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July 31, 2006

Synthetic testosterone in Landis sample

nytimes.com | New Finding Challenges Landis Claim

The New York Times is reporting that Floyd Landis's A-sample was tested by mass spectrometry, and turned up differing carbon isotope ratios, which is generally a sign of synthetic testosterone use.

Landis will now have to explain how the synthetic testosterone got into the sample, rather than attacking the admittedly weak baseline T/E ratio test.

Landis finally requested a test of his B-sample today, which should give results before the lab closes for a holiday starting Monday.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 31, 2006 in Doping, Floyd Landis, Top Stories | Permalink


Cyclingnews is reporting similar findings:

    The tests performed on Landis' A sample included an Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) procedure, used to determine whether the testosterone is exogenous (contained within, but originating from outside the body) or endogenous (produced by the body itself). In the case of Landis, L'Equipe reported that the analysis found testosterone of artificial origin.

    It's understood the French newspaper received this information from a source within Chatenay-Malabry labortory that conducted the test on Landis' sample.

Whatever happens with Floyd, I can't help but think this could have been handled better. No one at the Chatenay-Malabry lab should be discussing the results of the A test, and it does cycling no good for information to be leaked in dribs and drabs like this.

I suppose we'll know the truth soon, but whether the B sample exonerates Landis or shows that he did have synthetic testosterone in his system, I'll always have doubts.

Posted by: Jason at Aug 1, 2006 1:14:42 AM

As discussed in the "I need testosterone" comments, what other lab governing body leaks details and isn't that suspect?

Posted by: DL Byron at Aug 1, 2006 9:08:56 AM

Is Red Bull a permitted drink for cyclists? Does Floyd partake? I imagine the rumors about it containing testosterone are silly urban legend, but one can't help but wonder.

Posted by: Julie at Aug 1, 2006 9:52:53 AM

The leaks are a little irritating, no doubt, but the bottom line is this: it ain't looking good for Landis. We can't cut him any slack because we like him. Believe me, I'm as heartbroken as anyone over this, but that doesn't get him off the hook.

At this point, there's at least as much evidence against Landis as there is against Barry Bonds -- if not more -- and look at the way he is treated.

Posted by: Dave at Aug 1, 2006 9:56:08 AM

I was a big fan of Floyd, and I'm disappointed about the leaking. But I'm a whole lot more disappointed in Floyd, and most importantly, for the sport. I thought when everything broke loose at the beginning of the Tour that someone should stand up - the riders, preferably - and say that the sport's sick and it was time for drastic action to heal it. This makes it 10 times worse.

The leaking is a pretty minor crime compared to the doping. Do Mennonites produce synthetic testosterone naturally? Did he have a vanishing synthetic twin?

Let's face it. The French people who work in the lab might not be fans of American cyclists, but do we really think scientists, or anyone working in a position of responsibility, is so anti-American that they'd sabotage the integrity of their own race by inventing something? It's an absurd idea. This isn't a blot on America. It's a blot on cycling and on the Tour de France, and they know that.

Posted by: Chris at Aug 1, 2006 12:07:10 PM

It's certainly not looking good for Landis, and we shouldn't make excuses for him. But I gotta say I think the UCI really shot themselves and cycling in the foot on this one. If this info about the IRMS test on Floyd's A sample is accurate then that goes a long way towards explaining much of Pat McQuaid's initial statements and why he seemed so certain that this was a disaster for cycling; he may have known all along that synthetic testosterone had been found. And if he didn't, somebody at the UCI did since they talked to the NYT about it.

All of which begs the question of whether the UCI told Landis from the beginning what the strength of their case against him was. If the UCI is going to leak the info like they did to the press about a top ranked rider's sample being abnormal for the T/E ratio, why wouldn't they try to get this issue resolved as quickly as possible? It does cycling no good to have Floyd out there digging a hole that the sport will have to climb back out of after he's banned. Nothing about how the UCI has conducted itself gives me any confidence that they know how to protect cycling's image, let alone rehabilitate the sport. In my opinion, the leaks are not a minor problem but are indicative of the fuedalism and turf wars that are making it so hard for cycling to combat the doping issue. The UCI is reacting not leading, and that's never going to work.

Posted by: Jason at Aug 1, 2006 12:32:28 PM

How will anyone know that Landis wasn't sprayed with some substance by a specitator who wanted him to test positive for an illegal drug? Who may have turned his jersey into a "patch" to leach a testosterone boosting drug into his body so he would be disqualified. You can't trust the tests, the testers, the tested or the "fans." He won. So live with it.

Posted by: Geoff Bush at Aug 1, 2006 1:00:42 PM

I'm not going to judge Landis' test results one way or another, but rather ask why athletes who are charged with doping choose not to admit to it? What is in it for them? Is this a really dumb question? Just looking for some insight...thanks.

Posted by: Jill at Aug 1, 2006 1:50:59 PM

Weird - I've not seen anything that indicates the lab leaked any info although people are constantly making that claim. It seems most of the 'leaks' originate with the UCI.

Posted by: noelle at Aug 1, 2006 3:04:04 PM

And you actually believe the French scientists are unbiased? Why now after 7 years of harassing Lance Armstrong? Face it frenchies........he kicked ass in your country and you can't take it!!

Posted by: Armen at Aug 1, 2006 3:28:30 PM

So, having wondered what happened to OLN's promised week-after-the-tour summing-up show (Did they actually air it, or scrap it in the wake of the Landis brouhaha?), I finally got around to reading Phil Liggett's Landis-related blog entry, which is currently the lead article on OLN's TdF main page ( http://www.olntv.com/tdf ). The irony of the following quote is inescapable:

'Even seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong was moved to call Landis at his hotel that night [after Landis's Stage 17 win] and congratulate him at "having big balls" to do what he had done after such a defeat 24 hours' earlier.'

I'm thinking that a "big balls" defense would've been much more plausible than the pathetic "magic testosterone-boosting beer" one. He could've even used a "mutant testicle" variant: "not only are my testicles bigger and thus produce more testosterone than normal, my left nut is a genetic mutant that produces a form of testosterone that resembles the synthetic variety. Ain't it cool?"

Posted by: ewmayer at Aug 1, 2006 3:45:13 PM

Check out this article on Velonews:


Landis' attoney seems to clearly suggest that the UCI did not inform Landis' of the IMRS result. Landis' attorney seems to give the UCI the benfit of the doubt, suggesting the the lab leaked the result before telling the UCI.

This is also consistent with Floyd's intial story/defense and his surprise during his second teleconference with reporters. During it a Chicago Tribune reporter informed him of the L'equipe report that the testosterone was exogenous. He denied knowing of this report and seemed surprised. (you can hear an MP3 of this teleconference at Velonews also.)

I think it might violate WADA protocol to not inform the athelete if an IMRS test was concudted on the initial sample. But in the big scheme of things this is probably just a small technicality.

Posted by: wasafloydfan at Aug 1, 2006 5:17:13 PM


Look at my original post at the top of the thread:

    "It's understood the French newspaper received this information from a source within Chatenay-Malabry labortory that conducted the test on Landis' sample."

Sounds like a leak to me.

Posted by: Jason at Aug 1, 2006 7:16:37 PM

No one is suggesting the lab in question is beyond reproach, especially in their ties with Amaury Sport (and thus, L'Equipe). But in the absence of clear evidence of malfeasance on the part of the lab in the actual handling of the samples or the diagnostic tests, let's face it, the truly problematic leak here is apparently the one Landis himself took, immediately following stage 17. :(

Posted by: ewmayer at Aug 1, 2006 8:51:59 PM

the paranoia of american sports fans, as evidenced by the comments being posted on this blog about landis, is amazing. do you *really* believe that this is a put-up job by the french, to get back at you over winning wwii for them and thrashing their arses in the un over the iraq invasion? really? you're far crazier than anyone paints you if you do.

why do you just step back from this, put the parochial flag-waving aside for a while and treat this as what it is - a cyclist has tested positive for drugs. forget the nationalisty. forget the fit-ups.

as for some of the other excuses - a crazed fan sprayed him with testosterone? oh. my. god. that's even crazier than hamilton's dead twin and gatlin's crazed masseur excuses. landis is doing well enough with the crazy excuses as it is without others needing to pitch in the truly bizzare.

the uci accusations are, in my opinion, spot on. for years the uci has failed to deal with the problem of drugs in this sport. for years, the uci has been more concerned with petty internal squabbles over who gets to head what committee and how much expenses you get to claim. look at the buried scandal surrounding the electing of mcquaid. the uci is a pr nightmare, it does not present itself as being concerned about the sport it is supposed to be in charge of - it presents itself as being more concerned about itself. that was certainly the case last year when l'equipe ran the story on armstrong's alleged positives from the 1999 tour - the uci inquiry did not look at the lab's test, but rather who within the uci had helped them link and anonymous sample to a named rider.

and now what are the uci doing? mcquaid (and i should lay on the table that, like him, i am irish, but that doesn't mean i'm going to defend him) is saying they'll call in the cops and the judicial authorities. the man must have been asleep these last ten years - it's the police and the judicial authorities who have been doing *all* the running on stamping out drugs in cycling. festina, cofidis, puerto - these are all police/judicial investigations.

if this scandal - whatever way it plays out for landis - does not result in major changes within the uci, a mjor re-appraisal of the role it plays and the duties it owes this sport, then we might as well all just give up and go home. the sport will have been dealt a crippling blow from which it will take years to recover.

Posted by: fmk at Aug 2, 2006 7:26:09 AM

Jill, it is too hard to explain or generalize why a cyclist might dope. Perhaps in Landis' case, he felt it was all or nothing - dope to win and maybe get away with it, or take a humdrum top 10 placing in the Tour and remain another disappointment for the Americans. I doubt that the thought of losing his license or the overall title occurred to him at the time. Nobody had ever been stripped of the overall title, so why would he think that he'd be the trendsetter for that? Desperation and rage will make you do the wrong thing. He did accomplish one goal, guilty or not - he will be long remembered for that Stage 17 ride.

Posted by: Hal at Aug 2, 2006 11:17:25 AM

Hal wrote:

"Perhaps in Landis' case, he felt it was all or nothing"

Indeed. And with his imminent hip replacement surgery awaiting him post-Tour, he may have justifiably felt that this might well turn out to be his one and only shot at a Tour win. In other words, after the stage 16 debacle, the motive to reach for an artificial boost was certainly there, in spades. My shock (and I expect I'm not alone in this) is more based on that is seems so utterly out of character for him, at least based on my admittedly-at-armchair's-length estimation of the man's character.

Posted by: ewmayer at Aug 2, 2006 12:00:06 PM

Jens Voight is the riders UCI representative...he stated that contrary to Landis claiming the information had not been provided to him (11.1 and exogenus finding) it had been he knew it when interviewed on Larry King but stated he did not ...Landis also claimed he had asked for a B sample when he had not.. he dragged his feet resulting in the UCI to ask that the B sample be examined... priot to the lab shutting down for August vacation...don't dismiss the facts...

Posted by: Mickey at Aug 2, 2006 9:43:01 PM

I am only hoping for one thing. Floyd,If by any chance you read this. Please. I repeat please dont be typical. I understand the litigation involved. Have your own tests completed. If you are innocent get up and go get tested. Do not hide behind your lawyers. As an avid cyclist a lot of us look up to what you have accomplished. Whether you like it or not you are a role model. If you are innocent take care of it yourself. It obviously takes a few days to have a test done. If you have nothing to hide get going. You could be on test 10 by now.

Posted by: Chris at Aug 3, 2006 10:39:30 AM

Up until yesterday, I was pretty certain that Landis was not guilty. I still felt he had a coin's toss chance to prove it, but I was because of the following reasons:
1) Testosterone is not a performance-enhancing drug in the short term. It helps to build muscle, which is why the body produces it in the first place. This is not a drug you would take in the middle of the Tour de France for any reason.
2) Landis' previous six drug tests during the Tour did not indicate anything unusual about his testosterone levels
3) Landis' testosterone level was very low, not elevated, it was his T/E ratio, or the ratio of testosterone to another naturally occuring hormone
4) Industry consensus (not the cycling industry, the medical testing industry) is that this test is susceptible to a wide variety of problems
5) Every test of this type that has been challenged has been overturned
6) There are many alternate explanations for Landis’ high ratio, including a naturally high testosterone to epitestosterone level, bacterial contamination, hormones he takes for his adrenal glandular problem, cortisone injections he takes for his hipular problem, alcohol consumption the night before the test (veriously reported as one shot of Jack Daniel's or two beers and four shots of Jack), natural depletion of hormones due to the efforts of the race, or contamination of the specimen during testing
6) You'd have to be stupid to get caught, since there are many ways to take testosterone without elevating your T/E ratio

What happened yesterday? The New York Times article said that another leak from the French national antidoping laboratory in Châtenay-Malabry (which is truly criminal, this is the lab that leaked the false results about Lance Armstrong's positive test in 1999) indicated that an IRMS (isotope ratio mass spectrometry) test showed that some of the testosterone in Landis' sample was synthetic. While that doesn't change any of the reasons above, it's unlikely (at least to me) that two different tests gave false positives. There are many problems with the IRMS test as well, but... every single athlete caught at doping claims he (or she) is the isolated case of a false positive.

Landis' B sample is being tested and the results will be announced on Saturday, but I find it unlikely that the results will be significantly different. If Landis wants to avoid a two-year suspension and being stripped of his Tour de France title, he's got some 'splainin' to do.

Posted by: Drew at Aug 3, 2006 11:20:32 AM