Search the news archive:
 
Two Sides of the Story - US Cycling Suspension
 
By Staff
Date: 9/25/2004
Two Sides of the Story - US Cycling Suspension
 

Yesterday the US Antidoping Agency announced the two year suspension of United States rider Joey D'Antoni, who has contributed race journals on this site. The announcement of Joey's suspension comes on the heels of announcements this week about Tyler Hamilton's tests at the Olympic Games and the Vuelta a España.

This morning we received a letter from Laura Weislo, who is a Category 1 racer and a Daily Peloton race journal contributor. She gives her personal perspective on this as a friend and coaching client of Joey's. First we reproduce the USADA announcement, and below that is Laura's letter.

U.S. Cyclist Accepts Suspension for EPO Positive Test

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Sept. 24, 2004) - The United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) announced Friday that Joseph D’Antoni of Raleigh, N.C., an athlete in the sport of cycling, tested positive at the Track World Cup Qualifier on Feb. 26, 2004 in Cooper City, Fla.

He tested positive for recombinant human Erythropoietin (rEPO), a prohibited substance under the rules of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), which is the international federation for the sport of cycling.

rEPO is a synthetic hormone that stimulates the body’s production of red blood cells thereby increasing oxygen transport and aerobic power.

D’Antoni, 27, accepted a two-year suspension from all sanctioned competition in accordance with the rules of UCI. His suspension begins on Sept. 22, 2004, the date that he accepted the sanction.

USA Cycling is the national governing body for the sport of cycling in the United States, and will carry out the sanction. 

This is the 28th announcement issued by USADA during 2004. USADA became the independent anti-doping agency for U.S. athletes for the Olympic movement in October 2000.

USADA is the independent anti-doping agency for Olympic sports in the United States, and is responsible for managing the testing and adjudication process for U.S. Olympic, Pan Am and Paralympic athletes. USADA is equally dedicated to preserving the integrity of sport through research initiatives and educational programs.


Another Side of the Story...
By Laura Weislo

I've been racing my bike since the year 2000. Until this year, I've been pretty much an amateur and haven't had much contact with elite riders, other than getting stomped by them when I dared to go to NRC events. Now I guess I could be considered an elite racer since I got my Catgory 1 upgrade from USA Cycling, but I still feel like a newbie. I keep learning and experiencing more things that reveal aspects of the sport I love, some that aren't always pretty. The most recent one, which has actually been a source of great stress and anguish in my life all year, has been the positive drug test of my coach and close friend, Joey D'Antoni.

Bike racers and fans alike read with great eagerness the latest doping news. The drama, the intrigue, and the great debate of whether "they're all on drugs" or not are hot topics in the news and internet chat rooms. Until this year, Joey and I participated in these debates just like everyone else - it all seemed kind of amusing and totally detached from our reality. It was a joke - I've never even witnessed drugs in association with bike racing except for all the homeless methamphetamine addicts that hang out in the park at the Redlands prologue...

When Joey won the pursuit in Florida in February and had to pee in a cup after the race, it was no big deal to him. I had been a chaperone for USADA at a previous track event, so I was familiar with the routine when I had to do the same after being pulled for a random test after my prologue at Redlands in March. Our urine went away to the labs and we thought nothing of it. Joey had successfully coached me to a fantastic result at the Redlands prologue, my big target for the seaons, and the racing season was off to a great start with a win for me in Greenville, South Carolina, and a chance for him to go to the World Cup track event in Mexico.

I say "chance" since just because he won the pursuit qualifier for the world cup, his qualifying time didn't come close to meeting the time standards set by USAC. In fact, one of the referees stated derogatorily that he had done the same time 30 years ago without aero equipment. It wasn't certain that he'd be able to go at all, but in the end, USAC generously allowed him to join the team in Mexico. Once there, he was a bit disappointed with his time, but was happy to be allowed the opportunity to represent his country, and came back home to focus on the next qualifying race.

Then, several weeks later, I got a text message from Joey telling me I had to come over to his house as soon as I could. He wouldn't explain, and I was really concerned - did someone die? Did his house burn down? His wife leave him? I arrived at his house to find him sitting in stunned silence, and then he said, "I got a Fed Ex." I knew what it meant, because we had joked about it after we both had to get drug tested - that negative tests come via the US Postal Service and positive ones get delivered Fed Ex. At the time I found that fact funny. Now, it wasn't funny at all.

I examined the documents, drawing on my background in molecular biology to decypher the test results for him. After doing a ton of digging around to understand the test, I found one thing to be very suspicious: While every research paper comparing recombinant-EPO dosed human's urine samples to un-dosed human urine controls showed a gradation between negative and positive human urine which was distinct from the purified rh-EPO protein control, Joey's sample looked almost exactly like the purified EPO control. It looked like the lab must have switched his sample with the control - it was that unbelievable.

It took a while for the implications of all of this to settle in. It wasn't until Joey asked me to fly to LA with him to observe the B-test as a scientific expert that it really became serious. He booked me a flight with his frequent flyer miles that he had accumulated by flying to bike races all over the US for the past several years. Ironic. I had the iPod on Death Cab for Cutie, and the lyrics "The hardest part is yet to come... when you will cross the country... alone" hit home. I was isolated with my thoughts which were a very personalized version of the usual debate when some cyclist comes up positive.

On the one hand, I believed his innocence: he'd been coaching me for nearly a year and had never, ever even remotely insinuated that I needed to take any products at all - hasn't even recommended any supplements aside from the Iron supplement my physician directed me to take. He hasn't suddenly become super-cyclist. His time trial and pursuit times have been remarkably consistent, showing small improvements from year to year, but nothing striking. Even the pursuit after which he gave the positive sample was a pretty good result, but nothing special considering Brad McGee could ride half a minute faster. Joey had never been anything except a really honest, intelligent and helpful friend to me - someone who coached me through some hard times without ever asking for anything in return. I just couldn't see him shooting EPO. But on the other hand, the scientist in me looked at the result and it looked pretty cut and dried - almost too much so.

We went to the lab, and it was less than inviting. As you wait to be escorted back to the lab, you are seated facing the door, upon which is a very ugly photo of another cyclist who famously tested positive and was banned for life. In very tiny letters under the photo was written something to the effect that if this person shows up that they aren't to be let in. I can say that I felt the atmosphere to be less one of justice, of innocent until proven guilty and more of "let's nail the scumbags!"; less of concern for the athlete's health and more a quest for fame and notoriety...

I observed part of the test, but can't say too much since USADA will not tell you up front that the test takes two full days to process and results aren't available until the third day. My flight back was already booked for the next day, so I couldn't stay to see the rest of the test. In fact, I'm not sure if we had stayed the entire time that we would have been able to get the results of the test anyhow. But, there is certainly a lot of room for error as the multitude of times the samples are transferred from tube to tube are tracked only by the scientist's scrawl on the side of the tube.

I was sure the B-test would come out different. I came back from LA to a first class letter from USADA congratulating me on my negative dope test, and I was sure everything would come back negative for Joey's B test as well.

Unfortunately, it didn't, as the world now knows...

I've had to wrestle with this fact, trying to reconcile the confirmed doping offense with the generous, caring, smart, honest and loyal human being that I know. It has raised painful doubts in me regarding the system of drug testing on one hand, and on the sport and the athletes involved on the other hand. I believe in my friend who asserts his innocence, but am steeling myself against all of the ugly comments that are going to be made about him, and I can guarantee that every one will hurt me as well. I can only remain loyal and know that in spite of this whole ordeal, I can continue to value the friendship of someone who has been nothing but a good person to me.


Copyright © 2002-2011 by Daily Peloton.
| contact us |