Sunday, July 25, 2021
HomeOtherEditorialThe Floyd Landis Affair - Just An Opinion

The Floyd Landis Affair – Just An Opinion


With the crucial ‘B’ sample test result due on Saturday, VeloVeritas thought we would take a look at some of the key rant -points in ‘L’affaire Landis’, the Floyd Landis doping saga. We know it isn’t Scottish, but it’s the biggest cycling story on the planet so here goes….

“Me thinks the Landy doth protest too much”

[with apologies to William Shakespeare]

Landis has just signed-up Howard L. Jacobs to join the team which is handling his case.

Old Howard has plenty of experience; he’s worked for Tim Montgomery and Tyler Hamilton in the past so he knows his EPO from his THG.

Already Howard is attacking the UCI for going public with the fact that a rider had failed a test during the Tour, adding that it wasn’t difficult to work-out who it was. He says, rightly, that his client had the right to anonymity until the result of the “B” sample was known. (It was Landis’s team, Phonak, who formally announced that their rider was the mystery ‘positive’.)

Right though Howard is, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Festina affair. Initially our sympathies lay with the riders because their human rights were being violated by those nasty French policemen — that was until we saw the list of kit that Willy Voet had in the car. It’s to be expected that a lawyer will seek to do his best for his client, but to be searching for procedural loop holes and failures in protocol this early in the proceedings makes one think it’s going to be another Hamilton-style long haul.

Landis asked us to; “wait for the ‘B’ sample results”, then promptly ignored his own pleas and launched an immediate major PR offensive. Appearing on the Larry King Show hardly constitutes a dignified silence.

Shooting from the hip

Again without heeding his own advice, Landis started to wheel-out the justifications for his failed test. With regard to the test I make no pretence at being an expert, but I have read everything I can get hold of the subject.

In the average human, the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone runs at 1:1, the UCU allows a 4:1 ratio (previously 6:1). The figures I have seen suggest that in 99% of men the ratio is less than 5.6 to 1 and in a study of 5,000 athletes the average ratio was 1.5:1.

According to the New York Times and L’Equipe, Landis’s ratio was 11:1. Additionally it is alleged that the testosterone is of an exogenous nature; in other words not produced by Landis’ own body.

Landis is mooting that the corticosteroids he uses for his now famous degenerative hip problem may be responsible for the positive test. He apparently has a therapeutic use exemption certificate for the medication.

His choice of timing to tell the world about how bad the problem was — namely during the Tour — seemed unusual. Was there another reason for the announcement? Was he saying in effect: “I’m taking a proscribed substance, but I’ve got certification for it so if there’s an issue later, I did tell you I had a problem”?

Over-active or under-active?

No, we’re not talking about imagination and propensity to tell the truth, but Landis’s thyroid. I don’t know if it’s under or over-active, but which-ever, it was news to us all. If he takes medication for it then shouldn’t he have another of those therapeutic use medication certificates? If not, why not; but it is being dragged-out as a possible cause for the test reading.

It was the drink!

Well, we can all identify with this one. On Thursday last, when the storm clouds finally released their deluge after a day of rumbling, Landis had drunk “one pint of strong beer” after his disastrous stage 16. By Friday night it was two beers and “at least” four Jack Daniels. Alcohol and sexual intercourse raise the testosterone level but only on a short term basis, however. I don’t think either of these two factors could account for the exogenous nature of the substance.

This doesn’t stop transgressors from citing them as a reason for failing tests. In 1998 the American sprinter, Dennis Mitchell failed a test on testosterone and cited four bottles of beer and a steamy night with his wife the night before the test as the reason. The authorities were so impressed with this explanation that they banned him for two years.

It was too little drink!

Or it could have been dehydration that caused it; that’s the latest theory from the Landis legal team. The experts have already kicked this one into touch. This ‘chuck enough excuses at the wall and one of them is bound to stick’ approach is all too reminiscent of the Tyler Hamilton case from two years ago. Call me stupid, but wouldn’t it be best if Landis and his squad of lawyers kept quiet until the “B” result was released then set about finding the ONE reason for the anomaly? The word “disinformation” springs into my head.

Testosterone wouldn’t help him

The thing to bear in mind about “kit” these days is that it’s not like the old days where you dropped a tab or two of “speed.” The suppliers of the drugs charge big money for their products, many of which are sophisticated and complex in the way they work. Often they are taken not in isolation but as “cocktails” in conjunction with other products. A simple example would be taking Aspirin in conjunction with EPO to keep the blood thin. The argument that testosterone would not be helpful is not a valid one — it may well be performing some ancillary function that lay-people like us can’t begin to guess at.

Those cheese-eating surrender monkeys

(that’s the French as described by the G.W. Bush government by the way) couldn’t get Lance, so they got Floyd instead… That’s like saying that Leblanc and Prudhomme prefer their root canal work without anaesthetic.

Landis’ exploit on stage 17 saved the race; it was heroic, an “exploit.” It was redemption after the Astana, Basso, Mancebo and Ulrich disasters. Whatever happens now, Landis’ stage and overall wins are contaminated and will remain so forever. The race has gone from fairy tale to farce. Marketing and PR guys like the former but are much less keen on spending their company’s money on the latter.

Damn foreigners!

Because Floyd Landis is ‘like us’ — white, English-speaking and from a ‘Western Democracy’ it’s hard for us to accept his failing a test. If he came from Latvia or Lithuania would his failed test be met with so much disbelief?

It’s a testing time

When the Santi Perez and Tyler Hamilton scandals hit Phonak two years ago, one of the first things the team did was to attack the validity of the tests. Not surprisingly the UCI were mightily unimpressed by this strategy and it was only by emptying the team’s management structure from Urs Freuler down, that Phonak managed to cling on to their ProTour place.

Even although the team becomes i-Shares for 2007 (that may hang in the balance now though) it doesn’t seem like a good idea to rubbish the tests all over again. We’re already hearing from the Landis camp that it’s not a reliable test; WADA meanwhile tell us that the test is sound and has been used for years. I can’t help but observe that the test was just fine — until Landis failed it. If Phonak and Landis wish to be part of the ProTour then they should not be attacking its very foundations.

The whole thing is depressing. Athletic ability and courage are forgotten – lawyers, claims, counter-claims, ratios and unpronounceable words take centre stage. Worst of all, they wheel-out Paul Kimmage to sing his same old self-righteous song. Maybe it would be better if the Grand Tours were run like the sixes with the winner organised beforehand.

(Editor’s note: EPO = Erythropoietin — an illegal performance enhancing drug, popular in the 90s with cyclists, that boosts redcell count to get more oxygen to the muscles. THG = Tetrahydrogestrinone is an illegal ‘designer’ drug for athletes and is the brain child of Victor Conte and his scientist pals at the now infamous BalCo laboratory).

Ed Hood
Ed's been involved in cycling for over 45 years. In that time he's been a successful time triallist, team manager, and sponsor of several teams and clubs. He's also a respected and successful coach, and during the winter months can often be found working in the cabins at the Six Days. Ed remains a massive fan of the sport and couples his extensive contacts with an inexhaustable enthusiasm for the minutiae and the history of our sport.

Related Articles

Frank Vandenbroucke

"RIP VDB" said the text from John Stollery, waiting for me, when I woke up; there were others too, from Dave and Stevie all expressing sadness - for all his faults, he was a hard man to dislike.

Chronic Doping Scandal Fatigue

I have chronic-doping-scandal-fatigue. We always knew that Lance Armstrong literally had a never-say-die attitude. Perhaps in recent days this fact has become more abundantly clear even than when he was actually on his deathbed. He’s had a lawsuit chucked out of court within a few hours of submitting it because it was so terrible; it was for a restraining order against the US anti-doping agency. It was 80 pages long and contained “improper argument, rhetoric, [and] irrelevant material”, not my words, the judge’s. Lance Armstrong just got benchslapped.

The VV View: On Inconsistent Attitudes

You have to be in the right frame of mind to rant – unless you’re a Master, like Vik – VeloVeritas’s cycling sage and soothsayer, Vik can waken up ranting and probably rants in his sleep. I can’t do it to order – but the stars have aligned this morning and there’s a lot to get off my chest...

The VV View: If You’re Right, You’re Right

'If you're right, you're right,' said Malcolm X. However, sometimes it's hard to be right. Despite the fact that I think the UCI are doing a less than brilliant job, I think cycling is right to try to eradicate the pills, potions, transfusions and suppositories that blight it.

The VV View: What are the Odds? Team Sky, Brad and Dave Millar

I hope you all had a good Xmas; Viktor didn't - but that shouldn't surprise us. He did make a good point though - namely that Sky are well behind with their training camps; all of the big squadra have had one, if not two camps already. From a fitness and bonding point of view the digital vision guys are behind the eight ball already; it'll be interesting to see if that makes a difference come flag dropping time.

The VV View: Ryder Hesjedal, Can We Handle the Truth?

In the film, ‘A Few Good Men’ Tom Cruise’s military lawyer character is cross examining Jack Nicholson as a high ranking officer; ‘I want the truth!’ says Cruise. Jack’s reply has now entered movie folklore and cliché; ‘You can’t handle the truth!’ He got that one right, I can’t handle the truth – whilst I’m well aware that most of the peloton was kitted up for two decades and that it's indefensible, I can’t see how yet another biopsy is going to change anything.

At Random

Luke Durbridge – Critérium du Dauphiné Prologue win

Despite having the advantage of starting as last man in the Dauphine’s 5.7 kilometre prologue time trial, Britain’s defending champion, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) couldn’t best the time set by 21 year-old world under 23 world time trial champion, Luke Durbridge (GreenEdge-Orica & Australia).

Snapshots from the Flat Lands – Gent Six Day and Koksijde ‘Dune Cross’

A pictorial summary of the Gent Six Day and our trip to the Koksijde Cyclocross race in the beach dunes of Flanders. At the track, it took me back to the days when I stood on the apron, bottles at the ready for Kris to hand up – but not too much in them so they don’t splash when the rider grabs them - just taking in the speed, noise, music, heat, people and that Gent buzz - high as a kite on the Gent Six Days.

Il Giro d’Italia 2014 – Stage 9; Lugo – Sestola, 174 km. Pieter Weening Winning

Boring this Giro is not - Pieter Weening won ORICA-GreenEDGE's third stage of the race in a two-up sprint against Davide Malacarne (Team Europcar) both having survived from the break of the day. It took an hour of savage racing before a big break of 14 was finally allowed to go - once the correct recipe passed the test of the ‘Bigs’ dipping their finger in the mixing bowl. But there were just two left come the mountain top tactical finish where Weening was too strong for Malacarne – I did enjoy the high altitude track stand...

One to Watch: Daniel Teklehaimanot

Hidden away in North East Africa - 'The Horn' - bordering Ethiopia and Sudan is a little known country called Eritrea, officially 'The State of Eritrea.' At 118,000 square kilometres it's around half the size of the United Kingdom; with a population similar to that of Scotland at an estimated five million. It's better known for producing athletes of the running variety, but one ambitious, young sportsman is breaking the trend; Daniel Teklehaimanot.

Scottish 25 Mile Time Trial Championship 2014 – Three in a Row for Ian Grant

On a blustery, squally day on the dual carriageways of the A78 and A71 around Irvine and Kilmarnock on Sunday morning, Dooley's Iain Grant added the Scottish 25 Mile Time Trial title to the "10" with a stunning 50:46 ride; a massive 1:39 clear of surprise second, Peter Murdoch (Paisley Velo) with Murdoch's team mate Chris Smart a further 25 seconds back in the bronze medal position. VeloVeritas had eventual fourth placed Arthur Doyle in the bronze medal spot, late in the race. But cramp hit Doyle in the closing miles and he had to freewheel across the line, two seconds down on Smart.

John Pierce – Some More of the Ace Photographer’s Track Images

Ace photographer John Pierce, not content with sending us those cracking shots of 70’s/early 80’s Six Day men, has sent us another batch of track images which bring us right up to the present day. Again, we thought you’d like to see them...