Exactly a week after his miraculous ride back to contention in the Tour de France, Floyd Landis was today publicly identified as having failed a test to detect unusually high ratios of testosterone to epitestosterone.

This is profoundly depressing to me, having found Landis' Stage 17 ride to be an inspiration. Landis' "B" sample will  be tested on Friday, confirming or disconfirming the test on the "A" sample. I hope to the cycling gods that the second sample doesn't come back showing an excessive T/E ratio, in which case Landis will surely be stripped of his title and permanently disgraced. If he did dope, of course he deserves to be sanctioned.

On the one hand, I can't say Landis sounds convincingly indignant:

One reporter asked Landis whether he had ever taken performance-enhancing drugs.

"I'll say no," Landis said. "The problem I have here again is that most of the public has an idea about cycling because of the way things have gone in the past. So I'll say no, knowing a lot of people are going to assume I'm guilty before I've had a chance to defend myself."

"All I want to do is ask that everybody take a step back. I don't know what your position is now. And I wouldn't blame you if it was a bit skeptical because of what cycling has been through in the past and the way other cases have gone. All I'm asking for is just that I be given a chance to prove that I'm innocent. Cycling has a traditional way of trying people in the court of public opinion before they ever get a chance to do anything else. I can't stop that. But I would like to be assumed innocent until proven guilty, since that's the way we do things in America." 

On the other hand, this test is apparently not exactly the most reliable test around. According to ex-pro Jonathan Vaughters, "The majority of T/E tests are over-turned... The guy will probably be proven innocent in eight months time, but in the short-term, the media is killing him. Floyd is basically paying for the sins of all the morons who came before him, who have denied, denied, denied." If in fact Landis had unusually high testosterone levels (since the test finds a ratio, it's possible his epitestosterone were unusually low), I'd like to know why: what gain could there be to increasing testosterone like that? Surely the stereotypical "aggression" of a steroids user wouldn't have helped Landis on the escapade to Morzine - at least, not as much as, say, hideous quantities of caffeine. According to numerous sports scientists and physicians quoted in the Times, the T/E ratio can vary widely (from a "normal" ratio of 1:1 to a high value of 6:1), testosterone has no clear effects on endurance, and the standard test is fraught with problems.

I can only hope for the right outcome here, whatever it is.

email: christopher at tassava dot com