Floyd Landis’ testosterone levels

The world seems prepared to accept that Floyd Landis, Tour de France, victor fails drugs test:

Floyd Landis, the American cyclist who on Sunday won one of the most thrilling Tours de France of recent years, could be stripped of his title after a drugs test showed an abnormally high level of testosterone in his body.

However it is not the case that his testosterone level was abnormally high when he was tested, rather the difference between his testosterone and epitestosterone levels is abnormal. He did not test positively for a high level of testosterone, his epitestosterone level is abnormally low. Given Landis’ reliance on cortisone shots to combat the pain in the hip he will soon have replaced and the extraordinary performance he put on the day his test was flagged may account for the weird ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone; the body produces both and cortisone may have changed how Landis’ body.

If he was doping, it’s a terrible day for cycling. The Tour will have to reassess everything before next year. If Landis is going to be crucified for a strange result misreported as an “abnormally high level of testosterone” it will be a disaster for cycling, sport and journalism. We don’t know, yet, what’s going on.

UPDATE: WSJ.com – Tour Winner Floyd Landis Denies Taking Drugs, Does Say He Drank:

The revelation that Mr. Landis was drinking the night before the test could be significant. According to several studies, alcohol consumption can increase the ratio between testosterone and epitestosterone, which occur naturally in the body. Mr. Landis failed the test because it showed an elevated ratio between the two.

According to Mr. Landis, the drinks weren’t part of his usual training. “I don’t ordinarily ever drink alcohol during a race,” he said yesterday. But earlier that day, during Stage 16, Mr. Landis had faded in the Alps, surrendering the leader’s yellow jersey and falling more than eight minutes behind. Afterward, he was all but convinced that the race was over for him. “What would you have done?” he asked. “Until yesterday, that was the worst day of my life.”

He rode Stage 17 with a hangover? Wow, that’s even more amazing.

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Author: Mitch Ratcliffe

Mitch Ratcliffe is a veteran entrepreneur, journalist and business model hacker. He operates this site, which is a collection of the blogs he's published over the years, as well as an archive of his professional publishing record. As always, this is a work in progress. Such is life.

12 thoughts on “Floyd Landis’ testosterone levels”

  1. Mr. Ratcliffe though I respect your opinion and I realize it is frustrating to hear about doping scandals so often but it is clear that your acceptance of Landis’ story about drinking comes from a lack of knowledge of the sport.
    To clarify, pro cyclists, especially those riding in the Tour, have an incredibly strict diet and must constantly be aware of what they are eating or drinking as this may alter energy levels on race day. When you hear guys like Tyler Hamilton say that they will not even accept eating a piece of chocolate cake in their training diet how can you possibly accept that Landis drank several glasses of alcohol ON THE EVE OF A MAJOR MOUNTAIN STAGE ?! Cyclist don’t drink during stage races! Any rider will tell you that. Floyd’s claim is absurd and has the effect of incriminating him even further: the sillyness of this story makes it look as though he is trying to find anything to explain the test result. Hey, now the story is he has naturally high levels ot testosterone! Oh no wait, it’s the cortizone he takes for his hip! Take your pick… Or stop buring your head in the sand and accept pro cycling is dirty and the only reason there aren’t more cyclists caught is because they are one step ahead of the testing. Floyd just slipped-up.
    Note: the headlines about high levels of testosterone may be inaccurate but they still reflect a discrepancy between 2 hormones which is indicative that an exogenous intake has been administered. The wording of headlines is irrelevant here.

  2. Alex,

    I’m glad you respect my opinion, but I question whether you mean it. After all, you follow that by saying I have no knowledge of the sport or, apparently, any sport or training regimen. Look, the “Wow, that’s even more amazing” line was as much tongue-in-cheek as I could fit into the posting.

    Clearly, pro cycling (and amateur cycling or any other sport where kids seek an edge) is dirty. Hence, as I wrote, the Tour is going to have to do some serious rethinking before next year. It is not, however, burying one’s head in the sand to suspend judgment while the facts are being gathered. Landis may or may not have drunk Jack Daniels the night before Stage 17—I don’t know, but he’s got a reputation as a solid and fair competitor that didn’t evaporate entirely based on one urine sample.

    Today’s assertion that a synthetic form of testosterone was found in the sample is damning. At the same time, I have to wonder how anyone could think they might slip that by the tests. He was certainly in desperate straits after he bonked on Stage 16, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that he used a steroid *or* that he drank, thinking “fuck it, I blew it.” Both would be desperation moves, no?

    Once all the facts are in, and they still aren’t, because the reports are synthetic testosterone story is based on anonymous sources still, we’ll see how much damage there is to repair for the Tour. It’s a great race.

  3. My opening phrase was more focused on Landis’ presumption of guilt: I was not very clear. My apologies. However, I do maintain that the reason why doping is still deeply entrenched in cycling is because of the general public’s ignorance of the facts and their lack of interest in putting and end to the problem. As I have been following cycling very closely since the Festina scandal in 1998, it became gradually clear to me that doping is an integral part of professional (and amateur) cycling: it is part of the culture of cycling.

    I am by no means an extremist or conspiracy theorist nor do I have any advantage in blasting the sport since I myself am a competitor but I have had a fascination with the phenomenon of doping since 98. Gathering information from different sources, listening to testimonies of repenting athletes, listening to the excuses of those defending themselves from shameful disqualification and putting 2 and 2 together, I have understood how widespread the problem is. Why does the general public not realize this ?Partly because they don’t care (they would rather believe that some men can perform miracles driven only by their passion and their healthy lifestyles because that’s waht sells in the media) and mainly because most of the facts are not printed regularly on headlines or on the evening news. As to why this is, is a whole other debate revolving around $$$ (big bucks).

    I suggest the following readings (though I am not sure if they have all been translated): “Massacre à la Chaine” written by Willy Voet, the soigneur who initiated the Festina scandal. “Secret Défonce” written by an ex-pro FDJ rider Erwann Menthéour – he was the first to test positive for EPO blood-test. “De mon plein gré” written by Jérôme Chiotti – Mountain Bike world champion who was caught for doping and chose to admit rather than to deny and continue his career. “LA Confidential” which was translated in English for sure since it was co-authored by a British journalist – this gathers a wealth of unpublished facts about Lance Armstrong’s career. Otherwise, simlpy looking at basic psychology principles in analyzing the discourse of all the athletes who were caught, you can clearly see their guilt! Of course, it is easier nowadays to hide behind judicial processes and discrepancies in lab testing etc so many athletes get cleared but it does not make them innocent.
    All testimonies in those books clearly describe (in detail) a generalized doping culture in pro cycling. Though it is unfair to blame the riders who are, in a way, victims of this system, we must at least admit to the problem and try to “cure” the sport.

  4. By all means, yes, we should attack the real problem, which is more than individual riders making bad decisions. This is a great list of reading, too.

    I’ll stand by my suspension of judgment until I have sources on the record about all aspects of this particular case. Landis, even if he described something unlikely—and I think that either drinking or deciding to take a dose of testosterone are equally extreme measures, though with different motivations (despair or desperation) so neither option seems like a good idea—did go on the record with an explanation that could account for the t/e ratio described in the test results. I would like to see the results for Sample B made public, so this can be resolved once and for all.

  5. You’re a frenchy aren’t you alex? You’re just tired of americans winning “your” race aren’t you? Look, I too raced competitvely for 12 years and hosted many pro racers(one of which rode in this years TdF) in my home during those years. I did once find evidence of potential doping(of what kind I don’t know and not the aforementioned guest). Yet I’m reluctant to condemn all pro cyclists because of that. You as a racer should know that there are good days and bad in the saddle often one day to the next, very inexplicable. And racers drink beer- jeez – It’s full of carbs and can aid in recovery, one good black n tan is better than a plate of pasta. I’m witholding judgement until the truth be known.

  6. Until someone actually states what his TESTOSTERONE LEVEL was, this whole discussion is pointless. I keep hearing about his abnormal testosterone to epitestosterone level. Yes, that can be an indicator of synthetic testosterone use. However, if his TESTOSTERONE LEVEL is normal or even low (like I’ve heard Mr. Landis state), this makes no sense. It would NOT be indicative of synthetic testosterone use and would not be performance enhancing. So will someone please tell me, WHAT WAS HIS TESTOSTERONE LEVEL??????

  7. Okay what’s the scoop. Can Floyd Landis have abnormal levels of testosterone on one day and test clean two days later?

  8. There seems to be little actual science being discussed in any story I have found regarding Landis. I have no idea whether he cheated or not, but I do have one question that you might be able to answer. My understanding is that they take urine (or blood?) samples throughout the race. Would your body clear extra testosterone that quickly? Why wouldn’t any of the other samples show something? If he took exogenous testosterone supplements wouldn’t there still be traces in his blood or urine days (weeks?) later? If you have answers to these questions or can pull in a doctor or biochemist who does, I would be grateful.

  9. As I understand it, the results from Stage 17, one of several stages on which Landis was tested, were based on urine samples that showed two things:

    1.) The “abnormal” ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, which could have been caused by Landis’ drinking the night before or by use of source of testosterone (doping).

    2.) The “synthetic” testosterone found in the samples was based on analysis of the chemical structure of the hormones, which can be produced in two forms by the body. Both forms were found, as would be expected, but the illegal difference in the testosterone-epitestosterone ratio was shown to be from a source other than Landis based on its chemical structure.

    I’m not a biochemist, though.

  10. Thanks for your answer. However, what I am getting at is this: if external testosterone remains in the body for a while (say a couple weeks), then it should also appear in his later samples. If it does not, that implies that the source of the suspicious testosterone was not from Landis but from contamination of the sample that triggered a positive test. Of course, that would only be true if the external testosterone could be detected days or weeks after the fact. Anybody know about that?

    I would assume that with so much on the line all sorts of checks would be done, but the media seemed to gloss over the whole situation. Maybe I am in the minority, but I would like to understand what kind of cross checking is done in a situation like this.

  11. What’s so strange about this is the next test he took is as inconsistent as Landis’ story. Yes, there should have been traces of the “synthetic” testosterone for several days, even a couple weeks, based on what I’ve read. At the same time, a rider consumes so much food and water, sweating and excreting so much on a single stage, that, who knows, it may have been flushed out.

    The problem, for me, is that Landis had all sorts of different possible explanations, too. Something is seriously out of kilter.

  12. Hi,

    There’s a lot we don’t know factually about the Landis case yet. Like, for instance, what any of the actual test results really are. French lab, summer vacation, etc. We really only have anecdotal results that have not even been formally submitted. People who form judgements based on the informal data are more than a little ahead of the curve.

    If you’d like current information, believed to be factual, please check the roundups kept at http://trustbut.blogspot.com

    TBV

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