Go Dad Go!

A self-important blog about riding bikes, raising kids and the all-too-rare nexus of these two pursuits.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

On Floyd and his Testosterone

I'd sincerely hoped that yesterday's Tour coda would be my final posting until next year's run-up, but it looks like we've come full circle; indeed, it feels like it's June 29 again, and we're fretting about the validity of this year's Tour.

I received a number of emails today, most of them asking either, "I heard something; what's going on?" or "So what do you think? Did he do it?" And on my bike commute home, a local TV station's reporter and camera crew flagged me down -- I'm not kidding -- and asked me what I thought of the situation. So I figure someone's suggesting that I share my thoughts on the matter.

What's going on is that the urine sample Floyd Landis gave after his dramatic Stage 17 win turned up eleveated levels of testosterone -- at least, relative to his epitestosterone; his "T:E ratio" was illegally high. As testosterone has been shown to expidite recovery, it's certainly feasible that in attempting to come back from his disastrous collapse on the way to Toussuire, Landis might have decided to throw a little something extra -- and illegal -- at the effort.

But it's not that simple. Testosterone has been shown to spike naturally for various reasons. Our own Tom Lariviere tells me that a study of European soccer fans revealed that when their team wins, they get a surge of the very stuff that makes us men men (and that, from what I've come to understand, is what's making me lose the hair on my head, and maybe grow it in places I'd prefer not to have it; right now I'm really not a big testosterone fan). Heck, one only had to look at Landis as he crossed the line in Morzine and know that he was feeling particularly manly that day. There's also speculation that the depletion he experienced the day before could have primed him for a testosterone spike, and that the drugs he takes to ease hip pain could drive the T:E levels up. Even the beer he famously downed the night before his epic win might have contributed to the positive test. (For more on all this, check out http://www.velonews.com/news/fea/10596.0.html).

Since that's about all I understand about the physiology, I figure we should glean what we can from Floyd himself and the way he's acted since all this broke. First he went into hiding (bad), but then he went public with not-too-vigorous denials (good!). He's maintaining his Not-so-Big Lebowski persona, saying essentially, "I'm clean, but I wouldn't blame you if you were a little bummed out by all this." I'm not sensing the he-doth-protest-too-much feel of Tyler Hamilton's defense, nor the talk-to-my-lawyer sentiment I got from Jan Ullrich. He just seems...credible. But then, I'm a sucker. I want to believe, and bad.

It does seem crazy that of all the drugs and treatments he surely has access to, he would risk his career on one that is relatively easily detected, especially knowing that he'd be going for the win and, at least in a couple of days' time, the Maillot Jaune (every stage winner is tested, as is the Yellow Jersey wearer.) Just think of those shots of him stepping into and emerging from the doping control van after his grand win; he looked like a man who was just plain pumped -- not pumped with anything artificial, and thus feeling nervous.

Of course, he referred to the premeditated early escape as a "Hail Mary," a last-ditch, caution-to-the-wind shot at a Tour win. And with his hip surgery looming, the impact of which is unclear, maybe he was thinking it was the last ditch not of the year, but of his career. He knew he had to recover better than anyone else, and knew that he could attribute a testosterone spike to a natural occurrance. So maybe that Hail Mary pass had a little something
extra on it.

I sure hope this isn't the case. Watching our heroes tumble is painful, and these days it happens more often than ever before, as we know what our heroes are up to day and night. I loved discovering a new cycling hero on the slopes of the Joux-Plane, and I'd like to hang onto him for awhile.

Of course, counting Floyd Landis' fall from grace among my chief woes tells you something: that I don't know from problems. We're a lucky lot if this is what we have to fret about. I hope to learn that, incontrovertably, Floyd is innocent. But as much as I love cycling, and as much as his win inspired me, if he isn't exonerated...we're all still doing just fine.


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