An associate of Tour de France winner Floyd Landis, who tested positive on his way to victory in this year’s race, was reported Tuesday to be under suspicion of hacking into the computer system at the French national doping testing laboratory (LNDD) of Chatenay-Malabry near Paris.
Laboratory director Jacques de Ceaurriz confirmed to AFP that an investigation had begun after the discovery that their computer system had been accessed from outside.
The affair is being handled by OCLCTIC, the main national investigating body in the fight against cybercrime incidents.
“An inquiry is under way. I’m not making any comment because the incident is probably linked to affairs currently being handled by the laboratory,” de Ceaurriz told AFP.
“We have been aware of this for some time and in the past week our suspicions have been confirmed,” he added.
According to French sports daily L’Equipe, OCLCTIC has identified a suspect based on e-mails and letters sent by the individual, who is reported to be close to Landis, citing internal documents to condemn testing errors by the laboratory.
Landis has protested his innocence since testing positive for unusual testosterone/epitestosterone ratio following his epic victory during stage 17 of this year’s Tour de France. That test was carried out at the Chatenay-Malabry laboratory.
The correspondence includes a letter written in poor French, accompanied by internal documents from the laboratory, which were taken out of context, and were supposed to prove that the LNDD regularly makes mistakes.
The correspondence, dated September, was addressed to sporting bodies and foreign laboratories, including one in Montreal, which alerted the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the LNDD at the end of October.
The allegations come only days after Landis appeared on French television in an effort to present his side of the case and raise questions about alleged inconsistencies in the results released by the French lab. Landis and his entourage have also been conducting an online campaign to discredit the French lab.
“Floyd is troubled to learn from these reports about the continued security issues at the Chatenay-Malabry lab,” Landis spokesman Michael Henson said. “Regardless of content, the actions being investigated are damaging to all parties involved, including Floyd.
“Unfortunately, this is not the first time the security of documents in this lab has been called into question,” Henson added.
WADA chief Dick Pound said the hacking does not call the lab’s integrity into question.
“Withdrawing documents and possibly altering them is an entirely separate issue,” Pound said. “This does not reflect the lab’s competence. This is an exercise done illegally with the express design to throw doubt on the quality of the lab … and discredit the lab with forged documents.”
Like Landis, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has criticized the laboratory after a document leaked to L’Equipe in 2005 reported that frozen urine samples stored since the 1999 Tour showed signs that the American had used the illegal blood booster erythropoietin (EPO).
A subsequent investigation faulted the lab for violating its own procedures and cleared Armstrong of any charges, since none of the allegedly positive samples could be confirmed with follow-up testing.
Tuesday’s news prompted France’s head of the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD), Pierre Bordry, to demand more government funds to safeguard the laboratory.
“We need funds from the government to modernize the lab and make the internal computer system completely safe from such attacks,” said Bordry. “I’m sorry to have discovered that the system was not sufficiently protected.
“We were informed that one or several hackers managed to penetrate the system and, scandalously, used certain documents to try and discredit the laboratory staff.”
Bordry said de Ceaurriz had nothing to answer to.
“De Ceaurriz is a remarkable analyst, and he is internationally recognized.”
Meanwhile, Landis confirmed Tuesday that he will unveil an updated version of his appeal to overturn the positive doping test on Friday.
Physician Arnie Baker will present the slide show at the Tucson Convention Center in Arizona to display added scientific arguments refuting the case against the LNDD, according to Landis’s website.
Landis plans to make his case to an arbitration panel with hopes that pointing out what he has called inconsistencies in test procedures will clear his name.
In the event of a sanction, Landis would become the first winner of the world’s most famous bike race to lose the yellow jersey over a doping offense.
His earlier presentation focused on inconsistencies in the paperwork and the results provided by the testing lab. —The Associated Press and Agence France Presse contributed to this story
CSC touts testing
The CSC cycling team has unveiled a new anti-doping program, which team manager Bjarne Riis calls the most rigorous in the sport.
Riis promised Tuesday that the team will collect nearly 800 samples from riders throughout the 12-month period beginning in December.
The CSC squad suffered a big hit this year when its top rider, 2006 Giro d’Italia winner Ivan Basso, was excluded from the Tour de France after he was named as a suspect in Spain’s Operación Puerto doping investigation. Despite being cleared by the Italian federation, Basso was released by the team after the Italian declined to submit to a DNA test to completely clear any connection with blood seized by Spanish police.
Last week, Basso signed a multi-million-dollar deal with the U.S.-based Discovery Channel team.
Riis, meanwhile, said that the team is prepared to institute the new program as a means of setting a new standard for other teams to follow.
“Our ambition is to be pioneers in the work against doping, so we are very proud to initiate this program,” Riis said. “We think it gives us a unique possibility to do something for the future of cycling and maybe sport in general.”
Riis, the winner of the 1996 Tour de France,said that the testing regime is not onerous, but is a necessary part of cleaning up the sullied reputation of the sport.
“I have no qualms about submitting our riders to the most rigorous tests out there, because we want cycling to be a clean sport,” he said. “I have faith in the fact that our riders have the right attitude and I would like for them to be able to show this to the world.”
While the UCI has tightened its own testing requirements in recent years, Riis said it is important for individual teams to set higher standards.
“I am hoping this initiative will pave the way for other teams to follow and as a result help rid our sport of doping altogether,” he said. “We have taken a very big step towards this and it will help demonstrate how serious we are about anti-doping, and at the same time we firmly believe that given the right conditions professional cycling has a great future ahead of it.”
Crake to undergo surgery in New Zealand
Australian cyclist, Paul Crake, 29, will undergo surgery in New Zealand’sChristchurch Hospital on Wednesday after suffering spinal injuries in acrash during Saturday’s stage of the Powernet Tour of Southland.Crake was one of five cyclists blown off the road by a powerful windgust as they headed into the final two kilometers of the 79 kilometer eighthstage from Te Anau to Lumsden, north of Invercargill. He was taken to InvercargillHospital by ambulance and on Sunday flown by air ambulance to Christchurch.Scans have revealed minor fractures to his C1 and C2 cervical vertebraeand dislocations of his T5 and T6 thoracic vertebrae. He also sustainednumerous cuts and bruising.Doctors say it is too early to predict the full impact of his injuriesbut will operate to stabilize his cervical vertebrae and to pin and securethe T5 and T6 vertebrae.ACT Cycling Federation President and competitive cyclist, Steve Blair,was by his teammate’s side within moments of the crash occurring.”Two kilometers from the finish of the stage they came down a slightdescent and it was just incredibly windy and they were caught by a gustand blown down the bank,” said Blair. “Four riders got up but Paul didn’t.”Paul hit his back on a fence post at the bottom and lost consciousnessfor four or five minutes but when he came around he was quite lucid andall his vitals were good,” he said. “The race doctor was on the scene reallyquickly and did all the right things to immobilize him and get him to hospital.”Paul is fully aware of his situation and the nature of his injuriesand his Mum and Dad are here along with friends to give him all the supporthe needs as he recovers from the surgery,” said Blair.Crake was a member of the Australian team at the 2004 Road World Championshipsin Italy, was third in the road race at last year’s Australian Open RoadChampionships and this year placed second on the fourth stage of the Jacob’sCreek Tour Down Under into Willunga. This season he has raced as a professionalin Italy with the Naturina Sapore di Mare team.Crake switched from stair-climbing to cycling in 2002. As a stairclimberhe notched up five straight victories in the annual sprint up the 86 flightsof stairs (1576 stairs) to the top of New York’s Empire State Buildingbetween 1999 and 2003 and still holds the record for the fastest ascentof 9mins33secs. – By Cycling Australia