Friday, August 31, 2007

She's Warming Up...

According to this piece in VeloNews, we may well be approaching an end to the Floyd Landis case. The proverbial fat lady hasn't sung yet, but I can hear her warming up. Mind you, this probably doesn't end the whole case, just the USADA arbitration part. There will probably be an appeal to the CAS in Switzerland, whether Floyd wins or loses.

There appears to be one last closed-door meeting on the docket, with Dr. Botre on September 12. There's a strong possibility that the arbitrators will close the hearing at this point, which starts a 10-day clock, by which time they're required to render a decision.

The peanut gallery over at the Daily Peloton Forums has been reading the tea leaves, trying to figure out what the delay from May's hearing means. I plead insufficient data. You can argue either way, that a long deliberation is good news for Floyd, or not. I'm leaning towards good news, guardedly. It seems reasonable that, if they really believed the laboratory testimony, they'd have little trouble rendering a quick decision. So, maybe...

What I'd love to see is a decision that raps LNDD on the nose for shoddy procedure. Lousy procedures only help the cheats. Imagine how the hearing would have gone, if they'd had a bulletproof chain of custody, meticulously-documented procedures, and fully-archived test results. Every defense question would be met with hard data. Or, it would never have gotten this far; they'd have known the sample was too degraded to test and that would be that.

My point is that the science needs to be sufficiently solid that the cheats won't have a leg to stand on. A good enough lawyer can poke holes in just about anything, but it takes a freaking genius to shred well-documented scientific evidence. "Racehorse" Haynes might have been able to do it, but not many lawyers are quite that [ahem] inventive. Most of you won't have heard of him. He was said to have advised one client: "Deny everything. Even if they have pictures, deny everything."

But I digress. As I said earlier, I want to believe that Floyd didn't cheat, but I can see how you could read the circumstantial evidence that way. But that's almost beside the point. To deter cheating, the testing has to be good enough to detect fiddling, and it also has to be solid enough to stand up to the harshest scrutiny. That would go a long way towards restoring the public's confidence.

Other measures are needed, too, and several teams are making good starts by gathering out-of-competition data on their athletes. This establishes a solid baseline of what constitutes "normal" for a particular athlete's system, and can give a team an early-warning indicator if they're doing something funny.

But in the end, we come back to the fate of one man, whose life has been on hold for better or worse since last July. One way or another, he can finally figure out what to do with the rest of his life. Win or lose, this isn't the end for Floyd, but a new beginning. What sort of a beginning remains to be seen. At least he won't have to wait much longer to find out.

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