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Exclusive: CNN’s Larry King Live – Interview with Floyd Landis

July 28, 2006 – LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Last Sunday American Floyd Landis won cycling’s biggest race, the Tour de France. He did it after one of the most dramatic comebacks in the history of the event but a doping test which showed an abnormality has cast a major doubt over the victory and today in his first public appearance since the controversy broke, Landis proclaimed his innocence and he joins me now from Madrid.

Was all this, Floyd, a shock to you?

FLOYD LANDIS, BICYCLIST: Good evening, Larry, and yes, it was a shock as much to me as to anyone else.

KING: Now, tell me about the testing process. Do they test you right — when does the test take place?

LANDIS: The way it works is they test three people each day. They test the winner of each stage, they test the leader of the race and then they test a random person in the race.

All of these take place directly at the finish line. It turns out the leader of the race often has things to do at the podium and awards but immediately after that, but within a half an hour, I would say, maximum.

KING: Have you ever had a problem like this in your career?

LANDIS: No. This is the first I’ve had to go through this.

KING: Your defense is that there were naturally high levels of testosterone in the test. What can cause that?

LANDIS: Well, I don’t know. That’s why I have some experts helping me out to try to understand what’s going on here. What this test shows is an abnormal ratio of two naturally occurring substances. It’s not a positive test in the same criteria of finding something exogenous in the body.

That’s all I know. I have a lot of very intelligent, experienced people helping with this and hopefully some of them are here tonight to help you understand that.

KING: Why did they suspend you?

LANDIS: I’m sorry. They, referring to “¦

KING: The body that polices the sport.

LANDIS: Ah, currently I have not been suspended. I am waiting now a requested B sample test. They take a test at the finish line and they split it in two so that the second test, in the event of abnormality, can be performed under the witness of the person who is being tested or a person who has the right to witness it on their behalf.

So the B sample will come back and in the event that that is positive we’ll go through some more tests for the testosterone ratio to try to show exactly what’s causing this.

As far as when the suspension actually occurs, I cannot say, I have not been suspended before “¦

KING: I’m told it’s your team that has suspended you. Is that correct?

LANDIS: My team has asked me not to race in the meantime until this has been resolved.

KING: What does testosterone do in the body that makes someone a better racer?

LANDIS: Well, that’s a good question that you’ll have to ask for the doctors. If they’re here this moment I think they can better answer that.

KING: So you have not been told what effect testosterone has pro or con in terms of someone being a good racer?

LANDIS: No — you know, contrary to what may be the perception of the public, I along with the majority of bicycle racers are not experts on what possible doping products could do to make you a better bicycle racers.

In the last two days since this transpired I have done my best to learn as much as possible but I’ve been overwhelmed more by the personal things, dealing with people like my mother, for example, who now has to go through something she never deserved to go through.

So a lot of my energy is put into the emotional side of it. Hopefully in the next few days I can learn a lot more about what may be the reason for this being a problem.

KING: Do you think part of it might be the fact that the comeback was so amazing that people didn’t believe it was possible?

LANDIS: I think that part of it hurt my argument. Again, I was tested six time before that and two times afterwards. All of them — I don’t receive the results when they’re negative so I don’t know exactly what the numbers were but all of them were within normal ranges.

But yeah, I think the performance which, by the way, I am very proud of, probably makes it more suspicious.

KING: Did you think you could come back?

LANDIS: You know, when I started that stage, in the morning, I had spent a little time with a couple of the teammates of mine talking about what the possibilities were and we thought the way we raced the race and the way you saw now was our plan. We didn’t know if it was probable to come back. I was pretty sure if I did what I did, that I would win the stage but an eight minute deficit was almost insurmountable and we didn’t have any misconception that that was not done before but we were out to try, certainly.

KING: What did it?

LANDIS: What did it was heart and determination and 15 years of hard work and it was my dream and when you get to that point where you’re inspired and you’re somewhere you always dreamt you’d be and nothing else matters, you can push yourself to limits and push yourself through the Tour.

KING: Now, there had been, I think, the night before the 17th stage, I think this is admitted, that you had done some drinking. Is that true and if so, what effect did it have?

LANDIS: There was some speculation earlier that it may have some effect, I don’t know. I had a very bad day if you were watching, on that stage and I can say that it was one of the worst days of my life because until that point I was very confident that I could win that Tour. That day everything went wrong. I was dehydrated at the end and I felt miserable and when I got to finish I did what a normal person would do on an ordinary bad day and had a beer and a little bit of Jack Daniels and felt much better, relaxed, and laughed with my teammates and then got some sleep.

KING: Floyd, I know that there have been some problems. You had a very bad hip. There is a thyroid condition. Were there medications you were and are taking?

LANDIS: I take currently medications for the thyroid problem. For the hip, like I told the world before, I had had a cortisone injection spread out over three weeks to try to reduce inflammation and the arthritis pain in the right hip.

Again, those two things, both of which are accepted, the cortisone has to have an exemption but I have a legitimate reason for using it. The thyroid is not a performance-enhancing drug. It’s not a banned drug, it doesn’t require an exemption. Both of which I don’t know if they have any effect whatsoever on what happened here.

KING: Are you going to continue in this sport?

LANDIS: I’d love to continue in this sport. It’s been my passion and my dream and it’s a beautiful sport and I think the people who are watching, even if they’re not cyclists themselves were caught in the moment and I think it was something special to watch. It certainly was something special to be part of.

I would love to keep racing and I’m going to do my best to defend my dignity and my innocence.

KING: Former winner Greg LeMond said, “I really believe Floyd is clean. You will always find riders who transgress the laws. I really believe Floyd is not among them.”

Is there, to your knowledge, a lot of this going on in your sport?

LANDIS: Well, the people watching, you see that there are often doping scandals in our sport. It seems to me, probably because I am in the sport, more than other sports. I don’t know what the outside perception is, but I’m guessing it’s the same.

This is always the first I’ve heard of it, whenever it comes to the press so whatever you guys see is what I know and it feels to me like there’s more problems than there should be but the good thing is that the people in this sport that made mistakes aren’t ignored. They’re publicized and they’re punished for it.

KING: Now there is — what about the second test. Are you taking them yet or awaiting results or what?

LANDIS: The protocol, the way it works is after the A sample is — I am notified of the abnormality I have five days to request a B sample test. I am not waiting for any particular reason. I just spent the last two days trying to come up with a plan and organize things in my life. Excuse me, Larry.

But this evening, here, United States time, the fact (ph) needs to be sent to Colorado Springs, to the federation there. We will be requesting the B sample be tested.

KING: We’ll take a break. We’ll be right back with Floyd Landis and lots more to go on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don’t go away.


KING: Floyd Landis is with us. The cyclist, winner of the Tour de France, now fighting doping allegations. He is in Madrid, Spain.

Joining us now here in Los Angeles is Dr. Brent Kay. He is Floyd Landis’ personal physician. He is a board specialist in both sports and internal medicine. What do you make of this, doctor?

DR. BRENT KAY, FLOYD LANDIS’ PHYSICIAN: Well, the last 24 hours have been pretty crazy and it’s almost bordered on hysteria and my position from the beginning is that the testing process is just that, it’s a process and it’s not complete and I think Floyd is entitled to that process “¦

KING: You mean this is just a phase of it?

KAY: Yeah. And he has the opportunity now to have the B test performed and that will complete the testing process.

KING: Could the B contradict the A?

KAY: Oh, definitely. If the B sample comes back negative, it’s a done deal. There’s nothing here.

KING: And then what would the assessment be of the A if the B comes back negative. In other words, would you say the A is wrong?

KAY: Yeah. Exactly. In medicine it would be what’s referred to as a false positive. Just like if you go to your doctor, you get a blood test, something is abnormal “¦

KING: (inaudible)

KAY: Yeah, you would — typically your doctor would send you to go get another one, go get a repeat to see if in fact it was a real abnormality.

KING: How do you explain the high level of testosterone?

KAY: Well, I think that’s been one of the problems is that he does not have a high level of testosterone. That’s not been documented “¦

KING: Well “¦

KAY: He has a high ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone in his urine.

KING: Meaning?

KAY: Which could be due to an elevated testosterone level. It could be due to a lower epitestosterone level. And it could be due to a variety of other factors with handling and specimen contamination and various other things.

KING: I asked Floyd this. He said it’s better answered by you.

What does testosterone do for a race driver?

KAY: For a cyclist it would be my opinion that it would make it worse.

KING: Worse?

KAY: I think that’s the crazy thing here. I think everybody really needs to take a step back and look at what we’re talking about. Because testosterone is a bodybuilding steroid that builds mass. It builds mass over long term use of weeks, months and even years and it’s crazy to think that a Tour de France professional cyclist would be using testosterone, particularly in the middle of a race.

It’s a joke. Every sports medicine expert, physician, trainer, scientist that I’ve talked to in the last day, really, same opinion, no way, this is a joke.

KING: Floyd, since it’s happened to others, Lance Armstrong in particular, do you have any thoughts this might be an anti-American thing?

LANDIS: You know, I have to be careful not to speculate on that because I don’t have any concrete evidence. This is circumstantial and I have met plenty of wonderful people in every country I’ve gone to so I’m cautious about saying things like that.

KING: Can alcohol raise — he took some alcohol near the end. Can that raise testosterone?

KAY: Well, I think that’s been kind of a bit of a joke that people have been talking about but there are in fact a number of studies that show that alcohol definitely can have an effect and there’s one study that shows it can actually triple the level but we’re not speculating that that was the cause but certainly there is documentation in the scientific literature.

KING: Could any of his medications, and you would know them, have affected that first test?

KAY: I wouldn’t have anticipated any to do so. We’ve talked to a number of experts who have voiced the same opinion and certainly his thyroid medication, he’s been on that for a while. It’s been stable and I wouldn’t anticipate that would have any effect on it.

KING: Floyd, you have a bad hip, right? I understand you in fact might even get a hip replacement. If true, how are you able to continue racing?

LANDIS: Before this happened it was a full schedule of things to do about this but I’m a guy who doesn’t turn down a challenge and I am willing to fight this fight, first of all, for my dignity and to show everybody that I am innocent and on top of that I love to race my bike and the hip thing was an unfortunate incident and it turned into something worse.

But hey, we all have our battles to fight in life and you take what you get and you make the best of it.

KING: Doesn’t it hurt while you’re racing?

LANDIS: The racing time is usually the best because the racing consumes my attention and there’s adrenaline and there’s excitement so the pain is still there but it’s not noticeable.

The pain is more of an arthritis pain that’s worse in the evening usually and ache and pains from using it too much. It doesn’t affect the outcome of the race in any way.

KING: He’s very strong, isn’t he, doctor?

KAY: Oh, definitely.

KING: Is that the plus in this? With regard to the hip and — that he continued racing like this?

KAY: Yeah, definitely his high level of fitness, but like he said, cycling, it’s not really a weight bearing type of activity, so not a lot of pressure on the hip, a lot of motion, but he tolerated that relatively way. I think Floyd’s bigger problems come with everyday living, sleeping and constant chronic pain.

KING: What will it be like when he gets a new hip?

KAY: I think it’s going to be great and that’s our big thing, that’s what’s next in line and I think he’s going to come through that great. We have some exciting new prostheses that are out there and I anticipate a full return.

KING: We have some e-mails from our Web site at cnn.com/larryking. Let’s get to a few and then more in a couple minutes.

Guy in San Luis Obispo, California. He says, “Floyd, is it correct to say that since you have been riding bicycles professionally, you have never used a banned substance?”

LANDIS: Absolutely. That is correct.

KING: Since that simply put, if correct, Dr. Kay, how could he even get in a jam like this? How could there even be a false positive?

KAY: Well, I think the initial thing that we have to see the B sample. That’s the complete the testing process. That’s the standard medical testing process. There is a long list of potential problems with this test. This is the original test that was designed and put into place 25 years ago and has not really been significantly altered during that time period.

KING: Frankly, should it have been made clearer that this is a two phase test and did we, the collective we, overreact to the first phase?

KAY: Oh, for sure.

The rules are that the rider is notified of an adverse analytical finding when there is an abnormality and then is able to have the B test confirmed. It’s a standard thing in medicine. And it should remain private but in this case I think it got out right after the Tour de France and there wasn’t any hiding at that point.

KING: We’ll be right back with Floyd Landis, this year’s winner, and Dr. Brent Kay, his physician. Don’t go away.



LANCE ARMSTRONG, CYCLIST: It’s always going to be a case of did he or didn’t he but it’s always been a case of did he or didn’t he. I mean, this is not the first time someone has come along and said, Ah, he’s doped, ah, he rode too fast, ah, his story is too miraculous. No way, he’s doped. This has been going on for seven years and I suspect it will continue and I thought you know what? I retire and I move on in life and perhaps this stuff will fade away and boom, this comes along so no, this is not the first or last time.


KING: That was Lance Armstrong on this program last August. Floyd, what do you make of what he had to say there talking about himself?

LANDIS: I spent three years of my life with Lance and those three years were some of the best years of my career. I watched him win the Tour. We spent a lot of time together training. Everybody knows we had our little differences the following year but we’re back to being friends again and I saw what he went through and I didn’t feel it because I hadn’t went through it myself and now I can relate. I see what the guy really had to deal with.

KING: We have another e-mail from Kim in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “Can you release or authorize the release of the actual document showing the test results, not only after stage 17 but others from the Tour and from before and after the Tour?”

Floyd, could you authorize that?

LANDIS: I don’t know if I can because I don’t the other tests — in my possession I don’t have the actual test in which I was accused of having an abnormal reading. The team has a copy, I could get it.

The other tests we’re in the process of trying to acquire. Ordinarily we don’t receive any kind of correspondence from the testers unless there is a problem so I have never in my life received any kind of results from the tests.

KING: But Dr. Kay, would you have any problem releasing anything?

KAY: No, I think we’d all like to see it and if you back with this test, what you’re really looking to see is this ratio like the old East German numbers, 100 to one, the bodybuilders, or is it five to one or 10 to one. The ECR, the World Antidoping Agency, I should say, has lowered this limit over the last few years from 10 to six to four and that’s just the inherent problem with the test.

On the front page of the technical document on the World Antidoping Association Web site, to paraphrase, they basically said this is a poor test and has problems with inaccuracy.

KING: Nicholas in Medford, New Jersey, an e-mail. “During past race day drug testing, has Floyd exhibited a pattern of normal but high testosterone levels? If not, what physiological explanation can account for the spike?” Doctor?

KAY: Well, Floyd has been tested countless times. I think we talked about maybe 20 this year alone and all you are given after those tests are the negative results. He is normal. He has been normal on all the tests so he’s never received the documentation of the actual laboratory values. You’re not entitled to them.

KING: Should you be?

KAY: So we’ve had those questions over and over. It would be nice to see them now but I think that’s their position.

KING: Katie in Sayreville, New York, Floyd. “What’s the opinion of your Mennonite parents about you being in the public eye and do you enjoy the attention?

LANDIS: Sweet of her to ask because those are some of the dearest people to my heart and yesterday I had to deal with a situation where there was a lot of press at my mother’s house and it hurt me a lot because she lives a simple life, my father, that’s the way they want to live and it makes them happy and they don’t deserve to deal with this.

It wasn’t my doing that brought this on them but it was an incidental thing due to what happened to me that brings them into it and I had a bit of an emotional conversation with my mom because I felt awful about the situation.

As far as me enjoying the attention? I could take it or leave it but I certainly don’t mind it.

KING: You feel sorry for your parents?

LANDIS: No, I’m OK. I felt much better after speaking with my mom, because she’s tough, too. Both of them are tough and they can handle it but I think I felt worse just because of me, because I felt like they had to answer questions that they didn’t know how to answer and they should never have been brought into this in the first place and I blame the press more. It was partly my fault for not being available to talk but I was trying to collect my thoughts and so they went to the first people they can think of and so they went to my parents and yeah, I felt bad but they’ll be OK.

KING: I don’t know every aspect of the Mennonite faith, but do they have television? Do they watch you win?

LANDIS: They don’t have a television. I grew up without a television or radio other than the tape player. We had gospel songs and that kind of thing. But they watched the race. They went to some friend’s house down the street, the neighbors each day and they got to see it.

KING: Doctor, tell me about Floyd, the patient and the man?

KAY: Well, Floyd is about as tough as they come. Having ridden a bike with him on a fairly regular basis in the last four years. I’ve seen that first hand. I’ve seen his training data. I’ve seen how hard he works. His training is legendary in the cycling area. This performance he had this big Stage de Morzine (ph) was not unexpected. He has training data that compares to what he did that day and the big thing with that performance today is that he is the only one that would do that on the first hill, the first of five hills, and you watched the other leaders there with him, they had the opportunity, perfectly capable of going and they said no.

But I think Floyd’s big thing is he’s honest, hardworking, a lot of integrity and “¦

KING: Is he the best cyclist in the world today?

KAY: Oh, without a doubt.

KING: Thank you, Floyd. We’ll be keeping close tabs on this.

LANDIS: Thank you both, Brent and Larry.

KING: Thank you. Floyd Landis, the winner of the Tour de France and Dr. Brent Kay, his personal physician.

By the way, Sheryl Crowe will be our special guest on Monday night on LARRY KING LIVE and when we come back, Rusty Yates, what a story. Don’t go away.

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