Wu-oh. Floyd Landis had "an unusual level

posted by Jason Kottke Jul 27, 2006

Wu-oh. Floyd Landis had "an unusual level of testosterone/epitestosterone ratio" in his blood after stage 17 of the Tour de France. If his backup sample also tests positive, the title could be taken from him. You may remember stage 17 as the scene of Landis' remarkable comeback. Cyclingnews.com says that "some athletes have naturally high levels, and can prove this through a series of tests"...is it possible that Landis was just super amped up from the effort that day?

Reader comments

Eloy AnzolaJul 27, 2006 at 1:55PM

After the spectacular stage into Morzine, I was afraid we would get news like this.

We'll have to wait for the B sample results to comeback.

Apparently, there are also some tests that can be done to check if the high testosterone happened naturally. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently lowered the limit for max T/E level from 6:1 to 4:1. Landis ratio has always been high.

I hope this ends being nothing. But I doubt it.

Cycling is one of the few sports to strongly fight doping. But there is no way to slice it...

Heras, Basso, Ullrich..., If Floyd cheated, this is a disaster.

acbJul 27, 2006 at 2:03PM

It could be related to the cortisone injections he was taking for the dejenerative hip joint. Cortisol, in conjunction with inactive cortisone can increase testosterone production and the testosterone/epitestosterone ratio.

However, even though he had a UCI therapeutic use exemption for the cortisone, he was may still have been obligated to keep his t/e ratio under the UCI limit.

So, the question is, is this a result of authorised treatment and lack of care in monitoring it's affects, a nuturally occuring high level, or was he doping?

AjitJul 27, 2006 at 2:05PM

This would kill a great moment in sports history. If it is true.

On a sidenote: Did anyone find his personality odd?

nickJul 27, 2006 at 2:31PM

Hmm, this is really disappointing. I hope someone has made a mistake. Why are the tour officials not tougher on this in order to stamp it out completely?

How come they don't test _everbody_ at _every_ stage? Sure, it's a lot of work, but what the else are they going to do? n.

David JacobsJul 27, 2006 at 2:34PM

Why are the tour officials not tougher on this in order to stamp it out completely?

I'm not sure how much tougher you can get. They do test basically everybody who matters at every stage. They used to test Lance Armstrong when he went on vacation!

I would pose the opposite question - why isn't it OK? All cyclists cheat to different extents, why not just set a baseline of steroid use that is acceptable? Wouldn't the tour have been better with a full set of riders?

LazJul 27, 2006 at 2:34PM

Elevated testosterone or not, the man was riding with one hip. He's still got my support.

(To me, this is another example of the problems with the international doping standards, but that's a discussion for another forum.)

jkottkeJul 27, 2006 at 3:16PM

why not just set a baseline of steroid use that is acceptable?

That what we have now...it's just that the baseline is zero (or close to it). Why would some other arbitrary level be better? Even at some new level, people will try to exceed it to gain an advantage.

RubenJul 27, 2006 at 4:11PM

Even at some new level, people will try to exceed it to gain an advantage.

Good point, but apart from that, using steroids can hardly be called healthy. Raising the baseline would mean more Tommy Simpsons. If there's one thing even more damaging to the sports than cheaters, it's casualties.

Unfortunately this news is hardly surprising.

Did anyone find his personality odd?

Yes, but does it really matter? Even the nicest, perfectly normal guys in the pack are using doping, I'm afraid.

David JacobsJul 27, 2006 at 4:13PM

Why would some other arbitrary level be better?

I'm no doctor, but I assume that at some point a law of diminishing returns kicks in. Give everyone exactly as many steroids without causing long term health effects, and if some people push it, then that's there decision.

The front page of ESPN.com is asking "Can we ever trust anyone again?" Doesn't that seem extreme? I don't know Landis from Adam. This gets to the reasons we enjoy sport. We like to see extraordinary performance, but we also see athletes as the embodiment of human potential. There's a fairly obvious contradiction, and it makes perfect sense to me that it would play out in public. If all athletes are going to push limits, why not just come clean, so to speak?

acbJul 27, 2006 at 4:26PM

A nice round-up of information at the TDF blog: http://www.tdfblog.com/2006/07/landis_reaction.html

Most interesting is the comment that his testosterone level was low but the T/E ratio was out of range of the UCI 4:1 limit.

I was absolutely gutted when I heard about this earlier today. Now I've read some of the additional information I'm less certain of what the real story is.

LazJul 27, 2006 at 5:09PM

General doping criticisms aside, a frustrating part of this story is the reality that the media will report this as if the testing results came back showing the "stanozolol" box neatly checked off, as opposed to the much more complex and nuanced reality. It seems rather unfortunate that this reaction is all based on merely circumstantial evidence of doping, which is in turn based on an only partially-understood series of chemical processes.

S. Anthony IannarinoJul 27, 2006 at 7:53PM

Football's baseline is zero, too. Anybody pretending their not all on performance-enhancing drugs? Anybody love football any less for it? Anybody worried about the long-term health effects on players in the NFL (ever hear about the health problems linemen suffer after football).

There is an argument that playing field is not level because the best cheaters win.

Jim CueneJul 27, 2006 at 10:45PM

All riders are tested and given pre-race physicals by Tour doctors before the race. I believe that the yellow jersey and the stage winner are tested each day (as are some random riders). Why couldn't Landis ask for all his samples to be reviewed to look for either a) anomolies or b) a T/E ratio consistent with what he gave on stage 17?

Related question: How long does it take for testosterone to show up in urine after taking it?

chris josephJul 27, 2006 at 11:06PM

If the second sample will either condemn or exonerate the accused, perhaps people involved shouldn't talk to the press until its been tested?

When they do in-the-workplace drug testing, everyone is tested and all samples are anonymous to the laboratories to help eliminate any possibility of discrimination. As evidenced by the scrutiny Lance Armstrong had been put under, and the fact there's no love lost between he and the French, announcements such as this one seem more politically motivated than having anything to do with protecting the sport from cheating.

If it's too costly to test everyone at every leg of the race and to keep those samples anonymous, then perhaps they shouldn't be monitoring atheletes.

GrobboJul 28, 2006 at 1:29AM

I'm afraid that if Landis has a naturally high testosterone, it would probably have been discovered earlier in his career. He must have been tested a zillion times before. A Dutch runner, Gert Jan Theunisse had a similar story, but he never got rid of the smell of doping.

It's a sad story for cycling.

JernejJul 28, 2006 at 2:50AM

It's interesting how the general public naively believes that there are still some pro riders/athletes out there who DON'T cheat with drugs of some variety. At least those that actually rank high...

Serdar KilicJul 28, 2006 at 3:14AM

I think it's interesting that with so much testing going on and it being done more accurately that pro-cyclists would still contemplate doping up.

Ben SaundersJul 28, 2006 at 5:36AM

Serdar - I'm not so sure. With the billions of dollars in pro sport, the dopers will always have bigger budgets than the testers, and will always be one step ahead.

My belief is that very few riders in the pro peloton aren't doping - a positive drugs test is merely an indication that the team doctor has slipped up somehow. Most riders in the tour seem to hover miraculously below UCI limits (for haematocrit, testosterone, etc) no matter how tough the event is.

csJul 28, 2006 at 10:40AM

this has probably been said in the comments before (but i'm too lazy to read them):
testosterone levels SINK after a day of hard physical labor. that's why, if the B test shows the same, he's gone.

jkottkeJul 28, 2006 at 11:15AM

Ben, you're an elite athlete...you ever thought about doping to improve your performance? (I guess that question goes for others as well...using performancing-enhancing drugs isn't just for elite or professional athletes.)

Ben SaundersJul 28, 2006 at 1:44PM

Cycling was my sport as a teenager, but the realisation that doping was rife in the pro peloton put me off pursuing it to a higher level - when people first started using EPO, there were a lot of deaths - heart attacks in healthy guys in their twenties - and I decided I didn't want to play that game.

Having said that, it strikes me that there's a blurry line around doping - a lot of the stuff that goes on that's *legal* is still unusual - glucose drips after alpine stages, B-vitamin injections, excessive iron supplementation, etc etc. At various stages in my training I've used sodium phosphate, glycerol, creatine monohydrate and caffiene. All are legal, all are naturally occurring, but they'd seem pretty alien to athletes of forty years ago...

The question of ethics is a tough one. Lance could afford altitude chambers to sleep and train in. Synthetic EPO does essentially the same thing to your body, but it's way cheaper.

Luckily there's no one racing me to the South Pole and back, so it's not a call I'll have to make in the near future...

TysonJul 28, 2006 at 6:23PM

I hate to inject an informed voice in to a sensationalistic non-issue, but here goes:


Floyd's the man!

Serdar KIlicJul 28, 2006 at 9:30PM

Ben I'd be dismayed if what you say about the pro-peleton is really true, I might be a dreamer but I just wouldn't be able to bring myself to believe it.

Maybe, what needs to be done is simply go back to the basics. Stop the large sponsorship deals, bring in salary caps, etc. Make the penalties tougher, and maybe then they'll learn.

JernejJul 30, 2006 at 4:23PM

Serdar - It's not just pro cycling, it's pretty much any pro sport. From XC skiing to athletics. Believing otherwise is simply naive (as I mentioned before).

Even in sports where the issue is not as public as in cycling, you'll find a lot of this stuff going on. Exceptions may be sports where athletes reach their prime earlier in their lives (like swimming, to a certain degree) though they are certainly not strangers to doping. It just means fewer people are doing it.

doleproJul 31, 2006 at 4:03PM

It isn't just PRO cycling. Chemically enhanced performance isn't uncommon in european (specifically spanish) amateur cycling, though the substances and methods are usually less sophisticated.

TomAug 01, 2006 at 8:42AM

David Jacobs says:
Why are the tour officials not tougher on this in order to stamp it out completely?

I'm not sure how much tougher you can get. They do test basically everybody who matters at every stage. They used to test Lance Armstrong when he went on vacation!

I would pose the opposite question - why isn't it OK? All cyclists cheat to different extents, why not just set a baseline of steroid use that is acceptable? Wouldn't the tour have been better with a full set of riders?

>>Mate i agree with the first part how much tougher can they get but i do not believe that every cyclist cheats to different extents, alan davis from aus has recently been exonerated from all drug charges within operation puerta and therefore did not cheat.

csAug 02, 2006 at 8:46AM

update: it has been shown that he had synthetic testosterone in the A sample. so his excuse is out of the windows. the B sample should be tested in a few days....

ttyuuAug 05, 2006 at 9:34AM

Intersting that 7-times champs Lance Armstrong had testicular cancer, was treated, and nobody questioned his illegal use of medicnes as excuse. Now we have Landis in quagmire with testicular hormones. I think every stage of race, all athletes must deposit two milliliters of blood and or urine. This was we know baseline fluctuation. THis would prevent athletes to lie and cheat. Once lying and cheating is removed, an athlete would not be shameful and thrownout of the game just because he has higher than normal testicular, thyroid, and other anabolic hormones. If I were to guess, Landis may have used molecular biology (more accurately developmental biological derived peptide hormone that upregu;late the HPT axis. eg. prepro-GH. Unknown chemcials that increase Testosterone secretion are plnetiful, that are shelved in major pharma cupboards.

PaladinAug 06, 2006 at 12:28PM

Of course we must ask about the possibility:

Who would have the most to gain if Landis was disqualified?

PaladinAug 07, 2006 at 10:41AM

Landis says UCI has an agenda:


KevinAug 09, 2006 at 1:04PM

From what I have seen in the news, his samples tested with normal levels of Testosterone and suppressed levels of Epitestosterone. Normal levels of Testosterone would indicate that he was not cheating. Suppressed levels of Epitestosterone would indicate to me sample tampering. Could an expert in these matters please comment?


Bill EvansAug 16, 2006 at 12:19PM

Has Landis's testosterone and epitestosterone numbers been released? All I have seen is that his T:E ratio was outside the legal limit.

I am more interested in the numbers because his T:E ratio could be high if his epitestosterone number dropped. The following is an example and I have no idea what normal T levels are but, let's say on day one his T number is 100 and his E number is 25, then his ration would be within the legal limit -- 4:1. If his T number on the day of his epic ride was still 100, but his E number drops to 9 then his ratio is 11:1. His testosterone isn't elevated, just the ratio. Has anyone else considered this? I was told that someone having a similar hip condition would have a different E number from normal adults without a hip condition.

Everything I have read or seen on the news (uninformed media - ESPN and local sports channels) is that he had high levels of testosterone. But I read in reliable media sources like velonews.com that his ratio was elevated and not necessarily his testosterone. The uninformed media have reported that Floyd failed both drug tests, but I think this is misleading since he only gave one sample. They give the impression that he gave two different samples and tested positive on two separate occasions.

I am disappointed that the lab countered Landis's claim that he had natural Testosterone by saying they had a test and it was synthetic. Why didn't the lab, when they released the high T:E ratio, also state that their findings were that there were traces of synthetic T found? I find it suspect that they would release this after someone makes the claim. Why wouldn't the lab show all their cards and report their findings at one time?

I think Oscar P. should keep quiet until after this process is played out. He is screaming for the yellow jersey even though this thing is just getting started. I am disappointed in T-Mobile and CSC for not participating in bringing down the gap when Oscar P. gained all that time. That lack of action cost them positioning on the podium. Lesson learned.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.