Wednesday, December 31, 2008

After all that, what do we think?

Hey, it's over.

We know what the official word has been about the Landis case -- and the Federal case that might have looked into how we got that word through arbitration has been settled on terms that let Landis race right away, and USADA not to have to explain.

We also have our own access to the testimony, arguments and exhibits, and our many long-running discussions about the case.

[MORE]


A long time ago, we said the Landis case presented a Rorschach test on your world view, and nothing that has happened since has changed our feelings.

If one believes "they all dope", then you believe all tests that are reported as positive no matter how they were achieved, and any irregularities in reaching that conclusion are immaterial. You assume the conclusion, that the athlete did it, and all recedes into irrelevant technicality.

If one believes they don't all dope all the time, and that some positive tests may not reflect the truth, then you want to be able to look to find out what might have happened to cause an incorrect positive. When you can't find anything that suggests a false positive, then you accept it as a true positive along with the athlete's guilt or lack of diligence looking into friends or the contents of food or supplements.

The underlying Truth (independent of result) in the case of Floyd Landis seems like it comes in one of the following flavors.

  1. He doped with testosterone on purpose.
  2. He didn't dope with testosterone, but something seems to indicate it - perhaps a contamination of some kind, perhaps some natural phenomenon.
  3. He didn't dope with testosterone and the tests results are wrong to say so.

(Some people will also mix in accusations he doped with something else, probably in the oxygen vector, and we'll need to get to that as well.)

We know clearly that USADA believes (1) is the case, that he's a dirty doper. We also know that he has presented himself as (3), an unjustly accused innocent.

The excluded middle

No one who matters has been interested in considering (2) - that it seems to be there, unknown to Landis.

Let's see why that has been off the table for everyone.

First, from USADA's point of view, (2) is either an inadvertent ("no-fault") case, or a problem in the procedure. Neither is appealing to for USADA to consider. If it's an inadvertent, there's no great moral reward for taking down a dirty doper; if it's an unexplained phenomenon, it suggests either a scientific or execution hole in the anti-doping mechanism which is hard to explain and embarrassing.

From USADA's position, it is better to win a case as intentional doping than to consider any alternative.

Similarly, there seems little reason to believe that USADA has ever seriously considered the possibility that (3) might be true. There's no hint in any of the available information to believe they ever considered it was anything other than a true positive, which they were fully committed to prosecuting.

From the Landis point of view, (2) either leads to a complete scientific rat-hole of trying to understand how some natural (and non-prohibited) phenomenon leads to the result, or to an inadvertent/no-fault finding that costs the Tour victory he believes is earned. Both of these are ugly for him to consider. He knows he didn't dope, and USADA isn't making any overtures that suggest there might be something scientifically curious going on.

None of the external players, WADA, the UCI, or the ASO have any interest in a finding that is equivocal. Thus, they instantly and loudly locked themselves into position (1) before there was any particular review of the results.

Locking into Position

One form of position lock happened as soon as rumors of an AAF started to circulate, first in the peloton, then from the UCI. At that point, it became very difficult for LNDD to consider withdrawing the AAF, or looking into the possibility of mistakes --- which the lab had done numerous times the same year in other reported AAFs that had been kept appropriately confidential. The lab became locked -- and this, we learn later -- leads the relevant government agency down the same path, and the AFLD locked itself in support of its laboratory.

At the beginning, Landis' is confused, and appears willing to consider at least some scenarios of (2) - the "from my own organism" business would have been a claim of natural, non-prohibited process, and plausible with only a T/E violation reported. Similarly, alcohol was mentioned as a possible complication based on speculation, and might (still!) explain the IRMS results.

Only when it becomes clearer that (a) talking is not helping; and that it is not only a T/E test, but an IRMS result does he shut up.

The next we really hear from Landis is based in no small part on Arnie Baker's analysis of the provided documentation: the test doesn't show exogenous testosterone. This belief seems initially based on the most restrictive reading of the "metabolite(s)" rule, and is compounded by what seems to be a lot of haphazardness in the documented testing. In the world the way Team Landis sees it, this shouldn't be a positive test.

Now, Landis becomes locked into position (3), that there is no positive test result, and files a submission with USADA for consideration by the Anti-doping Review Board for the case. In retrospect, almost everything of significance in the case is hinted at in that brief (12 page) filing.

At this point, things become murky at USADA, because there is intentionally no transparency in the ADRB process. It is not known how or if the ADRB really considered the points raised in the Landis submission. By design, there are no minutes and no reasoning provided for its simply reported conclusion: The Test is Valid. The ADRB accepted the reported AAF -- and from there, it appears that USADA locked itself into position (1), though it might have entertained pleading of (2) had Landis offered it.

Clunk, clunk, clunk, the sound of gates closing, and maneuverability foreclosed.

Clunk.

Positions Fixed, Reinforcements Called

USADA realizes that Landis is not going to roll over and calls in the heavy artillery of the HRO law firm, in the particular form of Richard Young. Mr. Young happens to be the principle author of the WADA Code, and is victor in several contentious cases, Hamilton, Gaines, and Montgomery. He also happens to be an arbitrator in the CAS pool, and has served on many Panels. He is the very definition of someone "inside the club."

It is not known what orders were given to HRO by USADA, either explicitly or implicitly. By appearances, the essence was "win this case, period."

The Nuts

The only people now openly considering (2) are internet "kooks", who think there might be something to the alcohol or diet theories; and those who speculate that Landis was somehow spiked by someone. The alcohol theory is scoffed at, and no one pursues the spike theory at all. Perhaps it is too similar to the scenario purported by Gatlin, or Jeff Adams. In any event, these considerations go nowhere.


The Litigation Machine takes over

It's Autumn. Landis is trying to get discovery on material before hearing. HRO/USADA say he doesn't need anything else, and if he wants more, to get it through the arbiters, who are not yet selected. The selection is delayed by intense litigation positioning on the part of both sides.

From USADA's point of view, Landis is fishing for something to blow up there case, and they don't want to give anything that puts the case at risk. They do not appear interested in helping him find the truth, but winning the case.

From Landis' point of view, USADA is stonewalling information he needs to understand what happened. He makes the information he has available to the public starting debate on the merits and methodology.

Holes do start to appear in issues that might normally appear in a case, not least through Baker's powerpoints. USADA needs to consider all these issues, and is unsure what is really going to be argued. To this degree, "the wiki defense" is strategy of radar-jamming with chaff. There are real points discussed, but a lot of dummy ones as well.

Then, in December, the Landaluce award comes out, and HRO/USADA thinks it may have problems -- some of the little holes shown by Baker might be trouble, in the hands of one Panel or another. In an interview, Tygart says he is "ready to go" with what he has, but that is not what is happening behind the scenes.

HRO/USADA comes up with novel strategy: test the other B samples from the tour, to (try to) eliminate the possibility of any Landaluce-like problems. This has never been done in any case before. There's no procedure for it, and no mention of the possibility in the WADA Code or the USADA rules. USADA informs Landis of its intent, and has in fact already shipped samples taken in the US to LNDD for testing.

Landis objects. It's not permitted anywhere, and the A's of the same samples were negative. He threatens suit in Federal Court. USADA retreats, for the moment, and some negotiations take place.

Landis is dead set against LNDD doing any more testing. He says he'd be happy with UCLA, but UCLA claims not to be available. He objects to Montreal because of prejudicial statements already made in the case by Ayotte, the lab director. He's apparently open to Australia, but USADA is not citing transport and logistical problems. No agreement is reached, and nothing happens.

Finally over December and January, the AAA Panel is put in place, and the first things they need to resolve are discovery questions and this testing of alternate samples.

It appears that the Panel gives Landis most of the discovery he wants, though USADA/HRO will quibble over significant things later.

It claims not to have the power to order depositions (though it probably could "encourage" them), so testimony must be done live, which will turn into a curse for Landis.

Then it finds a wash-cloth and says that since the samples are owned by the UCI, the agencies can do anything they like with them. If they want to test them, and use them as "additional evidence" against Landis, they, The Panel, can't stop them. Such evidence can't be considered an AAF, per-se, but it could be accretive.

Notably, there is no way testing of these samples can be to Landis' benefit as a defense -- non-positivity indicates nothing, while positivity can be added to the weight against him.

HRO/USADA decide they will test them.

At LNDD.

Only weeks before the hearing is going to proceed.

(We reflect how much uncertainty that now remains might have been avoided had these other tests been done anywhere else.)

The tests are done, and both sides get their prejudices confirmed. USADA gets the reports it wants, positives on some of the alternate B samples. Landis' experts get confirmation of their beliefs that the IRMS people at LNDD don't know what they are doing. Both groups of experts complain about the behavior of each other.

The same thing happens when the original data is reprocessed in different ways -- there are variations that Landis' side takes as indicative of non-reproducible process, and which USADA thinks is close enough to the margin of error as to be perfectly acceptable for "comfortable satisfaction."

Landis does not get the actual data from the tests. USADA claims he could "tamper" with read-only CDs, when USADA keeps separate copies that could easily be compared.

The Panel accepts this absurdity.

To this day, Landis has never gotten a copy of the actual data that was used to find him guilty, nor has it ever been evaluated by non-WADA experts.

AAA Hearing
During the hearing, the Landis side thinks it has raised plenty of doubt about the reliability of the tests. There are significant sideshow distractions that turn out to have no bearing on anything substantive. The unfortunate mid-hearing meltdown of Landis' friend and manager regarding Greg LeMond poisons the atmosphere for the press. USADA's lead attorney Richard Young shows a certain mastery of leading witnesses to say what he wants. Another tactic is played out: Have non-communicative witnesses chew up Landis' available time during cross-examination, leaving him short of time to present his own case.

AAA Award
The majority award from Brunet and McLaren is a logical travesty, culminating in seven key paragaphs that make little sense scientifically or logically. No matter. The result is what the Alphabets desire, and most in the press and public move on, not looking at the details. There is no real mechanism for review, per-se, of this flawed award.

CAS Appeal
The only option is a de-novo (from-scratch) hearing of the entire case. Landis is running short of money, and needs it on the cheap. USADA too, is running out of money, but manages to get direct funding from WADA, which is not a party to the case. New issues are discovered by the Landis team, and presented - clear errors in the certified documentation, contradictions in testimony. USADA comes up with answers to the new observations -- one might say, manufactures answers -- and ignores many of the contradictions in their own prior argument.

The time for cross-examination card is played to the max. USADA submits lengthy declarations of more witnesses than they called during the AAA hearing, and Landis is forced to skip cross-examination of many because there just aren't the hours available.

CAS Decision
The CAS decision is a completely political document, reflecting the hard line that Landis must lose. It does not address many of the substantive issues that were raised, accepts USADA's stories on everything, and boils down to: The Lab has a presumption of correctness, and nothing you can present can change that, especially if we chose to ignore it.

Adding smackdown and insult to injury, the CAS panel blames Landis for USADA having more witnesses than there was time to cross-examine: It fines Landis $100,000 for USADA's trouble in bringing all these witnesses to the hearing in New York.

Both panels obviously chose to ignore things that should have caused a "burden flip", and they did so with tautologically backward reasoning. Based on the presumption of lab correctness, the errors could not have caused the AAF; and since they could not have caused the AAF, the violations were not departures that would cause the burden to flip to USADA. This assumes the conclusion of a step that was never taken. The conclusion the departures would not have caused the violation should only have been made after a formal burden flip, with USADA made to prove the harmlessness with a different burden of proof, not with a presumption of correctness. In declining to declare departures in the Landis case, both Panels have shown it futile to challenge lab correctness. The only winning strategy is to find Landaluce errors in gross form, not technical details.

In both cases, the compelling testimony of John Amory that the values that hung Landis just make no sense was not challenged, but obfuscated by reference to non-peer-reviewed studies that remain unpublished to this day. Mr. Young's tap-dancing to convince the AAA Panel that presentation at a workshop meant something was seen by peers, and that was "peer-reviewed" in the formal sense should have been an embarrassment, but was accepted by that majority as good-enough to muddy Amory's point.

Federal Case
Landis made public in his complaint that the CAS process is fundamentally compromised by the revolving door of roles parties play in the CAS/IOC/WADA/Federations club. Obvious appearances of conflict of interest were not properly disclosed, nor even understood as anything but business as usual.

USADA chose to settle the case before answering the claims on the record, and Landis is free to race.

So, what do we think about Landis?

We still don't know if Landis doped with testosterone on Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France, or in the vicinity of any other stage as suggested by the alternate B sample results. Maybe he did, maybe he didn't, or maybe something else happened that is unexplained.

There's enough oddity for us in the test methods used, the reported data, and the stonewall, hardball litigation tactics used against Landis that we don't have a "comfortable satisfaction." The points reiterated in the winnowing still seem to raise what ought to be quite reasonable doubt and lack of comfort. But I am not a CAS arbiter.

There have been insinuations he did something in the oxygen vector, but no case presented. The evidence is equivocal to us (see here, here, and here for discussion).

Perhaps there was a belief he was a guilty man, and anything done in the cause of bringing him down was acceptable. (
Bill Hue has an even darker theory of this.) Not much effort seems to have gone into dissuading the perception that "anything goes in this prosecution". Maybe it wasn't worth the trouble to blunt that view, as long as the "correct" result was achieved, and who was really going to look, anyway?

Landis has held on to position (3) long past the time where a rational game theorist would think it worthwhile.
It would have been expedient at several points to say, "I didn't do it, but I'm not willing to contest it at this time. I just want it to be over and be able to race then."

That Landis didn't ever choose that easier route is reflective of the stubbornness that prompted the attack on Stage 17. In many contexts, it would be admirable.

If he is innocent, it is impossible for us to say he was wrong to fight it with all the determination he showed.

If he is guilty, and has been lying through his teeth all along, he has certainly paid a heavy price, including a string of family tragedies we will not enumerate.

If the truth is really one of those (2) cases where no one's public position was correct, it doesn't look like we'll ever know.

Throughout, he's always acted as a wronged innocent. Consistent with that, he has done more to make the facts about his case known than any other accused athlete has ever done. Even when it hasn't been convenient, or obviously to his benefit, he has provided us all the information we've ever requested.

Landis did made mistakes -- sharing Greg LeMond's phone number as number one, then saying too much too early when he didn't know, and letting his frustration show from time to time. (He may have provided a good warning for the dangers of typing-while-intoxicated.)

The unique existence of this window into the system is due to solely his commitment, openness and willingness to let the world see. We hope we've done credit to that idea of transparency, and that over the long term he'll feel it was worth the attempt.

No Apologia for dopers

There is nothing that irritates us more than being called apologists for dopers:
  • There is no denying there is doping in the Pro Peloton.
  • There is no denying testing must be done.
  • There is plainly cheating, and a culture of wandering in and out of the shadows.
We've never denied any of that, despite attempts to characterize us as doing so.

Some have said we're too soft on dirty dopers. Frankly, as individuals they don't interest us - they are perpetrators and victims, and we're more interested in having a system that works than in finding scapegoats. There's only so much value in outrage at stupid individual behavior.

We are more irked with powerful systems that, by policy, institutionalize a counterproductive environment that leads to stupid behavior.

We are occasionally tossed complaints we should care more about the clean riders, and the fans than the dirty dopers.

This presumes we know who is clean and who isn't, and we don't. We don't think everybody dopes all the time, or that all the high performers dope much of the time, or that all the winners necessarily dope. Many reasonable people think otherwise, and we ought to be able to disagree without disrespect or vilification.

We also think the side of outrage is more than adequately represented by the WADA/IOC/Federation/State players, and the corporate media, beginning with L'Equipe, and the Olympic broadcasters and their affiliated outlets. That is a powerfu
l Sporting-Entertainment Complex shaping opinion and policy for its own benefit. Nor is there a shortage of blogs and other grass-roots efforts expressing such frustrations.

We chose to do something different. We'd have been wasting our time if, when we looked into the corners, everything was tidy and in order. Instead, we found equivocal data, badly written rules, a house-of-mirrors system for resolving disputes, and little effort to asuage these concerns beyond bluster and platitude.

The lack of participation in Winnowing from those who are part of the WADA system isn't because we didn't try, but because those people chose not to participate and give their side now that the case is over.

Towards Real Solutions

Rational analysis with game theory indicates that the look-the-other-way omerta of the participants of the sport is, in fact, the best strategy for them to adopt given the rates of failure and the risks. In order the change that culture, something needs to significantly change the values of the predictable outcomes.

For testing to be effective, it must both catch a significant of the true dopers, and not be seen as arbitrary. The current tendency to target athletes based on performance (or rumor) may appear to be cost-effective, but it runs counter to the real goals of changing the mass behavior. It means that the non-targeted mid or back of pack riders, or those in undertested events are unlikely to be tested and caught. This serves to inculcate the "it's worth the risk, because there isn't much" mentality.

It means that mostly high-profile riders get caught, and that doesn't change the culture so much as damage the very stars a sport needs for positive visibility.

Targeted testing isn't wrong, but it is inadequate to change the culture.

We have observed that the cost of doing enough tests so that each rider in the Tour de France was likely to be screened at least twice during the three weeks is not high -- on the order of $30,000 more, selecting 8-10 riders a stage rather than three. Despite the hand-wringing, this approach isn't taken. That it isn't says that the people making the decisions are more interested in The Appearance of Doing Something than in solving the problem. It they weren't, they'd understand the damage of taking down high profile participants costs more in the long term than in more testing of more people earlier in their careers. There's no small part of this that comes down to warfare between the ASO and the UCI, and possibly the Tour vs. L'Equipe factions of the ASO itself. In any event, a cycling divided has no hope of working in its own best interests in the face of things like WADA and the IOC, which we'll get to later. And we won't more than mention the pathetic nature of rider's organization, and the war the UCI has with the idea of a collective-bargaining union representing the lowly participants.

We've suggested on many occasions that there be team penalties with teeth for doping. The one we like is for a team to lose starting positions in major events if they have a rider suspended, for the length of the rider's suspension. If a team has too many suspended riders, everybody is out of a job. That is peer pressure. Firing the rider should have no effect on the team sanction.

Given the consequences, we think either the certainty of offense needs to be higher, or the time of penalty lower. Or both. We don't see how lengthening sanctions does any good. If the likelihood of being struck by lightening is low, it doesn't make much difference how big the bolt is. Lower penalties would reduce the urge to fight and dispute, and lower the correctness bar for the testing itself.

Lots of cheaper tests with shorter punishments reflecting the quality of the tests would do more to change the culture than the targeted, high profile approach that is being taken. Joe Papp would have been better served if he'd been caught much earlier, with significant testing in the second and third tiers of races. By the time riders work their way into the top ranks, the "teachable moments" are long past.

Especially with targeted testing, we wish that enforcement were more transparent, reliable, and done in a way that encouraged confidence by rational third parties that examine the system. What we've learned in the Landis case is that, while well-intended, a lot of the enforcement effort involves dubious application of science, and large doses of "trust us" that do not appear to be as justified as claimed.

There have been no shortages of doping scandals in cycling since the Festina affair. There appears to be little statistical evidence that what has been done in enforcement since has had the desired effect. The party line, part of To Be Seen to be Doing Something, has been to Get Tough, with harder and harder sanctions, with less discretion. In some countries, criminal law is being brought to bear, with results (Puerto) that leave hardly anyone happy. The intersection of national law with an intended-to-be-uniform worldwide Code will lead to many inconsistencies and turf wars. While criminal law is harsher than suspension, the burdens of proof are much higher, and most of the cases to date have been for perjury, not for actual doping offenses.

And with criminal law, we do not looks to arrests and convictions to judge the rates of crime, but to the number if incidences of crimes. How many robberies, thefts or murders were committed and/or reported? With doping, we have no idea what the rate really is, and if the trend is going one way or another. We only measure tests (patrols), AAFs (arrests) and sanctions (convictions).

Can we say The System is working to reduce the incidence of doping?

We can't.

And we don't see how pursuing the same course with greater effort is going to produce appreciably different results.

The Big Picture
It seems to us the entire WADA anti-doping system is a fig-leaf for the commercial interests of the Olympic Movement. While it is presented as an intersection of science and law -- any many participants believe in their part -- it is really a public relations exercise to preserve as much as possible the pristine image needed for highly paid television images -- The Sporting-Entertainment Complex in action.

Let us not delude ourselves that these interests don't count. There are literally billions of dollars riding on these images. Bonds are issued, areas condemned, flattened, and immense construction made, all relying on the perception that the competition is "clean."

Cycling is a whipping boy for the Olympic anti-doping movement. It is a sport that has physiological demands that respond well to doping, and is itself poor enough that it has no particular leverage in the policy debate. What the IOC/WADA want for their image preservation is more important than the practical needs of any particular sport, especially cycling. It suits the IOC/WADA/CAS crowd fine to beat up cycling, because there is no fight back. The sport has a problem, and we can show we Mean Business. Game on.

This makes it easy to fall into position lock on a cycling case.

In contrast, the alleged football (soccer) player involvement in Operation Puerto has been completely swept under the rug. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to think the commercial interests of Football have had much to do with that. Is football an endurance sport where conditioning matters? Is there really reason to think there has been hardly any oxygen vector doping there? Yet the number of cases against football players seems remarkably, one might think, "suspiciously" low.

Heading to the Exit

TBV's real employ is in the architecture of highly available and scalable software systems, used in mission critical areas such as financial exchanges, commodity exchanges, and backing highly visible commercial websites. From my experience in these systems, it is apparent that almost anything can be made to work correctly a large fraction of the time. While not easy, it is the bread and butter of the industry.

What is not easy is handling cases where parts of a system fail. In our experience, when failures occur, they do so frequently in ways that were unexpected or under-considered in the design. This leads to a second level of truth: only the failure cases are
interesting.

System failures are an inevitability, and need to be addressed. "One in a million" chances are 1000 times a second with a 1 GHz processor, and four times as often as that with a quad-core. The true test of the reliability and trustworthiness of a system is how it handles these failures when they occur.

What I've seen of the anti-doping from testing through arbitration is a system that has over-represented its reliability. In most cases, it probably works well enough, just like most computer systems. But when there are, or may be, problems, the system does not seem much interested in finding out possible root causes. It wants to producing a "result" that is "finding dopers guilty", per the rationale of the WADA Code. In customer service terms, it appears to be more interested in "closing the call" rather than in truly "resolving the problem."

Fortunately for me, I have no personal vulnerability to this system, nor any vested interest in it. This makes it possible to walk away with a clean conscience after sharing these thoughts.

I am saddened that we've been unable to come up with a reliable, trustworthy way of addressing the doping that is done.

I am left with doubts whether the WADA approach is effective or doing more good than harm to sports caught in the crosshairs. I want to watch the Tour for courageous riding and tactics. I don't believe perp-walks do the sport or the cause any good.

The WADA arbitration process has shown itself to me to be incapable of dealing with discovery issues, including depositions. It systematically encourages a "run out the clock" strategy by the side in a dispute that enters with a favorable burden proof, which is unlikely to be the athlete. This is not an issue where there is little dispute in a case. When there is a major difference of opinion, it becomes a systemic failure that can lead to questionable results.

As Prof. Straubel has noted, doping adjudication is quasi-criminal, and an arbitration system equipped for contractual disputes isn't set up to handle that effectively.

I believe the open hearing held in the Landis case illuminated these issues. I do not see where an open hearing added appreciable cost to the parties. Thus, allowing open hearings at the discretion of the accused party seems a good way of allowing visibility that would encourage trust in the process. Having an open hearing is a strategy that has risk, but if the athlete wishes it to be done in the open, it is hard to see a reason to refuse.

Secret evidence in secret trials do not encourage confidence in the conclusions.

I expect the Alphabets to try to close the open-hearing option as soon as practicable.

I wish there were more approaches being considered than what seems only to be escalated reliance on tests whose reliability isn't as good as presented, in turn leading to harsher and harsher penalties. The unwillingness to address the statistics of false-positives in an open way seems to me to be intellectually and morally dishonest.

The belief that that harsher penalties is a disincentive seems questionably founded. Death penalties haven't been shown to much affect murder rates. Doping bans that are effectively sporting death sentences seem equally likely to be effective as a deterrent.

One of the first organized sports Americans pick up is baseball, with umpires making calls. There are important things for children to learn from the experience. By example, force plays at first and phantom tags at second are always called OUT.*

The lesson for the kids is that authorities are often arbitrary and wrong, and there isn't much you can do about it. They can see things as they want to, rather than as they are, and they rarely admit the possibility of error. You can either accept that and play on, or quit participating in that game.




Thanks to everyone who has read us over the 2-1/2 years we've been following the case, all our our contributors, commenters, and sources who know who they are. We particularly want to thank Strbuk for saving our sanity in 2006, Bill Hue for insight we'd never have obtained in any other way, and Marc for a broad view and exceptionally generous hospitality.

It has been a far more interesting, involving and rewarding experience that we would ever have imagined, and we're truly humbled for anyone to have taken us seriously.

TBV's family has endured much in support our investigations, and it is time to give them more of the attention that they deserve.

It's a new year, a new beginning. Let's all try to enjoy the good parts, not get bent out of shape with things that are not as we'd like them to be, and humbly do the best we can with the things we can improve.

Best wishes,
TBV


*Avery Brundage and Mr. Pound mayhave carried grudges from their Olympic experiences; Frank Shorter may feel cheated by Cierpinski; Greg LeMond certainly feels diminished by those who followed him.

I hold the pain a speedy slap hitter carries for automatic calls on force plays.


9 comments:

Mike Solberg said...

That'll do, TBV. That'll do.

Thank you.

syi

SwimMikeSwim.com

Thomas A. Fine said...

Thanks for that TBV.

For the record, I prefer the label of "crackpot" over "kook". But I'll accept either one. It's crossed my mind that Arnie and his own particular point of view is exactly what locked Floyd into the path he pursued.

But that's crap. It's useless to judge any decision based on it's outcome. You judge decisions based on what you knew, and should have known. With that in mind, if I were the guy that had to make that call, I would have made the same choice as Arnie, despite being the leading (sole?) proponent of the alcohol theory. The testing WAS botched, WAS horribly documented, WAS procedurally ambiguous. In a fair system, this defense would have and should have worked, and it seemed like the best bet.

But thankfully, I didn't have the job. Being a self-appointed crackpot was relatively risk-free. My only regret was that I should have tried to be taken more seriously. At this point, I've resigned myself to probably never knowing if my pet theory was right.

People like Arnie, and Wolfram M-A, and Amory, these people put their best foot forward at considerable professional risk. In my mind, they deserve the most praise for doing the right thing.

And maybe Bill Hue can be put in that group too. As for his dark theories, I waver between agreeing with him and thinking he's gone to far. In my more recent cynicism, I usually find myself agreeing with him. I think this coming season will show us if he's right or not. Lance has already been tested like a dozen times, and he hasn't even raced yet. The same may be true of Floyd, but he's apparently in a shut-up-and-ride mode. If that's true, good for him.

So...

I've been wondering what I should say about the end here. For reasons I can't explain, one phrase pops up over and over again. Since I never found anything better to say, I'll just say this:

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

tom

whareagle said...

Thom, you're no crackpot. You're just another genius who sees that the molecular emperor has no clothes.

Amen, hombre. Amen to you all, and I hope we can rendezvous at some point, for some celebration, somewhere, after something significant (and good) happens in the life of the athlete we watched.

Ali said...

I leave grudgingly because I feel there is unfinished business.

Having recently learned more of the goings-on of that very insular profession of racing in Europe, my views are changing and I'm starting to drift more toward the candid Dr Baker thoughts.

For the record, I think Floyd Landis was royally screwed.

Following on from Mr Fine's comments regarding being taken more seriously, I believe I can trump that many times over. I've been a complete ass on more occaisions than I care to mention, but I can honestly say that I wouldn't do it differently if given the opportunity. It must be the Celtic gene (let's blame it on something other than me, OK ?).

Either way, I'm moving on now. Not because I want to, but because I need to. New job, big new challenges, feeling very positive for the future (giving my liver a break, etc).

I genuinely wish all the best to everyone here.

Goodbye.

Alasdair

daniel m (a/k/a Rant) said...

TBV,

One of the things that's always bothered me about the Landis case is, in fact, your scenario #2. There was a result that's been interpreted as evidence of doping, but does that actually mean Landis doped?

There's Tom Fine's conjecture: Perhaps it was the alcohol. And bolstering that possibility are the Scott MacLeod case and the Gareth Turnbull case, both of whom had consumed alcohol within 24 hours of a doping test that came up positive for testosterone. And both were ultimately vindicated.

Looking at the big picture, Tom's conjecture might no be so far off the mark, really. But to many in the mainstream media and to others it sounds a bit "kooky" or like a "crackpot idea." Problem is, no one in a position of authority really bothered to explore what he suggested in any substantive way vis-a-vis Floyd's case. Also interesting to note is that the anti-doping tests don't seem to look for the presence of substances like alcohol which might have an impact on the outcome, as noted in the MacLeod decision.

There's also the possibility that perhaps something Landis ate during the Tour might have affected the results. Steroids and other drugs find their way into many forms of meat, for example. Could they cause positive test results if the concentrations were high enough? How much would one have to consume before such a test could occur?

Lance Armstrong in his seven-straight Tour victory days was well known for bringing his own food and food preparers along during his races. And the USOC went so far as to ship their own food to Beijing because of concerns over the steroid levels in various meats in China. That seems to suggest that a "food-borne" scenario isn't such a crackpot idea, either.

Perhaps Landis came into contact with something else that caused the strange results. We don't know.

That's the most unsatisfying part of the story. Ultimately, no one really knows what happened. Floyd proclaimed loudly that he didn't do it. What if he's telling the truth? What if something else caused the results?

We don't even know what the ARDB actually did (or didn't) consider in deciding to recommend doping charges against Landis. What we do know is that the fax Landis received informing him of their decision was dated three days before their meeting. It's an odd bit of information that's never been explained. Was it a simple mistake? Or was the die cast even before the meeting was held? Did they even review anything (other than a rather nifty looking rubber stamp)?

So much is unknown. But what does appear to be known is that there is no real "search for truth" -- at least not by USADA. That, to me, is the biggest failing of the system. That Landis doped is certainly one explanation for the findings. But there are other possible -- and perhaps even more likely -- explanations. And because of the polarization of the case, those possibilities appear to never have been considered.

If scenario #2 is really what happened, then the punishment inflicted on Landis has been severe, and very likely unwarranted. But the case is over and it's time to move on. Floyd will be racing again, and that's as it should be.

We should be on the roadsides and sidelines cheering him on. He's served his time in Hell, it's time he be welcomed back into the fold.

What Floyd's case, and what TBV (the site) did was to expose the weaknesses and foibles of a system run amok. If any positive changes come to the anti-doping system, it will be because of Landis' decision to have his hearing open to the public, and because there was a site where all the information could be found.

Thanks for creating Trust but Verify, Mr. TBV. If you hadn't done so, someone would have needed to invent it.

Your epitaph on the case is a darn fine analysis of what happened from start to finish.

Well done. You and Paula and Marc and Ali and Bill and all the other contributors here have created a lasting work that's a testament to the power of "citizen journalism."

Tom,

You're no crackpot, my friend. You're someone who's willing to look at the whole picture and see that there are possible explanations beyond that which is being spoon-fed to the media and being repeated far and wide. The conventional wisdom is often wrong. And you're wise enough to know that.

Ali,

Best of luck to you in all your future endeavours. It's been a pleasure reading your comments here and elsewhere. If you're ever in my neck of the woods, I'd be honored to buy you a drink.

Best wishes to everyone, it's been a very interesting ride.

Russ said...

DB,
Great post and perspective.

I can't help but recount, giving the survival by winnowing of Dr MA, and originally observed directly by Dr Davis and as reflected in the documentation.....

That the data we have spent so much time and energy analyzing is distorted to an unknown degree and is, as Dr MA hammers the point, useless.

Having said that, the data can be relied on to have not shown any abnormal presence of anything at all. It may indicate an abnormal level or ration of somethings otherwise normal.

The amount of dilution or widening of normal error bands can not be determined. That the dilution should be strongly considered in any look at the data can not be over emphasized.

In the one corner we have Dr MA and Dr Davis saying the data is scientifically bunk. Both of these scientists are heavyweights on the topic. In the other we have all who have participated in analyzing the bunk. I think it was Dr MA who so aptly applied the adage 'garbage in garbage out'.

Any how, it has been a great ride at Floyd's expense and I have learned much and as with str, I too come away heartened by the people who have been in the peloton.

DB,
I started in IT in 1980 as a professional, started as a CE and SE in mainframes, moving into AIX as and IT specialist.
My 'bread and butter, is in your area but I am tied to one 24x7 account with four HA clusters as main servers to computing farm and workstations. The commute time and work time and trying to keep some ride time in has kept me limited in following all things tbv. My lifelong technical hobbies and technical jobs including maintaining complex mainframes and I/O machinery (high speed check sorters for example) in my hardware days and calibrating various electronic devices in years prior gave me, I felt, a unique novice view into the world of the isoprime, sorry I couldn't perform the diligence that Larry did on all things pertinent.

What a wonderful online peloton this race has had at tbv! Or should I call it a team?

Friends, lets ride.

Russ

cleduc said...

I won't repeat my final comments at the bottom of Judge Hue's last post. But I will say again a big thank you to TBV. Without TBV, I would have departed this process with complete disillusionment. The excellent exposure, education and scrutiny TBV provided left me with a very decent consolation: hope that something good will ultimately come out of this case and TBV's efforts.

mnlavey said...

TBV, Strbuk, Bill, Marc and to the rest of you who have contributed - many, many, many thanks from the great unwashed for the information, points of view and service you have provided.

Floyd - go out and kick butt and show them Stage 17 was not chemically induced.

While it would have been preferable/nice to have a definitive ruling and closure on this matter, it is what it is.

Let's go ride!

MarkR said...

All I can say is, it was a great Ride, TBV. Thank you and your family for all the you put in to this effort of understanding the truth about the anti-doping movement.