Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thursday Roundup

The Tampa Tribune calls 2007 the "year of the lyin'". Clever, but it not only snarks but misinforms as well when it comes to Floyd Landis:

The lying cheat Floyd Landis was finally and officially stripped of his 2006 Tour de France cycling victory, his appeals having been played out, his honesty, too.

If the fact checker at the Tampa Tribune had done his/her job they would have discovered that there is that little matter of an upcoming CAS appeal for Landis, and that may not even be the end of it.

The CyclingNews reports that Predictor-Lotto has fired Bjorn Leukemans due to the positive result for exogenous testosterone obtained from his "B" sample. This despite their admission it was their doctor that prescribed and administered the drug to the rider.
And The CyclingNews Letters column contains the usual grab bag of notes with one in particular addressing tainted evidence in the Landis case.

The Washington Post, in a column from December 25th and pointed to by commenters, notes the frustration many feel over the time it takes for USADA to resolve arbitration cases. The "10 day rule" is being stretched to the infinite by arbitration panels who keep cases "open" indefinitely in order to avoid the deadline. The difficulties of wading through scientific evidence aside there may be a more banal explanation for these costly delays, the arbitrators themselves:

Mike Straubel, a Valparaiso University professor who represented Jenkins, said attorneys and athletes' representatives are reluctant to speak up while cases are ongoing for fear complaints could create backlash for their athletes.

"To me, the arbitrators see this as of secondary importance," Straubel said. "They are essentially part-time in doing this. It gets put on the back burner."

Though several officials speculated that the scientific complexity or legal nuances of some cases made it difficult for arbitrators to resolve them in a timely fashion, one arbitrator who requested anonymity said the problem was much simpler -- and more exasperating.

"It's none of those things," the arbitrator said. "There are certain arbitrators that are too busy to be accepting these cases. I think it's ridiculous. . . . If one arbitrator is too busy to focus on the case, then everybody [else] has to wait."

The IOL reviews the year in cycling and says that the UCI no longer suffers fools.

The Allentown Morning Call posts a snarky AP "poetic" commentary on the dysfunctional year 2007 was in the sports world. Here's the "paean" written to Floyd Landis, Tennyson he is not:

How fast it all went at the Tour de Floyd,
From champagne in Paris to null and void.
Stripped of his title, denied on appeal,
Floyd Landis insists he got a raw deal.
He railed at the lab; he called this a smear.
He talked and he talked. This lasted all year.
I'm clean, he declared, just let me explain:
I'm not shooting smack or snorting cocaine.
Why tests revealed a positive sample?
Can't say for sure, but here's an example:
Check my testosterone — naturally high.
Or lack of hydration — that could be why.
Or maybe Jack Daniel's? Maybe a beer?
A cortisone shot? It's all so unclear.
Something I ate? Or something I sipped on?
Or gamma rays from the planet Krypton?

Racejunkie is up to his old tricks again and wonders if Ivan Basso is turning into "St." David Millar, RJ hopes not. And why doesn't Dr. Fuentes just come clean on OP, after all he should get the Nobel Prize and a statue for all he's "done" for cycling, shouldn't he? That would be some monument.

Rant's post on "A lesson lost" has some good comments.


bill hue said...

For all the DPFers who just can't believe "science" or the application of "science" by human beings can be flawed in any way, consider this;

" Crime labs

Eight workers at the state 's three crime labs were disciplined. None was fired. The cases included:

An unidentified employee in the Madison lab was suspended in 2006 for being drunk at work and leaving during assigned work hours. A settlement that reduced the suspension if the worker got alcohol treatment was signed by Marie Varriale, the lab 's DNA supervisor, suggesting the worker was involved with DNA testing.

(My editorial- Yikes!!!)

A fingerprint analyst in the Milwaukee lab was reprimanded in 2002 for reporting that a search for a match came back negative before the search was completed. The analyst falsified the search results to pass a peer review. The completed search resulted in a positive hit.

(My is as good as those applying it. Seeing Mongongu and Frelat in person, under examination, was about all most people there, particularly the 3rd party Pepperdine law students and faculty, needed to see to suspect the application of science by human beings was seriously flawed in the Landis case.)

A fingerprint analyst in the Madison lab was suspended in 2005 for making three identification mistakes in a year and leaving work with fingerprint cards. "Your conduct has the potential to severely diminish the public 's confidence and respect for the Department of Justice and the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory 's analytical staff, " Michael Roberts, administrator of the Division of Law Enforcement Services ' wrote in a memo to the analyst.

(My editorial, science is perfect, how could this happen???)

A senior identification analyst in Madison was suspended in 2004 for making mistakes verifying fingerprints. Factoring into the suspension was a false positive the analyst made in 2001; suspensions in 2001 and 2003 for "excessive and inappropriate " Internet use -- the letter offered no other details; a false positive on a proficiency test in 2003; and a false negative on a print analysis in 2004.

(My editorial, those who review the perfect application of science by others can't possibly be "wrong" as well, so much so that WADA can take this pesky little layer out of the equasion starting in 2008)"

Sad but true. Results HAVE to be not only "verifiable" but it is important that 3rd persons independent of the entity responsible be able to duplicate the results obtained for "science" even to be reliable. Systemic failure to ensure the foundation of science renders all results invlid, in my opinion and in the opinion of those who peer review scientific "findings".


bill hue said...

Here's some stuff from the rest of the article;

"But Milwaukee defense attorney Gerry Boyle said the crime labs, especially, must be held to the highest standards. The discipline cases cast doubt on the labs ' work, he said.

"Everything they do must be done perfectly. Their word is like coming from God himself, " he said. "If anything they 're doing in any way reflects they 're not being fair and doing the ultimate job, then somebody has to go in there and take them to count. "

The fingerprint infractions show the need for tougher safeguards in the labs, said Keith Findley, co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, which works to free innocent prisoners.

"That type of scientific evidence is typically viewed in our criminal justice system as virtually infallible, " Findley wrote in an e-mail. "As good as our labs ' work is in most instances, it is not immune from human error. "

Larry said...

Bill, this is great stuff you're posting. If memory serves, you've also posted about the bogus science the FBI used for roughly 20 years to identify bullet fragments - this was the topic of a 60 Minutes piece.

A few general conclusions. First, bad science is not limited to LNDD, or to WADA labs. Second, it's not limited to ADA arbitration cases -- it can happen in courts, in front of judges, with juries, and with the parties being given the fullest discovery rights. It can happen at the "best" labs, like the FBI. Third, it can happen even with relatively simple science, like fingerprinting.

We speak a great deal here about the WADA legal process, and how this process is badly slanted against the rights of athletes. All this is true IMHO. However, we should also keep in mind that there IS no legal process (none I am aware of, in any event) that can reliably detect and debunk badly-performed science.

As a society, we've set up science as an authority. This is probably unavoidable. But then, science must live up to this trust. The performance of science must be open and transparent. And we must question science, just like we question all other authority.

Sometimes I wonder what it is about the Landis case that has so captured my imagination. Maybe this is one aspect: the importance of questioning science as an authority, and the difficulty of doing so.

Bill, thank you for your great work here. Here's hoping for a terrific 2008 for you, yours and all of us.

("Eightzero") said...

Larry - sadly, the long answer to your comment "...[h]owever, we should also keep in mind that there IS no legal process (none I am aware of, in any event) that can reliably detect and debunk badly-performed science...." is not so easy. The starting place is in these two cases (in the US system):

Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals (509 U.S. 579)(1993) ; and

Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C.Cir.1923)

It gets pretty murkey from there. Judge Hue's commentary on the issue is, nonetheless, *right on*.

Larry said...

8-0, great post! I did not know about these cases.

The cases you cite go to when scientific testimony is admissible in court. The governing rule in the Daubert case is from the Federal Rules of Evidence: "If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise."

Daubert appears to be a very important case. According to one article on line, the case is being aggressively used by defendants in products liability and personal injury cases to exclude the plaintiff's expert testimony. See
Daubert article.

8-0, you're right, it's never going to be easy to marry science and law.

("Eightzero") said...

Actually, Larry it was a pretty bad post. Sadly, I hadn't taken the appropriate time to read through more of your comments here on TBV.

My apologies for being overly and inappropriately pedantic.

What perhaps I should have said was that there is a legal process for courts to decide what science they will use to render a decision. This is a bit different than the assertion that there is no legal process for debunking science. Maybe we don't need to debunk - maybe choosing to not recognize incomplete or unsupportable scientific conclusions is enough. As you say, science, and this companion legal process, *must* be open and transparent. While Frye and Daubert come to differing conclusions and standards, I think both accomplish that end.

Too bad they don't apply to any arbitration hearing(s) we might all be collectively interested in. :-(

That's a great Daubert article you link to.

Larry said...

8-0, I still think yours was a great post, I didn't find it pedantic at all.

I think it's a tall order for a judge or jury to look at what appears to be sound, conservative and accepted science, and determine that it's based on flawed work product. There's no easy way to do this. We have to be ready to question scientific authority, the same way we question all authority. But that still leaves a great responsibility to those responsible for the science to live up to the trust we've placed in them.