July 27, 2006 On Wednesday, July 26, just three days after Floyd Landis's incredible victory in the 2006 Tour de France, the International Cycling Union(UCI) announced that an unidentified rider had tested positive during the three-week race. Speculation as to who that rider was ended abruptly on Thursday when the Phonak Cycling Team acknowledged on its Web site that Landis had failed a drug test and that an abnormal ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone was detected in his system after a sample was taken after Stage 17.
"The Team Management and the rider were both totally surprised of this physiological result," reads the statement. "The rider will ask in the upcoming days for the counter analysis to prove either that this result is coming from a natural process or that this is resulting from a mistake in the confirmation."
According to the statement, Landis will discontinue racing until the issue is resolved.
The French drug lab at Chatenay-Malabry, which was at the heart of last year's erythropoietin (EPO) accusations against Lance Armstrong, reported that Landis's urine sample showed abnormally high levels of the male growth hormone testosterone after his Stage 17 comeback win in Morzine.
The implications of this positive test are many, but until Landis's B sample has been analyzed, nothing is for certain. The doping protocols of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) stipulate that an athlete's blood or urine sample be split into an A and a B sample. If the A sample tests positive for a banned substance, the athlete has the option to ask for his B sample to be tested. Also, the athlete has the option to ask for a different laboratory to perform the analysis. For a positive result to be confirmed, both the A and B samples must be positive. This protocol attempts to rule out the potential for a false positive result due to contamination or faulty laboratory work.
According to the statement on Phonak's Web site, "if the result of the B sample analysis confirms the result of the A sample the rider will be dismissed."
Because testosterone is a naturally occurring hormone, WADA has established a legal limit above which supplementation has potentially occurred. This limit is expressed as a ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, known as the T/E ratio. For years, the ratio was six to one, but last year WADA lowered the limit to four to one. Testosterone has been used to aid in recovery, something that is crucial while riding four to six hours a day in a three-week race. The easiest way to administer testosterone is through a patch, similar to one used to provide nicotine for anti-smoking cures.
If Landis's B sample comes back positive, the fallout will be major. Landis's Tour de France title will most likely be stripped and he will face a potential four-year ban from the sport. Now 30, a comeback at age 34 for Landis would be difficult.
Click here to read the complete transcript of Floyd Landis's July 27 news conference addressing his failed drug test.