Thursday, September 20, 2007

Morning coffee and l'Equipe

Here's this morning's coverage from l'Equipe:

Landis gets two years
The American is suspended until Jan. 29, 2009 for his positive test in the 2006 Tour. He could appeal.
by José Barroso

He was dreaming of making his fight one of those success stories that Americans flock to. He failed. Yesterday, Floyd Landis, now thirty-one years old, was suspended for two years by the USADA for his positive testosterone test during the 2006 Tour de France. This is marks the end of an interminable case fourteen months long. Or, rather, the end of the first episode, since it was not known yesterday evening whether the former Phonak rider would appeal to the Sports Arbitration Tribunal (CAS).

Several days after his victory parade on the Champs-Élysées at the end of July 2006. his team revealed a positive test result after the 17th stage (Saint-Jean-de Maurienne-Morzine), in which he rocked the race at the end of a heroic breakaway. Shaken at first, the American soon contested the facts. After a long confused defense (thyroid irregularity, alcohol, naturally elevated testosterone level), he settled his argument on one fixed idea: to demonstrate the incompetence of the laboratory at Châtenay-Malabry, advancing several procedural errors observed during their tests.

Given the complexity of the case, the USADA assigned it to an arbitration commission (AAA)--a panel of three independent judges. A public hearing was held last May at a university in California, in which, during ten days of frightfully technical arguments, Landis and the USADA engaged in a battle of experts to convince the three judges. Ever since, the decision of the judges has been impatiently awaited, but the judges solicited the advice of experts before rendering their judgment--the most recent being Francesco Botre, director of the antidoping laboratory in Rome.

In the end, the arbitration commission went with the evidence of the facts, 2 to 1. In its 84-page decision that was published yesterday, the AAA indicated that at first the initial positive test was not conducted in conformity with the rules of the world antidoping agency--in fact, a technician took part in both the A and B tests, and some recording error were made with the samples. "The laboratory has not shown the rigor expected in these circumstances given the serious consequences they can have for the athletes", the AAA revealed, while making clear that the errors of the laboratory at Châtenay-Malabry were not of a nature to invalidate the positive test result.

In reality, it was the complementary analyses conducted last spring on Landis samples that turned the tables. These analyses (using the IRMS method), which brought to light the presence of exogenous testosterone in several of the samples, allowed the panel to reach the conclusion that a violation of the antidoping rules was established. And in consequence to suspend Landis for two years. The AAA explains: "Floyd Landis declared Jan. 30, 2007 that he would not participate in international competitions. The panel therefore decided that his suspension would begin on that date, and end Jan. 29, 2009."

"This decision is a blow against athletes and riders the world over," Landis reacted immediately. He has spent two million dollars in recent months traveling the United States and explaining his theory of the conspiracy. Sticking faithfully to his refrain, he added: "That the panel found in favor of the USADA despite their not succeeding in proving the least of their arguments shows that the system is fundamentally defective. I am innocent, and we proved that I was innocent." One of his attorneys, Maurice Suh, spoke of "a judicial error." For his part, Travis Tygard, counsel general of the USADA rejoiced: "Today's judgment is a victory for all clean athletes and for anyone who wants fair and honest competition." Pat McQuaid, president of the UCI also appreciated the verdict: "This proves the system works. Justice has been done, which is what the UCI was always asking for. In the end, the facts carried the day." He announced immediately: "According to our rules, and barring an appeal by Landis, Oscar Pereiro (second to Landis) will be declared the winner of the 2006 Tour de France."

Plus this sidebar:

While the Word Antidoping Agency yesterday evening refused to make any comments given the appeals that could appear before the sports arbitration tribunal, Patrice Clerc, president of Amaury Sport Organization, Tour de France organizers, considered the decision of the independent American arbitration court: "Non-news, Landis tested positive long ago. This is merely rhe administrative regularizing of something we already knew." Christian Prudhomme, Tour director, for his part regretted the slowness of the procedure in a declaration to Agence France Presse: "Landis did everything to defend himself for which I cannot blame him. But, evidently, it is much too slow." And finally, Spaniard Oscar Pereiro, second in the 2006 Tour, and thus declared winner by the UCI, yesterday gave his assurance that "No one wants to win a race in this manner. but after a year and a half, all of that, I am just happy it is over."


bostonlondontokyo said...

I'm digesting all the information, there is a lot to read... Many people have expressed the opinion that Floyd should appeal, but I wonder if that kind of thinking is too reactionary. First he may have to think if it is worth the cost. According to Floyd, who has frequently mentioned that his finances are strained, he simply can't afford it. Therefore, saying that he should appeal is almost unkind, since we know that he'd have to begin a second round of fundraising to do this. Ultimately, does Floyd want to the be better known as the victim-poster boy for unfairness in the legal system? I think he would tire of this role, and begin to feel like nothing more than a victim.

Floyd has a lot of life ahead of him, and I think it's fair for everyone to accept that he may not want to fight this particular battle anymore. It has clearly affected his personal life, and has put him against an international system that has some rules that cannot be 'equated' within general US legal terms. I believe that bringing this case to a US court would equally be further damaging to Floyd personally, and would be fruitlessly expensive. Floyd may simply want to think about his family's welfare and not focus on what has become simply a battle for his name.

I personally fought a battle involving immigration to a non-US country and came to the point where I had to admit that I couldn't take (or afford) the legal process that it would have involved; years later I am glad I chose the path I did, because otherwise it would have turned me into a bitter and victimized man. It's important to recognize that he may feel trapped by the system, and simply want to be done with it.

Ken at Global View said...

The L'Equipe article seems to say that the other B samples and the IRMS testing resulted in the verdict:

"In reality, it was the complementary analyses conducted last spring on Landis samples that turned the tables. These analyses (using the IRMS method), which brought to light the presence of exogenous testosterone in several of the samples, allowed the panel to reach the conclusion that a violation of the antidoping rules was established."

I feel like Floyd should focus on this to decide if he has any credible defense against it. The next question is can he raise the money to do so and is it worth it given expected odds of winning. Floyd should be pragmatic and do what is best for himself and his family.