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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 4, 2006, part 3
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Massive response to Landis situation
Once again the Cyclingnews letters Inbox was full of discussion of 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 this weekend, and meantime the rumour mill has been working overtime.
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
August 4, part 1:
I will prove it, Doping, Landis, tests, Why process matters, Robbie Ventura,
Rubbish!, Leadership & cleansing, 21st Stage, A few minor thoughts, Stage 17
water consumption, Was it a recovery prep?, Anti-doping transparency, Bad for
cycling - are you kidding?, Best way to deal with doping
Team management & doctors
I want to add a couple more defendants here. Team doctor and team manager.
I would agree that riders have the ultimate authority over what goes in their bodies and are at fault in a doping situation. I would personally factor in two vulnerabilities they have though. 1) They have very restricted professional opportunities to support their families and set their investments up for the anticipated long and healthy life. These opportunities revolve around performance and reputation. 2) They have an ego drive beyond being happy with personal bests, a desire for the world to recognise them as the best, and that is exploitable by others.
Possibly I'm naïve, but I think if a team doctor is being professional, he has a log of every medication/supplement his charges take, and every rider keeps his team doctor informed of any regimes they're trying etc, because they don't want to inadvertently shoot their career in the foot.
If a rider is self-prescribing/administering and hiding it from the team doctor, then the team reputation is at risk and every individual will be stained by the fallout when exposed. How he could hide this from "clean" teammates is beyond me and I imagine they must have significant fears about whistle blowing. Reputation is so important for them. I may be desperate to believe my favourite rider is honest in saying he's clean when a team member is busted, but to be blunt, he's guilty by association. I can't believe people who live in eachother's pockets like that couldn't know.
If the team doctor knows about it he wears the responsibility. If a cabinetry apprentice botches a job, it's his fault, but it's the cabinetmaker's responsibility.
If the team doctor knows something that potentially impacts the whole team, the team manager should know about it, otherwise the team structure is not working properly. (Cabinetmaker tells boss that a mistake's been made and work out what to do.)
Doping practices are recognised to have life risks. If the TEAM MANAGEMENT doesn't address this, they are behaving the same as a company that allows a workshop to become a cluttered and dangerous workplace, or their truck drivers to drive unsafe hours. They should be taken to task on a basis of occupation health and safety.
The guy who works using the saw that the boss should really get the guards fixed on, the nurse who keeps on even though they injured their back, the driver who continues even though the brakes are pulling to one side - all just doing what they think they have to to support themselves and get ahead.
The doping instances are a symptom. Please don't harden your feelings toward the riders. Let's go for the cause which is layers above in the structure of teams and racing.
And I agree wholeheartedly with those who propose creative & macabre disposal methods for the people who leak A sample results for a trail-by-media. Ever seen a Not Guilty verdict from one of those?
Since originally writing last Friday, new information complicates my previous thoughts regarding Floyd's honesty. He now hides behind the cloak of legal "speak", which typically means to not stray from what "we" (the HIRED guns) tell you to say or you may incriminate yourself. Initially, Floyd appeared honest and dismayed by the situation. People who know him have said he's the most honest guy around, and to believe in him because of his upbringing. I've been pondering the upbringing thing a bit. In reality, Floyd is about as antithetical to his upbringing as he can be. He seems to have a chip on his shoulder in regards to his upbringing, and makes attempts to distance himself from his family's faith and practices. So the question is, "Why wouldn't he cheat?" He has goals and aspirations that are different than the "minimalist" lifestyle of the Mennonite community. Mennonite thought is more communal than individual; the individual is doing well when the community is doing well. That clearly does not describe professional cycling, where individual exploits are the homeostatic norm. Floyd made the Postal community tense because he questioned the main Individual of the team, thus proving that cycling is truly about the success of the Individual and the advertisers that attempt to gather revenue in their wake. The Mennonite community is sounding better and better!
In my reading over the past few days I've strayed across mounds of information leaning for or against Floyd, but one article, which was not scientific in nature, swayed me significantly. It was sourced by a former cyclist, sorry I can't remember his name, who squealed a few years back concerning the prevalence of doping in cycling. He was clear that he didn't believe Floyd, and made me aware that my initial thinking of the limits of testosterone use during the Tour was incorrect. He explained that testosterone is fast acting and can give an athlete a sense of greater strength and explosiveness. This is where he caught my attention, as he also explained that the presence of high testosterone can give a person a sense of euphoria. If we recall, pre-stage 17 a foreign Floyd emerged from the hotel and was quite different than his "usual" self during the hours before the stage. Riders and coaches noted that they were surprised by Floyd and his demeanor, especially considering his decomposition on the previous stage, as he was chatty and upbeat. Huh... was Floyd euphoric due to a very elevated testosterone level? The apparent presence of synthetic testosterone in his blood appears to confirm this.
My hope for Floyd and the greater cycling community is utter honesty. If Floyd is guilty, the Mennonite community is a beautiful place to face his demons and be restored. While the rest of the world will blacklist him, his humble home and church will lovingly confront him, yet support him at the same time. Floyd could not be better poised to face his failures head-on, that is if there are failures to be faced in this matter. If Floyd comes clean, the personal victory he will achieve will far outweigh anything that can be accomplished by pedaling a bicycle around France and wearing a piece of yellow spandex. For the Tour is mere sport, and that needs to be put in perspective; but what Floyd is facing now is about real life and this is where his decisions are so important and carry exceptional weight. If he is guilty and figures a technical way around this matter without dealing with the real issues, then Floyd will be a loser the rest of his life. What I mean is that he will know that he is a loser, liar and a cheat and he will have to live alone in that haunting reality, because the rest of will move on and forget about the Tour of 2006, but he won't.
Interesting to hear that Landis was drinking whiskey the night before he tested positive. It seems to be common knowledge that whiskey makes both men and women more aggressive, which seems to suggest elevated testosterone levels. I've worked as a bartender, and more bar fights seem to be caused by people "on the rye" than any other drink. Clearly Floyd came out fighting the next morning. A positive test for elevated testosterone would be explainable, and purely accidental. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
I and a mate have just returned to Australia from the other side of the world after my trip of a lifetime. I've spent money we don't have, I've left my loved ones for three long weeks, I've slept in cars and endured 29 hour long haul flights.
All to finally see my heroes in the flesh.
The alarm sounded at 4am in Grenoble, we got lost in the dark but made it to Bourg d'Oisans before the roads closed, by 10.30am we'd already walked up the mighty Alpe for an hour and found our favoured spot. We waited in baking heat on the side of the road for our heroes to arrive at 5pm. After our homage we walked back down and spent an uncomfortable night in the car before repeating the marathon the next day and for several more days before finally bidding our heroes farewell at Paris.
Before I even make it home I hear the news of the Landis dope test.
I'm devastated. I can believe it no longer. These guys aren't heroes, they are weak people, drug cheats being manipulated by corruption and lies. Le Tour is the pinnacle of competitive cycling. Le Tour is a sham, competitive cycling is a sham.
Cycling can go to hell. No, it's already there...
Floyd (maybe). Barry Bonds (probably). Professional bodybuilders in the making. Thirty year old matrons trying to stay young. Teenagers trying to build lean muscle mass. Everyone who takes supplements instead of eating a balanced diet. Young execs pouring down the lattes to keep their energy up. Maybe we should legalize it all and let the professional athletes decide how much of their own bodies they'd be willing to risk to make the big bucks.
In response to Jaded: Nothing is conclusive at this stage about whether or not Floyd Landis cheated. The only thing apparent at the time of your writing your letter is that he had an irregular result from a urine test. The reason why he had that result is not certain, especially since other riders have been shown to have had irregular results that turned out to be, not because of doping, but as a natural result of their physiology. I encourage you and others to do what Landis has asked, to take a step back and wait for all the evidence and all the debate about what that evidence means. To condemn not only Landis but all pro cyclists as dopers at this stage is like screaming that the sky is falling because a drop of something fell on your head.
What a crook!
First his hip story, then his Thyroid story, then one, then two beers, then 4 whiskys? An 'epic ride' as a drunk at the paralympics. Common folks this guy is worse than VDB.
And utterly ridiculous how our US friends defend him.
Stop talking yourselves and the sport down the press are doing a good enough job. The sport needs your support right now and we can defend it from a very credible standpoint. Cycling is the most tested sport, leading the way and setting an example for other sports to follow. The cheats are being caught - terrific!
Lets make sure it's the cheats who are the losers and not Cycling.
Floyd, there is one thing worse than a doper and that's a liar.
Why not just come clean - explain why you did it (cycling is so tough and that you were just not up to it etc etc) you might find people willing be forgiving
Yours and proud to be a cyclist.
A.J. Baxter wrote, "How do all the other tests he took come back normal except the incredible Stage 17?"
Another Q to pose: How is it that of ALL the tests of ALL the riders, only one test result came up positive? I have no idea, myself.
I don't believe I am naive as I have been around for quite a few decades. Something about this case does not add up. Nobody would go all out to win a stage knowing they would be tested and knowing they had doped. There is too much to lose. So, there has to be another reason. I believe Floyd Landis is an unfortunate and innocent victim and I hope the true explanation will emerge before too much damage is inflicted on him and cycling.
Does the limit set by the UCI take in consideration whether there is a difference between taking the test during rest, after exercise or after PEAK PERFORMANCE? Most people recognise and accept the theory of peak performance but surely the physiology during peak performance is different to that of during rest or normal performance. If there is no scientific research done on the topic then how can the UCI be so sure of the doping charges?
The main problem is everyone involved plays games.
* The race organizers want records set. Who gives a rats ass if the Tour finishes w/ a 40kph or a 41kph avg.? The thrill is in the side by side fighting for wins. Both organizers & IOC (when involved) don't want to tarnish their huge cash generator.
* The cyclists know some are cheating so feel they must play the game to remain competitive. David Millar as an example.
* In this case the French are ticked that they haven't won since what 1985? They are capable of anything.
* WADA doesn't want to lose what it feels is a hammer to strike fear in cheaters hearts. Dick Pound (a Canadian I'm embarrassed to say) insists if the tests say you're dirty then that's it. Don't sweat the details, we are on a mission here. The critics & studies showing how the test methods are flawed are numerous.
* The non-cycling media (the name I really want to use is vile & rude) are like jackals.
I believe the only way to control (you will never stop it) doping is to perform baseline tests (random, throughout the year) on riders. This shows any "supernormal" attributes etc. The problem comes when you have to draw a line in the sand as far as how far you are over the line.
Doped or not they still suffer like dogs & show just how strong the mind really is. Who can't be inspired by Thomas Voeckler's defence of the yellow jersey in the mountains or Oscar Pereiro's huge time trial in yellow. Both rode above what they and others thought they were capable of.
Damn shame the whole sordid mess.
There is a consensus that cyclists like Floyd Landis are found 'guilty' as dopers without any adequate respect for due process. The fact that such athletes have to 'prove their innocence' goes against due process, a prerequisite to any legitimate determination affecting a person's liberty. In this case, we may not be speaking of criminal responsibility and imprisonment but we should see that liberty remains at stake. In this instance, the athlete's freedom to pursue a career and a meaningful life plan is in issue. It is unjustified that an athlete may be tried in a court of public opinion long before he can challenge these accusations in an appropriate forum, where evidence and reason hold sway.
Indeed, there is a strong parallel between this unacceptable situation and the situation of those who are alleged terrorists and subject to detention without trial. Guantanamo Bay is an extreme example but it is also an instance where people are deprived of their liberty without the ability to adequately answer a case against them. So it would seem that the lot of cyclists like Floyd, Jan, and Ivan are no better than supposes terrorists awaiting a proper criminal charge. This state of affairs is what one judge of Britain's highest court has described as a 'legal black hole,' a lawless zone where one is robbed of traditional rights attributed to respect for the rule of law.
One cannot deny that there is a doping rot in the sport of professional cycling just as there is a terrorist rot across the globe. But a proper cleanup of these rots cannot overlook the idea of legitimacy and procedure, the cornerstones of any society that claims to respect democracy and the rule of law. And so we should avoid creating black holes within which our athletes and our sport may eventually disappear forever.
The b sample should be tested by an independent lab. Is the same lab doing the b-sample test? They have a vested interest in it being the same result.
In any case, it's always the rider that looses no matter if it is tainted, procedural error or testing mistake. No one else is held accountable. Unethical, inconsistent procedure is not legally accountable. Chain of custody of blood samples is not legally accountable. It is a closed system where a mistake can be covered up, and is even advantageous and easy for the testing lab to do. In fact, it is easy for the testing lab to manipulate results to their will.
The only thing held accountable is the rider. It's a bullcrap system based on the assumption the testing lab is perfect and chain of custody is beyond reproach.
Guess what, the direct leaks of information to the press proves the laboratories are not perfect or beyond reproach. Everyone has a political, sporting or financial agenda and the only one liable for punishment is the rider.
Testing is good but with careers and the future of this sport on the line, the laboratories have to be held to a legally-binding standard. Would they act the same way if their laboratory was under the yoke of a 1 year ban of their accreditation for every error in testing or protocol?
WADA, the UCI and the Pro Racers need to make serious changes to this system. Right now, it looks like a circus. The sport looks like a joke, the UCI & WADA hold water like an enlarged prostate, the testing labs look like Enron playing w/ pro riders' pensions.
The whole sport is a mockery, worse yet the infrastructure looks dirty w/ apathetic, politically motivated yokles at the helm.
I read the short but direct letter by Marco Pinotti and can't help feel for brilliant riders like this. They sacrifice everything for a sport that will destroy their name and future in the name of "cleaning up the sport".
There is a lot of debate about where all Floyd's extra testosterone came from. If the ratio turns out to be 11:1 or 8:1, it certainly wasn't from any natural biological process. I believe it was probably inadvertent on his part - perhaps a reaction to the cortisone, thyroid treatment or alcohol. However, the resultant testosterone level unfairly affected the result of Stage 17, and therefore, the final result of the Tour. I must grudgingly say that the maillot jaune should go to Carlos Pereiro, and I hope Floyd can prove that the enhancement of his testosterone levels was unintentional.
Ok, so, if Landis is innocent, it sounds like the Euros are jumping onto another ‘Merican, but so what. However, if Landis is shooting up bull sperm, thanks a lot Landis. I say this not in response to his wrong doing, but for all the B.S. I have to put up with from non-cycling people. I am getting so tired of these ‘Merican-NASCARites saying stupid comments about “Phloyd” and all the work I have to do to defend cycling as a quality sport.
So, Phloyd, if you are innocent… rock on with your bad self. If you aren’t… well… I don’t know, but NASCAR is looking a lot better and cleaner. At least is known that they are all trying to cheat, it is just a matter of if you get caught.
Former Phan of the Tour de Phrance,
Testosterone didn’t help him on Stage 17, EVEN if he did take a dose so the naysayers should go have another beer. The testing lab has the biggest “mouth” in France and they should know that not knowing what Landis did or did not take would “injure” his reputation either way. A couple of clichés come to mind about his situation. If the French Lab/newspapers “throw enough “mud” some will eventually stick” and “regardless of how much lipstick you put on a pig (lab discloser) it’s still a pig”.
I am not a cyclist. I am a fan of the TdF and have watched OLN’s coverage of just about every race since 2001 – often twice. I thought Landis' ride on stage 17 was a truly great event. His win should have made him athlete of the year in the USA.
With regard to the recent drug testing results, I have no idea what the truth really is. I hope Landis is convincingly exonerated, but I think cycling will be a big loser among the general public, in particular the American public – if that is of concern to anyone.
The information and comments that have been reported are among the worst presentation of facts and opinions I have ever seen.
I won’t go into any detail, but here’s some things that bother me:
-What exactly are the numbers we are talking about?
-Given the “ratio” is high, are the actual levels out of line?
-How does this compare to the other results – in particular the three races after stage 17 – it’s been 3 days since the stage 17 results were released, the others do exist, by now, and I assume Landis was tested at least in the time trial and the final day of racing?
-What are the credentials of the lab that did the tests? Armstrong certainly doesn’t think they have much credibility based on his Larry King comments. What is their “record” on testing results? What is this connection with a newspaper – does cycling consider it a conflict of interests?
-I think I’ve heard there are other examples of where the B-test contradicts the A-test, what are the numbers? What is the explanation why two tests of the same sample differed?
-Assuming Landis did use a testosterone enhancer, why would a cyclist use it? What benefit does it provide?
-A number of the reported commentaries seem to be very self serving – there was one from some cycling official that basically said all he needed to determine illegal use was the A-sample – seems to contradict cycling own policy, yet alone in this case it sounds like even if the B-sample shows the same result there is another series of more extensive test to investigate whether the result was a natural condition.
-Greg Lemond’s comments recently reported also seem a bit self-serving. It seems to me that he feels left out of a lot of the recognition that Armstrong and now Landis are getting. He may have a point, in that based on the recent OLN story he was truly a pioneer. However taking an opportunity to zing others doesn’t get him any points in my book.
I’ll probably still watch the TdF next year, but I suspect I will be more selective in what I do watch. Regardless of how this turns out, I doubt it will do much to generate much new interest. Unfortunate!
I'm totally fed up!
Cycling needs to get even more tougher on drugs.... I want to see LIFETIME bans for both individuals and teams!
Who cares if cycling is the most tested sport, I DON'T CARE ABOUT OTHER SPORTS!
I love cycling, spend thousands of pounds on bikes, team clothing, spectating at professional races all over the World, DVDs, books and magazines, but my love and faith my sport is being tested...
Not sure if I can bounce back from all this, too many of my "HEROES" have let me (and the sport) down.
Cycling needs to get it's act together soon, otherwise the sport will not recover from this.
Information leaks are being reported out of the French anti-doping lab at Chataney Malabry. This would be astonishing, since laboratory accreditation systems would normally control information flows as tightly as they control protocols for testing and chain-of-evidence. A breach of information security would need to be investigated by the accreditation authority. Landis' lawyers will surely point out that if one protocol is broken, the integrity of others can be questioned.
Did he win Stage 17 without the aid of drugs?
What other Professional sport would allow a racer to put over 6 minutes on the competition AND win the series? With that much on the line and 70+ professional racers competing, Landis performance was unbelievable. This doesn't happen at this level of professional sports. These men are the best of the Best. Lance Armstrong couldn't put 6 minutes on the field in any one race, how does Floyd Landis do it? His results beg the question.
Dear Fellow Cyclists
Our sport is a laughingstock, a farce that stumbles from one crisis to the next as a bunch of greedy men scramble around to make as much money as they can before the house of cards finally collapses. You would have thought that Operacion Puerto would have had some kind of positive effect, maybe some real men admitting the truth. Instead we have Landis taking us for 'an epic ride'.
The riders expelled before the start of the Tour are lying low, waiting for it all to blow over before resuming their corrupt careers. Why did the riders who have now been cleared not stand up and protest their innocence? Silence gentlemen speaks volumes.
I felt sorry for Ullrich when he was kicked off the Tour but now I feel sick to see him attempting to bluff his way out of the mess. I know he is only trying to save his career and indeed his reputation, self preservation his motive, but it will take someone like him to stand up and tell the truth before this crap ever ends.
I don't care if the peloton's average speed drops, if stages are shortened or less mountains are climbed, at least I would then be able to cheer riders whose victory was down to their lifetime of dedication and training and not down to the success of their doctors' methods.
Unless we as cycling fans make some kind of stand this whole mess will only get messier until there is little left but a pile of rubbish to be swept away.
With the way this sport is going I think the next prudent move for Pro Teams is to include an attorney for each race to ride along in the team cars. Your essential core team will now include the director, a doctor, trainer, mechanic, and an attorney. These attorneys will ensure a C and D sample taken at the same time as the A and B samples. These samples should be sent to a reputable independent lab as a control to protect the riders. That way the riders have some protection against questionable labs. The fallout from the Armstrong allegations last fall only foreshadowed what has now become to a witch hunt.
The leak of information is worse then a screen door on a submarine. You need an attorney just to run damage control from all the allegations. What will keep this sport going is a united front between the teams and the UCI. The UCI should stand behind the rider and the team until proven guilty. As for WADA, they just need a new leader. Dick Pound is worse then L'Equipe when it comes to spreading propaganda.
Seems that all the focus here is on 'did he' or 'didn't he'. I'm curious why the media is not focusing on the multiple leaks from Chatenay-Malabry. Starting from the A sample to the most recent results regarding the potential for the testosterone coming from 'outside' sources. Don't take this as American or nationalistic, but I would be very concerned about a lab that on multiple occasions can't keep the lid on results that should be private. Additionally, seems that L'Equipe is the one getting the benefit of these leaks. Something does not seem right here and I would hate to see a clean rider end his career because of manipulations within the lab. Regardless of what has been said thus far, I reserve my judgment about Floyd Landis until we see the results the B sample.
Let's look at the real problem.
Cycling is boring as crap to watch most of time. At least Floyd has the sporting world hooked into cycling.
So cycling needs to quickly learn from NASCAR while we have the spotlight.
Breakneck speed, crashes, off the track drama, illegal modifications (doping), outstanding stories of human emotion and resolve, feelings of patriotism and national pride, multi-billion dollars sponsors living and dying by the final seconds of a race...
Someone put a damn camera on the bikes, start broadcasting crits, get some sweet on-screen graphics, build up the personalities of these riders (I mean come on, cut to somebody's hot wife fighting with somebody's hot girlfriend after somebody gives somebody the elbow in the corner) and mic up the peloton, and we will be laughing all the way to the bank...
Sell the TV rights to FOX so when our heroes are shown to be human, at least they are really gettin' paid for it.
I bet it will only take 6 months before Paris Hilton is dating someone in the ProTour peloton.
Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, suggested four primary ways of discouraging the use of dope in sports. Here is what he had to say about the fourth way, in which he suggests that sporting events be made easier, "We have to dare to ask the tours of France and Italy whether the load is ideal. In this context, a panel of specialists together with the riders can examine what the ideal load is. I'm not the only one who's said that: Tom Boonen has also said it."
However, in response, Tour de France boss Christian Prudhomme had this to say, "We will neither shorten the stages nor the total distance...nobody had the idea to shorten the 100 metres to 90 after the positive test of Justin Gatlin, did they?"
The problem with Prudhomme's response, as I see it, is that he is assuming that those track and field stars that dope are doing it for the same reasons as those cyclists who dope for the Tour. This is a mistaken assumption, it seems. In track and field, those who are doping seem to be doing so for one reason, to win. In the Tour, those who are doping seem to be doing so for one of two reasons, to win or simply just to get through the grueling three-week race.
If the Tour is shortened both in stage length and in overall distance, then this should discourage those cyclists from doping who are doing so just to finish the Tour. It may not discourage those who are doping to win, but making the Tour easier will be part of the solution to a very big problem.
Ian A. Smith
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