Monday, December 8, 2008

Floyd Landis Doping Case; In Retrospect

The conclusion of the Floyd Landis 2006 Tour de France doping accusations was so unspectacular. A settlement in U.S. Federal Court conducted in secret. No statements from USADA or Floyd Landis. People obsessed with the case are left in the dark, again.

Nothing new about a lack of information. The Court of Arbitration of Sport hearing was conducted in secret and no testimony of the proceedings were ever released. But as "Baltimore Will" argued in the Floyd Landis topix.net cycling forum -- most sport arbitration is conducted in secret, so what is the problem? The Floyd Landis public Pepperdine University arbitration hearings were a exemption to the rule and something USADA would prefer to never repeat. Why? Too much exposure of how WADA labs work and how the WADA code is enforced. Independent experts howled in pain when they examined the Lab Document Package. There were too many mistakes that WADA and LNDD could not explain away.

People interested in the case howled when reading the testimony. There was Dr. Brenna trying to explain away "mini peaks" in the CG/C/IRMS records as non-eluting or carbon containing compounds. Christiane Ayotte made a fool of herself trying to justify LNDD's methods as valid. Suddenly cataracts fell from skeptical eyes. How long has this nonsense been going on? How many athletes? The AAA panel won't accept this nonsense surely? Even if they do, on appeal to the Court of Arbitration of Sport, Floyd Landis should prevail with a slam dunk.

LNDD could not measure a simple testosterone/epitestosterone ratio. The Carbon Isotope Ratio test is much more complicated. Christopher Campbell was right when he questioned LNDD's competence. Campbell's dissent fell on deaf ears...

Retro Reasoning

One fine summer day back in 2006 I was climbing Little Mountain in Emigration Canyon when I spied two fine cycling ladies ahead. When I got into hearing range one lady said to the other "I hope an American wears yellow in the Tour de France this year." "Think Floyd Landis," I said.

Back before Operation Puerto I constantly debated the 2006 Tour de France in my mind. Ivan Basso was the obvious first choice, but there was Jan Ullrich to consider since Lance Armstrong had retired. Franciso Mancebo, a rider whom I loved for his climbing skills was also a remote possibility. Then there was Floyd Landis, my personal choice. Even odds to be sure.

Who can forget when on the way to the start of the 2006 Tour de France the cars containing Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, and Franciso Mancebo turned around and went back to the team hotels. Operation Puerto had surfaced with accusations of blood manipulation by Dr. Fuentes under contract by elite cyclists. Records and blood bags found in Dr. Fuentes offices implicated Ullrich, Basso, and Mancebo.

Bang! The favorites were eliminated with one fell swoop, with one exception; Floyd Landis.

At the very first time trial Floyd Landis missed the start by several seconds. The team mechanic found a cut in a tubular tire on Floyds time trial bike and decided to replace it. On the second time trial Floyd had to replace his bike because of a mechanical problem. Searching the web for Floyd Landis news I found topix.net and started a forum topic "Time Trial Mishaps" lamenting the lack of preparation of the Phonak team mechanics. "Floyd Landis could be in yellow at this point except for these time trial mishaps," I wrote.

Much like David Zabriskie, alienated by the local culture and seeking escapism in cycling the canyons around Salt Lake City, I wanted to talk racing with someone.

Then the nightmare. Floyd Landis bonked on Stage 16 of the 2006 Tour de France while wearing yellow. It was so painful watching Floyd bonk, his cadence moving in slow motion. Floyd dropped from first to eleventh in general classification. It is all over, no man could make up that much time on a mountain stage, except Marco Pantani or Charley Gaul.

Wrong. On Stage 17, Floyd Landis in a brilliant move attacked and never looked back. His team car by his side, Floyd drank water bottles, ate gel packs, and poured water bottles over head by the dozen to stay hydrated and cool. The peloton was distanced by an astonishing nine minutes and he was virtual "race leader" on the course before anyone responded! Wow! The most amazing feat of racing I had ever seen or will ever see again!

On Stage 18 an announcement was made that everyone had passed doping control, Floyd was wearing the red numerals of "most aggressive rider" grinning with satisfaction. There was only one challenge left, the final time trial. Floyd trailed Oscar Pereiro by :36 and he was a stronger time trialist. Barring a catastrophe Floyd Landis looked certain to make one of the greatest comebacks in Tour de France history.

And so it was. Standing on the Podium in Paris on the Champs Elysees Floyd Landis had won the 2006 Tour de France.

A fantastic Tour, the best in years. This sentiment would not last long though. One night listening to BBC News I learned the bad news. Tour de France champion Floyd Landis has tested positive for a prohibited substance. "Oh, no." "Impossible!" Considering what happened to Ullrich, Basso, and Mancebo at the start of the 2006 Tour de France and considering what Greg LeMond was spouting about "the cleanest Tour in history" and considering the announcements that all riders had passed the doping screens.......well this news about Floyd Landis failing a doping test makes no sense at all!

Conclusion

Makes no sense now, either. After two and a half years of blogging and arguing with people on cycling forums; study of testosterone metabolism, and WADA code, the Court of Arbitration of Sport conclusions make no sense at all! Floyd Landis was cheated by a corrupt system that presumes "guilt until proven guilty" with a healthy dose of trial by media, character assassination, leaks to the press, propaganda, outright lies, incompetent lab tests, and biased analyses of scientific data. Only a fool like Dick Pound, John Fahey, or Greg LeMond would proclaim from the highest tower that Floyd Landis is living in denial at this point. People who did the research and worked to understand this unfair system know better. We will never trust WADA, USADA, or the CAS ever again. Every Adverse Analytical Finding WADA files against an athlete in future will be regarded with mistrust.

Special thanks to TBV and Zenmud who were a great help; men who were a great source of information and wisdom during these strange days. Good luck to you both and happy cycling!

I hope we never have to go through something like this again!

2 comments:

tbv@trustbut.com said...

Thanks, VV.

It'll be good to see him racing again.

TBV

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

Excellent post, VV.

- Rant