Earlier versions of this story incorrectly said that a Floyd Landis spokesman confirmed synthetic testosterone was found in Landis's urine. The spokesman confirmed only that a carbon-isotope test, which is often used to detect synthetic testosterone, was performed. This version has been corrected.
Landis's Second Positive Test Is Latest Incident in Doping 'Epidemic'
Sunday, August 6, 2006; 9:46 AM
Two weeks ago, Floyd Landis was cycling's newest star, hailed by the Tour de France as "a Leader for a New Generation." Yesterday morning, his Tour triumph continued a slide both familiar and troubling to U.S. athletic officials: one more achievement tainted by the specter of doping.
In May, American sprinter Justin Gatlin equaled the world record in the 100 meters; last month, he revealed he had tested positive for testosterone. Later that month, Barry Bonds passed Babe Ruth to move into second place on baseball's career home run list; the event was widely ignored by baseball officials wary of Bonds's involvement in a steroid investigation.
Landis celebrated for three days before learning he had tested positive for suspicious levels of testosterone. Yesterday's second test result also was positive, meaning Landis could be the first cyclist to forfeit a Tour title because of doping. He maintains his innocence, and prolonged legal wrangling is expected.
The run of bad news across athletic disciplines last week prompted U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman and former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth to call athletic doping "an epidemic in this country" and USOC CEO Jim Scherr to emphasize the importance of fielding a drug-free team in the 2008 Summer Olympics.
"We're dedicated to that proposition, and if it means we win zero medals, that's fine," Scherr said. Doping "is cheating. It's cheating the American public, it's cheating the other athletes and it's cheating the world out of the legitimacy of sport."
This summer's scandals also have included less prominent names. Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher Jason Grimsley admitted to federal agents that he used human growth hormone, a performance enhancer for which baseball does not test. On Friday, American chemist Patrick Arnold was sentenced to three months in prison after pleading guilty to distributing a designer drug used by athletes, a steroid that was only detected after a coach sent a syringe of the drug to authorities.
"It's established beyond the need for attribution: There is a huge loophole in drug testing, and there has been a pandemic of doping at elite athletic levels," said Charles Yesalis, an endocrinologist and professor emeritus at Penn State University. "There's not a few bad apples in the barrel; there's only a few good apples in the barrel in many sports."
After the latest incidents, Ueberroth declared a "national call to action, in capital letters," asking for more research and educational support from the federal government and other athletic organizations.
"If we stand still, we run the very [real] risk of losing an entire generation of sports participants and of sports fans," Ueberroth said in a conference call with reporters. "The federal authorities and the elected officials have . . . chosen to participate in hearings and being on television and those kinds of things; it's now time to help join us in finding solutions."
Allegations of drug use in baseball prompted the 2005 hearings before the House Government Reform Committee, in which several baseball icons dodged congressional questioning. Former Senate majority leader George J. Mitchell continues to investigate steroid use in baseball, an effort that was launched by Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig in March.
Two months later, Gatlin equaled the world 100-meter record, earning the traditional title of "World's Fastest Man." After the revelation of his positive test, Gatlin's coach, Trevor Graham, was barred from using USOC training facilities.
Against that backdrop, yesterday's developments in the Landis case felt oddly familiar. As expected, the Swiss-based International Cycling Union (UCI) announced that the second, "B" sample of Landis's urine showed an abnormally high ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, just as the first sample had nearly two weeks ago. That finding will be sent to USA Cycling, which will then refer the case to the U.S. Anti-Doping Association.