by Rant on December 30, 2008 · 8 comments

in Doping in Sports

As Trust But Verify is winding down, I’d like to take a short break from the current series of posts to reflect on the most definitive web site covering the Floyd Landis case. This could be considered a brief introduction to the article I submitted as part of TBV’s final wrap-up series, The Winnowing.

In the beginning …

It’s been something like 28 months since I first started blogging about the Floyd Landis case. What got me started was my wife. As the scandal unfolded in those early days, just asking me about the Landis story could get me going into a rant that would almost never end. My poor wife endured a few too many of those rants, I suspect. At a certain level, she shared my opinion of how Floyd was being treated — both in the media and by the anti-doping system. But I don’t think she had quite the same level of anger and passion that I felt, and I suspect that I was probably getting to be a little insufferable. Sensing that I needed a creative outlet, she suggested I start a blog. “So what should I call it?” I asked. We batted around a few ideas and eventually the name for the blog crystallized. “Rant Your Head Off.” That’s what I was doing, anyway, so why not give the blog that name?

A quick check showed that no one had registered the domain name. Next, I did a bit of searching and found an inexpensive ISP, set up the domain, installed WordPress, and got started. I was pretty green to the whole blogging thing, even though I’d gotten a very tentative start back in 2003, right after my dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

This time, however, the blogging bug bit and it bit hard. It wasn’t long before I was writing posts on an almost daily basis, scouring the web for new information and writing what I thought about the latest developments. The first site that linked to me, after my first post, was Trust But Verify. Interesting name, I thought. Let’s have a look. So I did.

What I found was basically the mother lode of information on the Landis case. If it was written somewhere, chances were that TBV would have a link. Whether that meant discussions on forums like Topix or DPF, or articles in various mainstream media, or comments on other blogs. It was all there. Amazing stuff. For a writer, it couldn’t get any better. Here’s a one-stop place to find links to everything you’d ever need to know about a subject. Eventually, a number of case-related documents made their way to TBV, as well, giving all of us access to the actual lab documentation package so that we could see what had been done, try and understand it, debate what it all meant. All that information meant that those who wanted to spend the time to really understand the case could come to their own conclusions about whether or not the test results really supported the conclusion that LNDD reached when they declared an adverse analytical finding against Landis. Not every reader of TBV’s site came to the same conclusion, but we’ve all had the opportunity to look at the subject in depth. Much more so than for any other doping case that had gone before.

I’ve spent countless hours reading the posts at TBV, and following the links to discussions and articles elsewhere. Like almost every reader here, I’ve learned a whole lot about how the anti-doping system works — or doesn’t, as the case may be. We would know none of this if it weren’t for two people. One is Floyd Landis, who bravely chose to stage his fight to clear his name out in the open, rather than quietly behind closed doors. It was a gutsy move. One that will probably be debated for some time to come.

Landis made all the documentation he could available to the public. But to stage what became known as “The Wiki Defense” there needed to be an outlet for the information. TBV has been that outlet. If TBV hadn’t existed, someone would have needed to invent it. TBV, the man, did an amazing job doing his daily (and oftentimes more than daily) round-ups of Landis news and commentary. Along the way, he picked up some helpers: strbuk (Paula), Marc, Bill Hue, Ali, Larry, and a few others I’m probably forgetting to name right now.

Their work has been what made TBV such a great resource of information. Speaking as one who has benefited a great deal from all they’ve done (and whose site has gotten a number of visitors because of the links from TBV), I could never have managed to do what I’ve done here at Rant these last 28 months without their unflagging efforts.

With the Landis case over, it’s time to move on. TBV’s site will live on as an example of what can be accomplished by a dedicated group of individuals who have a passion for a story, and who put a great deal into following their passion. Thank you all. Well done.

Having said all that, it’s time for the first (and probably only) Rant™ that will appear exclusively on TBV.

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eightzero December 30, 2008 at 5:56 pm

IMHO, both TBV and RYHO are journalistic achievements. I remember my thoughts watching Floyd on the podium in Paris. I remembered the lows of watching The Bonk on S16, then the wow! on S17. As I turned off the podium ceremony on TV, I thought, “cool.” Mrs. eightzero said, “imagine how he’ll be after he gets his hip replaced.” It was a beautiful thing.

I then watched the ensuing train wreck. I tossed aside my Velonews issue with “King Floyd” on the cover. I didn’t want to see it – had I been duped? What was I seeing in ProCycling?

Little by little, I started seeing a new story emerge. It was far worse than the “worst-case scenario” that was leaked. Science was suddenly on trial, and for reasons I can’t explain, I was…drawn. This claim of “we gotcha” was hardly that. “We gotcha” appeared to me to be “Laurel and Hardy have a a lab in France….” The go to places? TBV and RYHO.

I met Floyd at a book signing event in Seattle. He graciously signed my Velonews “King Floyd” cover. I donated to the FFF. I wear a Smith & Nephew kit on the road occasionally, and it makes me feel fast. I punch the air like Floyd at the end of good rides. Am I a fanboy? Sure. Why? Because he was robbed of *due process under the law* by people with a win at all costs mentality, and with a not-so-hidden agenda. (Read: $$$ for them.) And that got to me. With all the great social injustices in the world, why care about what happens to some bike rider?

Because, my friends, our laws, or processes have to stand for something. It can happen here. It can happen to us. It can happen to me. And that frieghtens me…alot.

For all these months, the discussion on RYHO and TBV has al;ways been civil. Heated at times, but objective and civil. That’s something of a rarity on the internets. Trolls were blithley ignored. People that had insupportable and non-objective opinions were questioned, but allowed to hold onto their beliefs. Just for fun, take a look at the credentials of many of the commentors. Pretty impressive. When you attract a crowd like that, you’re doing something right.

So here’s to right. [raises glass to RYHO and TBV.] Cheers. And thank you for the ride. -RAG

Richard Glover, JD “eightzero” Seattle WA

strbuk December 30, 2008 at 8:05 pm

Dan, what you mention above about the genesis of your involvement in the Landis Saga sounds very much like my story. My husband, the “ever patient” Mark told me that I needed to find an outlet. I was lucky in that I found TBV early on, but I was even luckier when I found not only TBV but RYHO as well. You are one of the kindest, most intelligent people I have met in the wacky world of cyber space, and if nothing else TBV has afforded me the privilege of meeting you, Bill, Marc, RJ, and of course Dave (among so many others) We all owe Floyd a debt of gratitude for the “introductions”


Rant December 31, 2008 at 8:02 am

Rant will be carrying on. So keep on coming back, I’m looking forward to seeing more of your comments.
Thanks. I’m very glad for the introductions that the last 28 months have brought. I’ve gotten to know and converse with a whole slew of people I would otherwise not have known. I feel very privileged.

William Schart December 31, 2008 at 10:47 pm

A hearty thanks to all who helped make TBV what it was: an outstanding contribution to rational discussion of the Landis case.

And to all, here’s wishing you a very happy new year!

Morgan Hunter January 1, 2009 at 4:05 am

A Happy New Year to All – and a BAH-HUMBUG to the “alphabet soups!”

Rant January 1, 2009 at 10:35 pm

William and Morgan,
A Happy New Year to you, as well. Here’s to hoping that there are fewer scandals and more races we can enjoy merely for the sheer athleticism of it all.

Thomas A. Fine January 2, 2009 at 2:12 pm

Hi Rant,

In your comments on my comments over at TBV, you wrote:

You’re no crackpot, my friend. You’re someone who’s willing to look at the whole picture and see that there are possible explanations beyond that which is being spoon-fed to the media and being repeated far and wide. The conventional wisdom is often wrong. And you’re wise enough to know that.?

What is a crackpot really? We have an image of an idiot that thinks he’s smart, in contrast to a true genius. But the reality is that anyone who has an unpopular hypothesis is to some degree a crackpot. The crackpot label recedes as there’s some general acceptance of value (if not correctness) in the hypothesis.

Science is littered with smart people who had the completely wrong idea. In some sense, scientific progress is built on these people. Are they crackpots? Well, if they have training in their field, that certainly helps. But even within a scientific community, the people look at the renegade with disdain. It’s rare when their crackpot hypothesis pans out, and they become the hero.

So, regardless of how sane I am, or how right I might be, or how self-consistent my hypothesis is, my lack of direct training and lack of any significant acceptance combine to define me as a crackpot. That’s simply how it is.

It doesn’t help that I occasionally take myself less than seriously. Or that I’m overly willing in related topics to offer extremely off-the-cuff conjecture. Like this for instance:

Problem is, no one in a position of authority really bothered to explore what he suggested in any substantive way vis-a-vis Floyd’s case.

How do we know that? I seem to recall that USADA’s pre-trial briefs hinted that they’d prepared a defense for this topic, which means that important people at least noticed it. So my thinking is, if I was WADA, I’d want to find out the answer in a very unofficial way. I’d want to do a very informal experiment to see if there’s anything to it. And if there wasn’t, I’d want to formalize the experiment just to squash the bug. On the other hand, if the very informal experiment hinted that maybe Tom was right, oops, I just spilled my coffee on those results. Good thing they were very informal results and not at all important.

One of the things that keeps me up at night (less and less often) is wondering if there’s some coffee-stained piece of paper somewhere.


Rant January 2, 2009 at 2:49 pm

It’s pure supposition on my part, but the way that the ARDB handled their review of Floyd’s case leads me to believe that they didn’t really consider any alternate hypotheses as to what might have caused Floyd’s results. I suspect that to do a thorough review of his case prior to determining whether to move forward, it would have taken longer to reach a decision. From what we’ve seen, the board was in enough of a hurry that they had either drafted their fax informing Landis that the case would proceed on the Friday before their meeting was supposed to be held, or
alternatively, the ARDB had actually made their decision before the meeting took place.
That doesn’t suggest a careful deliberation, in my opinion. Again, we don’t know whether they met via conference call, or exchanged emails discussing the case ahead of time. But by the looks of things (which is all we have to go on) Landis’ prosecution was a foregone conclusion. So that’s where I’m coming from in saying that no-one addressed those issues in a substantive way.
Contrast the handling of Landis’ case to what happened to Ian Thorpe in Australia. ASADA took a great deal of time before deciding to drop the case. They consulted a number of experts from around the world as to their opinions about what his test results meant. In the end, they decided they had no case to pursue. That, to me, is an illustration of what should have happened in Floyd’s case — at least in terms of the deliberation before deciding whether to pursue an anti-doping case against him. Yes, there may be some rules that require an ARDB meeting within a certain time period, but they could have met, said it was too complicated to decide right away, and then taken the time they needed. If ASADA could do it, the USADA group could have, too.
Once the positions were locked, I’m sure that USADA’s legal team considered defenses against various arguments, including the alcohol theory. They were looking to win, however, not for “The Truth.” Had they found that there were alternate explanations that were more probable, it’s my belief that they would have buried that information, as by mid-September 2006, the confrontational die was cast.
Landis wanted exoneration. USADA wanted his scalp. Neither side was going to back down. USADA had the institutional advantage, and ultimately, they won in both arbitration hearings.
So, yeah, you’re right. USADA may have seriously considered how to counter such arguments as your theory and others, but the ARDB doesn’t appear to have considered such things in deciding to refer the case for prosecution. But, I will note, appearances can be deceiving. If we had access to meeting minutes and records, we might see that they did. Cynic that I am, I wouldn’t bet my next paycheck on it.

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