Bike 29 - Tour de Toona

Female cyclists ride along Route 56 near Point Stadium in Johnstown earlier this week during a stage race of the Tour de Toona.

Mike Golomb watched the Tour de ‘Toona here Friday, but his mind was also on the Tour de France.

A day earlier, reports surfaced that Tour de France winner Floyd Landis had failed a test for potential performance-enhancing substances in his system. The American cyclist had high levels of testosterone after winning the race, according to reports.

Landis, a Lancaster native, told reporters Friday in Spain that the high testosterone is the result of his natural metabolism – not doping of any kind. Landis said he will undergo more tests to prove it. He is also awaiting results from a second sample, which would clear him if found to be negative.

Still, fans of bicycle racing and sports in general seem stung by yet another report involving performance enhancement.

“It’s giving sports a bad name,” said Golomb, who lives in Martinsburg. “You lose respect because of it.

“To be a true winner, you have to do it in a manner that is acceptable by the sports community.”

John Raley, an amateur cyclist from Washington, D.C., is competing in the Tour de ‘Toona. Raley said that despite what many might read or hear, the news from the Tour de France should not mean black eye for cycling at other levels.

“I think it’s only casting a black cloud (over the sport) if you only watch the Tour de France,” Raley said. “There’s too much power with the anti-doping (issues) that it seems you’re guilty until proven innocent.”

Race spectator Cynthia Karchen of Blair County agreed.

“I’m not necessarily convinced it is fair to convict someone ahead of time,” she said. “My heart goes out to (Landis), because I know what that fierce competitive drive to win can do to your body.

Landis could be stripped of his Tour de France title if further testing is positive for high testosterone levels. Landis said Friday that future tests would show that he is clean.

“The shame of it is that they can’t even live with their accomplishment (if they are ultimately cleared),” Karchen said. “To me, that is the most important gift of all, and it is being taken away.”

Because issues have been raised at higher levels, Golomb said he can’t help wondering if some amateur cyclists are using performance enhancing drugs.

“It’s probably the drive to succeed and to be on top,” he said. “Whatever it takes win – and if you could cheat the system and live with that, I guess that’s what it’s all about. I couldn’t do something like that.”

And cycling officials are trying to make it more difficult for competitors.

“We agreed to let the United States Doping Agency conduct random testing,” said Dave Rice, Tour de ‘Toona communications director. “The tour supports the policing of itself.”

Rice said the yearly publicity given to bicycling regarding performance-enhancing drugs shouldn’t be a negative for the sport.

“I think anything that any sport does to heighten the awareness of the abuse of drugs is a good thing in the long run,” Rice said. “Fans are coming away with the idea that cycling won’t tolerate this, and will see that it is a fair sport.”

Golomb doubts the publicity is viewed positively by fans. But he said it is good to know that officials want to eliminate the problem.

“I think the manner in which they are doing it now is setting precedent and making athletes more aware,” Golomb said. “When they publicize (increased testing), I would think that would be a deterrent You could jeopardize your career.”

Ultimately, he said, the steroid issue – in all sports – ruins the fun for fans.

“They’re cheating the system, and it’s an unprofessional way to get an advantage,” Golomb said. “It’s getting to the point where, if you do well, the public might be quick to assume you cheated when that might not be the case.

“I look at every athlete as being an athlete, and I hope they are true athletes succeeding on their own ability and talent. You succeed by working at something, not by cheating.”

Recommended for you