TEN MONTHS after he was accused of using synthetic testosterone to win the 2006 Tour de France, Floyd Landis finally has his day in court. The cyclist's arbitration hearing against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency kicked off on Monday at Pepperdine University, in Malibu, Calif. Landis is hoping that by the time the proceedings wrap up on May 23, he will have finished his defense stronger than he started.
You may recall how in the hours and days after he was accused, the former Phonak rider flailed for excuses. He suggested that test results may have been skewed by his thyroid medication. Perhaps it had been the Jack Daniel's he'd downed the night before he gave the positive sample, immediately after stage 17 of the Tour. Maybe he was just a manly man who produced more than his share of testosterone.
Since he lawyered up and went on the offensive, Landis's defense has been more than effective—it's been revolutionary. Noting that cycling's governing body, the UCI, violated its own procedure by leaking news of the positive result before waiting for a B sample, Landis and his team decided to be proactive. The result: a "wiki defense," in which the cyclist posted on FloydLandis.com documents relating to his case. Readers can wade through files from the World Anti-Doping Agency and to take in a PowerPoint presentation created by Arnie Baker, M.D., who casts light on errors in "fundamental testing procedure and protocol" at the Laboratoire National de Dépistage du Dopage in France.
For the past five months Landis and his team have barnstormed the country, protesting his innocence, the incompetence of the LNDD and the "McCarthy-like" USADA. Last Thursday, Landis said the agency had offered him a shorter suspension if he gave them dirt on seven-time tour winner Lance Armstrong. "It was offensive at best," Landis said. "It speaks to the character of the prosecution."
Reached by SI last Saturday, USADA's general counsel, Travis Tygart, cited a confidentiality rule that prevented him from discussing Landis's claims, which he'd earlier described as "nonsense." If even a fraction of Landis's allegations of shoddy lab work, willful destruction of evidence and USADA's refusal to produce "critical pieces of discovery" are proved true, Landis should walk. That's unlikely to happen. The standard of justice here is something less than one finds in a court of law, which explains why, since 2000, USADA is 34--0 in such cases.
If Landis does skate, he will return to his sport proclaiming his innocence. Because that sport is cycling, it remains to be seen how many will believe him.
DOUG PENSINGER/GETTY IMAGES (ARMSTRONG WITH LANDIS)
Landis (right) says he had no dirt to dish on Lance (left).