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Suspended pro at Landis hearing: “Testosterone works”

By Jason Sumner, VeloNews.com

IRMS Supervisor LNDD, Doctor Corinne Buisson, testifies on Friday

IRMS Supervisor LNDD, Doctor Corinne Buisson, testifies on Friday

Photo: Agence France Presse – 2007

Day five of the Floyd Landis arbitration hearing started with a public admission of witness harassment and continued with a heartfelt doping confession by a suspended pro cyclist. In between it was more of the less sensational — but likely more critical — scientific testimony that will likely determine whether Landis is found guilty of using synthetic testosterone to win the 2006 Tour de France.

Papp explains why cyclists use testosterone

Papp explains why cyclists use testosterone

Photo: Agence France Presse – 2007

The hearing continues Saturday with Landis himself scheduled to take the witness stand. If he beats the rap, he’ll hold onto his Tour title. Otherwise he faces a two-year racing ban, plus an additional two-year exclusion from ProTour teams.

Friday’s most compelling testimony — at least from a cycling standpoint — came from longtime low-level pro Joe Papp, who was called by USADA to detail his use of a wide assortment of doping products, including synthetic testosterone. The crux of Papp’s testimony was the notion that testosterone can have a beneficial day-to-day impact for bike racers, and that you can easily hide that use from drug testers, two ideas the Landis side disputed in their opening statement on Monday.

“There was a significant improvement in recovery. There was no cumulative fatigue when I used [testosterone],” claimed Papp, during direct question from USADA lawyer Matt Barnett.

Papp added that he passed two anti-doping tests while using testosterone, then pulled out a small packet and handed it to Barnett. The USADA counsel placed it on the overhead projector, revealing a blue and green pouch labeled ANDROGEL Testosterone Gel. Underneath the brand name, users were instructed that, “Used packets should be discarded safely.”

“After a doping control or if you knew you wouldn’t be tested, you just find a discrete location and rub it on your chest,” Papp explained, adding that the effects could be felt within 30 minutes and that if taken in small doses it would not trigger a positive result in the testosterone doping screening test that measures the ratio of synthetic testosterone to natural testosterone.

This appeared to be a direct contradiction to the Landis side’s opening statement, a fact Barnett pointed by way a PowerPoint slide from the Landis side that read, “In order to believe USADA: Took testosterone, a drug that does not have a beneficial effect during a race like the Tour.”

“That’s such a false statement that makes me angry,” Papp said. “It just denies what is happening in cycling.”

Of course, like almost every significant development on the Pepperdine University campus in Malibu, California, there was a twist. It turns out Papp tested positive for synthetic testosterone in May 2006 at a stage race in Turkey, and recently spent time at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego. Papp, who won three stages at the International Presidency Tour of Turkey and is now serving a two-year suspension from racing, admitted both these facts while being questioned by Barnett.

Under cross examination by Landis lead attorney still Maurice Suh, Papp admitted that he once bought doping products in South America and brought them back to the United States, and that he had procured other illegal substances from a doctor in California.

Under direction of his own lawyer, Papp refused to disclose the nature of the meeting in San Diego, and denied that his testimony in this hearing was directly related that get together. Papp did reveal that during his time with an Italian team known as Whistle, there was a systematic doping program in place.

“The brother of the director would come around and we’d have team meetings,” Papp explained. “He’d show up with a backpack and a cold storage bag, and then distribute doping products and take the used medical waste away.”

Suh’s main line of attack was to question whether Papp could actually differentiate between the different drugs he was taking. The rider also admitted to using at various times EPO, HGH, cortisone, insulin, thyroid hormone, anabolic steroids and amphetamines.

“I felt a difference, an additional benefit when I used testosterone,” he said. “It facilitated recovery on a daily basis. On days 2 and 3 of a stage race, I could do close to the same amount of work as the first. EPO was different. With EPO the most salient and tangible effect was I could go up a hill faster, time trial faster, my power increased on that one day.”

Testosterone’s benefits to cyclists was a hotly debated topic when news of Landis’s Tour positive first broke last summer. Some experts claimed it had no day-to-day application for an endurance athlete, while others said it could indeed be a magic bullet.

After his testimony, Papp and his lawyer, Stephan Andranian, sidestepped queries about his meeting with the U.S. Attorney, but denied the was any criminal implications. “He sat for interview,” explained Andranian. “That’s the end. He’s not implicated in any crime, at least not any that we have information about.”

As for why he decided to come to Malibu, Papp said, “By testifying here outside of clear conscience, and helping next generation of riders see that they have a choice. I don’t gain anything and I lose a lot.

“I know there is a lot of doping going on. It’s something the majority of riders are faced with, to dope and be competitive, or not dope and not be competitive. That choice was presented to me and I chose to dope. I don’t think everybody is doping but I know a lot of them are. I saw an incredible amount of doping and participated in an incredible amount of doping.”

Before the storm, Part 2
Before Papp confessed his sins, it was former Landis business manager Will Geoghegan fessing up. In a press release issued Friday morning Geoghegan apologized for his ill-conceived and now famous phone call to Greg LeMond, blaming anger and “two or three beers.”

Not surprisingly Geoghegan’s customary seat behind the Landis team was empty Friday, and when USADA asked when he would return to testify, it became clear it wasn’t likely he was coming back because there is no subpoena power in arbitration hearings.

About the same time Geoghegan’s press release was being digested, Dr. Christiane Ayotte, the director of the WADA accredited laboratory in Montreal, took the stand on behalf of WADA. Ayotte was first called to the stand on Thursday, and proceeded to give her stamp of approval to the Laboratoire National du Dépistage du Dopage, the French lab that flagged Landis’s stage 17 urine samples positive. A day later the Landis team did its best to undo Ayotte’s testimony.

Ayotte continued to stand strong, though, denying that corrections or reruns carried out during testing at the LNDD were grounds to dismiss Landis’s positive test results.

“I’m not the one operating the machine, but I can say to you that we do exactly the same thing that the lab in Paris is doing,” she said under cross examination. “We are correcting the peak until such time that we can obtain accurate data.”

Landis attorney Howard Jacobs shot back, asking, “Isn’t it true that if you criticize these procedures, because they are the same kind of things you do in your lab, you would be criticizing the procedures in your own lab?”

“Maybe if you phrase it that way,” Ayotte countered. “But what I am telling you is that it’s coming from experience. I am telling you that it is okay. It’s sound scientific principal. It’s not based on who did something wrong or not.”

USADA also called Dr. Corinne Buisson, a supervisor at the LNDD who works with IRMS, the machine that flagged the Landis samples positive. Most of Buisson’s testimony centered on the training of the technicians who actually operated the machine.

Friday also saw the Landis team call its first witness, Dr. Bruce Goldberger, the director of toxicology at the University of Florida. Goldberger was on a tight schedule, and was thus allowed to testify out of order. He called into question the LNDD, which, in a way, is also on trial in California.

“I have nothing in this, other than the fact that they didn’t get it right and they should have,” said Goldberger after his testimony. “Clearly there were way too many mistakes made and they didn’t get it right.”

That jury — or panel in this case — is still out on that point.

Notes:Each side is allotted a total of 23 hours to present its case. The running total after four days was, Landis 11.9 hours remaining, USADA 14.3 hours remaining.

Though the hearing is slated to end on May 23, don’t expect a swift ruling. Panel chair Patrice Brunet announced Friday that while all evidence must be finalized by next Wednesday, closing arguments would happen at a later, but yet to be determined date. Friday brought the first legitimate courtroom hand pound, when Suh lashed out at USADA’s application of “speaking objections.” Essentially this is a technique used to lead witnesses down a desired path during cross examination. USADA lead counsel Richard Young is very adept at it.

Young got caught off guard during his cross exam of Goldberger. When the USADA attorney started asking about his qualifications, Goldberger produced a letter he’d recently received requesting that he apply for the job of the soon-to-retire Don Catlin, the former director of the WADA accredited UCLA lab, which is considered the gold standard of anti-doping research and testing. Catlin is scheduled to testify Saturday for USADA, as is Wilhelm Schnäzer, director of the Institute of Biochemistry of the German Sports University in Cologne. Schnäzer will testify via telephone.

During and after his testimony Papp spoke extensively about cycling’s code of silence and how easy it was to get away with doping. “You can compete in a UCI sanctioned stage race that is 2000k long with tests everyday and you can race and win and be on drugs and not test positive. It’s a function of the sophistication of the doping that takes place with the medicine and the system. There are a lot of ways to cheat.”

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