October 15, 2013

Jamaica's Bolt at London Games     Photo: Nick J Webb/Flickr

Jamaican Team Faces Drug Probe

Alleged lack of testing before 2012 Olympics

The World Anti-Doping Agency is launching a substantial audit of Jamaica's drug testing agency following reports that Jamaica's testing all but disappeared before the 2012 Olympics. The Associated Press reports that WADA's probe indicates a serious breakdown of the Jamaican agency's testing from January 2012 until the July games.

"There was a period of — and forgive me if I don't have the number of months right — but maybe five to six months during the beginning part of 2012 where there was no effective operation," WADA Director General David Howman said in an interview, according to the Huffington Post. "No testing. There might have been one or two, but there was no testing. So we were worried about it, obviously."

The former executive director of Jamaica's Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO), Renee Anne Shirley, initially raised the allegations in the Caribbean's oldest newspaper. Current JADCO chairman addressed Shirley's claims: "Ms. Shirley has done this country and herself a great deal of harm by saying things that are not totally in keeping with the truth."

However, Jamaicans did not enter the Olympic games entirely untested. The IAAF, track and field's governing body, says they tested Jamaican athletes regularly and Bolt was tested more than 12 times last year. Usain Bolt has never failed a drug test.

WADA plans to send a team to Jamaica to further investigate the alleged testing breakdown at the end of this year or in early 2014.

At the London games, Jamaica won 8 of 12 individual sprint medals, and Usain Bolt became the first man to win both the 100- and 200-meter races at consecutive games.

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Avalanche in Nepal     Photo: Simon le nippon/Flickr

Controversial Avalanche Video Ignites ABS Debate

Advertising life-saving gear

A video of freeskier Aymar Navarro surviving a massive avalanche with the aid of an ABS backpack has drawn criticism online. The video, with a grand and heart-pumping soundtrack, shows Navarro trigger an enormous avalanche while skiing in the Spanish Pyrenees. Navarro's avalanche airbag system is activated and he fortunately survives the dangerous slide.

While the ABS system seems to do its job, many questions are being raised about the motives behind the short clip. Powder Magazine editor Matt Hansen pennedan op-ed ripping the video apart.

"You’d think that after all the heartbreak skiers have sustained in recent years, and all the attention given to the tragic outcome of avalanches, that we’d finally arrived to a point where the glorification of avalanches was a thing of the past. Apparently, that’s not the case. This week, a video is going around the web showing Spanish skier Aymar Navarro triggering a massive avalanche, trying to outrun it before he gets consumed in its path, then deploying his airbag backpack. He survives, shakes off the snow, then, as seen through his helmet cam, he climbs back aboard the helicopter. It’s as if nothing ever happened and he’s ready to take another run. There are, of course, many videos showing how airbags can help skiers survive an avalanche. The ugly difference in this video is the prominent nature of the ABS logo, the editing to specifically showcase the ABS pack (including showing Aymar readying the pack’s trigger mechanism before skiing), the dramatic music, and the fact there is nothing in terms of messaging about decision-making or avalanche safety. Rather, the message appears to be that all you need to survive an avalanche is to wear an ABS backpack."

The Navarro video raises the contentious issue of how the outdoor industry should advertise life-saving equipment. Backcountry exploration is only gaining in popularity and, as Powder's Matt Hansen explains, "avalanches are very real, very dangerous, and that avoiding them requires more than just gear."



What do you think? Advertising taken too far, or a useful look at a piece of gear in action?

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There are fewer than 2,000 Bengal tigers left in the wild; 22 of them are monitored by Panna Tiger Reserve in central India.     Photo: RAYphotographer/Shutterstock

"Cyberpoaching" Feared as Threat to Tigers

Hacked e-mail could endanger Bengal tiger

At Panna Tiger Reserve in central India, Kirshnamurthy Ramesh, the head of a program that monitors and protects endangered tigers, received a fright in July: An e-mail informed him that someone 620 miles away from the reserve had tried to access his professional e-mail account. The only contents of note? The geographic location of an endangered Bengal tiger.

Ramesh was immediately suspicious that the attempted hack, thwarted by his server, could have been an instance of cyberpoaching.

Wildlife-governance specialist Andrew Zakharenka, of the Washington D.C.-based Global Tiger Initiative, says that "with increasing income and connectivity to the Internet, especially in developing countries, there is a threat of increased demand for wildlife products." This includes online trafficking, which the World Wide Fund for Nature estimates is worth $7.8 to $10 billion a year.

Ramesh told National Geographic that cyberpoachers would not be able to determine the location of the tiger in the event of a successful hack: "[The data] would look like unusual numbers or symbols."

Nevertheless, the reserve plans to deploy surveillance drones and set up wireless sensors to detect human intrusions into the forest.

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A bicycle commuter rides past a bike parking station in Groningen, Netherlands. This Dutch city is a model for making cities more bike-friendly all over the world.     Photo: Fietsberaad/Flickr

Dutch City Hailed as Most Bike-Friendly

Groningen is a model for bike cities worldwide

Would you go furniture shopping on a bike? Citizens of Groningen, Netherlands, visit IKEA with special cargo bikes, which is just one of the reason this Dutch town is of the world’s most bicycle-friendly cities, according to The Atlantic. The city has 190,000 inhabitants, 75,000 cars and around 300,000 bicycles.

The city has become a model for effective bicycle infrastructure due to the compact street plan enacted in the 1970s. Gorningen’s center is divided into quadrants, and the city government stipulates that citizens could not drive via car directly from one section to another. However, this law didn't apply to bicyclists.

"This is not really an anti-car measure," David Hembrow, who blogs about Dutch bike culture, told The Atlantic. "What this is, is making the neighborhoods where people live more pleasant, and making cycling into a viable option."

Today, half of all trips in Groningen are made via bicycle, nearly doubling the bicycle commuter rate of the top bike friendly cities in the U.S. In Davis, California, a little less than a quarter of residents commute via bicycle, according to the League of American Bicyclists.

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    Photo: bkp/Shutterstock

Moose Population in Decline

Is climate change to blame?

North American moose are dying at an alarming rate, so quickly in fact that states like Minnesota have replaced moose hunting with moose monitoring in an effort to understand why the species is in such fast decline. 

The New York Times reports that climate change might play a large role. Shorter winters mean a longer window for parasites such as ticks, brain worms, and liver flukes to harm moose. Ticks, in particular, cause moose to loose significant amounts of blood and scratch off their protective winter coats. In Smithers, British Columbia, one sick and tick-infested moose even wandered into a Safeway and had to be euthanized.

Warmer winters may also be stressful for moose, which use extra energy to stay cool in temperatures above 23 degrees. At the same time, pine bark beetles thrive during warmer weather and destroy trees—aka moose habitat.

“It’s complicated,” wildlife veterinarian Erika Butler told the Times. “There’s so many pieces of this puzzle that could be impacted by climate change.” 

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