Dr. Don Catlin Responds to SI Article on Lance Armstrong

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A prominent doctor responsible for anti-doping tests has responded to Sports Illustrated's January 24th article on Lance Armstrong. The article details tests Dr. Don Catlin performed in the 90s on urine samples from a cyclist an unidentified source says was Lance Armstrong. The article mentions the following request for test results from USA Cycling to Catlin.

In May 1999, USA Cycling sent a formal request to Catlin for past test results—specifically, testosterone-epitestosterone ratios—for a cyclist identified only by his drug-testing code numbers. A source with knowledge of the request says that the cyclist was Lance Armstrong. In a letter dated June 4, 1999, Catlin responded that the lab couldn't recover a total of five of the cyclist's test results from 1990, 1992 and 1993, adding, “The likelihood that we will be able to recover these old files is low.” The letter went on to detail the cyclist's testosterone-epitestosterone results from 1991 to 1998, with one missing season: 1997, the only year during that span in which Armstrong didn't compete. Three results stand out: a 9.0-to-1 ratio from a sample collected on June 23, 1993; a 7.6-to-1 from July 7, 1994; and a 6.5-to-1 from June 4, 1996. Most people have a ratio of 1-to-1. Prior to 2005, any ratio above 6.0-to-1 was considered abnormally high and evidence of doping; in 2005 that ratio was lowered to 4.0-to-1. 

But the high ratios had not led to sanctions. In his letter Catlin did not address the 6.5-to-1 result, but he wrote that he had attempted confirmation (a required step) on the 9.0-to-1 and 7.6-to-1 samples, and “in both cases the confirmation was unsuccessful and the samples were reported negative.

Below is the intro to Catlin's letter from the Anti-Doping Research web site:

Dr. Catlin, a widely respected pioneer in the field of anti-doping in sport, wishes to set the record straight.  In the detailed statement that follows, he demonstrates his respect for the truth as he knows it as well as his commitment to transparency.

As he states, he was not aware that the A samples allegedly testing high for testosterone in 1993, 1994 and 1996 were Lance Armstrong’s, if, in fact, that is the case.  We have seen no evidence to suggest that it is.

Sports drug-testing laboratories are required to use codes, not names, for samples to protect all parties and the sanctity of the process.  Dr. Catlin and his team followed those rules during his tenure as director of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Lab.

Further, during the years in question, Dr. Catlin and the world at large did not even know who Lance Armstrong was.  Mr. Armstrong had not yet established himself as a champion cyclist and Tour de France winner.

We find that the elements of Ms. Roberts and Mr. Epstein’s story that involve Dr. Catlin lack credibility.  The reporters have delivered a story that misrepresents the truth.

To read the full letter from Dr. Catlin, go to

To read the full report from David Epstein and Selena Roberts, check out Sports Illustrated. A detailed explanation of the numbers and tests from the mid-90s appears on pages 2 and 3.

For more on Dr. Catlin, read The Awful Truth About Drugs in Sports.

For more on federal agent Jeff Novitzky, the federal agent investigating Armstrong, go to the article Big Fish.

For more on Lance Armstrong, check out our archives.

What do you think about the article and Dr. Catlin's response to it?

–Joe Spring

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