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What would explain Landis's odd doping tests from the Tour de France?

By Andrew Pollack on 08/07/2006 at 05:14 PM EDT

I've been wondering about this a bit. What kinds of things could make a test like that come up with results which we interpret incorrectly? Set aside the obvious nonstarters, that either he cheated or that the test was flawed or tampered with. They're all more probable than anything else, but make for boring discussion.

One thought I had goes back to some articles I read a few years back about the role of testosterone in decision reinforcement. If I recall correctly, when you make a good decision -- or are convinced it's a good decision -- this hormone tends to increase, while when you're not comfortable with your decisions it tends to decrease. The theory was that this leads to a cycle where those making the best decisions (at least according to themselves and their peer reinforced opinions) end up with higher confidence and leadership that comes from the increase in the hormone, while those making poor decisions or those not supported by their peers end up with lower levels of the hormone and tend to become more docile and less likely to lead (over time and in general of course).

Apply this to Landis for a minute. He comes off the worst day of the race he's had and ends up with a huge rebound. In the one day he makes up for previous errors and really pulls ahead. Could this be not a result of increased testosterone but rather could the increased levels be the result of this exaltation following a perfect event?

Surely some will say that the great performance is more evidence that he'd been doping. Is that really possible? As I recall, no previous or following tests showed unusual levels of these steroids. Do they work that quickly? I had thought the benefits from drugs like this were cumulative and increased performance over time by increasing the result of exercise and work. If that last bit is the case, any correlation between a one time doping incident and such a performance would have to be coincidental.


I'm not a doctor, obviously. These simple conflicting bits of information however do raise more questions about the testing process and the use of these drugs than the news reports seem able to answer at present.


There are  - loading -  comments....

Not a doctor either...By Jan on 08/08/2006 at 06:42 AM EDT
Interesting thought.

Just to add a couple of "facts" from "experts" i've heard commenting on this
subject.

1. The testosterone found in Landis's blood samples where of a synthetic kind
that is not produced naturally in the human body.

2. Testosterone shots are used to help the body restituate much faster after an
extreme fysical performance. In other words, after Landis's body "died" on, i
think it was the 16.stage, it was repaired with testosterone over the night,
letting him emerge the following day as fresh as was it stage one.

This is what i've heard. I have no idea if #1 is true or not
My own thoughts on this are...By Bruce Perry on 08/08/2006 at 12:44 PM EDT
Why is Landis cheating unthinkable? I certainly don't have enough facts to
judge, but how can it be ruled out at this point? The presence of synthetic
testosterone is something that needs explaining.

News reports indicate that though the main use of steroids is in in training,
there's some belief now that they aid in recovery. He might have been
desperate enough to risk it after that one stage where he fell way behind. Or
perhaps a coach gave him something on a "don't ask, don't tell" basis. That
seems to happen out there in the sports world with some frequency.
Oh it's absolutely thinkable -- and most likely -- just not interesting.By Andrew Pollack on 08/08/2006 at 01:07 PM EDT
they should just test all of them every day of the raceBy Ken Yee on 08/08/2006 at 02:18 PM EDT
What's puzzling is Landis tested clean for part of the race and then decided to
try steroids to see if he could get away with it? Just seems out of
character. It doesn't matter if someone slipped some into him w/o him knowing
though...it still costs him the jersey. It's unfortunate too...this was
probably one of the most memorable come-back stories for the TdF, especially w/
his bum hip. If this thing sticks, he might as well just retire after the hip
surgery because he's been tried in the public eye :-P


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