Bike Pure’s semi-religious (and not in a good way) zealotry

By nature, advocates – both individuals and organizations – have a belief they are undoubtedly sure is unquestionably true, morally justified and they are passionate in its defense.   Generally, that is a good thing.  The world needs advocates on many levels to stand up and make the world a better place.  However, advocacy does have its perils and limitations. The slippery slope for advocates comes when they go from be a defender of their faith to believing they represent judge, jury and executioner.  I deliberately use the word faith to elicit the comparison to religion; any religion can look back on history and see some significant point where that line was crossed by those who believed they were ordained to carry out extremism.

To ensure there is no confusion on my stance in regards to doping and cycling, let me state unequivocally for the record – I want cycling (or any sport) to be clean and if there are rules regarding banned substances, those rules need to be adhered to and appropriate punishments should occur for those caught breaking said rules.  I believe cycling has a long-standing culture of both doping and Omerta that activism is required in order for that culture to change.  Hence the reason an organization like Bike Pure is good in concept to help change the culture of the sport.

However, Bike Pure is an advocate.  Advocates require public opinion on their side.  Unfortunately, cycling’s court of public opinion sometimes has as significant of a voice as the actual authorities; that court is cynical and believes in guilt first.

Myles McCorry of Bike Pure has crossed that line and started down the slippery slope.  At this point, he seems to have anointed himself as cycling’s doping priest, charged by a higher power to condemn, charge with sin and deliver salvation.  Anybody who has been reading my blog knows I believe in Tom Zirbel being a person of high moral character and innocent of deliberately taking synthetic DHEA.  (If you want the litany of reason and logic behind my belief, please read my past posts.)  All parties acknowledge Tom has tested positive for DHEA.  Tom “broke the story” himself.  He’s not denying what happened, he is denying the knowledge and intention.  But Myles doesn’t see it that way.

To quote Myles on his post left on Tom Zirbel’s personal blog, “If when reality bites and you want to come clean, please contact BikePure.org and we will give you a fair ear. Please show respect to your fellow athletes, and begin the repair.” Following the rules of logic, the only conclusion Myles has reached is that Tom is a liar and cheat in his eyes.  Myles has sugar-coated it; advocates don’t garner positive PR via public venom.  Myles (as well as many others) also states “All pros and most amateur cyclists take their training/ food/supplements seriously and know exactly, or find out the contents or everything entering their body.”  Myles also does a spectacular job of quoting the science (whether overstated or not) that makes his argument look better.  In his article on bikepure.org, Myles quotes an industry leader saying DHEA was the “superhormone” when it was released.  Last I checked, any time a new product is released, it generally is the greatest thing ever or a more affordable, advanced second.  Further in the article, it states that the New York Academy of Sciences carried out the “most in depth study” on DHEA.

While visuals are difficult via the web-printed word…I’m now the guy in the back of the room raising my hand and clearing my throat; I’d now like the other side to be heard.

“Athletes have to know what’s going into their body” Yes, they do – within reason. They cannot know everything – it is theoretically impossible.  Argue with me otherwise and then I’ll be forced to go to the ridiculous lengths of explaining every step of the way where contamination of any kind could take place.  To quote the opposing science, there is almost no real QA/QC to ensure any supplement isn’t at risk.  Organizations such as NSF and HFL have shown the need for supplement testing/certification and the current problem of contamination of steroids and prohormones.

Shown below are a number of quotes from the paper titled “Supplements and Banned Substance Contamination: Offering an Informed Choice” written by Drs. David Hall and Catherine Judkins, there is a problem in that “athletes have to know” equation.  (I love it when others do the much more educated writing for me”

“It is clear that all forms of supplementation should be considered as a potential source of a positive drugs test for elite athletes, as a direct result of inadvertent contamination…”

“It is neither possible nor appropriate to test supplements for “everything on the WADA Prohibited List.”

“Also, the most likely source of contamination is from materials inadvertently introduced by the raw material supplier or in manufacture.”

“Those compounds most likely…for example DHEA which is still available over the counter in the US.”

“Research has shown that steroids and stimulants banned by WADA have been found as contaminants within some supplement products.”

“WADA advise elite athletes that they should not take supplements – recommending…a balanced diet will provide…necessary nutrition”

“WADA has effectively banned WADA-accredited labs from offering….effective quality control….to avoid inadvertent contamination”

Additionally, both the IOC/WADA and independent testing bodies have done significant testing that shows how significant the contamination problem is.  For those reading, the information listed below would be the wow factor, punch line, climax…

The IOC/WADA lab in Cologne investigated contamination and purchased 634 standard retail products in 13 different countries – 15% were contaminated with steroids/pro-hormones, 20% of those purchased in the US. (International Journal of Sports Medicine 2004)

HFL tested 58 supplements purchased through standard retail in the USA in 2007 – 25% contained low levels of steroid contamination and 11% contaminated with stimulants.   DHEA was the most common (showed all positives) of the contaminants.  In an HFL Case Study – a major US manufacturer that produced DHEA product alongside other products and wanted to investigate cross contamination.  Every sample, including the men’s room tap water was positive for DHEA.

All acknowledge that DHEA is a legal supplement in the US and those who don’t think incidental contamination from raw materials, manufacturing facilities or other processes is possible is absolutely ignoring the science that doesn’t agree with their standpoint.

I don’t want to go too deep into the science for two reasons. 1) I’m not a scientist. I’m a writer and acknowledge my lack of expertise and 2) DHEA is a naturally occurring substance that does great things naturally within your body.  Unfortunately, those naturally occurring processes many times get ascribed to the supplement…I don’t want to muddy those waters further.  As far as the argument of synthetic, OTC purchased DHEA supplement’s perceived benefits – by this point, it has been clinically proven that there are about none.  It was actually semi-painful to read how far McCorry had to stretch to make some sort of performance-enhancing argument.  It ended up reading like “Tom cheated because he might not have caught a cold because of DHEA.”

However, the Mayo Clinic is pretty good at that science and medicine stuff…to quote from Mayo’s website “a 2006 Mayo Clinic study examined use of DHEA supplements in older adults over two years and found no anti-aging benefits. While DHEA levels went up to the same levels found in younger people in the study participants who took DHEA supplements, there were no differences between those who took DHEA and those who didn’t in body composition, physical performance, insulin sensitivity or quality of life.”

Given all my arguments above, I’ll restate that Bike Pure has an honorable intention, cycling has a long-standing cultural doping problem and I emphatically agree that cycling needs to be a clean sport.  I disagree when advocates, such as I believe Myles McCorry has done in this instance, cross over to blind zealotry.   I’ll step down from my soapbox and wait for the barrage of name-calling and nasty emails.


5 Responses to “Bike Pure’s semi-religious (and not in a good way) zealotry”

  1. 1 CB
    February 3, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Good post – unfortunately, I think the semi-religious fervor of Myles is shared by WADA. And, that is not a good thing for those who have unknowingly taken a contaminated substance.

  2. 2 Carl Keenan
    February 13, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Christ- why attack a good thing? I left cycling for 4 years and came back 3 years ago with the garmin initiatives and bikepure. it is easy to berate , but something needs to be done to save our sport!

    Are we supposed to support the dopers?
    A united, no tolerance front is the future (I think)

    I visited the site and will join BikePure. Although not perfect, what are cycling’s options?


    • 3 jmernst
      February 13, 2010 at 6:06 pm

      Carl –

      As I mentioned in my post, I agree that cycling’s culture needs to change and I agree that Bike Pure has a good mission. It is a sport that I’m equally passionate about and believe it is/was still on the verge of collapse due to the problem of doping.

      Where my issues lie are in 3 places:
      1) the cynical, presumption of guilt both of act AND intent. If you read Myles statement that he left on Tom Zirbel’s personal blog, he basically tells Tom he’s lying about knowingly taking a substance that, while banned, isn’t beneficial to cycling performance. He doesn’t know Tom or did he see Tom down some DHEA capsules, so telling him to ‘come clean’ when Tom has been more proactive and open with the public and media regarding accepting that something happened, but he didn’t knowingly do it is where I find Myles McCorry’s judge and jury approach off-putting.
      2) The supplement industry is a widely unregulated ticking time bomb. DHEA contaminates roughly 1 in 4 to 1 in 5 supplements. There is a legitimate alternative explanation. I’d like to write a book – take 50 amateur cyclists – Cat 1 to Cat 5, have them do a detailed tracking of everything that goes into their body and see how many come up positive for something they didn’t expect. I would bet an adult beverage or two that the number would not be zero.
      3) The system is still broken. I’m oversimplifying here, but some guy takes a puff off an asthma inhaler because of poorly timed seasonal allergies without the proper paperwork…he can get the same 2 year suspension as a guy doped to the gills on CERA.

      I’m not against Bike Pure or their mission. The sport still needs to change and have a system that is fair and stays ahead of the dopers. I’m just against unjustified evangalism in an unperfect system.

  3. 4 Carl Keenan
    February 14, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    thanks for addressing my points. refreshing to see a blog thats alive. Does mc corry’s opinion not follow the moral high ground? Emailed him and copied the page address, as discussion is (i think) how solutions are discovered.

    Yes, no one can be sure Tom took something, or mistakingly injested the banned product. BUT we have to trust the testers. BikePure only seem to comment on WADA results.

    Or is the real question should we trust the testers and labs (ie the result?)

  4. 5 myles mc corry
    February 15, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Thanks for the heads up Carl and love the passion ciclirati!

    (I had to look up ‘zealot’-
    : – A fanatically committed person.) GUILTY- but not blindly

    Ciclirati you are not alone in defending Tom, we have had a lot of feedback mostly in support of him.
    Firstly, please separate my opinion for the BikePure ethos, as I write here on a personal level, since I was mentioned individually above.

    Cycling a sport that has engulfed my life, racing, employment and socially- it been VERY good to me and as such I am protective of it.

    My antidoping stance carries, regardless of how nice a guy Tom is. If he is guilty of taking a banned substance, and it has been identified as a possible avenue of cheating – then each athlete shall, on fear of sanction avoid the substance. If it were cheese- he should avoid it.

    My reaction is never driven by rumor, only by a governing bodies adverse analytical finding.
    DHEA is a hormone, it is unproven- but it is banned.

    Cycling has been nearly destroyed by drugs. There is no black and white, support and promote the clean riders, use them as role models for kids to look up to. To the dopers- vilification: – the threat of public outrage and humiliation- in the hope that this will encourage the decision not to dope for future champions.

    If a good thing can arise out of Tom’s miserable situation is the call for DHEA to be re-examined. I did initially contacted UKAD and WADA Both replied similar:

    Thank you for your enquiry. Which website information is conflicting in regards to the homogony?

    Globally DHEA is prohibited in sport


    If Tom is innocent, he will be given a fair hearing and I hope justice will be done.

    What the incident has done for Bike Pure, is our ambassadors/members now wish the organisation to move from generic Lifebans to ‘Appropriate sanction ‘ We all agree that the sanctions must be stiffer to provide an increased deterrent, But across the board, prescribed periods of ineligibility be listed to allow for accidental injection and to eliminate dirty coaches and doctors form our sport for good. Sentence to meet the crime.
    We will be putting an outline to the BP members and the public next week for an attempt to evolve the current system and move cyclesport a step closer to the safer environment our wonderful sport can be.

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