If you believe Lance Armstrong, most other cyclists were doping too. But how could that be? Weren't they all tested on a regular basis?
The answer, says Dr. Ivan Spector, is that cyclists could "test" clean without actually being clean. Spector is a Houston medical doctor and an athlete himself, in the realm of martial arts. And he calls it the sports world's dirty little secret.
The testing detects the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone. In a "clean" athlete, says Spector, the ratio should be one-to-one. But test results aren't flagged for further investigation unless they exceed four-to-one.
"One molecule of testosterone produces one molecule of epitestosterone," he explained. "If you have four molecules of epitestosterone to that one molecule of testosterone, that means you've taken external steroids. And you have 400-percent more androgen – or testosterone-like male hormone – in your body than any normal human being would have."
According to Spector, that amounts to a license to cheat – within limits.
"They never print the negative tests, only the positive," he added. "If they printed the negative tests, the results, the ratios, I think the public would be shocked. Because no one's going to come out one-to-one. If you're 1.1-to-one, you have used steroids. The Olympics say – and college athletics and high school athletics – say you can go up to four-to-one, and you're clean. That's absolutely not true. It keeps the level of performance up, but they know people are still cheating."
And if everybody's cheating, suggests Spector, then nobody is – especially if gaming the system is woven into the fabric of what Armstrong on Thursday called "the culture" of cycling.