Tuesday, May 15, 2007

French Press: Morning coffee and news from Paris

Curiously little from the online dailies. L'Equipe stood pat with its story about Landis standing pat until about 9:30, then picked up the Eurosport story below. Le Monde picked up and translated an English-language report from Reuters. The only independent story was from Eurosport, as reported on the website of the TV channel, TF1.

Landis hearings begin

The hearings of Ameriican Floyd Landis, being judged by the independent American Arbiitration Agrency (AAA) for his positive test during his victorious 2006 Tour de France, opened Monday in Malibu for nine days of public and very technical debates which will decide the cyclist's future.

"I'm truly happy that this has finally begun. I am confident. We have a good team and an exceptional case. I hope [the arbitrators] will be fair." With these words, Floyd Landis arrived at the law school of Pepperdine University on the shores of the Pacific Ocean a little before 9 a.m., dressed in a black suit, white shirt, and yellow tie. Very quickly, his lawyers set the tone for the next nine days. "This case is a complete disaster," fired off Maurice Suh in his opening statement. (Suh is the attorney leading the defense of the former Phonalk leader, who is facing two year's suspensiion.) "This disaster is not the result of one or two things that didn’t go right," Suh continued. "It's the result of a lot of things that didn't go right, all at the same time. That's our case." From practically the very announcement of his positive test for testosterone after the 17th stage of the Grand Boucle, Landis has been hitting away at the "errors" of the LNDD at Ch√Ętenay-Malabry.

"Nothing special"

In response, the attorney for the American Antidoping Agengy (USADA), Richard Young, explained that this case--despite the public debates requested by the cyclist--is only "one of dozens" of similar cases. "Despite all the attention it has reeceived, it's nothing special. . . . it's just one case among so many others," Young declared. "What does it matter how the data were gathered? The results are positive." And, according to him, the two questions the three independent arbitrators must answer regarding the scientific data are: "One: Do they meet the criteria for a positive test? And two: Are the results reliable?"

The day then continued with the testimony of the first witnesses: an English expert on steroids, then an expert in chromatography and spectrometry, watched by Landis (occasionally amused) and his parents, who had come from the East Coast for the week. Tuesday, two technicians from LNDD, Cynthia Mongongu and Corrine Buisson, are expected to testify, and perhaps, unless the first two witnesses run too long, Canadian Christiane Ayotte, who directs the laboratory in Montreal.

Unless something dramatic occurs, or the proceedings are shortened, the hearings are expected to run until Wednesday, May 23, with a day off on Sunday. At the end of the hearings, the arbitrators must decide Landis' culpability. Having suffered a terrible break-down on the 16th stage, the American tested positive for testosterone after the 17th stage of the Tour, at the end of July, during the course of which he turned in a lone breakaway of 130 km. Should he be sanctioned, Landis--who among other things would lose his title as winner of the 2006 Grande Boucle--would logically appeal to to the Sports Arbitration Tribunal (TAS). Should the decision be in the rider's favor, it is WADA, the USADA, and very probably the UCI, which would appeal to the TAS.