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Doping risks, doctors’ duty, printing articles

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  • Keep it short. And remember that we reserve the right to edit for grammar, length and clarity.
  • Include your full name, hometown and state or nation.
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The biggest penalty, by far

Dear VeloNews,
Riders who consider abusing EPO to improve their performance should realize not just the legal risk of getting caught, and incurring a two-year or longer ban, but a more permanent medical risk, that of stroke.

A just-published study, TREAT, the “Trial to Reduce Cardiovascular Events with Aranesp Therapy,” directed by Marc A. Pfeffer, MD, PhD, a Professor of Medicine at Harvard, as published in the 11/19/02 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, found a stroke risk that is almost double that of patients who were not given the drug to treat their anemia. Of course the exact risk of using EPO in patients not anemic but using the drug for athletic performance enhancement will never be done, due to obvious ethical constraints.

Regardless, neurologic residuals or death from stroke represent a penalty that not even the UCI can reverse.

Alan M. Birnbaum, MD
Chairman, Division of Neurology
St. Agnes Medical Center
Fresno, California

Extra trust means extra scrutiny

Dear editor,
I would like to respond to Dr. Chen’s letter criticizing VeloNews for highlighting the profession of the L.A. road-rage defendant.

The reason why Dr. Thompson’s press repeatedly mentions his profession is that many years ago, likely in a serious ceremony at a university medical school, Dr. Thompson swore to “First do no harm.”

That statement is at the heart of doctoring and being a physician is a privilege that one must continually earn. I too am an actively practicing MD and the idea that I would intentionally harm anyone is anathema.

Moreover, Dr. Thompson, having been an ER physician, knows all too well the consequences of motor vehicle accidents. It is truly shameful that a physician intentionally harmed those riders ─ and had tried to harm riders in the past. It’s like being a fireman and an arsonist, just one of those things that attracts more attention.

Dr. Samuel T Bayles, MD
Little Rock, Arkansas

The profession gives specific knowledge

Dear Velo,
Dr. Chen has clearly missed the point of highlighting Thompson’s (former) profession. An emergency room doctor KNOWS the damage that a car can do to a cyclist. He knows death and dismemberment through personal observations. It was with that knowledge that he carried out his acts. Most other people could perhaps claim they had no idea of the damage they could cause in a road rage situation. Dr. Thompson specifically knew exactly what he could do ─ and he did it anyway.

Chris Harris
Medford, Massachusetts

Not just another driver

Regarding Dr. James Chen’s letter;

Mr. Chen, I think the reason why people covering the road rage trial of Dr. Thompson continually refer to him as a doctor is because of irony of his actions against his profession. He has (as you know) had many, many years of college for his profession of helping people and taken an oath to not harm anyone. So, his profession has a lot to do with the outrage of his actions. If he had any other profession, this trial might not have received national attention.

If being a doctor has no impact on what transpired and we should take him as “just a California driver” why do you sign your letter with MD? Shouldn’t we just take your opinion as a cyclist?
Christian Seeley
Rapid City, South Dakota

It wasn’t poor journalism

I’m writing in response to the letter written by James Chen, MD, of San Diego (January 11, 2010). His letter expressed concern about how the “road rage” driver in Los Angeles was referenced in your coverage of the trial – “road rage doctor,” etc. While I can appreciate his comments, I have to ask the obvious question: Shouldn’t a doctor, any kind of doctor, be more aware of his or her actions and how they might affect the health of others? Surely at some point he realized that his car was likely to cause serious injuries or even death to the cyclists?

I think Dr. Chen is missing that simple point. He may not think it’s necessary to continually call out Dr. Thompson’s title, but for some of us, it’s a vital piece of information. The person who chose to harm others was in the medical profession, plain and simple. We go to the doctor to be sure we’re in good health, be healed when we’re injured, and to fight serious illnesses. It just doesn’t make sense that a doctor would do this and that is why I feel it’s not poor journalism to refer to the man as a doctor on a regular basis. We are all perplexed by the fact that someone who makes his living healing people chose to hurt them. As a writer, I can completely understand why the man was referred to repeatedly as a doctor. It’s a critical part of the story.

Dr. Chen seems to stand for all that’s good in this situation — how drivers should treat cyclists, how doctors should behave. Dr. Thompson is now the chief example of how a doctor should not behave when the lives and health of others are at risk. He made the choice; he has to live with the consequences of his actions.

Thanks for letting me vent!
Heidi Littenberg
Reno, Nevada

Violated trust is part of the story

Dr. Chen’s letter criticizing VeloNews’s coverage of the Christopher Thompson trial for focusing on his profession is way off base. The state medical licensing authorities, in theory, reflect the public’s trust in a doctor’s competence, ethics, and judgment. Thompson’s actions clearly showed a tremendous lapse of both judgment and ethics, also. I don’t find it at all inappropriate to highlight Thompson’s profession — his breach of the public’s trust most certainly adds to the severity of his transgressions.

The story no more “vilifies” doctors than the media’s coverage of the man shot in the helmet by the firefighter in North Carolina vilifies firefighters. In both cases, the perpetrators’ poor judgment is made more grievous by their failure to uphold the public’s implicit trust. When an individual is granted a license to perform medicine, or any other life-and-death task, it’s perfectly reasonable that they be held to a higher standard.

Daniel Sato
Austin, Texas

The problem continues

Dear Sirs,
I was elated to read that Dr. Thompson was sentenced. I have been a cyclists and triathlete for 25 years and have had my share of run-ins with drivers like this. I was recently struck while riding the day before Thanksgiving, luckily nothing was broken and I have recently begun riding/training again with no ill effects thus far.

However, locally two deaths have happened in the past year, with little coverage in the local media. I have had trouble following the cases to determine if charges were ever filed. In my case the driver wasn’t even given a citation even though she admitted that the wreck was indeed her fault. I was lucky, and while it seems that many motorists think we (cyclists) don’t belong, it was good to see that in at least one area justice has been served. Hopefully this can be the beginning of safer riding for us all.

Mickel Kobeck
Murfreesboro, Tennessee

We, too, have a burden

Dear Velo,
While I totally agree with the court’s on the verdict of Dr. Thompson, I must mention one thing that all us cyclists need to be aware of. Too many times while I’m driving I see some of the local “club” riders three- and four-abreast on the road slowing and/or stopping traffic. We too must share the road. I know that no one usually gets hurt by slowing down or stopping in a vehicle, but it adds fuel to the fire if vehicles keep getting hindered by our ignorance. Let’s do our part and be good ambassadors of the road.

Thomas Welch
Goldsboro, North Carolina

Screenshot 1: A print preview of this very page.

Printing articles

I have tried to use “cut and paste” to copy your online articles to my Microsoft Word program to print and read offline. For some reason this does not work on your site. Is there a reason for this? Do you have a solution or suggestion to make this work?

I enjoy printing the articles and reading them at work where I do not have internet access.

You might try this button.
Screenshot 2: You might try the printer icon on your browser toolbar.

Hope you can help. For now I will just have to read your great articles on the little screen, not that there is anything wrong with that.

Thanks for any info and help you can provide.

Eric Adelman

Hi Eric,

Apparently the cut & paste doesn’t work on some browsers, but that’s not intentional. There is a print style sheet that optimizes pages for printing that, in all our testing, seems to work on all browsers. It removes photos, ads, graphics and comments so that the print comes out formatted nicely (see screenshot 1). You can access this from the print option under the file menu on the browser, or by clicking the printer icon on the toolbar of some browsers (see screenshot 2). -Editor

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