3 Lessons from Floyd Landis' Testosterone Abuse

This fanpost was promoted to the front page by Tim Burke.

Early one Pacific Time Zone morning in 2006 I flipped on stage 17 of that year's Tour de France.  My horse, the gutsy American Floyd Landis had lost over 8 minutes to rivals the day before, dousing all but the faintest ember of hope for a win in that year's race.  Going into stage 17 Landis could theoretically win back enough time in the day's 199 km mountain stage to be back in contention for the yellow jersey, but it was even less probable than a ball team taking the last 4  games to win a 7 game series.

Still, just as you watch game 4 to see your favorite team get swept from the playoffs, I tuned in to that day's race to confirm the inevitable.  As sleep cleared from my eyes and I began to make out the dulcet Liggett/Sherwen play-by-play it became clear that Landis had broken away early in the stage and was making up major chunks of his previous day's utter collapse. 


Floyd Landis' harrowing stage 17 ride was the stuff of sports legend--at least until his labs came in.

For those who only remember the fallout of the doping scandal that followed, what happened that day was the single most moving athletic performance I have ever witnessed. Although I'd only followed cycling for a few years, I was pretty sure I was seeing an effort for the ages;'s race report from that day confirms this:

Without a shadow of a doubt, today will go down as one of the finest stages in modern Tour de France history. Today, a 28 year-old American by the name of Floyd Landis, written off by most after his collapse of yesterday, staged a comeback that defied logic... His stage win was reminiscent of Charly Gaul's 100 km breakaway in the Alps in the 1958 Tour...

This is weighty praise for a UK-edited magazine, especially in the wake of Lance Armstrong's 7 year run of race dominance which had used up cycling's allotted hyperbole for the decade. 

Unfortunately, the miracle we witnessed that day was a sham; this son-of-a-Mennonite's ride did "defy logic".  Although Landis would go on to seal his overall victory over the last three days of the race, the warm fuzzies of this post-Armstrong French domination would soon turn to cold pricklies as news broke that Landis had failed drug tests.

Without delving into the technical aspects of Landis' failed tests, what set this case apart from the common cycling scandals of the day was that Landis' case immediately appeared to revolve around testosterone. 

Testosterone? Like having a hairy back?  What?  Because a 21 day 2000 mile race is by nature 99.9% aerobic, it was the oxygen-enriching blood doping drugs and techniques which had dominated PEDs in cycling in recent decades; preceded by the clunkier steroids and stimulants before that.  That testosterone seemed to be the Hulk Smash elixir of choice for Landis truly seemed to come out of left field.  While several cases of prominent riders abusing testosterone have surfaced since Landis' case, at the time it was quite unique.  I remember poring over forums and articles at the time and there were many more questions than answers.

While I certainly can't offer any answers in particular, the discussion in MMA lately sounds a lot like the cycling discourse of 2006.  I have isolated 3 relevant points that I will frame in the context of Floyd Landis' dud-to-stud (sorry, I had to get all Mike Walker there) 24 hour recovery of 2006.

1. Hiding in Plain Sight  While Landis' blood showed synthetic testosterone which was a dead giveaway for cheating, natural testosterone is already in everyone's blood, so its simple presence in a blood test is not proof of malfeasance as with many other drugs.

While the recent epidemic of  grown mens' balls retroascending is obviously an effort to circumvent the rules, the fact remains: A "drug" that's already present in your blood means all you have to do is beat the curve at the time of testing and you didn't cheat (right?).


Seems reasonable.

2. Dud to Stud (Sorry, Last Time)  Floyd Landis imploded in a huge way the day before his comeback ride, going from race leader to finishing 23rd place on the day (finishing over 10 minutes behind the day's winner) and then gobbling back up huge chunks of  lost time all in a 24 hour period.

Let's compare this unnatural crash and rebound to the weight cut of a modern fighter.  I have personally seen IVs and I've even seen syringes laying around fighters' quarters.  I don't have any idea of what liquid was in either.  I can however tell you that 24 hours to go from emaciated undead to elite smashing machine would be a lot easier if you were fueling up with something more sophisticated than pedialyte and chorizo con huevos.  Is testosterone an overnight miracle drug as Landis' ride would appear to anecdotally suggest?  Which brings me to my final point...


"Who's that muscle-bound man-eater making majorly miraculous overnight recovery?"-Mike Walker [might say that]


3. Pee in a Cup After the Fight  After a stage win (unless the rider is French) top finishers in the Tour de France and other major races are immediately escorted to a trailer to take post-race tests.  Aside from testing athletes midway through an event, wouldn't testing immediately following an event be more convincing that  testing 26 hours before the event takes place?

I recently had the pleasure of fighting for the New Jersey State Athletic Commission.  I had my brain scanned, blood tested, and even got to make wee in a cup before weigh ins--a full 26 hours before my bout.  As excellent as the NJSAC is, there wasn't a single control other than my budget, moral compass, and distaste for needles that kept me from injecting mongoose stem cells into myself upon returning to my room after weigh ins.

If, as I assert by point #2, that testosterone does indeed have effects within a 24 hour period; if they're going to test at all, shouldn't commissions test immediately following events?


A crappy photo of a mobile drug testing van used by the US Anti Doping Agency immediately after pro cycling races.

So, like I said I don't have any real answers, but hopefully there's some insight here that the BE community can bend to its own demented purposes.  


BTW, if you like reading a lot of words and learning about physiological type stuff that you probably learned once but forgot: I wrote this a while ago:

Beyond "Cardio": Expanded Vocabulary for the Modern Game

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Bloody Elbow

You must be a member of Bloody Elbow to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bloody Elbow. You should read them.

Join Bloody Elbow

You must be a member of Bloody Elbow to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bloody Elbow. You should read them.




Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.