Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Bailey Uh-Oh

I mean - the Bailey Hundo! I may have bitten off more than I can chew recently when I agreed to ride a 100 mile mountain biking charity event in less than 8 weeks.
A) I have not ridden a mountain bike in 4 years
B) My current mountain bike has a bent deraileur, bad breaks, and is missing a front wheel
C) I should be more worried about paying my mortgage than donating to charities
D) I would have a hard time finishing 100 miles on a road bike these days.
E) Oh, and if I get my mtn bike operational again, it's too small for me anyway.

But here is the good news: this biking event will raise money for Trips For Kids Denver/Boulder. I think TFK is a great organization that uses bikes to provide something positive and productive into which at-risk youth can channel their energy. In addition, it will raise money to build more trails in the Bailey, CO area which will in turn get more people out on their bikes. Also, not to be forgotten, this event will get me out the door to train!
So, here's what I'd like: I'd like each person reading this to take 4 minutes out of their day and go to this website and donate $5-$10 to Trips for Kids. And in the comment section, you can write that it's for "Tom Zirbel's Bailey Hundo ride". I'm making this up as I go, but that sounds reasonable to me. I will be tapping my dwindling savings account for this cause, and I'm hoping for $5 from YOU. And I'll let you in a well-known secret in case this is your first time donating in awhile: In addition to helping out a worthy cause, donating helps the donor. I feel pretty good about myself after donating to charities. Donating is actually a very selfish act for me. So go ahead, indulge yourself today! :)
Thanks for reading. I'll give updates on how this little project is progressing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Quantifying Form

I've been watching my body transform over the past few months, and I recently thought of a way that cyclists can finally quantify their "form". Some might point to 20 min. wattage divided by weight or some highly scientific method like that. Well I'm here to tell you that there's a much simpler way to measure your form. All it takes is a tape measure and the ability to divide two numbers. First a little background - I'm actually not as fat as I thought I would be after not training seriously for 6 months...though still eating like I am. But I'm definitely not fit, so weight is not a reliable gauge. However, my body has changed quite dramatically - in different ways than developing love handles. So, I've come up with a simple equation that is bullet-proof: Form = (circumference of thigh) / (circumference of arm)
The larger the number, the better the form. That's all! I'm telling you it's brilliant. These past 6 months my biceps have gotten bigger and my legs have shrunk seemingly before my very eyes. I feel like if I watched them closely enough I could actually see the difference happening - sort of like the hour hand on an analog clock. If you're wondering, my numerical representation of form is 1.82*. I'm sure that 8 months ago it was closer to 3, maybe even 4. Obviously, the goal in racing is to look as lopsided and goofy as possible (i.e. resemble the characters on Triplets of Belleville). Um, I hope no one steals my revolutionary idea on how to quantify form before I can figure out how to make money on it.
In other news on the cycling front - I've been on a mini speaking tour of late. I spoke to the ACA Officials a few weeks ago about the 'grey area' of my situation with regards to anti-doping punishments. And the following week, I spoke to the CU Cycling Club about racing, the benefits of collegiate cycling, and of course doping in sport. No one in either crowd booed or threw rotten tomatoes, so I was encouraged by that. And today I'm riding with the Trips for Kids crew for the 2nd time. I find myself constantly lured back to this sport that I love so much. Breaking up is hard!
Thanks for reading.

* Yes, I did use a tape measure on my thighs and arms for the first time ever (okay, maybe I did it as a teenager?). Not proud of it, but I wanted to test out my theory if I ever get fit again.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Presumption of Guilt

I thought a good point was raised in a few of the comments in response to my last post. In one, the commenter basically stated “Only you know if you deliberately doped or not.” That is true. Only I truly know if I intentionally cheated or not. Everyone else has to use the evidence at their disposal and they then choose to believe me or not. That evidence could be anything from living with me day in and day out and knowing me for years to having read a few articles about my case and having an opinion on previous doping cases. But, this is no different than in a criminal case in that we usually don't actually know if a person committed a crime or not with 100% certainty. That's why defendants go before a “jury of our peers” to present both sides of the argument and the jury members are given the often difficult task of deciding one way or the other. That is the best we can do. And without a doubt, mistakes are made in this system. Innocent people go to prison and guilty people walk. Even in this advanced technological age, we do not possess the ability to look into the brain and know a person's thoughts.
So I guess my beef with this anti-doping policy is that it does not afford athletes the same rights and presumption of innocence that we afford defendants in a criminal court of law. Athlete's have the option to take their case to an arbitration panel of 3 people who will hear their case, but I encourage you to look at the track record of this. If you come before the arbitration panel with a positive test, you will lose. True, in some instances the suspensions have been reduced due to exceptional circumstances, but what about the people who didn't dope? I'm not even talking about those who've ingested something contaminated unknowingly, I'm talking here about false-positives. I know it's happened. I spoke to someone on the phone last week who was a victim of a false-positive. He spent a fortune defending himself in arbitration to no avail, quit the sport, became successful in his subsequent career, and never looked back. And yes, I am choosing to believe him and I could be wrong but he has some very strong characters vouching for him and that combined with our conversation on the phone was enough to convince me. So why wasn't the 1.2% false-positive rate of the test used to convict him taken into account with this 'impartial' panel? And further, how many people have been falsely convicted just like him, who I/we have no idea about? Is this just the collateral damage of the best system possible?
I guess we have to ask ourselves if we'd rather have innocent people booted out of the sport or have dirty cheaters beat the system. I understand that both are going to happen in any anti-doping code, but the way the code is enforced will determine which of the two is more prevalent. Meaning, maybe our need to catch dopers causes us to rely on analytical instruments and methods that aren't meant to be used as a stand-alone tests but only in conjunction with other confirming tests. Or maybe we lower a particular threshold that makes the rate of false-positives higher. For example, if we believe that many dopers are sophisticated in their cheating, they will manipulate their levels up to the threshold of a banned substance but not go over it (the joke was that a few years ago it was amazing how many European pros had a hematocrit of 49.5). So in response to this we decide to lower the threshold for that substance, and maybe we catch more cheaters but maybe we also catch a few people whose bodies have naturally produced those levels. Is it worth it? I don't think it is. In my opinion, convicting an innocent athlete damages the integrity of the sport more than a cheater getting away with it does. I think that the most sophisticated cheaters are going to get away with it until they are caught in the act or slip up somehow (be it a paper trail or a screwed up dosage). That being said, I really believe that the dopers are in the minority today. The sport is cleaning up. As a fan, I choose to believe that, and I hope you do too.
My point is this: let's stop pretending that there is no such thing as a false-positive in analytical chemistry, be it from an instrumental error or a technician screw up, or even a natural fluctuation in the athlete's body. Why don't we take all of the evidence into consideration: maybe a jump (or not) in performance at the time of the test, character witnesses, motive, and testing history to name a few. Expensive and drawn-out? Probably. Are the athletes' careers and reputations worth the extra effort? I think so.
And just to be clear, I'm talking about the anti-doping system in place and not my particular situation. At this point, I don't think mine is a case of false-positive. I invite any well thought out responses or ideas to my little venting session. Thanks.