Sunday, July 06, 2008

Fallout VII

Bike Seats to Bedpans says it's as if the past two years never happened in the Tour de France, and wants to believe Floyd Landis didn't cheat:

However, whether he did or not, did not become clear to me from the evidence that was presented by the agencies that seemed so determined to revive the traditions of the inquisition! International standards and basic scientific principles were violated.........their scientific proceedure and integrity left room for doubt! I hope there was more to this than was presented to the public........or there is no real justice in international law!

Rant provides more wisdom from Johan Bruyneel who say the Tour de France is an apropos metaphor for life. Yup, as this week has so aptly proven sometimes life really sucks.

Racejunkie reviews yesterday's TdF stage, and has some "chicken news" to share. Beware the "spoiler alert".

Phantom Reflections talked about the ruling earlier this week:
What the CAS ruling does more than anything else is prove Floyd’s innocence. Why would they go to such lengths to personally attack the man? If the facts were against him all they had to do was state those, deny his appeal, and then move on. I think that would have gone down a lot better with the entire cycling community.

A poll at Road Bike Rider has results as of tonight:

What's YOUR verdict on Floyd Landis?

Justice has been served - 21%
Justice has been served
He's the innocent victim of imperfect drug testing - 34%
He's the innocent victim of imperfect drug testing
His samples or tests were sabotaged - 14%
His samples or tests were sabotaged
I still can't decide - 26%
I still can't decide
I couldn't care less - 6%
I couldn't care less
Total Votes: 2581

That's 48% thinking he wasn't guilty, vs. 21% who think he got what he deserved. Note that biased readership, and self-selected sampling make for highly unreliable results, like the Dewey Defeats Truman polls. Still...


Larry said...

I'm in day two of my personal boycott of the Tour de France. This boycott is going to be trickier than I thought, because my TIVO automatically records all of the Versus broadcasts, and I don't know how to shut this off. However, I can withstand any media coverage of the Tour by periodically covering my ears and loudly singing "Stairway to Heaven" any time the Tour gets mentioned. I plan to use this same strategy when I read TBV's daily updates over the next 3 weeks.

My personal boycott continues to grow in scope and power. While I have no knowledge of what's going on in France, I understand that for the moment at least, the race sprinters have decided to boycott finishing first. I'm not sure if this is an expression of solidarity for me, or for Tom Boonen. I'm singing "Stairway to Heaven" too loudly at the moment to know for certain.

Larry said...

Oops, went to to see who won Wimbledon, and forgot to cover my eyes while singing "Stairway to Heaven". So it appears that the sprinter boycott of the finish line was just a one-day thing. That's OK, it just may take some time for the power of my personal boycott to inspire the sprinters to engage in a longer-term boycott of the finish line. I figure once the race hits the mountains, the sprinters will be so inspired by my example that they won't finish anywhere NEAR first place.

dfp said...

I've been disgusted and frustrated by this whole process. Disgusted by the arrogance, incompetence, and collusion of the WADA and UCI officials. Frustrated by almost everyone's complicity in the charade, insisting on debating the minutia of biochemistry. The real issue, and the only issue that could have brought justice to Landis, and which he dared to expose, was the corruption and incompetence of the organization that is WADA.

Larry said...

dfp, I share your frustration.

But if the only issue that would have brought justice to Landis was to expose WADA, and if by your words Landis did "dare to expose" WADA, then why didn't Landis receive justice?

Arguably, Landis' efforts at the first (AAA) arbitration were aimed mostly at the biochemistry, as you call it. He lost at the AAA. Arguably, Landis' efforts at the second (CAS) arbitration were aimed mostly at the fraud and corruption stuff. He lost at the CAS, and got a $100,000 bill to boot.

If you want the best 50,000 foot view of this case, that would be the view of Judge Hue, which is that the system worked exactly in the way it was designed to work, which is to convict athletes accused of AAFs by WADA labs. The system worked so beautifully that even after the Landis case, the predominant public attitude is that the ADA system is beleaguered by clever doping athletes and their high-priced attorneys, with Landis being the worst example of the problem.

Even with the advantage of hindsight, I don't see anything Landis could have done better, other than perhaps to quietly accept his punishment and save a few million dollars. This is just my opinion, but I've spent an absurd amount of time studying this case, and I don't think there's a thing Landis could have done differently that would have been worth a damn at the end of the process.

dfp said...

When I heard that something had been "found" in Landis' sample on the day he tried to take the
yellow jersey, when he knew there would be a mandatory drug test, but nothing had been "found"
in his other samples from the previous two weeks, it became a blatant case of suicidal
in-your-face doping, or an unexplained mistake. When I saw that the test results from the lab
were hand-written, and the only independantly verifiable number on them was WRONG (Landis's
assigned control number) in my mind it instantly became a case of blatant lab incompetence or
lab fraud.

I understand that WADA would never honestly discuss lab incompetence or lab fraud. So
Landis could never win in WADA's court. But he could always
win in the court of public opinion (which is where the money is),
by not participating in the distraction of biochemistry trivia,
but instead by arguing fair pley versus cheating,
science versus incompetence, honesty versus fraud.

When Landis's lawyer's starting playing WADA's game, their naiveity made me sick.

Larry said...

dfp, yours may be the first (or among the first) of many posts coming down the road that will question and criticize the work performed by Landis' legal team. I have been of the very public opinion that Landis' team (in particular, Maurice Suh) has performed admirably in this case, and I'm not a lawyer who generally has nice things to say about other lawyers. But until last week, we had no view whatsoever of the work performed by the Landis legal team before the CAS. So we all have new information by which to judge the strategy, tactics and work product of Suh et. al.

That being said, I think your characterization of Suh, Jacobs, Paul Scott and the rest of the Landis team as "naive" does not hold water. Suh is a top litigator at one of the largest law firms in the U.S., and before that served as a federal prosecutor. Jacobs is arguably the most experienced lawyer in the country in the defense of doping cases. And among Scott's credentials is his experience working at the UCLA anti-doping lab. Landis' team is truly an "A" team. You can criticize their work, but I don't see how they can be viewed as "naive".

Your argument seems to be that Landis could not win in WADA-land, and I think that many here would agree with you (me included), though I don't know anyone (regardless of experience) who held that opinion at the start of this process. Your argument seems to be that Landis should have focused instead purely on winning public opinion. I will agree that winning public opinion was important, even if Landis' ultimate strategy was to win in WADA court.

Remember that Landis actually worked very hard to win public opinion. He put all case documents on line, had Arnie Baker post the wiki defense, wrote a book and made sure that the AAA arbitration was public. And an argument could be made that Landis was doing reasonably well in the court of public opinion, UNTIL the incident with Lemond. With the Lemond incident, the press turned against Landis and the public followed suit.

Do you think that public opinion would have turned if Landis had cried "fraud!", loudly, often and early on? Maybe, but I don't think it would have worked. Athletes can't wait until the AAF to complain about the WADA system, it sounds too much like sour grapes. No, I think that Landis had to win his case before the public court slowly, in stages, by asking simple questions and slowly building doubt. Does it make sense that a cyclist would dope with testosterone? Do these lab documents give you confidence? Or our favorite question here, would YOU send your OWN lab work to this lab?

But I'm no expert. Maybe screaming "fraud!" often and loudly would have worked.

But if Landis should have forsaken WADA court and focused solely on winning over the public, then he didn't really need lawyers to do that. We lawyers are reluctant to put legal concerns to one side in favor of public relations. There are ethical problems in using the legal process solely to generate positive publicity for a client.

Besides, I think that Landis wanted to prove to the world that he did not dope. To do that required focus on the science.

Just my two cents. There's certainly plenty of room to be critical of the Landis legal team, if that's the way you see things.

dfp said...

In WADA-world, when our WADA drug lab accuses an individual of doping we pretend people
can go to a "court" with "judges" with an objective interest in truth and fairness.
But the lawyers involved know that it's just a charade. The "court" isn't a court of law that
anyone would recognize. It's just our private club where we do a rigged imitation of a system of justice.

Would a real lawyer participate in a process where the Police issue citations and the
Police make the list of fines and the Police have a courtroom and the
Police pick the judges and the Police impose punishment? Real lawyers would do their best to
avoid such a sham, because their client would be totally at the mercy of the Police.

In this case we have real lawyers who took real money from their client and submitted
the client
to the mercy of the WADA lab and the WADA fines and the WADA court with the WADA judges.

The only person with any integrity left in this farce is Landis, who seems to be the only
one who has tried to expose it for what it is.

dfp said...

I will shut up with one last comment, which is a suggestion for the next athlete touched by the infamous lab technicians. You will have 3 choices:

1) Confess truthfully, or confess falsely just to get it over with.
2) Pay lawyers to play their games. And lose anyway.
3) Pay a public relations firm to expose WADA for the corrupt scam that it is.

As we have seen, option 2 would be the worst choice.

bostonlondontokyo said...

In a day or two I will read the CAS ruling. I have just stopped by TBV to get the latest, and was shocked to find out that there was a decision - I had no idea it was coming now. (I have a new job, and have not been following the blog as often as before, been too busy.) I had expected to get a cue from the mass media when a decision was handed down, but I saw NO headlines anywhere - has everyone forgotten already?

There are so many thoughts in my mind, and I feel like expressing a few. I want to say thanks to Judge Hue, Starbuck and all the contributors who have kept us so incredibly well informed in this case, and a special hello to Larry for being such a great commentor.

I honestly do not know how to react - I can't help but feel some level of sadness that so much effort has come to such a strange end. The latest ruling seems to make the AAA ruling even 'fair' and 'plausible' in comparison - has anyone else noticed this? At least the AAA ruling DID say that considerations were made based on the defendants points, and DID caution the lab's standards and issued a warning to them.

I can't personally ever really know what this case was about - was it about doping or not doping? Procedure or lack of procedure? Conspiracy or simply shoddy work? A blow to anti-doping measures or a cry for justice? I can't be in Floyd's head, and can't know what pressures are involved in professional cycling, and if he did or did not use anything he shouldn't have used. But I do know that this entire thing should never arrived at such a point, never - there are few people in the land who can't agree that there were many, many problems with the case against Landis. I feel as though he has weathered these fairly and used the proper avenues to persue his rights. To be lambasted by this final decision seems so out of proportion to the legitimate claims put together by the defence in the appeal.

Floyd, if you do read these comments, remember that there are people out there who aren't interested in judging you on what has happened in the past. The case is over, the future lies ahead, and you will not forever live in the shadow of these decisions.

And to TBV, thank you again for giving us so much context by which to understand this case. I hope that you continue the blog to cover any other issues that arise from this decision and possibly repercussions, and Floyd's new life post-appeal.

I think it's a good thing to remember that tomorrow will be one less day of waiting and hating and worrying. New horizons my friends - John

Larry said...

BLT, great post! Agreed 100%.

wschart said...

While it is probably true that Landis had zero chance of winning because the system is stacked against the athlete, I don't think that was as apparent then as it is now. There certainly had not been as public a case as Landis'; I suppose that transcripts of other cases where available. But many of the earlier cases, at least those that I am aware of, were not focused on the same issues as Landis'. So it is possible that they felt they had some chance to win.

Even if they didn't, I don't think that simply giving in and then trying to run some sort of PR campaign would have had any traction. Even an unofficial nolo contrendre plea would have been perceived by many as an admission of guilt, and generalized complaints about the process without the real, public exposure, would be considered just sour grape whining.

The GL call affair certainly didn't help Landis any. How much affect it had on public opinion is hard to tell. My own gut feeling, based on what I have seen here and at TBV, leads me to the conclusion that there is one group of people who have thought Landis was guilty from the beginning, and another group who at least hoped he was innocent. Both groups seem to have looked at all the information and developments in the case, and seen what they think backs up their position. Then there is the vast majority of the public, who had little interest in the case.

I sometimes wonder if Landis went into this with the idea of perhaps "taking one for the team", knowing he had little chance of pervailing, but proceeding as he did in order to expose the WADA system as he did.

whareagle said...

I would add that Baker's integrity was never in question, not Lim's, though I do wish he had stepped up earlier and more frequently to argue for Landis' innocence in this instance.

It's all supremely frustrating and disparaging. Heaven help us if it happens again, but something make me think it probably will.

Finally, does anyone think theis would have ended where it did if the "B" sample had been tested at UCLA, like requested? Catlin may have been above reproach... That is, until the testimony he gave...

bemused said...

One of the problems with the Landis result is that if we were to assume that he really was guilty and was really caught fair and square by the drug tests, and to believe USADA's position that the evidence showed he had been drugging all along, the other conclusion is that blood and urine testing is virtually useless at catching cheaters because it gives false negatives 99% of the time. If that is true, and if the results are so inaccurate as to be able to rarely catch dopers (not just Landis but other suspects as well who tested negative almost all of the time), then one would also have to suspect that such inaccurate tests would surely give a false postive once in a while as well, in which case, why assume that the rare positive is real rather than false? Which brings us full circle to the conclusion that lab testing is virtually useless at catching dopers, and is probably just as likely to convict the innocent as to miss the guilty.

This conclusion seems to be borne out by the fact that most dopers who get caught these days are found out because of other evidence (e.g. Balco, Operation Puerto, Mitchel report).

It is clear to me that an effective anti-drug strategy must include a heavy emphasis on tracking down the sources, traffickers, advisors and other enablers. That is the thing that mystifies my about almost all of the DQ's by lab testing - they virtually never result in any tracing of the sources. For a prominent athlete to be doping during a major event like the TdF, he has to have a whole support system behind him and conspirators who know about it, yet not one of them is ever caught, nor there even any suspicion cast directly on anyone else. If Landis cheated, he did not do it alone.

I would have to conclude that a fair court could never convict an athlete based on lab tests alone. There would have to be corroborating evidence. One lab test just is not a sufficient case.

What comes to mind is the military wife in San Diego who was convicted of poisoning her husband based only on one lab test that showed arsenic in his tissue. After two years in prison, they tested another stored tissue sample and found it clear of arsenic. She was exonerated and released. Apparently, the first lab test was faulty. I realize the athletic tests do an A & B sample, so perhaps the analogy falls short, but still, lab tests alone are sufficient only to cause suspicion. If they can't find other evidence, I don't think a good case exists.