Friday, December 26, 2008

The Winnowing: Dirt Roadie

Dirt Roadie is a 56 year old attorney, "practicing until he gets it right." When cycling, he says he prefers riding the high mountain and low desert terrain of Colorado and Utah, on or off-road. He participated in our analysis of the CAS appeal.

[Back to the Introduction]

Floyd, and allegations of doping. So, looking back, what happened and what have we learned?

Human behavior is, on a large scale, dictated by faith (think Islam, Taoism, Buddism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity). But even in secular issues, one is often faced with taking one side or the other based largely on just such faith, since the "truth" may never be known.


I've never met the guy. I have no idea if a conversation with him would get beyond "Wow, you're Floyd Landis. Cool!" I will note that the only person who is likely to truly know whether Floyd used testosterone claims he did not. 'Nuff said. However, I am also not inclined to accept the "legal" conclusion that he did, partially because I also see nothing in his miracle ride that cannot be readily accounted for by the events of the two days as described by StarrTrek's saga of the magic water bottle.

If, as I am strongly led to believe, he did not use testosterone, his story is one of the great travesties of sporting history.

And if he did use testosterone, it may still be.

Indeed, there were never any allegations of blood doping, use of EPO or other similar and blatantly egregious offenses. But I'll use the word innocent in the broader sense of meaning either truly innocent or at least not guilty of anything more than a minor infraction when compared with the "industrial strength" offenses noted above.

In the 2006 Tour de France, Floyd Landis had a VERY bad day (a "jour sans") followed by a VERY, VERY good day when Floyd put all his remaining chips on the table and won the hand.

Then came the extended bad period commencing when Floyd was accused of doping based upon LNDD lab tests of, shall we say, questionable validity. See Arnie Baker's The Wiki Defense.

There were two independent arbitration hearings, AAA/CAS and CAS. But in contrast to typical legal proceedings where an appellate court reviews a lower court decision for "error," the second arbitration hearing started over from scratch. Each time the arbitrators did little more than rubber stamp the allegations of USADA, despite the AAA acknowledging clear problems with the lab work and one of three arbitrators ruling in Floyd's flavor. The written CAS opinion resonated with a decidedly less-than-objective tone.

I was reminded of a case I dealt with many years ago involving "scientific" data in the context of a "bottom of the bureaucracy" DMV administrative proceeding (NOT a trial in a court of law). Very simply, the ONLY issue was whether the blood alcohol content was above .15 %.

A machine had shown a BAC of .155%, .005% over (two zeroes after the decimal). BUT, the machine's "accuracy" was considered acceptable if it read within ± .01 (just one zero after the decimal) of the presumed value when testing a specially prepared "control" sample.

So, the machine read over the legal limit by just HALF of the acceptable error of the device. (Think of trying to measure to the nearest inch using a yardstick marked only in feet.)

Nonetheless, that issue clearly sailed right over the head of the DMV hearing examiner (next step up from the guys who give driving tests) who pounded his gavel (Yes, he had a freaking gavel) and proclaimed, "These machines are very accurate!"

In Floyd's case, both the AAA and the CAS might just as well have pounded their gavels and announced, "These labs are very accurate." Indeed, the CAS panel explicitly stated "LNDD benefits from the presumption that it conducted sample analysis in accordance with international laboratory standards." Sort of a Nixonesque, "if a certified lab does it, it's not improper."

All the while, Floyd's "guilt" was taken to heart by the Floyd critics, many of whom were part of the anti-doping system, happy to have a scapegoat. The word "witchhunt" has been used repeatedly and accurately.

Is/was there a doping problem in cycling? Yup, no question. Should an innocent cyclist be sanctioned? Seems like an easy enough question with an obvious answer, but the anti-doping crusaders seem to think that destroying the reputation and livelihood of an innocent individual is acceptable "collateral damage." Yup, capital punishment for jaywalking. That'll stop 'em.

In a final step, Floyd presented extensive evidence and asked a U.S. Federal Court to acknowledge flaws in the CAS under applicable legal standards, suggesting a system seemingly dedicated only to achieving "convictions" and not necessarily based upon justice or accuracy. But alas, we will never know how this challenge would have played out. In itself, this may be a systemic travesty equivalent to that endured individually by Floyd.

In the end we may have only learned that bad things can happen to good people and that "truth" is only a relative concept. And in a witchhunt where the target is the Wicked Witch of the West, the victim may unacceptably be Glinda, the Good Witch of the South.