Friday, September 21, 2007

The Fix Is In

Had Floyd Landis’ arbitration been handled by the American judicial system, the 2006 winner of the Tour de France would have red hair. Put another way, were logic the overriding principle used for deciding the arbitration outcome, the matter would be settled once and for all. Unfortunately, the arbitrators managed to set aside their own concerns and find in favor of USADA.

In the American court system, material found in an illegal search is disallowed in court proceedings. So if the basis of a search is found to be logically flawed, the search is thrown out. The arbitrators struck down the initial adverse T/E result, saying it DID NOT meet the requirement for a positive test.

That bears repeating. In the initial test that started this process, the arbitrators found that Floyd Landis did not test positive. Logically, if the initial test was not positive, there should not be grounds for the flawed IRMS test that USADA claims shows Landis used exogenous testosterone.

Equally disturbing is the arbitrators’ threat that if similar procedural errors such as those that were demonstrated during the Landis hearing were to continue, they might dismiss such a case. “The Panel finds that the practises of the Lab in training its employees appears to lack the vigor the Panel would expect in the circumstances given the enormous consequences to athletes.” That is the most serious indictment of the testing process ever offered by a sympathetic party. And yet, the majority wrote, “If such practices continue, it may well be that in the future, an error like this could result in the dismissal” of the case against the athlete.

Hello? How could errors dismissed in this case be considered substantive enough to derail a case in the future? The fix is in. The arbitrators have effectively said, “Okay, we’ll let you slide this time, but don’t embarrass us or yourselves again.” It is further demonstration that this process has been a kangaroo court meant to satisfy a political agenda rather than a judicial process meant to uncover the truth. No reasonable person can come to the conclusion that justice has been served if substandard lab work can result in two different findings on two different days. That’s not justice, that’s mercy; only mercy isn’t generally granted to the prosecution.

If LNDD’s (Laboratoire National de Dépistage du Dopage / National Anti-doping Laboratory) work ethic will be deemed unacceptable in the future, then it is unacceptable today. And if it is unacceptable today, then a miscarriage of justice has been served.

One cannot be surprised that the arbitrator chosen by Landis’ team, Christopher Campbell, found in favor of Landis. He was supposed to be sympathetic. However, strenuous dissent deserves the light of day. Campbell wrote: "The documents supplied by LNDD are so filled with errors that they do not support an Adverse Analytical Finding. Mr. Landis should be found innocent." He went on to point out a larger problem of competence: "If the LNDD couldn't get the T-E ratio test right, how can a person have any confidence that LNDD got the much more complicated IRMS test correct?"

Here’s the scary part. This process shows that labs are allowed to execute the shoddiest of work in order to get some sort of positive test. Once they achieve that result, they can then begin a fishing expedition employing all means necessary (including character assassination) in order to prove their case.

One last question: Would you want to be a pro cyclist right now?

Photo courtesy: msnbc

15 comments:

Bob Kuhn said...

Yes, but did he cheat?

Not, "did he get caught?".

Are you to believe that he really produces more testosterone than the normal range?

You question about wanting to be a pro cyclist is a flawed one. Right now there is no way to tell the dopers from the clean riders (if labs are at fault too). In light of what happened this summer in pro cycling, the road sport is a joke, one step below pro wrestling. It will get better.

Anonymous said...

The assessment is not that Landis did not test positive on the first test; the statement is that the test was flawed. There's a difference.
The protocol used for the second test can hardly be called flawed or controversial.
I agree that for certain legal situations in your standard criminal court, the results of the second test would have been thrown out, due to the protocol issues with the first test.
As someone asked on another blog: So, the police screw up the fingerprints, but get the DNA analysis right; do the rapist walk ?

jared said...

Radio - you have some good points here.


in the end i remain pissed this has to happen to cycling. such a pure sport. man + man-powered machine.

people need to go pick on nascar folk more.

Anonymous said...

I remember when I liked pro baseball & football when I was a kid, and then I began to realize that the players, for the most part, were overpaid jack-holes, and then with all the strikes, etc...I stopped watching and more importantly, caring.
Doping SUCKS...the spirit out of the sport of cycling. There's no honor in winning a battle when you're cheating.(unless no one finds out your're a big f'n cheater and then you can walk around with your chest all puffed out like a struttin' cock (rooster)) Ego & Money ruined all of the other "professional" sports, and cycling seems to be going down the same toilet.
I think I'll go out to the cyclocross races and ring my cowbell as the true "SPORTSMEN" (and Women) mash their pedals harder to go faster, all jacked-up on Toffee Buzz Clif Bars and espresso!

Chet B. (Los Angeles, CA)

Pete Morris said...

The only thing that shocks me more than the utter incompetence of the drug-testing labs is the widespread failure of cycling fans to realize how freakin' corrupt the sport is. We've become so distracted by the "cheaters" that we've lost sight of a much bigger threat to the sport: corruption! This whole affair is a power play, pure and simple, between the UCI, ASO, WADA, and the IOC, and the hypocritical self-righteousness of Pat McQuaid, Dick Pound, et al. makes me sick.

As for the fingerprints/DNA analogy, let's be clear on one thing. The IRMS test (i.e., the metaphorical DNA test) was flawed, too. Both sides in the case presented expert testimony that directly contradicted each other. While the defense's experts were no doubt compensated for their time and effort, they came from a variety of backgrounds and have no apparent vested interests in either Landis's career or this case. The same can't be said for the prosecution's experts, all of whom have either led WADA labs or conducted WADA-funded research.

No doubt doping is a problem, a big problem. But a corrupt system that doesn't care one wit about due process or fairness to accused athletes is no way to fix it. Landis very well may have doped, but can any one of us confidently believe that O.P. did not? That, right there, is the shame of it all.

Keep speaking the truth, Radio.

bikesgonewild said...

...at this point, whether mr. landis cheated or not is up to he & whatever higher power he believes in...
...the ruling in this case, however, exemplifies the now 35-0 USADA's attitude of,"we are willing to lie & cheat in order to catch the liers & cheaters"...
...using unreliable work habits & shoddy inconclusive results to achieve the goal of 'cleaning up' the sport is as nefarious as the methods utilized by the dopers...
...it is pointless to address one & only one, segment of the equation when so many are at fault...

...if you are going to clear the fucking table, then, clear the fucking table...

Anonymous said...

The arbitrators may have had problems with the A Sample test, but they did not have problems with the more sensitive B Sample test, and in fact said that the B Sample test *did* detect the presence of synthetic testosterone. Landis had synthetic testosterone in his body. Ergo, Landis doped. Landis cheated.

So, the A Sample test was flawed, horribly so, and it was that A Sample test that kicked off the whole investigation and led to the B Sample, which was not flawed, confirming that Landis had cheated. You are saying that because the A Sample test was flawed, all subsequent investigation of Landis should have been thrown out, even though they proved he had doped. You make your argument by analogizing to the US legal system, where evidence uncovered from an illegal search, even if it proves guilt, cannot be admissible.

But your argument doesn't really make any sense. Guilt and innocence are relative terms decided by the institutional systems in which they find their meaning. Someone guilty in one system might be innocent in another system. So Landis might be innocent under US criminal law, but equally he might be guilty under British criminal law. When someone has been found guilty by a legal system, does that mean that they definitely did commit the crime of which they were accused? No. It merely means that according to a relatively imperfect and human standard of judgement they have been found guilty. Because, in the absence of a time machine, we can not know for definite. We can only make more or less adequate judgements.

Landis was found guilty of doping by those institutions that have been set up to decide if someone is guilty of doping. Those institutions are not, and cannot be perfect. Should we throw out their decisions because they are not perfect?

Only Landis really knows if he cheated. We can only rely on fallible institutions to decided whether it is more or less probable that someone did cheat. I think this case is a watershed moment, because a cheater was caught, and the institutions that are supposed to catch cheats have been told that they need to improve their practices and conduct themselves more professionally. It's a win-win situation for cycling, in my opinion.

zank said...

I wish I was a PRO cross racer.

Anonymous said...

I wish I was a PRO-Porn Star!

Tripod

Pete Morris said...

"Anonymous" above is mistaken, or at least missing the point. The arbitrators DID see problems with the "B sample" test (by which I presume is meant the IRMS test), in that they weren't unanimous. It was a split decision. Moreover, when you bother to actually read the ruling, the evidence, etc., it is clear that expert opinion was VERY divided over the IRMS results, and that the two arbitrators in the majority rather arbitrarily gave the benefit of the doubt to the prosecution's expert witnesses whose conflicts of interest in this case--not to mention the very ground rules of this kangaroo court--go way beyond being merely "corrupt". Look, I'm not sure myself if Landis is guilty or not, and at this point, I don't care. Because far more damaging to the sport is not the act of (alleged) cheating, but the ham-handed and truly corrupt attempts to "cleanse" the sport. (Kind of reminds me of the "war on terror", but that's obviously a whole 'nother can of worms.)

bikesgonewild said...

...i can't get over anon 10:47am 's question / remark, "should we throw out their decisions because they're not perfect ?"...

...gimme a break..."not perfect" ??? ...my god, man, did nothing in the landis "trial" register w/ you as revealing the level of the labs incompetency ???...

...this is not a system that, "needs to improve its practices & conduct themselves more professionally"...this is a system that needs to be overhauled & restructured completely...new competent people, new competent training, proper procedures followed as regards both testing & media revelations...
...this doesn't even take into account that august body, the 'usada'...utilizing flawed results to reach the decision required to meet their objective ???...
...you consider that fair & equitable ???...as i said before, "we're willing to lie & cheat to catch the liars & cheaters"...would you call that reasonable???...

...i throw my hands up in abject frustration...

Anonymous said...

"(Kind of reminds me of the "war on terror", but that's obviously a whole 'nother can of worms.)" You lost me with this obtuse statement! I guess the wacko Islamo-idiots are in need of more hugs and less 5.56 rounds to the mellon! Save the left wing Mike Mooron idiodic rhetoric out of the cycling debate please! Floyd might be guilty and he might not be, but this whole thing doesn't pass the smell test and whiffs of Bovine droppings!

Sincerely,
Disgusted

KFad said...

Floyd and the sport were doomed from the start. Guilt, innocence or even the truth had no bearing on the reality. There was no acquittal to be won in the court of public opinion.

Not that he actually had a chance in that kangaroo court.

Augustus Hibernius said...

Split those legal hairs all you want. The fix was, indeed, in, and for a long time. I read Floyd's book, and noted with interest his retelling of the John Wordin/Mercury team troubles. When it became clear Mercury was folding, Floyd wrote a letter to Hein VerBruggen, then head of the UCI. Floyd quoted the rules about riders getting paid, and team managers being penalized for malfeasance. Hein's reply? Shut up, kid, and don't ask again. As corrupt as the Olympics are(as well as their various governing bodies), it only makes sense that Floyd was tagged as "trouble" early on. Road cycling is not a joke; it is in some serious trouble. It's time to get pro sports out of, and out of the control of, the IOC. Team owners, managers, and members must work together to clean up their respective acts. Zero tolerance has proven to be entirely unworkable - for kindergartners with butter knives in their lunchboxes as well as for sports

Anonymous said...

So, the UCI have decided to destroy cycling by having the winner of the Tour framed for doping because "he's trouble?" Yeah, that makes a lot of sense...