STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Well, a hearing gets underway today in the doping case of Tour de France champion Floyd Landis. Three arbitrators will preside over more than a week of testimony and evidence in California's Pepperdine University. This panel will decide whether Mr. Landis took banned performance-enhancing drugs during last year's race. If he is found guilty he could become the first winner in the 104-year history of the tour to be stripped of his title because of drugs.
NPR's Tom Goldman reports.
TOM GOLDMAN: The hearing is Floyd Landis's day in court. But really for the last 10 months Landis has been testifying to everyone and anyone who will listen. His proclamations of innocence began last summer right after it was revealed that Landis had an abnormal drug test result following a spectacular day of racing at the Tour de France. Grasping for explanations, Landis famously said the test result could have been caused by the whiskey he drank after a bad performance the day before.
Mr. FLOYD LANDIS (Tour de France Winner): Somehow or another we ended up with some Jack Daniels there. So add some of that and then went to sleep. It wasn't in any way the ordinary night before the stage. But in the context of things, it was the way to get through the day.
GOLDMAN: Landis later would blame those early fumbling moments on the fact that the test result was prematurely leaked to the media, forcing him to deal with the unfolding situation in real time. But as the months went by, Landis became the Landis team - savvy lawyers and articulate spokesmen and scientist supporters who turned his defense into an offensive campaign.
Three hundred seventy pages of documents related to Landis's drug tests were posted online to encourage experts to write in with their theories about why Landis tested positive for banned synthetic testosterone. By the time the team held a pre-hearing teleconference late last week, the message was polished and angry. Michael Henson heads the Floyd Fairness Fund.
Mr. MICHAEL HENSON (Floyd Fairness Fund): The mishandling of Floyd's case threatens not only the integrity of this individual proceeding but reflects the lack of integrity of the entire anti-doping system.
GOLDMAN: The Landis defense has evolved into a Landis attack on two main entities: the French lab that did the testing and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which is prosecuting the case. The lab procedures were full of mistakes, Landis people say. They also assert the agency, known as USADA, has been guilty of everything from destroying evidence to denying Landis his due process rights, to which USADA has said nothing. The agency has steadfastly adhered to a rule prohibiting comment on individual athletes' cases. And it's been pummeled as a result.
Mr. FRANK SHORTER (Former Chairman, USADA): And you know what I would suggest and what I'm going to do?
GOLDMAN: Former Olympian Frank Shorter was the first chairman of USADA. And he's seen similar attacks on the agency before. Often he says they are PR campaigns that don't amount to much when doping cases go to trial. So here's what he's going to do with the Landis case.
Mr. SHORTER: I'm going to make a checklist of all those accusations. And then on Monday I'm going to see just what emerges in the opening statements of the hearing. And then when the hearing's over, I'm going to go through that checklist again.
GOLDMAN: Shorter says if the past is any guide, the accusations will be replaced by serious talk about science and fact and proof. Recently it was revealed several other of Floyd Landis's tests from last year's tour, not just that first test, also showed evidence of banned testosterone. Was the testing accurate? If so, does it mean Landis doped? Those are the simple yet critical questions before the arbitrators. It will take 10 days of slogging through some pretty complex science to get the answers.
Tom Goldman, NPR News.