That's Not What I Call Data.

Jul 31 2009

I don’t want to be a jerk. Both Garmin-Slipstream’s vocal anti-doping stance and Wiggins’ readiness to reveal the intimate details of his oxygen transport system are laudable. But guys, you have to do better than this:

First of all, I have no idea when any of these tests occurred. The specified dates on the x-axis have no correlation to the testing dates, and the time scales on each graph (4 months, 5 months, and one month) make them useless for comparison. Was Wiggins only tested 4 times in all of 2008? If so, why did three of those tests come in what appears to be less than a single month?

Then there’s the inferred line on each chart—on the “Pre 2009 TdF” chart, how can the off-score rise through the month of March even when there are no data points from that time period? Similar time gaps on the other charts reflect no corresponding rise, and data that could suggest a rise do not receive one.

This absence of hard numerical data is aggravated severely by the lack of context. Who ordered these tests? What did they test for? Why were off-score and hemoglobin concentration the only variables measured? Were they taken at altitude? Is this a full set of test data, or selected points?

For all the drama surrounding Lance Armstrong’s testing results—which, by the way, have not been updated since the end of the Giro—the Texan and his handlers have done an excellent job of cataloging the time and purpose of each test. It may not look as pretty, but for the skeptics, it’s the difference between disclosing your VO2 max and “otra pregunta“.

My point here isn’t to suggest, even slightly, that Wiggins is doing anything untoward. My point is that handing in data like this would fail you out of any 10th grade bio course.

The idea behind releasing this information is to reassure fans and sponsors, and set an example for other cyclists. Presenting some charts that anyone could fabricate with 10 minutes and a copy of iWork is a lousy way to do either.

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