PIC BY TIM DE WAELE
Floyd Landis's hopes of proving that naturally elevated levels of testosterone caused his positive "A" test for the hormone received a blow this weekend, with leading doping experts contradicting claims made by the Phonak rider and his legal team last week.
Speaking to procycling on Friday, professor Michel Audran of the Sports and Industry Against Blood-Doping organisation said that Landis's "A" sample would only have been deemed positive after an Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) test had confirmed the presence in his urine of non-naturally occurring (exogenous) testosterone. French newspaper L'Equipe reported at the weekend that an IRMS test had indeed been performed on Landis's "A" sample.
Landis had claimed in an appearance on ESPN on Friday that "there [was] no indication of an outside source of testosterone" in his urine sample.
Audran said that the IRMS test is routinely used in the Chatenay-Malabry laboratory which tested Landis's "A" sample.
"When a sample shows a testosterone:epitestosterone ratio of more than 1:4, an IRMS test is now used to check for the presence of exogenous testosterone," Audran explained. "If Landis's 'A' sample was positive, it means that exogenous testosterone must have been found."
Calling the IRMS method "very reliable", Audran indicated that its use almost certainly ruled out the possibility of Landis's positive test being caused by naturally high levels of testosterone. The American's lawyer had claimed on Friday that his client had "shown high levels of testosterone since he was young".
Audran added that neither the cortisone injections Landis has been taking for his degenerative right hip or medication to treat a thyroid condition could account for the positive test. "If they did stimulate the production of testosterone, it would have endogenous i.e. naturally occurring," Audran said.
He added that the same would apply to testosterone produced in response to alcohol consumption. Landis said on Friday that he had drunk "two beers and four Jack Daniels" the night before his extraordinary solo raid to Morzine and positive test.
With the revelation that exogenous testosterone was detected in Landis's urine, it now seems likely that the Tour winner's defence will focus on finding shortcomings in the IRMS method if his "B" test is also positive for testosterone. The result of that test is expected later this week.
Landis's lawyer, Jose Maria Buxeda, already seemed to be taking aim at the IRMS method this weekend. Buxeda told L'Equipe: "The test is not reliable. Most laboratories do not use it. In fact, the laboratory of Chatenay-Malabry must be the only one still using it."
But, Christiane Ayotte, director of an anti-doping laboratory in
Opinion also seems to be split about why Landis's would have used testosterone four days before the end of the Tour, then exposed himself to the risk of a test by winning at Morzine.
While forensic toxicologist Dr David Black told the Miami Herald that the drug "would have a profound short-term effect on an athlete" (see story "Sports world awaits news on Landis"), Michel Audran argued on Friday that "taking testosterone at that point of the race would be pure stupidity".
"If you take it before a stage, the only effect is going to be a psychological boost. And why would anyone take it, then go and win a stage, when they know that the stage winner is always tested?
"I think that Tour de France riders do take testosterone, but they do it before or at the start of the Tour," Audran continued. "They do it to compensate for the muscle they know that they will start losing in the latter stages of the race; by then, they've started to exhaust their glycogen supplies, exhaust their fat supplies and they start to use up muscle for energy. A testosterone treatment before the Tour will build up muscle resources to compensate for that," Audran said.
Audran added that a rider might use testosterone to counteract the muscle loss which can result from the prolonged use of cortisone.
Landis denies the use of testosterone and all banned performance-enhancing drugs.