Wednesday, December 31, 2008

That's All, Folks!

Oh No!
I killed the Wabbit!

You were expecting a happy ending?

So Long.

The site will remain live as long as blogger keeps it, and we'll try to get it archived into the wayback machine. Comments will also remain open as long as anyone wishes to use them.

Full Post with Comments...

After all that, what do we think?

Hey, it's over.

We know what the official word has been about the Landis case -- and the Federal case that might have looked into how we got that word through arbitration has been settled on terms that let Landis race right away, and USADA not to have to explain.

We also have our own access to the testimony, arguments and exhibits, and our many long-running discussions about the case.


A long time ago, we said the Landis case presented a Rorschach test on your world view, and nothing that has happened since has changed our feelings.

If one believes "they all dope", then you believe all tests that are reported as positive no matter how they were achieved, and any irregularities in reaching that conclusion are immaterial. You assume the conclusion, that the athlete did it, and all recedes into irrelevant technicality.

If one believes they don't all dope all the time, and that some positive tests may not reflect the truth, then you want to be able to look to find out what might have happened to cause an incorrect positive. When you can't find anything that suggests a false positive, then you accept it as a true positive along with the athlete's guilt or lack of diligence looking into friends or the contents of food or supplements.

The underlying Truth (independent of result) in the case of Floyd Landis seems like it comes in one of the following flavors.

  1. He doped with testosterone on purpose.
  2. He didn't dope with testosterone, but something seems to indicate it - perhaps a contamination of some kind, perhaps some natural phenomenon.
  3. He didn't dope with testosterone and the tests results are wrong to say so.

(Some people will also mix in accusations he doped with something else, probably in the oxygen vector, and we'll need to get to that as well.)

We know clearly that USADA believes (1) is the case, that he's a dirty doper. We also know that he has presented himself as (3), an unjustly accused innocent.

The excluded middle

No one who matters has been interested in considering (2) - that it seems to be there, unknown to Landis.

Let's see why that has been off the table for everyone.

First, from USADA's point of view, (2) is either an inadvertent ("no-fault") case, or a problem in the procedure. Neither is appealing to for USADA to consider. If it's an inadvertent, there's no great moral reward for taking down a dirty doper; if it's an unexplained phenomenon, it suggests either a scientific or execution hole in the anti-doping mechanism which is hard to explain and embarrassing.

From USADA's position, it is better to win a case as intentional doping than to consider any alternative.

Similarly, there seems little reason to believe that USADA has ever seriously considered the possibility that (3) might be true. There's no hint in any of the available information to believe they ever considered it was anything other than a true positive, which they were fully committed to prosecuting.

From the Landis point of view, (2) either leads to a complete scientific rat-hole of trying to understand how some natural (and non-prohibited) phenomenon leads to the result, or to an inadvertent/no-fault finding that costs the Tour victory he believes is earned. Both of these are ugly for him to consider. He knows he didn't dope, and USADA isn't making any overtures that suggest there might be something scientifically curious going on.

None of the external players, WADA, the UCI, or the ASO have any interest in a finding that is equivocal. Thus, they instantly and loudly locked themselves into position (1) before there was any particular review of the results.

Locking into Position

One form of position lock happened as soon as rumors of an AAF started to circulate, first in the peloton, then from the UCI. At that point, it became very difficult for LNDD to consider withdrawing the AAF, or looking into the possibility of mistakes --- which the lab had done numerous times the same year in other reported AAFs that had been kept appropriately confidential. The lab became locked -- and this, we learn later -- leads the relevant government agency down the same path, and the AFLD locked itself in support of its laboratory.

At the beginning, Landis' is confused, and appears willing to consider at least some scenarios of (2) - the "from my own organism" business would have been a claim of natural, non-prohibited process, and plausible with only a T/E violation reported. Similarly, alcohol was mentioned as a possible complication based on speculation, and might (still!) explain the IRMS results.

Only when it becomes clearer that (a) talking is not helping; and that it is not only a T/E test, but an IRMS result does he shut up.

The next we really hear from Landis is based in no small part on Arnie Baker's analysis of the provided documentation: the test doesn't show exogenous testosterone. This belief seems initially based on the most restrictive reading of the "metabolite(s)" rule, and is compounded by what seems to be a lot of haphazardness in the documented testing. In the world the way Team Landis sees it, this shouldn't be a positive test.

Now, Landis becomes locked into position (3), that there is no positive test result, and files a submission with USADA for consideration by the Anti-doping Review Board for the case. In retrospect, almost everything of significance in the case is hinted at in that brief (12 page) filing.

At this point, things become murky at USADA, because there is intentionally no transparency in the ADRB process. It is not known how or if the ADRB really considered the points raised in the Landis submission. By design, there are no minutes and no reasoning provided for its simply reported conclusion: The Test is Valid. The ADRB accepted the reported AAF -- and from there, it appears that USADA locked itself into position (1), though it might have entertained pleading of (2) had Landis offered it.

Clunk, clunk, clunk, the sound of gates closing, and maneuverability foreclosed.


Positions Fixed, Reinforcements Called

USADA realizes that Landis is not going to roll over and calls in the heavy artillery of the HRO law firm, in the particular form of Richard Young. Mr. Young happens to be the principle author of the WADA Code, and is victor in several contentious cases, Hamilton, Gaines, and Montgomery. He also happens to be an arbitrator in the CAS pool, and has served on many Panels. He is the very definition of someone "inside the club."

It is not known what orders were given to HRO by USADA, either explicitly or implicitly. By appearances, the essence was "win this case, period."

The Nuts

The only people now openly considering (2) are internet "kooks", who think there might be something to the alcohol or diet theories; and those who speculate that Landis was somehow spiked by someone. The alcohol theory is scoffed at, and no one pursues the spike theory at all. Perhaps it is too similar to the scenario purported by Gatlin, or Jeff Adams. In any event, these considerations go nowhere.

The Litigation Machine takes over

It's Autumn. Landis is trying to get discovery on material before hearing. HRO/USADA say he doesn't need anything else, and if he wants more, to get it through the arbiters, who are not yet selected. The selection is delayed by intense litigation positioning on the part of both sides.

From USADA's point of view, Landis is fishing for something to blow up there case, and they don't want to give anything that puts the case at risk. They do not appear interested in helping him find the truth, but winning the case.

From Landis' point of view, USADA is stonewalling information he needs to understand what happened. He makes the information he has available to the public starting debate on the merits and methodology.

Holes do start to appear in issues that might normally appear in a case, not least through Baker's powerpoints. USADA needs to consider all these issues, and is unsure what is really going to be argued. To this degree, "the wiki defense" is strategy of radar-jamming with chaff. There are real points discussed, but a lot of dummy ones as well.

Then, in December, the Landaluce award comes out, and HRO/USADA thinks it may have problems -- some of the little holes shown by Baker might be trouble, in the hands of one Panel or another. In an interview, Tygart says he is "ready to go" with what he has, but that is not what is happening behind the scenes.

HRO/USADA comes up with novel strategy: test the other B samples from the tour, to (try to) eliminate the possibility of any Landaluce-like problems. This has never been done in any case before. There's no procedure for it, and no mention of the possibility in the WADA Code or the USADA rules. USADA informs Landis of its intent, and has in fact already shipped samples taken in the US to LNDD for testing.

Landis objects. It's not permitted anywhere, and the A's of the same samples were negative. He threatens suit in Federal Court. USADA retreats, for the moment, and some negotiations take place.

Landis is dead set against LNDD doing any more testing. He says he'd be happy with UCLA, but UCLA claims not to be available. He objects to Montreal because of prejudicial statements already made in the case by Ayotte, the lab director. He's apparently open to Australia, but USADA is not citing transport and logistical problems. No agreement is reached, and nothing happens.

Finally over December and January, the AAA Panel is put in place, and the first things they need to resolve are discovery questions and this testing of alternate samples.

It appears that the Panel gives Landis most of the discovery he wants, though USADA/HRO will quibble over significant things later.

It claims not to have the power to order depositions (though it probably could "encourage" them), so testimony must be done live, which will turn into a curse for Landis.

Then it finds a wash-cloth and says that since the samples are owned by the UCI, the agencies can do anything they like with them. If they want to test them, and use them as "additional evidence" against Landis, they, The Panel, can't stop them. Such evidence can't be considered an AAF, per-se, but it could be accretive.

Notably, there is no way testing of these samples can be to Landis' benefit as a defense -- non-positivity indicates nothing, while positivity can be added to the weight against him.

HRO/USADA decide they will test them.


Only weeks before the hearing is going to proceed.

(We reflect how much uncertainty that now remains might have been avoided had these other tests been done anywhere else.)

The tests are done, and both sides get their prejudices confirmed. USADA gets the reports it wants, positives on some of the alternate B samples. Landis' experts get confirmation of their beliefs that the IRMS people at LNDD don't know what they are doing. Both groups of experts complain about the behavior of each other.

The same thing happens when the original data is reprocessed in different ways -- there are variations that Landis' side takes as indicative of non-reproducible process, and which USADA thinks is close enough to the margin of error as to be perfectly acceptable for "comfortable satisfaction."

Landis does not get the actual data from the tests. USADA claims he could "tamper" with read-only CDs, when USADA keeps separate copies that could easily be compared.

The Panel accepts this absurdity.

To this day, Landis has never gotten a copy of the actual data that was used to find him guilty, nor has it ever been evaluated by non-WADA experts.

AAA Hearing
During the hearing, the Landis side thinks it has raised plenty of doubt about the reliability of the tests. There are significant sideshow distractions that turn out to have no bearing on anything substantive. The unfortunate mid-hearing meltdown of Landis' friend and manager regarding Greg LeMond poisons the atmosphere for the press. USADA's lead attorney Richard Young shows a certain mastery of leading witnesses to say what he wants. Another tactic is played out: Have non-communicative witnesses chew up Landis' available time during cross-examination, leaving him short of time to present his own case.

AAA Award
The majority award from Brunet and McLaren is a logical travesty, culminating in seven key paragaphs that make little sense scientifically or logically. No matter. The result is what the Alphabets desire, and most in the press and public move on, not looking at the details. There is no real mechanism for review, per-se, of this flawed award.

CAS Appeal
The only option is a de-novo (from-scratch) hearing of the entire case. Landis is running short of money, and needs it on the cheap. USADA too, is running out of money, but manages to get direct funding from WADA, which is not a party to the case. New issues are discovered by the Landis team, and presented - clear errors in the certified documentation, contradictions in testimony. USADA comes up with answers to the new observations -- one might say, manufactures answers -- and ignores many of the contradictions in their own prior argument.

The time for cross-examination card is played to the max. USADA submits lengthy declarations of more witnesses than they called during the AAA hearing, and Landis is forced to skip cross-examination of many because there just aren't the hours available.

CAS Decision
The CAS decision is a completely political document, reflecting the hard line that Landis must lose. It does not address many of the substantive issues that were raised, accepts USADA's stories on everything, and boils down to: The Lab has a presumption of correctness, and nothing you can present can change that, especially if we chose to ignore it.

Adding smackdown and insult to injury, the CAS panel blames Landis for USADA having more witnesses than there was time to cross-examine: It fines Landis $100,000 for USADA's trouble in bringing all these witnesses to the hearing in New York.

Both panels obviously chose to ignore things that should have caused a "burden flip", and they did so with tautologically backward reasoning. Based on the presumption of lab correctness, the errors could not have caused the AAF; and since they could not have caused the AAF, the violations were not departures that would cause the burden to flip to USADA. This assumes the conclusion of a step that was never taken. The conclusion the departures would not have caused the violation should only have been made after a formal burden flip, with USADA made to prove the harmlessness with a different burden of proof, not with a presumption of correctness. In declining to declare departures in the Landis case, both Panels have shown it futile to challenge lab correctness. The only winning strategy is to find Landaluce errors in gross form, not technical details.

In both cases, the compelling testimony of John Amory that the values that hung Landis just make no sense was not challenged, but obfuscated by reference to non-peer-reviewed studies that remain unpublished to this day. Mr. Young's tap-dancing to convince the AAA Panel that presentation at a workshop meant something was seen by peers, and that was "peer-reviewed" in the formal sense should have been an embarrassment, but was accepted by that majority as good-enough to muddy Amory's point.

Federal Case
Landis made public in his complaint that the CAS process is fundamentally compromised by the revolving door of roles parties play in the CAS/IOC/WADA/Federations club. Obvious appearances of conflict of interest were not properly disclosed, nor even understood as anything but business as usual.

USADA chose to settle the case before answering the claims on the record, and Landis is free to race.

So, what do we think about Landis?

We still don't know if Landis doped with testosterone on Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France, or in the vicinity of any other stage as suggested by the alternate B sample results. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't, or maybe something else happened that is unexplained.

There's enough oddity for us in the test methods used, the reported data, and the stonewall, hardball litigation tactics used against Landis that we don't have a "comfortable satisfaction." The points reiterated in the winnowing still seem to raise what ought to be quite reasonable doubt and lack of comfort. But I am not a CAS arbiter.

There have been insinuations he did something in the oxygen vector, but no case presented. The evidence is equivocal to us (see here, here, and here for discussion).

Perhaps there was a belief he was a guilty man, and anything done in the cause of bringing him down was acceptable. (
Bill Hue has an even darker theory of this.) Not much effort seems to have gone into dissuading the perception that "anything goes in this prosecution". Maybe it wasn't worth the trouble to blunt that view, as long as the "correct" result was achieved, and who was really going to look, anyway?

Landis has held on to position (3) long past the time where a rational game theorist would think it worthwhile.
It would have been expedient at several points to say, "I didn't do it, but I'm not willing to contest it at this time. I just want it to be over and be able to race then."

That Landis didn't ever choose that easier route is reflective of the stubbornness that prompted the attack on Stage 17. In many contexts, it would be admirable.

If he is innocent, it is impossible for us to say he was wrong to fight it with all the determination he showed.

If he is guilty, and has been lying through his teeth all along, he has certainly paid a heavy price, including a string of family tragedies we will not enumerate.

If the truth is really one of those (2) cases where no one's public position was correct, it doesn't look like we'll ever know.

Throughout, he's always acted as a wronged innocent. Consistent with that, he has done more to make the facts about his case known than any other accused athlete has ever done. Even when it hasn't been convenient, or obviously to his benefit, he has provided us all the information we've ever requested.

Landis did made mistakes -- sharing Greg LeMond's phone number as number one, then saying too much too early when he didn't know, and letting his frustration show from time to time. (He may have provided a good warning for the dangers of typing-while-intoxicated.)

The unique existence of this window into the system is due to solely his commitment, openness and willingness to let the world see. We hope we've done credit to that idea of transparency, and that over the long term he'll feel it was worth the attempt.

No Apologia for dopers

There is nothing that irritates us more than being called apologists for dopers:
  • There is no denying there is doping in the Pro Peloton.
  • There is no denying testing must be done.
  • There is plainly cheating, and a culture of wandering in and out of the shadows.
We've never denied any of that, despite attempts to characterize us as doing so.

Some have said we're too soft on dirty dopers. Frankly, as individuals they don't interest us - they are perpetrators and victims, and we're more interested in having a system that works than in finding scapegoats. There's only so much value in outrage at stupid individual behavior.

We are more irked with powerful systems that, by policy, institutionalize a counterproductive environment that leads to stupid behavior.

We are occasionally tossed complaints we should care more about the clean riders, and the fans than the dirty dopers.

This presumes we know who is clean and who isn't, and we don't. We don't think everybody dopes all the time, or that all the high performers dope much of the time, or that all the winners necessarily dope. Many reasonable people think otherwise, and we ought to be able to disagree without disrespect or vilification.

We also think the side of outrage is more than adequately represented by the WADA/IOC/Federation/State players, and the corporate media, beginning with L'Equipe, and the Olympic broadcasters and their affiliated outlets. That is a powerfu
l Sporting-Entertainment Complex shaping opinion and policy for its own benefit. Nor is there a shortage of blogs and other grass-roots efforts expressing such frustrations.

We chose to do something different. We'd have been wasting our time if, when we looked into the corners, everything was tidy and in order. Instead, we found equivocal data, badly written rules, a house-of-mirrors system for resolving disputes, and little effort to asuage these concerns beyond bluster and platitude.

The lack of participation in Winnowing from those who are part of the WADA system isn't because we didn't try, but because those people chose not to participate and give their side now that the case is over.

Towards Real Solutions

Rational analysis with game theory indicates that the look-the-other-way omerta of the participants of the sport is, in fact, the best strategy for them to adopt given the rates of failure and the risks. In order the change that culture, something needs to significantly change the values of the predictable outcomes.

For testing to be effective, it must both catch a significant of the true dopers, and not be seen as arbitrary. The current tendency to target athletes based on performance (or rumor) may appear to be cost-effective, but it runs counter to the real goals of changing the mass behavior. It means that the non-targeted mid or back of pack riders, or those in undertested events are unlikely to be tested and caught. This serves to inculcate the "it's worth the risk, because there isn't much" mentality.

It means that mostly high-profile riders get caught, and that doesn't change the culture so much as damage the very stars a sport needs for positive visibility.

Targeted testing isn't wrong, but it is inadequate to change the culture.

We have observed that the cost of doing enough tests so that each rider in the Tour de France was likely to be screened at least twice during the three weeks is not high -- on the order of $30,000 more, selecting 8-10 riders a stage rather than three. Despite the hand-wringing, this approach isn't taken. That it isn't says that the people making the decisions are more interested in The Appearance of Doing Something than in solving the problem. It they weren't, they'd understand the damage of taking down high profile participants costs more in the long term than in more testing of more people earlier in their careers. There's no small part of this that comes down to warfare between the ASO and the UCI, and possibly the Tour vs. L'Equipe factions of the ASO itself. In any event, a cycling divided has no hope of working in its own best interests in the face of things like WADA and the IOC, which we'll get to later. And we won't more than mention the pathetic nature of rider's organization, and the war the UCI has with the idea of a collective-bargaining union representing the lowly participants.

We've suggested on many occasions that there be team penalties with teeth for doping. The one we like is for a team to lose starting positions in major events if they have a rider suspended, for the length of the rider's suspension. If a team has too many suspended riders, everybody is out of a job. That is peer pressure. Firing the rider should have no effect on the team sanction.

Given the consequences, we think either the certainty of offense needs to be higher, or the time of penalty lower. Or both. We don't see how lengthening sanctions does any good. If the likelihood of being struck by lightening is low, it doesn't make much difference how big the bolt is. Lower penalties would reduce the urge to fight and dispute, and lower the correctness bar for the testing itself.

Lots of cheaper tests with shorter punishments reflecting the quality of the tests would do more to change the culture than the targeted, high profile approach that is being taken. Joe Papp would have been better served if he'd been caught much earlier, with significant testing in the second and third tiers of races. By the time riders work their way into the top ranks, the "teachable moments" are long past.

Especially with targeted testing, we wish that enforcement were more transparent, reliable, and done in a way that encouraged confidence by rational third parties that examine the system. What we've learned in the Landis case is that, while well-intended, a lot of the enforcement effort involves dubious application of science, and large doses of "trust us" that do not appear to be as justified as claimed.

There have been no shortages of doping scandals in cycling since the Festina affair. There appears to be little statistical evidence that what has been done in enforcement since has had the desired effect. The party line, part of To Be Seen to be Doing Something, has been to Get Tough, with harder and harder sanctions, with less discretion. In some countries, criminal law is being brought to bear, with results (Puerto) that leave hardly anyone happy. The intersection of national law with an intended-to-be-uniform worldwide Code will lead to many inconsistencies and turf wars. While criminal law is harsher than suspension, the burdens of proof are much higher, and most of the cases to date have been for perjury, not for actual doping offenses.

And with criminal law, we do not looks to arrests and convictions to judge the rates of crime, but to the number if incidences of crimes. How many robberies, thefts or murders were committed and/or reported? With doping, we have no idea what the rate really is, and if the trend is going one way or another. We only measure tests (patrols), AAFs (arrests) and sanctions (convictions).

Can we say The System is working to reduce the incidence of doping?

We can't.

And we don't see how pursuing the same course with greater effort is going to produce appreciably different results.

The Big Picture
It seems to us the entire WADA anti-doping system is a fig-leaf for the commercial interests of the Olympic Movement. While it is presented as an intersection of science and law -- any many participants believe in their part -- it is really a public relations exercise to preserve as much as possible the pristine image needed for highly paid television images -- The Sporting-Entertainment Complex in action.

Let us not delude ourselves that these interests don't count. There are literally billions of dollars riding on these images. Bonds are issued, areas condemned, flattened, and immense construction made, all relying on the perception that the competition is "clean."

Cycling is a whipping boy for the Olympic anti-doping movement. It is a sport that has physiological demands that respond well to doping, and is itself poor enough that it has no particular leverage in the policy debate. What the IOC/WADA want for their image preservation is more important than the practical needs of any particular sport, especially cycling. It suits the IOC/WADA/CAS crowd fine to beat up cycling, because there is no fight back. The sport has a problem, and we can show we Mean Business. Game on.

This makes it easy to fall into position lock on a cycling case.

In contrast, the alleged football (soccer) player involvement in Operation Puerto has been completely swept under the rug. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to think the commercial interests of Football have had much to do with that. Is football an endurance sport where conditioning matters? Is there really reason to think there has been hardly any oxygen vector doping there? Yet the number of cases against football players seems remarkably, one might think, "suspiciously" low.

Heading to the Exit

TBV's real employ is in the architecture of highly available and scalable software systems, used in mission critical areas such as financial exchanges, commodity exchanges, and backing highly visible commercial websites. From my experience in these systems, it is apparent that almost anything can be made to work correctly a large fraction of the time. While not easy, it is the bread and butter of the industry.

What is not easy is handling cases where parts of a system fail. In our experience, when failures occur, they do so frequently in ways that were unexpected or under-considered in the design. This leads to a second level of truth: only the failure cases are

System failures are an inevitability, and need to be addressed. "One in a million" chances are 1000 times a second with a 1 GHz processor, and four times as often as that with a quad-core. The true test of the reliability and trustworthiness of a system is how it handles these failures when they occur.

What I've seen of the anti-doping from testing through arbitration is a system that has over-represented its reliability. In most cases, it probably works well enough, just like most computer systems. But when there are, or may be, problems, the system does not seem much interested in finding out possible root causes. It wants to producing a "result" that is "finding dopers guilty", per the rationale of the WADA Code. In customer service terms, it appears to be more interested in "closing the call" rather than in truly "resolving the problem."

Fortunately for me, I have no personal vulnerability to this system, nor any vested interest in it. This makes it possible to walk away with a clean conscience after sharing these thoughts.

I am saddened that we've been unable to come up with a reliable, trustworthy way of addressing the doping that is done.

I am left with doubts whether the WADA approach is effective or doing more good than harm to sports caught in the crosshairs. I want to watch the Tour for courageous riding and tactics. I don't believe perp-walks do the sport or the cause any good.

The WADA arbitration process has shown itself to me to be incapable of dealing with discovery issues, including depositions. It systematically encourages a "run out the clock" strategy by the side in a dispute that enters with a favorable burden proof, which is unlikely to be the athlete. This is not an issue where there is little dispute in a case. When there is a major difference of opinion, it becomes a systemic failure that can lead to questionable results.

As Prof. Straubel has noted, doping adjudication is quasi-criminal, and an arbitration system equipped for contractual disputes isn't set up to handle that effectively.

I believe the open hearing held in the Landis case illuminated these issues. I do not see where an open hearing added appreciable cost to the parties. Thus, allowing open hearings at the discretion of the accused party seems a good way of allowing visibility that would encourage trust in the process. Having an open hearing is a strategy that has risk, but if the athlete wishes it to be done in the open, it is hard to see a reason to refuse.

Secret evidence in secret trials do not encourage confidence in the conclusions.

I expect the Alphabets to try to close the open-hearing option as soon as practicable.

I wish there were more approaches being considered than what seems only to be escalated reliance on tests whose reliability isn't as good as presented, in turn leading to harsher and harsher penalties. The unwillingness to address the statistics of false-positives in an open way seems to me to be intellectually and morally dishonest.

The belief that that harsher penalties is a disincentive seems questionably founded. Death penalties haven't been shown to much affect murder rates. Doping bans that are effectively sporting death sentences seem equally likely to be effective as a deterrent.

One of the first organized sports Americans pick up is baseball, with umpires making calls. There are important things for children to learn from the experience. By example, force plays at first and phantom tags at second are always called OUT.*

The lesson for the kids is that authorities are often arbitrary and wrong, and there isn't much you can do about it. They can see things as they want to, rather than as they are, and they rarely admit the possibility of error. You can either accept that and play on, or quit participating in that game.

Thanks to everyone who has read us over the 2-1/2 years we've been following the case, all our our contributors, commenters, and sources who know who they are. We particularly want to thank Strbuk for saving our sanity in 2006, Bill Hue for insight we'd never have obtained in any other way, and Marc for a broad view and exceptionally generous hospitality.

It has been a far more interesting, involving and rewarding experience that we would ever have imagined, and we're truly humbled for anyone to have taken us seriously.

TBV's family has endured much in support our investigations, and it is time to give them more of the attention that they deserve.

It's a new year, a new beginning. Let's all try to enjoy the good parts, not get bent out of shape with things that are not as we'd like them to be, and humbly do the best we can with the things we can improve.

Best wishes,

*Avery Brundage and Mr. Pound mayhave carried grudges from their Olympic experiences; Frank Shorter may feel cheated by Cierpinski; Greg LeMond certainly feels diminished by those who followed him.

I hold the pain a speedy slap hitter carries for automatic calls on force plays.

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Strbuk looks back

Starbuck, before Battlestar Galactica, coffee, and TBV, was Capt. Ahab's first mate on the Pequod.

What I will remember from my stint here, and what I think may be the point of all of "this" , is the people. The memories of all of the readers and contributors, all of those people who gave of their time and effort because they so strongly believed in a cause, in a just cause in their collective opinion, are what I'll take away from this experience.

This site was MY lifeline to the case which I was obsessed with myself, and I only got involved in this because I pestered TBV endlessly with articles to post which I had discovered in obscure corners of the web. He finally said, and I paraphrase, post them yourself it's easy. The rest is now history.

Yes, there were mornings when I cursed the fact that I had to get up at 4:30AM to start my never ending search for "anything Landis" because I had an early teaching day. In retrospect however most of the time it was great fun, and without slipping into the maudlin, it was a great honor to be able to do something no matter how commonplace to "help".

So now it's done, as it has to be. Floyd has finally been able to resume his life and so must all of us, it seems only fitting. I am of the opinion that some good comes from almost any situation, no matter how awful suffering through it may seem at the time. Only Floyd will know if any "good" came from his ordeal. I know for myself the "good" that came from "this" was the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people. And so I end this where I began it, with the people.

Good luck to everyone who I have had the pleasure to "meet" whether in person or on line; Dave, Sandra, Bill, Marc, Dan, all of the bloggers and contributors, to you all I wish good luck! Please stay in touch if you can. Finally, good luck to you Floyd. In all of your future pursuits no matter what the outcome may be on the field of play at least you know your case fostered a community of caring and dedicated people who stuck with you all the way. That's no small feat, friend. Now, get on your bike and kick some serious ass for ALL of us!!

- Paula

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Bill Hue: The Bell Tolls

Final Thought on the Landis Case
Bill Hue

Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill, as that he knows not it tolls for him; and perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that.
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee

John Donne (1572-1631),
Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII:
Nunc Lento Sonitu Dicunt, Morieris

This will be my last post here at Trust But Verify and it is likely the last post I will make on this subject, anywhere. Like Floyd and many of you, I just want to put the matter behind me and ride my bike.

These are my thoughts about the case and its players. I can't prove many of these beliefs by facts or evidence and as such, this article is the antithesis of the more precise methods I have endeavored to employ throughout my time here.


For some time, I have suspected that Floyd Landis was targeted well prior to Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France as a cheater. Specifically, I believe the WADA folks were fairly certain Floyd was using Operation Puerto type blood transfusions to obtain a solid set of results throughout the 2006-racing season. Further, I believe they were confidant that Lance Armstrong had used similar methods to win many of his Tour de France titles.

The anti-doping, anti-Armstrong factions pretty much merged as one after Armstrong’s 1999 urine samples were retro-tested at the same Paris WADA accredited lab, with its connections to the owners of the Tour de France through their ownership of L’Equipe, the French newspaper often on the cutting edge of many significant doping related findings produced by that lab, through leaks and access to confidential lab data. EPO was purportedly found in 7 of Armstrong’s samples and L’Equipe carried the news including Armstrong’s identity shortly thereafter. Although an independent investigator later exonerated Armstrong, it became imperative that no other “cheater” was going to be allowed to win the Tour de France.

When less than rigorous scientific laboratory methods were used, coincidently, by the same lab that retro-tested Armstrong’s 1999 samples, to identify Landis as a steroid user after Stage 17, it was simply any port in the doping storm to those confidently smug in the knowledge that Landis was, in fact, a cheater. The method used to confirm the “fact” that Landis doped was not important, any more so than the bad “science” confirming that Armstrong doped in 1999, was. As long as there is “science” to support the conclusion, then “proof” exists, even if the foundation upon which said “results” rely is fatally flawed.

Even more egregious means were used to achieve the same end when another “cheater”, Michael Rasmussen, was targeted and then summarily eliminated after it became clear that he was going to win the 2007 Tour.

When “science” proved Landis’ guilt, another opportunity arose. Because Landis was once a lieutenant to Armstrong, he surely had information detrimental to Armstrong’s legacy. If Landis could be “turned”, say with a bit of arm-twisting, then the “big target”, Armstrong, could be bagged, once and for all.

The exposure of doping so rampant that it would require the disqualification of the Tour de France Champion for the first time in history, combined with the exposure of the doping’s role in the Lance Armstrong legacy would then be used to create a public outcry and that outcry would be used to fund and shape the anti-doping crusade for years to come.

When it became clear that Landis would not give up Armstrong, the guy they really wanted, or roll over on the case itself, USADA became determined to put away the guy they had on the case they had.

Landis’ case quickly passed USADA’s quality control mechanism, which would have had to dismantle the WADA system and its assumptions of laboratory accuracy in order to terminate the case in Landis’ favor, something it was never really designed to do, in structure.

USADA hired Richard Young to prosecute the case. Mr. Young was a savvy insider who had virtually written the WADA Code and he was the “father” of an “adjudicative” system that said all the right things about due process, justice and fairness but was purposely structured in such a way as to actually deny such things to athletes in practice.

Once subject to this system, Landis’ fate was sealed. At least we have seen that system for what it really is, thanks to Landis’ use of a little used clause within the USADA Rules that allowed him a public hearing, which contrasted nicely with the “secret” CAS hearing and its puzzling punitive conclusions.

In any event, given the bizarre assumptions and burden flips properly applied by both adjudicative bodies under the WADA Code and both Panel’s unwillingness to afford any close call to the athlete, given their anti-athlete make up and inherent conflicts of interest tolerated if not fostered by the structural make up of Young’s adjudicative system, Landis could not prevail as he very well may have had the case been tried to a judge or jury under European or United States civil law procedures.

The Landis matter was significantly carried out in public, so it is clear that throughout these last few years that both the professional peloton and cycling teams/sponsors watch but do nothing while the anti-doping landscape transforms constantly in ways detrimental to their interests.

In these last few years, anti-doping authorities have prosecuted cases where; “A” sample results have been subject to differing lab standards for declaration of non-negativity depending on the WADA certified lab doing the testing, “B” samples have been subject to multiple testing, in multiple WADA certified labs until they confirmed “A” sample non-negative declarations, “B” samples (as companions to “A” samples declared negative), have been “re-tested” to support non-negative findings, private athlete medical records have been subject to discovery while WADA lab test results have not been and any pre-hearing discovery favoring the athlete have been similarly and summarily rejected, violations of sample handling and chain of custody that would not be tolerated in any court in the world have not only been accepted but have, in fact, been celebrated by Arbitration Panels as long as the results, consistent with Young’s WADA Code, favors the prosecution and “conviction” of athletes and even when the foundations of science are so severely violated and where no justification for said violations is even is offered such that they are so compromised that Panels must find in an athlete’s favor, Panels virtually apologize for having to do dismiss cases.

Even when cycling teams attempt to address the doping problem by hiring independent contractors to monitor their athletes’ biology, commentators and authorities reject and ridicule those efforts as self-serving and ineffective, preferring that more authority and power be given to anti-doping authorities to monitor and potentially interfere with the athlete’s livelihood and right to medical privacy.

Non-analytical “positives” and “strict liability” criteria been expanded to further permit Panels whose make up can never benefit an athlete under Young’s WADA Code, to find that athletes have violated the Code.

Certain athletes and teams have become persona non grata and are not hired and race owners refuse to allow teams to compete in their races while other riders, equally or more guilty, find employment and other teams, equally or more guilty, are allowed to participate in races.

Knowing and seeing all of this, cyclists still will not unionize or otherwise seek to protect their interests. Teams simply leave the sport or subject their huge financial investment to ruin knowing that the current system is arbitrary at best and draconian at worse.

Having seen doping exposed and understanding its historical existence in the sport, racers still too often turn a blind eye to cheating. Similarly, understanding doping’s historical existence within the team structure, race organizers and others still seem to give a pass to team management, when cheating can’t possibly go on behind their backs.

Cycling has taken an unjust hit where doping is concerned while other sports get a pass from their organizations, media and public.

The public has seemed to divide into sometimes-extreme camps; one such extreme camp is turtle like in its denial and another is so cynical and dark that anyone who does not lockstep with anti-doping efforts has become the enemy.

In its current state, sport and cycling in particular is in peril. Unless and until real reform takes place, participants and the public will abandon them and they will cease to exist as businesses employing individuals who have talent to turn a pedal while allowing organizers, race owners and team sponsors to turn a profit.

The opportunity to transform the playing field in a fair and transparent manner is well upon us. I call on all of us to compel that result because we are all victims and at the same time, perpetrators in a corrupt system.

We have met the enemy. He is us.

The bell tolls.

Bill Hue is a Wisconsin Trial Court Judge. His thoughts and perspective are strictly his own.

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Marc's Adieu

Marc is a retired American living in Paris who joined us at the time of the Ferret.

My involvement in this fascinating struggle began on THAT day in July 2006. I had recently moved to Paris, and my in-laws were visiting from Connecticut. They had a whole lot more energy than I did, so on that day I'd begged out of whatever sightseeing forced march they'd planned. I didn't do it in order to watch the TdF--Floyd's collapse had wiped away most of my interest--but as long as I was home and the Tour was on the TV, I mean, why not watch? When my in-laws returned, haggard, from their endurance trial (it was July, remember), I said to them, "Oh, you'll never believe what you missed."


A few days later we were on a bridge over the Seine, watching the riders enter Paris before the finale, and saw Floyd ride in. Or, at least, we pretended we did. In fact, the peloton swept past us under the bridge so fast and so tightly bunched that I was sure we'd only seen a large breakaway group, with the main bunch to arrive a little later. Only by my brother-in-law's replaying of the movie he'd shot was I convinced that a hundred-plus riders had really gone by that quickly. Floyd? Well, he was there somewhere, I guess.

When the supposed positive test result was announced, I didn't believe it. I still don't. I didn't then, not because of any naive belief that bicyclists didn't use dope--I'm almost 64: I remember Jacques Anquetil refusing the urine test that would have made his hour record official; I remember Tom Simpson collapsing on Mt Ventoux; I remember the suddenly miraculously beefy Bernard Thevenet beating Eddy Merckx. The reason I didn't believe it then is that I thought that of all racers Floyd Landis was the least likely to have cheated, or to go on lying that he hadn't. I believed that then, and I still do.

In the weeks that followed, I tried to make scientific sense out of what might have happened. I participated for a while on DPF. "My, what an unpleasant bunch most of their regulars are," I thought. For a brief time there was Free Floyd, but then it stopped. And, all of a sudden, TbV appeared. And not long after that, it seems to me (memory has probably falsely telescoped time here), the first of the LNDD (as it was then called) documents from the Chatenay-Malabry lab surfaced, and I found there was a small contribution I could make. I had, at one point in my life, been a typesetter; at another, a paleontologist (someone who pores over old manuscripts--and I assure you, most medieval scribes had far worse handwriting than the techs at LNDD); I knew some French and Italian.

As documents surfaced in unlikely places I was as happy, as we say, as a pig in shit. There were results to be translated, documents to be compared to determine--by matching stationery, typefaces, signatures--which might be the source of another, which might be forged, which genuine, and so on. In the end, all these fascinating espionage-like games were superseded by the substantive debate over the test procedures and the reliability of their results. My skill set became increasingly irrelevant, and the word passed to the scientists, where I could not follow. i didn't regret that. That was as it should be. The final word should scientific--or should have been. Nor did I regret the time I'd spent on now insignificant issues. I had fun, and I felt I was part of a small but important movement. There are still unanswered questions about the provenance of those documents, questions whose answers would reveal a backstory of manipulation of data and the media. I'd like to know the story, but I know it's unlikely I ever will. Tant pis. C'est la guerre.

The greatest moment--in respect to drama, if not scholarship--was TbV's "live-blogging," as we now know to call it, of the USADA hearing. An unprecedented opening of what had been nothing more than a Star Chamber, as well as an astounding feat of old-fashioned journalism. I would like to believe that dB's and Bill Hue's cracking open of this closed legal world will have a lasting effect. It will surely have some; it will almost as surely not have as much as we would hope.

Along the way, I have met--sometimes face-to-face, most often not--some of the most interesting people I have ever known. I rarely have had as much fun on the internet as I did while all of us on this site were taking on giants, armed only with our curiosity, ingenuity, civility, and sense of justice. Thanks to everyone who made this wild ride possible: dB, first of all, and strbk, Bill Hue and Mr. Rant. and, of course, Mr. FL himself. I will miss this community, but somehow feel I'm bound to run into many of you again in some other fight for reality-based regulations in this sport we love. As the French say, "Courage. On les aura."

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Final Quotes of the Day

Let me ask you.

Have you ever held a position in an argument past the point of comfort?

Have you ever defended a way of life you were on the verge of exhausting?

Have you ever given service to a creed you no longer utterly believed?

Have you ever told a girl that you loved her and felt the faint nausea of eroding conviction?

I have.

That's an interesting moment.

--John Patrick Shanley1

Guess you gotta be the way you are.
Guess you gotta see things your own way.
If everyone laughs when the joke's on you.
Don't take it so hard.
You can look on the light side.

Well a man was hit by a train.
And his body was startin to drain.
The doc said the man's half dead
I say he's half alive.

It's all in the way you look at it.

--Gary Frenay2

1Preface to Doubt, a parable, 2005, John Patrick Shanley, Theater Communications Group Inc., New York, NY, via the Minister of Information.

2"It's All In the Way You Look at It", from Jigsaw People, sample here.

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The Winnowing: Meier-Augenstein on Watching the Watchdogs

Wolfram Meier-Augenstein testified for Landis at the AAA hearing. He is an expert in isotope ratio spectrometry, invented a number of the techniques, and is widely published. He also sent us a short, direct responses to the topics we suggested, and this longer piece, which we have reformatted. In the cover letter, he writes:

I have attached a slightly amended version of my "who watches the watchdogs" response to the original majority panel decision; a document I stand by to this day. It focuses on the real problem here, non-fit-for-purpose procedures incompetently applied by a lab with no adequate quality control and quality assurance procedures in place. If LNDD would be assessed by a proper accreditation body (such as UKAS) to either ISO-17025 or to GLP I should like to think they would fail.

W. Meier-Augenstein, original version 23 Sep 2007; this amended version: 20 Dec 2008.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Who watches the watchers? (Juvenal; Satire 6.346–348)

The panel's majority decision document contains misleading information, whether deliberately or merely due to ignorance I wouldn't care to speculate. However, what can be stated with certainty is the fact that standard operating procedures as for gas chromatographic peak matching as employed by LNDD are in stark contrast to every text book on gas chromatography and in contrast to articles by internationally acknowledged pioneers in the field of gas chromatography.

Instead of facing up to the fact that LNDD's methods are fundamentally flawed, the panel majority and its expert/s throw this back at the experts for the defence calling their criticism fundamentally flawed.


On the one hand two members of the panel brand criticism on non-matching relative retention values “scientifically totally unacceptable and fundamentally flawed” because LNDD uses two GC methods on their GC/MS and GC/C-IRMS system, respectively, while on the other claiming compound peak identification was a feasible and sound thing to do despite the fact that in addition to using two different GC methods LNDD also used two completely different GC columns of different polarity and, hence separation properties thus turning visual comparison of chromatograms into something only a cynic would call a scientifically sound approach to compound peak identification.

Is it really unreasonable to demand that methods applied to two sets of experiments are set up to be as similar as possible in almost all respects (with the exception of 1 maybe 2 parameters) if from the outset the intention is the compare the results / outputs from these two experiments? In order to see cause-and-effect relationships a laboratory must be sure that their procedures (the independent variable/s) are the only variables having an effect on the dependent variable. They should do this by holding all other variables, variables that might also affect the dependent variable, constant or as consistent as possible (“Principal of Identical Treatment”).

It’s a simple and well know fact of life applicable to every measurement system: you put garbage in, you get garbage out. This applies in an almost extreme way to GC/C-IRMS because there are so many causes for garbage-in such sample matrix interference, IRMS non-linearity, compound peak overlap to name but a few.

However, before even considering these compounding factors we need, no, must know with absolute certainty which compound is represented by which peak since GC/C-IRMS has to destroy a compound by combustion into carbon dioxide (CO2) to determine the compound’s 13C isotopic composition with the degree of accuracy and precision required for natural abundance level isotope analysis.

So, if somebody would like to compare responses from two GC systems where presence of a peak is indicated by an ‘ionization’ detector (system A) while system B uses a ‘carbon’ detector for the same purpose, is it indeed “scientifically totally unacceptable and fundamentally flawed” to ask (or assume) that experimental set-ups of both GC systems are as closely matched as possible, i.e. identical GC column (i.e. identical stationary phase), identical or at least similar carrier gas flow rate, identical or similar temperature programme to ensure one can compare chromatograms even though peak heights, peak areas, and absolute retention times will be different due to the differences in detector characteristics and variations in the GC conditions, respectively?

Both scenarios have the following in common, methods used for data evaluation as well as the experimental design must be fit for purpose and the latter must match the needs of the former.

If there is a compelling reason to use different temperature programmes one has to employ more than one Internal Retention Time Standard so Linear Retention Indices (Kovats Indices) can be calculated to compare and determine peak identity. In fact to anchor N samples peaks one has to use N+1 internal retention time standards.

If one wishes to use relative retention as proxy for peak identity between two chromatographic systems, chromatographic conditions ought to be closely matched though parameters such as column length and carrier gas flow do not have to be a 100% match.

At this point, attention is drawn to the fact that in USADA’s pre-hearing brief (16 April 2007, #172285 v1; Section IV. IRMS Confirmation of Exogenous Testosterone in Sample #995474; Sub-section D. Description of the IRMS method used by LNDD), which painstakingly describes every step of the IRMS analytical procedure as carried out at LNDD, Points 53 to 58 make no mention whatsoever how target compound peaks were identified during the IRMS analyses. All target compound peaks are primarily identified through the pre-IRMS compound identification as introduced in Point 39: “39. The LNDD IRMS test consists of three main steps: sample preparation, pre-IRMS compound identification, and IRMS analysis”.

Attention is also drawn to the following quotes from the same aforementioned USADA document. “40. … Next an internal standard (5-alpha-androstanol acetate) is added for a purpose that will be explained below. 41. … The first element of compound identification is the GC "retention time (RT)" and the second one is the molecular fingerprint recorded by the MS, which fragments the molecule into ions. 42. A parameter that is even better than the retention time is the relative retention time (RRT). It relies on the internal standard that was added to each tube during sample preparation. The internal standard has its own characteristic retention time. The relative retention time of any other compound is simply (RT of other compound)/(RT of internal standard)1. This makes comparisons of retention times easier because it normalizes them”.

In the context of the above, Points 182 to 186 in the panel’s majority decision document make for interesting reading.

Also interesting to note is the fact that LNDD does not record the δ13C-values of the internal standard during 13C isotope analysis by GC/C-IRMS. This is point that was specifically stressed by USADA’s legal team during cross of WMA. If we except this argument then this begs the question on which basis did LNDD identify the internal standard peak in chromatograms of samples LNDD claimed to be Floyd Landis’, which showed in some fractions more than 4 peaks in the immediate vicinity of the presumed internal standard with 1 or 2 peaks being as close as 15 seconds.

Why were the panel and the WADA experts not interested in this point? Answer, if one cannot even unambiguously identify one’s chosen internal standard, what confidence can one have in the results that hinge on this knowledge?

1Incidentally, this statement is scientifically incorrect as many a textbook on gas chromatography and GC training manuals will testify to. What follows is a verbatim quote from Shimadzu’s GC training manual; only bold emphasis and sections underscored and in italics are added. (Shimadzu’s GC manual is accessible on the Internet at:
(click on “Click here for details” beneath bullet point ‘�� Identification Using LRI’; in the new window scroll through the presentation using >> and don’t forget to open the tabs on the right hand side of each screen).
“We call the length of time between injection and position of the target compound peak a retention time [tr]. On the other hand, the time difference between the peak of an unretained compound and a target compound is called the adjusted retention time [tr’]. We call the retention time of a compound that is not retained by the stationary phase the gas hold-up time [t0].

Relative Retention α (r) [IUPAC recommend using r instead of α to avoid confusion with the Separation Factor α)

Since absolute retention times are affected by many operational parameters, retention parameters less dependent on column dimension and analysis conditions may be desired. Such parameters are expressed by the relative relation of adjusted retention time between the standard sample IS and the unknown sample: relative retention and retention index.

Relative Retention α = t’rs/t’IS = (trs-t0)/(tIS-t0)

The advantageous point of relative retention is that it depends only on the ratio of distribution coefficients and the effects from some parameters, such as column length and carrier gas flow, are basically cancelled out.

However, there are some limitations for relative retention. Measurement of errors will increase for target peaks located far from the reference peak and it is hard to find a relation with a chemical structure.”

Note, that relative retention only makes allowances for different column length and different carrier gas flow in otherwise identical set-ups, i.e. identical stationary phase and identical temperature programme.

Finally, attention is drawn to the fact that the standard sample Mix Cal Acetate used in IRMS does not contain 3 of the 6 target compounds; in fact it does not contain any of the target steroids crucial to the adverse finding in this case, namely androsterone (andro), 5α-androstanediol (5alphdiol) and 5ß-pregnanediol (pdiol). In contrast, Mix Acetate, the standard sample used in GC/MS for pre-IRMS compound identification does contain all 6 target compounds plus the Internal Standard, yet Mix Cal Acetate contains the same Internal Standard as Mix Acetate (see Point 42 of the USADA pre-hearing brief)

Given all that and given how important it is to be able to identify all target compound peak as unambiguously as possible, it is surely a logical assumption to make that LNDD had a tried and tested protocol in place that enabled them to use pre-IRMS compound identification by GC/MS analysis as an anchor for the IRMS compound identification using relative retention as proxy.

However, in the light of Points 182 to 188 of the panel’s majority decision document it would appear LNDD was not doing any such thing “because the chromatographic conditions are different”; …”the thermal ramp {…} is different.” (Point 188). [This statement is not only in stark contrast with the stated benefits of relative retention as per the USADA document quoted above: “A parameter that is even better than the retention time is the relative retention time (RRT)”; because “This makes comparisons of retention times easier because it normalizes them” it all also ignores nearly 50 years of research and development that has made gas chromatography (GC) one of the most widely used techniques in analytical and separation science and resulted in insights of GC theory such as “The advantageous point of relative retention is that it depends only on the ratio of distribution coefficients and the effects from some parameters, such as column length and carrier gas flow, are basically cancelled out”.

Similarly, the majority panel is seemingly also ignorant of the fact why renowned scientists such as E Kovats, in whose honour the linear retention index has been named Kovats Index, have devised methods and equations designed for identifying compound peaks of the same compound but analysed under temperature programmed gas chromatographic conditions.

As an aside, one of the main applications of relative retention and retention indices is to compare chromatographic behaviour of compounds on two GC systems with two different detector systems. Even though the majority panel in Point 182 try to create the impression a GC/MS and a GC/C-IRMS instruments are instruments “that are not of the same type” they contradict themselves in Point 184: “With GC/C-IRMS the sample is processed first through the GC, as with GC/MS”. Exactly right, the fact the two GC systems use different detectors does not matter a jot. The only difference in GC terms is the “additional ‘plumbing’” since this adds to the ‘hold-up time’ of the GC/C-IRMS system.

Even this point is conceded and correctly applied (in parts) by the majority panel in Point 185. “The additional time added to the RT of the analyte or standard in the IRMS will always by a constant time, regardless of the individual substances or compounds being measured”. One could not think of a better definition of ‘hold-up time’2, i.e. the time it takes an unretained compound to travel trough the GC system until it reaches the detector (be that be an MS or an IRMS). To drive home this point the majority panel add “an additional 1 minute” to demonstrate how this will change the relative retention time for a compound and an internal standard with GC/MS retention times of 10 min and 5 min, respectively, which in the GC/C-IRMS will now show retention times of 11 min and 6 min, respectively. So, what do they do? They build the ratio of the absolute retention times, i.e. 10 min/5 min since as per Point 184 in the case of the MS, the GC is connected directly to the MS and it detects the substance almost instantaneously”, hence making the assumption for the sake of this example the GC/MS does not suffer from a ‘hold-up time’, i.e. ‘hold-up time’ equals 0 min. So far, so good. In the next step they proceed to build the ratio of the absolute retention times for the case of the IRMS with a ‘hold-up time’ of 1 min (affecting both compound and internal standard in the same way), i.e. 11 min/6 min. In doing so they completely ignore a fundamental principle of GC theory that states in order to calculate relative retention one builds the ratio of adjusted retention times, i.e. absolute retention time minus ‘hold-up time’, i.e. (11-1) min/(6-1) min, which uncannily is the same as 10 min/5 min.

2 Just in case, here is the official IUPAC definition of hold-up time and hold-up volume.

hold-up volume (time) (in column chromatography), VM, tM

The volume of the mobile phase (or the corresponding time) required to elute a component the concentration of which in the stationary phase is negligible compared to that in the mobile phase. In other words, this component is not retained at all by the stationary phase. Thus, the hold-up volume (time) is equal to the retention volume (time) of an unretained compound.
The hold-up volume (time) includes any volumes contributed by the sample injector, the detector, and connectors.

tM = VM/Fc

In gas chromatography this term is also called the gas hold-up volume (time).

What have we learned thus far? Relative retention is calculated by building the ratio of adjusted retention times for a given compound and the internal standard; adjusted retention time means absolute retention time minus hold-up time;
fact. Relative retention is virtually impervious to changes in column length and carrier gas flow and therefore an ideal means to compare and identify compounds peaks recorded on two different GC instruments provided chromatographic conditions are identical; fact. The same objective can be achieved in cases where temperature programming (“thermal ramp”) is different by using the linear retention index method; fact. Thanks to the USADA pre-hearing brief (point 42) and the decision document (point 185) we have also learned neither LNDD nor the majority panel and its experts know how to calculate relative retention correctly.

At face value we have to accept the assertion that LNDD never intended to use relative retention to identify compound peaks in GC/C-IRMS by using the relative retention data from
the pre-IRMS compound identification as anchor.

So, if that is not the way how LNDD have identified which compound peak in the IRMS analysis represents which target compound, how did they do it?

Luckily for us, the decision document provides the answer in Point
186: “the lab compares the peaks and the sequence of peaks from the GC/MS and the GC/C-IRMS to identify metabolites and the endogenous reference compounds. Specifically, to identify the substances in question, one would compare the pattern of peak heights and retention times in the GC/C-IRMS chromatograms, anchored by the internal standard with a known RT, with the pattern of peak heights and RTs in the GC/MS chromatogram obtained from the same aliquot of the sample.

Hang on a minute. How does this work then? Didn’t the majority panel just say in Point
183 it cannot be expected that the RTs for a GC/MS instrument will correspond with the RTs for the GC/C-IRMS instrument”??? If that is not the mother of all contradictory statements I don’t know what is.

Well, never mind and I shall not even remind you that “
the thermal ramp is different” meaning “the chromatographic conditions are different”. Neither shall I keep harping on that peak heights in GC/MS are a function of ion current, which depends how easy a compound becomes ionized and how inclined the molecular ion feels to break up into fragment ions and how many, while in contrast the peak heights in 13C IRMS are proportional to the amount of carbon (in the form of CO2) entering the ion source of the IRMS, and that the peak heights between the two detectors for the same compound are not strongly correlated.

So, where were we? “
Peaks and the sequence of peaks from the GC/MS and the GC/C-IRMS” are compared “to identify metabolites and the endogenous reference compounds”.

It is probably petty of me to mention again at this point that it would really help if the standard mixture used for GC/C-IRMS would contain all 6 of the target metabolites and endogenous reference compounds one is looking for instead of being
3 crucially important target compounds short! Attention is therefore drawn again to the fact that in contrast to Mix Acetate (as used for pre-IRMS compound identification by GC/MS) the Mix Cal Acetate used for IRMS analysis contains the Internal Standard and only 3 of the target steroids, i.e. Androsterone [andro], 5α-Androstandiol [5alphadiol] and 5ß-Preganediol [pdiol] are not included.

Just as well then that “
the GC column is, of course, the same in both instruments” (Point 188) so there will be no problem for the lab to compare “the peaks and the sequence of peaks from the GC/MS and the GC/C-IRMS to identify metabolites and the endogenous reference compounds. Specifically, to identify the substances in question, one would compare the pattern of peak heights and retention times in the GC/C-IRMS chromatograms, anchored by the internal standard with a known RT, with the pattern of peak heights and RTs in the GC/MS chromatogram obtained from the same aliquot of the sample” (Point 186).

Even if one only intends to compare “
the peaks and sequence of peaks” for their relative position in the chromatograms by essentially extrapolating from one GC[/MS] chromatogram to another GC[/C-IRMS] chromatogram, what one should not do, is to employ a different temperature programme and, in addition, GC columns of completely different polarity in both instruments!

There are plenty of examples in the literature (and GC column application notes) showing that a change in polarity of the stationary phase can lead to such changes in compound retention (times) that compound peaks X and Y (for example RT(X)=15 min and RT(Y)=16 min on column A) will swap places, with compound Y now eluting before compound X (for example RT(X)= 18 min and RT(Y)= 17 min on column B).

Clearly the majority panel is aware of this compounding factor assuring us as they do that “
the GC column is, of course, the same in both instruments” (Point 188).

According to LNDD’s documentation (
USADA 0124) all samples pertaining to this case analysed on the GC/MS system were analysed using the “6890 GC Method”, which employs an AGILENT 19091s-433 column, 30 m long, internal diameter 0.25 mm and film thickness of the stationary phase of 0.25 μm. The manufacturer classifies this column as a non-polar column, stationary phases comprised of 5% phenyl, 95% methyl-polysiloxane. As equivalent columns are listed Rtx-5MS, HP-5MS and DB5-MS.

According to LNDD’s documentation (
USADA 0153) all samples pertaining to this case analysed on the GC/C-IRMS system were analysed using a DB17-MS column, 30 m long, internal diameter 0.25 mm and film thickness of the stationary phase of 0.25 μm. The manufacturer classifies this column as a midpolarity column, stationary phases comprised of (50% phenyl)-methyl-polysiloxane. As equivalent columns are listed Rtx-50 and HP-50+.

What have learned here? LNDD have used two different GC columns of significantly different polarity and, hence compound selectivity;
fact. There can be no argument about this since this fact is undeniably documented in the USADA discovery documents. Yet, the majority panel quite unequivocally state in their decision document in Point 188 the column is, of course, the same in both instruments”. To put it another way, the majority panel and the WADA experts have either not bothered to examine the laboratory documentation of LNDD’s analytical procedures, or, if they have they have very conveniently wiped their memory of this particular fact. Either way, again a crucial piece of evidence that at the very least throws serious doubt on the competence of LNDD has been conveniently overlooked and been withheld from the public.

So, we are back where we started; garbage in, garbage out. LNDD have no way of knowing let alone unambiguously proving that the peaks analysed by IRMS are what they claim to be. Is it plausible their peak identification is correct? Perhaps. Can they prove it, and more to the point can they prove that closely neighbouring peaks such as
etio and andro, and 5betadiol and 5alphadiol have not swapped places? They can not! If one cannot prove that the outcome of an analytical measurement pertains to one particular compound and that compound alone, the result becomes meaningless.

In conclusion, the experts for the defence have highlighted that the methods employed (and as applied) by LNDD are
not fit for purpose no matter how you slice it. Yet, the panel (with exception of Christopher Campbell) saw fit to turn this on its head and say our criticism that target compound peaks have not been properly identified is scientifically totally unacceptable and fundamentally flawed.

It strikes me that in order
to justify false positive findings of drug abuse by athletes we have now entered the era of science abuse by the watchdog.

To put it more bluntly, this modern day witch hunt that as in the days of the inquisition works on the presumption of guilt (until proven innocent) is a tragedy for sport and a travesty of justice.

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The Last Roundup

Howdy, pardner!
Bing Crosby sings the theme song better than we can.

Quickrelease thinks there's something fishy.

Rant gives us a nice send off.

The Boulder Report gives a fond farewell. If we were pedantic sorts, we might complain about being called Southern Californian, which is like calling someone in Gunnison a front-ranger. But that would be unnappreciative: Lindsay has kept his own counsel and not been tied into a fixed position.

Team Ouch has a web site, and a twitter feed.

Is the team motto going to be, "Putting the hurt on"?

Epic Carnival runs a year-ender by Gary Gaffney of Steroid Report, suggesting that the sport of cycling be euthanized, with Landis as but one example.

The Grauniad's Barnry Ronay makes Landis one of his Sports Villains of 2008, listing no other cyclist. That's staying power for someone who didn't even compete in the sport for the year.

Musings Blong Orrbésau thinks "TBV is a sorry excuse", but is talking about a different one.


Finally, this tidbit from BobkeStrut, talking about the book Sneaker Wars.

Dick Pound is mentioned for his behind the scenes arm-twisting of National Olympic Committees (NOCs) in the early 1980s. Pound, tightly connected to IOC chair Juan Antonio Samaranch, made the rounds of the worlds NOCs in order to convince them to give up their marketing rights and sell them back to the IOC home office in Switzerland. The end result was that the Olympics could then have a single, global marketing campaign and the beneficiary of this was Adidass Horst Dassler. Surprise, surpriseDassler was a major force in getting Samaranch elected as IOC head, and as a payback Samaranch would contract Dasslers shadow sports marketing firm to handle the Olympic marketing campaign.

(We'll talk a little about the Sporting-Entertainment Complex before we check out later.)

Be seeing you. We're done.

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