Saturday, July 29, 2006

Tour de France - Epilogue

I know you've heard it all before and pundits from Lemond to Armstrong have weighed in. Yet, I'd feel remiss if I didn't throw my two cents into the mix. I'm not looking to convince you of anything, just pose that there are no clear cut answers here.

First, I don't believe Floyd doped. I don't think he took anything stronger than a beer and a shot of Jack Daniels. He's not that stupid. Its pretty foolish for a cyclist of his stature to be using alcohol during such a big race. In my mind especially with the heat level he had to endure. As well as after having such a bad day, which could at some level have been due to some level of dehydration. The reason for me is the tendency of alcohol to contribute to that dehydration. Alcohol draws the moisture out of your system on contact, starting from your tongue and the saliva in your mouth. It continues on down the system. This dehydration is what gives you the hangover in part. For decades I've known that if you drank alcohol, but followed it with a decent amount of water to replenish the moisture you lost, your hangover was less, if non-existent. Yet, with all the stress of being a top flite racer, maybe he needed the depression or relaxation impact of the minor amount of alcohol. I've never been close to his level, so again, this is just my two sense.

Second, that alcohol can change the hormone level. Regardless of the accusations, Floyd did not test "positive" for high levels of testosterone. He tested positive for a high ratio of testosterone to epistestosterone. Fitness experts point out that the average joe, or guys like me have a nearly one to one ratio. Athletes of the caliber of Floyd, who's heart rate and level of body fat and other contributors to metabolism have a higher ratio of upwards of 4 to 1 "T" to "E". This isn't just because the testosterone isn't higher, its also because the episterstosterone is depressed. If you continue to ask your body to produce the wattage needed to propel it on a bicycle up mountains on a daily basis (or run distance, or weight lift or any one of many strenuous exercise) the body makes more "T" to enable it to continue. It also suppresses the "E" for that to happen.

Here are the things that I don't know, but suspect. When an athlete of Floyd's level has a bad day like stage 16, when he just didn't seem to have it, what happens to the excess calories he ingests? Doesn't it become fuel for that next day? And if a fellow is really motivated, what happens to hormone levels along with? Doesn't it seem that a guy unhappy with his performance, almost angry with himself over his day, might just have higher levels of adrenaline and testosterone? Face it, I'm no endocronologist, but don't we expect the levels of an elite athlete to increase under some circumstances? Isn't that a part of what makes them elite?

If you look at the wattage data that Floyd permitted to be released, they weren't extraordinary for Floyd. For me maybe, but not for him. The stage 16 numbers were rather average by comparison, but the awesome stage 17 numbers were simply on the order of values he'd already produced under other similar conditions. So although he astounded his critics, some of that impression was psychological, they just didn't expect him to come back. His coaches knew better. It has happened before.

Didn't a few other racers in the same race have some awesome days, and not test positive for anything? At least two of the mountain stages were more or less won by individuals on long breaks. They just didn't have the crushing lousy stage the day before. Yet they might have not had a very hard day, they may have hid in the pack and conserved. Although it didn't look that way, it is basically what Floyd did in 16, he didn't kill himself, he let others pass, and he rode at his own pace. Survived for another day.

Enough rambling. Time to wait for the results of the B sample, which I fully expect to be identical. Unless the lab screwed up, and I don't believe that. It is possible, but I doubt it. I hope to look out for some more experts to weigh in. I do know that other ratio type results have been tossed out. In other words this result is not always a guarantee of culpability.


Pete said...

I want Floyd to be innocent too, but the latest news of the testosterone being of exogenous origin has me somewhat doubtful. As you said, the B sample will be the decider.

rigtenzin said...

I'm sorry, I didn't read your entire post. I've got my head in the sand about the Landis situation. I'll come out in a few weeks and see what's going on. But I'll keep checking back for non-Floyd relate posts.