Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday Roundup

News
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 Fran├žaise 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 Operaci├│n 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.


Blogs
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.

12 comments:

bill hue said...

If CONI has the power to determine that non-Italian athletes violated its Doping Code in a country other than Italy, then one wonders if there are any limitations (such as the concept of double jeopardy) on how many country’s anti-doping agencies and olympic or individual sport federations can conduct simultaneous or successive hearings regarding single alleged doping incidents.

The concept of double jeopardy arose to avoid multiple “forum shopping” in order to obtain a conviction somewhere in criminal cases in the US. In civil cases in the US, successive lawsuits are similarly prohibited by a concept known as judicial estoppel.

Multiple hearings in venues with concurrent jurisdiction are often resolved by motions as most if not all litigants want to litigate once, due to the time and expenses associated with complex litigation.

However, the anti-doping crusade isn’t impeeded, usually, by these kinds of proceedural rules. Thus, Floyd Landis was forced to litigate in France (in absentia, essentially) and with USADA simultaniously. We have also seen OP "investigations" occur at the UCI level and "independently” in Germany, Spain and now Italy as well as to some extent, France.

What is very interesting here is that this year’s Tour de France terminates on Italian soil on one stage. Since CONI only has the power to ban a non-Italian rider from Italian soil and cannot otherwise effect their career (for example by subjecting them to a 1 or 2 or lifetime ban) any determination it makes (subject to appeal to CAS) against Valverde, Contador, Perierro, Menchov, Flecha, Paulinho, Davis and perhaps, Sastre, will effectively preclude them from riding in the Tour de France this year or in multiple years as well as in any race in Italy for the same periods of time.

Brace yourself for another round, here. Over 3, 4, 5 or more years of continuous prosecutions and inquiries, arising from new law or interpretation of rules/authority may result and those "investigations" may remove some or all of these guys from the sport in one or more countries or in total for some period of time or forever.

Bill

Morgan Hunter said...

Could it be possible that this "movement" of the "federations" is an attempt to neutralize CAS?

Up to this point we have been led to understand that CAS was the "Supreme Court" in cycling and sports.

The Italian and French factions actions seem to directly undermine whatever results that comes out of CAS in the future. Not to mention, as Bill Hue says that it makes it possible for the governing bodies to go "forum shopping."

The more these actions take place the easier it becomes to see just what a "thin veneer" of fair play and fair justice exists in the real world of the "procyclist."

jrdbutcher said...

From Bill Hugh, 9:31am:
In your last paragraph, I might suggest changing the word “prosecutions” so that the sentence reads, “five or more years of continuous ‘persecutions’ and inquiries,”

jrdbutcher said...

Typo previous post. Should be Bill Hue. Good to hear your comments again.

jrdbutcher said...

For general interest, here is a copy of a report I transmitted to my bike club today. Though Floyd is not explicitly named, there is clearly FL content:

January 1, 2008

As Delawareans, we have greater access to our political leaders than citizens in most states. I attended Congressman Mike Castle’s Town Hall Meeting at the Brandywine Library last night. He spoke about several subjects of local and national interest and then opened the floor for questions. I was able to ask two.

First, I asked about the progress on the C&D Canal Trail. Congressman Castle provided some up to date information on state and federal funding for the project and asked one on his staff to provide more details on the upcoming Open Houses at Gunning Bedford Middle School on January 15th and Bohemia Manor High School on January 16th. The C&D Trail Designs are at the 30% mark and a primary purpose of the Open Houses is to seek community input on the project.

This is a key opportunity for cyclists to voice their support for the project and to make sure that cycling friendly facilities are included in the design. For details on the Open Houses, please see: http://www.nap.usace.army.mil/Projects/CD/Jointrelease30.pdf
Please try to attend one of the Open Houses if you are supportive of the C&D Canal Trail project.

My second question stemmed more from a personal interest. I asked Congressman Castle why the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) receives approximately 85% of its funding through tax payer dollars when its system of adjudication, with regard to accused athletes, is largely in opposition to the concept of “due process” that many citizens of the United States hold dear.

Congress Castle responded that he was not aware of the specifics of USADA funding, but that many would take an opposing point of view and argue that USADA needs more funding. I tried to clarify that my point was not that I am opposed to their funding or their mission, but rather, their process of adjudication, with our tax dollars, which is lacking in due process protections for the accused.

Congressman Castle asked me for some examples. I cited loose rules of discovery that prevented the accused from having a complete package of documentation with regard to the supporting evidence for the charges against him, lax standards of proof, and a too small pool of arbitrators – many with close ties to the IOC and WADA, which seems to represent a clear conflict of interest.

As we were already over on time for the Town Hall Meeting, Congressman Castle put me in touch with one of his aides and committed to look into the situation and get back to me. I intend to hold them to that commitment, but am sure they will get back to me in a timely manner without being prompted.

While I am reporting to the club, I represented myself as a private citizen and did not mention the bike club at the Town Hall Meeting.

jrdbutcher said...

Sorry, another typo. The date given in my previous post should be today's date, 1/11/08.

Michael said...

So....anyone find SJ's answers to Floyd's questions a little annoying?'

I mean, he doesn't even have an opinion on whether or not Floyd was guilty.

Way to go SJ, nice yes or no answers would have been nice, just as Floyd asked. And this guys is the CEO of USACycling??

I'll watch cycling next year, but won't have any confidence in the organizations running cycling. I'm sure some more big fish will take a fall.

jrdbutcher said...

I’m guessing Steve Johnson was ducking and didn’t have the courage to be candid.

The alternative is that the CEO of USA Cycling doesn’t care enough about the disposition of one of its most successful athletes to follow the hearing, one that made a lot of news in the cycling world that USA Cycling is a part of.

Further, that would also indicate Steve Johnson doesn’t care enough about the other athletes registered with USA Cycling to follow the hearing to see for himself if there are problems with the system of athlete adjudication that USA Cycling has endorsed.

For Steve Johnson, CEO of USA Cycling, ignorance must be bliss.

calfeegirl said...

Why should Steve Johnson care? I mean, heck, he's CEO of an organization that ducks the dirty work and hands over all the drug testing to USADA. I tried to file for a TUE for asthma meds, and had to file with USAC??? Nope....USADA??? Nope... WADA....in Switzerland....yup...me... a crazy-slow masterwoman cat 4 rider had to mail all the way to Switzerland for a TUE. How stupid is that?

I also emailed USAC immediately after all this nonsense started, asking if any of my yearly dues goes to USADA or WADA. The answer I got directly from Mr. Johnson himself was inconclusive and non-commital. He's used to dodging the hard questions. To his credit, at least he replied to my inquiries.

Michael said...

Calfeegirl,

Do you still have the emails from SJ? You should post them.

I know I'd like to see his answers to your questions!

Mike

calfeegirl said...

Mike,

I am sorry to say that I no longer have his emails. I kept them for over a year...wouldn't you know..that'll teach me to clean out my filing cabinets.

That he even took the time to answer my emails, impressed me. But the answers I got have convinced me not to renew my USA cycling license this year. I won't be racing any sanctioned races.

It's the only voice I have that has a chance of being heard, even if only as a fly smashed on the windshield of the anti-doping crusade express train to hell.

For the same reasons, I have given up my position as a certified USAT official. I just can't be a part of an organization that would subject it's constituants to the whims of the current antidoping system.

Michael said...

Calfeegirl,

I find that very disheartening. It's a bummer these guys get to the top and lose their vision.

I wonder if a guy like me could get the 'job' and turn it around?

Mike