Friday, July 28, 2006

Floyd Landis

Something is not kosher in this whole situation. For those of you who haven't been following it, and are getting you information here, first, what the hell is wrong with you? Seriously. But anyway, Landis was among the top riders in the tour, then in stage 16, he bonked and lost about 8 minutes. In stage 17, in one of the most amazing rides in the history of the Tour, he rode away from the field on the first climb, gained about seven and a half minutes back. He then took the lead for good in the penultimate stage, a time trial. Fast forward to yesterday, when it was anounced that his urine sample tested positive for a higher than acceptable ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone. In other words, he failed his drug test, or at least, that's what you'll hear in news reports.

My problem with all of this coverage is that there are still serious questions which no one appears to be asking. They are as follows:
  1. Did he fail the ratio test because of high testosterone (T), or low epi-testosterone (epi-T)? According to ESPN's cycling analyst, it's the latter. This creates further questions.
  2. If we know that it was lower than normal epi-T that caused the problem, well, is that really a problem? Does having low epi-T aid an athlete's performance? I'm completely talking out of my ass here, but bear with me. The fact that a test exists which can measure T levels, combined with the fact that the test in question is a ratio test leads me to the conclusion that we all have different levels of naturally occuring T, to the extent that we can't just say "Rider X has a T level of Y, and that's higher than acceptable, so he's out." But, the ratio of T to epi-T must be fairly consistent for all us, or else using that particular test would be of no real value. If Rider X's testosterone is naturally high, then the fact that it's higher than some arbitrary level really tells us nothing without a comparison of what is normal for Rider X. So we use the ratio test to see if his level, in comparison to his epi-T level.
  3. So now that we know his ratio is out of whack, and we know that it's because the epi-T levels were lower than normal, we need to know a) if that's an advantage, and b) was it a natural or otherwise acceptable occurrence (perhaps owing to his use of cortisone, or his thyroid medication, both allowed by the Tour). If it's not an advantage, and if he T level is normal, and if the drop in his epi-T level is caused by either a natural or otherwise acceptable occurrence, than what's the problem? It sounds like there's no reason to disqualify him if that's the case.
  4. According to the LA Times, there is, believe it or not, another test which can tell us if his testosterone was completely produced naturally. My question is, why the hell don't they do that test first?
The B-Sample thing, that's a red herring. It's going to come back with the same result, and they're going to use that result to hang him. But the coverage of this episode has been awful. He hasn't tested positive for a banned substance. He hasn't even tested positive for having to much of a natural substance. He has tested positive for having a ratio of natural substances which are out of whack. That raises suspicion, no doubt, and requires further investigation. But no one seems to want to mention that. I guess we'll wait and see how it all plays out, but when the B-sample result comes back, be ready for the guillotine blades to be sharpened and raise, despite the fact that nothing of substance will have been proved.

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