Landis – Too Much Testosterone?

Sunday, July 30, 2006
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Floyd Landis, the Tour winner, has tested positive for steroids.

Landis’ team, currently sponsored by Swiss hearing-aid company Phonak, announced earlier Thursday that a test of the champion cyclist’s blood was positive for high testosterone following his stunning victory in the Tour’s 17th stage. Landis’ sample showed ”an unusual level of testosterone/epitestosterone” when he was tested after stage 17 of the race a week ago, the company said.

Could Landis, who cracked in his final hill climb in the Alps on July 19, have taken steroids to energize his amazing comeback the next day? Knowledgeable cycling fans said the idea of taking steroids to boost testosterone didn’t make sense–steroid use is meant to build muscle over a period of weeks, not overnight. False positives on steroid tests are not unheard of, which is why cycling officials insist that any positive be confirmed by a second test by a lab approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Of course, steroids is never a short-term solution, and in fact, is not a cyclist’s drug of choice. So it all seems odd. A friend writes me to say, “Maybe we have our answer as to why Landis rode like a bat out of hell that day. However, I cannot imagine steroids having the ability to give someone a one-day surge like Landis had. Of course, since I never took them, I don’t know much about them. If his “B” sample comes back positive, too, then it looks as though Landis will be stripped of the title. We shall see.”

Someone also asked me if I thought Lance Armstrong was guilty as charged in regards to doping. Having been a weekend racer, enthusiast, and follower of the sport, I understand enough about it to believe that none of these guys are going it straight. There are many ways in which cyclists use doping techniques to gain the edge. It is unlikely that a body – no matter how strong or genetically gifted – can endure this sport (especially the Tour), day after day, without an assemblage of nuclear cocktails. Just watch a Cat 1 criterium that is perhaps 1/4 the length of any Tour stage, and completely flat, with no hills. Post-race, those guys are trashed and wasted. And the pros do it daily, with a stage being 4 to 5 times the length of a criterium. In the mountains, on the cobblestones, through masses of people and cars.

It is the most remarkable sport in terms of what it takes to do it, and probably the most drug-infested, too. I strongly salute the effort of any private cycling body that works to eradicate the dope from its sport.

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