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Report: Tour de France Winner Failed Drug Test


This is DAY TO DAY, I'm Alex Chadwick.


And I'm Noah Adams.

In a few minutes, wading in the water along the Gulf Coast for flounder and for stories.

CHADWICK: First, just days after his dazzling triumph in the Tour de France bicycle race, there are reports Floyd Landis has tested positive for high levels of testosterone, this according to announcement by his Swiss corporate sponsor Phonak.

Andrew Hood is the European correspondent for VeloNews Cycling Magazine. Andrew, welcome back to DAY TO DAY. And what about this news so far? Do you know what high levels of testosterone? What does that mean?

Mr. ANDREW HOOD reporting:

Well, we're not quite sure exactly what this test indicates. Actually the team revealed that it's unusual levels of testosterone, not high. There seems to be an imbalance between what's called the TE ratio, and that's a way of measuring the levels of testosterone and naturally produced testosterone everyone has in their bodies.

Evidently, Stage 17, when Floyd was in the heroic attack across the alps to kind of position himself back into the race to win, a routine kind of post stage test revealed that these levels were inconsistent with what they normally should be.

CHADWICK: The officials there took a urine sample, and it's that urine sample after that stage. Now let's go back and look at what had happened. This is last week. On Wednesday of last week, Floyd Landis, who was leading the race at that point, I think, had a very bad day. He fell eight minutes behind the leader, and people thought he was just out of it.

And then the following day, Thursday, the Stage 17, he staged this heroic, extraordinary comeback.

Mr. HOOD: That's correct. He had what's a bonk, on the last climb to La Toussuire, at the hardest stage of the mountains in the Alps last weekend, in Stage 16. And he lost, like you said, he just plummeted out of contention. He wearing the yellow jersey. One of the worst bonks really in tour history for a rider in the yellow jersey. People just wrote him off. They said he needs a miracle to come back to win this tour, because he had one hard mountain stage left the very next day. And no one expected any rider to be able to make up that much time in one stage.

But that's just what he did, he went on this solo attack, kind of taking from a page from the old tours of Eddie Mercks(ph) and Bernard Huneau(ph), just buried himself into the pedals and pulled within 30 seconds of the Myerjean(ph), and then he made that difference up in Saturdays tetra and rolled in Sunday into Paris in the Champs Elysees with the yellow jersey, and the eighth straight American victory.

CHADWICK: Well, people said it was just an incredible comeback. Incredible, unbelievable. What do you think?

Mr. HOOD: Well, that is the question now, isn't it. I mean a lot of people are ready after what he did last week, there were some cynics kind of rolling their eyes, because we can't be naïve in this sport of cycling. We've seen one kind of doping disaster after another the last decade.

CHADWICK: And the beginning of this race, many of the top contenders out for doping reasons.

Mr. HOOD: That's correct as well. We had Jan Ullrich, the 1997 champion, Elon Boso(ph) and a total of nine riders were eliminated from the start because of allegations with a blood doping ring in Spain.

CHADWICK: Now Floyd Landis suffers notably from a very serious hip injury. He may have hip replacement surgery in the next couple of months. He was getting cortisone injections to treat that. Could that possibly emerge as a testosterone results?

Mr. HOOD: Could be. There is some speculation he may not be properly metabolizing his testosterone. That could be related to the cortisone shots he was taking. His team doctor said he stopped taking those several weeks before the tour, because he said they weren't really working effectively to reduce this grinding pain. But that could be why there is this imbalance in these TE indicators, this ratio.

CHADWICK: I read a comment on the news wires from Floyd Landis' mother, saying, look, he was taking pain medication to help him with his hip, but if it's anything else beyond that, then he doesn't deserve to win. That's his mom.

Mr. HOOD: Hmm, that's interesting. Well, does come from a Minnite background and they are quite (unintelligible) strict in terms of following the rules. So I guess that doesn't really come as a surprise. I tell you what though, if this is the case, it's going to be a punch to the gut, so to speak, to American cycling if the yellow jersey is found out to be tested positive and is eliminated from the race.

CHADWICK: Andrew Hood, European correspondent for VeloNews magazine. Andrew, thank you.

Mr. HOOD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.