Thursday, July 27, 2006

IRMS Apparently NOT Used on Sample A

For years it has been widely known that the measurement of T/E ratios in urine is subject to an extraordinarily high rate of false positives and false negatives. The IOC, WADA, and other organizations setting standards for drug testing of athletes have known this for years and have even tried to address it. Namely they've addressed it by setting standards for the use of IRMS: isotope ratio mass spectrometry. I discussed earlier a test to evaluate the 13C/12C ratios, and that test *is* the very test known as IRMS.

Now WADA and UCI know of and use IRMS. But, guess what? Despite the fact that unlike T/E testing it's relatively safe from massive rates of false positives and false negatives, they don't regularly use it.

And the word is that Landis' sample A was not tested using IRMS. In other words, this positive test result borders on slander and neglect. It is a disgrace that the UCI would not perform an IRMS test on sample A. Disgraceful, utterly. they have a definitive test at their disposal. Why not do it in the first place?

This spooks me, as I immediately begin to worry about either (a) overzealous bureaucratic crusaders hostile to athletes, just as law officers can become callous to all citizens, or (b) some external and possibly political motivation for not doing it right for the first time.

T/E ratios...IRMS...the public will only know "positive" or "negative." And regardless of any future IRMS Landis has already been disgraced. Let's hope that an IRMS is at least administered to sample B. Let's know the truth, or at least a pretty good estimator of the truth rather than this T/E junk.


Blogger Chuck said...

Thanks for great info. I dugg! this post. I simply can't believe this is happening. Free Floyd!!!

11:51 PM  
Blogger Free Floyd said...

It's astounding and yet wholly unsurprising that the entirety of the world press has failed to get to the very essence of this story. One story ALMOST got there.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Free Floyd said...

& thanks, chuck

9:14 AM  
Blogger trust_but_verify said...

Do you have a reference for your statements (a) that IRMS was apparently not used, and (b) that the reported ratio was 5?


12:21 PM  
Blogger nancytoby said...

Thanks for a great site and excellent information!

Do you happen to know how the test results first got to the press? I know the A results are supposed to go to the athlete and the governing body, but it sure seemed to go to the media simultaneously.

The editor of Velonews passed along the rumor of an 11:1 ratio yesterday on NPR, which I listened to online, probably the interview is still available.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Free Floyd said...

Hi TrustButVerify -

Trust but verify indeed.

There are numerous sources indicating though not directly stating IRMS was not used. First, you can see through the WADA guide I linked to to see that IRMS is not a necessary/required element of the testing process. Secondly, Jim Litke's widely circulated AP story, "Landis better have good — no, great — lawyer" (, implies that Landis' first test was not subjected to an IRMS test. I however can find nothing *explicitly* documenting the exact method with which Landis' particular test was handled. I find that alone to be quite suspect.

According to "Tour winner fails drug test" (, "Landis said he did not know which testing methods were used."

Something's amiss, clearly, and it looks to be amiss with either the UCI or the WADA-certified lab. I can't help but think back to my own experience with government labs and regulations, and I can't help but be reminded of the whole Lance-doped-in-99 French news scandal.

As for the ratio, I read it when I first heard the story but for the life of me cannot find it. Someone else has disputed it and cited a ration of 11:1. but if Landis doesn't know what methods were used then none of those numbers are reliable.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Free Floyd said...

Hi Nancy, thanks! I've been distraught by the absence of basic analysis. I'm even more disturbed by the poor quality of the T/E test when IRMS is available. To me at least it is clear that the public use of T/E results without IRMS verification amounds to nothing more than dirty politics. I'm not exactly an american flag waver, but anti-americanism in France is big business now, and no doubt there are moneyed interests within that country who are responsive to that anti-americanism.

I saw a story about how the results were made public and the order of events by which the team and then the public is notified. "Landis' results 'don't add up'", AP newswire ( has the official process. The story was out, however, well in advance of the completion of the official process. As I remember rightly, the UCI made an official announcement that "someone" tested positive for "doping." They announced this in advance or while in the process of notifying Landis' team. That's pretty slimy in my estimation. Here's a version of that early story from Wednesday (

ASs it turns out this is the very lab at the center of the Lance doping controversy, and that controversy caused some sort of rift between the UCI and WADA (

1:38 PM  
Blogger nancytoby said...

This seems to be the same process, unfortunately, that was used with Tyler Hamilton and the Olympic tests - reveal the results publicly and smear the athlete's reputation, without having the B sample testing completed.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Free Floyd said...

Hi Nancy -

There was so much that was questionable about the way Tyler Hamilton's case was handled to be sure.

The difference between the two defenses (Tyler's and Floyd's) seem pretty dramatic actually. The frequency with which foreign blood bodies appear in a person's blood are is far lower than the frequency of naturally elevated T/E ratios. Simply stated, the phenomenon Tyler cited as his central defense is a rare one, but the one Floyd should cite is an incredibly commonplace one even among a normal healthy male population.

The context of the two situations are very different as well. While there is much to be gained in cycling from blood doping, there's absolutely no known benefit of a single dose of testosterone to cycling performance. What's worse, Hamilton has been implicated in Operation Puerto. Floyd, were he caught up himself in a world of illegal performance-enhancing drugs, would have undoubtedly obtained some epitestosterone and stymied detection. Unless the failure of 16 just destroyed his judgment. But I don't see that.

My imagination leads me to believe that Floyd got trashed after 16 and then had a little hangover during 17. That elevated his T/E ratios for stage 17 and made him aggressive. He overcompensated for water needs furing 17 which kept his core temp down and made up for any issues of dehydration he suffered on day 16. He hid the fact that he got trashed he certainly wouldn't want his mennonite folks to know he was getting trashed.

The day of stage 16 I wondered if Floyd's bonking would actually help him for stage 17. If his bonking were based on a short supply of blood sugars or water then his muscles would be in better shape going into 17 than the rest of his competitors. Simply put, he didn't work as hard on 16 because he couldn't, and his competitors really overextended themselves on that stage. He suffered from glycolosis problems during 16 which should be easier to recover from. This fatigue I think is referred to as metabolic fatigue. When the other leaders blew by him on 16 they were pusing 15 mph on an 8% grade. That's insane. They were flying and they should all have been dead for stage 17. Toast. I thought then, seeing that pace, that the other leaders incurred significantly more non-metabolic fatigue in stage 16 than Floyd, the sort of fatigue I understand as structural, those that need cellular repair mechanisms to take place. Floyd's body just needed supplies like water and food. The wager would be then how much of a tradeoff the 8 minutes he lost would be in exchange for that uninvited rest and relief from non-metabolic fatigue. The other competitors, having ridden much harder, would have suffered a more costly form of fatigue and would be suffering from it for stage 17.

I read you're the sports physiologist on your blogger link, so you can tell I'm struggling to explain the phenomenon, but I hope you understand what I mean. I read about the phenomenon when I was 15, when I first got into cycling and wanted to be a doctor of sports medicine.....

So much of that race at that level is timing one's effort and it was clear from the beginning that the GC race would be won or lost on stage 17. Maybe my two imaginings make for a plausible story, or maybe they're just completely ridiculous. Let me know if I'm making a fool of myself here!

Thanks Nancy!

7:44 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

That was a great explanation!! I think you are right on and I pray that Floyd's name is cleared. Keep up the good work, your site is great.

9:51 PM  
Blogger Scoutie said...

I immediately begin to worry about either (a) overzealous bureaucratic crusaders hostile to athletes, just as law officers can become callous to all citizens, or (b) some external and possibly political motivation for not doing it right for the first time...

When I first began to hear of all the negativity directed toward the UCI and WADA, I assumed it to be nothing more than people not wanting to hear the truth about their favorite athletes. I assumed, as did many others, that an organization with WADA's weight would take its place in professional sports very seriously.

Unfortunately, over the past couple years, WADA has shown themselves to be little more than a very large bully, who stamps its feet and gets exactly what it wants, much to the detriment of honest and clean athletes who are fighting every single day to stay ahead of the curve. When you say you wonder for what reason the IRMS test would not be used initially on Landis' A sample, the answer is obvious: because as far as people like Dick Pound are concerned, the crusade is more important than the facts. They don't do the best test to begin with because they are cheap, they are lazy, and quite frankly, they don't have to while they set the rules.

The most outrageous thing in this whole debacle is how a rider's-- any rider's-- A sample can be issued to the press for an athlete's vilification before a second test is even considered. Doing so knowing the first test is no more valid than a shot in the dark should be criminal, and I await the day the issuing body and the press are sued for libel.

6:43 AM  
Blogger Free Floyd said...

scoutie you said it - the crusade is indeed more important than the facts

thanks brad!

8:57 AM  
Blogger kakapapa said...

LOL only in america ... It is quite obvious that FLOYD was using during under the tour .. To say otherwise is plain naive i mean if the Testosteronlevels are so high due to a "natural" circumstances well then he would have it documented in his medical papers so why haven't he showed his medical journals? because he is a sinner !! i mean come on he is obviously not very intelligent all those stupid lies .. I mean yeah right i was drinking Beer & Whiskey the day before .. LOL .. And if he indeed is so strong how come the 2 last tours were so BAD !! ...

6:42 AM  
Blogger KonaCross said...

kakapapa....while you may enjoy your self raised status (via your comment "only in America"), you're going to have to accept that you've been had by the UCI and more importantly, the media. The T/A test showed a ratio that the 'T' was unusually high compared to the 'A'. Well, what the media hasn't told you, nor has the UCI, nor WADA for that matter, is that Floyd's 'T' level was normal. His 'E' level was unusually low (hmmm....degenerative hip plus a crazy stage 17 perhaps?). This is why his ratio showed his testosterone level to be abnomally high compared to his epitestosterone. Everybody jumped on the bandwagon to go after this guy when in fact, the UCI is a sham. They didn't even test properly with the proper techniques. They used old outdated techniques that are now to produce too many false positives. Add to that his testosterone levels were normal but that his epitestosterone were low, compound that with a sketchy "leak from the lab" and you have the media finding him guilty.

Do your homework before you simply swallow what the media feeds you.

9:24 AM  
Blogger KonaCross said...

Sorry, I should have said T/E mistake.

9:26 AM  

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