Sunday, September 5, 2010

Lance Armstrong Investigation: Expert Says No Doubt He Took EPO

If Jeffrey Novitzky and his legal team are looking for an expert witness to appear before the Grand Jury and give his opinion on whether Lance Armstrong took EPO while riding for U.S. Postal, he may want to consider Dr. Michael Ashenden. Ashenden is one of the scientists who designed the tests used to detect EPO and has gone on record as saying:
"So there is no doubt in my mind he (Lance Armstrong) took EPO during the '99 Tour."
Ashenden's statement is found at this link when he was interviewed by NYVelocity in 2009. The whole interview is packed with details about the tests for EPO, how Lance may have avoided detection, and statements that, at best, cast doubt on Lance's innocence, and at worst, are very convincing that Lance was doping during his career.

When expert witnesses are brought into fraud trials, they first are asked questions to establish that they have the credentials to be considered an expert. From what I read in this interview, Ashenden would pass that test with flying colors. Beginning with his PhD thesis, Ashenden has been studying the effects of doping on cyclist's blood.

Ashenden goes on to explain the tests that were conducted in 2005 on 1999 Tour de France riders when better EPO tests came out. At the time, 87 samples were tested from 1999 and 13 of them were positive, meaning they showed EPO was in the urine of Tour riders. Of the 13 positives, almost half (6), turned out to be Lance's urine. Ashenden explains in great detail that these tests were performed properly and that the lab had no idea whose samples they were testing.

So what about the claim that Lance Armstrong keeps making that he has never been shown to fail a drug test? Well, according to this expert, he would refute that claim. However, Armstrong is apparently able to make that claim because of a ruling that dismissed this test because they didn't have another sample. You see, athletes can claim someone tampered with their sample unless there are two samples and the second sample also confirms the test. This is what Armstrong has claimed.

Ashenden dismisses this possiblity by saying:
There was only two conceivable ways that synthetic EPO could've gotten into those samples. One, is that Lance Armstrong used EPO during the '99 Tour, and we've since found out that there were teammates from US Postal in that '99 Tour that have since admitted using EPO while riding for US Postal in that Tour. 
The other way it could've got in the urine was if, as Lance Armstrong seems to believe, the laboratory spiked those samples. Now, that's an extraordinary claim, and there's never ever been any evidence the laboratory has ever spiked an athlete's sample, even during the Cold War, where you would've thought there was a real political motive to frame an athlete from a different country. 
However, Lance Armstrong made that claim. Now, it's very easy to go back and assess the possibility of that scenario. We know the laboratory could not have known which samples belonged to Lance Armstrong. And we also know from the results, how many of Lance Armstrong's samples had EPO in them, and when during the race it occurred. Now the odds of the laboratory randomly selecting Lance Armstrong's samples out of those 87 samples, and let's just do it conservatively, just 6 times, 6 times they got his samples correct out of 87 possible tubes, the odds of that occurring are at least 1 in 300. 

Ashenden then talks about the pattern of the amounts of EPO found in the urine samples. The pattern, according to Ashenden, is what you would expect to see in the Tour de France and would be almost impossible for the lab to replicate if they were spiking Armstrong’s samples. In the end, here is Ashenden’s conclusion:
There is no doubt in my mind these samples contain synthetic EPO, they belong to Lance Armstrong, and there's no conceivable way that I can see that a lab could've spiked them in a way that the data has presented itself. So there is no doubt in my mind he took EPO during the '99 Tour.
What would you think if you were on the Grand Jury hearing an expert like Ashenden make these statements?


  1. I have no doubt that Lance was doping. This however is no evidence.

  2. I have no doubt that the samples were spiked. It gives Novitsky and Ashden gainful employment during these difficult times. On with the witch hunt Ole. flicker

  3. Flicker: Ashenden's statement is supported by a compelling argument of why he has no doubt. I would read the article linked to this post for Ashenden's evidence that Armstrong's samples were not spiked. As for a witch hunt: why are so many people joining in on a witch hunt? Former teammates and friends such as Frankie Andreu. Former employees. Scientists, etc. All out to get one of the most inspiring sports figure in American history. Are they just jealous or do they have evidence that the hero is a fraud? We all would like to believe the story but a too good to be true story with all sorts of smoke around it suggests that a fire (i.e. fraud) is likely burning.

  4. My point is it is a witch hunt. Gainful employment for many attorneys at a great waste of the taxpayers money. Understanding the doping and fraud in cycling and sport in general needs to go beyond names like Bonds and Armstrong. Sporting dope is available through the internet 24-7. Doping in cycling goes way beyond Weisel/Armstrong /Bruyneel and USPS cycling team. This is my opinion and I have been watching cycling since the 70s. I hope that the brothers Zimbelman will be able to do some more fraud busting. We have one here in California, Meg Whitman who is running for governor here. Heavily invested and payed back by Goldman-Sachs and hired an illegal alien as alive-in housekeeper for 9 years, also ex ceo of E-Bay. Follow the dollar signs guys. flicker