The appliance of science

Following last week’s posts on the UCI suspicion list leak and their reaction to it, I was interested to read the following piece by Ross Tucker on his blog The Science of Sport.  Obviously the leak by L’Equipe has created a lot of reaction and debate to the extent that at least one rider’s agent is threatening to sue the UCI for defamation over the matter.  Therefore a piece which tries to separate out the leak (as an act of organisational incompetence) from the subject (the development of a tool in the pursuit of dopers) by illuminating the science of the biological passport is both helpful to the uninitiated (as I alluded to last week) and a necessary brake on the runaway train of claim and counter claim.  After reading this I better understand the use and limitations of the biological passport as part of a wider amroury available to the powers that be. However, as both Ross and @Festinagirl have highlighted, the application of this science when left in the hands of dysfunctional organisations is open to abuse and manipulation.  So whilst I am slightly more convinced about the methods the methodology and application need much better explanation and transparency.

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Scientist, you’re a failure.

Yesterday saw my regular prescription check-up with the GP.  Having now come to the end of my counselling and having thought long and hard, both on my own and together with MrsAB, I’ve taken the next positive step in starting to come off the anti-depressants.  Now, I have tried this before but as they say, hindsight is a wonderful thing and at the time I think I was making too large a leap far too soon.  This time I feel I am in a much better place mentally and physically. As I’ve previously said, the counselling has provided me with the skills and tools that I need to get through the ups and downs life invariably throws at us. So its time to throw away the crutch.

That’s almost an aside though from the real story I wanted to share, one which follows on neatly from last week’s series of posts about the eagerness of the medical profession to prescribe solutions via a pill.  Yesterday I went to see the GP for his professional and scientific advice about the best way to reduce and stop the dosage of anti-depressant I am on.  I have been taking an SSRI called Citalopram and I am all too aware that you cannot just stop taking the pills. Instead it is recommended that you taper the dosage to prevent withdrawal symptoms.  Not only did the GP, my sister in law (a former mental health social worker) and my cycling buddy (a medical writer who worked on developing Citalopram) all tell me this but my previous experiences of trying to come off it have shown that you can withdraw too quickly and spike when taking the next dose.  This latter experience though highlights another problem: how do you reduce the dosage and still feel good?

As I said, I sought professional, scientific advice from the GP about how best to do this. I was expecting a definitive answer. Actually, I wasn’t expecting a definitive answer as each time I’ve asked a different GP I’ve received a different answer.  At least yesterday the GP told me that there is insufficient advice about how to do this.  It would appear the instruction manuals only go up to prescribing the stuff.  Conspiracy theorists might want to suggest that this is evidence of the drug companies locking themselves into a lucrative profit cycle. I’m not really bought by that.  What concerns me more is that having been too ready to prescribe medication, the medical profession themselves are running blind during the treatment. Surely this is wrong. Surely a profession based on science should have a basis in hard, scientific evidence. Surely if you are to prescribe a form of treatment you want to understand the odds of it working and ultimately what the outcome for the patient should be.

Instead it seems that we have placed our trust and faith in a little white pill. As the pressures of modern life continue to build the answer seems to be to mask the real causes and try and carry on as normal.  To break that cycle takes guts on the part of the patient and shows up the medical profession for its blind faith.  If anti-depressants are part of the solution then we really need to understand the full course of treatment from prescription to end, patients and doctors need to be fully informed about the true extent of the course of action.

So I’ve taken another step. I’ve now reduced my dosage and we’ll see how it goes.

Road to the stars

Well its official, summer is definitely here and the end of May is turning into a scorcher.  Yesterday it was 28 degrees and Mrs AB and I managed to spend much of it in Birmingham on a futile shopping trip.  The day was saved by lunch, coffee and a catch up with friends (Lauren and Leo) at Urban Coffee,drinks on the terrace with our neighbours and some stargazing with Mrs AB’s grandad’s telescope.  (If you’ve never looked at the moon through a telescope before you should – it is truly spectacular!).

So with the temperature threatening much of the same today it was up and out early this morning for a ride.  I’m pleased that I actually got on the bike, even more pleased that I did 28 miles and over the moon that I was back before coffee time.  I don’t hink I could have stood the heat as it is now.  It was a good ride, an undulating circuit around Codsall, Boscobel, Albrighton and Pattingham. I even felt good on the hills.

Passing what seemed like every Wolverhampton based cyclist on their respective ways out for the day reminded me of something else I love about not just cycling but walking too – the friendliness with which we greet one another.  Okay, there are a few miserable so and so’s who never say hello, but the majority do – and even to two chaps I passed on the hill towards Perton were cheery (I think) as the struggled up a nasty little incline.  Plenty of people have talked about the camaraderie of the cycling fraternity.  I know not on what it is based but it always feels nice to exchange a hello and a wave.  So for the couple of miseries I did pass, please take note – its a win-win situation for us all.

However, I do have to report two notable problems today.  The first is to the driver of the blue covertible “Mini” – when a cyclist waves to tell you not to pass it is for a reason not to be obstinate and obstructive.  In this case it was the presence of 3 oncoming vehicles which you could not see around the blind bend, particularly not at the speed with which you were approaching.  And the hand signals you used are not listed in the Highway Code.

The second is to Eurosport.  I was looking forward to a couple of hours watching today’s stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia – perhaps the definitive stage of the race finishing on the beast which is Mont Zoncolan.  Why then are you chosing not only to avoid live coverage replacing it with Formula 2 GP and the first round of the French Open tennis, but also cramming the action into a programme of less than one hour tonight (which no doubt in true Eurosport will be cut even further to show Darts on Ice from Helsinki)?  We are not amused.  Looks like its off to Sporza for a bit of Belgian coverage via the internet and my convoluted road to the stars.  In the meantime, off to check Mrs AB’s handworking painting the new shed.