First up, Floyd Landis’ appeal to the CAS. By the time most people read this, it will be the 31st. That’s the day the legal briefs from both sides are due to the CAS panel who will hear the case and decide Landis’ ultimate fate. Will they uphold the AAA ruling, or will they reverse the ruling? For that, we all just have to wait and see.
In about 6 weeks’ time, the panel will conduct hearings in New York City (March 19 – 23, I believe). Those hearings will be behind closed doors, so not much is likely to trickle out to the public. Unless, that is, some media or bloggers are allowed on the inside to observe. I have my doubts about that.
Once the hearings are over, the waiting game begins again. If the CAS panel moves at twice the speed of the AAA panel, then we should know something by May. But that’s just a guess. It could be sooner, it could be later.
No matter who “wins” at the CAS, the reality is that everyone involved has lost. Certainly, the person who’s suffered the biggest loss — regardless of the case’s outcome — is Landis, himself. He may have soared for a brief moment, but everything came crashing down within days of his Tour victory. According to some rumblings I’ve heard recently, he is reviled by many in the cycling world right now. In large part, I suspect, for refusing to cop a plea and go quietly into the night.
But the whole anti-doping system has lost something from this whole debacle, too. And that’s the aura of invincibility. If nothing else has come from Landis’ public fight to clear his name, it’s been the attention that was drawn to a number of, shall we say, suboptimal practices in the land of the anti-doping agencies.
It seems to me that there’s a fault line within the cycling community. On one side are those who defend the anti-doping agencies, no matter what they do. Dopers cheat. They cheat all of us. But those who defend the agencies say that the agencies must behave the way they do, in order to drive doping out of sports.
On the other side, people point out that everyone must play by the same set of rules. It is not OK to allow the agencies to take short-cuts in order to convict someone that we all “know” must be doping. There’s a process to doing so. If the anti-doping agencies can’t catch someone within the current rules of how the game is supposed to be played, then they have to let the person go. It’s that simple. Not a pretty picture, because it’s not fair to others. But if the integrity of the overall system isn’t maintained, no one will trust the results of a doping case, ever.
Sports will never be free of cheaters. If doping no longer is the fast track to victory, some other method of cheating will come along. Those who are genuinely inclined to cheat will always find a way.
Everyone that I know — on both sides of the issue — feels that doping is wrong, and that we need to catch the cheats and dispense justice. The big issue is just how we should do so. There’s a middle ground that needs to be found, in which the anti-doping enforcement agencies can operate in a way that we can all be comfortable. Or at least, reasonably comfortable.
There have been a few positive results of the Landis case. Programs like those of the Agency for Cycling Ethics, for example, are an innovative way to preventing or discouraging doping. The UCI’s biological passport program — if properly implemented — could go a long way to shoring up cycling’s bad boy image. And so can the programs that Rasmus Damsgaard is overseeing.
But let’s not fool ourselves. There are going to be doping cases in the future. A few of them may involve innocent athletes, wrongly accused. Whatever happens, we need to ensure that those people face a system that will decide their cases fairly. That is a challenge to everyone who cares about cycling, and sports in general.
The Strange Case of One Mr. John Doe
Last week, news broke that Maurice Suh and Howard Jacobs filed a lawsuit against the US Anti-Doping Agency on behalf of a “John Doe.” The legal action seeks to prevent USADA from testing Doe’s B sample, where his original A sample had shown a negative result. The next day, Eddie Pells of the Associated Press identified the mystery cyclist as Kayle Leogrande of the Rock Racing team. Leogrande and Rock Racing owner Michael Ball deny that the cyclist tested positive, which lends support to Pells’ identification. But there’s another tidbit, over at VeloNews.com, that seems to contradict part of this saga.
Former Rock Racing team director Frankie Andreu told VeloNews that he had been “informed in November of an adverse analytical finding with Kayle’s test from Superweek” and that Leogrande was under USADA investigation.
“I then passed on that information to team management,” Andreu said. “But I honestly don’t know who filed that lawsuit against USADA.”
So, if Leogrande really did receive word of an adverse analytical finding in November, and if the original reports about the John Doe lawsuit are correct, then something doesn’t jive. According to the original story — before Pells identified Leogrande as Mr. Doe the following day — the mystery rider is being hounded by USADA even though his initial A sample came back negative. According to what Andreu told VeloNews, Leogrande is under investigation for an AAF from a test conducted during Superweek. So if both are true, then Leogrande isn’t John Doe.
One of the arguments that is said to be made in the lawsuit is that by informing others that Mr. Doe is under investigation, USADA is causing harm to his career. That’s an interesting point. The promoters of the Tour of California have announced an ambitious new program to (they hope) ensure that no one with a whiff of doping suspicion will participate in their event. The supreme irony, of course, would be for someone to get busted for EPO use at the ToC, given that Amgen (makers of recombinant EPO) at the title sponsor of the race.
Organizers don’t want to run that risk. And so, they are seeking to find out who is under investigation. Can’t fault them for trying. But under the current rules, USADA isn’t supposed to release that information. Notice how careful USADA’s lawyer, Bill Bock, is to avoid comment on such questions from reporters? He should be just as cautious with others, too. Including race promoters. Until you’ve got a conviction, the potential harm to a person’s career is pretty great, should that information become public.
I realize that some may say, “but the agencies need to inform race organizers which riders are under investigation to ensure that no one is cheated by a doper.” Well, right now it’s against the rules. They can change the rules, if they want, in the future, but they have to live within them right now. And the damage to someone who is not prosecuted or convicted is pretty high. Once allegations of doping become public, an athlete’s reputation is pretty well trashed — regardless of whether the allegations are true. If they are, that’s part of the price a doper must pay for his or her misdeeds. But no innocent person should be forced to pay that price, ever. (And all too often, even if the information about a current investigation is given to only a few people, it manages to find its way into wider distribution.)
It’s a tricky balancing act. There will never be a time when only the guilty are charged and convicted. Even if it’s a small fraction of those who are charged that are truly innocent, we need to be concerned about the effects on them. There are at least two ways to look at this balancing act. One way suggests that it’s better to let 10 guilty men go free, rather than have an innocent man punished. The other says it’s better to punish ten innocent men rather than let a guilty man go free.
To me, I’ll go with the former. As I’ve said before, it’s possible that a guilty person who goes free may be sufficiently scared by the process that he or she will change behavior. On the other hand, those who don’t will eventually get caught. And they will eventually get punished.
Getting back to our mysterious Mr. Doe. If it’s not Kayle Leogrande, who is it? And what could that person’s story be? At some point in the future, we will probably find out who he is. In the meantime, Maurice Suh and Howard Jacobs have a case that will be very interesting to follow. The results may well affect how future anti-doping investigations and prosecutions are conducted.