Thursday, April 26, 2007

Whistling

Among the many turns of plot in the L'Affaire Landis was the report in November that copies of documents embarrassing and attributed to the LNDD had been delivered to a number of news outlets and organizations, by mail, in plain brown envelopes.

There were charges that parts were forged, the contents were "taken out of context," and perhaps worst, that the French was bad. L'Equipe did not run a shocking expose of the leaked contents, but complained about how the documents were obtained, and how it was Landis what done it. On the other hand, Sam Abt of the International Herald Tribune thought they sounded pretty darned likely, and convincing.

Tellingly, Dr. de Ceaurriz, head of the LNDD, has been saying that he is is not allowed to comment on the authenticity or the contents.

UPDATE May 8, 2006. Michael Hiltzik in the LA Times confirms some authenticity:

Documents provided to Landis by USADA indicate that LNDD was forced to reverse itself in at least one other case in 2006 because it had mishandled an innocent athlete's sample.

According to the documents, the lab withdrew its finding that a competitive swimmer had doped with the steroid mesterolone after it discovered that the athlete's sample had been contaminated by steroids in another sample tested the same day. WADA rebuked the lab, demanding that it take corrective action.

The documents provided to Landis' attorneys appear to be identical to several that were made public last year by an anonymous source who had allegedly hacked into the lab's computers. USADA's delivery of the documents in the swimmer's case indicates that those, at least, are genuine.

Arnie Baker has made reference to them in slide shows, with caveats that they are not authenticated, which we repeat again, here: These are not known to be authentic. But there have been no denials of the content, only complaints on the "letterhead" upon which they were delivered by what Dr. Baker calls, "the Whistleblower."

We're going to show both the originals as delivered, and translations for English speakers prepared by our Paris correspondent, Marc, except where the letters are already in English.

[ONWARD]


As described originally, the documents apparently consist of a number of apologies and result-withdrawals made by LNDD to various federations reflecting various errors that the lab felt obliged to correct, after having sent off "certified" AAFs. It also includes alleged correspondence with WADA attempting to explain various aspects of the situation.

None of the agencies, federations or labs has confirmed the contents of these letters -- but neither have they been denied. The main public complaints have been (1) that the letterhead on which they are printed appears to be forged, perhaps reflecting the sender's attempt to duplicate the effect of LNDD's fax or letterhead; and (2) that they are taken "out of context", but no context has been provided.

It appears the sender obtained machine readable copies of these documents, faked some letterhead, and passed them on. That has left many to think the sender is a "hacker" who broke into the LNDD's computers, one with shockingly bad spelling, since the Lab address is incorrect on the faked letterheads. The truth is unknown, but the incident apparently has spurred the AFLD to approve funding for better security and improved information systems at the lab. Perhaps that was the goal of the operation.

Now, what M. Whistleblower sent.





First, he sent a cover sheet, saying,
Please find attached the very interesting information. I had to make sure that what happened was known.

Then, a list of people sent the envelope.

The list includes:

  • Jacques Rogge at the IOC
  • Peter Uberroth at the USOC
  • Richard Pound at the WADA
  • Pierre Bordry at the CPLD (now AFLD)
  • Terry Madden at USADA
  • Steve Johnson at USA Cycling
  • Pat PcQuaid at the UCI
  • Patrice Clerc at the ASO
  • Howard Jacobs
  • Sam Abt at the IHT
We don't know if there were other recipients. We think the New York Times got it, suggesting another page of recipients we don't have. Notably missing is anyone associated with ISO accreditation, who would seem relevant.



The second page appears to be a letter from LNDD to the World Squash Federation, on May 10, 2005, about reports issued April 13th.

Please find attached the reports of analyses #25086 (63/03-2, May 10, 2005) and #25087 (63/03-3, May 10, 2005), which revoke and replace the reports of analyses #24912 (63/03-2, April 13, 2005) and 24913 (63/03-3, April 13, 2005).

In fact, Terbutaline was attributed to the wrong sample (confusion between #316143 and #316148)

Consequently, I would be grateful to you if you would destroy the erroneous analytic reports.

[The equivalent of “Sincerely yours”]

Caroline LOUBET


We're sorry, it's three weeks after we sent you these AAFs, but the reports we sent out attributed the banned substance to the wrong sample. Oops! Hope you didn't ruin anyone's life over it!



Page 3, a similar looking letter sent to the World Alpinism Association [sic], on Nov 17, 2005.

Please find attached the report of analysis #26532 (38/11, November 17, 2005), which revokes and replaces the report of analysis #26511 (38/11, November 15, 2005).

In fact, the date the sample was taken was recorded as November 29, 2005 instead of October 29, 2005.

Consequently, I would be grateful to you if you would destroy the erroneous analytic report.

Please excuse us for this error, and [“Sincerely yours”]

Caroline LOUBET


Got the sample date wrong, Doh! Fortunately, it's only two days after we sent it!



Page 4, sent to FINA, the Swimming Federation, on July 6, 2006 about reports issued on the July 4th. (Remember the dates).

Please find attached the report of analysis #28236 (90/05, July 12, 2006 [sic]), which revokes and replaces the reports of analyses #28112 (90/05-1, July 4, 206 [sic]) and 28113 (90/05-2, July 4, 2006).

In fact, a re-analysis of sample #336186 invalidated the presence of one of the metabolites of Mesterolone (due to contamination of one of the urine controls)

Consequently, I would be grateful to you if you would destroy the erroneous analytic report.

Please excuse us for this error, and [“Sincerely yours”]

Caroline LOUBET


The tour has started, and they are withdrawing a report that found Mesterolone because they had bad urine blanks. Let's hope this athlete didn't have his reputation ruined.




Page 5, On September 1st 2006, after the Landis AAF has broken out, WADA asks the LNDD, "what the heck is going on here with your blank urine sample? We found out through FINA, and are not amused."


Dr. Oliver Rabin, Director of Science




Pages 6 and 7, LNDD answers WADA on Sept 8th, a week later.

We're all pals here, so we're using a very informal font for this. This isn't serious, is it?

Anyway, here's our documentation on the original. We had second thoughts because something didn't look right, and when we did a reanalysis, it looked OK. We think maybe we mixed up some samples, and the blank urine was contaminated. When we did it again, it came out right. And the dog ate our
homework, or maybe contaminated the blanks.

No problems here!

Really!

J. de CEAURRIZ









Page 8, The French Swimming Foundation gets a letter dated Sep 13 2006 about tests reported on Sep 11 and 12, a few days after LNDD tells WADA things are under control.

Please find attached the report of analysis #28740 (161/06-1, September 12, 2006), which revokes and replaces the report of analysis #28720 (161/06-1, September 11, 2006).

In fact, the sample was recorded as 338439 instead of 338349.

Consequently, I would be grateful to you if you would, by return mail, send me back the original of the erroneous analytic report.

Please excuse us for this error, and [“Sincerely yours”]

Caroline LOUBET

Darned, those numbers are tricky to copy right.



Page 9, to FINA, the International Swimming Federation, on Sep 13 about those same Sep 12 and 13 reports.

Please find attached the report of analysis #28740 (161/06-1, September 12, 2006), which revokes and replaces the report of analysis #28720 (161/06-1, September 11, 2006).

In fact, the sample was recorded as 338439 instead of 338349.

Consequently, I would be grateful to you if you would destroy the erroneous analytic report.

Please excuse us for this error, and [“Sincerely yours”]

Caroline LOUBET


Silly ol' us.



Clearly, none of these incidents has anything directly to do with the Landis case. They are not evidence related to his reported AAFs. The problem with urine blanks in July leading to false declaration of an AAF could presage a similar problem with Landis, but that has not been raised to our knowledge. These incidents might be relevant in the same way the new B sample tests are after several burden flips in corroborating perceptions about the LNDD.

The letters indicate a pattern.
  1. An error of some sort is made.
  2. It is identified after a report has been sent off to a federation.
  3. LNDD wants the old report destroyed or returned.
  4. Only rarely does WADA seem to be informed of this.
  5. And never the ISO accreditors.
  6. When WADA is informed, it accepts at face value LNDD's excuses.
Now consider the scenario in the Landis case. LNDD sends a report they think is an AAF. Perhaps they are having second thoughts and thinking about doing some confirmation work, but Merde! The UCI has already gone public and all hell is breaking loose

Can they allow themselves second thoughts now? Are they going to send one of Caroline LOUBETs sincere letters of apology?

In fact, the little exchange between LNDD, FINA, and WADA over the urine blank problem causing a misidentification happens while the Landis case is exploding.

Landis files his motion for dismissal on September 11.

Does the ADRB know anything about the problems LNDD has been having?

Has LNDD sent one of the LOUBET notes? Can LNDD think about admitting an error given the exposure of the case?

Nope.

The wagons at LNDD, USADA and WADA are circling. Gonna have to tough it out, stick by your guns, stay the course.

The tests are "infallible", the labs are accredited, we have no problems, nothing to see here, move along.

Look! A dirty doper!!! He's CHEATING!!!

So it goes.




11 comments:

carlton reid said...

TBV - do you know if anybody has asked FINA and the other bodies whether they got these letters?

I guess Sam Abt will have tried but I don't recall hearing about any denials.

Anonymous said...

How did TBV obtain these?

tbv@trustbut.com said...

I got them from Dr. Baker.

TBV

tbv@trustbut.com said...

Carlton, I haven't heard for sure, but I think a cone of silence has been in place about this. Nobody wants to rock the boat.

We might find out at the hearing.

TBV

Anonymous said...

Bad Fakes !

Look at the address of the lab in the page foot: the real address is Chatenay-Malabry!
Many big french faults.

No comments needed for so bad fakes.

Trust but UNVERIFY...

tbv@trustbut.com said...

Dear anon,

Since we address the fakery in the article, and frequently note in boldface the questionable veracity, I am unclear what to make of your comment. Everyone is agreed the letterhead is a bad fake.

The real questions become, "are the contents real?", and "what would it mean if they are real?"

TBV

zarghev said...

Well if you look at the documemts, there is only one case of one measurement problem, the others are clerical errors.

These kind of errors HAVE TO happen sometimes, that's why there need to be a process to catch them (as routinely done in life-critical systems).

Apparently the process of the LNDD caught them. In the one case of the measurement error, WADA demand explanation, and a report with more than 26+ pages was sent to WADA as to what precisely happened in the process (or maybe this documentation is inside the updated reports themselves). Too bad they were not given by the "Whistleblower" and were summed up as: "And the dog ate our homework, or maybe contaminated the blanks."

From what I gather here, there is multiple checks:
- each sample is analyzed together with another "blank" sample (which is known to be negative)
- if there is a positive, there is a confirmation step.
- presumably, the quality checking process caught the some errors after the fact.

In fact, those documents only illustrate the rigors of the testing process (in addition to the blinding of samples).

To prevent any error to incriminate an innocent athlete, remember that this was the analysis of one sample, and the analysis of the B sample must be positive as well. The B sample is kept sealed, and is unsealed in the presence of the athlete (or a representative), and goes through the analysis process. Trust but verify, indeed ; the verification is the "B sample".

Well except that, in the case of Floyd Landis, he did not bother attend the B sample analysis, at all. His comments were in the effect "I expect testosterone will be found as well". Instead he run a long list of stupid explanations why there should be too much testosterone in his blood. WTF?

I don't know you, but if I knew I were innocent, the first thing I would understand is that there was some error somewhere. I would be the very first person of the world to demand loudly the analysis of the B sample. I would even camp outside the lab, starting from 4 AM, to be sure to be in when the sample would be unsealed and analyzed.
This is what Floyd Landis did not bother to do.

daniel m (a/k/a Rant) said...

zarghev,

Actually, Landis did have a representative at the original B sample testing. Dr. Douwe de Boer, I believe, who raised some concerns at the time about how the testing was performed. His comments and concerns can be found at the end of the original lab documentation package.

FYI.

- Rant

Boss said...

zarghev,

Oh, "just clerical errors"? Perhaps you'd like to explain that to the athletes who effectively had been WRONGLY accused of DOPING by this lab? I'm sure they will be very understanding that some "clerical error" had jammed them up into a massive issue with career ending implications. No problem, it is just a little "Boo-Boo" as Ms. Ayotte described. Meanwhile an innocent athlete is somewhere between accused and sanctioned, for something they’ve never done.

Your summary below, had you been running the lab, indicates no less 4 violations of the ISL/ISO :

“From what I gather here, there is multiple checks:
- each sample is analyzed together with another "blank" sample (which is known to be negative)
- if there is a positive, there is a confirmation step.
- presumably, the quality checking process caught the some errors after the fact.

In fact, those documents only illustrate the rigors of the testing process (in addition to the blinding of samples).”

On the contrary, the problems within these unverified letters highlight the utter LACK of rigor, as the testing process includes results management (not just chemisty). These issues ALL demand investigation by WADA, per the ISL section for accreditation. Based on the points system in place, and these known issues, this lab should have been suspended prior to the start of the 2006 TdF.

Your statement re the Landis B sample and “blood” illuminates those who frequent this blog as to your true ignorance of the subject. Here’s a tip: if you are going to level your opinion in such a way as to argue key issues in the case, at least DO SOME HOMEWORK so as not to appear like a fool on parade.

Last, but not least, the fact that these are public also demands an answer. Either, the LNDD has failed in their ISL/ISO duty to secure data, or there is someone within the Lab who felt “enough was enough” and pushed this info to the public. Perhaps the misspelling could be a way to throw someone off the trail of an insider? This is a critical question that the public (at least me) will hope is answered during the hearing, should these issues be material.

tbv@trustbut.com said...

Boss,

None of this is going to come up at the hearing. It's not germane to the Landis AAFs, it isn't properly obtained (if it's even real).

Grant that it's OK for the lab to fix errors -- the problem in the Landis case is that the early leak locked them into a position where they could not politically admit an error.

Now, whether the non-reporting of other corrections to WADA is a problem, since WADA only noticed when FINA passed on a retraction, is a different question, but not up to the Landis panel to resolve.

TBV

zarghev said...

'boss'
"Oh, 'just clerical errors'? Perhaps you'd like to explain that to the athletes who effectively had been WRONGLY accused of DOPING by this lab?"

Mispelling the sample number is a clerical error. It happens all the time in all systems. Measurements errors are bound to happen too (in case of equipment defect, manipulation error). Hence what is needed is a Quality Checking process. It exists. Ultimately, no athlete could have been wrongly accused of doping, because his B sample would no confirm the finding.
The dual sample system is quite similar to the dual engine system in planes. In a one engine system, an engine failure would be a disaster ; this was taken into account, hence all commercial planes must have 2 engines and must be able to operate correctly with only one engine: as a result, single engine failures are considered as a minor failure, and happen frequently.


"On the contrary, the problems within these unverified letters highlight the utter LACK of rigor, as the testing process includes results management (not just chemisty)."

Errors will happen all the time.

From what I gather, 4 tests, and maybe 8 tests may have been made in Landis' case: Landis sample A - too high T/E ; blank urine - T/E normal ; Landis sample A - traces of synthetic testosterone ; blank urine - no synthetic testosterone ; Landis sample B - too high T/E ; blank urine - T/E normal ; Landis sample - traces of synthetic testosterone ; blank urine - no traces.
Bonus is sample B T/E ratio is same as sample A.

Errors would have been caught.

As for the laboratory covering up the problem, even when the news about Floyd Landis was making the headlines, a conspiracy makes little sense.
If a mistake is made then there is two choices:
- 1) Let the process continue. The B sample would not have validated the A sample's finding, Landis would have been cleared - even though there would remain a question mark on the issue, the lab would never lose its accreditation, everyone continues to live his life happily ever after because the dual sample system worked.

- 2) Manipulating the measurements several times (including from sealed sample in front of Landis' lawyers - thanks daniel m.). An innocent athlete is caught, but the lab gets little benefits in the case no one detects that massive fraud. In the case the fraud is detected, the lab loses its accreditation for sure, several people lose their jobs, and indeed could end up in jail.