Circling The Wagons
Over at Trust But Verify are copies of the infamous Hacker/Whistleblower documents, spirited out of LNDD sometime last November. Remember those? TBV now has translations of the documents, and runs some interesting commentary about the contents of each.
The documents aren’t directly related to the Landis case, and their provenance is not well known. In speaking with Dr. Arnie Baker at the Tour de Innocence townhall meeting in March, he told me that he didn’t know if the documents were authentic. LNDD was quick to point out typographic errors in the letterhead, and other discrepancies that suggest the documents were made to look like they came from LNDD.
But Arnie Baker did tell me that he strongly suspects the contents of the documents are accurate.
One item of particular interest is a letter documenting some contamination of urine blanks only a few weeks before Landis’ infamous Stage 17 tests. While this type of problem hasn’t been elaborated on by the Landis defense team, the timing of the tests with contamination problems certainly point to a possibility for what might have happened with Floyd Landis’ test results.
Taken as a whole, the Hacker/Whistleblower documents suggest an overall pattern at the French anti-doping lab. At TBV notes:
The letters indicate a pattern.
- An error of some sort is made.
- It is identified after a report has been sent off to a federation.
- LNDD wants the old report destroyed or returned.
- Only rarely does WADA seem to be informed of this.
- And never the ISO accreditors.
- When WADA is informed, it accepts at face value LNDD’s excuses.
Of course, the problem in the Floyd Landis case is that LNDD’s famed leaker spilled the beans on the lab’s findings within days of Floyd’s Tour victory, which — if a mistake had been made — left it impossible for LNDD to issue one of their “So sorry, we made an error. Would you kindly destroy the evidence of our incompetence?” letters.
It’s important that some of the correspondence contained in the Hacker/Whistleblower documents was occurring just as the Landis case was going nuclear. Which gave LNDD, and the other agencies, no room to maneuver. To admit a mistake once the story had broken would have been devastating for the lab’s credibility, which has been tarnished enough even without the Landis scandal. To admit that mistakes could be made would remove that veneer of infallibility the anti-doping agencies wish to maintain regarding the testing and evaluation of samples.
And it would be hugely embarrassing to various officials who made strong, inflammatory statements in the wake of the leaks. Remember a certain person’s comments about violating every virgin within 100 miles and god damn Harleys?
So, as TBV says, perhaps they had to circle the wagons and prepare for battle. To paraphrase a certain (thankfully former) US Secretary of Defense, you fight anti-doping cases with the lab you have, not the lab you might want or wish to have at a later time.
Gettin’ Wiggy Wid It
Bradley Wiggins, the British cycling “star” who “reluctantly” speaks out about doping in the peloton, has lobbed another of his verbal grenades over the wall, telling the BBC:
“I remember when Landis launched that attack on the 17th stage news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/oth… because it absolutely killed me. I was in the “grupetto” (the pack of non-climbers that bring up the rear) holding on to stay inside the time limit (all riders must finish within a certain amount of time after the winner crosses the line to remain in the race),” he recalled.
“Landis had lost 10 minutes the day before but he took nearly six mountains out of the other leaders on that last climb. I finished 52 minutes behind him. It was not a human effort.
“And what is often forgotten is that some riders didn’t make the time cut that day, only three days before the finish in Paris. That is messing with people’s livelihoods because next year’s contract could depend on that.”
Wiggins, who holds the current world individual pursuit title and won the gold at the Olympics in the same event in 2004, is rather fond of saying he races clean. And perhaps he does. Other than his track results and his time-trial ability, he’s not exactly had stellar results as a pro. Maybe he’ll grow into the role.
But those guys who missed the time cut? They’re still employed. Landis, on the other hand, is the one who’s out of work and spending everything he’s got to defend his honor and reputation. The only person’s livelihood that’s been messed with is Landis’. And he’s been seriously messed with, to the point (according to some articles) of declaring bankruptcy.
One thing Bradley Wiggins needs to consider, especially when talking about the Landis case is this: What if Landis is telling the truth? What if he didn’t dope and he’s caught up in a bad situation not of his own making? There’s a lesson there, Mr. Wiggins. Should you find yourself in the same position, you’ll have a massive amount of egg on your face.
It might be wiser for Wiggins to be a bit more circumspect. Even attempting to emulate Dick Pound or Pat McQuaid could come back to, as Wiggins himself would say, bite him on the backside some day.