Wednesday, May 16, 2007

It's Like Climbing The Col du Tourmalet, Only In A Courtroom

Yesterday, the Floyd Landis arbitration hearing got underway in California, and by most accounts it was slow and tedious.

The first bit of trouble came when lead arbitrator Patrice Brunet, who speaks French, noticed that the courtroom translator wasn't translating accurately. At one point translating the French version of "a day and a half" into "an hour and a half" in English. There wasn't any word on whether "beer" and whiskey" had to be translated.

One problem that Landis faces is that more than one sample showed signs of "abnormal testoserone levels". One of his eight samples collected during the Tour tested positive for elevated testosterone levels, and contained a type of synthetic testosterone. Four of the remaining seven samples produced "abnormal" results after undergoing carbon-isotope tests.

Another hurdle is the USADA's record in cases that head to arbitration. Currently, they are 34-0 in cases that make it to the arbitration stage. Obviously they know when to take a case to arbitration, and what to do with it once they're there. Though, that won't stop the Landis team from trying to prove that the machines and tests were manipulated in a way to make them return "positive" results.

To me, there are two ways that you could look at the idea that Landis was somehow "framed".

The first is that the French had become so upset with Lance Armstrong dominating the Tour for seven consecutive years that they were determined not to let it happen again. Whether or not it was a huge conspiracy or just confined to the French lab doesn't matter in this theory. What matters is that someone was angry enough to somehow "doctor" the results.

The second is that the French had wanted to set up Armstrong, but knew his popularity would ensure a huge storm of media coverage and scrutiny. They ultimately decided against starting a controversy of that magnitude, though they may have had something to do with the numerous doping allegations that surrounded Armstrong, especially towards the end of his participation in the Tour.

About a week ago, Landis made it known publicly that his lawyer had been approached by the USADA's head attorney, Travis Tygart, who offered Landis “the shortest suspension they’d ever given an athlete” if he gave them information about Armstrong doping. Obviously that doesn't directly tie in with the French lab or authorities because the USADA is an American agency, but it does illustrate the desire that some people may have for portraying Armstrong(and maybe even Landis) as a cheater. And if the USADA is so zealous in their pursuit of Armstrong, who's not to say that the French were the same when it came to ensuring that an American didn't win their Tour de France for an eighth consecutive time?

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