Thursday, December 21, 2006

Language is important

My old boss used to tell me I quibbled with wording too much. My response is that the words we choose carry nuances that are important. Choosing the words we use can help convey information accurately or contribute to flase impressions. For example, it's pretty common for the cycling press to use the word "acquitted" when referring to cyclists involved in Operation Puerto.

2 : to discharge completely (as from an obligation or accusation)


None of them have been acquitted in the meaningful sense of the term because none have formally been charged. They are under investigation by the Spanish authorities and depending on the outcome of the investigation, they may be charged in Spanish Court. If they are convicted, the various cycling federations will be compelled to begin proceedings against them. If they are acquitted by the Spanish court then they will be, well, acquitted. But they have to actually be charged first.

The cycling federations opened investigations into the cyclists, but because they are dependent on the outcome of the as-yet-none-existent court proceeding have "closed" the cases for now.

This is important because no one has as yet proven anything about the Puerto Cyclists either way.

Another misleading term was used recently in the description of the Landaluze descision by CyclingNews.com.
CAS acquits Landaluze on technicality


Well, to their credit acquit was used correctly. The CAS did in fact acquit Landaluze. But, I take issue with the word technicality. In the sense that Landaluze was acquitted based on a procedural error which is technical in nature, yes this is a technicality. But, technicality also implies that the error is of minor importance only to the nitpicky technical guys. This is not true, and misleads us as to the importance of these procedures.

These tests, if they are to be accurately labelled as science, need to follow procedures that eliminate the potential for human error. They either do or they don't. Using the word technicality implies that this is a grey area that's unimportant to the actual validity of the test. In fact, these kind of procedural errors (of which the lab has admitted are pretty commonplace) go to the heart of whether these tests are scientifically valid.

I've heard people argue (including, shockingly some scientists I know) that short-cuts are ok. But, that's also how you end up with an EPO test we now know is unreliable and South Korean Cloning scandals. Again, the procedures are there for a reason.

The bottomline is that, the test Landaluze fails was not valid. Maybe the result was accurate maybe it wasn't. But if the procedures weren't followed then we don't know. The test is literally of no value in determining anything.

My own editorial is that given the history of WADA and the lab, I have to wonder if science is their goal. Afterall, if they can accuse someone of being a cheat knowing that the worst case is that the riders will be acquitted on a "technicality" but their reputation is ruined then Dick's achieved his stated goal.

5 Comments:

At Thursday, December 21, 2006 6:45:00 PM, Blogger stokediam said...

Paragraph 1, line 4: "flase impressions." You are really stirring things up with your word choice there.

 
At Thursday, December 21, 2006 7:01:00 PM, Anonymous Coach Curly said...

Curly calls BS on the whole thing... WADA is a bunch of witch hunters. Speaking of performance... anyone tried out the coach you can afford?? Is he as good as Coach Curly?

 
At Thursday, December 21, 2006 8:00:00 PM, Blogger P-Dog said...

I actually saw that after posting, was going to edit and then decided.. naw. It wouldn't be a prudogblog post without massive spelling errors.

 
At Thursday, December 21, 2006 9:13:00 PM, Blogger stokediam said...

You missed out on the "massive" numbers! You'll have to edit some in next time.

 
At Friday, December 22, 2006 9:10:00 AM, Anonymous Omer said...

hey prudog, what is shawn ongers email address?

 

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