Thursday, October 28, 2010

Charlie Chaplin's Time Traveller

A friend pointed me to an article on that discusses a YouTube video that has gone viral on the web. In the video, a guy named George Clark analyzes a Charlie Chaplin film scene where a person that appears to be a woman walks by while talking into something that Clark concludes must have been a cell phone. Since cell phones were non-existent in Chaplin's day, Clark concludes that the woman must be a time traveller.

Well, let's think about this for a minute. How would a time traveller be able to talk into a cell phone back in Charlie Chaplin's day? I may not understand time travel well enough--even though I have watched Napoleon Dynamite several times---but I don't think this woman could use her iPhone from 2050 when she was back in the 1920s. Are we asserting that her cell coverage also travelled forward in time? If not how did this phone work.

One possibility is that two people travelled back to 1920 with their cell phones. This sounds good if we think our cell phones just work between themselves like walkie-talkies. However, unless the technology changes dramatically between today and when time travel is perfected, these two time travellers would have needed to bring at least one cell tower, a satellite and the equipment to communicate to the satellite and a rocket to launch the satellite into space. They also would need computers and people to keep all that running.

Well, I'm wondering why this video is going viral on the web. Is it because people are that gullible and don't think enough about the implications that they think this guy might have discovered evidence of time travel? If so, there is little hope that the Ponzi schemers of the world will be out of business any time soon...In fact, as soon as a fraud perpetrator watches that video, he will probably set up a Ponzi scheme that guarantees 25% per month returns on a company that has discovered time travel!

Lance Armstrong Investigation: Novitzky May be Taking a Vacation

Today's CyclingNews has an article that talks in length about the history of Jeffrey Novitzky's investigations of doping in sports. If you've read the many articles that describe Novitzky's history as an investigator, there is not a lot that is new in this regard. However, the article does make one main assertion that is new. The article claims to have sources that say Novitzky is heading to Europe, presumably in pursuit of evidence against Lance Armstrong. Here is the key quote that I'm referring to:

Monday, October 25, 2010

New Finding: HGH Leads to Nose Growth

A new, double-blind, study shows that using HGH along with EPO injections and testosterone patches can, in extreme cases, lead to extensive nose growth. The study shows that when these drugs are used over a lengthy time period--say 15 years--the lateral nasal cartilage can, in the words of one author, "grow like a weed." Apparently, the "rapid and extensive" nose growth can come on quickly and often starts growing shortly after the person quits using the performance enhancing drugs.

The authors showed pictures of one of the participants in the study who had an excessively long nose caused by over 15 years of using every type of performance enhancing drug that he thought would benefit him. You can see the picture below.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Numerous Dopers Returning to Pro Cycling

In addition to the long list of pro cyclists being prohibited from racing because they were caught doping, a friend and former pro cyclist pointed out that the pro cycling peloton has had a long list of dopers that have recently returned to racing. For example, just last week it was reported that Danilo Di Luca is ready to return to the peloton after serving his suspension. Di Luca is only one of many high profile pro racers that have returned recently including Alexander Vinokourov, Ivan Basso, Riccardo Ricco, Michael Rasmussen, Stefan Schumacher, Alessandro Petacchi and numerous others who are not as high profile.

My friend also asked a very good question about this observation. He said: "Why don't the clean riders refuse to race with these guys?" He continued by saying that the racers should just protest that the dopers are returning and proclaim that they won't race against cheaters!

There are several possible reasons why the clean riders in the peloton are not being more vocal including the possibility that there aren't enough clean pro cyclists to put their foot down. However, putting aside the option of refusing to race, I wonder if the pro cyclists who are clean and have raced clean for their careers couldn't be more instrumental in cleaning up the sport if they were more vocal. For example, these riders could petition the UCI to make the sanctions longer, instead of the opposite trend of short sentences. In this regard, Pat McQuaid stated this week that the UCI would support four year bans. An article covering McQuaid's statements in VeloNation says that the longer bans have been an option for some time but no sanctions over two years have been given out. Why not?! If I was racing in the pro peloton, I would be lobbying for the UCI to get with it and give out the four year sanctions. Walk the talk McQuaid! Let's get serious.

Sadly enough, it may be that the clean riders are too far down in the pecking order to have much influence. After all, if doping improves your performance as much as they claim it does then the clean guys are probably domestiques who would be quickly replaced if they put their foot down. That's a pitiful possibility that may be the most likely reason given that the top racers seem to have a pretty poor record when it comes to doping. As more of the top riders dope, it puts pressure to dope on anyone who wants to compete at the pro level making it hard to even be a domestique without doping.

Whether there is just one or 100 of these riders in the pro peloton, the clean riders need to stand up and be counted. If they did then they might just find they are more competitive than they thought. If they were shunned and knocked off by the cycling mafia then so be it. There is more to life than being a domestique (or a yellow jersey winner) in a corrupted sport...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Foreclosure Fraud and the Economic Recovery

Real estate industry analysts are looking at the foreclosure fraud allegations and saying that this is a huge game changer in the economic recovery that is (or was) under way. If you've heard a bit about this and have been wondering what is going on, here is a short overview from what I can gather.

First, anyone who was foreclosed on during the past three years has a chance that the bank that foreclosed on them did not cross the i's and dot the t's during the foreclosure process. According to one article:

Friday, October 15, 2010

$67.5 Million Settlement for Former Countrywide CEO

The economic crises resulted in many fraud allegations--now we are seeing some of the fallout of those allegations.  Angelo Mozilo has agreed to a $67.5 million settlement with the SEC over allegations of civil fraud and insider trading charges.  Mozilo did not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement.  Via NYT:

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Teaching by Example: Fraud in Public Schools

NPR is reporting that over 50 schools in Georgia have been found manipulating students' test scores by erasing erroneous answers and replacing them with the correct answers. As in any fraud, pressure and opportunity have become too much for teachers and administrators in the Georgia school system to resist making these changes. Here is a quote from the article:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Alberto Contador Investigation: Odds of Eating Tainted Beef and Other Updates

According to NBC Sports, the chance that Alberto Contador got clenbuterol in his urine from eating a tainted steak are very slim. The article came out today. Here is a quote:
(T)he European Union outlawed clenbuterol for animal fattening in 1996 and systematically monitors farms to ensure that the ban is enforced. Only once did clenbuterol show up in 83,203 animal samples tested by EU countries in 2008 and 2009, says the European Commission's directorate for health and consumer policy. 
Spain tested 19,431 samples in those years; none were positive for the drug, it adds. Illegal use of clenbuterol in European farming "has indeed become rare," says the office's spokesman, Frederic Vincent. 
Which suggests that Contador would have been extremely unfortunate to stumble across a tainted steak. That's one reason why Fernando Ramos, a food contamination specialist at Portugal's Coimbra University, doesn't buy it. 
"It's not impossible but improbable," he says. "In my opinion, it's just a story."
In other bad news for Contador, it was reported last week that an anonymous insider from Astana has said that Contador took clenbuterol to lose weight prior to the Tour de France and then gave blood for use in the Tour de France. VeloNation reported that the insider give some incredible details on Contador's blood doping and clenbuterol use. Here are a few quotes:

Documentary of the Crazy Eddie Fraud

A documentary of the Crazy Eddie fraud has recently become available on YouTube (clips embedded at the end of this post).  Sam Antar, Crazy Eddie's former CFO described the motivation behind the fraud as follows (via White Collar Fraud):

Saturday, October 9, 2010

How can Doping in Cycling be Cleaned Up?

I had a reader recently ask me why I don’t blog about ways to clean up pro cycling. Unfortunately, I have not seen a lot of news about ways to clean up cycling. I’ve been looking for ideas and thinking about how to prevent other forms of fraud and decided to throw together a few thoughts. I’m sure my thoughts are initial ideas at best so, in doing so, I hope the rest of you will add comments below or send us an email if you have other ideas. Here are my initial thoughts...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Floyd Landis Hopes to Repay Contributors to his Defense Fund

VeloNation reported last night that Floyd Landis is planning to take claims and repay those who contributed to his legal defense fund known as the "Floyd Fairness Fund." The fund was established to provide resources to fight charges that he used performance enhancing drugs in the 2006 Tour de France. For years, Floyd claimed to be innocent of the charges but now has admitted to doping for several years as a pro cyclist. As such, he says that he wants to repay those who contributed to his defense.

The article notes that he doesn't currently have funds to repay donors but he hopes to make enough money to do so at some point. The article notes that the estimated total contributions were $1 million that Floyd would need to repay. A good chunk, or all of that amount, may be awarded to him if the whistleblower lawsuit he filed against Lance Armstrong and associates comes to fruition. If that doesn't pan out, it may be a long while before donors see any refunds. If you contributed to his fund, I wouldn't advise holding your breath in anticipation of your refund. Even so, I think it's another step in the right direction for Floyd.

I personally never contributed to Floyd's defense fund and if Contador was to set up a similar fund, I wouldn't contribute to it either. Not that I don't believe a false positive is out of the realm of possibilities but Alberto has a lot to explain before I send him any money...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lance Armstrong Investigation: Results of New Doping Test will be Crucial

If you've been following the Alberto Contador investigation, you've read that a new doping test has quietly been in development to catch athletes doing blood transfusions. The test is designed to look for signs of transfusions by detecting high amounts of plastic metabolites in urine and blood. Apparently, similar tests have been used for our food supply for some time but now it is being applied to look for blood doping in cyclists. The test has not been approved by WADA yet but the scientists working on it say they are close to establishing the cutoff for evidence that a blood transfusion was used.

While it is clear that Alberto's levels of plastic in his urine probably spell doom to his steak story, it may not be as clear what this test has to do with Lance Armstrong. Well, first, Floyd Landis has alleged that many in the pro peloton, including Lance, turned away from EPO as the preferred doping method in the early 2000's and, instead, reverted to transfusing their blood. The reason for this change was that an effective test for EPO came out. As such, Floyd alleges that Lance, Levi and others transfused their blood around the rest days in the Tour de France. The test for this has been to look for excess mature blood cells relative to immature cells or reticulocytes. Floyd alleges that cyclists got around this test by micro-dosing EPO at night in amounts that would were undetectable by morning. The EPO would lead to new reticulocytes and keep the blood looking normal. This plastic test is a new way to detect blood transfusions.

But, you ask, how can this affect the Lance Armstrong investigation? One very good deterrent to doping that was adopted by pro cycling in the past few years is a requirement that blood and urine samples be maintained for future testing. I recall that at some point in the past decade, cyclists had to agree to this requirement. An article from NY Daily News makes the point that hundreds of Lance Armstrong's urine and blood "specimens are in storage, where they are fair game not only to anti-doping agencies but to" Jeffrey Novitzky and his associates at the FDA who are investigating Lance for fraud. I assume that the same is true for others who Floyd alleges were taking transfusions including Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie and Dave Zabriskie.

In my opinion, this new test is great news for either Lance or Floyd and horrible news for the other party, depending on who is telling the truth. I believe this new test could be a game changer. In the past, I have said that I didn't think Lance would ever go to jail because he's been able to get the tests that showed he was doping thrown out on technicalities. I've also said that there is so much smoke around him that I don't think he's innocent. 

Assuming this new test is deemed strong evidence of doping and assuming Novitzky gets a hold of several of his specimens, I believe this evidence could resolve any remaining doubts about these allegations. From what I've read, the plastic from these blood bags should still be in the frozen urine and blood. As such, if Novitzky can show a pattern of plasticizers spiking around the rest days to show that Lance was transfusing his blood then Floyd's story will be validated.

I also believe that this evidence could change the tide of belief that he is guilty if enough specimens were tested and showed he had no unusual spikes or amounts of the plastic in his urine or blood. As such, if he is really innocent, he ought to be thrilled at this new test and begging Novitzky to test his urine and blood for these plasticizers. On the other hand, if he is guilty, he ought to be holding a press conference any day now to let the truth prevail.

In the end, this test has serious implications for all those who Floyd alleges were involved in doping. If Levi, George, Dave and others were transfusing their blood they will now want to think twice about how they answer the Grand Jury's questions. There may not be as many urine or blood specimens out there to analyze for these riders as there are for Lance but, this test could lead to time in jail for perjury if they are not telling the truth...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

More Details on Contador's Doping Tests

The NY Times reported that an anonymous source provided details about Contador's doping tests. It appears that Contador has failed several tests. The initial failure was on the evening of a rest day when a new test for blood doping that looks for a chemical called a plasticizer revealed that the Spaniard had eight times the minimum amount in his urine. This test is new and not yet validated for use. This explains why Contador may have been caught with the test as he may not have anticipated it. However, because it's not yet validated, he may challenge it in court. However, the article quoted the chief of the World Anti-Doping Agency accredited lab in Rome as saying:

Friday, October 1, 2010

More on Contador's Beef Story

Several theories about about how Contador (AC) may have ended up with the trace amount of clenbuterol in his blood. One possible theory being explored is that AC was using clenbuterol weeks before the Tour de France and thought it had cleared his system when he then gave blood for future blood doping.  Then, on the rest day, he transfused his blood (with the trace amount of clenbuterol) and the clenbuterol showed up the next day in his urine.

Some experts are alleging that those who transfuse blood have higher amounts of plastic residues from the blood transfusion bags and reports are going around that AC showed a high concentration of plastic in addition to clenbuterol. (Interestingly, one reader pointed out to me that this may be what happened to Floyd when he ended up with excess testosterone in his blood. It's possible that the reason he is still claiming he didn't take testosterone the night before he failed the test is that he transfused his blood from a prior period and the blood had excess testosterone in it.)

Apparently, the UCI has another theory that allows Contador to keep the yellow jersey and for pro cycling to save some face. To have another Tour de France winner lose his yellow jersey would be bad for business and would reflect poorly on the UCI. As for the UCI's theory, Contador gave the following account: