Monday, August 07, 2006

Carbon isotope ratio testing and Cycling

While I have a couple of graduate degrees now, there are certainly aspects of science that are beyond my grasp. The Floyd Landis debacle has exposed by ignorance when it come to chemistry, but I found this post to be somewhat instructive on how Landis' test results tend to prove that he took a banned substance.

I find the conspiracy theories hard to swallow. This lab test is going to be the subject of litigation and if there is any wrong-doing, I'm confident it will be noticed.

I thought this comment was scathing:

Boohoooo it's the french's fault, they hate us, Floyd is innocent, he's not a cheater, we are the best
but very funny |Link|


Jason said...

Nice picture.

The funny thing is that the testosterone could not have produced immediate results like that. Perhaps it was the placebo effect, but he was basically biking with his natural equipment on that day.

Unless he was Gene Doping!

DR said...

jason points to the real puzzle at the core of this thing. It just doesn't make any sense for Landis to have been positive for testosterone that one time, but not in any of the other six tests he took throughout the tour. I think there are four possibilities:

1) We're looking at a false positive (though the B sample test should have addressed that);
2) A mistake was made with the sample (but presumably they test them to make sure that it's really the right biker's urine);
3) Some of the other tests were positive, but the news hasn't come out; or,
4) Landis inadvertantly ingested a banned substance (either through shenanigans or a mistake).

DR said...

Anyway, it's really difficult for me to grok what all the fuss is about. Let's assume that Landis used a banned substance. What hypothesis does this provide evidence for?

Well, if Landis were the only biker to have been caught, then we might think that we had evidence that Landis had gained an unfair advantage over the other competitors. In fact, though, given the state of cycling, it seems to be at least as likely that all of the serious threats to win the tour do some kind of doping. "The results are invalid because everyone cheated" isn't quite analytically false, but it's close enough that the problem here doesn't seem to be competitive balance.

What is it then? People say "the integrity of the sport" but nobody would complain if Landis had won the race after having hip replacement surgery rather than before. So:

artificial hip = no threat to the integrity of the sport
too much testosterone = a threat to the integrity of the sport

I don't get that math.

DR said...

Lastly, for what it's worth I'd bet on some variation of 3 above.

(and I'd count "jason and Z don't really understand the meaning of the test result" as a variation)

Safety Neal said...

I admit the whole thing is rather puzzling. And you guys haven't even mentioned the discussion of why is an elite athlete going on a bender in the middle of a grueling road race?

I agree with both of your points about the internal inconsistency of the testing regime. Genetic and surgical enhancements are ok but chemical enhancments are beyond the pale.

I think Z's suggestion that someone may have dosed Landis' whiskey with something to make him fail the urine test is a reasonable one.