France's top anti-doping official thinks he can catch more drug cheats.
Pierre Bordry, the leader of the French anti-doping agency, said athletes using performance-enhancing drugs are able to pass tests because labs fail to look for synthetic substances when results come in under accepted limits.
He points to the case of Floyd Landis, the American cyclist who won the Tour de France last year but could be stripped of his title after testing positive for elevated testosterone to epitestosterone levels after the 17th stage of last year's race.
"Is it good to have limits in place for (steroids), for testosterone?" Bordry asked. "The Landis story shows this well. If he is under the limit, we don't look for the origin of the testosterone. Whether it is a synthetic testosterone or not.
"It is very important that the (the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) had the go-ahead to see if there is synthetic testosterone," Bordry said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The French newspaper L'Equipe reported last month that follow-up tests on Landis' "B" samples from the 2006 Tour found traces of synthetic testosterone. The backup samples were tested at USADA's request.
During the Tour, the seven primary "A" samples were cleared because the testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio fell below the International Cycling Union's accepted limit of 4:1. Landis' one sample that tested positive, after the 17th stage, showed an 11:1 ratio.
"It puts forward that certain well-advised sportsmen have a product that puts them under the limit ... which is still a synthetic product, but one which we will not look for because it falls under the threshold," Bordry said. "There is a negative reading. But, after all, is there (synthetic) testosterone?"
Landis, who disputes his positive test, has an arbitration hearing before a USADA panel starting Monday in California. The 31-year-old cyclist, who repeatedly has denied doping, faces the loss of his title and a two-year ban if the panel upholds the positive test.
Bordry said random testing is another key to catching cheaters.
"If you say in advance that such and such ... the first, second and third will be tested ... and not the others, (then) you only need to arrange to finish fifth," Bordry said. "The important thing is random testing."
Bordry said testers often are pressed to find a substance that stays "only a certain number of hours in the urine."
"However, there are effects on certain other cells of the body well beyond the presence in the urine," he added. "We must really look for other receptors. We must refine the fight against doping."
Doping allegations continue to dominate cycling.
Ivan Basso, the 2005 Tour runner-up, just this week admitted involvement in the Spanish doping scandal, saying he intended to cheat in "a moment of weakness" but never did.
Last year, Basso's name turned up on a list of cyclists who allegedly had contact with doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, who is accused of running a blood-doping clinic in Madrid. The Spanish investigation, called Operation Puerto, implicated more than 50 cyclists and led to Basso, 1997 champion Jan Ullrich and seven other riders being excluded from the 2006 Tour de France.
Basso quit his Discovery Channel team last month after the Italian Olympic Committee reopened an investigation into his alleged or attempted use of a banned substance or method. And last month, German authorities matched Ullrich's DNA sample to blood bags seized in the Spanish doping scandal. Both the now-retired German and Basso deny using any banned substances.
Though Bordry supports a stronger fight against doping, he fears the shadow of the doping scandals could lead to a decrease in sponsorship and television coverage of cycling.
"There is a climate," Bordry said. "There are sponsors who ask themselves if they can still sponsor sportsmen who are doped or could have doped."
French anti-doping chief seeks more effective drug testing