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Letters to Cyclingnews - August 11, 2006, part 3
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
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 11, part 1:
Patrick Lefevere, "The media knew before I did", A couple of questions , Distribute
the testing, A possible scenario for Landis, A real Tour, Anti-doping transparency,
Anyone hear Jack Nicholson?, Are we fighting doping or not?, Bad for cycling
- are you kidding?, Best way to deal with doping, Can some one please tell me...
, Case thrown out, CIR and T/E tests, Collect samples every day from everyone,
Complaining about drugs in cycling, Corruption in the system
Floyd Landis Affair
As a Pennsylvania physician and cycling enthusiast, I have been following the CyclingNews articles about Floyd Landis' alleged doping in Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France with much interest. I have the following comments:
1. The increased testosterone/epitestosterone ratio (T/E ratio) is not absolutely indicative of testosterone administration, but the low 13-carbon/12-carbon ratio on isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) is very suspicious for exogenous (from outside his body) testosterone in the Stage 17 urine A and B samples.
2. Are there any other possibilities beside intentional testosterone use to explain the abnormal IRMS result? A tainted meal, a tainted water bottle, a tainted urine specimen cup all are possibilities. Is the "chain of evidence" from Floyd Landis to the French National Anti-doping Laboratory intact?
3. Why were four urine samples before Stage 17 and three urine samples after Stage 17 all negative?
4. Testosterone taken acutely is "a substance not typically associated with quick bursts of energy, such as might be used in a particular stage of the Tour de France".
5. In America, we believe in innocent until proven guilty, but we all know an excellent team of legal experts to probe every aspect of the allegations costs a large amount of money. I call on Team Phonak to rehire and pay to defend their rider and employee from the charges. Fire him if he is proven guilty, not before.
James McManaway III M.D.
I am intrigued by the fact that testosterone can be and often is absorbed through the skin.
Over years of watching the major stage races, I have always seen eager spectators pouring clear liquids over the backs of riders on the major climbs. On the flats and the descents, the riders are going too fast for such assistance, but on the ascents, speeds slow down sufficiently for the spectators to run along side of the riders. Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin always observe that the riders refuse to drink the liquid because it might be tainted by either doping products or simple germs. But, this seems to ignore the possibility that doping agents and particularly testosterone might saturate the rider's jersey and shorts, to then be absorbed through the skin as the stage proceeds.
Large stage races seem to be unique with regard to this sort of access by spectators. You don't have this problem in track and field. For the most part, riders are not allowed to prevent spectators from engaging in such actions with the exception of verbal requests that may come too late. I have a difficult time understanding how this practice is supposed to reconcile itself with WADA's Strict Liability Rule. Strict liability assumes that the rules and circumstances of the race do not potentially expose the rider to doping agents.
It would be interesting to review the video of Floyd Landis on stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France to see if any spectators did in fact pour liquids over Floyd. Of course, such a review is not likely to be conclusive since I doubt the video provides continuous coverage of all his climbs.
Likewise, it would be interesting to perform the experiment of pouring solutions of testosterone over a rider after warming up and before a 100 mile ride and see whether the WADA testosterone tests generate a positive doping result at the conclusion of the ride.
It would be a tragedy if the positive testosterone test for Floyd Landis was the result of the actions of a malicious spectator pouring a testosterone solution over Floyd at some point in stage 17. If it is demonstrated that such an action by a spectator could have caused the positive test, I am at a loss as to how fairness would allow a decision to strip Floyd of the yellow jersey and suspend him from racing.
Now that the B sample is in and Floyd has offered up a litany of pathetic excuses, it seems to me that even his most hardcore fans must admit that he was dirty. Unfortunately, while he was the only one to get caught, he was by no means the only doper in the peloton. How do I know? Because starting in 1999, when cycling had supposedly been cleaned up, the Tour has continually gotten faster (yes, I'm implicating Armstrong in there as well). Anyone that believes a clean peloton can go faster than a doped peloton probably also believes that Barry Bonds' head has turned into a watermelon strictly due to natural causes. It will be very easy to tell when the Tour is clean: when it gets slower.
That being said, I applaud the cycling world in general for taking doping seriously enough that they are willing to suspend and punish their most famous athletes. It would be a cold day in hell before Major League Baseball rounded up its most famous players and kicked them out of the sport right before the World Series. Yet, that is exactly what cycling did before the Tour. Instead of slamming the UCI about protocol (yes they leaked information but so what? it doesn't change the fact that he had synthetic testosterone in his system) I think they should be held up as a model. Instead of letting the big names hide behind their lawyers and search for loopholes, the cycling world gives them the boot and lets them search for work. I wish more sports, especially American football and baseball, would learn that lesson.
Robbie Ventura is silent because he knows the outcome from all of this. As a coach who uses scientific methods to train his athlete, such a power metering, HR analysis, diet, etc... these numbers don't lie like the numbers of dope testing.
I hear it every time now that the testing procedures are not reliable or this is not a accurate test! Blah, Blah, Blah...
If your going to accept training scientifically then there is no reason not to accept the numbers of dope testing. I'm glad the cheat was caught and now we have to hear more lie's about why he believes he is not a doper.
Now, the only excuse he has is the Barry Bonds excuse, the unknowing did not know I put something in my body excuse when you should always know what's being put in your body and he DID... .
The water theory on Stage 17 to dilute the urine is a probable. Just as Floyd is reeling for excuses to why he is not a doper the numbers of the testing don't lie.
I'm sure Robbie Ventura understands this and his silence speaks for itself... ...
I would like to believe in Floyd and his tremendous comeback the same way I did the day it happened. It was absolutely awe-inspiring. Even if the ride was "enhanced" it was an incredible effort of will. Now in the aftermath of the A & B positive test results, including indications of artificial sources of testosterone, Floyd is certainly a man under fire from all sides. But part of it he seems to have brought on himself. With a litany of different excuses/rationalizations for the results - beers, whiskey, cortisone shots for the bad hip, dehydration, normally high testosterone, actually really low epitestosterone compared to testosterone - to name only some of the "reasons" coming from Floyd or his camp of attorneys and spokespeople. Now on the BBC News Sports Cycling page it seems Floyd is whipping out the formula Lance used with some legitimacy during his reign of dominance, "They're out to get me". Floyd is quoted as saying to BBC Radio.
"You'll see that they clearly broke the rules and their excuse was pathetic. The only explanation I can come up with is that there is some agenda here," Landis told Radio Four's Today program. "The public display of humiliation they've brought upon me, breaking their own rules in the process, and the excuses they've used, have been unacceptable in the least. I can prove to you, and will demonstrate to you, that the people at the laboratory are not objective about this. I have evidence to indicate they have the names of the riders connected to the numbers. In order for them to be objective, without any kind of bias, it has to be completely anonymous. That has to be a fatal flaw in the system. It's devastating and now I'm angry and disappointed in the system. I'm upset that some people with ethics like they have, have been given the authority to do the things they're doing."
As I said at the outset, I would really like to believe Floyd and maybe he will present this alleged evidence to show that the testing was not anonymous and that would certainly seem to be a grave, perhaps inexcusable and fatal flaw. Maybe Floyd will take hopeful but skeptical cycling fan Michael Richardson of San Diego, California up on his offer of $100, 00.00 to take a polygraph test regarding the doping allegations to offer Floyd one way to affirm his innocence sooner, rather than later or never. (from VeloNews.com see "Californian offers Landis $100, 00 to take polygraph test")
I know a lot of cyclists and cycling fans, myself included would love to see Floyd exonerated, but we probably do not want to see him fitted for an aluminium foil beanie nor end up sounding like some paranoid ranter . . . so I say to Floyd and his legal team . . . please, please bring on the proof that the testing was biased and flawed and NOT anonymous – the sooner the better. You would be doing the wonderful sport of cycling, many cyclists and cycling enthusiasts an invaluable favour.
Waiting to see the evidence of flawed testing and Floyd's other explanations,
Let us not forget when Simoni tried to break the silence on who was doping in the peloton ... In his attempt to break the omerta that surrounds the pro peloton he was very publicly chastised.
Can someone help me with this (quote is from Floyd himself, via the International Herald Tribune)?:
"I want to be entirely clear about one point of the test that has not been fairly reported in the press or expressed in any statements made by international or national governing bodies; the T value returned has been determined to be in the normal range.. The E value returned was LOW, thus causing the skewed ratio."
Just two questions.
Is this likely to be true? (that is, is this "knowable" from the information that was released?).
If so (and leaving aside the allegation of exogenous artificial testosterone), would this still constitute prima facie evidence of doping?
The defence started by Mark Jacobs for Landis is ridiculous. Bottom line, science has proven that his body had exogenous testosterone in it. If he didn't use any, as he so adamantly insists, then he was contaminated by an outside source. Why has no one at least even contemplated this idea? If Phonak tests their athletes to make sure they are 'healthy' enough to ride before a race then how could either Floyd or they make a mistake to the 11:1 level? That in and of itself is just crazy.
The A & B samples both came back positive and it was also said that they showed to be synthetic and not the natural substance. If this is true where is there grounds for appeal?
Ok we now have the results of the "B" sample (exactly what is in them would be interesting to know!). Having watched the OLN coverage with the inside the car encouragement of Phonak manager John Lelangue and the on air commentary of Landis' "Coach" Robbie Ventura (who says on his website that "he provides insight into Floyd Landis' strategy, performance and tactics during this year's [TdeF] race"), I want to know where they are now! Their silence is deafening!
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. Of course anyone is entitled to believe whatever they like, however it is truly incredible that the American masses have blindly believed in the Armstrong story, by mistaking sincerity for propaganda in all the self-constructed publicity, from his books to his cancer foundation. Now that we know that the past Tour podium runners-up have been doped to their teeth, how can anyone imagine that Armstrong was even more superior for having dominated them while being drug free? Perhaps those who continue to do so, simply don't think that the drugs work and that athletes would spend thousands of dollars on substances which won't give them any chance of winning. Or that the medics who provide such "therapies" are completely hoodwinking their client-patients, who themselves are merely foolish. Unfortunately for Landis, who is infinitely more likeable at the personality level than Armstrong, not being a tyrant, he was less able to create for himself all the propaganda and sponsorship armament needed to save him from getting nailed.
I have a question rather than a comment. If there was some specimen tampering as suggested by Landis, wouldn't there be ways to find this out? If only the one specimen was tampered with, then his other urine specimens would not contain the exogenous plant testosterone.
Why can't they go back and see whether the plant testosterone was present in the other samples which Landis provided during the tour. If the plant testosterone is present based on the radiocarbon test, then the case is closed, and Landis is dirty.
Does Eddie have to return the money he won betting on Floyd winning stage 17? I shudder at the thought of a Euro Soprano breaking the most famous legs in cycling.
I don't agree with Reuben B's contentions that Landis will somehow be at a disadvantage in his upcoming legal battle with USASA because he has already been tried by public opinion. The arbitrators who will ultimately decide the outcome (like those that dealt with the Hamilton case - both Hamilton judgments were well reasoned) will not be easily persuaded by what the media says. Can anyone name one public figure, who was accused of something, not being tried by the media (Michael Jackson, OJ Simpson)? You have believe that the ultimate decision maker (a judge or jury in most cases) will be able to rise above the media conclusions and decide the matter on the evidence (both factual and expert).
In regard to the procedure that Landis bears the onus to show that he did not dope, I think that this is a fair and reasonable manner of deciding the matter. The lab results prove that Landis is guilty of doping. If Landis decides not to do anything about the lab result i.e. not exercise his right to challenge the result (which would involve an arbitration against USADA) , that is the end of the matter - he is stripped of the yellow jersey, banned for 2 years etc etc. If, however, Landis wishes to challenge the authenticity of the result, he must be the one who becomes the prosecutor - the "driver" of the matter and therefore Landis must become prove that he is not guilty. Remember this is not a criminal case. Landis alleges that he did not dope in the face of the lab results - the lab results are prima facie proof that he is guilty. there is a saying "He who alleges must prove".
This is a crazy media circus. The general media is full of misinformation. I've heard local sportscaster claim that Landis's testosterone level was 5x normal. Nobody mentions the politics of the UCI, WADA and the Tour de France organization. Even CyclingNews.com doesn't seem interested in getting all the facts straight.
If I were Landis and I were clean I'd be asking the following questions:
1) What was the level of test/epi in the B sample? Was it the same 11/1 as the A sample or something different? A difference between samples might indicate that the samples were tampered with.
2) Floyd indicates in his blog that after finally getting to review his A-sample test, that his testosterone levels were normal, but his epi level was low (which I haven't read on CyclingNews.com yet), which is what threw off the ratio. What's the implication of having a low epi level and a normal testosterone level? How does having normal levels of testosterone mesh with the exogenous testosterone finding?
3) Is there a typical amount of exogenous testosterone that we all have in our bodies through natural causes such as eating vegetables and meat? If so, was the amount in his sample out of the ordinary? There hasn't been any indication as to the amount of exogenous testosterone in his body.
4) What assurances can the UCI make that the samples weren't tampered with? An organization that can't seem to follow it's own by-laws regarding the information release may have the same issues following procedure in the handling of samples.
5) What are the chances that Floyd's sample was mixed up with Periero's, the Yellow jersey on the that stage? Oscar's performance for the last week of the Tour, after having dropped 30 minutes in the Pyrenees, seemed more out of character than Floyd's performance. Perhaps Landis should call for a DNA scan to check.
If I were the press, I'd be asking Landis the following questions:
1) What exactly is your thyroid problem and what medication are you taking for it? Wasn't Heras or some other cyclist that was busted for doping also on thyroid medication?
2) Any thought on the cause of the thyroid condition? The timing sure seems suspect, a year before winning the TdF.
3) Some of your phrases seem very measured. Are you playing with words? Did you take any substances banned or not banned? Again, what exactly is the thyroid medication? Did you happen to eat any yams or soy products at any time on or around Stage 17?
Also, I've heard a supposed cycling "expert" commenting that Floyd's Stage 17 performance obviously was drug induced because "he rode the Tour de France peloton off of his wheel." That's no expert. Landis's victory on that stage was more strategic than strength. The field gave him room because he was 8 minutes down and had cracked by 10 minutes on the last climb of the previous day. They had counted him out and didn't consider Floyd enough of a threat to worry about covering him so early in such a tough stage. Kloden said it himself, "I don't play Russian roulette that early in a stage." He certainly rode to his strength - long, steady, hard effort with plenty of tight descents - which wasn't out of character for Landis. Does anyone remember the day he hauled Armstrong over several mountain passes a couple years ago and even Armstrong said that he had a tough time holding his wheel?
I hope Floyd is clean. And I hope someday we'll have a definitive answer. I think someone out there knows the answer - could be Floyd himself, maybe someone in the lab, perhaps his teammate or Oscar. If it is a conspiracy, it'd be great if the news organization would go after that story. That'd be Pulitzer worthy. Did anyone else notice the look of disgust on Le Blanc's face when he gave Landis the trophy?
At this point, going on belief alone, Floyd has more credibility in my book than his accusers. But, I agree with his Mom. If he cheated, then he doesn't deserve to have the trophy.
The Operation Puerto affair has been very confusing, but even more so for most Americans. As I understand it, one of the problems is the fact that Spain has not had a law that declares sporting doping/fraud illegal. The law was just being debated by the Spanish Parliament when Operation Puerto lowered the boom (I believe the law goes into effect either later this year or at the New Year). It is for this reason that Dr. Fuentes and his associates are only being prosecuted for "endangering public health." The Communidad Valenciana and Liberty Seguros/Wurth/Astana riders were declared legally uninvolved by the legal system because there was no law broken; no law at that time to enforce. It is also for this reason that the Operation Puerto documents have been forwarded to the various national cycling associations. The Spanish Government has no legal ability to sanction the riders, so it is left up to the UCI and the national organizations to clean up their sport.
An interesting question the French were asking, is "Why did the Spanish police end the investigation when they did, instead of waiting till the law would let them prosecute?" Perhaps they felt they had collected enough evidence? Or perhaps they felt their surveillance was about to be compromised? Or did they just not want to take on the responsibility for prosecuting 200-odd athletes with a new law, when each case is likely to be hotly contested because "My dog's name is Tarello, not Birillo. And "I only bought that EPO for my sick aunt."
Another interesting question is, "If the sporting associations for the 150-odd non-cycling athletes do not come forward to fight for these reports, will those athletes simply need to find another medical group to provide "treatment, " since the Spanish will obviously not be prosecuting them?" Other sports do not want to know. At least cycling is looking at the evidence and is prepared to face a scandal to try to keep the sport clean. I am also happy that cycling helped finger the obliging doctor and his cohorts, taking out the source of the doping products and procedures, as well as the dopers.
If I am to read the articles correctly, we have the UCI leader Pat McQuaid saying that there is going to be a renewed and hard core move by the UCI to try and remove doping from the pro peloton. Then, the next day, we have the same person (Mr. McQuaid) saying that the UCI isn't going to turn over blood samples from riders implicated in the Operacion Puerto affair for DNA testing and comparison to the blood found in Spain.
Double standard anyone? If he's really serious about thwarting doping, turn over the blood. Then again, if all of these guys implicated in Operacion Puerto are, as they keep saying they are, innocent of what they've been accused of, then said riders shouldn't have a problem providing a DNA sample for the Spanish authorities to review. Right?
Then again, I could hear what would happen here if and when a bunch of the suspected riders came up matching the blood in the bags. There would be cries of bad tests, and tainted samples, and conspiracy theories about how the labs are just trying to bring them down. Hey! It would be just like the 3 ring Landis circus we've been reading about for weeks now. Ah well, what are you going to do?
I am in 100% agreement with the suggestion that teams and organizations with over a certain percentage of athletes testing positive be penalized. If that is done, then the teams themselves will not only have an incentive NOT to dope but also to be sure that the riders are NOT doping (as opposed to either tacitly looking away or actively encouraging it). And it is the team directors and doctors that see the riders often enough to be sure that they are doing the right thing!
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