Cycling: Landis doping arbitration hearing opens

15th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

LOS ANGELES, May 14, 2007 (AFP) - Floyd Landis' battle to retain his 2006 Tour de France title entered a new stage Monday with the opening of his hearing before a panel of the American Arbitration Association.

LOS ANGELES, May 14, 2007 (AFP) - Floyd Landis' battle to retain his 2006 Tour de France title entered a new stage Monday with the opening of his hearing before a panel of the American Arbitration Association.

The 31-year-old cyclist, whose dark suit set off a yellow tie that couldn't help but call to mind the yellow jersey he wore as Tour leader and champion last July, said he was looking forward to the hearing as a chance to clear his name.

"We have a very good team and we have an exceptional case," he said as he arrived at the School of Law at Pepperdine University, where the hearing is being held in a small courtroom.

The three arbitrators - panel chairman Patrice Brunet, US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) nominee Richard McLaren and Landis-selected Christopher Campbell - were seated in the traditional judge's place at the raised bench.

Landis is facing a two-year ban and could become the first Tour de France champion to be stripped of the title.

Maurice Suh, lead attorney for Landis' defense team, charged that USADA's entire case is built on faulty scientific methods employed by the Laboratoire National Depistage de Dopage (LNDD) in France.

"This case is an utter disaster," Suh said.

Over the course of the 10-day hearing, Suh said Landis' camp will outline eight violations of the International Standard for Laboratories, which governs procedures at laboratories sanctioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

"A disaster doesn't result from one or two things going wrong. It results from many things going wrong, all at the same time," Suh said. "That is this case."

In requesting a public hearing, Landis has said he hopes to shine a light on anti-doping prosecutions that deny accused athletes due process.

"This is a historic case," Suh said. "It has to be done right."

However, USADA attorney Richard Young painted the case as just "one of dozens" of similar cases, one in which scientific data would show Landis had used synthetic testosterone.

"Despite all the attention this case has received, it's not particularly special... this is just one of many similar cases," Young said.

"No matter how the data was processed, the results were still positive," Young said.

He said the arbitrators will only need to consider two questions when reviewing the scientific data: "One, does this meet the criteria for a positive test? And two, are these analytical results reliable?"

Landis, 31, won the Tour de France in dramatic fashion last year, rebounding from a spectacular collapse on stage 16 to cap a 130km breakaway with victory on stage 17.

It was after stage 17 that one sample from the American cyclist tested positive for elevated levels of the male sex hormone testosterone and a subsequent carbon-isotope ratio test allegedly revealed the presence of synthetic testosterone in Landis' urine.

In addition to a team of lawyers that included Suh and Howard Jacobs, who has defended a number of athletes accused of doping, Landis was supported by his wife, Amber, and his parents, Arlene and Paul.

Landis appeared relaxed as the proceedings got underway, his mother taking a moment to snap a photograph of her son and his advisers minutes before the hearing began.

There were sharp exchanges between the lawyers for both sides, however, even before the opening statements, as they discussed whether some material Landis sought to block from being entered as evidence could be mentioned.

Suh's hostile questioning of doctor Cedric Shackleton, a steroid metabolism expert who was the first witness called by USADA, prompted a protest from Young.

Doctor Tom Brenna of Cornell University was also called by USADA on Monday as an expert in chromatography and mass spectrometry.

The witnesses were expected to get closer to home on Tuesday when USADA anticipated calling two LNDD employees, Cynthia Mongongu and Corinne Buisson.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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