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In shaming 90-year-old rider, anti-doping earns black eye

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With each pedal-stroke of his 80- and now 90-year-old legs, Carl Grove sought to show his fellow Americans that old age can be rich and rewarding.

His bike is his soapbox. As time caught up with many of his peers, the former United States Navy Band saxophonist , who played for U.S. presidents and visiting VIPs and who was born on his parents’ kitchen table in an Indiana thunderstorm the year before the Great Depression, is still riding to escape its clutches.

He has set age-group cycling records in the 80- and 90-year-old categories and accumulated 18 national championships. But what has mattered most to Grove is setting a healthy, don’t-give-up example in a country increasingly sickened by obesity and the inactivity of modern life.

Through his exploits, his hope was to share the simple maxim he lives by: “Do not sit down.”

“I see all kinds of people that, man, they go up two or three or four steps and I hear them kind of pant and what have you. This country is not like it used to be. I didn’t see that when I was younger,” says Grove, who will celebrate his 91st birthday on July 13.

“I try to show them that with just a little care and a little exercise and a proper attitude that, maybe, they can live the last eight, 10 years of their life with quality and not have aches and pains.”

But at the end of last year, the stay-fit mission he calls his “life’s work” suffered a mighty and, in hindsight, completely unfair and unnecessary blow.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency informed Grove that traces of trenbolone, an anabolic steroid used by U.S. cattle farmers to bulk up livestock, were detected in a urine sample he gave at the U.S. Masters Track National Championships in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania, last July, where the field’s oldest competitor again added to his collection of titles, setting times faster than men in their 80s, 70s and even 60s. He was stripped of his gold medal in the pursuit – the day he tested positive – but kept two others.

Grove’s conscience was clear.

As USADA’s own investigators eventually determined, he knew he hadn’t doped. Instead, Grove had been inadvertently contaminated, probably by a dinner of cow’s liver he ate at a local diner on the evening of July 10 – his way of celebrating his gold medal in the time trial that day, where he was the only competitor in the 90-94 age-group.

Still, the failed test was tough on Grove. He knew how it would look, how short attention spans would put the words “cycling,” “doping,” “steroids,” “disqualified” together and imagine the worst, perhaps picturing a 90-year-old version of Lance Armstrong, cycling’s most infamous dope-cheat.

Sure enough, and despite USADA slipping its public announcement out on a Friday, news that an athlete so old had tested positive generated worldwide headlines this week and a mix of incredulity, mirth, sympathy and cruelty online.

“I was really kind of down for a while. But I’m over it,” Grove now says, making his first and only public comments about the case in a telephone interview this week with The Associated Press. “I wanted to be an inspiration, if possible. I worked like a real horse to do it.”

“They struck me from the records . I don’t really care about that too much. The thing that I really, really care about is that I wanted to be a sterling, totally clean person in front of people that knew about me,” he said. “It looked like I had not been an honest person to a lot of people. I guess I was kind of worried about what did other people think, you know? Then, I began to think, `Well, some of them will believe me and some of them won’t.’ I guess that’s just the way it is.”

For the anti-doping system, this is another black eye. Taxpayer dollars should, within reason, continue to be spent on policing amateur sport, not least to combat the increasing use of steroids by body-conscious young men. But the naming and shaming of a well-intentioned great-grandfather smacks of vindictiveness, not justice. There are so many bigger battles, like cleaning up Russian sport , for the anti-doping system to fight. Rules that cannot give a complete pass to inadvertent victims like Grove clearly aren’t fit for purpose and should be changed.

USADA boss Travis Tygart says that even though the agency determined Grove wasn’t at fault, it had no choice but to issue him with a public warning for the failed test, the lowest-level step it could take in such a case.

He “ate meat and had a test that you then can’t just sweep under the carpet as much as you might otherwise want to,” Tygart said. “Cases like this make us bang our head against the wall. The outcome is not right and it’s a system gone awry.”

Grove thinks taxpayer dollars that fund anti-doping could be better spent on catching cheats, not bystanders.

“Us old guys are kind of like peanuts. I think that they’re wasting their time,” he said. “What can I gain at 90 years old doing drugs? Tell me, I just don’t know. So I think that somewhere there ought to be a cutoff and they ought to zero in on the stuff that is done for money reasons or whatever it may be. But I think after 65 or 70, you know, they ought to just give up.”

Fortunately, Grove has a resilient attitude to go with his good genes (his mother lived to 105 and his father, a barber, was still cutting hair in his retirement home until a few years before his death at 97). He’s already launched into a new challenge: Breaking the age 90-95 record for distance ridden in an hour, set by Frenchman Rene Gaillard in 2017 , who covered 29.278 kilometers (18 miles).

Grove said he’d start training immediately after getting off the phone with the AP.

“Sometimes, I ride in the morning and it’s a beautiful sunrise. I’m alive. I’m looking. I’m looking around. I’m feeling good. I’m so happy,” he said. “I’ve got so many gold medals and ribbons and stuff, and that doesn’t count. What counts is getting out there and doing the best I can do and show people what they can do.”

Eli Viviania wins first stage of Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Italy’s Elia Viviani slipped through a tiny gap near the finish line to win the first stage of the Tour Down Under on Tuesday as riders faced the dual challenge of extreme heat and strong winds.

Viviani was tucked back in the peloton, behind triple world champion Peter Sagan, as riders raced towards the finish of the 129-kilometer stage at Port Adelaide.

First Danny van Poppel of the Netherlands, then Germany’s Maximilian Richard Walscheid hit the front in the straight sprint to the finish and Walscheid looked to have made the winning burst.

But Viviani, who fell during the 50-kilometer tour prelude on Sunday, showed fearlessness as he threaded his way along the crowd barriers to dash past Walsheid for the stage victory.

Riders had to contend with temperatures in the high 30s Celsius (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit) as they raced through the Adelaide Hills, then contended with heat and crosswinds on the long ride along a broad and exposed motorway to the finish.

Organizers had intended to finish with a 3.4-km circuit but, after concerns about the heat, winds and possible traffic problems, they opted instead for a straight run into the finish.

“Today the plan was to wait a little bit and put me in the best position,” Viviani said. “Also the lead out guys had to bring some wind in the face from five kilometers to one kilometer out. Sometimes the danger is you don’t have the space to go through, but I found a little space on the left on the barriers.”

Viviani claimed the win for his Deceuninck-Quick Step team ahead of Walscheid while Italy’s Jakub Mareczko was third. Sagan finished in eighth place with the same time as the winner.

Ex-British cycling doc faces hearing over testosterone order

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LONDON — The former doctor of Team Sky and British Cycling will face a medical hearing on allegations he covered up an order of testosterone which was intended to help an athlete.

Richard Freeman’s actions have been at the center of a British parliamentary investigation into doping in sport and he is now accused by the General Medical Council of getting Testogel “to administer to an athlete to improve their athletic performance.”

Details published by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service ahead of an upcoming hearing say Freeman is accused of making “untrue statements, in that he denied making the order and advised that it had been made in error” in 2011. Freeman is said to have asked a company to provide confirmation that the Testogel order was sent in error and returned “knowing that this had not taken place.”

The tribunal will examine allegations Freeman misled the U.K. Anti-Doping Agency in a 2017 interview by insisting the Testogel had not been ordered for an athlete at the Manchester velodrome where both Team Sky and British Cycling were based at the time in 2011.

The tribunal is listed as being sometime between Feb. 6 to March 5.