Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I must admit I find all the speculation and soul searching about Floyd just a little bit amusing. I'm even amused at myself for getting caught up in it. We seem driven by a need to believe and to disbelieve all at the same time. And so all this ongoing talk is just a way to keep alive the paradoxes that somehow define us.

In any case, here are two more perspectives on the matter, in case you haven't heard enough already:

#1 Drugs can't ruin a good story
So then Landis goes and tests positive ... I don't feel betrayed or let down, because I now know enough about testosterone to know that Landis didn't decimate the competition on the road into Morzine by using a drug. If it had been EPO or some sort of blood doping, that would be different. But testosterone doesn't enhance performance in that fashion. I think the sadness I feel (in addition to being a little appalled at how quickly he's been crucified, and the fact that self-serving individuals and organizations are using him to further their own agendas -- I'm talking to you Dick Pound and Greg Lemond, and even, to a lesser extent, Bill Plaschke), is an almost childlike sense of innocence lost.

#2 Wash your bottles
Now the news about Mr Landis, and my initial reaction was crushing. Against my better judgement I'd been rooting for the guy, hoping that somehow this Tour would be better, that things were on the upswing. But they are not. After about 24hr I had become resigned to it. But then the scientist kicked in. One of the dirty little secrets of antibody-based testing is that the test is only as good as the specificity of the antibody, and that is sometimes not as good as we would like. The T/E test would be done by ELISA, an antibody-binding based test. Mr Landis's team need to make sure that what has been detected as testosterone is actually testosterone and not something else that cross-reacts with the Anti-T in the ELISA. They need to insist on a second method used in parallel that will give a more authentic identification of the testosterone, as well as an independent measure of the level. I would recommend Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy (GC-MS) or High-Performance Liquid Chromatograpy-MS if there is enough sample. The chief suspect for cross-reactivity in my opinion would be plasticisers (probably phthalate esters) and the most likely source would be those 70 bottles. I'm sure the team mechanics didn't carefully soak and wash them before use, the phthalate esters can be absorbed through the skin as well as through the gut, and I've personal experience of these compounds interfering with steroid assays (although it wasn't an ELISA test). Only when the high testosterone value is confirmed should there be a search for the reason for it, and Mr Landis may be doing himself a disservice with all this public speculation (now there's Jack Daniels as well as the beer?!)

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