The VeloNews got an exclusive email "dialog" with Floyd Landis, but there was a catch. Landis wanted Steve Johnson of USAC to answer a few questions himself. The following is an excerpt with an explanation of the format. The interview goes on at length:
The following dialogue represents a "conversation" that took place via email. Landis felt that some of Johnson's answers warranted a follow-up question, so I've marked those and the answers in response with a "(2)," so you will see some of these entries marked with "FL (2):" and "SJ (2)."
You'll also notice that the original questions actually refer to Landis in the third person, while the follow-up questions come from Landis in the first person.
I know it's an unusual format, but then again, this was an unusual situation. I'm sure you'll be able to follow what's happening, though.
FL: Do you think that in all of the cases that USADA has prosecuted, the athletes were given the deserved punishment?
SJ: In all of the cases? No. And that goes both ways. But a board of independent arbitrators, not USADA, determines those penalties.
FL: For example, do you think that Floyd Landis should have been given a suspension that began on the date six months after the offense when the basis for it is a court that does not acknowledge the jurisdiction of the Court of Arbitration for Sport [CAS] or USADA?
SJ: I think Floyd is referring to AAA, the American Arbitration Association, but that's not CAS, so I'm not sure what he's talking about.
FL (2): USADA based my suspension start date on the day in January 2007, when I was forced to agree to not race in France in order to delay the Agence Française de Lutte contre le Dopage (AFLD) case. The AFLD has subsequently convicted me and notified me that the suspension in France stands regardless of the decision in CAS.
So, my question remains: Why would the Canadians on the [AAA] panel start my suspension based on that date when the French AFLD has publicly announced that neither CAS, nor USADA, have jurisdiction in France? Do you believe that double jeopardy is acceptable?
SJ (2): All athletes have the option of accepting a provisional suspension at any time after they have been accused of a doping violation. If an athlete does accept a provisional suspension and is later convicted of a doping violation, the clock on the suspension penalty is usually started from the time the athlete accepted the provisional suspension. Because Floyd elected not to accept a provisional suspension, the panel of arbitrators was under no constraints with regard to starting the clock on his suspension, and could have even elected to start his suspension in October of 2008.
While I don't know what considerations the AAA panel used to establish the starting date of Floyd's suspension, I can only assume that they elected to start his suspension in January of 2007 because that was the first time Floyd had officially agreed not to race in any country. I don't think the panel intended to acknowledge any sort of jurisdiction by the AFLD, but I do think they gave Floyd the benefit of the doubt because of his agreement with AFLD and started the clock six months earlier than they could have.
FL: Should strict liability be applied to the athletes and not the labs?
SJ: I think the labs have every obligation to manage these cases at the highest level. I think it's fair to challenge the labs' procedures and handling of samples. They should be able to produce documentation that they have followed their own rules in managing and testing doping samples. Frankly that gets right back to this balancing act between protecting the rights of the athletes and catching cheaters. You have to do it correctly, and the labs should be held to the highest of international standards.
(So SJ doesn't think labs should be held to the ISL, but to the highest international standards. When is that going to turn up in a USADA brief? Could it be that SJ is posturing?)
Neal Rogers promises a follow-up interview with Landis which will cover the Rock Racing controversy and Floyd's upcoming CAS hearing in March, so stay tuned.
The VeloNews Friday Mailbag contains some interesting, and snarky, comments on the Landis/Johnson "interview" by Neal Rogers and The VeloNews Friday Foaming Rant is all about Rock Racing. Michael Ball couldn't buy this kind of publicity.
The CyclingNews is full of potential bombshells this morning as it has a number of doping related stories which include: the two year suspension of Matthias Kessler for testosterone, the disciplinary hearing for and continued denials of wrongdoing by Bjorn Leukemans, and trouble for Alberto Contador 2007 Tour de France winner:
Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde are among the 50 riders who will be called to testify before the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) about their possible involvement with Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport. The CONI prosecutor's office has already received the dossier on Operación Puerto from the Spanish Guardia Civil, and has announced it will call about 50 cyclists to testify, as well as the five principal actors: Fuentes, his sister Yolanda, Manolo Saiz, Merino Batres and Alberto Leon. The questioning is expected to take place in early February.
The CyclingNews Letters column posts lots of responses about Lance Armstrong and Ivan Basso, but one letter about Rock Racing stands out.
The Lubbock Avalanche Journal outlines the finalization of plans to do steroid testing on high school athletes in Texas, though no firm starting date for the program has been announced.
PhillyBurbs.com's Jennifer Wielgus rather confusingly says she can't believe Roger Clemens for the same reason she tried to believe Floyd Landis:
I don't believe Clemens' story, for the same reason I believed Marion Jones and tried to believe Floyd Landis and absolutely cannot believe Barry Bonds. Clemens can thump his chest all he wants with that “I don't give a rat's [patootie] about the Hall of Fame” stuff, but Jones and Landis already poisoned the well of defiance. We can thank Pete Rose for creating the “guilty until proven innocent” climate that Clemens has bemoaned. Trying to escape responsibility is the American way. Everybody lies.
With sentiment like this, there's not much hope for a poor sot who might be telling the truth.
Racejunkie previews various potential 2008 cycling team conflicts with glee this morning, and gives a fashion critique as well. He also looks at the CONI desire to reopen OP and wonders how Dr. Fuentes will manage his time. Finally, thanks to you RJ for all the kind words.
Drug Monkey's head hurts when he thinks about Rock Racing.
Rant, in his blog entry title today, calls OP the gift that keeps on giving. Alberto Contador, not to mention Tyler Hamilton, might disagree with that. Rant wonders what in the world gives CONI the power to investigate and ban riders for something that didn't even happen in Italy. Thank you Dr. Fuentes.