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February 2013

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« Nonotechnology for PED/HGH detection? | Main | Korean baseball players juice too: Ma Hae-Yeong »



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For the record, American prisons are nothing to brag about (I work in one).


Dr. Gaffney,

I'm a KCMO native transplanted to NYC and have followed your blog carefully for some time. I've enjoyed sharing it with a number of colleagues (many of whom are medical doctors) who, like me, are keenly interested in all things PED. As it happens, many of us happen to be cyclists, as well. Therefore, I'm compelled to comment on your remark regarding the physique of Michael Rasmussen.

Regardless of how one feels about his moral/ethical practices, Rasmussen is a competent and well-conditioned specialist in the world of cycling; namely, he is a climber. He appears, by corporeal disposition (usually listed as 5'8" and 130 lbs) and act of training (body fat probably ~1%; and, sadly, most likely suffering from some form of eating disorder, etc), to present as the archetypical road bike climber.

The job of the climber in a multi-stage event, is to lead the team (a team full of specialists with different skill-sets and body types) up and through the mountain stages. On days when the race involves little or no altitude gain, the expectation for the climber is nil. In fact, those are recovery days for climbers.

A very general figure that cycling biomechanicists toss around is this: For every pound a climber can shed (from his person or equipment) he gains 1% in climbing efficiency (this is true only for climbing -- not so on flats or downhills). This number is obviously simplified, but you get the idea, and cyclists themselves are famously rabid students of biomechanics.

The problem for Rasmussen and those like him often begins when they aspire to change their role from that of a specialist to that of a team leader; that is, the star athlete whom the team supports in his bid to win the overall race.

When a scrawny rider has to compete with big boys who are jostling, shoving and pounding in a high-speed pack, or when he's trying to build and maintain inertia while riding solo in a time-trial, the same fly-weight body that so easily powered up a mountain becomes a profound liability. No strength conditioning program can turn the diminutive Rasmussen into someone who can match muscle with a 6' 4" Tom Boonen. Not naturally, anyway...

I don't want to beat this to death, but suffice it to say that Rasmussen is an informed athlete who trains (and appears to liberally cheat) with great and deliberate intention. He knows about the weight-room but eschews it in order to modify his body (to say the least) to best suit the task he performs, or once performed until he decided to thwart the rules of sport and nature.

I absolutely agree that climbers bodies appear freakish, but perhaps no more so than other niche athletes. Take, for example, the NFL left tackle, or the horse jockey, or the professional bowler.


"... No sports fraud, no conspiracy, etc. -- although there are exceptions (Marion Jones). ..."

I don't think Jones is an exception. She made a deal to spend a few months in jail b/c they had evidence of lying under oath (ala Barroid).

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His jersey looks like a sweaty strawberry.

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Great recap, I can’t even believe you were able to write that.I got so much anxiety just watching that and I thought I was the only one who had unnatural rage/hate for Kelly, glad I’m not the only one, as I was getting concerned. These women show that you can age without maturing.

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