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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 18, 2006, part 2
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Massive response to Landis situation
The Floyd Landis situation once again dominated our Inbox this week, though the initial Biblical deluge of reaction has now abated to a mere torrent as the war of words between the WADA/UCI and Landis camps has quietened down in the wake of Landis B-sample positive.
- John Stevenson, letters editor
August 18, part 1:
Natural process still possible - likelihood uncertain, Denial, Dick Pound, Oscar
Pereiro, UCI - Pro Tour drug solution?, The problem with legalising doping,
Changing the rules won't stop cheating, Scandal reduces respect, Blood tests,
Corruption, A couple of questions, A couple of questions, A German Pound?, According
to WADA: Who isn't doping?, Collect samples every day from everyone, Corruption
in the system
Does the dope fit the crime?
In response to one comment made by Dr. Patrick Charles of Melbourne, Australia, it *is* possible that aggressive behaviour can elevate blood levels of testosterone. One of the wonderful insights that have come about recently is the reciprocal nature of behaviour and biology--while the direction of influence was previously thought to be unidirectional (hormones effect behaviour), there are currently several published empirical findings suggesting that behaviour can influence biology.
Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen (two psychologists at the University of Michigan) showed that Southerners' levels of testosterone increase in response to a perceived slight, and that people's blood testosterone will increase after something as simple and removed as watching their sports team win. I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that when getting into a fight, one's testosterone levels will increase and therefore it seems more than plausible that acting aggressively and getting pumped about a huge comeback stage win could also influence serum testosterone. Now, I'm not arguing that Landis is guilty or innocent, just that it's not so bizarre to argue that winning a stage could boost testosterone.
Dr. David Tom
I for one have been entranced by professional road cycling and the Tour de France for 20 years, but this year may be the last. My personal cycling activity does not depend on these clowns for inspiration and I'll continue to ride and race and never watch the Tour again. This may be the tip of the iceberg for professional sports and hence for the rest of us. Our cultural obsession with breaking records objectifying and observing the ever increasing levels of human strength, speed and endurance are of course the culprit. My hero has changed. Once it was LeMond, then Armstrong, Tyler and finally Floyd Landis. Now I cheer for the common man, that guy who shows up for a week-long tour on a 1984 Fuji 12 speed, wearing basketball shoes and Jean shorts. He's the guy to root for, not the pros.
How much stock are we putting in these people?
Statistically there is a child molester in the peloton, but we all still watch and keep up on the results, and I'm sure not going to fall away from this magnificent sport 'cause one of the riders loves his niece a little too much.
He's an athlete, I want to see them perform. I want to see the wars out there on the road. Did Floyd dope? I don't know, but I don't really care. The drug tests will always be behind the cover methods. That's a fact. You've got a better chance of finding a transvestite in Texas than being able to fill the podium of a professional cycling race with clean riders. There will always be drugs in professional sports no matter what, because there is a lot of money involved. You don't like people doping to get ahead, then stop drinking that espresso before your next ride, throw out the newest thermogenics compound you spent too much money for that gives you "pep" before a ride.
How bout this, lets all take the same amount of time we going to spend involved in the Floyd case this week (talking about it, thinking about it, emailing each other, reading articles, participating in forums) and get another ride in, talk to a middle school or high school class about the realities of steroids and blood doping, or even take our children on ride and explain to them how its wrong. Lets change the things we can.
Craig Fleischer asked, "Why hasn't the Landis defence team suggested that his sample was tampered with after he gave the sample or while it was being tested?"
This is very stupid to suggest. First of all, if they had wanted to tamper with Armstrong's tests they have had that chance for 7 years and if the France tour organizers hated anyone it was Armstrong. Landis' performance at stage 17 was supernatural. Steam was still coming out of his nostrils when he jumped off the bike after the finish. It was a clear cut case of synthetic testosterone which most riders use throughout the season accompanied with human growth hormones and EPO. Landis must have went a little overboard due to his bad day the day before and gambled it would not be detected. Now, Landis' defence is ridiculous and his latest excuse is that they have a hidden agenda. What agenda is he talking about?
On the Jay Leno show he said "if you go by the tests then yes I'm guilty" to which Leno replied, "why shouldn't we go by the tests?" The facts are simple. They found synthetic testosterone in his system and it could only have come there if he, or someone else, either injected it or if he used a patch. And if I were Landis and knew for 100% sure that I didn't use this stuff than I would swear to the whole world that I didn't use it which would only leave foul play as an option. But Landis is coming up with all these lame excuses just hoping it will pass and everybody will forget about it. Just like Ullrich and Basso. The day the were sent home by their team management that said they would prove that they were innocent. Bullshit. If Ullrich and Basso knew that were innocent then all they have to do is a DNA test and clear their name and sue the hell out of the Spanish investigation team who prevented them from participating in the tour. But of course they won't do that. They want you and me to believe that as long as they haven't tested positive that they are innocent. Well, that exactly the core of the problem. These doctors have all these methods to manipulate the tests that it will always show up as a negative while in fact they are competing with high levels of testosterone.
Your news for August 10th reads:
Dufaux to join Astana as DS
'News from the successor team of the dismantled Liberty Seguros: Not Mario Kummer, who was new team advisor Walter Godefroot's favourite, but former pro Laurent Dufaux will become one of the directeurs sportifs at the Kazakh team Astana...He also was one of the riders that were expelled from the Tour in 1998, together with his other Festina teammates.'
Forgive me if I'm out of line here, or I'm missing something, but why on earth would Astana want to hire Dufaux? Surely with the current situation in cycling new teams should be attempting to distance themselves as much as possible from any persons associated, in any way, with a doping scandal. So they've gone from Manolo Saiz to Dufaux! Well done! I'm sure that's going to gain them tons of credibility with the UCI...
It's remarkable to me that, despite the fact that cycling's rules state that the initial drug tests are NOT the final word on doping guilt, that we have so many people - including some of the rules makers - shortcutting those rules to declare irrefutable guilt before the ENTIRE hearings process is complete. If we are to pick and choose which rules to respect, we might as well pick and choose which drug test to respect.
I just have one quick question about the whole Floyd Landis situation: You pointed out in your last article on the subject that, although Landis tested positive on the Morzine stage, he was tested four times before and three times after that particular stage and all of those tests came out negative. Does exogenous testosterone leave the body that quickly? If not, how long does it usually take and why didn't his other samples come out positive? Just curious, but this seems to be the most poignant angle on the current scandal. It is his only out. Any information you could give would be appreciated.
Maybe someone tampered with his jersey? Floyd, if you haven't the washed Stage 17 jersey yet, I'd get that thing to a lab pronto.
I'm only half-kidding. I really want to believe this guy.
Who does he think he is fooling? After looking at the alleged medical program for 'Ullrich' for the Tour. Whoever it 'was' for, they knew that it would not be detected. So the battle is still on between both sides, and I assume that it will continue for a long time...
Ron Huber of Italy writes:
"What is really bothersome about the Landis doping affair, has nothing to do with him taking performance enhancing drugs to win, but that in world where sporting fraud and hypocrisy reign supreme, the UCI hadn't the courage to rid itself of a certain superman for seven straight years."
I am curious... what should the UCI have done? They tested the "superman" for drugs constantly, monitored the "superman", put journalists and private detectives on the "superman", all to no avail. Should they simply have suspended him because Ron does not believe that he was as clean as any rider in the peloton, if not (apparently) cleaner?
Floyd Landis tested positive for banned substances and there have been many suggestions published in cyclingnews.com on how this might have happened. One cause of a false positive, not mentioned so far, maybe due to faulty test equipment. The test equipment is quite complex and requires computer software to analysis the test. Could this software be confused by other substances present in Floyd's body? Testing and analysis of the A and B specimens should be conducted in two unrelated laboratories using different procedures, equipment, and software.
Floyd Landis and the people who helped him in making this desaster become reality, they should realize that by looking at their personal interests only, they are leaving up to 50 people on the road and many more young future riders without hope to sign a contract in a PRO Tour team.
Let's stop blaming every test and look just at the hard facts: if Landis would have been a Russian track and field star, nobody would be questioning the validity of the tests, or am I wrong?
Thanks Floyd, thanks a lot for what you have done and please make sure that your lawyers come up with better stories than the ones you told in the press conferences. Sometimes it really looks like it is true that to be a good biker you do not need a good brain but just good legs.
First off, I've heard a lot about how the future of cycling is in serious jeopardy, which is of course nonsense. It hardly follows that because of the Landis and Puerto scandals, a sport of over 100 years tradition and a very well established industrial base (for lack of a better term), would fold in the matter of a year or two. Cycling has endured doping before and with time will overcome the problem, but in the meantime, I hardly think that Trek will close its factory, Lance Armstrong will lose popularity, and no one will think on their morning commute, "Hey, it would be pretty fun to race one of these."
Secondly, I must agree with Quick.Step manager Patrick Lefevere on the idea of removing Phonak from the list of ProTour teams, but taking an American approach to prosecuting one another is another issue. I can say very confidently as an American, our approach sucks. It may look like a good idea to start legal action over "damaging the sport of cycling" from over in Belgium, but trust me, if you can sue someone for that, you can sue someone for anything. Trust me it sucks, a lot.
I'm not ready to write off Floyd Landis as just another cheat.
I've watched him turn himself inside out in support of Lance Armstrong. I saw his astonishing ride during Stage 17 in the 2004 Tour de France when he enabled Armstrong to beat Andreas Klöden in a sprint finish.
I've read about him on the Internet, in magazines, and in various books. In “Lance Armstrong’s War” by Dan Coyle, one gets a real sense of Landis (see Chapter 15, “The Book of Floyd.”)
I've observed Landis in OLN interviews and in “The Lance Chronicles.” After he left the US Postal team, I noticed how he weathered the predictable feud with Armstrong. I'm amazed that he regularly publishes the training results from his bike’s power meter.
After all this, I thought to myself, “Landis is one heck of a rider; he’s tough, and he’s open. He hears his own drummer. He’s stubborn, determined, funny, and offbeat.”
I admired Landis’ talent and was pleased that another American was in the cycling elite, but I was not yet a fan. But I became a fan after he had the guts to face the media (with a smile, no less) after his infamous bonk on Stage 16 of this year’s Tour. His unguarded demeanour and raw emotions were refreshing.
That got my attention and spoke volumes about his character.
That’s why I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.
And that’s why all of this does not make sense.
After his disastrous ride, Landis said he thought his chances of winning the 2006 Tour were over, and the best he could hope for was to win Stage 17 proving he wouldn't give up.
So he thought he could win Stage 17. . .
If he won the stage, he knew he would be tested . . .
Why cheat and put in a tortuous ride knowing there was a good chance of being disqualified?
How would that prove anything to anyone, least of all himself?
It does not make sense.
I'm not naïve. Many years ago, I worked for a major league baseball team where its star was chasing what was believed to be an unbeatable record. I observed the athletes up close. I was surrounded by the media frenzy. From that experience, I know that things are not always as they appear. I don't know what happened in this case. So what can I really rely on? What can I trust?
After sifting through everything, it comes down to my instincts. My gut tells me that Landis did not cheat. I don't know if Landis can prove his innocence or not, but I wish him well and want to thank him for providing me a lot of entertainment. No matter what happens, I'll remain a fan of cycling because even if it is flawed, it is an amazing and beautiful sport.
Amy asks, "Why is it so easy to believe that he would risk absolutely everything just to win a race?"
Simple: science points to truths unencumbered with the our wishes of how we would like the world to be. If Landis wishes to clear his name he must use the same tools which have enveloped him in this crisis. He should release the results of every test he has ever take. If his T/E is so unusual, this would not be the first time it was out of the normal range. He doesn't do this because the mass spec does not lie.
For all those hooked up on the "chain of evidence" issue, I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that the whole thing is done in a double-blind fashion, no one touching the sample should have any idea whose sample it is. If this is not the protocol, than game over for UCI, but I can't imagine that the process is done any other way.
Finally, I read a lot of sorrow for Landis, but what about Pereiro? How much
was stolen from him? Who knows if he will ever have a chance to stand on the
top step of the podium on the Champ-Elysees, where he should have been,
Dr R P Ilchik
In response to Amy Bush's comment,
"Why is it so hard to believe that if there is synthetic testosterone in his urine, it didn't get there by anything he did? "
Erm, isn't the answer, "because you have to administer it via a trans-dermal patch or injection?"
I think he'd notice ...
Please let's have the American approach. Then we can have we can have a sport littered with "untouchable" steroid freaks like Bonds, Giambi, Palmeiro, Sosa, McGwire, Sheffield etc., etc. That would be such an improvement or would it just be a return to the pre-Festina days.
Nicholas A. Chivily
It certainly is a curiosity that Patrick Lefevere is so vocal in his condemnation of dopers given his employment of convicted dopers. The part though of Brian Clements letter on testosterone/epitestosterone ratios is the part I find startlingly interesting!
Am I correct in assuming then that if the ratio of a riders testosterone/epitestosterone tested is correct and within tolerance, they are in fact testing clean irrespective of the source of the testosterone/epitestosterone? Do the testers do any more tests on "correct ratio" samples for "source"? Or is that it - the rider has tested clean?
Reading all of these pathetic letters from Americans trying to defend a cheat because he's a "good American boy" makes me sick. Would we have the same outpouring of support if Landis was not an American?
1.) Landis failed the A sample test. He was informed (before the media was) and pulled out of the after-Tour races he was signed up to take part in. At this time, none of us knew that he had tested positive. I can't imagine the UCI keeping everything quiet for a few weeks while the B sample was tested. They had to tell the world what had happened, otherwise all kinds of rumours would have started. What would Landis say if reporters had asked him why he was not racing in Holland, etc?
2.) If someone who finished high in the Tour de France tests positive (sample A), this info should be provided ASAP. I know a bit or two about lab medicine and can say these tests are virtually fool proof. The B sample is just a formality and a confirmation of the obvious (even Landis had no doubts about the results of the second sample). A guy who tests positive should be given as little time as possible to enjoy the financial benefits (endorsements and the like) of a high place. "Innocent until sample A is positive" should be the new motto.
3.) Floyd Landis should be sued (as Patrick Lefevere suggested) not for testing positive (he'll be banned for that), but rather for his comments detrimental (and "blasphemous") to cycling. Landis suggests that there's a conspiracy and "there was a hidden agenda". Where have we heard this all before? What evidence does he have? I think he would have acted (with a lawsuit) if someone had labelled him a doper in public before he tested positive. None of the riders Lefevere had riding for his team blamed the sport of cycling for a conspiracy.
4.) Floyd, have the balls (obviously the previous American winner had one missing so he's got an excuse) to admit you doped. Look at David Millar. He took EPO, he admitted it, he served his sentence and people respect him and cheer him on now that he's back and clean.
5.) As for Basso and Ullrich: if the blood found in Dr. Fuentes' office is not yours then submit a blood sample (or a hair sample). The DNA test is so reliable (don't listen to the garbage that was brought forward at the O.J. Simpson trial) this is a certain way of clearing your names. If you don't provide DNA samples, then you're obviously admitting having/or having planned to dope.
6.) I fully support the suggestion that teams/managers should also be penalized for their riders testing positive. This would ensure that the teams themselves would test the riders to make sure they weren't taking anything while out training.
Dr. M. Gronski
So, I feel like I am getting a grip on the legal perspective of the Landis case. I am, also, beginning to understand UCI anti-doping rules (including possible violations in their reporting standards. However, I still don't know the medical side of it. Would someone please answer these questions?
1. Is it true that testosterone does not help a riders’ performance in stage races. This is an argument that I have seen reported from respectable sources on the web. In fact, it might even hurt it because it could cause his body to retain water.
2. If Landis truly took something to improve his performance, couldn't he have chosen at least twenty better illegal substances?
3. Does official report does not mention the existence of exogenesis testosterone. I heard (again on the web) that it did not.
4. How is it possible that a rider can test positive for testosterone one day and not two days later? As a college athlete, when I took a test, they told me that they could detect artificial testosterone for several weeks.
5. Is the ratio test used to test Landis’s sample reliable? I have heard from numerous sources, most recently Paul S., that it is not.
6. Finally, does any technology exist that would lead Floyd to believe that he could take exogenesis testosterone without detection?
I agree with Rob Verbruggen that ultimately the results are the important thing, however I think he has missed the main concern re the process. It appears that the Chatenay-Malabry lab knew the identity of the samples they were testing, otherwise why would there be any concern that they would leak it to the press? That's the aspect of a process breakdown, if there is one, that is troubling. Its also odd that the lab is considered above reproach with regard to testing but not to be trusted to follow the rest of the process.
Why not send the A and B samples to different, truly independent, labs and have both tested in all cases. Furthermore insure that the identity of the samples are not revealed to the labs. Only cases where A and B come back positive would be considered positive. If that had been done in the current case, with a positive result, I think nearly everyone would accept the results.
Finally someone noticed! Floyd's critics have consistently used his "stellar" performance on stage 17 as proof of his doping. There are two problems with this criticism. First, from all I've read, testosterone offers no one-day-use performance advantage, so it cannot be an explanation for that ride. Second, as Lee Frankel's letter points out, Floyd's day 17 performance was not uncharacteristic for him.
My opinion (apparently not shared by others) is that his ride that day was a combination of two factors. Having lost so much time the day before, none of the GC contenders saw him as a threat when he went with a break-away chase group, so the peloton made not attempt to pull him back. Second, since he had lost enough time to put him out of contention for a Tour win, had no reason, any more, to hold back and do a sensible ride. Having nothing to lose, he just went for it.
By the time the peloton realized that he had gotten far enough ahead to take back the overall lead, it was too late to reel him back in. And as for Floyd, I'd imagine at some point he must have realized that he had the race-lead back and would have found a tremendous physical "lift" from that. In other words, my vote goes to bad tactics on the part of the GC leaders teams and not drugs as the explanation for Floyd's day 17 ride.
In one of his talk show appearances Floyd said that his Testosterone level was not high but his T/E ratio was high. If he had taken a "booster shot" wouldn't he have a high Testosterone level at the end of the stage. Do the results support his contentions that it was only the T/E ratio and the isotope results that where wrong?
How do we get a copy of the actual test results?
It would also be great Scott, if most of the Americans (Bin Tan and a few others excepted), who post articles here, could get a grip on reality. It makes me wonder to what extent American sport is tainted with cheating and drug abuse, if some of the letters are to be believed. You have the "lets have a level playing field" (let everyone have an alchemist as well as a coach) approach, where we would see more athletes dying before the age of 40. You have the people who blame the authorities for not being efficient enough (this is often backed up by biased national press and lawyers). The McQuaids and Pounds of this World, along with their organisations are damned if they do and damned if they don't.
We do not need cheats and drug abusers in sport! Get rid of them now, ban them for life, and recoup their ill gotten gains. They ruin sport for honest athletes and by defending them, we are giving out the wrong message to the World. Champions in any sport are often perceived as role models - Pele, Michael Johnson, Jack Nicklaus etc. These are people who reach out beyond their own sport and are respected by everyone who has seen them. How many of the current champions will be revered. Much of sport over the past couple of years has been tainted by corruption, cheating and drugs.
It's time to abandon national pride and deal coldly and justly with the cheats, because they are ruining the sports which I used to love.
There I was riding the hills of Virginia jacked up on my morning coffee and traces of bourbon from the night before when the answer to UCI's zero-tolerance problems came to me. From now on, any rider that fails both the 'A' and 'B' tests for a controlled substance gets banned from cycling for life. No more two year bans. I do not want to spend two years listening to some guy talk about coming back to prove he is clean.
In addition, all teammates and the team manager participating in a race with the rider when he fails the test are banned from cycling for one year.
Sorry, guys, but you have to be more careful about the company you keep. If you have questions about one of your teammates, you better ask before the tests.
If you do not wish to race under those terms, that's okay. There are millions of people worldwide who would jump at the chance.
Alternatively, we could do nothing and watch mass media, sponsors and fans abandon the sport taking the big races and million dollar contracts with them.
The choice is ours.
H. Mark Hudson
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