life.

That many of these complaints come from people waving a Confederate battle flag (A separate country that lost a war to the US lest some forget) or that wrap themselves in the Irish flag come St. Paddy's Day. (before throwing up all over it) sometimes gets lost in all of the hue and cry surrounding the game*.

A game that's being touted as "a glimpse of what the World Cup is like" FWIW. Never mind that it's not. It's nothing near like what the World Cup atmosphere is going to be like.

For starters, look at the teams that are going to be playing. You have Angloa, which won't be in the tournament and, Mexico. The second best team in CONCACAF, arguably the second worst region in FIFA. (behind Africa) Plus, it's a friendly, and friendlies never inspire the same type of reaction as matches with meaning. I'm sorry, that's just the way it is.

Unfortunately what you read in the Ortiz piece is normal for Houston soccer coverage. This city has a blind spot when it comes to the beautiful game. (As a matter of fact, they have a blind spot when covering most sports.) Part of the reason is senseless cheer leading for the Houston Dynamo who, since their championship run, have been a good team in decline with serious issues in the midfield and forward positions, an ailing goalie, and a general manager who's not much more than a figurehead.

The Dynamo do have a good coach however, which is something Mexico is lacking. Mexico does have a decent front-line however, a dodgy midfield and a suspect goalie. All that being said they should beat an out-gunned Angola team somewhere in the 3-0 range.

Hopefully there's not a post-game shooting this time. The Mexican soccer fans deserve better.

*As for me, go Scotland! (wrongly excluded from this year's festivities due to blind, dumb FIFA game officials.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Not this World Cup

Nike sure can pick 'em can't they?

And, by this blog post, I mean no disrespect to Freddy Adu. As a youth he had flashes of "Oh my God" brilliance inter-spread between long stretches of snooze inducing football.

2010 was supposed to be the year of Adu.

Instead, the US will spend another year wondering why the hell they can't score at the World Cup.The lack of creativity in the US offense is shocking. A fully developed Adu could have been the answer, but he was rushed along and not allowed to mature properly.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Death to BMI

Waist to Height ratio (WHtR) is a much better determinant of your health.

It's high time we cast off BMI to the fitness scrapheap.

A question of sP(ED)ort

To whom are we supposed to turn for information?

Yes, he's an odd-ball, but SI's Peter King is one of the better NFL sources to turn to for league information and decent commentary on NFL issues of the day. That was why his citing of public encyclopedia Wikipedia when commenting on the Brian Cushing HcG issue has struck a cord with some fans. How much of a cord? Enough that they edited the HcG Wikipedia page twice just to prove a point.

(screenshots taken from Wikipedia page on Human chorionic gnadotropin)

Certainly there are better sources than Wikipedia to judge a man's drug use, but that pales in comparison to Sport's Radio 610 morning host John Lopez' twitter kangaroo trial where Cushing was convicted on heresy and guilt by association.

In short, the information that we're receiving from sports talkers and reporters on Cushing's testing is, for the most part, wrong.

For one thing, it's only 'reported' that Cushing tested positive for HcG we don't know this for a fact. For argument's sake, however, lets assume the reports are true.

HcG is NOT a 'masking agent'. The purpose of masking agents is to cover steroid injection through the use of an agent that (theoretically) won't show up in testing but will alter the body's hormonal composition. HcG doesn't do that. Yes, it does alter the body's hormonal composition, but it's (obviously) not invisible to testing protocols. If anything HcG would fall under the umbrella of "Post cycle therapy" (PCT). The use of PCT compounds is typically undertaken to lessen the effects of steroid side-effects. Medically, it's a fertility drug that stimulates the release of the eggs in women, and increases sperm count for men. There are instances where off-label administration of HcG can be used for weight loss, especially to treat obesity.

Given those facts you either believe that Cushing was trying to lose weight (hard to see from an NFL player) or was trying to have a baby. The other option is that he was on steroids and using HcG in his PCT routine. Casting aside any rare uses, those are the three options that make sense.

A larger question that this brings to the fore is society's feelings toward PED's in sport. In summary: Why do we care what these athletes are taking and are we really prepared to make the changes necessary to root drugs out?

Many observers consider PED's to be the Pandora's Box of athletics, now that it's open it can never be closed. To be sure there will always be those who are unscrupulous and willing to break every rule in order to get to the top. If people are willing to cheat on The Amazing Race to win, why wouldn't they cheat when the stakes are much, much higher?

Removing PED's from sport totally requires three things: 1. Olympic-style testing 2. Public display of results. 3. Long, meaningful bans for rule-breakers.

By Olympic testing I mean random blood tests that can be conducted at any time during the year. When the collector shows up, the athlete has to give a sample. All athletes would be put on a heavy rotation. Displaying drug-test results publicly has met stiff opposition due to HIPA. There would probably need to be adjustments to the law to allow this. Making the suspensions meaningful is not hard at all. The minimum punishment for a first offense should be one year, the second offense should be a lifetime ban. Enact all of these in every sport, and you could get to a point that the games we watch are about 90% clean, with only the top 10% being clever enough to beat the test...for a while.

Or, my preferred option, we can all just accept the fact that sport has always been about pushing the envelope to be faster, stronger etc. and make sure that athletes are provided with the safest environment possible in which to practice their craft, that the NFL takes care of them after the fact, and that the drugs used are taxed to the gills.

Either way something has to change.