Floyd Landis has broken his silence about his high T/E ratio that could cost him the Tour de France, as well as hammering cycling's already battered image. Landis, who has requested a B sample analysis to confirm his A test, told Sports Illustrated, that he "can't be hopeful" that the B sample will be any different than the A. "I'm a realist," he added. When asked whether he had used a testosterone patch for recovery, Landis denied it straight out.
But even if the B sample confirms the A result, Landis is not necessarily guilty of taking an illegal performance enhancing drug to boost his testosterone. Some riders can prove that they have an elevated Testosterone/Epitestosterone (T:E) level, if they undergo an endocrine test performed by a credible doctor. Landis said he will use Spanish doctor Luis Hernández, who has helped other riders prove a high T:E count. "In hundreds of cases, no one's ever lost one," Landis told SI.
In 1999, Colombian rider Santiago Botero was able to prove his elevated testosterone levels (over four times the allowed limit) were natural. His doctor at the time was Kelme's Dr Eufemiano Fuentes.
Landis is looking for other answers too. He is allowed to take cortisone for his degenerating right hip, although he said during the Tour that he had only had a couple of injections this year. But he also told SI that he'd been taking daily doses of a thyroid hormone to treat a thyroid condition. Even if either of these can explain his high T:E ratio, Landis realises that it will be hard to convince people. "I wouldn't hold it against somebody if they don't believe me," he said.
Others have looked at explanations such as the beer Landis had the night before his stage 17 exploit, citing a study in the American Association for Clinical Chemistry ( Vol 34, 1462-1464, 1988) by Swedish researchers O Falk, E Palonek and I Bjorkhem. In it, they investigated the effects of the ingestion of between 110-160 g of ethanol (2 g/kg bodyweight). They showed that it "increased the ratio between testosterone and epitestosterone in urine from 1.14 +/- 0.07 to 1.52 +/- 0.09 in four healthy male volunteers. The increase ranged from 30% to 90% in the different subjects studied (mean 41%). In cases where doping with testosterone is suspected, the possibility should be considered that at least part of an observed increased testosterone/epitestosterone ratio in urine is ascribable to previous ingestion of ethanol."
As a caveat, Landis was quoted at the time as saying that he'd only had one beer and a small amount of Jack Daniels later on. Even a pint of normal strength beer generally doesn't contain more than 20 g of alcohol, while a shot of whiskey contains about 10 g - a much lower level than was studied by the Swedish researchers.