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Chuck Coyle's Racing Chronicle: Scott Moninger
 
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 11/25/2002
Chuck Coyle's Racing Chronicle: Scott Moninger
 

Coyle and Moninger at the Excel Crit
It was recently announced that Scott Moninger failed the drug test after the Saturn Cycling Classic this past August for the banned substance 19-norandrosterone, which is a precursor to nandrolone. I am not interested in standing on a soapbox and starting a heated debate over ethics; whether or not cyclists should or should not take any supplements (you try and do consecutive 6 hour training rides and not have a protein shake afterwards) or if he should just suck it up and take full blame for ingesting substances that were not on the products label (but should have been).

After talking with Scott and numerous other people it seems that the finger pointing and name-calling may not be the greatest way to handle the situation. Regardless of whether Scott receives a 6-month or 2-year ban from competition the contamination trap will continue be there for another unsuspecting person to fall into unless some preventive action is taken.

Among all the chat-room debates, scathing e-mails and opinions being floated around, every angle is being pursued except for the one that would make the most sense; how can we prevent this from happening in the future. How can we protect cyclists and other athletes from this exact situation?

There are plenty of banned substances on the US Anti-Doping Associations list but one of the only ones that seems to be associated with contamination are the various forms of "andro." There have been few problems with cyclists having their supplements tainted with substances such as caffeine or ephedrine, just with andro.

What if there was some way that we could limit the accessibility to this ‘supplement,’ what if we could keep it off the production line? Although there seems to be no way the FDA would monitor these forms of andro just because of the possibility that athletes may be unwittingly exposed to it.

I am not pretending to be any sort of expert on vitamins or supplements but I am worried about naive or uninformed athletes (i.e. myself) having their career ended and name tarnished just because they were trying to maximize their potential by taking supplements.

Scott is not the first person who has been involved in a case of possible tainted supplements. After a criterium in April of ’01 Vassili Davidenko (Navigators) also tested positive for 19-norandrosterone. He was suspended from competition, his name and the reputation of his team was drug through the mud. With many of us not knowing Vasilli but being all to familiar with Rocky V it was easy to label Drago...I mean Davidenko... as the cheating Russian. I certainly was quick to hop on the anti-Russian train and for that I owe him and his team an apology.

An official statement issued by the Navigator team said, "We have full confidence that this result was due to the ingestion of an over-the-counter herbal food supplement that did not have a full accounting of the ingredients on the label." Just like Scott, Vasilli had the products tested where "an independent laboratory confirmed the presence of a metabolite of a banned substance, as initially reported by USADA."

When something like this happens to a friend, someone who you know is clean, your attitude on the subject may quickly change. People need to be aware that cycling is one of the most heavily tested sports in the world. Because of the heavy policing and highly publicized doping cases the sport of cycling is therefore constantly associated with doping. If soccer, football or baseball were subject to the same amount of testing the public may have a different attitude towards us…but that is an entirely different monster.

Here are some facts and a few opinions from around our little cycling family on what Scott is going through and how they feel about supplements and drugs in general:

Facts (as I see them):

  • Scott Moninger tested positive for 19-norandrosterone in August 2002.
  • Scott tested positive because of a tainted amino acid (L-Tyrosine) supplement
  • An estimated 19% of supplements contain precursors of nandrolone and testosterone (Medical Commission of the Olympic Committee).
  • Scott faces a possible two-year ban under the current zero-tolerance rule.
  • There is no government regulation in the supplement industry.

John Lieswyn, Team 7-Up/Nutra Fig:

"I think the trap Scott fell into is deceptively simple to be ensnared by. To all those who are labeling him naïve or "shoulda known better"- I bet they never made a little mistake that cost them so much."

John also brings up a valid point that the crime should fit the time, something that the WADA and the USASDA has yet to do. This is the idea that a policy of zero tolerance is not necessarily the greatest idea. "Life isn’t black and white. If it were, we wouldn’t need lawyers and juries to decide. A judge could just fit the laws into a law book and presto!"

Rob Coppolillo, Cycling Journalist:

"There will be too much talk in the coming months –did he, didn’t he?—and I’m nervous for Scott’s future. His fate now rests with large governing bodies that have proven their total incompetence when it comes to the "fight" against doping."

"He did not 'dope' himself. Sure, others have gotten their juice through tainted beef, Venezuelan cupcakes, on and on…but if you look at Scott’s career, his consistent results, take into account the integrity he has shown throughout his racing life, then I think there is no doubt he is a clean rider."

Allen Lim, University of Colorado Cycling Guru:

"I think that the situation with Scott is a total corruption of how the system is supposed to work. I believe he is clean, I believe that what happened to him could happen to any athlete and I’ve always been weary of unregulated nutritional supplements. Life is full if irony. Maybe one day, they’ll start to work in favor of the good guy rather than against."

Dirk Friel, Professional Cyclist and Cycling Coach at TrainingBible.com:

"I was going to write an article on BCAA’s [Branch Chain Amino Acids]. I’m not sure now. Most likely I’ll now write about how you can’t trust the label. As most of you know I have been tested at my house randomly by the National Anti-Doping Association. I have always been skeptical of supplements and have stuck mainly to vitamins E, C and B-Complex. But now I’m not sure if those are safe anymore. I’ve even told many to use BCAA’s. For most this is not an issue, as you will not be tested. However, the substance that Scott tested positive for is not a well-researched product and not a lot is known about it.

I advise you first choose eating well and smart, instead of taking supplements."

Unnamed Professional Cyclist:

"Moninger is guilty. He’s guilty of being stupid. Buyer beware." "If you can’t do the time, don’t take the risk." "Some good ol’ fashion American suing should start the cleaning up process. And why is it no one has come forth with what brands not to buy? Sounds like a conspiracy brewing to me."

 

It is also noteworthy to mention that I still believe that the US Peloton is a very clean group of riders. When the issue of doping is brought up rarely are we talking about the "hard drugs" like EPO or riders shooting up Belgium cocktails, and we don’t have 23 year old neo-pro’s having suspicious heart attacks on the slopes of Taylor Street. When we have issues it tends to be with milder forms of doping; this is a positive sign about the state of cycling here in the US. I am not saying that this is not a serious issue but we should try to keep this all in perspective.

I am not sure where all of this will lead but hopefully there will be some sort of resolution more than just handing Moninger a suspension and a tainted name. You would hope that over a 21-year career he has earned more than just that.

Good Luck Scott,

Chuck
Team 7Up


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