Monday, July 31, 2006

Landis busted?

According to the New York Times (link) in a late-breaking story, Landis tested positive for exogenous testosterone via an IRMS test performed by the LNDD. The source of information comes from an unnamed individual with the UCI.

Hold on to your hat folks. Apparently Landis did not file for testing of sample B despite claims of doing so, but the UCI went ahead and requested that verification.

No official word from a single named source has yet clarified whether IRMS was used on sample A and/or whether it will be used on sample B. An earlier story from the New York Times (link) claimed that IRMS was used but the source of that information reported several inaccuracies on the subject of the test and, further, the NYT story itself was ambiguously worded.

28 Comments:

Blogger Jarrett said...

Obviously, this is bad news for Landis. I'm curious, tho, if anyone will (or if Landis's peeps will ask for someone to) go back and test his prior Tour samples in order to look for further damning evidence against him (or possible evidence of tampering with this sample). I'm assuming his B sample confirms what his A sample apparently hath shewn.

11:31 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

I have this same question that Arborjimb raised, so I thought I would we post it in hopes somebody has some insight.

arborjimb said...
FFL:

Maybe you can help me with this question. The tour tests the stage winner and the yellow jersey holder every day (in additon to two randonly selected riders).

Landis won stage 17 into Morzine on Thursday July 20. His "A" sample failed the T-E ratio (from what we understand). But, on Tuesday July 18 (stage 15) he was in yellow and sussposedly passed. Furthermore, on Saturday July 22 (Stage 19, the time trial) he was back in yellow again and supposedly was tested and passed.

How unusual would it be for someone to test negative on Tuesday, Positive on Thursday and neagtive again on Saturday? Can one alter their body chemistry that much in 48 hours?

11:21 AM

11:35 PM  
Blogger Andre Veloux said...

Bad news for Floyd. But he's most likely been taking stuff. Of course all these riders are taking tests all the time and passing them (e.g. Ulrich, never failed a test yet deeply implicated in operation puerto, Lance, never failed a test (well officially), and OK lets not go there with Lance) despite the huge level of doping going on. So really you need to ask what went wrong with the masking or whatever to produce the failed test. Yes I know thats a bit cynical of me.

1:27 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

Still not confirmed. I'm waiting for an official word as to which test was done. I can't believe that Landis was not told which one when he was notified. His statements seem to indicate T/TE so I'm sticking with that until we hear something different.

4:46 AM  
Blogger MartyD said...

Frankly, I find myself rather confused by all of this.

Prior to this year's race, I had never been a fan of cycling in general or the TDF in particular; I just happened to have it on the telly to keep me company during music practice, or while working on assignments for grad school. But Floyd Landis singlehandedly changed all that with his heroic performance on this year's 17th stage. In one fell swoop I was converted into a fan of Floyd Landis, cycling and the TDF. I have since begun commuting by bike to the local metro station, rather than by car, and have ordered a new Breezer Liberty to replace my rather ragged old comfort ride. Hey, it ain't racing, but it's a start.

What I don't understand is Floyd's account of a night drinking beer and whiskey, after "bonking" on stage 16, on the eve of what was, by all accounts, an "impossible" comeback. I am not an elite athlete, and don't profess to be a performance expert, but I'm pretty sure beer and whiskey are generaly contra-indicated for someone who is dehydrated, glycogen depleted and otherwise exhausted and/or heat-prostrated, isn't it?

Despite the general media's mis-representation of the test result as "elevated testosterone levels," we who have read further know that the actual problem was an elevated testosterone:epitestosterone ratio (above 4:1, the designated limit), which can also be explained by a lower-than-normal epitestosterone level. Apparently, some research exists that correlates alcohol consumption with reduced epitestosterone levels. So, the positive test result may be consistent with a drinking binge the night before, but I'm still stuck on how someone can go on a bender in the evening and then win one of, if not the most difficult stage(s) of the TDF the next morning.

A penny for your thoughts...

5:09 AM  
Blogger Blackmingo said...

Wondering if anyone thinks critically about the half-life of elimination of testosterone from the body (for both natural and synthetic testosterone) and the fact that Landis had urine samples taken before and after the tainted stage 17 sample:

Knowing that natural and synthetic testosterone, and for that matter, natural and "synthetic" epitestosterone have a half life (time it takes to eliminate half of the amount in the body) of 2-6 days (except for perhaps the oral form, which for patients and atheletes alike is close to worthless), why not test his urine from both the earlier and later stages for synthetic testosterone?

This all hinges on whether the synthetic testosterone in the sample is rapidly eliminated or slowly eliminated. If the synthetic testosterone in his sample can be identified, then its half life can be looked up for various modes of delivery (oral, transdermal, intramuscularly). If the half life is at least 1-2 days, then the synthetic testosterone should show up in the later stages' urine samples, no? If it isn't in the later stages'samples, and it isn't in the earlier stages' samples, and it isn't a form of testosterone that is rapidly eliminated from the body, AND if the epitestosterone in his samples isn't synthetic (one can test for this), then we have synthetic testosterone magically appearing and disappearing from the Floyd's body -can it be tampering with his sample?

A lot of ifs, I know. But the alternative doesn't make sense -have a hard time believing Floyd would devote his life to winning the big one, and then throw it away for unknown benefits of a testosterone quicky.

Performing the same IRMS tests on the other urine samples from the tour (for both testosterone and epitestosterone) would go a long way at clearing the water. More information is better. We have enough doubt in this world -we should go the extra mile for the tour winner to get the real story and eliminate the possibility that some of us fear: Landis was framed.

Sorry for blabbering.

6:29 AM  
Blogger trust_but_verify said...

They shouldn't be able to go back and retest either the earlier or later samples. After the A sample is negative, the B is supposed to be discarded. They probably wouldn't have done the IRMS/CIR of them either.

The logic is that because of the stress, or forgetfulness, or something, the Subject Rider didn't do something right in his doping program to keep the ratios reasonable on this one day. That justifies the IRMS, which shows it to be exogenous, and no further testing is needed.

Explcitly proving he was spiked by the proverbial gang of Nazis that held him down while being injected can only mititgate the sanction, not excuse the offense. It's strict liability for exogenous, period.

I'm confused that there is no official word; this UCI source is violating the protocol. I'm also disappointed that the Floyd camp hasn't been more forthcoming about the details of what they received in the initial report, and the report that one of the attorneys was questioning the reliability of IRMS.

7:26 AM  
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7:35 AM  
Blogger Blackmingo said...

I think Floyd's PR crew has done a poor job indeed (in my hopeful mind, more evidence of NOT needing to plan for a day like this).

Regarding the additional testing, one needs only to dissolve a form of testosterone in water or food, or give a high five or pat on the back with a smear of testosterone ointment in order to spike someone's levels -scary thought. I think Floyd would have come forward if he was held down and injected. But seriously, I was thinking more along the lines of post-test sample spiking of a method of framing, not Floyd-spiking.

Is anyone even curious about using IRMS to identify any unnatural testosterone or epistestosterone in the earlier or later samples? My point is that there isn't anything one can do to correct your carbon isotope ratios -admittedly to the best of my knowledge. I'll give you this is unreasonable for routine use -but it is TDF. If the synthetics are still there in the earlier or later samples, it would sew up the case against him -or allow some interesting alternatives.

7:52 AM  
Blogger arborjimb said...

You ask about IRMS testing Floyd's other samples. If the IRMS test was used on his A sample to begin with, why wasn't it used on all his A samples to begin with. Can we assume his other samples passed a IRMS test as well? IF so, it comes down to the elimination rate of synthetic testerone. Any ideas how long that is?

8:11 AM  
Blogger trust_but_verify said...

If the A sample tested negative, the B sample is supposed to be destroyed. It is not supposed to be possible to go back and test previously negative samples.

This is one of the protocol violations in the Armstrong flap -- the same lab had improperly kept his B samples for "research" purposes, and was lax about the chain of custody.

8:19 AM  
Blogger arborjimb said...

But what was the original test performed on his other 6 A samples? Was it a T/E ratio or an IRMS ratio? Apparently they performed a IRMS on his A sample. Is this common, to test the A sample a second time with anohter procedure? (assming it was first flagged by a high T/E ratio).

8:37 AM  
Blogger c said...

The articles I've read - and there are several that say an IRMS test was used - say that the sample was first tested for T-E ratio. When that turned up 11:1 (which I read his own doctor admitting), they ran the IRMS test. If tests on samples from other stages had his T-E in an acceptable range, they wouldn't have gone to the IRMS test, and now can't, since they're supposed to have destroyed the B samples, as several here have pointed out.

I wish I could believe Floyd, but humans don't produce synthetic testosterone. And this lab, while run by the French, is not run by drunken French fans on the side of the road. It's run by scientists and professionals. They might not like it when Americans win their race, but do we really think they'd undermine cycling and the Tour de France itself? That's what this does. It isn't really about Floyd. He's already headed into lying, cheating Tyler Hamilton mode. He's irrelevant. This is about the sport.

9:33 AM  
Blogger arborjimb said...

ok, what about the idea that his t/E ratio went from less than 4:1 to 11:1 to less than 4:1 in a four day period? Is this something that should raise questions (about his positive test) or is it explainable if he is indeed a cheater?

9:44 AM  
Blogger arborjimb said...

Tour de France winner Landis to know fate on Saturday: UCI
2006-08-01 10:45 (New York)


PARIS, Aug 1, 2006 (AFP) - Tour de France winner Floyd Landis will know on Saturday whether he will be stripped of his title, the International Cycling Union said.

The 30-year-old American is facing the loss of his title and a two-year ban after he returned a positive test for abnormal levels of testosterone following his win in the 17th stage of the Tour earlier this month.

The UCI said Tuesday that it had pushed the Chatenay-Malabry laboratory in France to go ahead and test the B sample - as they believe a quick solution to the affair would be better for the sport.

"We have done everything to ensure that all goes quickly and the laboratory has agreed to extend its opening hours until Saturday," UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani told AFP.

Landis has said that he expects the second sample to return a similar result to the first but insists that he is innocent.

If Landis is stripped of his title he would be the first ever champion to suffer that fate.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Mestre said...

Hey FFL;

Very good job on your blog; it is very helpful.

I'm not judging if Landis cheated although I tend to believe most of the pro riders use some sort of performance enhancing drugs.

I do think for every "crime", one needs to have additional gains or a motive. I have been reading a lot and I believe that additional testosterone would not give any benefit in the short run. So, why would he take it? High risk (if he were to win the stage he was going to be sampled) and low reward (no clear benefit) sounds preyty stupid..

I did some research on the IRMS test and I found a very nice paper that explains how T/E test and IRMS tests correlate to each other. From it, I believe the exogenous testosterone test is not absolute either, and needs to be compared to previous data. It is interesting to notice that the detection of oral testosterone is dropped dramatically after 24hs from the intake.

Here is the link:

http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~perreau/Chem347_2006/IRMS%20Baume%202006.pdf

10:14 AM  
Blogger HSA Blog said...

The New York Times hardly broke the story, this was reported in L'Equipe three days ago and by various German newspapers. I find it interesting that this was reported earlier - that they actually performed this carbon test. It seems a little fishy?

11:05 AM  
Blogger Jason A. Miller said...

I tried to find some information on synthetic testosterones and their half-lives. I did find information in several places about a testosterone suspension. It seems that this version has a half life of about 4 hours, and can be used for temporary benefits other than muscle bulk:

"Often testosterone suspension is injected on the day of competition to increase the athlete's aggressiveness and self-esteem in order to approach the difficult tasks with the right attitude." (from testosteronesuspension.com and steroid.com, perhaps reputable.)

This could be one explanation for negative tests before and after a positive test. I hope it's an incorrect explanation.

Does someone have a reference for the information about being able to detect the exact kind of synthetic testosterone?

12:08 PM  
Blogger wasafloydfan said...

Check out:

http://www.velonews.com/race/int/articles/10613.0.html

Landis' lawyer seems to imply that the UCI did not know or inform Landis that the IRMS test was performed or that it was positive. Instead, he seems to accuse the lab of leaking the info to L'Equipe before notifying the UCI. This seems to be in violation of WADA protocol but who knows if it actually happened or is an important one.

2:11 PM  
Blogger Maetenloch said...

Here's a little background on the different forms of test used by athletes.

Testosterone suspension is raw testosterone mixed in water and has a half life of around 4 hours. It should clear the body within 12 to 16 hours (3 to 4 half lives) without affecting the natural production of testosterone too much. Other than tested athletes during a contest, most people don't care for test suspension too much since it requires frequent injections to maintain stable test levels.

To get around this, chemists have added esters to the testosterone molecule to make long acting testosterone. This makes the test compound more soluble in oil and depending on the size of the ester, reduces the water solubility of the compound. Short esters have relatively high water solubility while long esters have lower water solubility. So if you attach for example a cypionate ester to testosterone, dissolve it in oil, and inject into a muscle, it will slowly dissolve out of the oil and into the bloodstream. Once in the blood, the ester is removed and the testosterone acts just like naturally produced test. Test cypionate has a half life of about 10 days. Most athletes prefer long ester compounds like this, since you only need to inject once a week or so.

Epitestosterone is chemically the same as testosterone. However, one part is attached with a rotation so that it's structurally different. It's made via a metabolic process that's similar but different than that produces testosterone. Because of this most people make both in about equal amounts. 90% of men have a T/E ratio of 1-to-1, 99% have a T/E ratio of 5-to-1 or less. Test levels can fluctuate somwhat due to time of day, athletic activity, diet, etc. However the T/E ratio is relatively constant.

As far as the IRMS test, they look at the ratio of the different isotopes of carbon (C12 vs C13). This ratio is different between animals and and plants. Since almost all sythetic testosterone is plant-derived, it will have an isotope ratio more like plants than naturally produced test.

Given that Landis' T/E jumped from 4-1 to 11-1 and his blood contains synthetic testosterone, the bottom line is that he was using. I'm not too surprised by this nor do I think too badly of him. From my expereience with athletes and their trainers, I believe that all athletes at the elite level are using something. Usually they use substances like HGH, IGF-LR3, insulin, etc. that are currently undetectible. If they use steroids like test, they're usally very careful to use them in a non-detectible manner. Sounds like Floyd (or his trainer) screwed up somehow...

2:55 PM  
Blogger shooter said...

Have known Floyd for 15 years
He doesn't cheat!
Too stupid a move to do a one day juice and then win by so much!

5:28 PM  
Blogger pcstl said...

Throughout all of this I ask a simple question from the rest of the pro cycling community...Where is the outrage? If I was clean and somebody who beat me is being accused of cheating, I would scream to anyone who would listen. I can't win because I'm clean. Could it be that everyone cheats? Some, i.e. team leaders, use more; but everyone uses some. It is well known that some cyclists put a patch on for only a couple of hours to get the effects without tripping the ratio. Maybe his drinking did influence the test. He put the patch on, had too much to drink, fell asleep, forgot to take the patch off until the next morning.

5:48 PM  
Blogger MMB202 said...

The Wall Street Journal's Carl Bialik, aka The Numbers Guy, devotes his column this week to the Landis "Alchohol Defense."

His review of studies of alcohol and TE rations is remarkably thorough. He also has this commentary on the IRMS test:

Dr. Thevis, from the Cologne sports lab, told me this method is reliable: "There have been a lot of studies showing that differentiation is absolutely reliable and reproducible." Dr. Zorzoli declined to confirm the Times report, but, speaking generally, said, "If the case is on the evidence of exogenous testosterone, alcohol intake doesn't create exogeneous testosterone in body."

But a more-cautious note was sounded by Dr. Davis, who is now the technical director for Mass Spec Solutions Ltd., a Wythenshawe, U.K., maker of mass-spectrometry devices. "Quite regularly there are errors in the isotope tests," he said. "It's a very difficult analytical technique."

7:00 PM  
Blogger Jason A. Miller said...

This NY Times article has much more detail than I've seen previously. For one, it claims that Dr. Brent Kay confirmed that the IRMS test was done on sample A. It also explains the carbon isotope ratio process, and gives Floyd's number as 3.99, with a positive being 3 or higher. You'll have to read the article to know what the numbers mean. After reading all of the details about IRMS, it doesn't sound exactly foolproof either. But I don't see how they intend to try to fight it.

7:59 PM  
Blogger mattahara said...

"As far as the IRMS test, they look at the ratio of the different isotopes of carbon (C12 vs C13). This ratio is different between animals and and plants. Since almost all sythetic testosterone is plant-derived, it will have an isotope ratio more like plants than naturally produced test."

It's been said that Floyd had 2 beers and "at least" 4 shots of whiskey that night. Beer and whiskey are made from plants. So, he's ingesting a lot of plant material. Is is possible that the plant-based sugars and ethanol could have been converted to testosterone with a plant-like carbon isotope ratio? Is this is the reason (as opposed to exogenous testosterone) for failing the IRMS test? hmmmm.... just a thought.

8:12 PM  
Blogger wasafloydfan said...

Putting things together:

T/E ratio quite high.

CI ratio high, but not as high as one might expect given the T/E ratio (if Kay knows what he is talking about).

Alcohol lowers Epitestosterone and inflates T/E ratio.

This is positive tests are then consistent with Landis following a low dose testosterone program throughout the race that kept him below detectable T/E levels. Then he drank a little too much before stage 17. This triggered the initial T/E ratio positive. Then the follow-up CIR found evidence of exogenous T.

If this is true, the other samples would have been positive for exogenous T using the CIR method but were never tested because the T/E ratio was not high enough.

8:54 PM  
Blogger Free Floyd said...

wasafloydfan, it sounds like your story is a possible scenario.

10:39 PM  
Blogger trust_but_verify said...

Yes, this is a theory that sounds plausible. Add to it that Lim reported Landis had been training for increased burst power, especially with "Steep Hill Interval Training", and that the bust here is the same sort of thing we appear to be seeing with Gatlin (a sprinter), it makes sense as well. Floyd's weakness wasn't average power, but ability to accelerate to make or chase an attack. Using a sprinter/weightlifter program would work on his problem spot. Maybe the S.H.I.T wasn't just the hills he was on.

If so, then he might not have had problems if (a) he'd eaten on stage 16 and not bonked; and (b) not freaked and messed up his chemistry to trip the T/E test the next day.

Much, of course, depending on the IRMS outcome of the B sample. It it is negative or borderline enough to be questionable, then the defenses to the T/E come back into play for appeals should sanctions be attempted anyway.

11:39 PM  

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