Cycling's ruling body, Union Cycliste Internationale or UCI, will administer a second test to a different sample from Floyd Landis. This is what is commonly known as a copunter-analysis. In other words, they will use a different method than the previous screen to determine whether Flandis' elevated ratio is either a naturally occurring phenomenon or one caused by illicit actions of Landis'.
So, OK, these people aren't completely crazy.
But what constitutes a definitive test? And does the UCI use a definitive test method in their counter-analysis?
Let's go back to the experts.
According to a study performed by the Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analyses in Lausanne [C Saudan, N Baume, N Robinson, L Avois, P Mangin and M Saugy, "Testosterone and doping control", British Journal of Sports Medicine 2006;40(Supplement 1):i21-i24)] the ratio test used initially is what's known as an "indirect method." An indirect method by definition isn't definitive; it merely detects things that are frequently but not necessarily associated with illicit activity.
The study also indicates that the 4:1 ratio test (known as the T/E ratio) can be masked if the steroid is administered with ethanol.
It can be safely said that someone with half a brain administering to himself anabolic steroids and undergoing testing would administer the drug with a bit of ethanol and pass the test.
Clearly, at least to me, the T/E ratio test for competitive athletes is a load of junk. Ir produces high false positive and false negative rates, and the false negative rate can be easily jacked through simple methods, such as administering doasges with ethanol. That false negative rate can also be jacked by taking epitestosterone. This test is, simply put, easy to beat--if you have a reason to worry about it, that is.
OK, this indirect test, and perhaps any indirect test for that matter, relies only on half-baked science. What about a *definitive* test?
According to the aforementioned Swiss study, "(d)irect evidence may be obtained
with a method based on the determination of the carbon isotope
ratio of the urinary steroids" (i21). In fact it is mandatory for the International Olympic Committee to determine definitively through a secondary test whether the steroid is a natural steroid or an artificial one. Even if the ratio test method is tuned to the specific athlete over a long period of time to detect anomalous fluctuations in ratios, "there is a lack
of definitive proof for the exogenous application of natural
steroids," they write. Further, the authors of the study add,
One possible way of solving this problem is the ratio of the two stable carbon isotopes 13C/12C, which can allow the differentiation of natural and synthetic steroids. As exogenous testosterone or precursors contain less 13C than their endogenous homologues, it is expected that urinary steroids with a low 13C/12C ratio originate from pharmaceutical sources.
Does the UCI actually use such a method? Do they test for carbon isotope ratios? Or do they simply re-test Floyd with the same or another indirect method?
Even if such a definitive test is used by the UCI it remains to be seen whether cortisone would alter it.
Questions Linger. Can the administration of cortisone elevate naturally occurring testosterone levels or lower naturally occurring epitestosterone? Can extreme pain do it? What about extreme athletic performance? How about looking at the frequency of statistical outliers?
We'll take a look at the World Anti-Doping Administration's guidelines on elevated T/E ratios