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Letters to Cyclingnews - July 31, 2006, part 2
Here's your chance to get more involved with Cyclingnews. Comments and criticism on current stories, races, coverage and anything cycling related are welcomed, even pictures if you wish. Letters should be brief (less than 300 words), with the sender clearly identified. They may be edited for space and clarity; please stick to one topic per letter. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.
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Massive response to Landis situation
Over the last couple of days the Cyclingnews letters Inbox has been flooded with an unprecedented number of emails about the situation of Phonak rider Floyd landis, who returned an adverse analytical finding for testosterone after his solo win in stage 17 of the Tour de France. The result of Landis' B sample analysis is expected today, and meantime the rumour mill has been working overtime. And so have you. Two hundred emails in three days on one subject is an all-time record.
Over these four pages we present a sample of your opinions, ranging from outrage to humour and scepticism to resignation. We're sorry we're not able to publish them all, but we believe this is a representative sample.
- John Stevenson, letters editor
July 31, part 1: I
will prove it, Stop the complaining, Public perception, The process - flawed?,
Courage off the bike, Dallas on wheels, Surely not, Sick & insulted, Mitigating
factor for Landis, Landis... it is a shame, Landis' abnormal (supernormal) results,
Travesty, Who's watching the henhouse?, Could it have been the result of the
bonk?, I'm sick of this!, One toke over the line
Why does McQuaid make a bad situation worse
It's a great question and we need look no further than McQuaid's foot-in-mouth comments for the answer:
"...we know that the French laboratory [where the testing was done] has a close connection with [French sports daily] L'Équipe, and we did not want this news to come through the press, because we are sure they would have leaked it.
As other readers have noted the UCI (and WADA, or at least Pound) are more concerned with appearing as if they are doing something, than actual results. McQuaid huffs and puffs about feeling "sad", "angry" and, perish the thought, "disappointed". How about the conflict of interest of this french laboratory that can't seem to stop its employees from running to L'Équipe with the latest "confidential" findings? What does McQuaid feel about that? To say nothing of when he might actually recognize that such conflicts of interest are a big part of what's hurting cycling's reputation.
One reader suggested a simultaneous dual lab approach for dealing with the A and B samples, and I think that's a great idea; one that would actually make a difference. Obviously not something UCI or WADA will implement, nor something that would help L'Équipe sell papers.
The UCI are a bunch of idiots. From the mouth of UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani "We are confident in the first (test)," Carpani said. "For us, the first one is already good."
What happen to innocent until proven guilty? What happened to rules and protocol? How hard is it to keep your mouth shut for a couple of weeks? They are playing with the livelihood of the riders, even if the B sample is negative Landis will carry this for the rest of his life.
The use of performance enhancing drugs by riders is distressing and damaging enough to the sport of cycling, don't make it worse by potentially implicating an innocent person. Just let the process run it's course before spouting off.
to this letter
Yes it does (A one off Testosterone boost can help an athlete)
Cyclingnews.com reported how:
Dr Moosburger explained how it was done. "You put a standard testosterone patch that is used for male hormone replacement therapy on your scrotum and leave it there for about six hours. The small dose is not sufficient to produce a positive urine result in the doping test, but the body actually recovers faster."
So after a long day when Landis lost 9 minutes he used a patch which helped him recover. The result is in his great next stage.
I believe Landis is innocent but in this case: his drugs for hip; media hype; another American winning French tour; inconclusive scientific testing, I do not give him a chance to clear his name (although he did show that anything is possible in the tour:)
A truly dark day for cycling.
Jeff Cooper said "...why, why, why risk it?"
Well, put yourself in Floyd's position. Stage 16 and suddenly he's lost 10 minutes on GC. He has one mountain stage left. After the tour he is having a hip replacement, so there's no guarantee that he will ever race at the top level again.
Let's weigh up the risks versus the rewards of taking drugs to get himself back in a winning position.
The rewards - IF he doesn't get caught, he can win the tour, make millions, and forever be seen as a legend of cycling.
The risks - he may never be able to race at the top level again ...so what will have changed? If you take out the damage to the sport and his reputation, is there really even a risk?
I just don't believe the test proves that Landis cheated. If the B sample comes up positive then it must be because of a naturally high ratio. Landis and those close to him could not possibly be that stupid. There was no advantage to be had and no way of avoiding a positive test. Beyond comprehension. That to me will remain a fantastic Tour with a winner, Floyd Landis, who deserves our admiration.
I am an avid cyclist, and love the sport, both participating and watching. However, I have had enough re allegations of doping in the sport. While recent doping allegations are still to be fully proven i.e.. Ullrich, Basso, Landis, when are the UCI and the individual teams going to get serious about eliminating doping? All that is required is to make the disincentive i.e. punishment, far more severe so as to remove or significantly reduce the incentive to cheat.
Perhaps if anyone convicted of a doping offence was banned for life, accompanied by a team ban for two years, then not only would there be a financial incentive i.e. loss of individual income, as well as loss of individual and team sponsorship, there would also be incentive of an internal nature i.e. from within the team, to ensure a "clean" team. Teams could run their own doping checks, and if they expel a rider for doping, then the rider should still get a life ban, however, the team would avoid a 2 year ban, having demonstrated a proactive commitment to eliminating doping.
While there is a cost to this, what is the cost to the sport due to the tarnished reputation cycling has earned, and not undeservedly it would seem. Sure, there's doping in all sports, and of course, I asked myself how many World Cup soccer players were identified but not named as a result of Operation Puerto, however, why can't the sport of cycling set the benchmark in relation to doping intolerance.
This may not be constructive, but if Landis had a naturally high T/E level, shouldn't he have tested positive in every sample taken during the Tour? As the yellow jersey holder on more than one day, and the eventual winner, wouldn't he have been tested on quite a few occasions over the three weeks? I don't know much about this, and couldn't seem to find any information on this. Please note this is not a dig at Landis, his performance, or any cyclists performance, I'm just trying to understand it as I'm sure a lot of other enthusiasts are. One more thing, with all the other controversy at the moment concerning Spanish doctors, why wouldn't he use an American doctor to prove his innocence?
Thanks for the wonderful coverage and news, and thank you for your time,
... I hope the TdF staff takes the drastic step NOT to award the first place to anyone!
No one deserves to win the TdF 2006 with a sport where everyone turns out to be doped. Why should the present number 2, 3, 4, 5, 6... be any different? So Pereiro did a much better last time trial just due to the maillot jaune? Yeah, sure ... this doping is killing the fun of the sport.
Now I have even lost faith in Lance Armstrong. Why should he be any different then the number 2, 3, 4 of the TdF etc who have caught as simple cheaters? Perhaps the eccentric WADA has been right all along.
The only way out of this is that all who want to be professional cyclists have to give a DNA test in advance and be accountable for their deeds up to 10 years after they have raced. Armstrong, Ullrich etc who don't want to give DNA tests should proclaimed cheaters. They might not be murderers (as Ullrich refers to), but they are ruining the most beautiful sport on earth while laughing all the way to their fat bank accounts.
At last! Interest in cycling has spread far and wide, beyond the familiar inner circles of the sport. What a shame its drugs and cheating, not the glory or achievements of inspiring role models, that is the reason behind this newfound public interest.
I attended a corporate dinner last night and the main topic of conversation was Floyd Landis and drugs in cycling. Most of the comments were the usual crap about 'all cyclists are on drugs' and 'may the best chemist win' and 'Lance was definitely on drugs too'. But do you know what? I struggled to make a case for the defence. I think even my own good faith is now being questioned. Every epic cycling performance I've ever witnessed now begs the question - were my hero's clean, or was it simply that the tests were not sophisticated enough to detect the performance enhancing drugs in the systems. I beg for the former, I fear the latter.
I still love cycling but maybe I'll find greater satisfaction following the amateur and local ranks where the absence of money keeps the sport clean and pure. If we all did likewise maybe we'll find new hero's and help promote the careers of the guys that deserve it most.
Keep the faith, rumours of cycling's death have been greatly exaggerated...
I have read with great interest the letters regarding Landis, mostly from America. Much talk on procedure, much talk on testosterone, many gasps of incredulity.
I am a keen cyclist who has been following the Tour for donkeys, with this year being telecast in full for the first time ever. I have been most distressed since coverage began half way through stage 17. I could not believe what I was witnessing, and unfortunately sprang to the immediate conclusion that Landis had cracked (not in the cycling terminology) and taken drugs. Not for me the heroic break, the supreme effort, the will to win. No, for me the Tour was ruined, and with it an increasing malaise, a sense of dread that my love of cycling is gone, maybe forever. My disappointment so great I could not watch the final stage for the first time in a decade.
My summation of events was this: Landis had been a domestique for years, including three for Armstrong. He has since become a good rider, but not great. He had done nothing either in the past or in this Tour to indicate he had within him the ability to vanquish the peloton IN THE MOUNTAINS as in stage 17. My suspicions were piqued by the constant flow of water to an extent I've never before witnessed in ANY sporting event, and then exacerbated by the extent of change from his physiological and mental meltdown the previous day to this superhuman performance perhaps never before equalled in the history of sport less than 24 hours later.
I cannot find it within me to give Landis the benefit of the doubt. Armstrong's team mate and mountain minder Heras doped out of the Vuelta. Armstrong's team mate Hamilton ditto, caught with a new test for blood doping. Has he given back the Olympic gold medal he cheated? An emphatic No! hiding behind the excuse of a spoiled B sample. Armstrong himself, caught in the act not once but what, six times? Nine? Hiding behind the excuse that the test hadn't been invented at the time, and then that procedures were not followed to the letter. Not a word from either the man or the UCI about the actual results, namely that he was guilty of systematic doping DURING the 1999 Tour.
Before you all accuse me of being a cynic, please realise I am not, just bitterly disappointed that the sport I love has been undone, not 'again' but 'continuously'.
Hypogondal is actually having reduced testosterone secretion not the condition of having one testicle.
The science on testosterone
Of course it is possible that there is another explanation for the ratios and no doubt we will now hear various clever theories, arrived at by lawyers after consulting with doctors, as to why the test does not prove doping. The explanations will probably be a bit more credible than some in the past (remember Tyler Hamilton's false twin, Frank Vandenbrouke's dog, Raimondas Rusmas' mother in law?) because of the problem of proof about testosterone - which is precisely why riders take it (see Ullrich, Basso and many others - all negative when tested, naturally). In a different sense the facts do speak for themselves: it is utterly absurd to pretend that in the third week of a Tour a rider can ride a mountain stage largely alone for 130 km at a speed of over 37 kilometres an hour (not that a testosterone injection alone is likely to have made the difference, but it certainly helps). Training hasn't changed that much since the era of LeMond and Hinault and there is no credible explanation how it is that speeds have increased so much.
And let's not have any self-congratulatory stuff about cycling putting its house in order. It had the chance after 1998. Even during that Tour, with police raids and all that, we can now pretty much assume that Pantani was using an interesting cocktail of substances to drive his Alpine epics; and since then we now have micro-dosing with EPO, blood transfusions and other devices to evade the tests (see Tyler Hamilton's medical records to see how it is done). EPO is abolished yet, amazingly, the speeds remain the same and riders who took it return with the same power outputs. The clean riders aren't the ones who haven't been caught but who still manage to win: they are the few and largely anonymous great athletes, unassisted by chemical recovery agents, hanging on to the rear of a bunch led by supermen on motorbikes. It is plausible, for example, that David Moncoutie - generally reputed to be clean - is the strongest rider in the circus, since he still manages to win the odd stage in the mountains when permitted. But we can only guess: all we should know is that the spectacle we are witnessing bears no relationship to what happens under natural power.
I was crushed to hear the news about Mr Landis, but after careful consideration and I maybe I am a fool I am choosing like I imagine many others are to believe him, it just doesn't make any sense at all considering recent events prior to the Tour and the increased spot light on the cyclist that he would take anything. I just can't buy that. So call me a hopeless fool, a ostrich buried in the sand, but this cyclist will chose to believe otherwise unless it can be proved to be so. Floyd your innocent in my eyes till in your words you are proved guilty. I for one trust that will not be the case. There is enough cynicism, distrust and hatred in this world, your heroic stage win gave us all a moment to touch glory! I thank you and support you 100%, I also have great faith that your upbringing, and the character instilled in you as a child still rides with you today! Your people historically suffered much and were persecuted terribly for their beliefs., (The Book of Martyrs') and I am not comparing this situation to that directly, but you have within you a well to draw on that has and will stand you in good stead. Keep you chin up and know there are many that side with you.
"What a ridiculous bunch of loons. What a ridiculous bunch of meaningless rules."
I couldn't agree more. Once again, we have results leaked after only the A test. As many have mentioned, no matter what now, Floyd's reputation is seriously damaged. He has already lost opportunities for commercial endorsements, had to withdraw from races and lost the pay. What if he is really innocent. Does UCI pay him for his lost wages? Would they even apologize? There will always be a group of people who, even if he is ultimately cleared will assume he is a cheat.
Several of your letter writers proved that already. Imagine "Jaded" carrying his/her absurd "Unless a professional cyclist can prove to me the he is NOT a doper, then to hell with him!" to its logical end. It's normal in cycling though, it's up to the rider to prove his innocence. Good idea. Could "Jaded" and his/her followers prove that they have never sexually molested someone. Go ahead. Prove that you didn't. What a ridiculous bunch of loons.
We have no idea if Floyd is guilty. People who have followed cycling and drug testing should have known well before this report the testosterone is extremely difficult to test for, and there is not even much evidence of benefits. This is old, old news.
In a NYT interview, Dr. John Armory stated, " gYou canft impugn his career, h Amory said. gThe testing has to be done right. I am kind of surprised that five days after the fact they are talking about the A sample without the B sample.h (see http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/28/sports/othersports/28doping.html?_r=1&oref=slogin)
I am now sick of it all. Doping, accusations of same, the supposedly professional groups responsible for testing no even having the integrity to obey their own rules, the immediate assumption of guilt by many, and the chances of destroying the career and reputation of innocent people. It's OK as some had said. To hell with evidence, rules, a chain of custody, if you are a cyclist you don't get these. (UCI, WADA can lie and cheat as much as the people who are actually guilty of doping.)
Sorry for stealing your words again, Tod, but you put it best. "What a ridiculous bunch of loons. What a ridiculous bunch of meaningless rules." And it applies to the whole mess, the Tour, WADA, UCI, and, unfortunately, many fans too.
David R. Hufford
I agree until the B sample results are known then it's not the best idea to give out this information, then again as cycling is being dragged through the mill it shows an open ideology has started to set in and the rule makers have let us all know exactly what's going on. If Floyd's b sample is clean, then there's nothing better than a Tour de France champion explaining how this could happen and what we can do to avoid such events in future, the stigma now attached to Floyd [if he his clean] is no different than the stigma attached to Lance, a totally clean athlete under suspicion because of the history of the sport itself, its a hard fact to accept, but there will never be a Tour or Giro winner that will not come under some kind of suspicion, it now the nature of all sport, i also have to say that i went to the Tour this year and i do now feel somehow cheated and a bit sad
A very interesting article you posted - I can certainly imagine Landis' big ride consisting of the type of workout that would stimulate testosterone production as described in your link. But I'm troubled that more riders, including Floyd, haven't returned false positives on a routine basis, then. One would think that everyone who wins a race or stage after a long, hard breakaway and was thereafter tested, would return a positive. Was Zabriskie tested after his breakthrough win at the Vuelta a couple of years ago?
I'm dying to know what the actual T/E ratio was - 15:1 or 4.0001:1? In real terms, that's a huge and telling difference. In anti-doping terms, it doesn't matter, and that's both a shame and a huge problem.
I'm troubled that the Phonak squad has had more than their fair share of positive dope tests since their founding - are they a) unlucky b) two-faced lying bastards secretly promoting a doping culture a la Festina or c) being very Swiss and ruthlessly and efficiently following procedures and legislation, outing their team members and assuming their guilt based on the least whiff of possibility of a connection to a doping issue. I dunno.
I agree with Floyd that there's very little chance the B test will contradict the A test. He'll then submit to testing to determine whether he has a naturally high testosterone level. Ummmm, if that were true, wouldn't he have shown false positives before? Wouldn't it make sense for all pro riders to be tested for their "baseline" or natural testosterone levels when they become pros, or annually, as a proactive measure, instead of as an after-the-fact, weak, "maybe I'm a chimera" kind of defence?
At the end of the day, my heart still trusts Floyd. Clearly, there are riders (and other athletes) who cheat. But it's also clear to me that the whole anti-doping bureaucracy and culture is sick. It happens every time we humans try to legislate morality. It never works and innocent people are chewed up and spit out. Its disgusting.
On Wednesday night I got off of work, suited up, and did a great ride. Out to Palomares Road, over to Niles Canyon and back.
As I rode, I thought about Landis. Almost constantly.
On Thursday morning I woke. Up.
What does "I'll say no" mean to an inquiry of drug use? What does it mean when a rider says that he does not care about winning a stage, just the race? Did Landis REALLY want a few low GC riders to go with him on 17 so he could have once again flown under the radar?
I feel cheated by professional cycling. Those early mornings glued to OLN when I should have been on the bike.
On Thursday night I repeated Wednesday's ride. It rocked.
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