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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Landis, maillot jaune du dopage

by Frédéric Sugnot

Floyd Landis: The “Tour de France” Winner Under a Cloud of Drugs

Translated Friday 4 August 2006, by Patrick Bolland

Cycling : The “Tour de France” is a major event in the French sporting calendar. On Sunday 18 July, The US cyclist, Floyd Landis won this race, with its final stretch on the Champs-Élysées. But he had been tested positive for testerone on the evening of the 17th stage of the race, the so called “Grande Boucle”, the toughest challenge in the race. This was a first for any Tour de France winner.

Last night, Floyd Landis added another another first to winning the Tour de France in cycling. He had been tested positive for testerone on the evening of winning the 17th stage of the tour, after surging ahead of all his competitors for 130 kilometers. The lead-cyclist of the “Phonak” team is now emerging as the first winner of the Tour de France to lose his title after completing the race. Of course, Landis is now demanding the results of the second sample (sample “b”), which will be analysed in the same laboratory, at Châtenay-Malabry (Hauts-de-Seine). Until this second sample is analysed, he will benefit from an assumption of innocence ...

Looking for Landis

There is a real problem, since Landis’s team, Phonak, felt obliged to acknowledge the truth, while sports editors thoughout the world were trying to track down Landis, who’d disappeared after his victory, withdrawing to some outpost in the Netherlands. On its web site, the Swiss Phonak team - with a chequered past (5 cyclists caught being drugged in the last 2 years) - simply said that the International Cyclists Union (ICU) had informed them last Wednesday of “an unusual level of testosterone-epitestosterone during a check on Floyd Landis during the 17th stage of the Tour de France”.

This sobering but highly-disturbing revelation ended the guessing game that had begun on Wednesday at 6 pm, when the ICU had first announced to the media that an anti-drug test during the Tour de France had generated an “abnormal result”. The problem was that neither the drug nor the cyclist had been named.

According to the ICU regulations, only the cyclists’s team, the national federation, the national anti-doping organisation and the World Anti-Doping Agency are informed of this confidential information. After the ICU announcement, teams and national federations fell over themselves yesterday announcing “Sorry, it wasn’t us”.

Same scene in the the US Cycling Federation, which announced through its spokesperon, Andy Lee, that it had not been contacted by the ICU about any drug problem. Another lie, generating another false lead. To suggest it might be Landis was too much, he was too big a fish. How “stupid” could he be to have get caught in such a trap?

“Stupid” - that was precisely the word used a month ago by Jacques De Ceaurriz, the head of the lab at Châtenay-Malabry, where the Tour de France cyclists’ samples are analysed. On 1 July , before the start of the Strasbourg “Grand boucle”, he told us: “The cyclists know that we cannot detect some of the products with our tests. We also know that some of the cyclists are very worried when they come to France. So we don’t expect to catch any of the ‘big fish’ in the 2006 Tour de France.” Professor De Ceaurriz clearly didn’t expect Landis to be so naive. He was after all 30 years-old, Lance Armstrong’s second-in-command in the triumphant US Postal team, which had won so many recent editions of the Tour de France.

A long history of doping

But the lab technicians at Châtenay-Malabry must have been taken aback in testing a substance, testosterone, which dates from doping “antiquity”. Particularly if they knew they were dealing with the Tour winner. Yet the Châtenay-Malabry boss insists he didn’t know the identity of those who were tested: “I never mention names. All the samples are coded confidentially. Those practising the sports are a long way from us, downline from the researchers.”

Yet the competitors are not so distant from other scientists, although these are ofter not taken seriously the cycling world. Take the example of the calculations made by the engineer Frédéric Portoleau (1), the day of Floyd Landis’ major victory - on 20 July winning the Morzine stage with a 5-minute lead on the Spaniard Sastre, after a long solitary surge. According to Portoleau’s calculations, the tour winner generated an average of 280 watts of power thoughout the whole day.

Which is about the same as that developed by the German cyclist Faris Al Sultan on the cycling track of the highly-selective Hawaii triathlon, which he won in 2005. This is astonishing for someone who was completely worn out from the day before, in the long climb up the Toussuire, and particularly after two arduous week of the Tour de France.

We should remember that Landis cycled this Tour at an average of 40,784 km/h, with the third best time in the history of the Grande Boucle.
It all seems rather superhuman or due to some artifice, until this is proven otherwise. Yet on Sunday Landis was still claiming everything was normal. After his triumph on the Champs-Élysées, he told the media: “I’m just an ordinary fellow with a bit more talent in riding bikes”. And not enough brains to think a bit more about this.


Author’s note: (1) Frédéric Portoleau is the co-author (with Antoine Vayer) of “Pouvez-vous gagner le Tour?” (2001, Polar). See www.cyclismag.com .


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