Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Curious Cross of Catlin

When direct examination of Don Catlin completed, it seemed like that of any other WADA lab director. The work is good, results correct, move on.

But then, under cross-examination, he said a lot of curious things that left a lot of loose ends, and seemed rather ambivalent towards the current USADA and WADA regimes.

He dryly offered up that WADA lab accreditation required good "citizenship", meaning not to testify against your neighbors.

Suh was almost shocked he was going there this easily. This was not like getting the other directors to talk. Maurice asked about the lab ethics standards, and Catlin offered, "yes, I wrote them."

Suh noted, "how opportune", and went right to the section about testimony. Catlin looked and, barely, prompted, offered:

"It seems to have changed since I wrote it."

He went easily to the "grief" he'd gotten from WADA Science Director Olivier Rabin while testifying for USADA in the Zach Lund case, because he did not believe Finestra should be on the prohibited list.

In the sense of coerced testimony, Catlin's presentation would be the basis of an argument that a lab director's testimony has no credibility in a doping case, because it is only allowed to take the party line: Everything is fine, looks good to me, no problem!

How many times have we heard that already in this hearing?

Catlin felt that in all the cases he'd referred to USADA as positives and won were solid and the athletes were cheaters, so the one-sided victory rate was justified, because his lab's work is good.

On positivity criteria, he danced on a tightrope, letting neither side get the unambiguous answers they desired. He said he'd have reported the Landis S17 as a "positive by the WADA criteria", but noted that it would not be positive by the criteria used by UCLA, presumably based on their validation studies.

Both sides can take hope from that -- USADA, in a legalistic definition of WADA positivity that Catlin admitted, and Landis in that his own criteria would not support it, and previous admission by Ayotte that labs must run validation studies for their methodologies.

On chromatograms and background subtraction and co-elution, Suh tried to get him to say something specific, but he eluded simple characterization. He suggested he was impressed that LNDD could do certain things he could not do in his own lab, but the thing was somewhat lost, and the import unclear.

What I thought I heard, was that he was talking about algorithmically removing the contributions of co-eluted peaks to give an accurate result. I think he was saying that his lab didn't know how to do that algorithmically. Was he saying that LNDD could? I don't think LNDD does -- he may very well have been saying that LNDD has co-eluted peaks that are presented as being deconvoluted, and he doesn't know how they do that. It would be impressive if they did.

He might be saying they are co-eluted, and convoluted, and LNDD doesn't know it, and is passing them off as pure peaks, but in a dryly sarcastic, round-about way that it can't be considered a criticism. The do "impressive" work, is what he said, after all. how is that criticism?

He graded some of the relevant Chromatograms as poor, and gave some key ones letter grades of "C" and "C-", which was fairly condeming, but also a "passing" grade.

He admitted he had not heard all the testimony over the week, and did not contradict Suh's qualification, "if the data are right..." in his interpretation of the result values.

Young could not get him to admit the case was totally slam dunk, and while leaving the impression he thought Landis was guilty, his statements seemed couched and qualified, suggesting a quantitative bullet could yet turn the tide. I'm sure that is what Suh is hoping.

On the front of reality, we also have discovered the case against Steve Alfred, identified by USADA here as the likely subject of a test offered in redacted form by Landis. USADA reported a sanction on the case in Feb 2007, based on a result passed on to USADA from UCLA that UCLA did not consider positive by their own criteria. Alfred did not heavily contest the case, for reasons known only to him, but USADA clearly claimed a positive for Testosterone in their reporting of the case. We have heard that there was a retest of the B that was a clear positive, but we don't know enough details to understand.

With Catlin's redirect, USADA seemed to be content to use looser criteria for the prosecution than UCLA felt is justified by the science. This seems not to concern USADA at all. They were, in fact, proud of it. They didn't talk of another B that was positive, nor offer numbers for that positive. So Mr. Alfred seems to offer no illumination at all on the Landis case, except that UCLA did declare one result similar to those LNDD declared positive to be inconclusive.

While going through this, I came to the conclusion Catlin wanted to:

  • Indicate his commitment to science based anti-doping.
  • Indicate his displeasure with some parts of WADA, and send some signals about it.
  • Make it clear that there was some seriously substandard work being done.
  • Not let Landis off because of his testimony, unless the numbers are really wrong, which he doesn't much doubt.
  • Discourage other athletes and USADA from calling him as a witness, ever again.
It was a fascinating bit of testimony from a shrewd and ethical man.


Anonymous said...

I thought this was interesting, from the Daily Peloton site:

"The newly released USADA documents provide devastating corroborative details and explain EVERY inconsistency/difficulty in the complicated measurement process that the defendant is trying to refute. They also provide precise time lines and answer all PR press releases by FFF.

1. Floyd’s T/E was 600% of his historical average over 4 years and 43 samples
2. Just during the 2006 Tour his T/E varied way above normal 30%. This was one of the main reasons for USADA chasing his B-samples
3. Floyd’s A samples indicated wildly suspicious variation in steroid profiles. This was one of the main reasons for USADA chasing his B-samples
4. It appears that Floyd was indeed tracked by UCI for awhile on the basis of his irregular T/Es
5. USADA refutes Floyd’s press releases with facts about UCLA and Sydney labs as “would test negative my samples”

Jim T said...

Notice that Catlin said the WADA people told him during the Zach Lund case that they wanted "the truth" to come out. Nonsense. The truth in the Lund case was already out. Lund wasn't a cheater - everyone agreed. But WADA HAD to have a win all the same. They knew Lund was innocent of doping to gain an advantage, but they appealed USADA's decision not to sanction Lund to the CAS to make sure he was sanctioned.

Dick Pound thought Lund's one-year ban was too light. We've seen again this week that the anti-doping authorities really are "ends justify the means" kind of people.

Jim T said...

Anon 9:12,

Interesting. I think you're right that someone was tracking Floyd. He was twice tested as the randomly-sampled rider during the Tour. That rate of ramdon testing probably wouldn't happen to one rider just by chance.

I wonder just how random the random rider tests are during races.

Vance said...

Very nice summary.

Don Catlin is not a pathologist or a chemical engineer. He is an endocrinologist. I also recall he was a cyclist at one point, but I could be wrong.

Catlin would not be able to answer the most technical of questions about the lab techniques. But he can integrate the data in a coherent way.

His comments point out one thing: there is usually not consensus in science (real science which means experimentation).

Catlin got out of the forensic lab part of doping, and that tells you something.

Like you I would suspect that Catlin has a couple axes to grind with WADA.

Catlin was pretty firm about the results vis a vis doping occurring. No ambiguity in that answer.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:12

What/Where are these USADA docs located?

Anonymous said...

All hearing's doc are here:

This one is a resuming:
05/18/2007 FLOYD LANDIS HEARING / USADA'S pre-hearing brief

Anonymous said...

Until yesterday I was following the live video feed (worse than from a motorbike on the TdF) and following the realtime blog here to keep up with what was happening pretty well. Then when FL was up, the video went down (for me), and I was on the latest link here on TBV following the sporadic summary when the play by play was actually two headings back. Although Hue did an outstanding job, too many headings made it confusing.

Today I went to to see his testimony and it won't load probably for the same reason the live feed won't- too much traffic.

If it's not working for me with a DSL and a loaded Mac G5 tower, then a lot of people out there aren't getting it either. CVN doesn't have the capacity to handle the load and it is frustrating. I went to YouTube but suprisingly none of the hearing is there either.

Not saying this is a conspiracy or anything but it does limit access to what everyone was waiting many months to see: Floyd, first hand, in his own words. In the court of public opinion, FL's voice is getting shut down in many subtle and not so subtle ways.

If anyone can post FL's testimony on YouTube that would help since there are people all over the world that know that site and can get on since the infrastructure is supported by Google, where as CVN is woefully inadequate in even covering the hearing or streaming the archives.

thanks to TBV and anyone who can help.

Anonymous said...

Steohen Alfred has been busted at three separate events AND was:

positive for lutenizing hormones---female hormone choroinic gondatropin as well as testosterone.

The point was that Landis is fooling/masking/supplementing with his hormones on a daily basis. Otherwise his natural baseline levels would tank. Instead he is a bunny rabbit of hormonal peaks.