July 27, 2006 — Earlier this evening Floyd Landis and his sports agent held a telephone conference with the media where Landis denied any use of banned substances in an attempt to clear his name and address questions about his elevated testosterone-to-epitesterone levels after his incredible ride on Stage 17 at the Tour de France where he rebounded back into contention for the yellow jersey.
Landis’ personal physician, Dr. Brent Kay, who was in San Diego, was also on the conference call with Landis, who was at an undisclosed location in Europe. They took questions from members of the media after Landis’ opening remarks.
“Hey guys I appreciate the opportunity to say my piece in the middle of this. First I want to say that I do regret a few things, number one that it took so long to get to you guys, but there was so much speculation going on before I had a chance to say anything. I also regret that I can’t be there in person so you can look at me and I can look at you, I’d rather do it that way, but that’s the situation we’ve got right now. All I want to do before I take any questions is ask everyone to take a step back, I don’t know what your position is now and I wouldn’t blame you if it was a bit skeptical because of what cycling has been through in the past and the way other cases have gone. But all I’m asking for, is that I be given the chance to prove that I’m innocent. Cycling has a tradition of trying people in the court of public opinion before they ever get a chance to do anything else. I can’t stop that but I would like to be assumed innocent until proven guilty since that’s the way we do things in America. On top of that I wish I had more time to take every question, we’re going to take a few questions, after this but like I said, I appreciate the time and I hope I can make something good out of it.”
The phone lines were opened for questions”¦
Where do you go from here, when do you look at the B sample? What do you know about your positive – did you get a T/E ratios number? Did they tell you how the sample was tested, just a T/E test or was there a carbon isotope also done?
Landis: A couple of things, I’ll start at the beginning. I asked for the B sample, I would have done it today but the time went like this”¦ I’m still in Europe and I was notified yesterday morning by fax so I had yesterday afternoon to try to figure out a plan to find some help. And today I’ve been trying to find some expert help from people who have been through this before. That was today’s process otherwise I would have asked for the B sample today, so we’ll ask for it tomorrow. As far as the way the test was performed, I don’t know much about how this test works. Unfortunately I’m in the same position as probably everybody listening who don’t know anything about how it works. Hopefully over the next few days we can provide you with some experts who can tell you how this works. But I know now that it’s not being called a positive test, it’s being called an abnormal testosterone-to-epitesterone level which needs to be explained one way or the other – either by some outside source of testosterone or by a physiological change of some sort from something. That’s what we’re trying to figure out now. Where do we go from here? I don’t know exactly, but that’s where we are now.
Did they give you a T/E number?
Again I don’t have that, the fax was sent to the office and I was doing a race in Holland at the time so I was notified that I had an abnormal reading. I assume I will get all the facts sometime soon.
When you got the fax what was your feeling, what was your immediate reaction?
My immediate reaction was to look for the alcohol bottle (laughs), but my secondary reaction was more logical – disaster. It’s hard to put into words. I had everything I could possibly hope for or dreamed of for the last 10 years, and at the exact moment that I was told, every single scenario went thru my head of what was going to happen. There was no way for me to be able to tell myself that this wasn’t going to be a disaster no matter whether I come out of this proving I’m innocent. No matter what happens next, I knew it was going to be a long road. So my immediate reaction was from a very, very high to a very, very low.
Several people have suggested as an explanation that if you drink beer along with cortisone that can somehow cause abnormal testosterone readings. Have you heard that at all?
I’ve heard a lot of things on the subject right now but I’m trying to be careful not to jump to any conclusions. I’d like to hear from experts who know exactly what they’re talking about. There must be an explanation but as to what actually caused it I can’t say.What I need to prove now is that there are variations in my T/E levels that can be out of the ordinary.
Where are you right now, in Europe, in Paris?
Not to be elusive but I can’t say where I am right now. I need to figure out a way to get home and get to an airport and stay anonymous — sorry.
Can you tell us about your thyroid problem and about taking cortisone, I understand you had an exemption from the UCI?
I had exemption otherwise I’d have been positive for cortisone. Two years ago when I first had problems with my hip we did tests and there was a high number of thyroid stimulating hormones — my TSH level was higher than normal but I focused on my hip and ignored it until it came up again last winter when it was established that I had Hashimoto’s disease. I don’t know exactly how it works but the thyroid doesn’t function properly and you take a thyroid pill each day to control it. I don’t know if that has any implication at all.
So you’re saying you did not take any performance-enhancing drugs during the Tour or beforehand and that this is a total mistake.?
I’m saying I have not, and I don’t know what the explanation is – if it’s a mistake or if it’s an occurance from some other circumstances going on in the race or something else I did for it to have happened. I’m saying the explanation is not from an exogenous outside source of testosterone.
Have you ever taken performance-enhancing drugs before?
I’ll say no. The problem I have is that most of the public have an idea that cycling, the way things have gone in the past, will assume I’m guilty before I’ve had a chance to defend myself.
Have you found any experts that can help you. And do think it’ll stay with you even if you do clear your name?
Unfortunately I don’t think it will ever go away. It appears that this a bigger story than winning the Tour. I think there’s a good possibility I can clear my name, that’s my objective now.
After your rough day on Stage 16 did you have an normal I.V. for recovery and did you have anything different that night?
No, at that point I’d decided my chances to win the Tour were very small. Normally I’d go for a massage and get ready for the next stage but the team mood was sombre, we were all down. We skipped all that and went for some beers but there were too many people in the bar so we headed back to the hotel and had some Jack Daniels before going to bed — it was not an ordinary night.
Given all that’s happened, and we’ve all seen it before with other cyclists, how would you like people to react?
You’re right we’re all prone to judge unfairly, myself included, before know the circumstances, so I understand if people are skeptical, that’s why I said what I did before taking any questions. It’s a long process no matter what happens next.
How do you explain your fabulous performance the next day on Stage 17?
There are 20 stages at the Tour and every day you see a fabulous performance — so explain the other 19?
Are you going to be present for the B sample?
I’m not sure, I’m not familiar with the procedure, but somebody has to be present.
What’s been the response of your family?
I spoke with my mom today”¦ anything goes in situations like this but it’s upset me the way my parents have been treated by the press. I can handle anything and I don’t look for sympathy, but my mom’s a saint so I ask to please leave her alone.
What do you say to all of your fans back home?
What I said at the beginning, I’m not looking for sympathy all I’m asking for is what everybody in America is accustomed to — innocent until proven guilty.
If you are stripped of this title what will you do?
I’ve only had 48 hours to deal with this and very little has been spent on thinking about what I’ll do after tomorrow.
Can you tell us more about the thyroid medication you’re taking and if it can affect testosterone levels?
The medicine was prescribed by Dr. Brent Kay and the team was aware of everything to make sure it was not an issue with the UCI.
Dr. Kay: Floyd is diagnosed with hypothyroidism which is very common and treated with thyroid hormone replacement medication which he’s been on for the last couple of years and his levels have been in the normal range. The medication is not banned and is not performance-enhancing in any way. We’re investigating with experts on any connection with testosterone levels and possible scenarios but not speculating yet, especially since the actual testing process is not yet complete. This test has been criticized for years and has a long history of documented problems with inaccuracy. WADA’s (World Anti Doping Association) website says levels can vary significantly between individuals.
Have you ever seen T/E levels or ratios like this before or has the team checked for this?
Dr. Kay: I’ve never checked this ratio nor had any reason to check it — I don’t think it’s really a standard medical test that’s performed.
Landis: I can tell you the Phonak team has not checked for this before ever, it’s not a test they do.