According to an article at ESPN, the arbitration panel considering the Floyd Landis case will reach its decision by late September. The article, written by Bonnie D. Ford, states that ESPN has a copy of a memo from Patrice Brunet to the lawyers for both sides, which states that the panel plans to hold their last meetings with its scientific adviser, Dr. Francesco Botre, on September 12. Botre, the director of Italy’s WADA-accredited anti-doping lab in Rome, attended the hearings in May to assist the panel with the scientific issues surrounding the case. Brunet’s letter apparently tells the attorneys that once the September 12 meeting is concluded, the arbitrators will formally close the hearing.
According to the rules which govern anti-doping arbitration cases, the 10-day decision clock will start ticking once the hearings are closed. If the hearings are formally closed on September 12, then the decision must be announced by September 22. It could also come at any time between the 12th and the 22nd, as the panel is not required to take 10 days to reach their decision, but they are required to reach a decision within 10 days. The hearing could be a formality, to answer any lingering questions, and the decision could be largely written before then.
All of this is to say that some time after September 12, it appears we will hear the arbitration panel’s verdict. Why has the decision taken so long? According to ESPN:
The memo offered no real clues as to why the panel has taken three months to reach a decision in the case, in which the 2006 Tour de France winner is disputing his positive test for synthetic testosterone in the crucial Stage 17 of that year’s race.
“The panel remains acutely mindful of the timing issues in connection with this case; however, the Panel also needs to verify an important volume of technical information, which is at the very core of this arbitration,” the memo stated.
The transcripts of the hearing run to 1800 pages, with much of the testimony centering on scientific issues. Apparently, the panel has needed time to sift through all the testimony in order to make its decision. But, as Ford’s article notes, no other real clues are offered why it will have taken four months to reach a decision, should the arbitrators’ verdict come out in September.
Is this good news or bad news for Team Landis? That’s hard to say. A quick decision would likely have been bad news, because that would have suggested that the defense didn’t make a strong enough case to win. (Of course, one could argue that a quick decision could also indicate how overwhelming the defense’s case was.)
The lengthy deliberation may well reflect the panel’s awareness that the case it is deciding is a potential watershed anti-doping decision. As ESPN also notes:
Whatever the decision in the Landis case, the ruling could be a landmark one for cycling, anti-doping authorities and accused athletes in any sport because of the high profile and costliness of the case and the issues it raised about the fairness and accuracy of the system.
The technical issues underpinning the case could, if the arbitrators find strongly in favor of Landis, send the labs and scientists back to the drawing board. Or, the decision could castigate WADA for failing to come up with a “harmonised” system, with consistent standards applicable at all labs. Or, it could hang France’s anti-doping laboratory (LNDD) out to dry and say the system, itself, is all good. And, of course, the decision could go against Landis and say that the evidence against him was not refuted by the defense.
While this is speculation, the one thing we can count on is that the panel’s opinion (or opinions, if it’s a 2-1 decision) will be carefully worded to make its desired interpretation of the judgment abundantly clear. Sometime between September 12 and September 22 we may find out who wins this round of the Floyd Landis case. Stay tuned.