Monday, April 22, 2024

The Floyd Landis Affair – Just An Opinion


HomeOtherEditorialThe Floyd Landis Affair - Just An Opinion

With the crucial ‘B’ sample test result due on Saturday, VeloVeritas thought we would take a look at some of the key rant -points in ‘L’affaire Landis’, the Floyd Landis doping saga. We know it isn’t Scottish, but it’s the biggest cycling story on the planet so here goes….

“Me thinks the Landy doth protest too much”

[with apologies to William Shakespeare]

Landis has just signed-up Howard L. Jacobs to join the team which is handling his case.

Old Howard has plenty of experience; he’s worked for Tim Montgomery and Tyler Hamilton in the past so he knows his EPO from his THG.

Already Howard is attacking the UCI for going public with the fact that a rider had failed a test during the Tour, adding that it wasn’t difficult to work-out who it was. He says, rightly, that his client had the right to anonymity until the result of the “B” sample was known. (It was Landis’s team, Phonak, who formally announced that their rider was the mystery ‘positive’.)

Right though Howard is, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Festina affair. Initially our sympathies lay with the riders because their human rights were being violated by those nasty French policemen — that was until we saw the list of kit that Willy Voet had in the car. It’s to be expected that a lawyer will seek to do his best for his client, but to be searching for procedural loop holes and failures in protocol this early in the proceedings makes one think it’s going to be another Hamilton-style long haul.

Landis asked us to; “wait for the ‘B’ sample results”, then promptly ignored his own pleas and launched an immediate major PR offensive. Appearing on the Larry King Show hardly constitutes a dignified silence.

Shooting from the hip

Again without heeding his own advice, Landis started to wheel-out the justifications for his failed test. With regard to the test I make no pretence at being an expert, but I have read everything I can get hold of the subject.

In the average human, the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone runs at 1:1, the UCU allows a 4:1 ratio (previously 6:1). The figures I have seen suggest that in 99% of men the ratio is less than 5.6 to 1 and in a study of 5,000 athletes the average ratio was 1.5:1.

According to the New York Times and L’Equipe, Landis’s ratio was 11:1. Additionally it is alleged that the testosterone is of an exogenous nature; in other words not produced by Landis’ own body.

Landis is mooting that the corticosteroids he uses for his now famous degenerative hip problem may be responsible for the positive test. He apparently has a therapeutic use exemption certificate for the medication.

His choice of timing to tell the world about how bad the problem was — namely during the Tour — seemed unusual. Was there another reason for the announcement? Was he saying in effect: “I’m taking a proscribed substance, but I’ve got certification for it so if there’s an issue later, I did tell you I had a problem”?

Over-active or under-active?

No, we’re not talking about imagination and propensity to tell the truth, but Landis’s thyroid. I don’t know if it’s under or over-active, but which-ever, it was news to us all. If he takes medication for it then shouldn’t he have another of those therapeutic use medication certificates? If not, why not; but it is being dragged-out as a possible cause for the test reading.

It was the drink!

Well, we can all identify with this one. On Thursday last, when the storm clouds finally released their deluge after a day of rumbling, Landis had drunk “one pint of strong beer” after his disastrous stage 16. By Friday night it was two beers and “at least” four Jack Daniels. Alcohol and sexual intercourse raise the testosterone level but only on a short term basis, however. I don’t think either of these two factors could account for the exogenous nature of the substance.

This doesn’t stop transgressors from citing them as a reason for failing tests. In 1998 the American sprinter, Dennis Mitchell failed a test on testosterone and cited four bottles of beer and a steamy night with his wife the night before the test as the reason. The authorities were so impressed with this explanation that they banned him for two years.

It was too little drink!

Or it could have been dehydration that caused it; that’s the latest theory from the Landis legal team. The experts have already kicked this one into touch. This ‘chuck enough excuses at the wall and one of them is bound to stick’ approach is all too reminiscent of the Tyler Hamilton case from two years ago. Call me stupid, but wouldn’t it be best if Landis and his squad of lawyers kept quiet until the “B” result was released then set about finding the ONE reason for the anomaly? The word “disinformation” springs into my head.

Testosterone wouldn’t help him

The thing to bear in mind about “kit” these days is that it’s not like the old days where you dropped a tab or two of “speed.” The suppliers of the drugs charge big money for their products, many of which are sophisticated and complex in the way they work. Often they are taken not in isolation but as “cocktails” in conjunction with other products. A simple example would be taking Aspirin in conjunction with EPO to keep the blood thin. The argument that testosterone would not be helpful is not a valid one — it may well be performing some ancillary function that lay-people like us can’t begin to guess at.

Those cheese-eating surrender monkeys

(that’s the French as described by the G.W. Bush government by the way) couldn’t get Lance, so they got Floyd instead… That’s like saying that Leblanc and Prudhomme prefer their root canal work without anaesthetic.

Landis’ exploit on stage 17 saved the race; it was heroic, an “exploit.” It was redemption after the Astana, Basso, Mancebo and Ulrich disasters. Whatever happens now, Landis’ stage and overall wins are contaminated and will remain so forever. The race has gone from fairy tale to farce. Marketing and PR guys like the former but are much less keen on spending their company’s money on the latter.

Damn foreigners!

Because Floyd Landis is ‘like us’ — white, English-speaking and from a ‘Western Democracy’ it’s hard for us to accept his failing a test. If he came from Latvia or Lithuania would his failed test be met with so much disbelief?

It’s a testing time

When the Santi Perez and Tyler Hamilton scandals hit Phonak two years ago, one of the first things the team did was to attack the validity of the tests. Not surprisingly the UCI were mightily unimpressed by this strategy and it was only by emptying the team’s management structure from Urs Freuler down, that Phonak managed to cling on to their ProTour place.

Even although the team becomes i-Shares for 2007 (that may hang in the balance now though) it doesn’t seem like a good idea to rubbish the tests all over again. We’re already hearing from the Landis camp that it’s not a reliable test; WADA meanwhile tell us that the test is sound and has been used for years. I can’t help but observe that the test was just fine — until Landis failed it. If Phonak and Landis wish to be part of the ProTour then they should not be attacking its very foundations.

The whole thing is depressing. Athletic ability and courage are forgotten – lawyers, claims, counter-claims, ratios and unpronounceable words take centre stage. Worst of all, they wheel-out Paul Kimmage to sing his same old self-righteous song. Maybe it would be better if the Grand Tours were run like the sixes with the winner organised beforehand.

(Editor’s note: EPO = Erythropoietin — an illegal performance enhancing drug, popular in the 90s with cyclists, that boosts redcell count to get more oxygen to the muscles. THG = Tetrahydrogestrinone is an illegal ‘designer’ drug for athletes and is the brain child of Victor Conte and his scientist pals at the now infamous BalCo laboratory).