Tour de France champion Floyd Landis' results on a urine test
that spots elevated levels of performance-enhancing testosterone
are a mystery and "don't add up," a leading doping expert said
Landis' team revealed Thursday that his urine sample last week
showed "an unusual level of testosterone/epitestosterone."
Testosterone creams, pills and injections can build muscle and
strength and improve recovery time after exertion when used over a
period of several weeks, according to Dr. Gary Wadler, a member of
the World Anti-Doping Agency and a spokesman for the American
College of Sports Medicine.
But if Landis had been a user, earlier urine tests during the
Tour would have been affected, too, Wadler said. Landis' first
reported abnormal result was last Thursday, after his amazing
come-from-behind performance in stage 17 of the race.
One-time use of steroids could result in an abnormal test, but
it would have no effect on performance and could not account for
Landis' astounding feat Thursday, "so something's missing here,"
Wadler said. "It just doesn't add up."
The test detects both testosterone and a related steroid called
epitestosterone, which is not performance-enhancing. Both are
produced by the body and are also made in synthetic form.
The usual ratio for both substances is about 1:1 or 2:1, Wadler
Suspicions for improper steroid use arise when the ratio climbs
above 4 parts testosterone over 1 part epitestosterone, Wadler
said. Officials have not said what ratio Landis' test showed.
Athletes who use performance-enhancing anabolic steroids often
also take synthetic epitestosterone to equalize the ratio, said
Charles Yesalis, a recently retired Pennsylvania State University
professor and doping expert.
There is no medical use for synthetic epitestosterone; it is
used "to cheat drug tests," Yesalis said.
Some men have naturally occurring high levels of testosterone
and/or epitestosterone, but there is a sophisticated lab test
called a carbon isotope ratio test that is often used to detect
Alcohol can influence testosterone-epitestosterone levels, but
more often in women than in men and it would be unlikely to have a
huge effect, Wadler said.
Landis said in an interview during the Tour de France that he
has had injections of cortisone, a medically used steroid drug to
treat pain from a degenerating arthritic hip, but doctors said that
would not affect his test results.
Corticosteroids "have zero impact" on the
testosterone-epitestosterone test, Wadler said.
The typical procedure for urine-testing of athletes involves
taking two samples at the same time and bottling them separately.
The "A" sample is tested first, and if it is normal the "B"
sample is discarded. If the "A" sample shows elevated
testosterone levels, the "B" sample is tested, and its results
are used to confirm use of a banned substance, Wadler said.
The same "B" sample is also often subjected to the carbon
isotope test, said Dr. Don Catlin, director of a World Anti-Doping
Association-accredited Olympic lab at UCLA.
Landis' Phonak team suspended him pending results of the backup