Doping ID

| 95 Comments | 2 TrackBacks

Over at ID the Future, Paul Nelson has a brief post regarding the doping scandal that will likely deprive cyclist Floyd Landis of his recent Tour de France victory. For those who do not follow cycling, several tests performed after the race showed that Landis had an unusual ratio of testosterone-like hormones in his blood, and that the hormones found contained amounts of specific carbon isotopes not compatible with endogenous origin (for a thorough discussion of the tests and the reasons for Landis’s failure, see this post at Jake Young’s Pure Pedantry blog, as well as links and follow-ups therein). The conclusion from the anti-doping agency was that Landis had (voluntarily or not) taken artificial steroids, and therefore ought to be disqualified.

Nelson extracts his own moral from the story, which is that we can scientifically detect the result of intelligent action without having to exclude every possible natural source of the hormonal imbalance, and, implicitly, that therefore ID is a viable scientific program and - ta-dah! – those evil Darwinists who claim otherwise are just selling smoke. However, Nelson’s attempt at ‘roiding up ID is just as easy to spot as Landis’s.

Since Nelson’s post is short, let me quote it in its entirety:

”…it is almost impossible to be caused by natural events. It’s kind of a downer.”

That’s how Greg LeMond responded to news that doping tests may have implicated 2006 Tour de France winner Floyd Landis [see the final paragraph of the story]. The World Anti-Doping Agency, which supervises the international standards for the licit and illicit use of hormones, defines the presence of “exogenous” (illicit) chemical agents as follows: “Exogenous” refers to a substance which is not ordinarily capable of being produced by the body naturally.

We can expect that Landis will defend himself by trying to find “natural” – non-intelligent – causes for the anomalous ratios discovered (and now confirmed) by testing. We can also expect testing agencies to weigh those proferred explanations in terms of their plausibility.

What we won’t see is anyone saying that intelligent action – in this instance, the deliberate use of intelligently-synthesized steroid compounds to gain a competitive advantage – cannot be detected, in principle, because such inferences involve a universal negative (“natural causes cannot produce x”).

It is possible to catch cheaters. Happens all the time, in fact.

There are so many issues with this argument, it’s hard to know where to begin, but let’s try.

First, in the case of evolution we have a series of known mechanisms that bring about organismal change, and all the end results we observe today are compatible with such mechanisms (though they need not be - every organism could have a completely different genetic code, for instance). This is true also of things like “irreducible complexity” - so much so that not even Behe claims that IC is absolutely impossible to evolve, just highly improbable, in his opinion. On the other hand, in the case of Landis, we also have a series of well-known biological mechanisms (steroid biosynthesis, carbon isotope ratios in biological samples and their origin) and a result that cannot be obtained through such mechanisms (especially the isotope result). In other words, for Landis’s blood data to be natural, we would need to postulate entirely new physiological mechanisms, whereas for, say, the flagellum to have evolved naturally, only known evolutionary mechanisms would have to apply.

Second, it is some ID advocates, most notably Bill Dembski, who claim they have devised systems to reliably prove universal negatives - i.e. that something cannot possibly have been generated naturally - based on statistical considerations and the artificial conflation of “natural” with “by either regularity or chance alone”. Indeed, one of the scientific objections to Dembski’s explanatory filter is that its purported reliability in eliminating natural causes is utter nonsense. (Dembski has waffled on occasion about this, but he has repeatedly said things like: ”… whenever the Explanatory Filter attributes design, it does so correctly.”)

Third, of course, is that in Landis’s case, parsimony hugely favors a design conclusion because we have a good idea of who the “designer” could have been (Landis himself, and/or someone on his medical and training staff), and what his methods and motivations were. No need to hypothesize a violation of natural law, supernatural and/or alien interventions, or some other mysterious undescribed entity. This is even more the case in a legal proceeding such as Landis’s doping evaluation, for which the applying standard is simply that of “reasonable doubt”.

How this all comes together becomes rather obvious with a simple thought experiment. Suppose that, instead of finding the unusual hormone features in a professional cyclist’s blood, scientists had found them in a newly discovered, isolated human population deep in the Amazon jungle. Would the same inference of design now be justified? Or would scientists hypothesize and test new hypotheses of natural mechanisms causing the anomalies, before assuming purposeful doping? I don’t think there’s really any doubt what the answer is. (In fact, I would venture that, in such a case, even if a natural mechanism were not identified after extensive research, scientists would still be extremely reluctant to conclude purposeful doping, in the absence of a candidate doper with means and motivations to perform the deed.)

So, Nelson’s last paragraph is right after all: cheating can be detected, and intellectual cheating is no different.

[Note: The original version of the post mentioned carbon “radioisotopes”. As pointed out by a reader in the comments below, this is incorrect: the isotopes in question, C12 and C13, are both stable. The error has been corrected.]

2 TrackBacks

Landis Doubtful He'll Clear His Name from Unpartisan.com Political News and Blog Aggregator on August 8, 2006 1:07 AM

Embattled Tour de France champion Floyd Landis said Monday the way his doping case has been handled Read More

What on earth could you eat or ingest that would have "high levels of testosterone" in it? I'd like to know. Read More

95 Comments

How does Nelson think that “designed” tampering can be detected against a backdrop of, well, more design, which IDists claim exists? Shouldn’t a philosopher, of all things, recognize that we can readily detect design added to biological systems precisely because humans are not (on the whole) actually designed?

And can’t they learn anything about the specificity of design detection, that it depends upon specific facts, and not at all upon non-empirical measures of improbability?

Again, the analogy that damns ID is spun by tenacious religionists into one that supports ID.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

PS. Doesn’t this also militate against Nelson’s suggestion that if intelligence were responsible for the workings of the universe, that it would be undetectable? It’s too stupid a claim for me to bother dissecting (and we’ve gone over the necessity of predictable design elements in a “science of design” ad nauseum already), but I think it is still worth pointing out how incoherent these “thinkers” are, even in their benighted conceptions about the universe.

I would think that the Creationists would be Landis’s best ally in fighting the charges. They have years of experience denying the evidence of carbon radioisotopes.

Yeah, maybe Floyd Landis was going so fast that the laws of physics changed and [cough cough cough] this changed the decay properties of the carbon isotopes and produced the unusual ratios.

[goes and reads the referenced post]

Boy, the science behind this particular doping test looks like “reasonable doubt” to me. The T/E ratio shows substantial natural variability, and the C12/C13 isotope ratio can vary based on diet etc. Evidently this is all one failed test in the middle of the race. These sorts of tests rely on some probability cutoff based on natural variability, and then we have the question of whether or not world-class bicyclers, with extreme exertion, diets, injuries, etc., are even going to match the reference population (which I guess is atheletes, but still). With hundreds of riders and hundreds of tests, you are going to have some false positives even if your cut-off is p=0.01 or lower.

I think it would be simpler to just assign observers to watch the riders constantly during down time…

A bit OT, but there have been a couple of references to radioisotopes here. Just to be perfectly clear, the issue here is not radioisotopes (i.e. radioactive 14C), but two stable isotopes of carbon, 12C and 13C. 14C (“carbon-14”) is the isotope that the creationists have issues with because it can be used to date carbon-bearing materials up to about 100,000 years old.

In contrast, 12C and 13C are naturally occuring stable isotopes of carbon that are dealt with slightly differently by plants when they photosynthesize (as is pointed out in the scienceblog post). 12C is preferentially used by plants to the partial exclusion of 13C, and in different ways depending on the exact metabolic pathway.

Incidentally, this is of great use for paleoceanographers and oceanographers because when shelled organisms form their shells (CaCO3), they record the 13C/12C ratio of the seawater, which can be a useful measure of the amount of plant productivity, both globally and locally. As productivity increases, they remove more and more of the 12C in seawater, raising the 13C/12C ratio. The opposite occurs when productivity decreases. For instance, at the end of the Cretaceous (when the dinosaurs and many, many land and oceanic organisms died out) there was a huge decrease in the 13C/12C ratio in the oceans, indicating an enormous decrease in primary productivity.

Sorry, in the 3rd paragraph, that should read, “As productivity increases, plants remove more and more of the 12C in seawater, raising the 13C/12C ratio. “

We can expect that Landis will defend himself by trying to find “natural” — non-intelligent — causes for the anomalous ratios discovered (and now confirmed) by testing.

Not surprisingly, Nelson is confused. The original reports (released to the public by UCI contrary to their own rules, but that’s another story) were of a high testosterone/epitestosterone level. Landis did indeed offer several hypotheses as to why he might have a high level (as someone innocent, or someone guilty, surely would), including having naturally high testosterone levels, having been drinking the night before, taking (approved) medicine for a thyroid condition, and taking (approved) cortisone for his dead hip. Only the first could be considered “non-intelligent” (aside from the lack of intelligence of drinking before a difficult stage, especially after bonking on the previous stage). After he offered these possible explanations, news reports came out saying that, because of the high T/E ratio, the lab had also tested for synthetic testosterone, and the test was positive. The “natural” defenses don’t apply to that result. For that, hypotheses might be that the test is unreliable, the test results were misrecorded, the testers are corrupt/lying/French (well, there are people who think that explains it), the sample was contaminated, one of his other medications was contaminated, or that he accidentally ingested synthetic testosterone, possibly due to sabotage. Some of these involve intelligence and some don’t.

What we won’t see is anyone saying that intelligent action — in this instance, the deliberate use of intelligently-synthesized steroid compounds to gain a competitive advantage — cannot be detected, in principle, because such inferences involve a universal negative (“natural causes cannot produce x”).

This is such a stupid strawman. The test distinguishes between two different substances, natural (meaning non-synthetic, not non-supernatural) and synthetic (not supernatural) testosterone. It does not establish deliberate use. What’s the substance in biological systems that cannot be produced by non-intelligent causes and thus indicates intelligent design? Is such a substance possible? Sure it is – suppose an elephant in the local zoo gives birth to a PC running Windows XP. That’s obviously a product of intelligence and no one has or would say otherwise. But that’s quite different from systems that IDiots claim cannot be produced by non-intelligent causes when those systems can be explained by an existing explanatory theory of non-intelligent causes, supported by massive evidence. The problem is not and never has been that universal negatives are outlawed – every physical law entails universal negatives such as “entropy doesn’t decrease in closed systems” and “nothing can be cooled below 0 degrees Kelvin”. The problem is that there are no such laws or evidence or anything that supports the particular universal negatives that the IDiots put forth. PC running XP implies intelligent design? Yes. Flagellum implies intelligent design? No. A DNA sequence encoding the first 1000 digits of pi in unary? Yes. The blood clotting cascade? No. And so on. The reason for the no’s is not because universal negatives are outlawed, but because the reasoning behind the universal negatives – IC, CSI, etc. – is erroneous.

Boy, the science behind this particular doping test looks like “reasonable doubt” to me. The T/E ratio shows substantial natural variability, and the C12/C13 isotope ratio can vary based on diet etc. Evidently this is all one failed test in the middle of the race. These sorts of tests rely on some probability cutoff based on natural variability, and then we have the question of whether or not world-class bicyclers, with extreme exertion, diets, injuries, etc., are even going to match the reference population (which I guess is atheletes, but still). With hundreds of riders and hundreds of tests, you are going to have some false positives even if your cut-off is p=0.01 or lower.

Indeed. Unfortunately, the public and the media aren’t aware of any of this, and the anti-doping industry has a vested interest in not letting them know. The latter may sound conspiratorial, but it’s based on a pattern of highly questionable behavior by anti-doping officials and labs established by the UCI (International Cycling Union)’s own independent report (http://www.velonews.com/media/report1999.pdf) on Lance Armstrong’s purportedly positive EPO results from “anonymous” urine samples frozen for 7 years.

Something to consider in Landis’s case is that he was widely considered to be the least likely professional cyclist to be doping and even anti-doping fanatic Greg LeMond said, before the test was reported, “He was one of my favorites before the race. He’s clean and, what’s more, he’s a great guy”. Also, testosterone is normally used in a long-term regimen to build muscle, but all Landis’s other tests were negative. Taking it for a single stage in the Tour de France, especially when the plan was to win the stage, which would guarantee a drug test, would be a very stupid thing to do – which does not fit a man who, upon hearing about someone “giving 110 percent effort”, responded “Well, why not 112 percent? Why not 500 percent or 1,300 percent or 38 billion percent? I mean, if he can crank it up beyond 100 percent, why not? What’s stopping him, exactly?”

Only the first could be considered “non-intelligent” (aside from the lack of intelligence of drinking before a difficult stage, especially after bonking on the previous stage).

Wha…?

Ah, to bonk mean something different over there.

Bob

hit the wall -> strike = bonk = strike -> intercourse.

As far as I can tell, real people detect design in an object through two approaches: comparison of cultural indicators, and efficiency at a task.

The first works because the chances of the same set of indicators appearing twice are deemed to be fairly low. The second works because, for certain classes of object (most things on this planet that don’t actually reproduce, for example) and for certain tasks, human intervention is pretty much the only known source of efficient design. The situation this article describes clearly falls into the first category.

Neither of these design detection approaches apply to living creatures - there are no obvious “made in Taiwan” labels attached to organisms, and evolution is perfectly capable of creating efficient structures. The ID movement has signally failed to discover any effective alternative approach, merely trying to formalise these existing approaches in a way that, mathematically speaking, just doesn’t work.

Does that all sound plausible?

Popper's ghost Wrote:

Not surprisingly, Nelson is confused.

This is getting tiring, but once again, it’s up to me…

Either he’s confused (yeah, right) or he is deliberately confusing the audience, half of which checks its horoscope daily, and will continue to do so no matter how many refutations of astrology they are shown. If Nelson were some clueless cheerleader, I’d grant him a combination of confusion and wishful thinking. But he has an agenda, and this example fits neatly into that, as well as all sorts of public misconceptions.

BTW, does anyone know if Nelson ever answered that simple question from ~2 years ago that he promised he’d get right back to?

Either he’s confused (yeah, right) or …

Nelson really is a YEC, therefore his mental capabilities are certainly compatible with being confused. That doesn’t stop him from being a lying propagandist as well.

Over at ID the Future, Paul Nelson has a brief post regarding the doping scandal that will likely deprive cyclist Floyd Landis of his recent Tour de France victory.

Well, if THAT is the best that ID now has to offer, then ID is truly dead, dead, dead. (shrug)

A bit OT, but there have been a couple of references to radioisotopes here. Just to be perfectly clear, the issue here is not radioisotopes (i.e. radioactive 14C), but two stable isotopes of carbon, 12C and 13C. 14C (“carbon-14”) is the isotope that the creationists have issues with because it can be used to date carbon-bearing materials up to about 100,000 years old.

Duh, of course - sorry, I’ll correct that.

As for the C12/13 ratio in Landis’s testosterone, as I understand it, it is normalized vs his other steroids. In other words, it is not the exact ratio vis-avis a control population that matters (which is the case for the testosterone/epi ratio), but whether that C12/13 ratio is different for the testosterone in the tested sample versus “control” steroids in the same sample. If that’s the case, I think it is pretty much physiologically impossible to endogenously produce testosterone with a C12/13 ratio different from other steroids, regardless of diet etc, and the chance of false positives is pretty much 0 (except of course for experimental error or tampering).

Corkscrew Wrote:

Does that all sound plausible?

I don’t know, but it seems to me that there is a psychology project there for someone who wants one. There are already is a fairly large literature on concepts and classification, including (interesting for the purpose here) how people classify and understand organisms vs. artifacts. (It seems, for example, that people are essentialists about organisms and not about artifacts.)

“Shouldn’t a philosopher, of all things, recognize that we can readily detect design added to biological systems precisely because humans are not (on the whole) actually designed?”

You’d think so, wouldn’t you, but that didn’t stop Paley from using an analogy where the clear distinction between a designed watch and an undesigned natural background was meant to prove the designedness of nature.

How about that? We *can* detect *human* interference in well defined and well characterized systems. Now, when have Behe, Dembski or Wells performed a thorough analysis on the historical origins of a biochemical system that would allow us to examine the relative plausibility of possible mechanisms? Has Dembski’s explanatory filter ever been reliably applied to the flagellum? I think not.

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Nelson wrotes:

What we won’t see is anyone saying that intelligent action – in this instance, the deliberate use of intelligently-synthesized steroid compounds to gain a competitive advantage – cannot be detected, in principle, because such inferences involve a universal negative (“natural causes cannot produce x”).

Alas for Nelson, testosterone is produce syntheticially from plant sterols, and the isotope ratio does not reflect human synthetic reactions, but the combination of exogenous 13C/12C isotope ratios and enzyme isotope fractionation in the plants that synthesized the phytosterols. So what we’re actually detecting is not ‘intelligent action’, it’s geographic and biological differences in isotope chemistry between two living organisms; Landis, and the yams that biosynthesized the steroid nucleus of the testosterone Landis took.

IDers’ biggest pitfall continues to be that they just don’t know the science.

Authors of Intelligent design always look towards those pesky irreducible complex systems as proof of an intelligent designer. My question today is why aren’t these same features found in a raindrop, or a rock in a stream, or a blade of grass? If there is proof of a designer in the universe, why isn’t that proof stamped on every living and non living things? Where are the simple designs? Why aren’t the simple designs easier to see than the irreducibly complex?

Authors of Intelligent design always look towards those pesky irreducible complex systems as proof of an intelligent designer. My question today is why aren’t these same features found in a raindrop, or a rock in a stream, or a blade of grass? If there is proof of a designer in the universe, why isn’t that proof stamped on every living and non living things? Where are the simple designs? Why aren’t the simple designs easier to see than the irreducibly complex?

And how could they prove something isn’t designed? Maybe the Intelligent Designer, about whom we know nothing with respect to identity, methods or motive, put that seemingly random pile of rocks over there just so.

If we cannot reliably detect non-design, then how could we possibly differentiate between design and non-design?

Not quite on topic, but someone here probably knows…

Let’s say that Landis, discouraged by his poor showing the day before, decided to spike his performance artificially one time and take his chances with the inevitable testing if it worked. DOES this work? Is epitestosterone or whatever he took capable of producing an immediate one-time boost like that? I’m admittedly assuming here that Landis was very well aware of the nature and dymanics of every available performance enhancer. If anyone understands these things, it’s a bicycle racer.

Comment #117756

Posted by Craig T on August 7, 2006 09:25 PM (e) | kill

I would think that the Creationists would be Landis’s best ally in fighting the charges. They have years of experience denying the evidence of carbon radioisotopes.

Exactly. Hey Paul Nelson–you need to call the International Cycling Union. Here’s their website: http://www.uci.ch/ You need to tell them that your boy is being Railroaded by these stupid ‘scientists’ with their bogus isotope ratios. You know that carbon dating is wrong! Don’t let them ruin an innocent man’s career with their Darwinism!

Comment #117893

Posted by Ginger Yellow on August 8, 2006 08:43 AM (e) | kill

“Shouldn’t a philosopher, of all things, recognize that we can readily detect design added to biological systems precisely because humans are not (on the whole) actually designed?”

You’d think so, wouldn’t you, but that didn’t stop Paley from using an analogy where the clear distinction between a designed watch and an undesigned natural background was meant to prove the designedness of nature.

I love that bit. That is a delicacy.

Exactly. Hey Paul Nelson—you need to call the International Cycling Union. Here’s their website: http://www.uci.ch/ You need to tell them that your boy is being Railroaded by these stupid ‘scientists’ with their bogus isotope ratios. You know that carbon dating is wrong! Don’t let them ruin an innocent man’s career with their Darwinism!

Apparently, the discovery that Landis is 10,000 years old further proves the fact that he is using performance enhancing steroids.

Flint Wrote:

Let’s say that Landis, discouraged by his poor showing the day before, decided to spike his performance artificially one time and take his chances with the inevitable testing if it worked. DOES this work?

From what I heard from a doctor discussing on ESPN, it’s really only effective if taken over a long period of time, ie the short term effects are negligible. That’s what makes it bizarre, why would you take something that won’t help you in the short run near the end of the race?

Well Landis seems to have had help from g_ …er I mean.… the designer, probably located in a lab somewhere synthesizing epitestosterone for a little old lady with ‘sexual dysfunction’ married to Tim Montgommery (and Syrian hamsters ..don’t ask) by an ex employees of BALCO.

The question on everyones lips is, if the designer is so smart, why isn’t it a lay down Misère

That’s what makes it bizarre, why would you take something that won’t help you in the short run near the end of the race?

What is probably happening is that the doses got out of sync or some other process not yet tested for was being used and has inadvertantly shown up.

Epitestosterone is a masking agent for steroids so my guess is the chemists blew it.

He may still get off but it is unlikely since the test has revealed a synthetic compond has been taken. To make things worse his ‘alibi’s’ have changed a few times and he has not yet explained how the drug got into his system. Expect more ‘explanations’.

DOES this work? Is epitestosterone or whatever he took capable of producing an immediate one-time boost like that?

No. Some people claim that it can aid in recovery, but the evidence doesn’t seem to support that. According to the Jake Young link at the top of this page,

I guess I would speculate that considering the typical time scale for testosterones action, it is unlikely that measurable effects would be observable that quickly. All the other studies with testosterone show effects over the course of several (10ish) weeks.

Of course, for a cyclist to dope, it doesn’t matter whether it does work, but whether it is believed to work. But on the matter of Landis’s actual performance on stage 17, testosterone doping doesn’t explain it.

I’m admittedly assuming here that Landis was very well aware of the nature and dymanics of every available performance enhancer. If anyone understands these things, it’s a bicycle racer.

Why? None of the bicycle racers I know are biochemists or have any special knowledge about biochemistry. You might cut the question begging and suggest that doping bicycle racers understand these things, but there’s no reason to think so, any more than cancer patients understand the nature and dynamics of every available cancer treatment if anyone does.

What is probably happening is that the doses got out of sync or some other process not yet tested for was being used and has inadvertantly shown up.

What is probably happening is that people with no knowledge are offering up ungrounded speculation because we all abhor a vacuum of explanation (which is in large part why religion rises).

whether they were purposefully altered, justifying what Nelson would call a “design” inference, or not.

One more point – talk of “intent” plays into the IDiot’s hands. Intent is a legal concept but is not a part of any scientific theory. Regardless of whether the laws of physics or sequence of mutations or the outcome was “intended”, the theory of evolution is still the best – and only – scientific explanation of biodiversity and the nature and structure of biological organisms. Blather about “design inference”, whether in regard to evolution or pro cycling or Amazonian tribes, has nothing to do with science. The science establishes that the C12/C13 ratios in Landis’s sample indicates exogenous testosterone; it establishes no more than that. Determinations of intent will be done by quasi-legal bodies after a hearing and presentation of evidence. Scientists will contribute evidence but will not make the determination. And in the Amazon, any competent scientist, upon discovering C12/C13 ratios which, according to established science, indicate an exogenous source, would attempt to determine that source, starting by interviewing the tribespeople and examining their diet and habits. They would not presume intent or lack of it, and they would not “hypothesize and test new hypotheses of natural mechanisms” – that’s what cranks who don’t understand the power and value of Occam’s Razor. Scientists explain phenomena in terms of mechanisms – the fewer the better, and one should always exhaust the old ones before attempting to dream up new ones, and new hypotheses must flow from the evidence, the gathering of which happens before any hypothesis formation, when science is done properly.

whether his testosterone levels were “endogenous” or “exogenous”, which seems already pretty much established beyond a reasonable doubt

And then there is this, sigh. As I noted in my correction of my own statement, this is conclusion-jumping. At least two people in this thread have said they think the most likely explanation is that the sample was spiked. There is no claim about “his testosterone levels” that has been established beyond a reasonable doubt.

This Landis affair illustrates how much unscientific thinking is done even by scientists, who share the same prejudices, extra-scientific assumptions, and cognitive failures as the population at large.

popper’s ghost:

While I find your efforts a bit strenuous, I agree with your points. Intent is not relevant. If it were relevant, we’d have to raise issues far beyond the scope of the original point (which I agree with you was incorrect, and which failed). It might be interesting (though not relevant) to wonder where and why these lines are drawn; many acts improve one’s performance. Diet (carefully monitored, but definitely stringent), physical exercises, training and practice, equipment quality, etc. All of these performance enhancement mechanisms are available to all contestents. Presumably, performance enhancing drugs are also available to all contestants.

So why say that the drugs are “unfair” but the extra practice opportunities some contestants can afford (compared to others) are “fair”, or the physical gifts not meted out equally are still “fair”? My reading indicates that in football, for example, both the benefits and deleterious side-effects of steroids were understood. The attitude was, use at your own risk. If you think a starting job for 3-4 years is worth a (much shorter) lifetime of injury and ill health, that’s your call. It’s “fair” because these same options are equally open to everyone. So when we get into the area of intent, we’re dealing with moral issues and not scientific issues.

As for the Amazonian slugs, I think a couple of interviews would reveal that everyone in the tribe knows that eating them allows one to run after game so persistently that the game falls from exhaustion before the tribesman. Which would satisfy Andrea Bottaro’s question as to whether these tribesmen were doping themselves on purpose for the benefits doping provides. The answer is yes. No different in principle from cyclists.

I *think* Bottaro was assuming that these tribesmens’ metabolisms were synthesizing the offending homones, because (unstated) they had no access to the same chemicals the cyclists use; and (unstated) even if they did, they’d have no reason to use them. Not to mention that (unstated) the offending test results couldn’t come from any other external source. But I think these assumptions would not be adopted by investigators, who’d almost surely focus on whether these folks were eating booka-bookas during mating season.

So why say that the drugs are “unfair”

Well, it’s unfair for someone to take them when there are rules against taking them. Your real question, I think, is about why we have those rules. Rather than try to answer that directly, I will note that pro cycling also has stringent rules about the weight and configuration of bicycles; there’s a lot of tradition and concern for “purity”, which may be a rather elusive goal. Particularly relevant is that the cycling authorities are talking about banning the use of oxygen tents, which increase the cyclist’s ability to utilize oxygen much as injecting EPO does. Of course, such a ban would benefit those who live at higher altitudes or can afford to go to places with higher altitudes to train.

Which would satisfy Andrea Bottaro’s question as to whether these tribesmen were doping themselves on purpose for the benefits doping provides.

Ah, but that wasn’t his question. It was whether these tribesmen were doping themselves in order to raise their testosterone levels – and the difference matters, because he argued that the tribesmen wouldn’t be doping in order to raise their testosterone levels because they wouldn’t know about testosterone. I think that reflects the same sort of flawed reasoning as with the confusion between “natural” and “unintentional”, and between “system” and “sample” (the latter confusion being one I made and Bottaro then repeated) … it’s a matter of substituting A for B where B sometimes, but does not always, imply A. Athletes don’t dope in order to raise their testosterone levels either, they do so in order to increase performance, the same reason of the tribesmen, most likely, as you point out.

it’s a matter of substituting A for B where B sometimes, but does not always, imply A.

I should have said substituting B for A (or A with B). If B always implies A, then replacing A with B is ok; for instance, what is true of dogs (A) is true of poodles (B), so we can replace “dog” with “poodle” in statements like “dogs (and thus poodles) have four legs”, “dogs (and thus poodles) are closely related to wolves”, and so on. But it doesn’t necessarily work the other way around, e.g., “poodles (and thus dogs) have curly hair” is wrong.

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This page contains a single entry by Andrea Bottaro published on August 7, 2006 9:37 PM.

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