Where Do We Go From Here?

by Rant on September 24, 2006 · 7 comments

in Doping in Sports, Floyd Landis, Media, Miscellaneous, Politics@Rant, World Affairs

I’ve been blogging the Landis story, giving my commentary on it, for about 5 or 6 weeks now, with the occasional foray into other topics, like last night’s rather lengthy post (sorry about that) on when it’s appropriate to use anonymous sources.

I suspect that there’s going to be a lull in news about Landis for a while, except for an announcement of when his arbitration hearing will be. I’ve heard people suggest that it won’t be before December or January. There may even be a few other news items between now and whenever Landis’ hearing occurs. I don’t have a good feel at this point for which way the decision will go, but if it’s an open hearing I think Landis has a better shot at prevailing.

That’s because the whole process will be out there for all to see, and it will focus attention not just on Landis, but also on the anti-doping system and how an athlete is determined to have committed a doping violation. If that’s the case, he’s in good shape. If Landis doesn’t get an open hearing, I put his odds at 50-50 at best. But, regardless of who prevails in that hearing, expect it to go on to the Court of Arbitration for Sport before the case is finally resolved.

If Landis loses this next round, he’ll go the distance to try and clear his name. If he wins, WADA and the UCI will appeal in order to maintain the “integrity” of their obviously flawed system. But we have a long way to go between now and then, and I suspect that we will only get the occasional nugget from either side.

What got me started with this blog is that there’s something about the Landis story that really sticks in my craw. From where I see it, this is a story of a great injustice being done. And over the last month and a half I’ve added my voice to those who have been saying, “Just a damn minute, you can’t do this.”

We have some interesting characters involved in this story, like the bully who insists that in his domain it’s his way or the highway (that would be one Mr. Pound), along with a chorus of self-righteous people proclaiming our central character’s guilt (Pat McQuaid, Patrick Lefevere, and a host of others). Never mind the facts. Never mind any extenuating circumstances (like going on a bender the night before stage 17 — which leads me to the question, “Exactly how many drinks did you have, Floyd?”). And we have a lab with a dubious history of cases that were thrown out due to some less-than-stellar work.

It has all the makings of a Shakespearian tragedy. I only hope that the end of this story isn’t as tragic as some of Shakespeare’s plays. Then again, maybe it already is, what with the suicide of Floyd’s father-in-law, who was also Floyd’s close friend.

In the meantime, however, what should I write about? I suppose I could rehash the information that’s been circulating, looking for some tidbit that no one else has noticed. Or I could follow up on Pat McQuaid’s call for the removal of Dick Pound from his position at WADA. But I’m thinking of going in a slightly different direction.

There’s a number of parallels between the Landis story and other stories happening in the world today, and there are other stories that stick in my craw (just ask my wife), but fit into other categories.

Like the story on 60 Minutes tonight of a doctor and two nurses who the Louisiana attorney general wants to charge with murder for the deaths of several New Orleans hospital patients in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He claims to have solid evidence that these people committed murder, when they all categorically deny the charge. And so far he hasn’t provided that evidence to the lawyers for the people he’s accusing. If I understood the story right, he’s asked the district attorney in New Orleans to convene a grand jury to look in to the matter.

Well, that’s a start. Perhaps the grand jury will find that no crime was committed. Or perhaps charges will be filed. But my sense is that these people are innocent, and they are being dragged through the mud for reasons that have nothing to do with what they’ve been accused of. Like maybe political ambition on the part of the attorney general.

Watching the story, I had the same reaction I did when I first heard Floyd Landis was being accused of doping. There’s a terrible injustice being committed. And in the case of the doctor and nurses, they face prison time if this case goes to trial and they are found guilty. These people were not forced to stay at Memorial Hospital after the hurricane hit. They stayed because they wanted to help. And they worked for days in conditions that sound worse than the average hospital in the most backwards of third-world countries.

As the old saying goes, “No good deed goes unpunished.” But for the people accused, their punishment could be jail time. At least for Floyd Landis, his punishment (if he loses the next hearing and at the CAS, that is) won’t include the indignity of spending time in the big house.

Part of the reason I got into journalism way back when was a desire to write about stories of injustice and stories of ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. And I also entertained the idea that maybe someday, I could write an opinion column.

Back when I was in J-school the only people who had heard of the Internet were academics or people in the military. And the World Wide Web wasn’t yet a daydream in Tim Berners-Lee’s mind. But now, with this blog, I get a chance to spout off on issues large and small.

I hope you’ll stick around for some of the other stories and commentary that’s to come. And, yes, there will be more rants on the Landis situation and Dick Pound and the rest of the motley crew involved in this travesty.

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pelotonjim September 25, 2006 at 6:15 am

It’s an interesting post. I’ve always felt that if you have evidence, you go to a legal body (grand jury, judge, etc). If you don’t, you go to the press (leaks, press conferences, etc.).

It seems that trial by media is getting very popular these days. Sitting in the New York Metro area, I watched Elliott Spitzer perfect that technique. Now everyone who wants to further their career is trying to be the next Spitzer.

Rant September 25, 2006 at 6:30 am

Jim,
I think the whole trend towards trial by media does great damage to the individuals charged or rumored to have committed wrong-doing, as well as to the justice system itself. I agree with you, if there’s real evidence it should be presented in an appropriate forum in the appropriate manner. Leaking information, holding press conferences and other theatrics makes me question the real motives of the people who do so. It certainly doesn’t enhance their credibility — at least in my eyes.
– Rant

Debby September 25, 2006 at 6:35 am

I found your site through Trust but Verify. I am a Floyd fan, newbie cyclist, and have been positively sick over the way he and others have been treated lately, as if there is no justice left in the world. You can add this one to your collection:

http://velogal.blogspot.com/

The Friday, Sept. 22 post is about a woman who tried to save a dying dog. Now she’s going to court over it. The message in this world seems to be: don’t get involved, you’ll pay for it later. I am watching Floyd’s case closely, hoping against hope that as you say, we will not witness another Shakespearean tragedy.

Thanks for speaking out.

Rant September 25, 2006 at 7:45 am

Debby,
I’ve added you to my cycling links. My wife and I have a special place in our hearts for dogs that have been rescued by organizations and people looking out for the animals’ welfare. We have two Siberian Huskies that we got from rescue organizations, and they’re the sweetest, most loving animals imaginable. Both were found wandering, alone. One in Michigan (where we used to live) and the other in Wisconsin (where we currently reside). And in both cases, I can’t imagine why anyone would let such wonderful animals go. Perhaps the woman you talk about in your post did something wrong (rescuing a dying animal doesn’t sound like a crime to me), but the way the owners were treating the animal sounds positively criminal. There’s something seriously wrong with a system where she gets charged, but the people who abused the animal suffer no consequences for their actions.
– Rant

Camille in Austin September 25, 2006 at 8:40 am

Rant,

I admire you very much for the things you’re choosing to talk about and the reasons you’re talking about them. It’s uplifting to my spirit to know an intelligent, conscientious, reasonable and eloquent person like you is defending Floyd and anyone else in a similar position. Thank you. I feel better about humanity in general, knowing I can come here and read what you have to say, when there’s so much literary garbage to wade through in the world. Again, thanks so much.

Rant September 25, 2006 at 11:43 am

Camille,
Thanks for the huge vote of confidence. Most appreciated. I hope my future writings will continue to be of interest.
– Rant

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