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July 29, 2006

I need testerone!

I rode next to a commuter that was really grinding the pedals over a bridge and he quipped, "I need testerone!" And I said, yeah, "a patch right on your balls!" (referring to the SI.com article) We both chuckled a bit, but the exchange did indicate the impact of this story and how the Landis story is everywhere. While I don't believe anything about pro cycling anymore, I'm relieved to see Landis on the PR offensive, getting his story out, and he's making a good case. As the story came out, my biggest concern was that we'd have another Tyler Hamilton story and the ill-fated "I believe Tyler" campaign. Landis has already done well to raise doubt, get support from Lance, bring on the doctors, and it isn't a confusing chimera defense.

Posted by Byron on July 29, 2006 in Floyd Landis | Permalink

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Comments

i have been following this story around the web and today i noticed something rather ironic. on sites that publish stories related to the landis 'situation', the contextual advertising on those pages is sometimes for shall we say questionable athletic enhancements products. i can't help but notice how deliciously ironic is the juxtaposition of news stories condemning doping with the ads that sell "testosterone programs."

Posted by: uri at Jul 29, 2006 5:44:01 PM

I think a lot of the ads are a result of google adwords and the likes. The ads are merely responding to keywords found on the pages and thus resulting in performance enhancers being displayed on pages that discuss "testosterone".

Posted by: Eric at Jul 30, 2006 8:41:34 AM

While it's fair to say the "Chariots of Fire" era of good sporstmanship is a thing of the past - given the multi-million dollar endorsements handed to winners, and instant world celebrity - the world also needs to know that folks like F.L. are the beneficiaries of a much improved USA cycling team.

It's my understanding that a group of private individuals have backed the team in recent years, providing the resources necessary to ensure that every member of the USA team excels to the best of their natural abilities. My hats off to these backers, if for no other reason than their total commitment to a sport that has otherwise been neglected in the United States.

Posted by: Thomas Nicolay at Jul 30, 2006 8:26:33 PM

Thomas,

Great point, especially when all odds are against them.

Posted by: DL Byron at Jul 30, 2006 10:59:00 PM

Do you think Landis is guilty by association? I'd love to have your opinion for my post. Thanks!

http://www.behindthejersey.com/2006/07/31/part-two-floyd-landis-has-an-elevated-te-ratio/

Posted by: Christy at Jul 31, 2006 12:29:44 AM

Thanks Christy,

See the NYTimes Sunday for two unfavorable articles. While I think Landis can make a case, as posted, he's already been inconsistent in his story. He'll need to stay on message, focused, and hope.

Posted by: DL Byron at Jul 31, 2006 10:52:03 AM

In case it hasn't already been submitted, the dailypeloton has a good expo on the WADA/UCI hypocrisy:

http://www.dailypeloton.com/displayarticle.asp?pk=9843

Posted by: Kirby Files at Jul 31, 2006 11:36:47 AM

Maybe it was a different one, but I thought one NYTimes article this weekend was favorable. It talked about how he wasn't handling it in the best way, but the overall jist was that Floyd really wasn't the type to dope, which is what I keep coming back to.

I worry about the help he's getting. I think he's just so overwhelmed, he doesn't know what to do, and he's letting people put words in his mouth. That first statement he made before the cameras - is it just me, or did that sound like a really bad translation? It was almost like a hostage statement, you know? As people have said, it doesn't make sense to go on about your naturally high ratio when you haven't seen any of the tests yet. I think Floyd's sitting there, saying I know I didn't dope, so what could it be, and these lawyers and experts come in and say it must be a naturally high ratio, and make up this boilerplate statement. Floyd's got nothing else to go on, and he's fearing for his cycling life, so he goes with it.

I hope he can get some rest and catch up to what's happening to him and take more of the reins in his defense.

Posted by: Julie at Jul 31, 2006 12:44:21 PM

From the link above posted by Kirby Files...

I will buy a steak dinner (or if a vegan, a dinner of their choice) to the first person that can tell me of another Olympic or Professional sport that requires its athletes and teams to:

a) Submit “whereabouts forms” to their ADA that details their physical location for each day of the year so that the surprise testers can find them (forms are usually required 30 days in advance!).

Those are normal requirements of ALL Olympic sports! I can tell him for certain that every national team speed skater in the USA has to do those things. They must inform USADA of there whereabouts at all times and if their plans change, they are obliged to make USADA aware of that. I had a friend on the national short track team who didn't make the U.S. Olympic team and went up to Canada to train during the Winter Games because all the U.S. coaches were in Italy. He was scrambling like mad to find a place to stay so he could let USADA know where he was.

These are normal procedures for athletes in Olympic sports, folks. Onerous and burdensome? Certainly. But they apply to everyone.

b) Submit to random and unannounced blood tests at 6:00am on the day of important competitions, in addition to all of the usual urine tests.

I don't know about that, but they certainly do it after the competition (medalists and a random number of other competitors, like in the TdF), and are subject to unannounced, out-of-competition tests at any time of the year. Why do you think they're required to inform USADA of their whereabouts at all times?

d) Suspend the athlete from competition based on a preliminary analysis or screening, prior to any definitive findings. If a professional, the athlete is also suspended without pay from his/her team and the media is notified.

Big deal, you cheat your company, you think they're going to wait around for a jury trial before firing you? Well, if you're a CEO maybe...

Main difference I can see is that with cyclists and other athletes it's almost always done in the public eye.

Can I get my gift card for Morton's now?

Posted by: noelle at Jul 31, 2006 12:55:47 PM

Noelle,

Cycling is the most tested sport there is, which is why there's so many positive tests and WADA is saying there should be more. As the NYTimes reported, imagine if Baseball or any other sport was tested like cyclists. Much of the problem with the leaks, labs, and more is that by the nature of the sport, there isn't a strong cyclists union.

Posted by: DL Byron at Jul 31, 2006 1:25:45 PM

Busted! Armstrong got out because he knew that the rules where tightening, Smart. Ahole tried to test those new rules and restriction and lost. Alot of the great riders, got caught, last year, which just proves that Armstrong was taking drugs to compete. The system was fair by giving everyone a warning yet Ahole ignore the warning and got caught. This propagada with his mother and Le'mons trying to defend his actions makes me puke. No wonder everyone thinks Americans are Aholes.

Posted by: ben ito at Jul 31, 2006 2:50:38 PM

DL Byron, are you saying you want cycling to be more like baseball? The strong players' union that blocks broad and effective drug testing for its players is a big reason baseball was kicked out of the Olympic movement.

Honestly, I don't care about baseball per se - I'm just saying I am skeptical that WADA or USADA subjects cyclists to more rigorous testing than any other Olympic sport that is subject to WADA regulations. Perhaps the ICU does but international governing bodies can't be less strict than WADA and expect to remain in the good graces of the IOC.

Posted by: noelle at Jul 31, 2006 5:53:04 PM

Noelle.

No. What I was saying is that considering all the leaks, all the snippets, the accusations and animosity between WADA and the UCI, the lab that leaked, all of it lacks any credibility whatsoever. So, we're not even supposed to hear of any of this until the b samples is confirmed or the rider accepts the a, but it always gets leaked. If the riders had some leverage, we may see a more fair process. Example is today, we get headlines that the testerone is not natural in Floyd's test, well no we don't. It's supposed that it is, but experts just commenting. My problem with this story and Operation Puerto is that there hasn't been a full, factual 60-minutes style accounting. It's all insuations and I don't know what's true or not. Landis has contributed to the problem by stating he drank a beer, then a few beers, and now some Jack Daniels.

Oh and Comunidad Valenciana are all clear after being banned and effectively killing the team.

Posted by: DL Byron at Jul 31, 2006 6:45:02 PM

Baseball is not European; that's why it was kicked out. Major League drug policies do not effect the Olympics since Major Leaguers do not play in the Olympics.

Posted by: Ammonium at Jul 31, 2006 6:51:33 PM

Conspiracy theories aside, there is overwhelming evidence that Armstrong retired not because he'd won his 7th TdF and was content with that but rather because he knew that he wouldn't be able to be competitive and pass the improved drug testing procedures that everyone with any kind of connections within the sport knew were coming. Now before you get your panties all in a bunch, realize that I am a big LA fan, but am also a scientist, so please hear me out. Here's the deal:

We all know (especially now in the wake of the 2006 Tour and the Landis brouhaha) that the TdF tests for a variety of artificial doping agents, but also tests to see that levels of various key athletic-performance-related biophysical markers (and ratios, if it's a hormone with multiple epitotes, e.g. as is the case with testosterone) to ensure that these are within generally accepted norms of "natural occurrence." One such marker is hematocrit (% by volume in the blood of red blood cells, or RBCs) - the normal range is 39-44%, whereas the Tour more generously allows up to 49%.

Somewhat analogously we have the case of testosterone, which both men and women produce naturally (the men in much larger quantities), but for which there is a much wider range of "natural" physical variation, both between people, and even within a given person, i.e. levels can vary simply throughout the day and in correlation with the physical state (fitness and general health) of the individual. To get around the problem of this natural variation, two steps are taken. First, each rider's testosterone levels are monitored over time, in the search for distinctive unnatural "spikes" which generally indicate an artificial boost of testosterone. Secondly, one uses the fact that testosterone comes in two common forms - testosterone (T) and epitestosterone (E), whose *ratio* varies much less (both between people and within a given person) than their individual *levels* do. Normal T/E is around 1:1, for many years the TdF allowed as high as 6:1, but in order to address the problem of athletes "titrating up to the limit" (i.e. if my normal T/E is really 1:1 but I know I can get away with as high as 6:1, so I take just enough T in long-term patch form to keep my level around 5:1, which is within the 6:1 limit but gives me a huge performance boost), they recently lowered the acceptable limit to 4:1. This is the test which Landis's A sample flunked. What that means is being debated in uncountable web fora, but let me stick to the subject at hand, the mighty Mr. Armstrong. Whats the connection? Well, ask yourself - in a man, where is testosterone produced? Why, the testes, of course. Easy enough for even a non-medical-professional to grasp - especially if he's a guy, and the testes are his own. (In other cases it's generally a good idea to ask permission first - and be gentle.)

Now the major problem with the T/E ratio test is that - as we've seen - it allows athletes to still do a significant amount of artificial boosting of their testosterone levels, as long as they are careful not to throw their T/E ratio out of kilter, and as long as they do a more-or-less continuous low-level boosting (e.g. via skin patch), which makes it look like they have "naturally high" testosterone levels. The only 100% way to really test whether a given person's levels are "natural" or not would be to remove their testicles and directly measure the testosterone production. Nor surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of athletes consider this to be unnacceptably intrusive. So various worldwide anti-doping organizations have recently devised a way of achieving the same aim by proxy, i.e. without having to emasculate the test subjects. It's amazingly clever, and it's the *real* reason Armstrong retired, as I'll show presently.

The test in question (somebody originally suggested calling it "Test X", which some wag bettered by suggesting "Test E" - but I digress) is based on the insight that while men's testosterone levels and T/E ratios can vary naturally over quite a wide range, there is in fact a more fundamental ratio one can use here, which involves the organs that produce the testosterone to begin with, the testes. It is a well-known scientific fact that in men, the ratio of number of testicles to their containing pouches (the so-called "Nutt-Sachs" ratio or N/S, after the two researchers who pioneered its use) has a precise and virtually unvarying value of 2:1. (There are rare medical conditions - e.g. "Tew-Sachs" syndrome, more commonly known as Multiple Scrotosis - which can throw the ratio off, but there are of course medical exemptions for those kinds of, um, wrinkles.) Any significant deviation from this 2:1 ratio is an almost certain indicator that something nutty is going on. Now in Armstrong's case, unpublicized (as they were used strictly to help improve the reliability and efficiency of the prototype testing equipment) post-hoc retesting of blood and urine samples which had been saved from years past revealed something startling: in all the years Armstrong won the Tour, his N/S ratio was way below 2:1 - much closer to 1:1 in fact. WADA and the TdF had no legal recourse, since the test was only approved just after the end of the 2005 Tour and was subject to the usual anti-grandfathering rules, but once they informed Armstrong of their findings (and rumor has it, urged him to retire for the good of all parties involved), he called a press conference, gave some warm-and-fuzzy speech about "I have nothing left to prove, yada, yada" and promptly announced his retirement. The story is well-known in cycling circles, but since nearly all the riders cheat in one way or another, and Armstrong is a cycling god with gobs of cash and a team of real sharks for lawyers (no, I mean it - he uses actual sharks, mostly Great Whites but I have it on good authority that one of the junior members of the defense team is a Hammerhead), there's been a huge conspiracy of silence, and none of the major news media have had the balls to come out with it.

Posted by: ewmayer at Jul 31, 2006 7:16:48 PM

Thanks, EWMAYER, for the details, every one of them. I'm not sure that's a huge conspiracy of silence that you're hearing, so much as it is a huge sign of frustration within the hearts and minds of the Tour de France racing community.

The REAL problem is generally this: When the Tour de France rules committee sets a limit on allowable levels of any subtance within the body, they are in essence encouraging every competitor to achieve the threshold of those limits. One might even say that a cyclist would be at a competitive disadvantage if they did not not attempt to hit the threshold of the limit, given that the limits are in fact very clearly established on paper.

The rules committee, in their reasonable attempt to control a problem, had actually created another (unanticipated and unforeseen negative incentive). It's time that the Tour de France community, meaning the cyclists, the rule makers, the lovers of the sport and academics, all sit at a big breakfast table in downtown Paris, kiss and make up, and come up with a better solution that will either 1)end the built-in (negative)incentives for hitting the allowable limits, or 2) prompt the Tour de France rule making committee to acknowledge publically that the allowable limits have inherint assumptions built-in (meaning, that it will be understood that every cyclist will be working in one way or another to hit the threshold.) I'm not sure that there is a perfect answer to the problem, but anything we can do to get back to the "Chariots of Fire" era of good sportmanship can only be seen as a positive step on the future of competitive cycling.

With all of this said, EWMAYER, to look at the 'doping' (or whatever you want to call it) problem as an infraction on the part of participants of the Tour de France, is to look primarily at the wrong end of the problem.

So, to call out L.A, F.L and others as the poster boys of Tour de France infractions, is over the top, to say the least.

Posted by: Thomas Nicolay at Jul 31, 2006 11:24:52 PM

ewmayer:

Wouldn't removing a testicle drop the N/S down from 2-to-1, to 1-to-1?

So Lance's low N/S levels were not due to doping, and therefore some big conspiracy out there.

Posted by: Erik at Aug 1, 2006 2:15:31 AM

Good lord, don't you people know a wind-up when you see one? How many this-post-is-meant-completely-facetiously hints does a person have to drop? I mean "Nutt-Sachs ratio" - puhleeze, how could anyone miss that? :(

Posted by: ewmayer at Aug 1, 2006 12:37:21 PM

ewmayer, it looks like Erik got it so not all bad. Thought the "actual sharks" comment was so best.

: )

Posted by: Jason at Aug 1, 2006 1:23:56 PM

In all seriousness: Was Armstrong allowed to take testosterone to offset the effect of his low N/S ratio, i.e. hormone replacement therapy?

Posted by: jkalla at Aug 1, 2006 7:22:55 PM