August 2, 2006 [LINK]

Did Floyd Landis use steroids?

After Lance Armstrong retired last year, I figured the American dynasty of winners in the Tour de France would come to an end. Without a hot rock star like Cheryl Crow accompanying our team, it just wouldn't be as exciting. Greg LeMond became the first American to win that competition in 1986, inspiring many Americans (including me) to achieve great feats of cycling endurance. During the 90s, Europeans reclaimed the Tour de France, most notably Miguel Indurain. Then came Lance Armstrong with his record-breaking seven consecutive Tour triumphs from 1999 to 2005: the Americans were back! It was hard to know what to make of the accusations of steroid use by Armstrong, which seemed at first like sour grapes spitefulness by the French, but the possibility cannot be ruled out entirely. With the fanatic training regimen and vitamin supplements that most world-class athletes take these days, it's hard to draw a sharp line between cheating and fair play. Almost all championship-level cyclists take some kind of dietary supplement, apparently.

So, the news that this year's Tour de France winner, Floyd Landis, tested positive for steroid use is both distressing and not entirely unexpected. The sports doping problem may extend well beyond Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Jose Canseco. Landis comes from a Mennonite family in rural Pennsylvania, and cheating would seem quite out of character for someone with such a background. I have given him the benefit of the doubt up till now, but I may have to rethink that. A chemist blogger named Derek Lowe (via Instapundit; Glenn is on vacation) explains why the blood test casts a dark shadow on Mr. Landis. He says that his testosterone level is naturally elevated, but that does not account for the high ratio of testosterone to isomeric epitestosterone in his blood system. "[T]oo high an imbalance is physiologically unlikely and arouses suspicion." Dr. Lowe explains how carbon isotopes (C-12 vs. C-14, etc.) are used in the dope tests, which is very intriguing.

Every once in a while, I deign to comment on pop culture news. So, here goes:

Is Mel Gibson anti-semitic?

It sure looks that way to me. At the very least, he seems to be an alcoholic in need of major behavior modification. Meanwhile, culturally conservative Catholics are mortified at his lapse of judgment, and the movie Passion of the Christ is likely to be reevaluated by many other people. That being said, Mel's episode has gotten about ten times as much attention in the press as it deserved.

Does America really have talent?

Absolutely. It has a severe shortcoming, however, in terms of understanding the meaning of the word reality.

Brad and Angelina: Who cares?

Not me.