The Tour de France’s Elephant Problem
A great deal of copy has been filled with reports of Floyd Landis and his possible steroid abuse. All the words written about the test results, Floyd’s denial, the conspiracy theory surround the testing center’s anti-American bias, or the dozen other peculiarities of this case completely ignore the giant pink elephant in the room.
That giant pink elephant is a rather simple one; if the results are valid and the accusations are true, then this is about far more than just Floyd Landis and one failed drug test.
The details of this event are far too peculiar to not raise some serious questions. Steroids are not just any performance enhancer. Steroids are not a super-Red Bull. They have specific effects and require specific procedures to work effectively.
Floyd Landis knew that he would be tested. This was not just a random test; this was a required test. He knew the levels at which the test would show positive and he knew the drugs that were to be tested. He knew that if he took that drug at that level that he would surely be caught.
Why exactly would a cyclist risk certain exposure to take a banned substance that would not even have that great of an impact on his immediate performance, if at all?
This is the exact question that many ask with the intentions of clearing his name and bringing doubt on the testing center. This one singular action makes no sense for Landis to have committed. It was high risk and low-to-no reward.
Instead of asking why would he take steroids just once with the realization that he would surely be caught; ask, why would he be caught just once?
Perhaps Landis was on a steroid program. Perhaps he had someone or some method to cover himself. This could involve anything from the whizzinator (not likely, since it was a blood, not urine sample), to having an accomplice who would switch his samples. There are even designer steroids and other performance enhancers that are practically undetectable by modern techniques. This steroid could be just the tip of the iceberg.
If Landis has continually taken steroids and other performance enhancers throughout the tour or even his career, then why has he been caught only this once? Who else is involved? How many other cyclists could be on the same drug regime as Landis, but have not made that one mistake to get caught?
What we do know is that the facts as given make little sense. There must be something more to the story. That speculation can range from conspiracies to frame Landis, to conspiracies to help Landis cheat, and everything in between.
Steroids have already ruined the credibility of many sports. An incident of widespread drug use during the 1998 Tour led to the testing we have today. This current incident of steroid use must again lead to even stricter rules and a full investigation to find out what really happened and just how far this abuse goes.
The integrity of The Tour, Cycling and sports in general is at stake with the continual reliance on performance enhancing substances. It is time to question that giant pink elephant in the corner.