Leogrande Suspended for Two Years

by Rant on December 2, 2008 · 14 comments

in Doping in Sports

Looks like the cyclist formerly known as “John Doe” has been handed a two-year suspension for doping at the 2007 edition of Superweek (as the International Cycling Classic, which takes place in Wisconsin and Illinois at roughly the same time as a certain loop through France, is known). Kayle Leogrande, who sued USADA late last year to stop additional testing of samples previously deemed negative, was found guilty of a “non-analytical positive” for doping by a three-person arbitration panel yesterday.

Non-analytical positives, pioneered in the doping convictions of Tim Montgomery and others connected with the BALCO scandal, can be decided based on other evidence, documents and testimony even though an athlete hasn’t tested positive for the use of any banned substances.

In Leogrande’s case, testimony by Suzanne Sonye and Frankie Andreu, photographs of Leogrande holding vials of EPO, and a postcard sent by Leogrande to Joe Papp (which said “Joe, 2 boxes G. 100 iu; 7 boxes E. 60,000; $500. I owed you! Thanks, Kayle.” ) was enough evidence for the panel hearing his case to determine that a doping violation had occured.

[Update: Although the panel's decision notes that Leogrande claimed the photographs were taken at Joe Papp's home and several news agencies, including The Associated Press, have reported that the photographs were taken there, Joe Papp tells me otherwise. In an email last night, he said that the photographs were actually taken in California, at Leogrande's home and that the EPO in the photographs belonged to Leogrande. The former Rock Racing cyclist has never been to Papp's home in Pennsylvania. Papp contacted The Associated Press, and he tells me they will be issuing a correction to their story. When I see a link to the correction, I'll post it here.]

The panel’s 15-page decision, released two weeks after hearings conducted November 17-18 in Los Angeles, concluded that Leogrande’s “clear and repeated admissions of doping, which in and of themselves may be sufficient to establish an anti-doping rule violation, are corroborated by a significant amount of circumstantial as well as scientific evidence, including but not limited to, drug tests that were not reported positive but which reveal the presence of recombinant EPO in [Leogrande's] samples.”

Neal Rogers reports Leogrande’s reaction to the panel’s decision in an article on VeloNews.com:

“Now that it’s finally happened, in a way it’s a relief, and a weight off my shoulders … I’m not devastated. I kind of knew this was going to happen, even though I was hoping for the best. It could have gone either way, to be honest with you.”

Leogrande went on to tell Rogers that he felt that he had been targeted and that the decision announced yesterday was preordained.

“I didn’t want this to happen, but the powers that be wanted that it happen,” Leogrande said.

“Having sat (in arbitration) for two days and hearing all these things that people working for USADA have to say about you, and their view on the collection of evidence they’re putting against you, it’s an odd thing to sit in a room and hear people say these things about you and judge your character along with the evidence,” he said.”It’s not something that most people should have to deal with. I could see it destroying some people. It won’t destroy me, because I’m not that kind of person, but I could see it having a really negative effect on people if they weren’t equipped to deal with that.”

Leogrande said he would probably issue a formal response in the next few days.

“There is a lot stuff that people don’t realize about the whole thing that has been pushed aside, in the back, kind of hidden from everybody that certain people didn’t want others to see,” he said. “œEventually those things will come out.”

The 31-year-old cyclist is suspended from competition from December 1, 2008 through November 30, 2010. Leogrande’s results since from Superweek 2007 until yesterday have been erased. As a result, any prize money may also have to be returned.

Travis Tygart, the current head of USADA, told Rogers:

“All those who value clean sport should be encouraged by this decision and by those who voluntarily come forward with reliable evidence, placing their trust in USADA, to aggressively pursue those who will cheat their fellow competitors by using prohibited drugs.”

Over at Roadcycling.com comes commentary from Leogrande’s former employer, Michael Ball, owner of the Rock Racing professional cycling team.

“Whenever a rider is suspended — be it for doping or any disciplinary issue — it brings negative attention to  the sport that so many of us are working hard to cast in a positive light,” commented Rock Racing team owner Michael Ball.

“In Kayle’s case, knowing that several of the sport’s governing bodies were also conducting their own investigations, we felt it was  not appropriate to prevent him from racing until a verdict was  reached. USA Cycling and the UCI did not deny him the right to race. Rock Racing absolutely and unequivocally does not condone doping, but we do respect due process.”

According to Ball, “The decision to not re-sign Kayle for the 2009 season had nothing to do with this case. It was based on performance.”

Over at Trust But Verify, jrdbutcher offers a good summation of the case against Kayle Leogrande, too. In a nutshell, the evidence against the tatooed cyclist boils down to a classic she said/he said story, were it not for the photographs taken by Joe Papp and the postcard sent by Leogrande to Papp.

(Also noted in the arbitration panel’s decision, USADA introduced cell phone records that showed 274 messages or calls between the two cyclists over a 12-month period that ended in July 2007.) On a hunch, it seems like the photographs and postcard may have sealed the deal against Leogrande. But the panel’s written decision also cites the scientific evidence as corroborating the charges against the rider, even though it was not the main evidence used to reach a decision.

Leogrande is expected to release a formal response to the panel’s decision in the near future, according to Rogers’ article at VeloNews.com. Depending on what Kayle Leogrande decides to do, this story may have at least one more chapter to write before it’s done.

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{ 14 comments }

Jean C December 3, 2008 at 7:24 am

Rant,

For your next book an interesting statement made by the swedish Bengt Satlin at a recent anti-doping meeting in Berlin.
http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/243683,cycling-skiing-fear-more-doping-cases–summary.html

Rant December 3, 2008 at 8:30 am

Jean,
Interesting stuff. Thanks for the link.

bill hue December 3, 2008 at 11:17 am

2 quick observations;

1) Ayotte’s testimony that her lab would have declared a non-negative for EPO based on its criteria (compared to UCLA’s determination that the sample was not non-negative based upon its criteria) as set forth in paragraphs 23, 24 and 25 was rejected, seemingly even as corroborative evidence to the non-analytic positive determination, as the Panel noted in paragraph 71. This Panel believes that WADA’s regulations must be predictable to be relied upon (i.e., two accredited Labs may not have differing criteria for non-negative result declaration). This is at least the second time a Panel has not found Ayotte’s supporting testimony persuasive and one wonders how much credibility she carries at this point.

2) Are the 270 odd phone calls, I.O.U. and pictures with Joe Papp an insinuation that Papp trafficked EPO to Leogrande? Is that what USADA was implying? And, was Joe given an opportunity to dispute that inference at hearing or did USADA once again just throw him under the bus for their own purposes? If USADA keeps using Joe’s activities as “proof” of drug trafficking in cases not involving Joe directly, how long will Joe put up with USADA suggesting he is or was a drug trafficker before the Federal Government actually takes note? Where is his lawyer????

Rant December 3, 2008 at 11:37 am

Bill,
I find paragraph 71 a bit confusing. At first, they note exactly what you say. But at the end, they say:

” However, USADA is not using this scientific evidence to show the Use of EPO by an analytical positive. This evidence combined with the admission by the Respondent, was only one of the factors taken into consideration by the panel, not the only factor as would be required in the case of an analytical positive. Respondent’s clear and repeated admissions of doping, which in and of themselves may be sufficient to establish an anti-doping rule violation, are corroborated by a significant amount of circumstantial as well as scientific evidence, including but not limited to, drug tests that were not reported positive but which reveal the presence of recombinant EPO in Respondent’s samples.”

So, on the one hand, they say that the negative result from UCLA stands, but on the other hand, they say that there are drug tests not reported as positives that reveal the presence of EPO.
With the 274-odd calls and text messages, it seems someone is painting a picture much like you describe. There must be more to the picture than just what the decision says (I wonder what the full transcript shows?). I can’t imagine that any lawyer worth his salt would allow a client to admit to being a drug trafficker. In a comment over at TBV, Joe Papp seems to be suggesting that there is much more in play here than we’re seeing at the moment. I guess time will tell, once the whole story plays out.

bill hue December 3, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Dan,

If you go back to paragraph 70, the Panel notes that the scientists from both sides agree that recombinant EPO existed in the samples. It is that paragraph’s conclusions plus the circumstantial evidence, the credibility of Andreau and Sonye and a specific finding that Leogrande was NOT credible that the Panel uses at the end of paragraph 71 to foritfy its conclusions. Ayette testified that the sample was “positive” under her lab’s criteria but USADA was smart enough not to rely on that testimony to form its case. Nonetheless, USADA elicited her testimony in that regard. It is interesting who and what will be sacrificed to achieve “victory” and believe me, a witness is none too pleased to show up as obligated to have their reputations and conclusions rejected even though they can be seen as “taking one for the team”.

Rant December 3, 2008 at 12:38 pm

Bill,
I see that now. And I can well understand how a witness would be none too pleased to “take one for the team.” Thanks.

Jon December 3, 2008 at 6:27 pm

The “scientific” evidence of EPO detection the panel cited in the Leogrande case was an “opinion” of Christiane Ayotte. Deja vu? As will probably happen in future UCI Biological Passport AAF cases, scientific evidence of prohibited substance use will be based on conclusions of experts rather than proof obtained from conclusive testing. And from hear-say testimony by “actors” with inside information of supposed prohibited substance use.

William Schart December 3, 2008 at 9:01 pm

I am trying, unsuccessfully, to wrap my mind around the idea that both sides agreed that EPO was present, but one side determined the sample to be negative and the other non-negative. Or am I misreading things here?

I thought that EPO was one of those “non-threshold” substances for which any amount is sufficient to trigger an AAF (unlike T, for example, which requires finding more than a certain level). So how could there be clear evidence that EPO was present but no AAF?

From what I can see of the case, it looks to me to be a pretty good circumstantial case. Unless Leogrande is so clueless that he goes around bragging about drug use just to make him look cool or whatever, like some 16 year old guy bragging about his (non-esistant) sexual conquests. And if that’s the case, given the current climate in cycling, L deserves a suspension for pure stupidity.

Rant December 3, 2008 at 9:18 pm

William,
If stupidity were a sanctionable offense, then Leogrande deserves a suspension for certain. Who, in his right mind, would show off his drugs to someone else? Were I the cheating type, and were I competing at that level, I’d darn-well keep that stuff to myself. Showing off like a teenager is pretty dumb.
No disrespect to Joe Papp, but after the Landis hearings in May 2007, why did Leogrande keep in contact? If Leogrande is guilty (and by circumstantial evidence, it seems that way), then talking to someone who’s cooperating with the authorities is a kind of hubris that I can’t quite fathom. (And it wasn’t exactly a secret that Joe was cooperating with USADA and perhaps others.) It’s like a mobster daring the FBI to catch him, while at the same time dangling the evidence to send him up the river right in front of an informant. What’s going to happen? [begin sarcasm]Gee, I can’t imagine.[end sarcasm]

Rant December 4, 2008 at 9:32 am

Jon,
It reminds me of Yogi Berra’s quote, “It’s like deja vu all over again.”

eightzero December 4, 2008 at 12:46 pm

The entire Leogrande/Papp connection isn’t adding up. About all I know about Joe (beyond the May 2007 testimony) was in a Outside magazine article:

http://outside.away.com/outside/culture/200806/joe-papp-cycling-doping-1.html

It isn’t clear to me when the pictures of Kayle were taken by Joe. Anyone know? The article quotes Joe as trying to obtain documentary evidence on his own at some points in the past.

Rant December 4, 2008 at 1:57 pm

eightzero,
In my next post (tonight, I suspect), I’ll have some information which may help cast some light on the Leogrande/Papp connection, including when the pictures were taken. Stay tuned.

Suzanne Sonye December 4, 2008 at 4:01 pm

There is much more to the story, that is a fact.

murf December 7, 2008 at 11:30 am

i don’t think bank robbers want to get caught either.

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