Cyclist Landis Loses Round in Doping Case
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
American bicycle racing champion Floyd Landis will become the first winner of the Tour de France to have his title stripped because of doping. Today, an arbitration panel announced that Landis was guilty of using banned synthetic testosterone when he won last year's tour. He faces a two-year ban from cycling.
NPR's Tom Goldman joins us now. And, Tom, what did the arbitrators say?
TOM GOLDMAN: It is a three-member panel. Two of them said Landis was guilty of a doping violation; one said he was innocent. Landis' position all along was that the French lab that tested his samples was sloppy in its procedures. It made technical errors in testing and analyzing results. And the majority on the panel today, those voting guilty, said the initial test on Landis' sample - that's a measure of the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone - that was not done according to established rules. But the second test, a more precise one, which can detect synthetic testosterone, that test was accurate and it was enough to establish an anti-doping rule violation.
Now, the dissenter on the panel, Arbitrator Chris Campbell, said the errors were enough to overwhelm everything else, and he said Landis should be found innocent.
SIEGEL: So the arbitrators did acknowledge that there were some flaws in the system of testing.
GOLDMAN: Yeah, they did and, although, as I mentioned, the majority says it was still clear that Landis had used a banned substance. The majority did issue a warning to the French lab and I, quote, the panel finds that the practices of the lab in training its employees appears to lack the vigor the panel would expect in the circumstances given the enormous consequences of athlete - consequences to athletes of an adverse analytical finding. If such practices continue, it may well be that in the future, an error like this could result in the dismissal of a positive finding by the lab.
SIEGEL: What does Landis have to say today, if anything?
GOLDMAN: Well, not much. He issued a written statement and he picked up on this theme of problems of the process. He said the ruling is a blow to athletes and cyclists everywhere for the panel to find in favor of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency when, with respect to so many issues, the Anti-Doping Agency did not manage to prove even the most basic parts of their case, shows that this system is fundamentally flawed. I am innocent, he said, and we proved I am innocent.
SIEGEL: And the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, what are they saying about this?
GOLDMAN: Well, their response was predictable. The head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency called USADA, Travis Tygart, said today's ruling is a victory for all clean athletes and everyone who values fair and honest competition. He went on to say, this case is really just another sad example of the crisis of character which plagues some of today's athletes and undermines the honest achievements of all those athletes who compete with integrity.
Now, Robert, I asked Tygart about the panel's acknowledgement of flaws in the process. He said USADA knew all along that some things could have been done better. They were concerned about that as they took the case to the hearing, in fact. But he echoed the majority on the panel and said none of the problems rose to the level of changing the fact that Landis doped.
SIEGEL: Well, is there any further appeal or a next step in this case?
GOLDMAN: Well, there certainly is. There is the Court Of Arbitration For Sport, which is like a supreme court for sports in Switzerland. And Floyd Landis could possibly take an appeal to the Court Of Arbitration For Sport known as CAS. Landis said in a statement that he's weighing legal alternatives.
CAS rarely overturns a decision and Landis has said in the past, he's not sure he wants to spend more money and energy on this - with an appeal to CAS. He's already spent about $2 million on what today became a losing cause.
SIEGEL: Tom, I'm thinking about the impact of this on the Tour de France, and thinking back to this year's Tour de France. Can anything worse happen to the Tour de France than what's already happened?
GOLDMAN: I don't think so. And, in fact, I think the reaction to this among the general public will probably be, so what? This happens all the time.
SIEGEL: What else is new? Yes. Exactly.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. Things are pretty low right now.
SIEGEL: Thank you. NPR's Tom Goldman.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.