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Landis appeals doping ruling

‘the WADA/USADA system needs a total overhaul.’

Landis during last May's hearing at Pepperdine.

Landis during last May’s hearing at Pepperdine.

Photo: Agence France Presse – 2007

Calling for “an overhaul” of national and international anti-doping enforcement systems, Floyd Landis announced Wednesday that he has filed an appeal of the ruling that resulted in the stripping of his Tour de France title.

Landis filed an appeal with the International Court of Arbitration for Sport ahead of Thursday’s deadline for challenging the decision of a three-member U.S. arbitration panel that resulted in the 2006 Tour title being awarded to Oscar Pereiro.

“Knowing that the accusations against me are simply wrong, and having risked all my energy and resources – including those of my family, friends and supporters – to show clearly that I won the 2006 Tour de France fair and square, I will continue to fight for what I know is right,” said Landis. “Doping in sport seems to continue to get worse under the current anti-doping system, and this is only a part of the huge amount of proof that the WADA/USADA system needs a total overhaul.”

In a split decision issued last month, a hearing panel organized by the American Arbitration Association found that Landis had committed a doping violation on his way to a spectacular solo ride to victory in stage 17 of that year’s Tour, a win that put him solidly on track to take the yellow jersey in Paris.

Statement from Floyd Landis on his decision to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport

“Knowing that the accusations against me are simply wrong, and having risked all my energy and resources – including those of my family, friends and supporters – to show clearly that I won the 2006 Tour de France fair and square, I will continue to fight for what I know is right,” said Landis.”Doping in sport seems to continue to get worse under the current anti-doping system, and this is only a part of the huge amount of proof that the WADA/USADA system needs a total overhaul. “I will continue to work to clear my name and fight for change in the name of fairness and justice. No matter the final outcome of my case, there must be change in the current system if athletes can ever hope to compete on a level playing field and return to the joy and inspiration that sport can bring all of us.“My hope is that the CAS panel will review my case on the basis of the facts and the science, and to approach my appeal from the principle that the anti-doping authorities must uphold the highest levels of appropriate process, technical skill, science and professional standards to pronounce judgment on matters that hold an athlete’s career, accomplishments and livelihood in the balance.””Doping is a cultural problem, and it is obviously a wrong that needs to be addressed and corrected, but perpetrating a cynical and corrupt anti-doping system will not solve the problem. Two wrongs never make a right.”

While the majority of the panel ruled that the French National Anti-Doping Laboratory at Châtenay-Malabry (LNDD) violated protocol in its initial testosterone/epitestosterone ratio test, a more detailed follow-up test, which confirmed the presence of exogenous testosterone, was conducted properly.

The majority of the panel found that while the initial testosterone-epitestosterone test was not “established in accordance with the WADA International Standard for Laboratories,” the more precise and expensive carbon-isotope ratio analysis (IRMS), performed as a follow-up, was accurate. As a result, “an anti-doping rule violation is established,” said the majority.

USADA executive director Travis Tygart told VeloNews that he isn’t surprised at Landis’s decision to appeal but “we expect the same outcome, given the facts of the case.”

“The option to appeal is part of the process,” Tygart said. “He has that right, but we would prefer to spend our energies celebrating the accomplishments of clean athletes. Every penny spent litigating cases like this takes away from that.”

Landis attorney Maurice Suh was recently quoted as saying that Landis’s decision to appeal may ultimately depend on the composition of the CAS hearing panel. In order for that panel to be appointed, however, the appeal must first be filed. Suh’s comment suggests that Landis may play the option of dropping the case if the panel’s composition is seen as unsatisfactory.

CAS panels are also composed of three members, with each side able to choose one arbitrator from a list provided by the court. Once those two members are empanelled, they then negotiate regarding the third member, who will serve as chairman. If, as was the case in Landis’s U.S. case, the two panelists cannot come to an agreement, the court appoints the third member.

Landis may have taken solace in the case of Euskaltel’s Iñigo Landaluze, who, like Landis, faced charges of using testosterone. CAS ruled that the lab at Châtenay-Malabry had violated International Laboratory Standards (ISL) by allowing one staff member to be involved with the testing of both Landaluze’s A and B samples.

But CAS’s decision in favor of Landaluze had more to do with the UCI’s failure to argue its case than with procedures at Châtenay-Malabry. The World Anti-Doping Code notes that if an athlete shows that the laboratory violated standards, the burden of proof shifts to the prosecution to show that such departures “did not cause an adverse analytical finding.”

In Landaluze’s case, the UCI simply noted in closing arguments that if such departures occurred, “they are not significant and not at the origin of the result.” That, said CAS, was not good enough.

One observer noted that the composition of the panel reviewing the Landaluze case was “just about as good as an athlete could hope for,” which could be what Landis and his legal team are hoping for as well.

Landis mounted a vigorous challenge to the practices employed at the French lab, arguing that both the initial T/E ratio test and the follow-up carbon isotope ratio test were flawed.

Dissenting arbitrator Christopher Campbell agreed, noting that “as this case demonstrates, even when an athlete proves there are serious errors in a laboratory’s document package that refute an adverse analytical finding, it will be extremely difficult for an athlete to prevail in these types of proceedings. Therefore, it is imperative that WADA Accredited Laboratories abide by the highest scientific standards.”

Landis was suspended for two years, starting in January of this year. According to the decision, the panel had the option of suspending Landis from the date it issued the ruling, but “in this case the athlete filed a declaration of voluntary non competition as of 30 January 2007. Therefore, the period of ineligibility will begin on that date and continue until 29 January 2009.”

Landis’s strategy is not without potential costs and risks, however. The former Phonak rider reportedly spent $2 million on the first part of the challenge, half of which he paid out of his own pocket. A negative ruling could also subject an appellant to the full cost of the case, with CAS having the option of ordering that he cover expenses for both sides in the appeal.

Landis also faces the possibility of having his two-year suspension begin at a later date, since he opted to compete in a USA Cycling-sanctioned mountain-bike race on August 11, several weeks after a public hearing at Pepperdine Law School, but before the September 20 release of the arbitration panel’s ruling.

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