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Letters to Cyclingnews - July 31, 2006, part 3
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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
Who to believe
To me the saddest thing about the entire affair is the possibility that Stage 17 - what I believed to be the single greatest sporting feat ever - really wasn't. For now, and until someone can provide clear scientific evidence about testosterone levels, I have to give Landis the benefit of the doubt.
It's tough to love a sport where you don't know who to trust.
The world should be congratulating Landis, not condemning him. In one action, he has accomplished something that should make us proud: he has proven his courage and perseverance in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, while maintaining a breathtakingly tenacious level of horniness.
We, as a society, should celebrate the most actively virile among us, not penalize them. Where would our species be without testosterone and its accompanying horniness? Undoubtedly bored, and quite possibly non-existent. Well, there might be some people, but they certainly wouldn't be any fun. They probably wouldn't even ride bikes.
Don't Mennonites, as a general matter, have a lot of children? And without electricity, cars, or alcohol! They are thus surely deserving of - no, entitled to - our admiration. If this misguided penalty endures, and it clearly must not, there at least should be a "number of children" exemption factored in to the interpretation of test results. I don't want to live in a world with a Tour podium, on the Champs-Elysees, devoid of children in the arms of spectacularly vigorous fathers.
My cycling friends, Landis, our gloriously vital poster-man, is under vicious attack. And it will spread mercilessly, if unchecked, eventually reducing the peloton to nothing but whimpering, child-indifferent "men". But if we act quickly and decisively, we can save our beloved, and properly fruitful, sport. To this noble end, I propose a new Tour jersey, to be worn proudly by the stage winner with the highest recorded level of testosterone. This substantial honour would indicate to all observers that the wearer was simultaneously fast AND horny. That's what I call an accomplishment. Oh, and the new jersey colour? Blood red, of course.
Oops, I have to go. My girlfriend just rang up.
I heard the interview on CNN with Landis and believe him. It is a gut feeling and watched the main stages here in Australia live. I will never forget stage 17 what a stage! I know of some friends who did not like Armstrong and when you look at the past 48 hours with the press I can understand why he was so strong with the media as Lance did not take any crap from anyone including Dick Pound, I just worry that Landis will get eaten alive by the press. I cannot believe they dragged his mother into this. He has to fight hard and long to beat this, I wish him well.
I am also disappointed that Floyd Landis showed positive on a drug test. However, I am not and will not condemn him or the sport of cycling even if he is found guilty. Fact, cheating exists in sports, every sport. Competitive athletes cheat one way or another whether it be drugs or illegal equipment, whatever. It does not make it right it is just done. This problem exists in and at all levels of competitive sports. Cheating and dishonesty is found and has been proven with our religious and political leaders so why wouldn't be found in sport.
Lastly, just because an individual did not get caught cheating or show positive does not mean that they didn't!
Where to begin? How do all the other tests he took come back normal except the incredible Stage 17? The effort that should have been a great memory for us now becomes a question mark! The testing seems suspect as well as the possibilities which could effect the testing for the T/E ratio. It has really turned into a 3 ring circus that will forever take away from Floyd Landis and the Tour! Even if it's all a big 'mistake' or error in testing Landis will never get away from it and probably will never be the same man! Guess it's time for the club ride w/ the locals and we'll just shake our heads in disbelief for 50 miles!
I am absolutely appalled by the handling of anti-doping testing by the UCI. Doping in sport is cheating, and should not be tolerated. But declaring someone cheated when they didn't is arguably just as bad. So what's the best way to handle it? You verify your results BEFORE you start leaking information to the press. Waiting a few more days, even weeks to snag a cheater is not going to do any harm. Leaking results that have not been confirmed should be a crime - if the athlete is innocent, it is equivalent to libel.
I hope Landis can prove his innocence. And then I would love to see him sue the pants off the UCI for defamation of character. Ironically, the big loser here is the UCI itself, as most people - including the money generating sponsors - are getting fed up with pro cycling. This incident may be the final straw for many. What if it should never have been a straw at all? It would have been better to be sure before ruining the best Tour in years.
Why does cycling continue to use dodgy test methods? Is the rush to expose cheats so great that any old method will suffice? First, a high ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone does not actually mean there is too much testosterone in the body. What is the point of using a method that Dr. Luis Hernandez (Floyd's newly hired specialist) has proven "hundreds of times" that it is not real good indicator of doping. Epitestosterone levels fluctuate as well, and reports I've heard state that Landis' epi was low. Not that his testosterone was high which would have been a more reliable sign he was doping.
Which brings me to my second point. If the ASO and UCI are so determined to eliminate doping why are they only testing 4 riders per stage (as reported)? If they tested more cyclists throughout the race, they might have a better idea of a normal level of testosterone for each athlete. Why not test the top 20 on GC after each stage? They would have 21 tests for Floyd to show a complete three week profile of the rider. I'll tell you why. Money. Those tests are expensive. So the ASO and UCI can spread the good word about their fight to eliminate doping, but until they start putting their money where there mouth is, it is just cheap talk.
All is very easy. (I think)
All top athletes should be tested once a month all the year around. You get the normal values for every athlete and from this it is much easier to know if somebody uses illegal substances. It is the same with people who has a normally high level of haematocrit (there are people who goes over substituted levels normally) could compete without problem.
The cost for this should probably be high, but I am sure we could have a much cleaner sport.
I live in Switzerland and am a fairly serious fan of cycling sport. Ok, I went to see lance when he was around 21 in the Tour de Suisse on a mountain time trail when Alex Zulle edged him out of the stage. I yelled so loud at the side of Lances head as he rode by I later was worried he was "Pissed" or couldn't hear.
Anyway, I just want to say that if the Landis thing turns even worse as a public relations issue than it already is, this sport is going to be set back 15 years. Two major German TV stations said they will not carry "Le Tour" next year, and I just heard the only Swiss station is debating the same. OK, I see where the Germans might be upset. There must be a financial debacle going on when Ulrich gets pulled from the Tour the day before it starts. Imagine all the sponsors who targeted German speaking Europe, which then got a cold shower for their advertising investment. The plays to the Italians (Basso) and Spanish (Mancebo) as well to the same issue.
And then, a doped rider turns around and wins the Tour anyway...(according to their view which is not so quick to support Landis as the US folks are)
This will all spell a real financial shortfall for "Le Tour" that could take years to bounce back from. And if that space in July is filled with any other up and coming sport the public likes (Beach volleyball?) then it will be even worse. I can't even imagine what it would be like to only have a live Internet update on and Alp D'Huez available because I couldn't find it anywhere on TV when living in the middle of Europe? But I am really afraid we are going that direction because the riders don't want to break our hearts (and their bank accounts) and just come and say: "Folks, we can't RIDE they way we been riding with all those increased average speeds without sharp doctors with HIGH TECH DOPE!"
Wow, many letters from people with level heads, a few who have jumped on the positive bandwagon though!
I just want to add from my racing, coaching, race mechanic, and fan background that we need to wait and see.
I have met Floyd when he raced MTB and would see him at Mt-Ste Anne and Mt-Snow World Cups, what a nice guy. Is he innocent I don't know, maybe.
Right now lets look at the facts, his A sample has not technically tested positive but is flagged as suspicious because of high testosterone, according to Christiane Ayotte the directrice of the WADA approved lab in Montreal, it is very possible Floyd has a higher than normal level, and what was the level of his A sample? So we need to wait to see the result of the B sample test and following test and explanations before condemning Floyd.
Also if he suddenly used testosterone on July 19 after stage 16 it wouldn't have affected his performance the following day. It is also likely he would have tested positive on July 18th after stage 15 for testosterone if he was abusing the substance as the yellow jersey is automatically tested.
It was a great ride regardless of Stage 17 bravo anyway. However I also wish for a mostly drug free sport of cycling, as I don't think we could ever be completely drug free.
As I was driving in my car yesterday to an account I flipped the radio over to an A.M. sports radio station that I listen to every morning. The show came on and the first bit of information the host led with was that "Floyd Landis has tested positive for high level of test/epitest. I nearly drove off the rode. As a competitive cyclist for the past 8 years in North Carolina, I believed that I had witnessed the greatest "comeback", "epic ride", whatever you want to call it not only in the history of the Tour but in the history of sport period (my opinion). I know what it is like to suffer in a race and it feels like your legs are going to fall off or your heart is going to pop out of your chest! I also know what it feels like to "bonk" and that is ugly. Teams today have the entourage of doctors, massage therapists and personal chef's that are paid to get their riders on the podium period! Someone mentioned that nobody knows what goes on behind the closed doors of each team during any of the grand tours and we don't! BUT, I did have some doubt in the back of my mind of how he came back as strong as he did on stage 17 after blowing up on 16? Is that humanly possible?
WHY! Why did this have to happen now. Just when I thought the sport of cycling
was finally coming to grips with dealing with this plague, that has shadowed
this sport for so long, have to happen know? Not only is this digging the hole
deeper for cycling but it is also digging the hole deeper for US amateur, college
and professional athletics. As a high school and collegiate athlete, there is
a tremendous amount of pressure to perform at the highest level at all times.
Some give into doing it the alternative way and others decide to do it the natural
way? In today's environment there is so much pressure on young kids in high
school to get the "full-ride" to college and then become "professional" and
sign the gazillion
I'm not a scientist but have read the speculations pending the results of the B sample. I don't know what to think? I'm frustrated from the fact that there has been so much controversy in the testing process over the last couple of years. I'm disappointed that even if the B sample comes back negative it is not going to matter for Floyd as he is in the process of being convicted in public opinion already. It also bothers me that he has not come out and defiantly denied these allegations. It seems as though he has been prefacing the history of this type of situation and then answering "I'll say no"? What kind of answer is that?
My last point, did LANCE ARMSTRONG win the Tour 7 times clean? I am really beginning to doubt his accomplishment. I don't want to but it is hard not to. Reading his books, watching the chronicles, etc., he had the best of the best in terms of his "entourage". Lance was obsessed with details and it was his way or the high way. I'm not discrediting his hard training program and determination after all that he went through to get back, but it makes you wonder when all of the other "superstars" of cycling are starting to come to the surface?
I hope for Floyd and his family that this nightmare comes to an end in the next week or two and I hope and pray that this does not destroy the integrity and future of international cycling.
Dazed and Confused
With regards to the article mentioning the possibility that Landis' immense effort on Stage 17 could have altered his T:E ratio... wouldn't we see that from other riders, across the board? Would this test not come up positive on a regular basis, or did Landis somehow produce way more T than ever previously recorded? (Since he's been tested a number of times...)
Dunno if that argument will hold up... hoping there is an explanation for his innocence however.
Amen! What do you think a rival team director spawned by today's society would say?! Hopefully it would be a supportive comment such as, "I have no comment on the matter until I know more about the case", or "I support the athlete's innocence until proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt", etc. What a shame. To have some of these directors help build a case of guilty in the "public courtroom" with the only hope that they might then, in turn, have a rider move up in the standings.
All that I ask is that Floyd be given a fair shake. I know it might be hard to do with the circumstances in the last few years, but please, try. I wish that people would spend half the time reading more about the athlete, than they spend on the latest dope headlines. Start with the chapter in Lance Armstrong's War by Dan Coyle named "the book of Floyd". You might have a better understanding of why I think Floyd wouldn't dare take the chance of tarnishing his accomplishments. Just read it. Anywhoo, if you are in Floyd's situation, would you choose testosterone to dope with? Knowledge is power. Reading headlines is for weaklings.
I am devastated, I am distraught, I am angry, I am saddened. I am all of these things but not because I believe Floyd Landis is guilty of anything. It is because I believe just the opposite.
I have never met Floyd and only "know" him by having watched him race around France in the Tour de France for the past 5 years and from his Cyclingnews rider diaries/interviews and other media interviews. My perception of this man is that he is smart, funny, thoughtful, and and tough as nails. He has had to overcome so many obstacles on his way to becoming the cyclist that he is that it screams "Hollywood fiction". If I had been him, I would have thought "damn, maybe God really is pissed I left the Mennonite world".
I can not and will not believe Floyd Landis has done anything wrong.
I am furious at the media for (1) not covering the race and his amazing accomplishment ENOUGH (thank goodness for OLN and Cyclingnews and other web sites) and now (2) for screaming "Tour de France winner a cheater!" and having all the facts just wrong or so summarized into a soundbite that distorts the truth. The repercussion is that Floyd's career and life will be irrevocably harmed. One could get whiplash at watching the media and others jump on and off the Floyd bandwagon the last few weeks: "He's the leader/probable winner!", "He's cracked - he's a bum ", "He's Superman - he's a true champion well-liked by all the other cyclists!", "He's destroyed the Tour de France!"
When Floyd rode Stage 17 and then later won the Tour, the stories were buried in the middle/end of that night's sports coverage of most TV news broadcasts. The "Landis doped" story is the LEADING story not only ESPN, but the major networks' news. How can I be surprised when "reality" shows that expose the worst of human nature (Survivor, Big Brother) get huge ratings.
Do I think there are athletes who try to get an illegal advantage in sports? Of course. Do I think cycling is "dirtier" than other sports such as football, baseball, track and field? Give me a break. I do know cyclists are tested more than any other athletes and are barred from their sport/livelihood with 1 "failed" test for 2-4 years whereas those other sports test how much?, wink-wink, slap on the wrist. Did you READ the Balco book? I did.
I believe in Floyd Landis and I believe in Lance Armstrong. I go back and forth between anger and deep sadness when I read/hear others denigrate their achievements.
I 1st saw the Tour de France on TV in 1984 and fell in love with it. Back in those "pre-historic" days of pre-internet, pre-OLN, and pre-ESPN, I relied on the weekend CBS(?) coverage and Sports Illustrated. I knew nothing about cycling and I must admit for the 1st 15 years didn't understand much except the overall lowest time wins! I watch a lot of different sports but I am passionate about 2 events: the Olympics (summer and winter) and the Tour de France. I truly believe cyclists are the REAL "ironmen". They speed by in packs with wheels just inches apart that freaks me out just watching. They crash horribly, laugh it off by calling it "road rash", get back on the bike and keep going. They race over a 100 MILES EVERY DAY for 3 weeks! They pedal up mountains that I would get winded just by going up in a car...
I will forever be thrilled by what Lance did in his 7 victories and by what Floyd did in Stage 17. I will also be forever impressed by how Floyd handled the debacle of Stage 16 and spoke to the media-horde. He did not throw his helmet or kick his bike, he did not blame the bus or his hotel room or his teammates or the stars out of alignment. He is a man we can be proud of.
Floyd: Nulli Illegitami Carborundum! (don't let the bastards wear you down)
I am clearly disappointed about the Landis affair. I cheered and rooted for Floyd throughout the race. I still believe in Floyd, for now at least. But I've got to admit, this is a tough one to tackle. Not just for Floyd, but for cycling in general. I do not have a solution for the drug problem, and there may not be one. What I do have are opinions about the media, organizers, UCI and WADA with regards to their attitude towards this tragedy.
The media is always quick to write about the doping problems in cycling and I do not blame them for that. But how about the other sports? We are catching a lot of cheats in cycling, that much is true. But that is because we are relentless about our crusade against doping. We can not say that for the other big sporting events like soccer, basketball, baseball, etc. The general media does not point this out. People outside of cycling does not know anything about the out-of-competition testing going on or how much a cyclist is tested in a year. They know that the Spanish doping scandal implicated lots of cyclists, but they do not know that athletes from other disciplines were also implicated. Why can't the general media be fair?
The organizers condemn the cheats and will not allow dopers to participate in their race. I applaud them for that. But isn't it hypocritical of them to condemn cheats while at the same time they asks cyclists to ride more than a hundred miles a day, everyday for three weeks and still expect most of them to finish? The body can only take so much yet it's asked to perform well beyond it's capabilities. And then they wonder why riders cheat. Look at the course map: five cols, over a hundred miles. Next stage is the same. The one after that is flat, but it's about a hundred fifty miles... in the heat (or rain, snow or whatever mother nature throws at them). Ridiculous!
The UCI was clearly disappointed about the Landis affair. So disappointed that Pat McQuaid recently announced that the UCI will have to step up their fight against doping. Well, that's just dandy. I thought you've been doing that since the Festina affair. What has the UCI been doing since that time? Is he trying to tell us that they are not doing everything they can to combat doping?
As for WADA, Dickey Pound to be precise, we know we have a problem. You do not need to rub it in our face. Instead, you can lend a helping hand. I don't know how, but tempering your ego and working hand in hand with the UCI would be a nice start. And while you are at it, can you asks the other sporting disciplines to ramp up their drug testing programs? It'd be nice to hear somebody other than a cyclist get busted for drugs.
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