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Wednesday’s Mailbag: DNA, PCR, UCI, CSI and the ADT Events Center

Your ballDear Velo,I enjoyed (I guess that's the correct word) the interview with Mr.Pound and appreciate the passion with which he approaches his charge(see "VeloNewsInterview: WADA's Dick Pound"). I'd like to also note that I disagree with Dr. Salmon (Letters,Dec. 27th) on the suitability of DNA testing for Tyler Hamilton'sblood doping case. Red blood cells are devoid of both nuclei andmitochondria and, consequently, DNA. The introduced foreign material islargely in the form of red blood cells and as a consequence there is likelyto be very little foreign DNA to be found, even when searched

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Your ball
Dear Velo,
I enjoyed (I guess that’s the correct word) the interview with Mr.Pound and appreciate the passion with which he approaches his charge(see “VeloNewsInterview: WADA’s Dick Pound“).

I’d like to also note that I disagree with Dr. Salmon (Letters,Dec. 27th) on the suitability of DNA testing for Tyler Hamilton’sblood doping case. Red blood cells are devoid of both nuclei andmitochondria and, consequently, DNA. The introduced foreign material islargely in the form of red blood cells and as a consequence there is likelyto be very little foreign DNA to be found, even when searched for withPCR.Modern forensic technology is pretty amazing, but even the guys on CSIwould have a hard time of it in this case.

But I do agree with Dr. Salmon that there are biochemical tests thatcould exonerate (or condemn) Mr. Hamilton. Unfortunately, it appears hehas listened to lawyers rather than the technicians that could
distinguish between false positives, rare genetic conditions, and blooddoping. For some of those tests the window of opportunity has closed,as has my willingness to “Believe Tyler.” Action speaks louder than words,and despite protests to the contrary the ball is – and always has been- in Tyler’s court.

Peter Thorsness
University of Wyoming
Department of Molecular Biology
Laramie, Wyoming

Question Authority
Dear Sirs,
I was pleased to read three very thoughtful letters written regardingyour interview with Dick Pound, and absolutely delighted to read the letterby John A. Salmon regarding WADA and the Tyler Hamilton case. Theinformation given by Dr. Salmon is readily available to any layman whotakes the trouble learn about DNA. The refusal of WADA to allow DNAtesting on any of the blood samples is absolutely outrageous and makesit very clear that they are not the least interested in fairness.They are only interested in protecting themselves and their 65 milliondollar a year empire. It would be very damaging to them to lose thiscase. I cannot believe anyone but a fool or thoroughly ignorant personwould take a blood transfusion from another person before a major sportingevent, knowing that this can be detected. Tyler Hamilton is neither!

Mr. Pound comes across in your interview as thoroughly arrogant.I would be very interested in his explanation as to how and why CedricVasseur was accused and lost the major part of last season. It hasjust been revealed that the hair that was tested and found to indicatecocaine use did not come from him. This sort of gross error wouldnot have been discovered had it not been for DNA testing, and it must surelycall into question the right of WADA to become judge, jury, and executioner.I am convinced that the reason more professional cyclists are not speakingout is that they fear what WADA might do. They have complete controlof the samples and can do with them what they like.

I am 67 and live in France during the summer to race and follow cycling.I know that doping exists in cycling as well as a lot of other sports,and I fully support efforts to eliminate it, but not at the cost of denyingthe accused due process and blindly accepting whatever comes from DickPound and WADA as the gospel.

William S. Kinkead
Nanny Cay, Tortola
British Virgin Islands

It could only prove guilt
Editors,
Looking at some of the responses to the interview it seems that a lotof people are still in denial… big time!!!

According to the process Tyler has already been proven guilty, he mustnow prove that that he is innocent. Just as he would have to if hehad launched an appeal for a regular court case.

Regarding Dr. Salmon’s comment, as a doctor, he should know that mitochondrialDNA is passed directly from your mother so all of Tyler’s siblings andmother’s siblings, grandmother’s etc. will all have the same mitochondrialDNA. So a test of mitochondrial DNA could prove him guilty but notinnocent, since Tyler could have gotten blood from a maternal relative.

T. Martineau
Ottawa, Canada

Competing goals
Editors,
The VeloNews interview with Dick Pound and the Tyler Hamiltoncontroversy highlight the two, competing goals of an effective doping program.On the one hand, we want strong, unwavering controls that succeed in keepingthe sport clean. On the other hand, we don’t want our zeal in pursuingdopers to recklessly destroy the careers of innocent cyclists.

The current doping controls meet neither of these goals. By banning athletes from major races merely because they are being investigated for doping (as happened to Stefano Casagranda and Martin Hvastija in last year’s Tour de France), we ensure that at least some innocent cyclists will be falsely punished. And, with constantly changing standards and lengthsof suspensions, we dilute the power of tests to deter potential, future dopers.

I suggest the following solution. First, the UCI and WADA shouldadopt a testing program that allows for a full and fair investigation outsideof the public eye. The results of any positive test should be deliveredto the rider and his team anonymously. The rider should then havethe opportunity to contest the accusations without worrying about the media’sreaction. ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ should be the test’s mantra.Only after a full investigation — with the rider having access to allof the evidence against him — should a decision be made public.

Second, once a positive test is publicized, the same unwavering sanctionshould be handed down — an unappealable lifetime ban from the sport.A rider who is truly found to be guilty should be barred from any participationin pro cycling — as a rider, trainer, manager, or podium girl.He should be denied the chance to make any money from cycling for life.No exceptions.

By having a test with a strong presumption of ‘innocent until provenguilty’ followed by a harsh, single sanction, the UCI would finally meetthe two goals of a good anti-doping program. Innocent riders would be protectedfrom persecution. And while some guilty riders would undoubtedlyskirt controls, the fear of an unappealable lifetime ban would be a sufficientlystrong deterrent to keep the overwhelming majority of riders dope and drugfree.

Cale Jaffe
Charlottesville, Virgina

To the brig’!
Dear VeloNews,
Like Mr. Pound, I also detest anyone, athlete or else, that has tosuccumb to drug usage. I am retired military and served in Germanyfor more than ten years. During all of my military time, I saw whatdrugs do to individuals who frequently use illegal drugs. I saw manysoldiers who never touched drugs in their lives, come to Germany many thousandsof miles from home and submit to drug usage, probably by peer pressure.It ruined their lives. I never met anyone who prospered from usingillegal drugs. Like America football, and now baseball, with theallegations of many of the current stars using illegal drugs to enhancetheir performances, I submit that everyone of them should be kicked outof their sports for a minimum of three years.

The punishment should be very harsh. The individuals who do notuse illegal drugs train and work hard to achieve their results. Why shouldthey lose out to the weak willed, weak minded, weak human beings who dropto the level of cheating by enhancing their performances with illegal drugs?I hope Mr. Pound and all of sport will catch every last cheat, and thatis what they are, cheats, even thieves. For they cheat toachieve the results and steal the results from those who train right andsteal from us, the fans of cycling and other sports.

Good work Mr. Pound! Drive on. Do it fair, do it right, but catch every lastcheat you can. Then, slap a hard three-year suspension on each andevery last one of them.

Not fair? Who cares? It is a self-inflicted wound. Get caught cheating and live with the results.

Danny Autrey
Retired U.S. Army
Bremerton, Washington

Track is not dead
Editor,
I love the coverage that you guys give on a daily basis. However, Iam starting of getting tired of hearing all about the demise of track cyclingin the U.S.

USA Cycling is hosting the worlds in March. We just had our first WorldCup event in god knows how long and for some reason I can’t find any informationon how to get tickets to these events. Perhaps if the fed started promotingthe track as a viable sport instead of an event that only occurs everyfour years in the Olympics more people would be interested.

Give us some more coverage of the domestic track scene and perhaps theFed will start reinvesting some money in our dying tracks.

Tim Hayes
Minneapolis, Minnesota

We, too, had difficulty finding ticket information for world’s. Wewill post it as soon as we get it. In the mean time, to keep up at eventson that track, check in on the ADT Events Center web site. – Editor