How to Prove You are NOT Doping

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I got a message a couple weeks ago from Eric Marcotte, current US Pro Road Champion, expressing his frustration with not being able to prove that he is riding clean.

He sent me a link to a NBC SPorts article that says he was the most tested athlete, here in the US, of all athletes.  He had 12 drug tests in the third quarter, 4 more than Michael Phelps, the swimmer.

He wanted to know what he could do if the testing isn’t proof he is not doping.  He has a good question, but there isn’t an answer he wants to hear.

I replied to him

Eric-There is nothing you can do to “prove” that you are racing bicycles clean. This whole situation is just a by-product of the times. And it not only in cycling. You do have to understand that the testing is total bullshit. Lance probably is most to blame for this. He was tested somewhere between 300-500 times and, in theory, was never positive. None of the guys that testified to USADA ever had a positive test, other than Levi, when he was an amateur and Tyler, of course. If I were you I wouldn’t worry about it at all. People on the internet are making accusations about me all the time and I don’t think a thing about it. I know I”m not taking drugs, so why would it bother me. I suggest you just keep doing what you’re doing and let the guys making the accusations just do their thing. It ain’t gonna change.

That was pretty short, but pretty accurate.  There isn’t a way to prove that you’re racing clean.  At least, not that I know of.  All of us, nearly any bike racer that has any results, gets accused of doping.  It’s not anybody’s fault, but we are in a sport that opened that Pandora’s Box.   Our sport opened, or at least exposed ourselves to this by trying to eradicate doping.  We had good intentions,  but in reality, we showed the world that most of the ways we try to police  doping hasn’t really worked.

I personally think that only draconian sanctions will make a dent into the problem.  I don’t think a 4 year ban, that WADA recently enacted, is enough.  It was a good move, but not enough.  Just making it impossible to compete isn’t enough to stop it.  There has to be huge monetary fines.  Because, in reality, most the guys doping, on a professional level, are doing it for the money.  Then the trickle down effect happened, and it spreads to other segments of the sport.

The fines in cycling need to be levied to the riders personally, and the teams.  That way, the teams will pay much closer attention to who they initially hire.

But all this, doesn’t really help guys like Eric much.  Our sport is polluted, still, and it isn’t going to change over night.  He is going to have to try to just to dismiss his frustration and go about his life and career.   Hopefully, the rest will only get better for all of us.

Here are a couple photos from Eric’s Garmin before the World Road Championships a few months ago.  Pretty crazy.  He was obviously ready to race.

Check out the power here.  That is average for 6 and 1/2 hours.  Pretty nuts.

Check out the power here. That is average for 6 and 1/2 hours.

And the speed on this ride.  This is training.  He said he rode 4 1/2 alone, 40 minutes with a group, then motorpaced the rest.  Whatever, it's still nearly 25 mph for 150 miles.

And the speed on this ride. This is training. He said he rode 4 1/2 alone, 40 minutes with a group, then motor paced the rest. Whatever, it’s still nearly 25 mph for 150 miles.

My ride yesterday.  At the end, my Garmin said I had a 266 watt average.  I am not in shape, but there is no way, in any shape, I could ride 6 + hours training, with a 285 watt average.

My ride yesterday. At the end, my Garmin said I had a 266 watt average. I am not in shape, but there is no way, in any shape, I could ride 6 + hours training, with a 285 watt average.






31 thoughts on “How to Prove You are NOT Doping

  1. orphan

    At the pro level it shouldn’t be on the riders backs to carry the weight of the penalty like it is now. If you moved that to the team it would also put a huge weight on the sponsor. And can you imagine the pear pressure that would create for the riders to ride clean. What if every one on BMC’s pay roll got suspended instead of only the rider that tested positive. I think this is the only answer in pro sports of all kinds. You have to hurt the ones making most of the $ and it isn’t the riders making most of the $ in cycling.

  2. channel_zero

    Transparency is the only answer.

    1. post training data. Lots of it. If someone is oxygen vector doping, the spikes in performance are right there in the power data.
    2. Post blood data. Lots of it. An athlete in the bio-passport system has the data. Either your values do crazy things like Horner’s and suspicions are confirmed, or the data is consistent with a clean athlete.

    To be clear, it doesn’t have to be in near real time, maybe do it annually?

    Neither the UCI nor USAC will be pleased with an athlete posting their data, but, transparency is the only answer when you are dealing with a National and International federation that are both thoroughly corrupt.

    I’d also like to point out it’s not the testing that is the problem. Technically, the system is good. It’s the anti-doping authorities like the UCI/USAC choosing when to sanction some and not others.
    Buried in that report (page 26) is the anecdote of an athlete that missed a test and got no sanction. The federation did not act impartially.

    The IAAF’s corruption story shows the world how many opportunities there are to never test positive.

    A clean elite athlete has no choice but to protect themselves from their corrupt federation by pursuing maximum transparency.

  3. channel_zero

    A team-wide sanction would be bad for IOC team sports.

    The UCI would never sanction riders on teams they favor if a single positive results in the whole team being sanctioned. As it is, they don’t sanction riders they favor. That’s why mysteriously, sanctions are always below 2% of the test population and always “minor” riders.

  4. Bill K

    As you said, if an Euro-Pro team knew that one doping positive would damage them financially and two or three would cause them to fold, they just might start testing their riders themselves, (weekly).
    On a second division (or American domestic team), every rider, knowing that one positive from a teammate would screw his chances of racing that year, would watch his teammates like a Hawk, and report any “funny stuff”

  5. Neill Campbell

    While you cannot prove a negative it is possible to provide evidence. Some people with confirming belief systems will find evidence for their hypothesis, be it a cyclist is doping, or a cyclist is not doping.

    The question for each professional cyclist is to determine their personal interest in sharing information and if the benefit outweighs the effort. I have heard a rationale against making training and racing data public is it can create a competitive disadvantage. Frankly, I find it hard to believe given the variance of how a cyclist might be feeling on a given day, or how rested they may be.

    So, while it is impossible to prove a negative, I would recommend a proactive approach to sharing relevant information in the public domain. If it can be done in a way that engages fans and media, all the better. A starting point would be a public Strava account and or public info via Training Peaks or similar tool. I’d also probably post these to a Blog, and include chronological testing entries.

  6. Freddy

    Neill, Do you and Bill K get together before you write up these posts? Please join the real world and understand that for alot of people, products such as Strava or Training Geaks are simply not a part of their lives. This includes the large majority of professional cyclists both in the US and more so, abroad.

  7. channel_zero

    Yeah, this is not true. Read through the report I posted above. Teams of low-level pros who we know are making very little money are living together and doping together.

  8. channel_zero

    There are definitely opportunities to publish evidence of clean performances.

    If they are a part of the testing pool, then they can quite easily post their blood values.

  9. Tommy tested

    Blood values from WADA tests cannot be accessed by the athlete or their doctors. Athletes cannot get the blood data to share with the public. Testing numbers do not delineate between event tests or random no notice tests. In the USA, HIPA laws prevent sharing personal medical documents. These laws vary around the world. USA Crossfit contract testers do not disclose specific substances from sample results, whereas the international cycling union discloses full data from ADRV’s.

  10. Bolas Azules

    39.4kmh average speed? I’d say, yeah you’re clean.

    No seriously. A pro claiming to be ‘clean’ has exhausted all of us plus, anyone that points to testing as proof of being ‘clean’ just has not been paying attention. “Testing” should be re-named “stopping in for a cup of coffee to see if you’ve made any incredible mistakes in your program….and even then we can be paid or just choose to ignore it.”

    Hey it comes with the territory and it has been WELL EARNED. . . a tradition unlike any other in sports.

  11. Bee

    A few points:
    1. Why not question a guy who happens into a pro contract and the first year pro wins the road race championship. His amateur results don’t add up to that kind of success.
    2. Doctors know doctors.
    3. Sentence 1 of the article states Phelps was the most tested athlete in the US for 2014. Not Marcotte.
    4. Why is he so insecure? If he is clean and he is comfortable w/ that, the tests show that, move on.

  12. Mr. De Facto

    Dewey Dickey, Adam Bergman… you were all on the same team (Grand Performance) around the same time frame. Eric I raced against you many times from local crits in the early 2000s to just last year. I guess it’s going to be hard for you to prove anything. I’ve been fortunate enough to never have links like this, granted I don’t win shit. If you’re clean, just race your bike and keep having fun… against Horner.

  13. channel_zero

    Bzzzzzt!!! Wrong.

    Athlete access to the Athlete Biological Passport result validity
    In addition to having access to their blood passport raw data and urine results, athletes also see whether their blood passport samples are valid or not.
    The information is available in “My Recent Tests”.

    That HIPAA claim is nonsense. If the athlete chooses to post his/her data LIKE CHRIS HORNER, then HIPAA just doesn’t matter.

  14. vinnie

    Go this off of the usada site. Apparently he isn’t the most tested cyclist in 2014 but his teammate is.

    Travis McCabe 16
    Eric Marcotte 13

    In comparison let’s look at the blue train….

    Luke Keough 1
    Hilton Clarke 0
    Karl Menzies 0

    I think Eric is rightfully frustrated and I would be too. I have no reason to think he isn’t clean but the above statistics sure seem to indicate that someone doesn’t believe him.

  15. Freddy

    Channel Zero, there is no such thing as “evidence” of a clean performance. There is only evidence of a performance. You can’t prove that you are clean because no evidence exists. There is only an absence of evidence.

    There can however be evidence of a doped performance. As an example, let’s say a rider did a flat 40k ITT in 5 minutes and passes all tests. We know 40k in 5 minutes is impossible for a human on a legal bicycle but without supporting data (evidence), it would fall into the category of suspicious and nothing more. That TT would have to stand as legit. Now, let’s say the rider had a 70% hematocrit with traces of recombinant EPO. A 70% hematocrit is not natural under any circumstances and recombinant EPO is banned. Therefore, there is evidence of a doped performance. The TT would not be legit and the rider would be banned.

    That’s how people got (and get) away with unbelievable performances. They simply do not fail the tests. If they don’t fail, then nothing can be proven and the performance must be deemed legit. In other words, they enjoy the presumption of innocence as far as the rules are concerned. They know their performance was unbelievable, but without evidence, thay have the upper hand and the victory. They don’t care what you think. They want the victory. Lance winning 7 Tours in a row was the best evidence of that. Looking back on that, how believable was that? It was literally unbelievable (without dope). But we had to accept it until they found evidence… and that was his eventual undoing.

    Every time a rider has a great ride these days, he is immediately suspected of juicing. He can only argue that he was clean because there is an absence of evidence. There will never be evidence of being clean. It’s an unfortunate situation, but one entirely of their and the system’s making. No one is happy with that status quo, and especially if you’re an honest rider winning clean.

  16. Freddy

    Sorry for this typo in first paragraph- “There is only an absence of evidence that proves otherwise (doping).”

  17. Ron

    Either that OR they DO believe he is clean so why not test him? Then they don’t have to take action against anyone! Haha

  18. channel_zero

    That’s how people got (and get) away with unbelievable performances. They simply do not fail the tests. If they don’t fail, then nothing can be proven and the performance must be deemed legit.

    You don’t understand how the system works. To be fair to you and most readers, very sports administrator that has bio-passport compliance does their very best to confuse how the system operates. Very, very briefly:

    -Rider submits sample
    -Sample tested.
    -Test returns positive.
    -Positive result sent to anti-doping authority.
    -Anti-doping authority decides whether or not they will sanction based on NADO’s recommendation.

    Lots of positives and no sanctions are possible in this scenario. That is by design.

    We know the UCI sits on positives, we know the UCI accepts bribes for positives, we know USAC and the UCI ignores positives for favored riders.

    Which is why an elite athlete’s ONLY choice is to operate with maximum transparency.

    Please, do not take my word for it. Go read WADA’s documentation. It’s all there.

  19. Freddy

    Don’t overthink it, genius. The point is and simply put, if you don’t test positive, then the performance is deemed clean. That is the rule. The way people get away with doping is by testing clean even if they are doped to the gills. The result stands unless incriminating evidence is uncovered at a later date. Most often, that incriminating evidence never shows up. Thus, the result stands. Clear enough?

    You can take that to the bank.

  20. mark - Bici Italia Cycling Tours

    that just shows how messed up the anti-doping testing system is when Eric won the one big race and has been tested 13 times while the 3 UHC guys listed above have won just about every other race there was. I think the pressure is on UHC to prove something, not Eric.

  21. Pepsi Frank

    Eric, I’m glad you’re racing clean and seeing some success. But I find it hard to believe that a 34 year-old neo-pro, full-time chiropractor, wins the pro road national championship. You have won some regional Cat1 races but nothing that would predict a pro road national championship. I would be interested in hearing how all of this was possible. I think that any rider wanting to show that they are clean should publish their blood numbers and training data, even if you have to pay for your own regular blood work.

  22. Ron

    The national road race championship is just a single race, no? If Eric can win a regional 1/2 race then I see no reason why winning this particular race is any different?

  23. Joe

    With the limited budgets for testing, and prosecution some things become clear.
    1. If the authorities get hundreds of reports that so and so is doping, they will attempt to test that person.
    2. If there are only so many tests available due to budget, a shrewd move would be to waste the budget on something “suspicious”
    3. By manipulation of the system, if the budget gets wasted on one rider, the rest cant be tested.
    4. Everyone can say with pride, that Eric was tested over a dozen times and is clean. Look how clean our sport is in the USA!
    5. In some of the Lance stories, I remember seeing something to the effect that the testing budget was so non existent that he could only be tested once in OOC while in the US. Hard to catch someone that way.
    6. In NorCal, there was monies collected from all riders to pay for targeted testing. Due to some paperwork issues, no testing was ever scheduled. Hard to catch someone that way.

  24. Rick Crawford

    It’s possible to prove without a doubt that you’re not doping. Open yourself to 24/7 surveillance and monitoring. That’s a total surrender of privacy but if you want that label of clean it’s the only way. You’d have to submit to any sniper or hater out there. Not worth it if you ask me. But you want proof of cleanliness, let your whole life be documented. Inbed a chip so the man can know all your life. No thanks. That’s not life. Ride your bike. Race and win when you can. If you’re really clean it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. Humans are judgemental and skeptical by nature. Just do your thing and be good in your own skin.

  25. J

    I’m no expert in doping but it seems to me that you still have to train hard even if you “dope” and showing stats from the Garmin head unit doesn’t do anything to curb suspicion. So what if you put in an incredible training regimen? “Doping” can enable the incredible training regimen that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. That said, I have no reason to believe he pharmaceutically enhances his performance. This evidence just doesn’t disprove that point.

  26. Bolas Azules

    But the only proof we have is – testing doesn’t work.

    test here, test there, test, test, test….waste of time.


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