Spokesman claims observer barred from test
Floyd Landis said Monday that recent news leaks from the French national anti-doping laboratory underscore his claim that staff at the facility cannot be trusted to carry out their work in an unbiased fashion.
Landis called an afternoon telephone press conference Monday to voice concern about procedures used in the testing of seven unexamined B samples left over from this year’s Tour de France.
The French sports daily L’Equipe reported Monday that “several” urine samples taken during Landis’s contested win in the 2006 Tour have tested positive for the presence of exogenous testosterone.
According to the paper, seven B samples belonging to the American were tested over the course of several days last week, following a request from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
“I won the Tour fair and square, and I’m disappointed but not surprised to seethe leak … to L’Equipe.” said Landis.
“It’s just another example that the very few rights an athlete has are being completely ignored by the anti-doping authorities,” said Landis, accusing the Laboratoire National Depistage de Dopage’s (LNDD) lab outside Paris and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency of “a total lack of ethics.”
“We’re looking at potentially deliberate falsification of results and wilful destruction of evidence which was one of our arguments against retesting being done at the lab in question,” Landis added.
However French anti-doping agency president Pierre Bordry told Agence France Presse that although the analyses had been carried out, the results were not yet known.
He said that seven “B” urine samples belonging to Landis, which were marked only by a number, were analyzed alongside several other anonymous samples, none of which are identifiable.
Landis attorney Maurice Suh said the news came as a surprise to Landis and his legal team, since “we are still awaiting documents ourselves.”
Suh said the news leak could only have come from sources within the LNDD laboratory at Châtenay-Malabry or from USADA.
Suh said that while Landis’s representatives were permitted to oversee portions of the testing, USADA’s representatives at the test barred the Landis side from observing “critical parts” of the testing and completely barred one of them from the building on Sunday and Monday.
“Under the orders of the USADA, Paul Scott (Landis’s expert) was denied access to the LNDD,” Landis’s spokesman Michael Henson said in a statement. “Hence, the analyses of two samples were carried out without Landis representatives, something which constitutes a violation of his rights and casts a serious shadow over the integrity of an already suspect procedure.”
Suh and Henson said Scott was kept from entering the facility on Sunday, after USADA’s representative had himself returned home.
“This is yet another in a series of malicious actions by USADA that tramples my right to have my case heard in fair and just way,” said Landis. “How can I be expected to prove my innocence while USADA endeavors to break their own rules at every turn? I’m infuriated by the behavior of USADA and the LNDD. Together, they have turned this proceeding into a full-scale attack on my civil rights and a mockery of justice.”
Contacted by VeloNews USADA general counsel Travis Tygart declined to discuss the Landis case specifically, but said that the agency “does not deny any athlete the right to have an observer present at a re-test.”
USADA sought and received permission to have the seven “B” samples tested at the French laboratory which processed his original, and disputed, positive test. Landis, who denies taking performance-enhancing drugs, has charged the lab near Paris with mishandling his original samples.
Landis attorney Howard Jacobs said that he had asked that any testing be conducted at a lab other than that at Châtenay-Malabry, adding that Landis had asked that samples be tested at the University of California at a Los Angeles accredited laboratory. UCLA lab officials said that they were unable to conduct the test because one necessary piece of equipment was undergoing repairs, but Jacobs noted that USADA had also rejected requests to have the samples tested at “any other lab.”
It is common practice to examine urine samples using a testosterone/epitestosterone ratio test. The average male produces both hormones at about the same levels, so a 1-to-1 ratio is the most common result of such a test. Under the World Anti-Doping Code, a sample is not considered positive unless the level of testosterone is four times higher than the level of epitestosterone.
Landis’s sample from stage 17 reportedly showed an 11-1 ratio, though there is some evidence that the result came not from an elevated testosterone level, but a depressed epitestosterone level. That, however, is not a defense, say doping officials, because the suppression of epitestosterone production may be the result of testosterone injections.
While an examination of the T/E ratio is what triggers an initial positive and is what is used to confirm the result on the B sample, testers then take that same sample and subject it to a carbon-isotope test to confirm the presence of testosterone from external sources.
In pursuing the doping charge against Landis, USADA asked that seven remaining B samples be tested using the carbon isotope test, to detect the presence of exogenous testosterone, despite the fact that the corresponding A samples had not triggered a positive using the T/E ratio test. According to L’Equipe, “several” of the follow-up tests indicated the presence of exogenous testosterone.
Landis, 31, would be the first Tour winner since 1904 to lose his title after the event. He would also face a two-year suspension and an additional two-year ban from racing at the ProTour level.
The American, whose positive test from stage 17 of the 2006 race prompted the collapse of his Phonak team, also faces a French government probe but that has been delayed until after the inquiry following his promise not to race in France this year, ending any chance to defend his title.
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