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Letters to Cyclingnews - July 31, 2006, part 1
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
I will prove it
I want to respond to your letter of 27th July.
I am not a DOPER and I am a pro cyclist. I do not know how to prove it to you.
Maybe you can have a look at the www.mentalperformance.it site of my trainer, even if it's only in Italian and Spanish.
Tell me what proof you want and I will show you everything I can.
There is a theme to letters at Cycling news that involves a backlash against doping controls when a well liked American cyclist is caught up in a doping investigation. Witness the outpouring of fury regarding the Hamilton/Landis cases, directed at various organisations, high profile people and labs etc responsible for delivering the bad news.
Cycling only has itself to blame for the doping mess. If some individual rights to fairness, as maintained in western civil societies, are not being observed it is because riders and their entourages insist on bringing the sport into such a state that everyone with a stake in keeping the whole show afloat are resorting to more extreme measures to stop what they see as a situation that appears out of control.
I for one was disappointed to see Hamilton test positive for doping, but even more disappointed at the onslaught of denial that followed. It was with some relief that there are allegations of involvement in the Spanish blood doping affair to be investigated as perhaps if an internationally accepted test is not enough some good old fashioned paper based evidence might be enough to convince the doubters, should it come to that.
So with Landis, put aside the assumptions about character and dare I say it nationality and and just look at the evidence as it emerges.
Skinny men in tight lycra who ride a long way but all take crazy drugs to do so.
I fear this is rapidly becoming the public perception of our sport at the elite racing level, and it trickles down to us all.
Drugs have been around the sport long since the "Festina Affair" of course, but I would have hoped those events really did change things. We have to ask if things have changed at all? On the face of it we'd really have to say no.
What irony that Leblanc referring to the 2006 Tour stated: "Now is no longer a time for regrets and suspicion but for hope and renewed passion"
The '06 Tour has been won under a very dark cloud indeed.
Alas I let it not bother me much really. It does not stop me from getting on my bike each morning at 5.30, busting out a easy 50k or so and then having a coffee with all the crew down at Park Road, and racing every other Sunday, invariably getting dropped.
What gets me about this Landis situation, is that, no matter what happens in the future, even if Landis is able to successfully defend the natural occurrence of the high T-E ratio, right now he is "guilty" and his TdF win will always be tainted. No B-sample test results yet, no private opportunity for him to prepare a defence, instead, the court of public opinion is judging him to be guilty. I don't understand why these test results and the process of dealing with them can not be kept private and confidential until ALL information is available, including the athlete's initial defence. I'm all for ridding cycling of PED's, but this Landis affair does not make sense and I think/hope we have a situation where a clean athlete is being crucified by an arbitrary measurement standard, that he failed, but for which he has an explanation supported by the science of his own personal body chemistry.
I can not believe he would take something of negligible value immediately before a stage where he apparently told everyone that he was going to breakaway early, did so, won the stage and all with the knowledge that he would be tested after the stage. Who would do that?
Further, I am appalled at the quotes from other riders quoted on this website. Even they have not given their fellow athlete the benefit of the doubt. Instead, they have all expressed anger and it appears to be at least somewhat directed at Landis. I hope for these cyclists' sake that they never win the Tour and find themselves defending a false positive test!
I hope that is what has happened to Floyd. I picked him to win the Tour and was inspired by the way he did it. What I have read about him is he, first and foremost, is a "no excuses" guy. The strongest cyclist wins. He makes his workout data available to the public to view. "Beat that, if you can", is what he saying by doing so. Please, Floyd, don't let me down - I don't believe you would have taken testosterone.
Floyd Landis not only shone on the bike during the Tour but his character off the bike truly reveals what a decent human being he is.
Shame on the media and the cynics for judging this extraordinary athlete without having all of the facts. Clearly the media loves nothing better than to build up a human and than tear them down quicker than one can say Tour de France.
Floyd Landis will be vindicated and his dignity that he is fighting to preserve will remain in tact I am not so certain the media ever did have an ounce of dignity in covering this story.
But most of all shame on the media for storming his parents home and holding them accountable for a story.
These doping affairs, but more so the accompanying mass hysteria, are getting to be a bit tiresome. To go back a little in time, wasn't Merckx implicated twice in doping (although not in the Tour) and isn't he still considered the greatest cyclist of all time (and rightfully so)? Had this happened in modern days he would have been vilified and would never have managed to accomplish what he did. In the old days of the Tour, was it not customary to have your challengers clubbed over the head, and this is now being looked at with some level of bemusement? The point being, cheating is part of sports and mankind at large and probably is at least as old as the first Olympics in ancient Greece. So what is so different nowadays? I'd say let them do whatever they wish to do (the clubbing perhaps excepted) as long as everyone is healthy according to unambiguously measurable standards, and let's enjoy the mad circus. This don't ask don't tell approach seems to be the path more or less successfully trodden by certain other prolific sports, even in the face of pressure from high-level politics (“Fat bottomed boys, you make our rockin' world go round”).
What are the alternatives? We could do away with stage races seeing that they are inherently unhealthy. In my mind, the now infamous Eufemiano Fuentes has at least a bit of a point when he claims that he merely "supplemented and adjusted" those bodily functions of the riders which showed a deficit because the sport at high level is not healthy (nonetheless the monetary rewards undoubtedly played a role as well). More likely, however, is that we will collectively keep marching down the path already taken (the parallel with the “war on drugs” is uncanny) leading to ever more bizarre tales of proclaimed guilt and innocence. This will turn cycling into a “Dallas on Wheels” of sorts, only with worse actors (who would have thought that was possible), and with less and less attention being paid to the actual racing. Not something to look forward too…
I COMPLETELY agree with Mike C's statement, "Really all I have to say is this: I'm sick of this. I just want to watch a bike race and be engaged in the excitement of winning and losing without constantly having to redefine results based on the latest doping scandal."
Or at least I think I am. What I mean is that if he [or anyone else] is intending to convey the notion that he's tired of 'authorities' and regulators scrutinizing athletes for putative 'doping' violations, particularly when the objectivity and or accuracy of the testing - and testing protocol - is questionable [to put it mildly], then I do indeed concur.
If, however, he means to say that he's fed up with the athletes alleged use or abuse of certain [prohibited] substances, then I wholly disagree. Why? Because I am tired of the matter/issue(s) as a whole; it's not unlike the hyperbole and hyper/over-reactivity to a plethora of social and related issues in American [and Western] society, be it sexuality [in particular, the fear of anything associated with the sexuality of adolescents], religion, "genera" drug [and alcohol] use/abuse, mental illness, so-called 'aggressive drivers', global warming and a countless number of other issues about which most people have little if any informed and data-backed knowledge, but nevertheless are willfully blinded by their eagerness to follow and emulate the mostly conservative neurotic masses and regurgitate the foundationless and illogical presuppositions so prevalent in our society.
Yes, I realize I'm getting a bit "deep" for the topic, but I'm no less correct. In any event, to segue back to the main point - that of Landis' [and other athletes] purported or alleged use/ingestion of a "banned" substance - who really gives a damn whether or not an athlete is or is not using certain substances? For aside from the possible self-defeating health/medical risks, it's really an over-sensationalized concern. Not only are the majority of athletes likely engaging in such activity, but the medical/scientific evidence reveals that there isn't a great deal of benefit by their use - in the neighbourhood of 5-15% 'enhancement' is the generally agreed-upon estimate.
And yes, I am acutely aware - being a cycling/bike racer myself - of the ramifications of such a modest increase [to be sure, most races are won or lost by much smaller margins]. But that's not the point. The point is that we ought to assume - just as we should with respect to the veracity of politicians and the morality of priests (i.e. most if not all are untrustworthy and or lack virtue) - that most if not all world-class athletes may be utilizing "banned" substances and forget about it.
In like regard, though I'm a HUGE cycling-fanatic, if Floyd were to tell me himself tomorrow that he did indeed use a testosterone patch, for example, it would not change my view of his performance, skill, tenacity, strength, fitness or achievement(s) whatsoever [though I would question the soundness of his decision-making]. We're all still homo sapiens and there isn't anything "extra-terrestrial" in any of these substances, and you can be darn sure that no matter how much of or what substance one ingests, a cyclist [or other athlete] could NOT achieve the level of riding ability that Floyd and the other Pro peloton cyclists possess without an enormous amount of training, dedication, effort, pain, suffering, etc., and no drug test result is going to taint [or negate] my image/view of these unbelievable people.
So, after one of the best, most open Tours in years, it seems like the winner has cheated. I felt sick, cheated and insulted on hearing this news. Last week, the world was enthralled by Landis' epic ride to Morzine. This week, that ride seems a piece of fiction.
When Hamilton was exposed two years ago, I felt what I feel now: the good, squeaky clean guys aren't that clean at all. Just walk away from the sport I love - continue riding my bike, simply ignore the pro circus, as every result there is open to question.
My problem: I don't know if I have the strength to leave all this behind...
This is a stretch, but a mitigating factor for Landis--as well as the alcohol--is perhaps his really aggressive state at the finish line in Morzine.
Cyclingnews and other news outlets all remarked how fired up Landis was at the finish line, with glaring eyes, etc., for a long time afterwards. The New York Times reported that when Robbie Hunter arrived at the finish, a full 50 to 60 minutes later, Landis came out of a Tour trailer (presumably the drug testing trailer) to give Hunter a mighty bear hug and to yell a expletive at the top of his lungs in triumph. This was done in front of many journalists; Landis just didn't care, he was in such an aggressive, triumphant mood. He was clearly like this for at least an hour afterwards, according to the New York Times.
Presumably, prize fighters before or after a prize fight are not low on testosterone; neither it seems was Landis. Before the stage, as his coach Lim reported at Bicycling.com, Landis was fired up in his tiny hotel room, saying the others were gonna pay if they were to beat him, etc., as he kicked his bed out of the way and foraged for his stuff. He is an aggressive guy, the only one unafraid to take on Armstrong at US Postal. This is well-known, and it's very unusual. Name any rider willing to take on Armstrong, and I think you'll not run out of fingers soon. Landis is a nice guy, but clearly not a mouse when he feels strongly.
After the stage, he was fired up for at least an hour, punching the air and willing to swear in public at the top of his lungs in front of everybody.
Now, as to whether it was because of his really aggressive state of mind at the finish and/or artificial testosterone, no one can know. Perhaps only the Solomon could tell--and not the drug testers. But in fairness, it's conceivably relevant and, with the alcohol, could have pushed him over the line when dehydrated. Personally, I don't believe it, but who knows.
Dirk de Vos
I, for one, can believe the doping charge based on his attitude after stage 16. Why not go for broke and see if you get caught. I can see the medical staff making a mistake with the control limit reduction to 4:1. These days medical controls are better known and understood than ever. How else can you explain no one being caught with EPO except when they are surprised or stupid?
But the reduction in the limit might just slip by someone. We will have to see what he tested. I would not be surprised to find it at 6:1. As for the doctors that he seems to have surrounded himself with in the states, they seem untrustworthy. To say that testosterone is useless and it is ridiculous to use for the Tour is a little strange. It is well documented that testosterone is good for recovery and if you would mix it up with other normal recovery items like Glutamine it will work better with less side effects of "heavy legs".
It all goes back to the size of the dose and the time to recover. The last thing that makes me believe that he has doped is that he has been tested earlier this year as well as previously in the TdF so surely it would have turned up earlier. Perhaps that is why he was willing to give the lead away as to avoid the controls not just tactics? Only he knows this and he is the one who has to live with it.
Clearly the victory ride on Stage 17 was an abnormal ride. But does that mean it can't be done? Abnormal means to me that it it's outside the norm and can be classified as exceptional.
With regards to Landis' failing of the "A" sample because of an abnormal ratio of testosterone:epitestosterone, why does this abnormal ratio immediately implicate doping? During such extreme athletic accomplishments, it's conceivable that the levels of these hormones in the body can vary. A higher output of testosterone and a reduced output of epitestosterone can vary this ratio greatly. As others have cited, studies have shown that these values do indeed vary but not much on the norm. For a super elite athlete such as Landis, I can easily imagine that these values can vary outside these norms, even those established by professional athletes.
So let's assume that Landis does indeed have a natural abnormal ratio of testosterone:epitestosterone level as he plans on proving in the coming months.
Basic division will show you:
360 ng/mL testosterone / 120 ng/mL epitestosterone yields a 3:1 ratio
now vary some values:
400 ng/mL testosterone / 90 ng/mL testosterone yields a greater than 4:1 ratio! This is above the legal limit and the rider will have failed the testosterone ratio test.
How about a different term than abnormal? When I was getting a Peak Expiratory Flow test for my lungs, my values were way outside of the norm. My doctor called it supernormal. Why don't we call it that until we know otherwise.
It seems a travesty that "drug testing" results are made public, before confirmation of the results and validity of same. Should the public not be spared the accusations and disputing of an athletes reputation until fully proven?
So, while we wait for months for judgments on many of the greatest names in cycling, plenty of people with access to a microphone or a reporter's pen will waste no time blaming or implicate riders for doping. Every response to a doping allegation or scandal has been to focus on the riders. What increased scrutiny has been proposed or implemented for the people who support and advise the riders?
Who is increasing scrutiny of the sponsors who write fat checks so that teams and athletes can afford to dope? Or the coaches and directeur sportifs who have exclusive access to the riders' heads 4-6 hours a day? Or the agents and managers who own the riders' time off the bike? Or the race organizers and cycling federation executives who create work for the riders?
This is not meant to excuse any rider who dopes. But riders in the pro peloton are in their 20s and 30s; those who cheat didn't all decide to do it on their own. Most were nobodies before they signed a pro contract, and many will be nobodies after they retire. However, the same small group of wealthy executives and coaches remain in the sport for decades, making profits off of riders and teams, providing the overwhelming majority of the advice and guidance received by riders, being constantly surprised that new doping scandals appear, and then blaming no one but the riders for those scandals. Who is watching the foxes that watch the henhouse?
Could the abnormal results have been caused by Landis' bonk the day before? A bonk caused the body to consume muscle to provide energy due to the lack of glucose. Testosterone is a naturally occurring steroid the body may produce to rebuild muscle. Could that me the answer? I'd say no one has ever been tested the next day after a serious bonk as a result of having won an epic stage.
No matter the results- guilty or not guilty, this year's Tour has been ruined.
If he is guilty- it is ruined for obvious reasons.
If he is not guilty, it is still ruined because of the innuendo.
I followed the stage online in my office. An office that derides cycling as "just racing bikes". As I kept exclaiming disbelief aloud at what was happening, my office-mates were similarly impressed.
I got home and watched the stage on OLN, keeping my son (who is 10 years old) up to watch the stage past his bedtime. This was history, man! History! Akin to my watching Lucho Herrera taking a stage in 1984, when I was seventeen.
Two days later the rumours start.
Four days later my manager is telling me to check out the latest news on ESPN.com.
What pisses me off is the how this all comes about.
The lab or some source close leaks that a top GC rider has tested positive.
Soon afterwards, Landis drops out of post-Tour crits.
The story formally breaks.
The head doctor in Paris says there is no way they made a mistake- they are right.
A German newspaper says the T-E ratio was 11-1!
There has got to be a better way to about this! Instead of tawdry soap-opera style cliffhangers, why not finish all the testing and then come out with the results? Landis's half-assed defence is really no better than ASO's and Le Monde's and the Lab in Paris eagerness to expose someone based on incomplete information.
I hope Landis is not guilty, but I am losing hope.
It's a French plot against Uncle Sam! A drunken racer scotches the peloton and ridicules the French police! Sauced and on a 'roid rage for 130 km, he breaks the legs off his closest competitors and not a single gendarme along the route arrests him! Stop the little injections and bring out the bottles!
First, it was one beer. Then it was two. Now we add at least four shots of whisky. Finally, he can't really remember much. Is there a credibility problem here or was he just rolling drunk? Armstrong wasn't bad, but Landis is the bomb.
The difference between dope and dupe is only one vowel, but it's enormous. American racers--Hamilton, Armstrong, Landis--must stop taking their most ardent and observant fans for dumb, happy couch potatoes ready for that next six-pack.
This grand, sad, and agonized sport without a leadership or chaperone and with little apparent hope of rehabilitation turns slowly, little by little toward the ridiculous. Guys, give us a break. You're ruining our sport as you turn it into America's favourite pastime, LAWSUITS. We await your upcoming legal challenges with more anticipatory pain than sadness, because no one is going to win.
How is cycling supposed to live and fill us with wonder anymore? Really, Mr. Landis, you need to go home and pay more attention to your wife. Very disappointing.
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