Thursday, July 27, 2006

Landis Wins Epic Tour De France With Ride For The Ages. Was It On The Up & Up?

So last weekend Floyd Landis finished the job after his amazing comeback in stage 17 from his amazing bonk in stage 16. He went over the top in Saturday's time trial and cruised to victory on Sunday.

Winner, or cheater?

None other then Lance Armstrong is now lobbying his ex-teammate to join the Discovery team that Lance is a part owner in. According to OLN's Paul Sherwin, after Landis' stage 17 heroics "one of the first people to call him was his ex-team-mate and former 7 time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong who told Landis he had the biggest balls of any cyclist he had ever met to even think about pulling such a move."

He is the 3rd American to win the race. Amazingly, Americans have now won 11 of the last 21 races dating back to Greg Lemond's first TDF win in 1986. That's pretty dominant when you consider that not a single American even rode in the TDF prior to 1981.

I took a liking to Landis after reading this Outside magazine piece on him 2 months ago. I was especially excited to find that he shared my disdain for the ridiculous concept of giving 110%:

"Well, why not 112 percent?" Landis inquires, eyes widening with burning incredulity. "Why not 500 percent or 1,300 percent or 38 billion percent? I mean, if he can crank it up beyond 100 percent, why not? What's stopping him, exactly?"

Exactly, man. This whole 110% thing has been a huge pet peeve of mine for years, so I took an immediate liking to him after reading the article. Plus he is a great story with his degenerative hip and looming replacement surgery, etc.

Now today reports have come out that Landis's urine sample after that epic stage 17 ride showed unusual levels of testosterone. If he won by cheating then it would be the worst scandal in cycling history considering he is the TDF winner. And given cycling's history of doping, that is saying something.

Critics will say that the fact that it was after that unbelieveable ride in stage 17 circumstantially proves that he cheated, because no one could believe that he did what he did. But I do not think that Floyd cheated to win. I am not saying that there might not be "unusual" levels of testosterone in his urine sample from that day. I just think that he didn't cheat to win. Cheaters in cycling don't pump themselves with testosterone because it is so easily traceable; they tend to use EPO and other designer type drugs that are much more difficult to detect. Additionally, from all reports Floyd knew from the night before stage 17 that he was going to try his go for broke super attack the next day. Knowing the Tour's policy of automatically drug testing the winner of each stage as well as several others at random, why would he juice if he was trying to win the stage?

Floyd has a reputation as a very clean guy. It seems more likely that his elevated testosterone level was the result of the cortisone shots that he takes for his jacked up hip, or perhaps from the daily medication that he takes for a thyroid problem, or both. He has denied the doping allegation in an exclusive interview with that is certainly worth a read.

What's next? The sample that has already been analyzed is called the "A" sample. Now they will test the "B" sample to see if it matches, since each drug test requires 2 samples. Landis has retained the services of a doctor to help show that his elevated testosterone levels are not from doping. According to this interesting article by King Kaufman, ESPNews analyst John Eustice notes that many times in the past riders have been charged with elevated testosterone levels, and that:

"Every time an athlete has disputed a testosterone test," he said, "they have won. So the test is not quite as reliable as everyone thinks."

Landis adds in the SI article: "In hundreds of cases," Landis told me, "no one's ever lost one."

So we'll see what happens, but I'm falling on the he didn't cheat side of the fence.


The Hit said...

Q: For a cyclist, what's the benefit of elevated levels of testosterone? Why would a cyclist use it?

A: It's certainly not one of the first-line drugs one thinks of for racing. Steroids can increase strength and improve recovery time and prevent the breakdown of muscle, maybe make him more assertive and aggressive. All of those could have some positive attribute. But most steroids are given in cycles [6-12 weeks] and in context of working out in a gym with weights. It makes no sense to me why an athlete would take testosterone the day of a race when it doesn't work that way. It doesn't make sense in terms of the pharmacology of the drug, and it really doesn't have the attributes that would be attractive to a cyclist -- particularly one running the risk of violating anti-doping regulations.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me they are calling it elevated. Campared to what? Lance? He only had one nut, so comparing it to him, everyone would be elevated!