Saturday, July 29, 2006

Let's get the Landis facts straight

Good call, Stephanie. Let's address the Floyd Landis doping issue.

My initial reaction to the story, before I knew any of the details was: "How could anyone, after watching Lance Armstrong contstantly having to defend himself, be stupid enough to do such a thing?"

The answer might simply be that he wasn't stupid, and he didn't do anything. Landis's case is not like the Barry Bonds saga, where a player clearly took a synthetic performance enhancing drugs and has been pleading ignorance ever since. Lets get the facts straight, since the media seems to be having trouble doing so.

Floyd Landis did not test positive for:

* steroids.
* abnormally high levels of synthetic testosterone. (As much as I love NPR, they never seem to get the sports stories quite right.)
*abnormally high levels of plain ol' naturally occuring testosterone.

But, he did test positive for having a high testosterone (which is a performance-enhancing substance) to epitestosterone (which is not) ratio. In the cycling world, any ratio greater than 4:1 is considered suspicious. Of course, since we are dealing with ratios, and not actual levels, a ratio greater than 4:1 could mean that Landis's epitestosterone levels were low. If that's the case, having normal testosterone levels would have set off the alarm bells.

You might be asking yourself what threw the ratio off. Good question. Landis's backers claim that the imbalance is natural, and could have been caused by cortisone shots or alcohol (Landis took a shot the night before after his disappointing performance in Stage 16). They also point out that at the time of his amazing Stage 17 comeback, no one thought anything was amiss.

Do I think Landis did anything wrong? I honestly have no clue, but I'd like to think that he's smart enough to stay away from the doping scene. It's easy now to pounce on any sports figure who might possible have taken performance-enhancing substances. It seems that after years of turning a blind eye to what was obviously going on in baseball (I still can't figure out why so many people were so shocked when that story broke--I had been waiting for Bonds and McGwire to get caught for years), there is now a tendency to jump on anyone who might have done something wrong.

Had Landis tested positive for steroids or high levels of synthetic testosterone, I'd jump on that bandwagon. And even though he didn't, I still have to admit that having the high ratio doesn't sound good. The 4:1 ratio isn't arbitrary, and there are good reasons to think that anything over 4:1 means an athlete cheated. And if Landis did in fact cheat, I might stop paying attention to the Tour de France for a few years.

For the moment, however, I'll wait and see what happens.

1 comment:

Archivalist said...

Personally, I will stop paying attention to the Tour de Farce until they allow cyborgs to compete, thus completing the evolutionary cycle (no pun intended, honest).