It’s over — for now. After nine long days that gyrated wildly between mundane and melodramatic, the Floyd Landis arbitration hearing concluded Wednesday with lawyers from both sides making impassioned closing arguments.
Lead USADA prosecutor Richard Young said it was a case of simple science that should lead the three-person arbitration panel to rule against Landis, and find him guilty of using synthetic testosterone to win the 2006 Tour de France.
The Landis side countered that the results produced at the French national anti-doping lab were completely unreliable, and that anything but a ruling in Landis’s favor would represent a gross miscarriage of justice to Landis and all the other athletes, past and future, who will be subjected to the incompetence of the LNDD’s work.
Both sides will have to wait at least six weeks for a decision (two weeks for court transcripts, two weeks for final submissions from the lawyers, and minimum two weeks for the arbitrators to go over the evidence), meaning the 2007 Tour will be well underway before the matter of the 2006 race winner is settled.
The loser of this hearing has the right to appeal to the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but a member of the Landis team said privately Wednesday that it’s unlikely he’ll take his case to CAS because of cost. “He’s running out of money,” the source said.
If Landis loses, he’ll be the first Tour winner in 100 years to lose his title, and face a two-year doping ban, and a further two-year exclusion from riding on ProTour teams. The 31-year-old remains under a gag order until a decision is rendered, and could not comment afterward, but his mother Arlene said, “I have always felt that whatever the outcome, it is God’s design for our son. I leave it to him. I can’t say what they will decide. But in my heart I know he won.”
USADA’s Young painted a different picture during his 45-minute closing, calling Landis a doper, plain and simple.
“This case was different than a typical doping case,” USADA’s Young explained. “Usually we only hear what is in the urine, but in this case we have also seen what was in the mind. It was a win at all cost attitude that led him to make the decision to dope during the Tour de France.”
Young said the critical evidence, an 11-to-1 testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio from stage 17 of the Tour, and the subsequent positive reading from the more sensitive carbon isotope ratio test was enough to satisfy USADA’s burden of proof. But further testing revealed four more positive readings from B samples analyzed in April.
“The respondent fought and fought the tests of those B samples,” Young said. “Now we know why they were fighting — there was exogenous testosterone in those samples.”
Lead defense counsel Maurice Suh fired back, claiming the case involved more than a single athlete, calling the proceeding at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, a referendum on the entire anti-doping system.
“What we do here matters not just to Mr. Landis,” said Suh, both hands gripped tight on the podium in front of the arbitration panel. “This case is the first case to chronicle the systematic failures of a anti-doping laboratory to follow its own rules and procedures. This is a case about conscience. In good conscience can we — all of us who have been together for nine days now — can we confirm and thereby approve the LNDD’s work in this case and strip Mr. Landis of his Tour title, destroy his reputation and destroy his life. Is this the kind of work all of us can be proud of?”
Beyond the war of words, it was a war of PowerPoint presentations, with each side trying to hammer home it’s key points.
USADA claimed that the key “A and B chromatographs” were “proof positive” and that manual processing of data was “not an ISL violation.”
“The big picture as you read the respondent briefs and hear the arguments made,” said Young, “is that the technicians at the lab were either incompetent or skilled evil geniuses. What I think respondent wants you to believe is that they are both. Well I hope the allegation has been put to bed that anyone in Paris was trying to get to anyone. They take great pride in their work and they are not people who would try to hide or tamper results.”
Suh countered that his team never claimed they were evil geniuses, and insisted they were “not evil” and “not geniuses.”
The Landis team then unveiled it’s own key points, outlining a “chain of errors where one broken link is fatal.”
“They want you to believe that LNDD’s findings and procedures are all perfect, everything is great,” Suh said. “Well these are all ugly arguments. And let me tell you what I believe is the ugliest argument of all. Somehow the ISL doesn’t apply to these violations. If the ISL doesn’t apply to the violations that deal with identification and the ability to properly identify the proper isotopic ratios of this case, then the ISL is a fraud.”
The proof of ISL violations is key to the Landis case. If the arbitrators believe they occurred, the burden of proof is switched back to USADA.
“This case should end right here,” Suh said. “USADA did not meet its burden. They failed.”
No matter the outcome, it’s clear the Landis side was successful in calling into question an anti-doping establishment it claimed operates with unchecked authority and punishes members who don’t fall in line. At the end of Young’s closing statement, arbitrator Chris Campbell stopped him, saying, that he sees a code of ethics that tells anti-doping lab directors not to point out the errors of colleagues.
“Why not have the WADA code say that it is their obligation to point out problems if they see them no matter what?” Campbell asked.
“It could say that,” answered Young.
“Well I think it should,” responded Campbell. “I think it is a real problem.”