ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
A stunning announcement today from the world of cycling. There's suspicion of doping surrounding American Floyd Landis just days after he won the prestigious Tour de France. He denies that he cheated. Landis's cycling team, Phonak, said today that a test indicates Landis may have had high levels of testosterone in his sytem.
The test followed Landis's memorable win last week in a grueling stage in the Alps. If a back up sample confirms the positive test, Landis could be the first rider in the history of the race stripped of his title for a doping offence. Landis spoke to reporters via teleconference late today. He says he wants his chance to be proven innocent.
Mr. FLOYD LANDIS (Professional cyclist): Cycling has a traditional way of trying people in the court of public opinion before they ever get a chance to do anything else and I can't stop that. But I would like to be assumed innocent until proven guilty, since that's the way we do things in America.
NORRIS: We're joined now by NPR's Tom Goldman. Tom, what's going on with all this?
TOM GOLDMAN reporting:
Well, Michele, earlier in the day you saw lots of stories about doping, about positive tests for high levels of testosterone, a steroid that can boost athletic performance. But now we're finding that the science of this is a lot more complex. All we know for sure is that Landis had an abnormal result from the test of the testosterone/epitestosterone ratio. Now that's a urine test that measures the ratio of those two steroids, and they're both naturally occurring, produced in the body, and they can also be made in a lab.
Now there's a normal ratio range for those two and in this case, it was skewed. But that doesn't mean it was a high testosterone level. It could be a normal testosterone level and low epitestosterone level. We're talking again about a ratio.
So before there's any substantive talk about doping, the science has to be sorted out. And Landis today said he's gathering experts and information.
NORRIS: But if his sample does come back with the same reading, that second sample, it means that he's failed this test and stands to lose his title, is that correct?
GOLDMAN: That's absolutely correct, yeah. So it will still be registered as a positive infraction. And, you know, that's then when the matter goes to the higher courts and it gets debated by scientists and lawyers.
Landis was asked today in the teleconference you mentioned what his chances are for being exonerated.
Mr. LANDIS: I think there's a good possibility I can clear my name. That's what I want to do. That's my objective now. But regardless of whether that happens or not, I don't know if this will ever really go away.
NORRIS: So Tom, what happens next? When will we expect the results of that second test?
GOLDMAN: Well, in the next couple of days, as you say, the B sample, the back up sample, gets tested. And if it's positive, he will then fight this and the fight probably will go all the way to the highest sports court in the world, the court of arbitration for sport.
Sadly for him, there will always be this taint, though, even if he's exonerated. He noted today in that teleconference that there were more reporters interested in today's story than his Tour victory.
NORRIS: What are the people in cycling saying about all this?
GOLDMAN: Well, you know, people are withholding final judgment, of course. But many are saying just the mention of all this is disastrous considering the cloud of doping suspicion that hangs over cycling. This tour started with a scandal, if you remember. Some of the top riders were suspended at the very beginning. And Floyd Landis's really gritty performance helped people forget about that.
Unfortunately, what happened today is reminding people of that cloud.
NORRIS: Thank you, Tom.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
NORRIS: That was NPR's Tom Goldman.
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