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June 13, 2012 2:07 PM   Subscribe

USADA charges Lance Armstrong with doping. He could be forced to forfeit his seven Tour de France titles. 'The charges from USADA come just months after federal prosecutors closed a two-year criminal investigation of Armstrong without indicting him. USADA said in the letter it collected blood samples from Armstrong in 2009 and 2010 that were "fully consistent with blood manipulation including EPO use and/or blood transfusions," the Washington Post reported. Armstrong, who has never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, denied the latest charges.'
posted by VikingSword (121 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
surprise surprise.
posted by djseafood at 2:10 PM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


You can tell that one of these athletes isn't doping, because they don't win
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 2:10 PM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Not exactly surprising considering that Floyd Landis is a product of the US Postal team system.
posted by thewalrus at 2:14 PM on June 13, 2012


I'm not willing to say this means anything at this point. That prosecutors didn't find enough to go forward after 2 years of investigation is worthy of consideration. And that USADA's blood samples from Armstrong were "fully consistent" with manipulation doesn't necessarily show they weren't "fully consistent" with none.

I.e., I'm fine with waiting for actual proof of these really serious allegations.
posted by bearwife at 2:14 PM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Armstrong, who retired from cycling last year, could face a lifetime ban from the sport if he is found to have used performance-enhancing drugs.

That'll show him!
posted by Dark Messiah at 2:17 PM on June 13, 2012 [25 favorites]


I prefer the original version of history better where Lance overcomes cancer and goes on to become a great champion. What's next are we going to exhume Babe Ruth?
posted by humanfont at 2:17 PM on June 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


He may well be in violation of sporting rules without being in violation of the actual law (or vice versa) , so the stance of prosecutors is not conclusive either way.

bearwife, what would you consider to be "actual proof"?
posted by Bovine Love at 2:17 PM on June 13, 2012


Lance has beaten almost as many efforts to nail him for doping as he has won TsdF.
posted by chavenet at 2:17 PM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am not using any performance enhancing drugs while writing this comment. Mainly, because they're all out of reach, and I'm just too lazy to go get them.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:18 PM on June 13, 2012 [12 favorites]


I think the canonical expression of disbelief requires one more "surprise".

Accusations from May 2011. Attorney General not bringing charges in February 2012.
U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. announced in a press release that his office "is closing an investigation into allegations of federal criminal conduct by members and associates of a professional bicycle racing team owned in part by Lance Armstrong."

He didn't disclose the reason for the decision, though Birotte has used discretion in pursing high-profile criminal cases before. Last February, his office closed an investigation of mortgage giant Countrywide Financial Corp.

The pronouncement comes after a pair of less-than-successful cases against top sports figures accused of doping. Home run king Barry Bonds was found guilty of obstruction of justice and sentenced in December to 30 days of home detention — a conviction he's appealing — but prosecutors were unable to convince a jury he lied about using steroids. Roger Clemens' steroid trial is slated for April 17 after a judge declared a mistrial last summer when prosecutors showed jurors inadmissible evidence.
posted by maudlin at 2:22 PM on June 13, 2012


Ullrich will soon be one of the all-time greatest Tour riders.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:23 PM on June 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


from article: “Armstrong, who retired from cycling last year, could face a lifetime ban from the sport if he is found to have used performance-enhancing drugs.”

Dark Messiah: “That'll show him!”

Ahem. It really helps to read the sentence before that:

from article: “Armstrong was immediately banned from competition in triathlons because of the charges. He has been competing in triathlons as a professional since retiring from cycling in 2011. Armstrong, who retired from cycling last year, could face a lifetime ban from the sport if he is found to have used performance-enhancing drugs.”
posted by koeselitz at 2:24 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


federal prosecutors closed a two-year criminal investigation of Armstrong without indicting him... Home run king Barry Bonds was found guilty of obstruction of justice and sentenced in December to 30 days of home detention... Roger Clemens' steroid trial is slated for April 17 after a judge declared a mistrial last summer when prosecutors showed jurors inadmissible evidence.

Who is paying for this meaningless shit?
posted by nathancaswell at 2:26 PM on June 13, 2012 [30 favorites]


Can someone please explain why charges are just now being brought based on blood samples from 2010 and 2009?
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:27 PM on June 13, 2012


Ironmouth: "Ullrich will soon be one of the all-time greatest Tour riders."

Which, in itself, is hilarious, because we all know how clean that guy was.
posted by afx237vi at 2:28 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


That'll show him!

Being forced to forfeit seven Tour de France titles would, though.
posted by ambrosia at 2:28 PM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can someone please explain why charges are just now being brought based on blood samples from 2010 and 2009?

Because Lady Justice doesn't take performance enhancing drugs. So she's kinda slow.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:29 PM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is worth The Onion article almost as old as this controversy.

Also worth noting is the satirical sneer with which the blood packing Wikipedia article is written. "A time-honored approach to the detection of doping is the random and often-repeated search of athletes’ homes and team facilities for evidence of a banned substance or practice." Time-honored indeed!

And finally re: nathancaswell Who is paying for this meaningless shit?:
As it turns out, it looks like they turn considerable revenue on drug-testing athletes but the majority of their funding comes from a $10 million dollar block grant from the US Drug Czar.
posted by Shadax at 2:32 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Who is paying for this meaningless shit?

A question the feds may have asked themselves just before dropping the investigation. They had very specific charges in mind, and failing to be charged for specific federal offenses does not rule out that Armstrong really was doping according to the standards set by the USADA:
Investigators looked at whether a doping program was established for Armstrong's team while, at least part of the time, it received government sponsorship from the U.S. Postal Service. Authorities also examined whether Armstrong encouraged or facilitated doping on the team. He won the Tour de France every year from 1999-2005.

The hurdle for prosecutors wasn't so much to prove whether any particular cyclist used drugs, but to determine if Armstrong and other team members violated federal conspiracy, fraud or racketeering charges. Unlike Bonds and Clemens, who testified before a federal grand jury and Congress, respectively, and were accused of lying under oath, Armstrong was not questioned in front of the grand jury.
posted by maudlin at 2:32 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I try not to be snarky in comments, biting my tongue, sometimes, but I will jump in on this one:
This is the sort of post that reminds me of newspaper science articles that say
"Study shows that chewing leaves from white birch trees MAY prevent some forms of stomach cancer.:....or it may not.
We will I know find out the final disposition of this case some time later on and then that is that.
posted by Postroad at 2:33 PM on June 13, 2012


That was supposed to be worth dredging up. Apparently I was in such a hurry to pull up the USADA's 990 that I needn't bother myself with such petty luxuries as verbs.
posted by Shadax at 2:33 PM on June 13, 2012


This just in: your favorite messianic figure is a fraud.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 2:37 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are people out there who would deny Armstrong's cheating even if he confessed to it with his own mouth, in person, to their face. I'm related to some of them. The guy is basically Teflon in the eyes of a lot of cycling folks. I am quite interested in how this proceeds and what findings are made, regardless of the outcome.
posted by Sternmeyer at 2:37 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


He will beat these allegations.

Just like the 900 or so before them.
posted by docgonzo at 2:40 PM on June 13, 2012


He probably did do something wrong. Just as did many baseball stars. Policing sports is ridiculous an not achievable. We ought to allow professional athletes to do anything that they want...but...they must acknowledge what substances they use and how often they use tehm.

To believe that there is any "purity" left in any professional sport is to mislead yourself. There is nothing clean left in professional sports at all. Nothing. From the owners to the politicians who fanangle tax structures to keep teams, to owners who will do anything to break the players union, to the player's union who doesn't want to keep performance enhancing drugs out of their league. They all miss the mark.

It is all sad.

/cynical
posted by zerobyproxy at 2:40 PM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


This just in: your favorite messianic figure is a fraud.

I am not!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:41 PM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Isn't Lance the most-blood-tested man on earth by now? If nothing has stuck so far, why would this?
posted by silby at 2:41 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am not!

And yet not once since you registered for MetaFilter has Carol Brady fallen from the sky. Can you explain that? Can you?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 2:43 PM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


There are people out there who would deny Armstrong's cheating even if he confessed to it with his own mouth, in person, to their face. I'm related to some of them. The guy is basically Teflon in the eyes of a lot of cycling folks. I am quite interested in how this proceeds and what findings are made, regardless of the outcome.

That would apparently include the U.S. Attorney investigating the case.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:43 PM on June 13, 2012


SURELY THIS...
posted by the painkiller at 2:44 PM on June 13, 2012


Can we also indict him for selling his charity's domain name to a link farm?
posted by schmod at 2:44 PM on June 13, 2012 [15 favorites]


I am not! You're just a very naughty boy!
posted by Petrot at 2:45 PM on June 13, 2012


This is the first time I can remember him saying "I did not dope."

While the grand jury was convened, he always said, "I have never tested positive" or "I have been tested hundreds of times." He never denied it. He just deflected it.

And now that the grand jury is done, and, with it, the chance perjuring himself, he can say he never doped and who cares? USADA can't put him in jail.
posted by RakDaddy at 2:49 PM on June 13, 2012 [11 favorites]


Whoa Ironmouth, the US Attorney said he believed that Armstrong never took any performance enhancing drugs? I didn't see that quote anywhere.
posted by jacalata at 2:50 PM on June 13, 2012


The Top Ten Cases Against Lance Armstrong
posted by the painkiller at 2:52 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


PDF of the letter sent to Bruyneel, Armstrong et al.
posted by afx237vi at 2:57 PM on June 13, 2012


What A Dope-Free Tour Would Have Looked Like

(Bicycling Magazine published this list in infographic form last year - maybe someone with better intertubes skills than me can find it. It is memorable.)
posted by the painkiller at 3:00 PM on June 13, 2012


At this point in time I pretty much assume everyone in cycling is doping and some people are just better at avoiding detection for longer periods of time.

Cycling should just say screw it and just forgo testing for non-Olympic events and just try to put the past behind them. Obviously the incentive to cheat is far too much for people to resist.
posted by vuron at 3:09 PM on June 13, 2012


Eddie Merckx never doped, and he was the most badass cyclist ever.
posted by Falconetti at 3:16 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


As someone who doesn't know anything about cycling or follow this stuff in depth, I always read these allegations against Armstrong and think 'Where there's smoke, there's fire.' But then I read how many kajillions of tests the guy's been subjected to over the years, and how nothing ever gets proven and think, surely to god, if he was actually doping, he'd have been caught by now, what with the endless investigations.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:17 PM on June 13, 2012


Cycling should just say screw it and just forgo testing for non-Olympic events and just try to put the past behind them.

And then wait a few years for a couple of dozen cyclists turn up dead in their hotel rooms, as happened in the early 90s when rampant EPO use was introduced to the peloton. Doping is banned in sport because if you do it wrong, you die.
posted by afx237vi at 3:19 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eddie Merckx never doped, and he was the most badass cyclist ever.

Eddie Merckx tested positive 3 times and presumably popped amphetamines like tic tacs.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:19 PM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Eddie Merckx never doped, and he was the most badass cyclist ever.

Erm...
posted by afx237vi at 3:22 PM on June 13, 2012


I just imagined someone saying "I have you now, Armstrong."
posted by eriko at 3:30 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


...after federal prosecutors...

So now we've had federal investigations into Lance Armstrong, baseball players using steroids, and Beyonce getting frisked by the TSA, but not a minute has been wasted on decades of priests molesting children.
posted by Evilspork at 3:51 PM on June 13, 2012 [13 favorites]


I'm conceivably one of my generations greatest clean cyclists, and I can barely make it up to the corner store for another pack of smokes when I'm out. THROW SPONSORSHIP MONEY AT ME CORPORATE AMERICA.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:53 PM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


RJ Reynolds should be right over.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:55 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's beginning to feel about steroids etc. just about like it did during the last year or so that Olympic athletes still had to pretend they were amateurs and never ever ever earned a cent from their sport. They gave up on shamateurism, they'll give up on doping.

Next frontier: everybody knows that guy's cheating, he's way more than 25% cyborg.
posted by jfuller at 3:56 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


But then I read how many kajillions of tests the guy's been subjected to over the years, and how nothing ever gets proven and think, surely to god, if he was actually doping, he'd have been caught by now, what with the endless investigations.

Here's Armstrong's USPS teammate, Tyler Hamilton, describing how they got away with it.
posted by wensink at 3:56 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can someone please explain why charges are just now being brought based on blood samples from 2010 and 2009?
I have no idea what the case is here, but blood samples are kept and the testing and detection methods are constantly improving. So retesting old samples with new methods is absolutely worth doing. This also talks to people saying "but he never tested positive". Sure, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't test positive with modern tests.

For mine I'm happy for them to just let him be, but the circumstantial evidence is strong enough that I'm sure he doped. In particular he comfortably beat guys who we know were doping and he went up climbs with power outputs that have not been matched by any except doped riders.
posted by markr at 4:13 PM on June 13, 2012


Maybe he had to dope to make up for all of the blood he lost to doping tests.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:19 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Part of winning is knowing how to cheat better than everyone else.

It's like some people attended unicorn high school for sparkle gnomes or something...
posted by roboton666 at 4:20 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


afx237vi: "Ironmouth: "Ullrich will soon be one of the all-time greatest Tour riders."

Which, in itself, is hilarious, because we all know how clean that guy was.
"

Which is really an important point. If Armstrong was clean he was clearly one of the greatest athletes that ever lived. If he was dirty, he triumphed on a level playing field.
posted by klanawa at 4:23 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Retroactive stripping of a title is about the most pointless excercise imagineable. Does everyone remember the Fab 5, 2005 USC, 2010 Memphis vs Kansas, etc? Or course. That stuff happened, people were there, millions watched it, hell, they didn't even take down the championship banners out of the rafters.

Will Lance have to forfiet the millions he made on endorsements and be flashy-thinged away all the times he nailed Sheryl Crow Men In Black style? No. Move along, nothing to see here.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:28 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This just in: your favorite messianic figure is a fraud.

He's still a great cyclist in my book. The main issue for me is that if he doped that means he has been lying all these years about it. That bothers me. The other issue is if he doped how much did he dope? For instance, did he dope every year he won the tour or only the first one or last two or some other one[s]?

But, still, winning the tour seven times up against many other riders who [no doubt] used the same enhancements is still an accomplishment. Either way it takes a whole heck of a lot of strength, determination, committment and ability to get through the tour and stay at the top. And if doping helped him then obviously he doped better than everyone else without failing a test - [till now].

It seems to me that if they yank all seven tours from him they need to prove he doped for all seven. I know it doesn't work that way but that's where I stand.
posted by Rashomon at 4:33 PM on June 13, 2012


*Phil Liggett voice*

"And the USADA launches a blistering attack, but Armstrong stays right with them. They are opening up an attache case full of courage here, but it is simply not enough to shake Armstrong. Will he repeat his other acquittals, or will this be the time he finally cracks...

Now Armstrong attacks! And the USADA is trying desperately to stay on his wheel. Armstrong quickly looks over his shoulder and attacks again! He is up out of the saddle and dancing on the pedals! The USADA cannot counter- they simply have no petrol left in the tank, they are absolutely pedaling squares!"
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:42 PM on June 13, 2012 [9 favorites]


Here's Armstrong's USPS teammate, Tyler Hamilton, describing how they got away with it .

Tyler "Genetic Chimera" Hamilton has less credibility than Chemical Ali, and funny enough, if he saw how Armstrong was "getting away with it", why was he caught repeatedly for both EPO doping and outright steroid usage?
posted by eriko at 4:44 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can tell that one of these athletes isn't doping, because they don't win
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94

All I'm saying is that if your tournament was anything like the 93's, that's eponysterical.
posted by ambrosen at 4:58 PM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


meanwhile, HOW MANY CEOs FROM THE BANKING INDUSTRY HAVE GONE TO JAIL FOR THE 2008 CRASH, THE GREAT EXTORTION OF '09? yeah... i thought so :P
posted by liza at 4:59 PM on June 13, 2012


nathancaswell: "federal prosecutors closed a two-year criminal investigation of Armstrong without indicting him... Home run king Barry Bonds was found guilty of obstruction of justice and sentenced in December to 30 days of home detention... Roger Clemens' steroid trial is slated for April 17 after a judge declared a mistrial last summer when prosecutors showed jurors inadmissible evidence.

Who is paying for this meaningless shit?
"

Seriously. If the Tour de France folks or MLB wants to investigate athletes on their own time, with their own money, go for it. But tax money? Christ.

On my list of Really Big Problems, doping in sports is somewhere way down the list, hovering somewhere around really loud TV commercials and why are hot dogs sold in packs of ten but hot dog buns are sold in packs of eight? That tax money is spent on this sideshow is fucking ludicrous, especially when the government is broke beyond all reason. But even if the feds were all in the black, surely there are more pressing issues the Justice Department can be tackling.
posted by zardoz at 5:06 PM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]


Tyler "Genetic Chimera" Hamilton has less credibility than Chemical Ali, and funny enough, if he saw how Armstrong was "getting away with it", why was he caught repeatedly for both EPO doping and outright steroid usage?

You should watch the interview. Hamilton in no way minimizes his own guilt or complicity. [5:01 mark]

Tyler Hamilton: I saw him [Armstrong] inject it [EPO] more than one time.
Scott Pelley: You saw Lance Armstrong inject EPO?
Tyler Hamilton: Yeah...like we all did. Like I did. Many, many times.
posted by wensink at 5:15 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Livewrong.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 5:26 PM on June 13, 2012


According to the coach of a couple (doped) Greek sprinters, 'the only doped athletes are the ones who get caught'. Sports like sprinting, swimming or cycling can be fun to watch, but after so many scandals I consider most athletes to be doped by default.
posted by ersatz at 5:30 PM on June 13, 2012


In my ideal world this allegation would lead to new research into whether performance-enhancing drugs might actually help fight different forms of cancer.

Some crazy world where the answer to "Think of the Children!" isn't to arrest them for partying with Ecstasy, but instead use it to treat returning veterans with PSTD.

Where hallucinogens aren't a schedule I narcotic but instead used to treat real addictions.

But that's all crazy talk. Maybe they have nothing to do with his recovery, but given the relatively good health he's had in the short term, it seems to poke another small hole in the war on drugs.
posted by formless at 5:36 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


You should watch the interview.

I watched it. Hamilton did not seem credible to me, and his minimization is implicit in his claims that everyone was doing it, as well as his willingness now to spill the beans. Which does not mean that I don't think Lance doped, because I do. I just don't trust Hamilton.
posted by OmieWise at 5:55 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


In my ideal world this allegation would lead to new research into whether performance-enhancing drugs might actually help fight different forms of cancer.

Jacking your testosterone levels through the roof, IIRC, would have the opposite effect.
posted by Dark Messiah at 5:56 PM on June 13, 2012


"Blood manipulation"? "Blood transfusions"? What the hell? Am I just uninformed about state-of-the-art doping, or are these new things people are doing?
posted by limeonaire at 6:17 PM on June 13, 2012


Can someone summarize the part of the Hamilton interview where he explains how Armstrong got away with it? YouTube's automatic captions are shit.
posted by desjardins at 6:19 PM on June 13, 2012


LeMond was a beast. We shouldn't forget that. Great athlete, if an over-zealous advocate nowadays. Love that guy.
posted by 3200 at 6:24 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, presumably, if they strip Armstrong of his titles, they need to just as diligently look into all of the people who inherit the titles - just as many tests over just as many years. Then when they prove to have doped, they can check the next tier down, and then the next, and eventually we will find the non-doping winners - presumably the real life analogues of those bikers in The Onion article.

Bikers (and other athletes) dope because the rewards for doing it are great and the downside of not doping is great. Busting Armstrong while he was still competing would have maybe had a deterrent effect (though I doubt it), but busting him now is just spiteful unless they really do try to find a "clean" champion for every title stripped from him. Taking it from one doper just to give it to another is silly.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:27 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Joey Michaels: That's the problem. The whole sport got corrupted over the years, and everyone knows that the doping goes so deep that there would be no clean winners. So the results are sort of legitimate in a strange way, because everyone (or almost everyone) was doping.
posted by 3200 at 6:30 PM on June 13, 2012


In their day, Florence Griffith-Joyner and Marion Jones were their sport's most tested athletes. We all know how that turned out.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:31 PM on June 13, 2012


@desjardins Here's an excerpt from an ESPN piece:

Tyler Hamilton's interview with CBS' "60 Minutes," which he said matches his testimony to a federal grand jury and talks with investigators, is foundational to the prosecution's potential case against Lance Armstrong and others associated with the U.S. Postal Service team.

Hamilton said he saw Armstrong use performance-enhancing drugs, including the banned blood-booster erythropoietin, in 1999 and two subsequent seasons to help prepare for the Tour de France. Lance Armstrong's camp has refuted Hamilton's claims.

There is no doubt Lance Armstrong is an athlete whose persona transcends sports. In light of the Tyler Hamilton interview on "60 Minutes" and new allegations that Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs, "Outside the Lines" discusses the ramifications for Lance if these allegations prove true.

But the show unearthed other information that had never been in the public domain and elaborated on other statements or anecdotes that have already been reported.

Here are some key points:

A revelation that will resonate on both sides of the Atlantic is the report that Italian investigators have evidence that Armstrong's relationship with tainted trainer Michele Ferrari may have continued through Armstrong's two-season comeback (2009-10). Armstrong said he ended their professional arrangement in late 2004 when Ferrari was found guilty of sporting fraud and misuse of his medical license for distributing performance-enhancing drugs to athletes.

The "60 Minutes" report, which did not cite a specific source, said Italian authorities were examining evidence of large financial payments made by Armstrong and his "representatives" to Ferrari as recently as 2010. Obviously, it would take other supporting evidence to prove Ferrari actually advised Armstrong on doping strategies. Police raids in the original investigation of Ferrari turned up detailed training programs for other riders -- including Armstrong's former teammate Kevin Livingston -- with coded symbols that one Italian rider, Filippo Simeoni, testified were related to a doping regimen. (Livingston did not appear at the trial and did not test positive for performance-enhancing drugs during his career.)

Hamilton told "60 Minutes" he worked with Ferrari and admitted the doctor instructed him on how to take EPO. Hamilton also said he heard discussions about doping between Ferrari and Armstrong.

"I can't say I saw Michele Ferrari ever give Lance Armstrong performance-enhancing drugs," Hamilton said. "But, do I know for a fact that they talked about performance-enhancing drugs and how to take it and when and -- when, how and why? Yes."

Ferrari conducted physiological testing on several other U.S. Postal Service riders, as chronicled in the 2005 book "Lance Armstrong's War" by Daniel Coyle. Ferrari's conviction was later reversed on appeal, and one factor in the Italian authorities' cooperation with U.S. officials may be their desire to get another bite of the legal apple.
The vanishing test

Evidence that Armstrong donated large sums of money to the UCI, cycling's governing body, has been public for many years but came under increased scrutiny last year when deposed 2006 Tour de France winner Floyd Landis alleged that Armstrong told him he was able to quash a positive test for EPO during the 2001 Tour of Switzerland by negotiating a payment with the UCI.

Hamilton corroborated that story on "60 Minutes," saying a "relaxed" Armstrong told him the UCI had made the issue "go away." It is not clear whether the initial test, dubbed "suspicious" in Sunday's report, was ever backed up by a test on another sample. However, as World Anti-Doping Agency director general David Howman pointed out on camera, a clear ethical breach occurred when the director of the Swiss lab that conducted the test met with Armstrong and his team manager Johan Bruyneel at the behest of the UCI. That would constitute preferential treatment. Around the time of this alleged meeting, Armstrong donated $25,000 to the UCI. (He contributed $100,000 more to the governing body three years later.)

The show reported that the lab director said in an affidavit the meeting included a discussion of testing procedures that would have been useful for someone seeking to beat the test. If all the moving pieces in this story are connected, it will give credence to the theory that Armstrong and his organization were protected by the UCI in exchange for a quid pro quo. Bribing foreign officials is against U.S. law.

Blood doping, the practice of extracting and retransfusing blood to improve oxygen processing, largely went out of vogue in the 1990s when an easier method came along -- namely, injecting EPO. But in the months leading up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, various media reports indicated a reliable test for EPO was on the verge of being introduced by anti-doping authorities. (The test was used selectively in Sydney but was far less sensitive and sophisticated than today's version.)

That sea change is thought to have prompted athletes to return to the then-undetectable, if messier, method of transfusions. Hamilton's depiction of transfusions before and during the 2000 Tour de France could be a prime example of that trend. In his account to "60 Minutes," he and Armstrong and another unnamed teammate flew to Valencia, Spain, on a private jet and had about a pint of blood extracted in a hotel room. Blood was reinfused about halfway through the race. Hamilton said he did not personally witness Armstrong's extraction but did see the reinfusion.

[snip]

posted by wensink at 6:47 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I used to talk pretty regularly with a guy who had ridden with Armstrong on the old USPS team. He said that back then, "he was just another one of the guys on the team" and was not a particularly standout performer. Yeah.
posted by wuwei at 7:03 PM on June 13, 2012


How do you get set up to Dope. Is it as simple as taking blood, spinning out the red blood cells and injecting them? I'd like to give it a shot and see if it helps with late night coding and marathon team fortress session.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:05 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd like to give it a shot and see if it helps with late night coding and marathon team fortress session.

If you need a cardio boost to get through that, I'd see a doctor if you're not already dead. ;)
posted by Dark Messiah at 7:09 PM on June 13, 2012


I've always thought Betsy Andreu was the most credible witness to testify against Armstrong. She's never changed her story and doesn't have an axe to grind IMO.

Armstrong is guilty and everyone knows it but cycling's omertà has kept anyone from testifying against him until Novitsky started subpoenaing all of his former teammates. If you've got an hour google "Lance Armstrong and LA confidential." It's an eye opener.
posted by photoslob at 7:15 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, wikipedia says they do it for special forces to increase alertness.

Gotta compete with all the young guys and their adderall. Back in my day we only had coffee and red bull.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:16 PM on June 13, 2012


I'm taking it the other way and using performance dehancing drugs. Why even as I write this comment I blurgle blurp jaahf;vuios;
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:20 PM on June 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


I used to talk pretty regularly with a guy who had ridden with Armstrong on the old USPS team. He said that back then, "he was just another one of the guys on the team" and was not a particularly standout performer. Yeah.

What? He joined US Postal in 1998 and won his first tour the next season. If your friend is talking about the old Motorola team, Armstrong was world champion in 1993 at a pretty young age, and also won a tour stage around that time if I recall correctly.

This is separate from these doping allegations, which I view as damning, but I don't think it's true that he was always just a regular rider, performance-wise. Indeed that's one of his defenses.
posted by chinston at 7:22 PM on June 13, 2012


He's still a great cyclist in my book. The main issue for me is that if he doped that means he has been lying all these years about it. That bothers me. The other issue is if he doped how much did he dope? For instance, did he dope every year he won the tour or only the first one or last two or some other one[s]?

I agree, it's the lying and the wink, wink nature of it.
posted by gjc at 7:22 PM on June 13, 2012


limeonaire writes "'Blood manipulation'? 'Blood transfusions'? What the hell? Am I just uninformed about state-of-the-art doping, or are these new things people are doing?"

The athletes own blood is harvested months prior to the race; the red blood cells are concentrated and frozen. Then prior to the event the concentrated RBC are thawed out and transfused into the athlete. This increases the oxygen transport ability of the blood and is essentially undetectable. The only testing metric is RBC%.
posted by Mitheral at 7:24 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Jan Ulrich: "Whoever still can't put one and one together about what happened in cycling is beyond my help."

I'm always astonished at the number of people in lay circles who "want to believe". But, you know, If Der Kaiser can't help them, I sure can't.
posted by Chuckles at 7:30 PM on June 13, 2012


I'm taking it the other way and using performance dehancing drugs.

I believe that's called pot.
posted by desjardins at 7:33 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


This image says it all.
posted by photoslob at 7:37 PM on June 13, 2012 [7 favorites]


"Blood manipulation"? "Blood transfusions"? What the hell? Am I just uninformed about state-of-the-art doping, or are these new things people are doing?

Before about 2000 athletes just took a bunch of EPO. Once testing for EPO was brought in athletes started doing blood transfusions. When you have a transfusion your body starts developing less new red blood cells, and they can detect that you don't have enough of the new cells as a percentage of your total amount of red blood cells, so limits were introduced on whatever it is you measure to show this.

Luckily, EPO creates a bunch of new red blood cells so now they have blood transfusions and then take tiny amounts of EPO to boost up the number of new cells to "normal" levels. The EPO amounts are too small to be detected directly and the combination keeps the balance of new to old cells right.

In pro cycling they now monitor various blood counts over time to look for patterns of artificial manipulation.
posted by markr at 7:39 PM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]



In their day, Florence Griffith-Joyner and Marion Jones were their sport's most tested athletes. We all know how that turned out.


Not for as long or to the extent that Armstrong was.

Quite honestly, I would not be super-shocked if proof did come up that Armstrong doped, and a little part of me almost, almost hopes that it does, just to get this over with. But so far I'm seeing a lot of very sketchy, often-circumstantial evidence, much of it testimony from former competitors and now-admitted dopers who tend to lack credibility for that reason and have a powerful motive for lying: not only did Lance "get away with it" (they may have convinced themselves that he did, whether or not they actually witnessed it), but he's literally about the only cyclist that the general American public even knows about. Yes, even counting LeMond, who may have been a household name (or close to it) during his own TdF heyday, but that was a while ago now.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:45 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I get that it is vanishingly unlikely that he managed to stay clean and beat dopers, but wasn't part of the myth of Lance Armstrong that his heart was %30 bigger than a normal human heart, that he was some sort of genetic freak suited to endurance sports? What happened to that?
posted by Ad hominem at 7:52 PM on June 13, 2012


Ah, found what I was looking for here and here is a two part article on some current approaches to detecting this sort of thing. The stand out for me is this graph which shows a percentage of tested samples with extreme reticulocyte percentages. You can clearly see the change from EPO use to transfusions to something else.
posted by markr at 7:53 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Halloween Jack: Not for as long or to the extent that Armstrong was. [snip] proof [snip] sketchy [snip] circumstantial

You just aren't looking. You've been in these threads often enough that it would behove you to educate yourself. Start with the wiki on the Simeoni incident.
Afterwards, Armstrong made a "zip-the-lips" gesture
posted by Chuckles at 7:54 PM on June 13, 2012


Halloween Jack: “But so far I'm seeing a lot of very sketchy, often-circumstantial evidence, much of it testimony from former competitors and now-admitted dopers who tend to lack credibility for that reason and have a powerful motive for lying...”

This argument always makes very little sense to me. "Mr Capone is clearly innocent; all of the former Mafiosi he's surrounded himself with for decades have been discredited as criminals, so they must certainly be lying!" If all those people who were his teammates are lying dopers, well, isn't it kind of miraculous that Lance was completely surrounded by people known to have been using EPO for many years and not only kept himself pure but also didn't say a word about them and didn't distance himself from them?
posted by koeselitz at 7:56 PM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


What happened to that?

You are living in a world of false dichotomies. Armstrong was/is a great cyclist with exceptional physical, strategic and political abilities. It is overwhelmingly likely that he also doped to the fullest extent possible throughout his entire career. Those things aren't inconsistent at all.

This unsurprising consistency (they are physically exceptional AND they dope) is also true of almost all pro athletes--think Tennis, Baseball, Football, the other Football, and surely all the others except maybe Golf--and most Olympic athletes. The false dichotomies go deeper though.. Therapeutic use exemptions make all kinds of "doping" completely "legal" for some athletes--most endurance athletes, when it comes to asthma meds, for example.

Learn to embrace ambiguity and get on with your life :)
posted by Chuckles at 8:02 PM on June 13, 2012


Quite honestly, I would not be super-shocked if proof did come up that Armstrong doped, and a little part of me almost, almost hopes that it does, just to get this over with.

I more or less come down on the side that we should test for doping and PEDs generally, but the effect on the ground is that no athlete is ever innocent and everyone is suspect. You can't prove that any athlete hasn't doped. You can prove that they did, or they can be in the position Armstrong was in for years- never failed a test, but that's it. I don't know what the solution is, but I think the current testing culture, of constant suspicion with no way for an athlete to conclusively prove their innocence, with no statute of limitations on accusations or retests, is absolutely poisonous for sports.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:07 PM on June 13, 2012


Halloween Jack: much of it testimony from former competitors and now-admitted dopers who tend to lack credibility

Maybe, but there is also this (from "The Vanishing Test" section of the 2011 ESPN article wensink linked above) about a 60 Minutes story:

...as World Anti-Doping Agency director general David Howman pointed out on camera, a clear ethical breach occurred when the director of the Swiss lab that conducted the test met with Armstrong and his team manager Johan Bruyneel at the behest of the UCI. That would constitute preferential treatment. Around the time of this alleged meeting, Armstrong donated $25,000 to the UCI. (He contributed $100,000 more to the governing body three years later.)

The show reported that the lab director said in an affidavit the meeting included a discussion of testing procedures that would have been useful for someone seeking to beat the test. If all the moving pieces in this story are connected, it will give credence to the theory that Armstrong and his organization were protected by the UCI in exchange for a quid pro quo. Bribing foreign officials is against U.S. law.

posted by mediareport at 8:08 PM on June 13, 2012


If you don't have any kind of evidence tying Mr. Capone to the crimes he's accused of, and you're going just on the word of people who have an incentive to finger somebody, then yeah, I'd be kind of doubtful.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:08 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


wuwei: "I used to talk pretty regularly with a guy who had ridden with Armstrong on the old USPS team. He said that back then, "he was just another one of the guys on the team" and was not a particularly standout performer. Yeah."

At 16, Armstrong was a kick-ass triathlete. None of this doping stuff has anything to do with whether or not he's an astonishing athlete. He is, and anyone who says otherwise has no idea what they're talking about or has an axe to grind.
posted by klanawa at 8:21 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh man, if conclusive evidence shows up that he's doping, public interest in competitive cycling is going to absolutely die in the US. It's already seen as one of the most crooked sports in existence, where every single competitor is probably on something or other, and the drugs are particularly nasty and sometimes lethal. But he was supposed to be the standout... the one guy who was clean. If he's not, then that pretty much makes pro cycling entirely doper vs. doper, and who really cares about it then? You're basically comparing drug cocktails at that point.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:43 PM on June 13, 2012


The crazy thing about a lot of this is that even without doping, in a worst likely case scenario, Armstrong would have been one hell of a rider. If you assume (as it sounds like most people do) that most if not all of the top riders are doping in some way, removal of doping from the field probably leaves it looking a lot like it does on the books now. Sure, some guys would have gotten knocked out of the running, unable to recover quickly as they could with doping, but on the average, the sinking tide would have lowered all boats.

So the doping is a little crazy, sure. But crazier is the fuss over it. But then, I don't get wrapped up in sports; I'm just amazed at what these guys can do, doping or no doping.
posted by lodurr at 8:48 PM on June 13, 2012


lodurr: Sure, some guys would have gotten knocked out of the running, unable to recover quickly as they could with doping, but on the average, the sinking tide would have lowered all boats.

Well, the problem is, not every single person was probably doping to the same extent, and there were probably a few clean people. If 90% of the top people are doping and everyone stops doping, what happens? Everyone goes down... except the 10% of honest people. They stay the same and start to smoke everyone.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:52 PM on June 13, 2012


I stand by my comment from 2007: "Everyone who stood on the podium [] with Armstrong was busted, eventually. Doping in cycling gives a massive advantage so that no clean racer could compete with someone doped to the gills. Either surviving cancer turned Armstrong into a superhuman, or through skill and care he managed to avoid getting busted as a doper, which would not be difficult."

Regarding my last point, if I recall correctly, at the time Armstrong was competing the "test" for EPO was just a hematocrit test. (EPO is a naturally occurring hormone that stimulates red blood cell production.) Anyone doping with EPO who had an ounce of sense would simply dope enough to reach the legal limit for hematocrit.
posted by exogenous at 9:03 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


What's next are we going to exhume Babe Ruth?

We already know about his performance-enchacing whiskey and hot dogs.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:04 PM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


They stay the same and start to smoke everyone.

Not necessarily the case. Doping isn't a substitute for athletic ability. If everyone was clean, it would be a more level playing field, but that doesn't necessarily mean that all the non-dopers would suddenly be winning everything - just that their chanes would improve.

I am not arguing that Armstrong was clean (the circumstantial evidence is pretty hard to ignore) but it seems phyrric to go after him now that he has retired. Clean house with the current competitors. Going after Armstrong might generate headlines, but how does it help solve the problem of bikes doping right now?

"I might get caught like Armstrong, but by then I will be retired and have a bunch of wins, so I had better keep doing it because right now everyone else is."
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:10 PM on June 13, 2012


Cycling is probably the cleanest sport going at this point. Baseball, Football and the other Football, and Tennis are all certainly much much worse. Hockey and the NBA are probably worse too, but they aren't discussed as much.
posted by Chuckles at 9:14 PM on June 13, 2012


Regarding my last point, if I recall correctly, at the time Armstrong was competing the "test" for EPO was just a hematocrit test. (EPO is a naturally occurring hormone that stimulates red blood cell production.) Anyone doping with EPO who had an ounce of sense would simply dope enough to reach the legal limit for hematocrit.

Pretty much. The urine test for EPO came in in 2002 or so. Before that there was a hematocrit level beyond which you were suspended for a few weeks for "health reasons" since they couldn't actually prove you were doing anything wrong.
posted by markr at 9:34 PM on June 13, 2012


Here is a great, if very long, series of articles on EPO and cycling in the nineties, and beyond. Includes a detailed look into the 50% Heamatocrit threshold, the the development of a test for EPO, and so on, and so on..
posted by Chuckles at 10:21 PM on June 13, 2012


Well I wonder if he'll eat Crow over this?
posted by schyler523 at 11:12 PM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]


Drugs just keep on winning.
posted by telstar at 11:39 PM on June 13, 2012


What? Armstrong doping? You'll be telling me that Mel Gibson likes the odd drink next.
posted by Decani at 1:47 AM on June 14, 2012


I think that Armstrong is an exceptional athlete and probably an exceptional liar. If they conclude he doped will they strip him of his titles? So what does that mean? Will they then, retroactively, give the title to the guy who came in second, and probably also doped? And then his title gets stripped.....and so on...... until the guy who ultimately is declared the winner is the guy who came in last because he was the guy who never doped?
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 4:30 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was said previously upthread, but read what Betsy Andreau had to say in testimony. What axe does she have to grind again?

A USADA ban means he can't compete in tri. He was scheduled to race June 24 in France, that's off. Network TV planned incresed coverage of Ironman Hawaii where he was a favorite.

Ultimately I have to agree with ms. fixedgear who says that Armstrong increased the net level of good in the world so he gets a pass. His good deeds outweigh the bad stuff.
posted by fixedgear at 5:14 AM on June 14, 2012


I'm not keen on moral calculus, but I do think it's a symptom of a broken ethos when all the fans & administrators in a crooked system suddenly become Inspector Renault.
posted by lodurr at 5:46 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah. I have my (slender) doubts, purely because winning the Tour that many times in a row is a thing that really shouldn't happen. Particularly given that he's beaten proven drug cheats to win some proportion of those. But hey, let's wait to something actually sticks before we declare him guilty, or do you just want to be an angry mob? Maybe he is just is a really gifted athlete with a really good team behind him? Impossible surely!

And the ex-teamates that have been caught aren't just bitter they weren't the top dog? A domestiques job is a hard lot - all guts and absolutely no glory. At best some shared glory after peddling your guts out for three weeks.

A lot of people do want to tear him down for some reason, whether it's over doping, or his charity work, being successful, or even just because he's married to Sheryl Crow. In Australia we call this the Tall Poppy Syndrome.

But where is the actual evidence? Not hearsay. Not he said she said. Not "what about that time he looked at the camera funny". Not even "they were all doing it at that time." Evidence. Stuff that proves stuff.

Plenty of people from that era have been caught. But the answer always seems to be that he just cheated better. He beat his rivals and even if he was doping they were all too apparently. And he still beat them.

It's summer up in the north. How about you go outside and get over your cynicism? I find that cycling is both relaxing and rewarding. Or listen to some music why not.

And I don't even like the guy!
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:15 AM on June 14, 2012


I've been giving him the benefit of the doubt for years, but any more I'm not so sure. If a charge sticks this time around I'll probably be more offended that he has claimed for years to ride a clean race. I can accept that pro tour cyclists need an edge and I suspect some of the banned substances are safe and helpful in reasonable quantities. Doping doesn't ire me as much as the brazen lying about it does.
posted by dgran at 7:45 AM on June 14, 2012


Afterwards, Armstrong made a "zip-the-lips" gesture

Well, shit, just throw the guy off the top of L'Alpe d'Huez already; clearly, that had nothing to do with his ongoing legal dispute with Simeoni. That, in fact, is exactly what I mean, by "circumstantial"; Armstrong is very well known for being combative (and, occasionally, a bit of a dick). But, no, it must be "omerta."

read what Betsy Andreau had to say in testimony. What axe does she have to grind again?

Probably pushback against some of the criticism that she's gotten for putting a lot of weight behind an off-hand remark that Lance made while he was in the hospital being treated for cancer. If you read the interview linked above, not only is it pretty damn ax-grindy, but she also seems to think that she's got the smoking gun that Jeff Novitsky was looking for in the form of the voice mail that she got from some lady, although, as subsequent events have proven, not so much.

Either surviving cancer turned Armstrong into a superhuman

Well, what if he kind of is? What if he's way out on the front end of the bell curve, and the accusations from other cyclists are attempts at vindication from people who doped in an attempt to catch up to him, failed, were caught, and are a bit bitter because of that? Hello, I'm David McGahan above sums it up admirably.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:03 AM on June 14, 2012


People should check out the documentary Bigger, Faster, Stronger about steroids and sports.

EVERY professional sport where the winners take home a big fat paycheck is riddled with drugs and steroids, period, end of discussion. I honestly think that anyone who disagrees with that is delusional.

I'm shocked, SHOCKED to hear that Armstrong was dirty in a dirty, drug-riddled sport. Do people REALLY think he got cancer and THEN started winning the most grueling bike race out there AGAINST OTHER RACERS WHO WERE DOPING? Because that racer in the 19th position, the one who can see that fat paycheck and Michelob Ultra commercial endorsement juuuuust out of reach...

That cat has BALCO's replacement in his speed-dial.

Srsly, watch the Tyler Hamilton interview (summary). He testified under oath before Congress about Armstrong (and his own) doping, how it was an institutional part of the culture where they trained. The elite racers all got a brown bag at lunch from their trainers with their particular drug cocktail. Getting brown bag full of pills at lunch meant the team through you were talented enough to spend drugs on.

They were racing for USPS at the time, and they all signed "no doping" agreements w/ the Federal Gummint. Losing his titles could be the least of Armstrong's problems.

I wanna see Armstrong taken down if only because he spent so much fucking camera time vehemently denying it, saying "Where's the proof?", sweating indignation at his honor being questioned. That, and bribing his way out of failing that Swiss doping test.

Methinks the racer doth protest too much.

B,F,S is a movie about 3 brothers who grow up watching Hulk Hogan, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and all these muscle-bound 80s action heroes who talked about clean living, hard work, and dedication. And when your childhood hero who always denied taking steroids testifies in court that he took steroids, it crushes your dream and makes you reconsider what you believed in when you were younger and believed lies.

I predict a lotta people taking a pair of scissors and clipping off their yellow wristbands in disgust and disappointment when they realize how they were lied to. Hypocrisy is one of the last sins in America.

Live Strong Juiced.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:23 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Halloween Jack: “Well, what if he kind of is? What if he's way out on the front end of the bell curve, and the accusations from other cyclists are attempts at vindication from people who doped in an attempt to catch up to him, failed, were caught, and are a bit bitter because of that? Hello, I'm David McGahan above sums it up admirably.”

That would make some sense if Lance Armstrong were not a sketchy jerk who paid huge sums of money to testing bodies. But, you say – maybe he just believes in the testing regime, and thinks it's fantastic! And more than that – people seem to want to believe that Lance Armstrong is just a victim of some kind, but he's been in and out of trouble for this for many, many years, most of which has clearly been of his own making. The fact that nothing has stuck is down to the huge sums of money at his disposal and his brilliantly cynical "Livestrong" PR campaign to make himself look like a saint. Meanwhile, he's been suing the crap out of anybody who even breathes a bad word about him and not shying away from threats and intimidation along the way.

Seriously, if you see a guy who just got pulled over handing a few thousand dollars to a cop and then driving away free, do you really say "well, he must not have done anything wrong then – they haven't arrested him or ticketed him or anything!" No. This situation doesn't make sense.
posted by koeselitz at 8:32 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


> blood samples are kept and the testing and detection methods are constantly improving.

But the samples themselves are deteriorating. It's entirely possible that one or more of the unpredictable breakdown products in an old sample might trigger a false positive in increasingly sensitive tests. I suppose and hope they try to control for this, bit I don't think it's possible to control for it enough.
posted by jfuller at 8:52 AM on June 14, 2012


I thought we had seen this movie already.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:23 AM on June 14, 2012


In pro cycling they now monitor various blood counts over time to look for patterns of artificial manipulation.


Where do they get the "normal" blood of elite athletes at the very peak of their training for comparison?
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:30 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


What A Dope-Free Tour Would Have Looked Like, infographic style (via)
posted by the painkiller at 6:59 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Eddie Merckx never doped, and he was the most badass cyclist ever.

I posted this awhile ago and just came back to the thread to see how stupidly wrong I was. I must have been doped when I made this claim.
posted by Falconetti at 7:33 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


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