Tuesday, July 1, 2008
So the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has rendered its decision in the Floyd Landis case. Saying that his charges were “unfounded,” the court delivered a shocking rebuke to the Landis defense.
The 3-0 decision found no merit at all in Landis’ defense which is surprising given that even the American Arbitration Association (AAA) panel uniformly agreed that there were problems with the work performed by the French National Anti-Doping Laboratory at Chatenay-Malabry (LNDD), though ultimately they weren’t considered enough to exonerate him. You may recall that the panel found the LNDD had performed the initial test resulting the non-negative testosterone-epitestosterone result poorly enough to disallow the finding. It also stated that it might be difficult to find athletes guilty in the future should the LNDD continue to perform work in a manner other than specified by the World Anti-Doping Authority (WADA).
Bluntly put, CAS would not have thrown out the initial T:E result. The panel stated in its decision the lab was guilty of nothing more than "minor procedural imperfections." One could be forgiven for thinking of Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Newman presiding over the proceedings with a “What, me worry?” bubble above his head.
The head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), Travis Tygart, was quoted saying, “We did a full review of the evidence from the start. Before we brought charges in this case, every day we reviewed the evidence we had and asked the same question, ‘does this point to a doping violation?’ We were comfortable that we had the case when we started.”
This statement simply isn’t supported by the facts of the proceeding. Tygart never questioned the validity of the test results that lead to Landis’ prosecution; rather than mount an inquiry for the truth, Tygart and USADA worked to defend the LNDD.
I’ve read the full transcript of the AAA hearing at Pepperdine Law School in Malibu, California. More than 1000 pages. I don’t see how a reasonable, rational person who doesn’t have agenda can come to a conclusion other than Floyd Landis wasn’t caught doping. That doesn’t necessarily mean he was innocent, but if he was doing something, LNDD didn’t find it. That’s fundamentally the problem with the outcome; the truth got swept aside in the rush to get a conviction.
Landis’ next step (Surely you didn’t think the plus-size gal had had her moment on stage?) would be to challenge the outcome in U.S. federal court. Such a move has been hinted at in the past by Landis’ attorney, Maurice Suh. This move may be in doubt given that the panel took the extraordinary step of assessing Landis $100,000 of USADA’s defense costs as a penalty for “the unprecedented scope and intensity of the technical challenges" the defense raised despite the fact that they had been rejected in the first proceeding.
This is a punishment for style, not substance, and that goes against everything Americans understand the judicial process to be.
If athletes who appeal a conviction are punished for, in essence, appealing the conviction, this outcome will have a very chilling effect on any athlete attempting to defend him or herself against doping charges, whether or not the lab work was performed correctly.
Image courtesy John Pierce, Photosport International