Monday, August 06, 2007

Monday Roundup

The Age quotes Cadel Evans as saying that despite what Werner Franke says about Alberto Contador's Tour de France "win", it's still innocent until proven guilty.

The Miami Herald writes of sports' influence on children and on society in general and that honesty in it is getting to be a rare commodity. Floyd Landis is given the benefit of the doubt at this time, but this year's Tour de France is cited as uninspiring:

Last year, Floyd Landis was eliminated in a doping scandal. He says he's innocent, and I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, someone who wins the Tour de France while enduring hip arthritis is an inspiring story. Almost unbelievably so.

There were no inspiring stories this year, however. It seemed like the whole tour was being eliminated for doping. The race was ultimately won by one of the few riders left. I expected second place to go to a five-year-old on a Big Wheel. Provided he passed the urine test, anyway.

The Times Online worries that with all of the fervor to oust doping cheats from cycling, due process may have been lost and athletes are finding themselves judged guilty until they can prove themselves innocent. And even though WADA may soften some of its' rules in an upcoming conference, many feel that a harder line is actually needed. This may run against what is happening in some doping cases which may be subject to rules other than those established by WADA

But this harder line may fall foul of European law. A warning shot has been fired across the bows of those who prosecute doping cases by the European Court of Justice in a landmark ruling in the case of the little-known swimmer David Meca-Medina, where it was decided that anti-doping law should be subject to the rules of European Union competition law. Previously, it had appeared that sporting rules were not expected to follow the same rules as business. Meca-Medina may become as renowned as the Bosman ruling on football transfers.

Dick Pound, the outspoken Wada chief (ironically counsel for the disgraced sprinter Ben Johnson in 1988), has fuelled the fairness debate by publicly adjudging athletes guilty before their trials have taken place, most notably in the cases of Floyd Landis and the sprinter Justin Gatlin.

The piece goes on to note that since Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times started questioning procedures at various testing labs WADA has found itself under unprecedented scrutiny:

Worryingly for Wada, investigative journalists are beginning sink their teeth into the perceived imbalances in the process. Michael Hiltzik, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the Los Angeles Times, has published an in-depth expose on conflicts of interest, harsh treatment and faulty science.

BikingBis notes one of the blog reports on Floyd Landis at the Copper Triangle bike ride Saturday at the Tennessee Pass rest area. He also comments on the confusion over Lance Armstrong's participation at Leadville, VeloNews seemed certain that Lance would not be there after all, but an old report that LA will be in for the showdown keeps turning up.

The Couch Potato prints tonight's talk show TV schedule, with 2 dates (?), so that in case you missed Floyd Landis on with Carson Daly's Last Call here's your big chance to catch it, or see it again. Look in at Letterman while you're waiting for Floyd to see MuteMath.

PJ says that despite perhaps a golden opportunity for USADA to make a Landis arb announcement right now there is still only black smoke to report.

The Eclectic Eccentric feels the need to make a snappy comeback to "a fairly large, heavily tattooed, shaven man on a bicycle", and the best he can come up with is, ""F**K OFF, FLOYD LANDIS!!!"


Ken ( said...

I love how the elimination of two riders for doping, one rider for lying and the withdraw of the two teams (eight riders each) associated with the two riders who are accused of doping is the majority of the riders. These folks need to go learn math.

It should be remembered that out of 180 odd riders, only 3 tested positive and one was already out of the race because of injuries. So, only around 2% of the riders were accused of doping.

Would baseball's numbers be so low if those athletes were tested the way cycling's are?

wschart said...

I also wonder about how baseball, American football, basketball, etc. would stack up if they tested the way cycling does. For example, does baseball test players during the playoff/World Series? Or do they let these slip by so as to avoid embarrassing revelations during a time of high media coverage? We also know, from some recent cases in baseball, that a first offense only rates "counseling", presumable without releasing info to the public. If cycling did that, none of the 3 positive tests from the tour would have resulted in riders being forced out of the tour, fired from teams, etc. Yet cycling gets the bad rep.

Ken ( said...

If baseball tested and suspended their athletes the way cycling does, a certain record would not be under threat and certain athletes who threaten that record would have been banned from the sport years ago. I honestly think that other professional sports should be required (by law if necessary) to take strong and effective anti-doping measures like cycling is trying to do. Although I would also like to see better due process for all athletes.

jrdbutcher said...

Vote with your remote control/wallet/feet wrt football, baseball, or any other sport.

Ratings, money, and attendance talk.

Larry said...

Ken and wschart -

It would be interesting to compare what goes on in other sports ... if only to better understand what goes on in cycling. For example, what happens if ASO completely breaks with UCI? What role does WADA play in cycling if the UCI is gone?

But ... let's look at other sports. I'll start with ice hockey, simply because I was able to find some information about hockey.

Yes ... like many other professional sports leagues, the national hockey league has a reputedly lax system for drug testing. However, a considerable number of hockey players are subject to WADA testing, because they play hockey in the Winter Olympics. Any player listed by a national team (and as an example, Canada has 81 players on its list) can be forced into a no-notice out-of-competition test by WADA.

Not sure yet what to conclude from this information, except that hockey players may be more rigorously tested than what would appear to be the case simply by looking at the NHL policy.

calfeegirl said...

Hmm... I find it very interesting that the EU would insist that it's laws supercede WADAs in the case of that swimmer. Perhaps a new precedent. But contrast that with our own post-Clinton era politics that seeks to subject US Citizens to foreign (or world..UN) law more than ever before.

I know that is an over-simplification, as I am pretty simple, but I would be interested to hear from the Honorable Judge Hue or DB with regards to this ruling and it's potential ramification for US athletes both here and abroad. And whether this could impact Floyd's other hearing under the ASO/ French anti-doping authorities???

bill hue said...


It is groundbreaking that the EU Courts have determined that adverse WADA Code disciplinary determinations or sports anti-doping processes and penalty provisions are subject to and/or actionable/reviewable under the anti-trust laws of the EEC. That is not good news for the Federations or ADA's.

An athlete may get relief from an adverse ruling or even the process itself in the European Courts and appeal and/or relief therefrom is not limited to review of a CAS decision in Switzerland Civil Courts, exclusively,, the way the WADA Code designed its "Appeals Process".

Applied similarly in the US, Landis, for example, could appeal any two year ban or any penalty provision adopted by the Arbitrators, or even any WADA penalty provision retstraining him from working (requiring his suspension or firing) prior to any adjudication to a US Federal Court, claiming that the process and its penalty provisions restrains trade. The last place USADA/WADA wants to be in is in a US Federal Court.

Far from being "pretty simple" you have put your finger on a pretty significant jurisdictional ruling, as did STRBUK, who located the article and summed it up for our readers.

Good pick up by both of you!


jrdbutcher said...

WRT the Times Online article,
Finally, some long overdue good news for a more balanced approach to anti-doping. Perhaps the EU Courts can influence/mandate a change that will include respecting the basic human rights of athletes, particularly attention to due process, that is currently sorely lacking. Thanks strbuck, calfeegirl, and Judge Hue for the great info and commentary.

Lloyd said...

But in fact Landis has been banned for a year and counting. whith no outcome to the hearing Floyd has been pocket banned. What is the point of hearings if it takes as long to complete as the suspension would be.

m said...

"What is the point of hearings if it takes as long to complete as the suspension would be."

If the Landis controversy is reviewable before the European Court of Justice under EC antitrust rules, his case could go on for 10 years. He could appeal his arbitration to the CAS. Then if he didn't like the result of that appeal commence a completely independent case in the ECJ, with all the appeals permitted therein. That is what happened in the DAVID MECA-MEDINA case which is discussed in the Times article. Medina doped in 1999, sought arbitration and then appealed to the CAS. After the CAS decision, he then brought an action in the ECJ, the appeal of which was decided in 2006. While the ECJ held that the anti-competion rules were applicable to sport, it also held that those rules were not violated by the anti-doping standard challenged by Meca-Medina.

Endless litigation. Are Landis's pockets deep enough?

Ken ( said...

"Endless litigation. Are Landis's pockets deep enough?"

He may have to depend upon his supporters once again.

The length of time we have had to wait for a decision is starting to get tedious. One can only hope it means that they are going over all the evidence with a fine tooth comb on a quest to arrive at the truth or at least a just and well reasoned decision. I'd hate for the delay to be simply a matter of "gee we couldn't find time to fit this into our schedule."

Of course a cynic would say that they are delaying things so that the entire process takes longer than simply accepting a two year ban would have taken in the first place.

jrdbutcher said...

I've written about Floyd's de facto 1+ year, and counting, suspension a few days ago on TBV. I don't see the EU Courts as a device toward realizing a more immidiate justice. I view the EU Court's actions on the subject, as it relates to the story in question, as a serious means of eventually reigning in the dictatorship like tendencies of WADA, UCI, ASO .... with regard to anti-doping testing and sanctions for athletes. It's more a signal that they answer to someone and their feet can be held to the fire if need be.

Larry said...

jrd -

I'm going to weigh in here. My own opinion is that the involvement of the EU courts in drug testing would be pretty much an unmitigated disaster for cycling.

What cycling needs is a drug testing system that is fair, but also one that is quick and is equally available to all athletes. Unfortunately, these three goals -- speed, fairness and equal access -- don't tend to come together. They are competing goals that need to be balanced.

The essence of sport is that the result is settled in competition, on the scoreboard. With drug testing being what it is, we necessarily lose some of this essence -- we face the possibility that the person we saw win on the road will not be the ultimate winner. Of course, we want to do everything we can to avoid that possibility (for example, by excluding people from racing who do not "ride clean"). But given the possibility that today's winner will be later disqualified, we want that disqualification to take place as soon as possible.

The need in sport for a swift decision is, arguably, higher than the comparable need in other areas of life. Unfortunately, swift decisions are not generally as "fair" as decisions made carefully, and deliberately, and with oversight. As a fan of many sports, you must get used to the fact that the fate of your favorite athlete or team is in the hands of umpires, and referees, and linespeople, who make quick and unreviewable decisions that are sometimes WRONG. We put up with these wrong decisions because it's arguably more important for the decision to be quick than for the decision to be right.

The intervention of the EU Courts would be a disaster on at least two levels. First, if every anti-doping decision (not just decisions against the athletes, but decisions in favor of the athletes) is subject to EU court review, then the drug testing process will slow dramatically. We'll have to get used to attending an event, and then waiting years to find out who won the event.

But second, the intervention of the EU means that sports will not be permitted to run themselves. It is essential that sports be able to set and enforce their own rules, to make certain that the sporting competition is "fair" in accordance with the sport's own standards of fairness.

We can discuss this further ... but please consider the broader implications of the intervention of the EU courts. Sure, in the short run, we might welcome anything that would shake up the status quo. In the long run, I don't think we want all of the rules of (and rulings within) a sport to be reviewed by judges in court proceedings.

jrdbutcher said...


My knowledge of how this might play out is limited. My posts on this subject are admittedly kind of like thinking aloud. I think I understand most of your points, but imagine the end results a bit differently. There are few sports where the winner is in question at the end of a particular competition. Most sport sanctioning bodies are loath to overturn result as it occurred on the course/track/field. There are some exceptions.

Nascar fines, docks points, and issues suspensions, but the results of a race stand. I can�t recall a race winner being disqualified from a race in question, in recent memory. Horse racing occasionally changes the order of finish for a variety of infractions. This is generally done quickly. Lots of money wagered on horse racing. In sailing competitions, the results are sometimes adjusted. Protests are generally settled post-race. Skippers can also seek redress for other actions such as rendering potentially lifesaving assistance to another boat/crew during a race. These are just a few examples.

A serious problem with top level road cycling right now is that we are not sure or are suspicious of who the actual winner(s) will be, post race. I�ll use the TdF as an obvious example. No one currently knows who the GC winner of the 2006 TdF will be declared to be. (I say it�s Floyd, but I only get an honorary vote, and that doesn�t hold up well in the grand scheme of things) Contador earned the win on the road in the 2007 edition of the TdF, yet there are still significant rumblings about him being connected to Operation Puerto and that he may eventually be disqualified. There have been jokes told of a �Saturday Night Live� type skit where Peloton rides into Paris on the last stage of the TdF with the yellow jersey being used as a hot potato because no one wants the jersey as the wearer will surely be branded as a doper. It�s kind of funny, but sad at the same time, because it�s not too far from the truth.

By denying due process, the alphabet soup have brought this kind of oversight on to themselves. I, for one, am hopeful and see it as a positive pendulum swing. Just as dirty or incompetent cops cannot enforce a lawful society, an anti-doping system that is at times incompetent and frequently denies due process to athletes cannot enforce a clean Peloton. The alphabet soup needs to set an example of ethics, fairness, and competence. Until that happens, they will fail to reach the ethical high ground they need in order to accomplish their missions.

Larry said...

jrd -

Terrific points.

Gotta agree in particular that the alphabet soup agencies have brought this on themselves.

At the moment, I personally may be more concerned about the sponsors than the riders. Or more precisely, the lack of sponsors. The Discovery team had the best tour and can't find a sponsor. Slipstream is looking for a sponsor. We don't know if T-Mobile will stay. I hear that Credit Agricole is leaving. (Credit Agricole! I think they've been sponsoring Tour teams since the Middle Ages.)

We'd better come up with a sport that sponsors can sponsor ... or else we'll be charging admission to the Champs Elysees.