Friday, May 18, 2007

French Press: Morning coffee and news from Paris, Friday

Most sources reprint last night's Agence France Presse story. Le Monde goes with a translation of a Reuters dispatch. La Gazzetta dello Sport prints a news brief from the AGR news agency. Agence France Presse itself updates its story to the following.

Greg LeMond testimony puts Floyd Landis in a bad light

Greg LeMond, former American cyclist, made two revelations Thursday in testimony to the trial of Floyd Landis, accused of doping during his victorious 2006 Tour de France: that he was "sexually abused" and that the "Landis clan" had used this fact to intimidate him.

Over three and a half days, the testimony of four experts--two independent experts and two technicians from the LNDD--had revealed that the technicians had committed some "errors" in their procedures. Errors that Christiane Ayotte, director of the antidoping lab of Montreal, judged without consequences for the results of their analyses.

But Thursday afternoon the hearing took a turn less closely attached to the case per se, but much more "explosive." Once arrived in the hearing room of the University of Pepperdine in Malibu, LeMond put his compatriot's image in a bad light.

Questioned by USADA attorney Matthew Barnett, LeMond explained he had been "sexually abused" in his youth, and had shared this confession with Landis during a telephone conversation August 6.

This revelation, which seems very distant from the Landis case, took on its full meaning when the triple winner of the Grand Boucle explained that he had received a telephone call Wednesday evening, attributed (after investigation) to Will Geoghegan, one of Landis' friends and representatives present at the hearing.

"He (the caller) said, 'It's your uncle' . . . I only have one uncle whom I haven't seen in 20 years. I then said, 'You want to stop that right now, it's aggravating,' " LeMond began. Mr. Geoghegan is then said to have added, "I will be there tomorow [Thursday] and we will talk aout the way you used to hide your 'dick,' " continued LeMond, who said he immediately had recognized an intimidation.

After a suspension of the hearing for around 45 minutes, and a vain attempt by Landis' lawyers to have LeMond's testimony stricken, lawyers for both sides agreed on a delay to prepare for Mr. Geoghegan's testimony. (Mr. Geoghegan was immediately stripped of his functions as a representative of Landis.)

Less shocking but every bit as instructive, LeMond's testimony also dealt with the August 6 telephone conversation in the course of which he had revealed his "secret." Landis had called LeMond that day to complain about "unpleasant" comments LeMond had made when he learned about Landis' positive drug test following the 17th stage of the Tour de France, some days earlier.

"I was very clear regarding the fac that I was not prejudging what he had or had not done, because the results of the B sample were not known. I said to him, "if you did do it, you can chanage the sport. You can be the one who saves the sport," LeMond explained. "For whose benefit would I do that?" Landis is then said to have replied. LeMond did not specify whether Landis was speaking of having doped and of confessing to having doped.


Anonymous said...

guess they don't know what weenie is in French.

Parle vous "dick"

marc said...

Blame the translator.

Anonymous said...

The fact that Landis immediately sacked his manager means that Lemond's description of the phone call was absolutely honest and true, and that Geoghegan admitted making the call. There has been no counter defense from him. Silence implies guilt in this case.

Wider conclusions: what kind of people surround Landis? What sort of judgement has he shown in choosing a manager that is capable of this sort of destructive behaviour towards his client.

One could not imagine a phone call more calculated to damage Landis' credibility even if it were intended.

Also the entire cycling world should challenge Landis on this last point:

Lemond: " You can be the one who saves the sport"

Landis: "For whose benefit would I do that?"

ie It does not benefit me Landis to save the sport

* * *

Cycle racing does need saving from dope. We need more high profile riders to cross the line and join the likes of David Millar


Anonymous said...

The Geoghegan fiasco took attention away from USADA's ,so far, weak technical case yesterday.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

1) Ferlat admitted she had knowledge that she was handling Floyd's B-Samples. This is a clear WADA code violation that goes to the very heart of the notion of the importance of blind sample testing.

2) Neither Frelat or Mongongu could document what was actually happening with Floyd's samples during long time gaps in the logs. Possesion of the samples was not precisely logged, creating breaks in the chain of custody, another clear violation of WADA code.

3) It has been established that maintenence logs on testing machinery related to Floyd's samples at LNDD have not been kept to the standards required for lab certification or WADA code.

4) The evidence from yesterday's hearing strongly indicates Will Geoghegan made a phone call to Greg LeMond the night before LeMond was to testify at the hearing. Greg LeMond's version of what transpired during that phone call was entered into the record of the hearing.

5) Greg LeMond, under the advise of his personal attorney present in the hearing room, refused to answer any questions related to a 2005 deposition related to an insurance dispute involving Lance. USADA objected to the line of questioning. The Landis side countered the line of question was relevant as it went to motivation. (The implication apparantly being that LeMond accused Armstrong of intimidating him, thus a pattern?)Again, under advise of his personal attorney present in the hearing room, LeMond refused to answer under cross examination. Jacobs (the Landis side) asked for LeMond's entire testimony to be stricken as there was no objection sustained by the panel to the questioning and no legal basis (LeMond's attorney's words) for LeMond to refuse. The panel (through McLaren) did not rule on the motion, but "invited" written arguements on the issue.

In most courtrooms, LeMond's testimony would, at the very least, be stricken. Judge Bill Hue is of the opinion that it is a lock that the panel will rule the LeMond testimony will stand. I agree with him and if it transpires as predicted, further demonstrates both the bias of the majority of the panel and the inability of an arbitration hearing to systematically and fairly handle a case such as this.

In practical terms, striking the testimony would seem the right course of action, but would be largely symbolic. The panel heard it. They will consider the testimony whatever they are ethically capable of doing so and give it the weight they deem appropriate. It just should not be in the official record IMHO.

6) The call to LeMond from Will Geoghegan's cell phone was at the very least a stupid error in judgement that gifted a huge PR prize to USADA. If what Greg LeMond claims about the phone call is true, what Will Geoghegan did is dispicable and likely criminal. The same holds true if LeMond's account of the content of the call is false. As far as the panel is concerned, they will never know as Lemond essentially refused to be cross examined. The truth of the conversation be confirmed, or not, in some other forum.

7)USADA (Barnette in particular) was sleazy enough to use Greg LeMond's misfortune to capitalize on a PR gift. Barnette and USADA caused damage to the reputation of their own witness in order to score PR points against Floyd Landis. They did Greg LeMond no favors. His testimony offered little substance and generated a great deal of attention. LeMond declined to back up what little substance he had to offer under direct, via cross examination.

8) The LeMond testimony, and how it was handled, was both sad and disturbing.

Jeff from Newark, DE

Chaz said...

I just want to comment on the general unfairness of this proceding. First of all, in most judicial situations the goal is to have an unbiased judiciary. In this proceding they are selected for their bias. In the late testimony that most people paid attention to, the witness for the Montreal Laboratory stated that she was prevented from testifying on behalf of an athelete. Does this mean that if she was aware of exculpitory evidence, that she would be prevented from bringing that forward? Maybe someone can help me understand how this works. It certainly doesn't strike me as a fair process.

Anonymous said...

You are catching on. She said that she could contact the lab. Not the athlete, not the sports federation involved, the lab. This suggests that she could argue with the lab director, but that each lab is both independent and the final word on tests that it conducts.

A bit like district attorneys fighting the testing of old evidence for DNA when they have someone locked away. Luckily the Courts and, where necessary, legislators or governors are becoming more inclined to do the just and fair thing.

One simple fix to this is for a B sample to be divided and sent to two labs for testing with sealed results being submitted and copies automatically sent to the athlete. Not a perfect solution, but would increase confidence in the system.