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Colombian climber has undergone 10-week assessment on effect of being born and raised at altitude

Team Sky have confirmed that Colombian climber Sergio Henao, taken off its racing roster in March while tests were conducted into the effect of his being born and raised at altitide will be back racing at the weekend in the Tour de Suisse – raising the prospect he could ride in the Tour de France.

The 26-year-old, who finished ninth overall in the 2012 Giro d’Italia, has been undergoing an independent testing programme over the past 10 weeks due to concerns over values registered in WADA-accredited tests while he was in Colombia during the close season.

On its website, Team Sky said that the independent tests, carried out by a team from the University of Sheffield assisted by the Colombian anti-doping authorities, had “given the highest level of confidence in Sergio’s previous data and profiles, and offers valuable new insights into the physiology of ‘altitude natives’ such as Colombian climbers.”

The testing programme began in France on 31 March, with Henoa moving to Colombia a fortnight later for a further six-week block of testing, returning to Nice for a week of base level testing in late May and early June.

Sky says that the results of the tests have been given to WADA, the UCI and the CADF, and that details of urine tests are in Henao’s biological passport. It adds that the team who conducted the tests plan to publish a full scientific research paper about the exercise.

Team principal Sir Dave Brailsford, who has said he will wait until after the Tour de Suisse to decide on Sky’s line-up for the Tour de France, said: “By taking this structured, scientific approach, we’ve gained a better understanding of his readings and specific physiology and valuable insights into the effects of altitude.

“We’re very pleased to welcome Sergio back to racing and are looking forward to having him at the Tour de Suisse.

“Our approach has been fair to both the rider and the team, and whilst it was our decision to take him out of racing, it is also ours that he returns with our full backing.

“He’s done everything that’s been asked of him, kept his focus and fully deserves to be racing,” Brailsford added.

In April, Henao said that he hoped to make his Tour de France debut this year. “It’s what both I and the team hope for,” he said. “Hopefully I can be in the best condition to make my case to be named in Sky’s line-up. We’ll see about that in the Tour de Suisse, but I am absolutely sure that I’ll be at a high level since I’m living every day with the hope of riding the Tour [de France].

Team Sky employee Oli Cookson, son of UCI president Brian and a fluent Spanish speaker, was in Colombia with Henao, who said that among other things, he would be assisting him with securing a UK visa for the Grand Départ of the Tour de France.

That's a signal that he has at least a good chance of being named in the nine-man line-up, which has been the subject of intense speculation in recent days after Sir Bradley Wiggins said on Friday that barring injury to Chris Froome, he wouldn't be taking part, while Brailsford has insisted no decision has yet been made on the team.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

39 comments

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 2 years ago
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So he was pulled from racing without much of an explanation, now he's back, without much of one either....

I dare say Sky are not going to put him in the TdF team, look at the hassle Froome using an inhaler caused  24

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AWPeleton [3293 posts] 2 years ago
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Ah Gkam, yee of little faith  3

He's passed eveything they could throw at him with flying colours. It will be fine if they put him in the team cos he's not english and wont be treat like shite by english fans...as is the norm in this country when we have someone who does well  14

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RobD [289 posts] 2 years ago
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Well if the results are going to be published as stated then this would be pretty interesting, from a general scientific point of view as well as a sporting one. It does sound like he's been through some pretty stringent testing, and he clearly must have passed this to a pretty acceptable level before sky would put him back into racing. It'll be interesting to see how well he goes.

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nicholassmith [92 posts] 2 years ago
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Sounds mostly like Sky didn't want a potential 'omg his values are out', despite WADA already saying they weren't bothered and they were curious. It's interesting that the University team will get to publish on it, should make an interesting read to those in biology and biomechanics (i.e., not me ;))

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giobox [356 posts] 2 years ago
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It'll be interesting to see the research. It will need to be pretty stringent, otherwise it risks giving the perception Sky have been judge and jury in their own case, not unlike the 'independent' environmental research one sees the big oil companies engage in.

Having Oli Cookson involved doesn't exactly help in the perception stakes either (note I am not of the opinion this is indicative of any wrong doing/corruption), but it does hand more ammunition to Sky's critics.

For a company sponsored by one of the biggest media firms in the world, their ability to score PR own goals (Leinders affair anyone?) is unprecedented.

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Lungsofa74yearold [281 posts] 2 years ago
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"For a company sponsored by one of the biggest media firms in the world, their ability to score PR own goals (Leinders affair anyone?) is unprecedented."

Totally agree - witness the debacle over Wiggo 'Will he, won't he be in n the team' a couple of days ago and allowing Froome to publish what sounds like an incendiary autobiography. Or perhaps I'm a bit simple and missing the master strategy behind the apparent car crash modus operandi  39

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russyparkin [570 posts] 2 years ago
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and what about the jtl shenanigans still going on

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ronin [263 posts] 2 years ago
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Colombian climber born and raised at altitude now racing for Sky...
I should imagine he knows more about the sky than most  1

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Colin Peyresourde [1719 posts] 2 years ago
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....and the whitewash is complete. This whole saga just seems odd to me. I won't begin another cynical diatribe. But at present it proves nothing. You wonder why any of this was brought to daylight.

Self-testing only seems like self-control. Even Pantani used to do it.

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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Team Sky suspend rider for reasons that can't be fully explained, then reinstate him for reasons that can't be fully explained, and at some point in the near future (don't hold your breath), a dissertation from a Sheffield Uni phd student might provide some clues! Priceless!!! What next from this team?

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fukawitribe [1682 posts] 2 years ago
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Colin Peyresourde wrote:

....and the whitewash is complete. This whole saga just seems odd to me. I won't begin another cynical diatribe. But at present it proves nothing. You wonder why any of this was brought to daylight.

Self-testing only seems like self-control. Even Pantani used to do it.

How differently would you have handled things if it was a rider in your team that got an anomalous result ? Seriously, please explain.

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fukawitribe [1682 posts] 2 years ago
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daddyELVIS wrote:

Team Sky suspend rider for reasons that can't be fully explained, then reinstate him for reasons that can't be fully explained, and at some point in the near future (don't hold your breath), a dissertation from a Sheffield Uni phd student might provide some clues! Priceless!!! What next from this team?

You will believe what you want to believe clearly - snide PhD comment aside, I doubt anything in the published research as and when it comes out will change that, nor any of the pertinent details of what led up to this and how it was handled. The reason for the suspension was explained, the reason for the result is what they were investigating, the reason for the return is because all concerned believed there wasn't any legitimate reason to keep him away (whatever you may feel about those who made that judgement). What bit of that is deeply mysterious and - wooooo, spooky - "can't be fully explained" ?

The public side of the affair is either a PR stunt or a team trying to do the right thing depending on who you talk to. As for the science, i'll wait until I can see the results until commenting further - perhaps you could give it a go too. I'm not a fan of Sky - cycling team or company - but I highly doubt every single thing they do is part of some vast Machiavellian plot either.

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mooleur [537 posts] 2 years ago
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Well said Fukawitribe! Completely agree.

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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fukawitribe wrote:

The reason for the suspension was explained, the reason for the result is what they were investigating, the reason for the return is because all concerned believed there wasn't any legitimate reason to keep him away (whatever you may feel about those who made that judgement). What bit of that is deeply mysterious and - wooooo, spooky - "can't be fully explained" ?

.......As for the science, i'll wait until I can see the results until commenting further - perhaps you could give it a go too.

So what was the full explanation for his suspension and reinstatement then? Perhaps you've seen some info that Sky haven't released to any of the media?

As for the science - Sky PR are talking about a research paper into the effects of altitude training on 'altitude natives' - a research paper on a population sample size of, err.... 1. Their spin machine (pardon the pun) is in full flow!

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fukawitribe [1682 posts] 2 years ago
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daddyELVIS wrote:
fukawitribe wrote:

The reason for the suspension was explained, the reason for the result is what they were investigating, the reason for the return is because all concerned believed there wasn't any legitimate reason to keep him away (whatever you may feel about those who made that judgement). What bit of that is deeply mysterious and - wooooo, spooky - "can't be fully explained" ?

.......As for the science, i'll wait until I can see the results until commenting further - perhaps you could give it a go too.

So what was the full explanation for his suspension and reinstatement then? Perhaps you've seen some info that Sky haven't released to any of the media?

No - nothing unusual, I just read the stuff everyone else did. The reason for the suspension was an anomalous result - what is tricky about that ? Did you actually read any of the reports at the time ? The reinstatement was based on the results of the investigation of the anomalous result instigated Sky. From their website

Sergio Henao will return to racing at the Tour de Suisse, following the findings of scientific experts at the conclusion of the independent research programme.
The 10-week programme has given the highest level of confidence in Sergio’s previous data and profiles, and offers valuable new insights into the physiology of ‘altitude natives’ such as Colombian climbers.

What is difficult to understand about why they have decided to reinstate him gvien they were happy with him riding before ? I really not sure what is missing..

daddyELVIS wrote:

As for the science - Sky PR are talking about a research paper into the effects of altitude training on 'altitude natives' - a research paper on a population sample size of, err.... 1. Their spin machine (pardon the pun) is in full flow!

Of course they are trying to puff it up as much as possible, what team or organisation wouldn't ? However, without having read the research I don't know whether that is merely puffery or whether the correlations to the wider population types are (a) actually being made or (b) plausible. It is possible to gain knowledge of physiological effects using an individual if you can correlate it to other, common factors of a group - as has been done before with altitude adaptation. We will hopefully see in the fullness of time.

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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Oh, ok, you're taking 'anomalous result' as a full explanation then? I assume then he's back on the roster because Sheffield Uni have proved the result was not anomalous after all, but in fact expected due to the new insight into Colombian climbers uncovered by a 10 week observational experiment on the same Colombian climber who had the anomalous result in the first place. Sounds like a full explanation to me - nothing to see here!

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fukawitribe [1682 posts] 2 years ago
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daddyELVIS wrote:

Oh, ok, you're taking 'anomalous result' as a full explanation then? I assume then he's back on the roster because Sheffield Uni have proved the result was not anomalous after all, but in fact expected due to the new insight into Colombian climbers uncovered by a 10 week observational experiment on the same Colombian climber who had the anomalous result in the first place. Sounds like a full explanation to me - nothing to see here!

At the time from Sky..

"In our latest monthly review, our experts had questions about Sergio's out-of-competition control tests at altitude - tests introduced this winter by the anti-doping authorities. We need to understand these readings better,"

The 'anomalous result' (my phrase, not Skys) was not detailed to the public, but the result were pointed out to the UCI and CADF and were available to WADA. The exact values we don't have, but has been available to the relevant authorities for some time now - and have not prompted any action or statement from them. The decision to suspend on any potential issue effecting a riders biological passport would seem to be eminently sensible and, for me at least, hardly needing further explanation at the moment - especially as there is the expectation of data being released as part of the research. Clearly you want more data now before being prepared to not vilify them - I think that is excessive given the situation and far from being objective.

As for the point about the single sample research, they clearly haven't given us the complete research data and conclusions yet - although again that is already available to the relevant authorities who seem content with it so far - but i'm don't consider that as something that makes their decision to reinstate less than fully explicable.... the precise data behind that decision is still not in the public domain but the reason for is surely clear.

You might say i'm nit picking in that i'm saying, given the situation as known publicly I find the decisions fully explicable - whereas you seem to want to know every detail behind the situation... fair enough, your prerogative. Personally I find the train of events

- Slightly unexpected result -> suspension
- Research seems to show result is expected and in line with previous results -> return to service

pretty explicable.... I'd also like to know the nitty-gritty of what peeked their interest in the first place, and all the data from the research, but fortunately that seems odds-on to mostly be forthcoming. In light of that, i'm not too fussed about arguing the toss with folk based on ignorance from both sides. Why don't we discuss that part of things further when the data is available - unless you're desperate to condemn people before.

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Sam1 [220 posts] 2 years ago
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oh, daddyELVIS doesnt seem the sort to rush to his already-formed conclusions. Not at all. No.

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notfastenough [3674 posts] 2 years ago
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@fukawitribe - I'm not as good at arguing with brick walls as you evidently are, so thanks for basically saying what I was thinking!  4

Jeez guys, talk about foregone conclusions....

Here's a thing, what will the research paper have to say, to receive anything less than a complete dismissal from the cynics?

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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Sam1 wrote:

oh, daddyELVIS doesnt seem the sort to rush to his already-formed conclusions. Not at all. No.

That's right - not rushed to any conclusion at all - I don't know what the conclusion is, afterall Sky haven't really told us anything.

But, I do know BS when I smell it!

If Sky are confident that the results of the 'independent research programme' proves that Henao's original test results are in order (BTW, I'm guessing they are talking about blood values with regards to his data that caused concerns), then why not just come out and tell us in greater detail what their concerns were and why they now believe everything to be in order? Why do we have to wait for a 'research paper' from Sheffield Uni?

The team that was supposed to be built on integrity, transparency and zero-tolerance seems to be built on PR and spin!

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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notfastenough wrote:

Jeez guys, talk about foregone conclusions....

Can you quote the 'foregone conclusion' I've supposedly stated?

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fukawitribe [1682 posts] 2 years ago
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daddyELVIS wrote:
notfastenough wrote:

Jeez guys, talk about foregone conclusions....

Can you quote the 'foregone conclusion' I've supposedly stated?

..perhaps one would be that what Sky are saying is bullshit ?

daddyELVIS wrote:

But, I do know BS when I smell it!

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Colin Peyresourde [1719 posts] 2 years ago
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Why exactly do you want to believe what their well run PR machine are pumping out? This story is basically created by them from start to finish. Why do we even need to know all this I wonder?

It's hardly science if it relates to one person and PhD students are queuing up for funding on papers. Sadly academic whores are hardly a new thing.

You don't have to be as cynical as Daddy Elvis or I, but there are simple truths which ring true. One is that you have to understand why people feel they need to sell you something, whether that be a story or a bicycle. Secondly, no one has stopped the doping arms race to date. Doping agencies will willingly admit they don't have the funds to deal with professional doping. So if you believe it has stopped I would do a bit more home work. So being sold the 'we're a clean team' story is terrifically old hat and becomes harder to hold the longer a team goes on.

If you think the blood passport stops doping think again. There's no one in the doping agencies that think this. This isn't a Team Sky thing, but it just seems a bigger pile of BS that they write the script from start to finish.

Personally I think they should release both the dates of testing and the results (and I mean the ADAs of this world - not the in-house Sky stuff). Then we could see the real world picture of a) what testing is being undertaken, b) what the results are. That would shut me up a bit.

Watch the Armstrong Lie and see how confident you feel about anti-doping procedure.

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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fukawitribe wrote:
daddyELVIS wrote:
notfastenough wrote:

Jeez guys, talk about foregone conclusions....

Can you quote the 'foregone conclusion' I've supposedly stated?

..perhaps one would be that what Sky are saying is bullshit ?

daddyELVIS wrote:

But, I do know BS when I smell it!

not really a conclusion, more an assessment of my ability to identify BS

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notfastenough [3674 posts] 2 years ago
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daddyELVIS wrote:
Sam1 wrote:

oh, daddyELVIS doesnt seem the sort to rush to his already-formed conclusions. Not at all. No.

That's right - not rushed to any conclusion at all - I don't know what the conclusion is, afterall Sky haven't really told us anything.

But, I do know BS when I smell it!

If Sky are confident that the results of the 'independent research programme' proves that Henao's original test results are in order (BTW, I'm guessing they are talking about blood values with regards to his data that caused concerns), then why not just come out and tell us in greater detail what their concerns were and why they now believe everything to be in order? Why do we have to wait for a 'research paper' from Sheffield Uni?

The team that was supposed to be built on integrity, transparency and zero-tolerance seems to be built on PR and spin!

You've obviously already formed the conclusion that Sky are full of BS and are therefore riddled with doping...

No-one is saying they are definitely clean, we can't know that. The argument is that they are acting reasonably and these events do not include evidence of the conspiracy theories you seem to think it does. The very reason we have to wait for a research paper from Sheffield uni is the number of armchair experts on intertelly forums who could 'find' evidence of doping in their own shadows. You want to see the results now, but what would satisfy you? A one-pager? Hardly, you'd pick that to pieces as lacking in detail (and therefore was a Sky whitewash). Just the data? I daresay that'd suit you, because you could form your own conclusions without the constraints of such unnessecary details as context, background, stated assumptions, test methodology, limitations, rationale, the authors credentials...

See why a research paper is a good idea yet?

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fukawitribe [1682 posts] 2 years ago
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Colin Peyresourde wrote:

Why exactly do you want to believe what their well run PR machine are pumping out?

Unless it's an incredibly complicated stunt, i'd reckon their response to an anomalous result found during internal testing is spot-on. So, was there such a result or not ? If there was, what would you have done in the circumstances ?

Given that scenario, I thought the follow on also sensible - again, what would you have done ?

Assuming the foregoing is still not all some weird ploy by them to garner favour, the reaction to the conclusion of the testing also seemed reasonable - did it not to you ?

None of this makes me rush out and buy boat loads of expensive blue-flashed coal sack riding kit or get Froomes face tattooed on my arse - nor does it make me think Sky are the Devil incarnate. A quick question - if all this was an elaborate PR gag, what do you reckon the thinking was behind it ? What exactly were the risks and benefits ? I'm interested...

Colin Peyresourde wrote:

This story is basically created by them from start to finish. Why do we even need to know all this I wonder?

One reason, perhaps, is because people keep calling for greater transparency ?

Colin Peyresourde wrote:

It's hardly science if it relates to one person and PhD students are queuing up for funding on papers. Sadly academic whores are hardly a new thing.

Stop with the silly PhD student slur daddyELVIS started please - that's not what this is about. As for the single data point issue, i've already mentioned what I think about that earlier in this thread - go look it up if you're interested.

Colin Peyresourde wrote:

You don't have to be as cynical as Daddy Elvis or I, but there are simple truths which ring true. One is that you have to understand why people feel they need to sell you something, whether that be a story or a bicycle. Secondly, no one has stopped the doping arms race to date. Doping agencies will willingly admit they don't have the funds to deal with professional doping. So if you believe it has stopped I would do a bit more home work. So being sold the 'we're a clean team' story is terrifically old hat and becomes harder to hold the longer a team goes on.

I don't believe it's stopped - that would run counter to my suspicions and (more importantly) the extant evidence - nor have I suggested it has in Sky or anywhere else.

Colin Peyresourde wrote:

If you think the blood passport stops doping think again. There's no one in the doping agencies that think this. This isn't a Team Sky thing, but it just seems a bigger pile of BS that they write the script from start to finish.

It doesn't stop it, but it's another (partial) barrier to doping abuse - you want to get rid of it ? What would have in it's place - anything ?

Colin Peyresourde wrote:

Personally I think they should release both the dates of testing and the results (and I mean the ADAs of this world - not the in-house Sky stuff). Then we could see the real world picture of a) what testing is being undertaken, b) what the results are. That would shut me up a bit.

The cynic in me says "I doubt it would" but it's only fair to give you the benefit  1 I'd like to see the data too, as the authorities already have, but if or as-and-when the data comes out in the research paper we'll be in a better place to make informed comments.

Colin Peyresourde wrote:

Watch the Armstrong Lie and see how confident you feel about anti-doping procedure.

Please stop the straw-manning, it's getting dull.

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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notfastenough wrote:

You've obviously already formed the conclusion that Sky are full of BS and are therefore riddled with doping...

I don't remember saying that Sky are riddled with doping - that wasn't my conclusion at all. As I said, I haven't formed a conclusion on this situation because I can't, the info isn't there.

....and yes, I definitely can see why a 'research paper' is a good idea! I wonder if it will be peer-reviewed and published?

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fukawitribe [1682 posts] 2 years ago
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daddyELVIS wrote:
fukawitribe wrote:
daddyELVIS wrote:
notfastenough wrote:

Jeez guys, talk about foregone conclusions....

Can you quote the 'foregone conclusion' I've supposedly stated?

..perhaps one would be that what Sky are saying is bullshit ?

daddyELVIS wrote:

But, I do know BS when I smell it!

not really a conclusion, more an assessment of my ability to identify BS

Mea culpa - you're right. One pertinent definition of 'conclusion' is "a reasoned deduction or inference" - whereas you actually know its bollocks, based on ... what, magic ?

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Colin Peyresourde [1719 posts] 2 years ago
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The point about the Sky team is that they are supposed to be the team you can trust, the whiter than white team. So all this releasing of information that they want you to know is to strengthen our belief in that and support them, buy their merchandise and watch them on telly....so it's a commercial thing. Why do you think they do it?

I didn't think I was going to have to teach you to suck eggs on that one....anyway you seem to want to believe in the PR so fine. I don't think you are going to change our opinions and we are not going to change yours.

My view point is that it's easy to suck up these messages and not question them: why does a successful bike team want to/need to show us this information? If this has happened to Henao why not Nairo Quitana? Or Uran Uran? Do you suspect them any more or less than Sky's Henao? If they are competing on a level playing field what does that mean if one of them is caught doping? Why has this ground breaking research only just been done now when it has such positive ramifications for Columbian athletes. Why has this not formed a more serious part of a more serious paper? It sounds as if they are trying to use the veil of authority to avert our gaze.

Lots of questions, but no real answers. I just know that just because you can't see a crime happening doesn't mean it hasn't happened. And that you should he wary of anything processed by a PR team.

I wonder why you want to believe it all so much.

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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fukawitribe wrote:

Mea culpa - you're right. One pertinent definition of 'conclusion' is "a reasoned deduction or inference" - whereas you actually know its bollocks, based on ... what, magic ?

based on the fact I'm not gullible - or magic, if you like!

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