- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Is the Vanishing Twin Defense less credible than Landis's initial explanation, the Whiskey Defense? You decide. Alcohol use shortly before major exertion can cause a spike in testosterone. Landis said, in his first teleconference, that he downed some beer and passed around a bottle of Jack Daniels with some of the Phonak guys after stage 16, the better to take the edge off that day's meltdown, which cost Landis eight minutes, dragging him from first place to 11th.
And that, we were left to surmise, is what got the testosterone flowing the next day. This is not so far afield of the Beer and Sex Defense put forth by U.S. gold-medal-winning sprinter Dennis Mitchell. When he, like Landis, was found to have an unusually high T/E ratio, Mitchell explained that he had drunk a lot of beer and had sex multiple times with his wife on the eve of the test. He was banned for two years in 1998.
Lance Armstrong, who weathered various doping allegations--none ever proved--while winning the previous seven Tours, repeatedly stated last week that he will withhold judgment on his fellow American until the results of Landis's B sample are known. Armstrong also had this advice for his former US Postal Service teammate: "If you believe you're innocent," he said on ABC News over the weekend, "then you stand up and fight."
So Landis has, asserting, with increasing boldness, that his high testosterone levels were "absolutely natural and produced by my own organism." This is where his ride started to get even bumpier. Over the weekend came reports from European news outlets that his T/E ratio was not a high but explicable 4 to 1 but an Incredible Hulk--like 11 to 1. More damning still were the revelations about the carbon isotope ratio tests. If the those reports are true and the B sample confirms the presence of synthetic testosterone hormone in his urine, then you can put the Whiskey Defense to rest because the game is over. "In such a case," according to the World Anti-Doping Agency's official prohibited-substance list, "no further investigation is necessary."
Gatlin, who faces a much steeper climb to exoneration than Landis, has been a study in contrasts since ascending to the top of the sprint world with his Olympic title in Athens in 2004. USA Track and Field had placed Gatlin at the forefront of its publicity campaign, spotlighting him to erase the stigma of the BALCO scandal. "I'm a champion and a role model," Gatlin told SI last summer in Helsinki before winning two gold medals. He seemed relentless in his hubris, expressing the importance of competing clean.
Yet he has been coached throughout his professional career by Trevor Graham, the Raleigh-based sprint coach of at least six athletes who have received drug bans, including former 100-meter-record holder Tim Montgomery. Graham is widely believed to be the person who sent the steroid-laced syringe to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in 2003, triggering the BALCO scandal. What are we to take from that action? That Graham wished his sport were cleaner? It's hard to say because on Sunday he defended Gatlin, going further than even Gatlin's lawyers, saying that he thinks a masseuse with a grudge tainted Gatlin during a rubdown. Yes, and the dog ate his homework....
Landis, meanwhile, uses language that sounds too well chosen and thoroughly lawyered. He may be innocent; he just doesn't talk that way. His is the summer's second-saddest face, right behind that of Barry Bonds, who limps, harassed and miserable, through an awful season while baseball fans agree on two things: 1) he cheated, and 2) he belongs in the Hall of Fame. Landis and Gatlin will catch no such break.
Gatlin's summer was expected to culminate in a megabucks showdown with Powell that would send a charge through the sport. Instead, he will not compete again until his case is resolved by USADA or a court of arbitration, and it appears possible that neither Gatlin nor track and field will recover.
As for Landis, if his B sample comes back clean, so what? He'll get to keep that blue bowl they gave him on the Champs-�lys�es, but what will we get? The memory of a carefully worded explanation and the bitter taste of yet another sport we can no longer trust.