Column by Mark Gaedtke in Aug. 15 Tomahawk Leader
I’m confused. A few weeks ago I was happy for Floyd Landis, a handsome young American who despite the misfortune of being named “Floyd” rose to heights of the cycling world with an inspiring Tour de France victory. It was exciting to hear about his miraculous comeback through the mountainous portion of the race and his domination of the field, effectively taking over for the retired Lance Armstrong. Then not long after the race we had heard about a positive drug test and although we were concerned, we also knew of the French media which had habitually dogged Armstrong during his years of dominance and we trusted that things would work out for our man Floyd.
Then last week they tested Landis’ “B” (backup) sample and found it to confirm the initial finding of an unusually high testosterone level in his bloodstream. This indicated that there had almost certainly been some kind of doping on the part of Landis, who even now continues to maintain his innocence. Since hearing that news, I had been peeved at Landis and disappointed that despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he didn’t come clean and confess.
Then yesterday, I was listening to the Sports Bash program on our local WJJQ radio and the announcer brought up some interesting points to consider. (1) At the Tour de France samples are taken from each racer after each day’s run. There was no trace of artificial testosterone on either the day before or the day after the finding of the tainted sample. From what I understand about these things, unnatural levels of testosterone do not simply get flushed out of your system overnight. (2) The kind of testosterone found in the Landis sample does not make you bigger, stronger or even faster immediately, like Popeye’s spinach. It must be taken on a regular basis over an extended period of time. One large shot of testosterone during one day in a competition will do you virtually no good unless you are looking to get kicked out of cycling permanently. Don’t you think Landis must’ve known that? (3) All lab sample container were marked with the names of the competitors and up to a dozen lab personnel had access to these samples. That means no anonymity of samples and no measures against tampering. So if I needed money fast I could bet $10,000 on the man in second place and then taint the sample of the guy in first. I don’t want to drape Landis in the American flag, but do you think there is anybody in France who might be sick and tired of Americans winning and might want to do something about it?
It all seems a little fishy to me. Personally, if I was going to cheat to win I would make sure to inject myself with something that would actually help me win and not simply get me busted. Also, how did all that testosterone get purged from Landis’ system in 24 hours? If they put competitor’s names on the drug tests, are they doing all they can to avoid tampering? After all, these are people’s lives they’re playing with. In a U.S. court of law all these issues would’ve been addressed. In the worldwide court of public opinion, however, Landis will be considered guilty until proven innocent with no way of clearing his name. Landis has been fired from his cycling team and it remains to be seen whether he will be stripped of his Tour de France title. The president of the International Association of Professional Cycling Teams has threatened to sue Landis for criticizing the testing procedure. (Landis had called the test “fatally flawed.”) Maybe he should sue. He might be doing Landis a favor.
Please understand. I’m not saying Landis is innocent. What I am saying is things are never quite as black and white as some people would have you think. There’s a Chinese saying that goes, “A man with a clock knows what time it is. A man with two clocks isn’t sure.” As we learn more and more we become less and less sure about what we know. There is a fine line between cheater and champion and with each passing day that line seems to have become less and less defined.