Cyclist Landis Points to 'Broken' Testing System
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Doping in sports. Baseball has been tainted by it, and cycling, which is so popular in Europe, is losing sponsors as hundreds of riders are suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs. One of the most prominent is Floyd Landis.
He is the winner of last year's Tour de France and he tested positive for banned synthetic testosterone during the race. Here in Southern California, three arbitrators are now presiding over a public hearing into his case. Their job is to decide if he doped and cheated his way to the championship.
NPR's Tom Goldman has been covering the hearing and joins us now. And Tom, Floyd Landis asked for an open hearing. He got one. Why does he do that?
TOM GOLDMAN: You know, he has been extremely forthright about his innocence since testing positive of the 2006 tour, and he's posted hundreds of documents online that he says proved his innocence. Floyd Landis has spoken publicly all over the country and an open hearing is, you know, just another way for him to say I've got nothing to hide. I want the world to see that I'm right and the people prosecuting the case, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, are wrong.
MONTAGNE: So Tom, have there been any revelations so far during this hearing?
GOLDMAN: No. As a matter of fact, what was striking about yesterday was that they really seemed to bungle this very high profile hearing. It was excruciatingly slow and disorganized and mainly because there was a language problem.
A big part of Landis' defense in this case is that the French lab that did the testing of his samples made significant errors, and testimony by the French lab workers is very important. And yesterday, the first one took the stand.
But a translator at the hearing kept making mistakes so they had to look for a second translator. Then they found that person, she ended up doing quite well. But the constant translation slowed the hearing to a crawl so much so that Landis' lawyers never got a chance to cross-examine this lab worker. That will happen today. It's expected there will be livelier give and take as the Landis side challenges the procedures of the lab.
MONTAGNE: And what has been Floyd Landis' reaction?
GOLDMAN: Both days he's shown up wearing a yellow tie. That's symbolic because yellow's the color of the winner's jersey of the Tour de France. So he does seem confident. He's smiling a lot. One of the hearing room cameras often shows a close-up of Landis and you find yourself studying his face looking for any telltale signs. But so far, there haven't been any.
He is scheduled to testify at some point during the 10-day hearing. That should liven things up. Because up to now, Renee, it's been a lot of very intricate science, very important to the case but it's pretty mind numbing to a lot of the people in the gallery.
MONTAGNE: So will the arbitrators decide Landis' fate at the end of this hearing?
GOLDMAN: Not immediately. It will be another three weeks to a month after the arbitration hearing ends before there is a decision, then either side can appeal. There's a possibility, then, that when this summer's Tour de France begins, we still won't know who the real winner of last year's race was. Landis won, but if he loses his case, he'll be the first ever champion stripped of the title because of doping.
MONTAGNE: Tom, thanks very much.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.
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