It should come as a shock to no-one who’s been following the Floyd Landis case that results from tests of his other B samples from the 2006 Tour de France were leaked to L’Equipe. And it shouldn’t really come as a shock that the story coming from that part of the world includes allegations that some of Landis’ other samples showed the “traces” of synthetic testosterone. And doubtless, the news has gladdened the hearts of those who are convinced that Landis was doping.
But what do we really know? From the stories, we’ve heard that:
- L’Equipe has a very good source at LNDD and that the source repeatedly leaks information about test results
- L’Equipe’s source claims the results show testosterone use in other stages of the Tour, but no actual proof is offered to back up those claims
- Testing performed over the last week, according to Landis’ lawyers, was done at the direction of USADA’s outside counsel
- USADA’s observers and lawyer had full access to all aspects and phases of the testing, while Landis’ observers were denied access to crucial parts of the analysis
- LNDD, under the direction of USADA, are able to come up with “evidence” against Landis that supports the LNDD’s conclusions from Stage 17
- The Arbitration panel, though ruling that an independent observer must be present for any testing performed, had no independent observer at the testing
- News of Landis’ supposed results has already circled the globe
What we don’t know is this:
- Whether or not the reports in L’Equipe and other newspapers are true
- If the reports are true, we don’t know what exactly the results were or whether LNDD’s conclusions are, in fact, correct. If they are similar to the results from Stage 17, it may be arguable whether or not there is any evidence of synthetic testosterone in Landis’ system during the Tour
- When (or if) Landis’ defense team will be provided with the test results
- Whether the arbitration panel will allow the results as evidence, given that their own order that an independent observer be present was ignored
If you’re a true believer in Landis’ guilt, you should find this story just as disturbing as would someone who is a true believer in Landis’ innocence. Now, that may not seem very obvious at first blush, but it’s true. Word of these results being leaked looks pretty damning right now. But it’s intended to.
Since USADA was in control of the testing, their failure to show up for ongoing testing on Sunday suggests that they knew what the results were going to be and did not need to stay around. Figuring that those results would soon leak to L’Equipe, USADA walked away, knowing that any complaints by Landis’ defense team would be overshadowed by the leak.
And also, because USADA was controlling the actions of LNDD throughout the last week, one could easily make the case that USADA knew that the leaks would happen and condoned them. Or worse, that USADA prompted the leaks in the first place, as a way to circumvent the rules against commenting about an ongoing case.
Questions have been raised about why Landis’ team didn’t speak up until now, or why the didn’t just walk away. Well, I can’t answer the first question. But on the second question, the answer is that walking away wouldn’t have done them any good. The tests would still have gone on. So it was in their interest to stick around and observe as much as they could.
For those who believe Landis is guilty, the stories reinforce that belief. But take a good look at what’s happening before jumping on that bandwagon. There are some huge red flags being raised, if you take the time to understand what’s going on.
First of all, LNDD’s procedures and interpretation of the Stage 17 results are some of the major issues in the Landis case. Testing additional samples at this particular lab creates a conflict of interest, at the very least. By reporting results that back up their previous work, they may be trying to shore up their own image — not only with the public, but with WADA and other members of the anti-doping community. Worse, if reports are true, these tests have used so much of the samples that additional testing at other labs will not be possible. The best thing would have been to test these samples at another anti-doping lab, like the one in Lausanne, rather than LNDD.
Second, if what Landis’ observers say is true, USADA’s outside counsel running the testing of the additional samples creates an environment where the “scientists” may conjure up the results he asks for, whether the data is real or not. Without any independent observation, whatever transpired in the lab is going to be a game of he-said, she said.
Third, these tests are something that current anti-doping rules bar the Landis side from getting. By the rules, Landis would not have been allowed to request these tests, because the infraction he’s fighting allegedly occurred on Stage 17, not any of the other stages. So the results from those other stages would not be allowed in as evidence.
All of which means there’s an inherent unfairness in the system. The prosecution can go to any length to obtain evidence, while limiting the evidence that the defense can present. I don’t know about you, but I sure wouldn’t want to have to defend myself with the deck stacked against me like that.
Fourth, true science does not hide from openness. Quite the opposite, it flourishes in an open environment. So the idea that Landis’ observers were barred from any aspect of the testing should be disturbing, no matter which side you’re on. When the observers aren’t present, there’s the possibility of shenanigans. And we’ll never know for sure, whether the books were cooked — just by the mere fact that the observers weren’t allowed to observe.
Fifth, without independent observers representing the arbitration panel, we will never know for sure if LNDD’s processes really follow international standards, or for that matter whether lab personnel actually follow LNDD’s written procedures (assuming they have some). And we’ll never definitively know whether the testing equipment was properly set up and properly used. The only thing we know is that LNDD can come up with consistent results. But we don’t know if those results are actually correct.
Set aside your beliefs about Floyd Landis for the moment and just look at the five concerns listed above. Other than reports leaked to a French sports daily or two, which we can presume were done to make the lab look good and Landis look bad, we don’t know whether or not what we’ve heard is true. There are reasons the lab may be spinning this story that have less to do with one particular athlete than they do with an ongoing pattern of mistakes and malfeasance at the lab, itself. LNDD is fighting to save their reputation at this point. They may fight dirty if they have to.
Think about how you would want to be treated in this situation. Would you like the presumption of innocence or guilt? If you’re ever accused of something, I suspect you’ll come to appreciate the presumption of innocence.
Here’s the thing: No-one accused in this system has any way of getting a fair hearing. It’s pretty much that simple. And regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, that should be a huge concern to all.