Ten months ago, I wrote the headline “Floyd Landis doping case begins today.”
Well, it's deja vu all over again. The Floyd Landis doping case begins again today, only in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport and it's behind closed doors.
Although it's an appeal of the 2-1 split decision in the original case heard last spring, the Court will hear the evidence as if it's a new case. Those who study this case say both sides will probably make presentations similar to last time.
The hearing will last about five days, then Landis goes back to waiting again for a decision. If it goes against him, he can't compete until his two-year suspension is lifted in January 30, 2009. If it goes in his favor, he can compete as soon as he lands a team and gets back in shape for racing.
One of the best places to find out about the case is at the Truth But Verify blog. Landis has been Topic No. 1 there since the site was created shortly after the 2006 Tour de France. Check out the “Eve of appeal Q and A” for answers to frequently asked questions.
Personally, as I'm often willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt, this case has had more ups and downs than 200 miles of stage racing through the Pyrenees.
Guilty or innocent?
Here are some highlights of the case so far paired with my ever-shifting personal opinion at the time:
1. News leaks that Landis doped on Stage 17. (That dirty, rotten cheater. He should be ashamed.)
2. Landis says he has naturally high testosterone. (Wow. That's a unique defense. Who's gonna believe that?)
3. Phil Liggett says the French lab is unscrupulous. (Hmm. Is it possible the lab and others set up Landis to fail the tests? Maybe they have it in for Americans.)
4. Landis wants public hearing; releases all documents on internet and asks for public's help. (Sounds like Landis has nothing to hide. Only an innocent man would want to make all the results public.)
5. French lab documents are sloppy and filled with errors. (That lab is more of an Inspector Clouseau operation than Louis Pasteur. Why does the same lab that performed so poorly initially get to perform the tests on the B sample?)
6. Mennonite parents come to his defense. (Although they shun publicity, they talk to reporters about their son and believe in his honesty. I do too.)
7. Lab results show synthetic testosterone in Landis' samples. (Here are results with zero credibility. Public documents already show the lab's work is shoddy, there are disputes over calibration of its instruments, and its results always appear first in L'Equipe.)
8. Hearing finally starts, Greg Lemond appears and alleges witness intimidation. (Total reversal on my personal Landis meter. Although Landis fires the person responsible on the spot, I'm upset about the tone and direction that the Landis defense is taking. I wash my hands of the whole mess; he'll get what he deserves.)
9. Landis promotes book in Seattle; wins over huge crowd. (OK, maybe he is innocent afterall. I'll leave my decision to the three-man arbitration panel: if they rule against him, then I'll believe he doped. If they rule in his favor, then I'll be happy he's vindicated.)
10. Judges rule against Landis 2-1, while admitting that the lab did sloppy work. (In my mind, this settles nothing. The panel essentially agrees that the lab performed poorly on the routine testosterone-epitestosterone ratio tests, but accepts the lab's findings on the more complicated synthetic testosterone tests.)
So I'm still on the fence. I'm hoping that the Court of Arbitration for Sport can make a ruling that puts this issue to rest, at least in my mind.