July 27, 2006 – CNN Anchor Kyra Phillips interviewed Phil Liggett, sports journalist and commentator on the Outdoor Life Network for the Tour de France, on the news of Floyd Landis failing his drug test. Liggett has covered 34 Tour de France and expressed his shock at news of Landis tested positive for unusual levels of testosterone. Here is the full transcript.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, first it was Lance, now it’s Floyd Landis. So, we ask the question: Can an American, or any cyclist, for that matter, win the Tour de France without a hint of impropriety?
Landis’ racing team announced today that an unusually high level of testosterone was found in a Landis test sample taken during the race.
Phil Liggett, a Tour de France announcer, joins us now live on the phone from London.
Phil, are you surprised?
PHIL LIGGETT, TOUR DE FRANCE ANNOUNCER: I’m very surprised. Shocked is probably a better word, in fact, because we didn’t expect Landis to do this.
He made statements during the tour about riding a clean Tour de France and how good it was for the children. And now he’s apparently come up with unusual levels of testosterone, which can mean one of two things. It’s either a natural thing, which it can well be, and I hope that they are not making a big mistake by telling the press before they’ve had the second test confirm the first, or it’s synthetic, in which case he is cheating.
PHILLIPS: Now, this, of course, happened with Lance Armstrong, and he was completely cleared of this. So…
PHILLIPS: … is it possible that all this is coming out, and maybe the teams spoke a little too soon?
LIGGETT: It is quite possible. He’s not near (ph) the team. The team are put into a corner. Somehow this has leaked out of either the test center or by the world body itself, because normally when you have a first test which is positive, no one knows until the second test confirms the first. And then the announcement is made and the sanctions are given.
Now, the team are forced into a decision, because we had the situation where Landis had just won the race the day after the Tour de France finished in Holland. He was due to ride another one, didn’t turn up. Nobody knew where he was.
The rumor from the organizers, which are unconfirmed, was he had a problem with his — as you know, he has a hip replacement coming. It was painful. That proved to be untrue.
He should have gone to Denmark and raced there last night. He didn’t do so. And then the team suddenly came up with the statement, yes, we’ve been told and we are totally shocked that Floyd has been told he’s got these unnatural levels of testosterone in his system.
PHILLIPS: And, Phil, you mentioned this was a leak. And if I remember correctly, the same thing happened with Lance Armstrong.
I mean, is it common that there are people out there, whether it’s jealousy or ego or money, whatever it is, just looking to somehow brandish the reputation of these cyclists?
LIGGETT: I think this is absolutely true. For example, we’ve only publicized the fact that, in all, 22 riders never got to start the Tour de France in Strasbourg because of this so-called Operation Puerto (ph), where a doctor has admitted treating 200 people, changing their blood, and using the blood booster EPO, et cetera, of which he said 58 are cyclists.
We’ve never heard one of the other athletes named, yet he’s said they are in football, basketball, tennis, et cetera. And now he’s saying, “Half the guys that you threw off the Tour de France, I’ve never heard of in my life.” And, in fact, the calls in Spain this week has said that four riders who were sent home have nothing against their name. They are free to ride again, and they’re not on the list, and they’re not under any drug suspicion.
But those stories, unfortunately, don’t make the press anymore, because this story was the fact they were sent home.
There is a lot of trial by jury in the media and amongst the people, and they don’t wait for the final outcome. And sadly, Floyd Landis, I don’t know whether he’s taken testosterone or not. But I do know the guy, and I would find it very difficult to believe he’s a cheat.
And the way he rode, yes, it was extreme. One day he’s collapsed, he’s losing 10 minutes, he’s an absolute shattered wreck, the next day he’s winning the race by five and three quarter minutes and he looks like Superman. And so it makes me wonder whether that’s possible, but…
PHILLIPS: Well, is that when he failed those tests? Were those tests taken after he had fallen behind and then he started to pick it up? Is that when he failed the test, Phil?
LIGGETT: No, he failed the test because — and this is what’s also strange — you are automatically tested when you win a stage of the Tour de France. And this was the stage he won by six minutes. And he knows he has to go within 30 minutes directly to the testing area and give a urine sample.
That’s the sample they say is positive.
PHILLIPS: OK, interesting. So it happened after the race.
So let me ask you this. He said he had a beer after the race. I mean, is it possible that alcohol can affect testosterone? I mean, obviously, I’m not a doctor. You and I aren’t scientists, right? But, you know…
LIGGETT: Correct. What I understand is that testosterone is made by the body, and the brain tells the body what to make. And he was in a very, very emotional state.
He thought he’d lost the Tour one day. He was in a state of collapse. He no doubt re-hydrated overnight, probably intravenously with glucose, totally legal. Then the next day he comes and does this great performance.
When he crossed the line, he was a very angry young man. I’ve never seen him — he had a face like thunder. He was looking to punch anybody that went to him. And to me, apparently, that is a high testosterone indicator.
PHILLIPS: Now, his mom spoke out. Arlene Landis spoke out, and she said — let’s see the quote — I believe it was coming to us through The Associated Press.
“I didn’t talk to him since that hit the fan, but I’m keeping things even keel until I know what the facts are. I know that this is a temptation to every rider, but I’m not going to jump to conclusions. It disappoints me.”
What do you think of…
LIGGETT: Well, I think that’s a very fair quote from a mom. The fact — the fact is simple. It’s not a difficult test, but what they’ve got to prove is, is this — if it’s normally produced high testosterone levels, which it can be, then the guy’s innocent, because you can’t stop the body doing what it does.
If it’s proved — and again, there’s a test of synthetic introduction of testosterone — if that’s proved, then he’s a cheat.
And they’ve got to make the decision between the two, and they’ve got to be sure they’re right.
PHILLIPS: Phil Liggett, Tour de France announcer, sure appreciate your time. It was an honor to have you, sir.
LIGGETT: My pleasure.