Saturday, September 09, 2006

60% of TDF Riders Medically Cleared to Dope

Yep that's right. 60% of this year's Tour participants possessed clearances to consume banned substances. Of the 13 positive tests during the TDF (13? I only heard of one!), twelve were excused by a medical clearance. Guess which one was the odd man out? That's right, Floyd Landis....

This is utterly bizarre to me. Utterly.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Tragedy Strikes The Landis Household

57 year old David Witt, restaurateur and stepfather of Amber Landis, Floyd's wife, died Tuesday of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Witt, an amateur cyclist, was roommates with Floyd Landis in the 90's, introduced Landis both to his then-future wife Amber as well as road racing. Witt married Amber's mother after Amber and Landis were married. Witt was present in Paris when Landis won the Tour. (link)

My sincere condolences go out to the Landis and Witt families.

Terrible terrible news.

I can't help but think this is quickly becoming a tragedy of a most Shakespearean order.

I also can't help but refuse to accept dismissals of any connection between Witt's death and Landis' fate in the Tour. Witt and Amber's mother, Rose, has just opened a fine dining establishment in San Diego named Hawthorn's, an establishment whose success would undoubtedly be at least partly premised on Floyd's fame. Hawthorn's reportedly was decorated in Landis memorabilia. The doping scandal undoubtedly would have negatively affected any such restaurant traffic, and, further, Landis would be unable to be any sort of benefactor or investor in the restaurant after losing the Yellow Jersey, the cash prize, and the otherwise inevitable parade of commercial endorsements. Landis' fate in the Tour could have been a sign of an ultimate lost hope.

I also wonder brother and I both independently worked in a number of restaurants during our younger years--both of us in Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, later he on the NJ coast and in Southern California, and I later in North Carolina. We have also had many friends who have worked or continue to work in the industry. One thing that was common in our experience was that the restaurant industry, no matter where we went, was always some strange portal to organized criminal enterprise. Drug distribution and money laundering in particular. Corrupt organizations where it wasn't so strange to see the occasional uniformed police officer just hanging out, making you wonder why in the heck that officer was just "hanging out" with "friends."

My brother and I both grew up in a neighborhood where the families of many of our best friends were alleged to be members of the mafia. We instead saw our friends, real, genuine people, but in hindsight we also didn't really think too much about things that now seem more than just sketchy. We both have found the restaurant industry in general to be a world infused with crime, dependent upon it, equivalent to it, where many owners compromised certain principles to take a risk to go into business, if the owners weren't somewhat creepy themselves. It might be an owner who's suddenly become a restaurant owner because of a gambling debt. Or it might be an owner who was punished by bosses and sent away to run a restaurant where he otherwise wouldn't want to go. Or an owner who like running things, all sorts of things.

Whenever I hear a restaurateur committed suicide I immediately wonder how easily the conclusion of suicide was reached. It's not a rational reaction but rather a *conditioned* one.

I'm not a religious man in the least but maybe I may just say a prayer for Floyd and Amber, a prayer without regard to guilt or innocence. At this point I don't care whether he did this or that. I just wonder about his well-being. Having survived the deaths of three of my closest friends in a 10 year span, deaths that derailed so many aspects of my life, being so unprepared in my youth to cope with the death of a close friend, I wish Floyd strength.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Pound, Dick: A Story of a One-man Jury

Fresh from the comments box (thanks Robert) is a fascinating story on the life and times of one Dick Pound. "The Difficulty of Watching Pound Throw His Weight Around," by Sally Jenkins, Washington Post, 13 August 2005
The Story

Someone Ask Landis if He Eats a Lot of Millet

Another item from the speculative coincidence department:
apparently a diet high in millet is highly associated with thyroid dysfunction. Yes eating millet can cause goiter leading to hypothyroidism. But you have to eat a lot of it over a long period of time, exactly the sort of conditions I explained may be necessary to stimulate a dietary-based false positive on the IRMS.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Poll: Innocent or Guilty?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lance's Food Kept Secure During Tour

According to, Lance Armstrong's food during the tour was protected from tampering. I can't help but think of Landis accepting that six pack from the crowd after stage 16. What else did Landis accept?

I can be quite cynical and I have a sensitive bullshit meter, and for some reason, Landis still isn't setting off that bullshit meter. I like to observe facial ticks and other paralinguistic cues when people talk (I'm irrepressibly analytical I'm afraid). I've watched these interviews and my lie detector isn't going off. There are so many things that do make me suspicious, and I don't always trust either my analysis or my intuition, but usually at least one of them is right (usually the latter). I am pretty convinced that Tyler Hamilton doped and certainly would not be shocked to learn if Armstrong did. Armstrong has all the markings of a guy who lusts for power, who has a sort of age-old deep-seated anger that really drives him to achieve, to endure pain like no other. If anything that lust leaves me in awe. But Landis, despite being a Phonak cyclist with a pair of positive IRMS samples, my intuition is saying he didn't do it.

But then there's one thing that bothers me. Landis appeared to resist, almost seemed to fight against, holding the maillot jaune well before stage 16. That tactic seems suspect, namely because the jersey comes with extra testing.

Puttin' our heads together: Whatever happened to the WADA lawsuit?

After the UCI backed the Vrijman report this past March the WADA contemplated aloud about suing the UCI. Does anyone know what happened to that suit? Please share in the comments section if you know. (The contributions in the comments section of this blog are highly informative & thought-provoking.) Thanks in advance.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Diet Can Elevate Test Results, But How Much Is Unknown

According to Saudan, et al (2006), a diet rich in maize, sugar cane, millet or pineapple can elevate test results designed to show the presence of exogenous steroids.

Does that mean that if Floyd Landis ate a heaping helping of sugarcane after stage 16 he could have triggered a false positive for the IRMS?

Saudan, et al (2006) speculate that such a diet couldn't do such a thing. However they admit that there's much to be learned, and they also admit in their study that diet in experimental subjects was not monitored, logged, etc. So, in other words, the study assumes that there is some increase in dietary 13C but makes no strides to monitor the correlation between intake of certain foods and the degree to which 13C is elevated in tests. As the test was conducted, people who lived in Africa elevated their 13C by as much as 3%, certainly not enough to trigger a false positive.

But it is interesting to note that the % increase in 13C increased linearly the entirety of the time the test subjects were on this Kenyan diet. There's no decay in the increase, even over a 3 month period. Ostensibly, then, if one were on this diet for a year, then one might see a 12% increase in 13C, two years, 24% increase, and so on. The study lends itself to this interpretation.

If Floyd Landis ate somewhat like a Kenyan for three months, consuming some amount of sugarcane and millet, he could have elevated his 13C levels by 3%. That would have put his test results at 30% above test error, still leaving him 5% away from dubious test results. But if he's been eating loads of millet sweetened with sugarcane for a few years, it very well may have put him in false positive territory.

Several questions remain: how much does the intake of *any* amount of exogenous steroids elevate one's testable 13C levels? In other words, how uncommon is it for someone taking any amount of steroids to test as low as Landis did? Another question: how much sugarcane or millet or pineapple would it take to trigger a false positive? Some cyclists are fanatical about their diets, and many aspects of their diets are aspects that have witnesses. If the guy ate millet breakfast lunch and dinner there would be many individuals who could confirm it. Further, what effect does alcohol, a product of fermented sugar, have on the IRMS?

Whil;e the IRMS is a very good test, there are ways a false positive may be arrived at. The ways in which a false positive result is possible seem apparent yet they are poorly understood.

One thing is clear: if I ever get my knee healthy and try to compete at cycling, I'm going to eat lots and lots of millet and pineapple and give myself a natural means of supplementing with androsterone.

Seriously, though, the moral should be that if the UCI wants to test cyclists they should bear the burden of keeping record of each cyclist's diet.

(Short communication: Christophe Saudana, Matthias Kamberb, Giulia Barbatic, Neil Robinsona, Aurélien Desmarcheliera, Patrice Mangina and Martial Saugya. Longitudinal profiling of urinary steroids by gas chromatography/combustion/isotope ratio mass spectrometry: Diet change may result in carbon isotopic variations. Journal of Chromatography B, Volume 831, Issues 1-2 , 2 February 2006, Pages 324-327.)

Landis Maintains Innocence

Floyd Landis responded to the positive result of sample B by maintaining his innocence (link).

Howard Jacobs, Landis' attorney, said,

At this point in time, I am waiting to receive the full laboratory documentation for the “B” test. In consultation with some of the leading medical and scientific experts, we will prove that Floyd Landis’s victory in the 2006 Tour de France was not aided in any respect by the use of any banned substances[...].

Saturday, August 05, 2006

LNDD Director Makes False Claims About IRMS

The director of the LNDD, the lab where Landis tested positive has apparently issued a false claim about the accuracy of the isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) test. LNDD head Jacques De Ceaurriz said the isotope testing procedure was "foolproof," adding that "no error is possible in isotopic readings." (source)

While the IRMS is a definitive test certainly, unlike the T/E ratio test, it is subject like every scientific test to various errors and mistake. While the likelihood of error from the IRMS test is, if properly performed, dramatically lower than that from the T/E ratio, that likelihood is most certainly not zero.

It should naturally be asked why the director of a scientific lab would make false claims that any scientist could see through. One should hope that we are not seeing in action another abuse of an American coming out of a French lab with a history of unethical practices. The LNDD lab is the same that unfairly targeted former Tour champion Lance Armstrong according to the UCI in a report issued in March.

Landis' Sample B Positive; Maillot Jaune "Sullied"

The news is out everywhere. Floyd Landis has tested positive on the follow-up test. He has already been removed by Team Phonak and Tour de France officials are working on transfering the title to Oscar Pereiro, who finished behind Landis.