Monday 30 July 2007

funny clothes, tinkling bell...

C. finished with the new Harry Potter whilst I was at the cricket yesterday (where I noticed that lots of other people were reading it with the test match as their backdrop). We've only got the one copy in our house, so I was waiting for her to finish before I can get my teeth into it.

So, what did she think? Is it any good?

Well, without wanting to spoil anything for me, she gave me a one word answer:


Oh dear.

Rather than just drop everything to read this, I reckon I might just carry with on with the book I've currently got on the go.

It's about Lance Armstrong and the 2004 Tour de France (which was to be his record-breaking 6th win). In the light of all of the scandals that have erupted in cycling since, some of the sections writing about Michele Ferrari, Alexander Vinokourov, Tyler Hamilton, Bjarne Riis, Floyd Landis and the like can only be read with a strong sense of foreboding and sadness about what we know happened next... positive drugs tests, mainly.... followed by vehement denials and often court cases.

Was Armstrong clean? I don't know.

I'd love to believe that he was, but I'm not sure I completely can.

Does it matter? Surely he's a hero anyway?


As for this year's Tour: well, congratulations to Alberto Contador, but with the best will in the world, that's not going to be what the world remembers, is it?

The Tour will endure, I have no doubts about that.... but the riders are going to have to change.

Anyway, wizardy nonsense can wait for another day.


  1. Why anyone who wasn't on drugs would cycle up a mountain is a mystery to me.

    Regarding Potter. They throw the ring into the volcano, and then live happily ever after in Middle Earth

  2. I agree with C. regarding the Deathly Hallows, and am busy writing up my own review.

    Definitely no.

  3. C. said (much more succinctly) what I thought - I'd elaborate with the words "derivative" and "who cares".

    As for Armstrong, I don't share your sense that he's a hero. An inspiration, definitely, but not a hero. Was he clean? My guess is that his chemo/radiation/treatments may have changed something in his system that can't be tested. Is that clean? Depends on your definition.

  4. the therapy Armstrong had affected him in the sense that he lost a lot of weight from his upper body, and the change in his physique dramatically affected his power/effort ratio, in the sense that it meant he could ride faster up mountains with less effort. The difference is probably only a few percentage points, but it makes all the difference. He was always a talented rider -- the youngest ever world champion -- and he was an outstanding endurance athlete at least partly because his body naturally produces less lactic acid and his red blood cell count was -- again naturally -- unusually high and very close to the line drawn by drugs tests (which is of course critical, as the red blood cell count is one of the things that the drugs cheats try to change and is what Vinokourov was caught doing this year.)

    I'm less interested in the fact that he never tested positive and was the most tested cyclist in history.... I'm more interested in quite how equivocal he seems to be about drugs in his sport. He is indelibly associated with a man -- Ferrari -- who has advocated the use of EPO and other drugs to improve the performance of athletes and who has been closely associated with a number of riders who have been busted for drugs, and he refuses to step away from his relationship with the man. On the one hand, loyalty is an admirable trait, but on the other hand he is unfortunately tainted by the association. The other thing is the way that as the "patron" of the peleton, Armstrong was in a position to make strong statements about drugs and their usage in the sport, and he never really did. Instead he used that position to bully people - like the Italian cyclist Simeone in 2004 - who dared to ask questions about Ferrari.

    Is he a hero and an inspiration? Well, I'm awed by his achievements in the sport. 7 wins is an astonishing feat and the manner in which he won them was breathtaking.

  5. I'm amazed that people are still using EPO (or even transfusions) when the FDA came out very strongly about limiting its use even in pts with chronic anemia this past year. It increases risk of heart attacks and stroke due to blood clots.

    As for whether Armstrong did or didn't...well, that's a tough question and one that would need to be answered also in light of his history of cancer and possible propensity to anemia as a result.

  6. apparently loads of cyclists - fit, healthy men between the ages of 16 and their early 30s - started dropping dead of heart attacks. The standard excuse is that the exertion ruthlessly exposes genetic weakness, but the reality of course is that EPO has turned their blood to sludge and their enlarged hearts haven't been able to cope.

    Apparently a scary number of professional cyclists set their alarms for the middle of the night so they can get up and do some exercise to stimulate their heart and in an attempt to ward off heart attacks in their sleep.

    Not a pleasant thought. Is winning really worth that risk?


  7. Someone's gotta stick up for the other side - I thought Potter 7 was fantastic - with the important sidenote that you have to have enjoyed the previous six to believe so.

    Excellent conclusion to the series.

    I much prefer the American cover.

  8. Hi. I'm in the I like Potter 7 club. Except...well, except snape. And that's all I'll say to keep from spoiling. There was a moment ofbitter disappointment with him for me. Otherwise? I've plowed through it three times already, thanks. It was great.

    Hi, Swiss, by the way.