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A Look Back at the Landis Trial

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A Look Back at the Landis Trial

A Look Back at the Landis Trial

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ALEX COHEN, host:

And speaking of controversy, the Floyd Landis doping hearing is over - for now at least.

The hearing ended yesterday. Three arbitrators are still sifting through stacks of evidence from the nine-day affair. Everyone's waiting to hear if Landis will be able to hold on to his Tour de France title. It will be several weeks before the arbitrators decide whether to uphold or overturn the cycling champ's positive drug test from last year's race.

NPR's Tom Goldman covered the hearing, and he shares some observations in this Reporter's Notebook.

TOM GOLDMAN: I couldn't shake the image of the shoes. On the first day of the hearing, I was scanning the room and locked onto the shoes of Floyd Landis' wife Amber and his mom Arlene. Amber wore high heels, sleek and shiny, with long, pointy toes. Arlene, in the next seat over, wore practical, formless black shoes with no heel.

As much as anything, those shoes defined the contest at hand between Floyd and his accusers, or at least the contest the Landis camp had been promoting for months. The sensible shoes were Floyd, the wholesome product of a close, salt-of-the-Earth Mennonite family.

Mr. FLOYD LANDIS (Winner, 2006 Tour de France): We were taught to, by both my father and my mother, that hard work is the most rewarding part of any project. And again, I can't say enough about my parents.

GOLDMAN: The stiletto heels were the hard-edged prosecutors. According to Landis, USADA, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, was unjustly accusing Floyd, conspiring with the French lab that analyzed his drug tests and trampling on his rights of due process.

During a topsy-turvy week and a half, however, those shoes appear to change feet. USADA, in fact, made the most magnanimous gesture on behalf of justice. At one point the arbitrators hearing the case warned Landis' lawyers they were running out of their allotted time to present evidence and testimony. USADA attorney Matthew Barnett said we want the evidence to come in, and he turned to the defense table and made this offer.

Mr. MATTHEW BARNETT (Attorney, United States Anti-Doping Agency): USADA is willing to give the respondent three, four of our hours, if that will help.

Unidentified Man: That would help, actually. That would help a lot.

GOLDMAN: Conversely, the Landis side exhibited some questionable behavior. Take the now-infamous testimony by former Tour de France champion Greg LeMond. During the hearing, we heard that Landis' buddy and business manager Will Geoghan made a threatening phone call to LeMond the night before LeMond testified; possible witness tampering.

Landis knew about the call, gave Geoghan LeMond's phone number, and told Geoghan that LeMond was sexually abused as a child. In the phone call, Geoghan threatened to reveal that at the hearing. Landis fired Geoghan but only after LeMond testified.

Landis had answers for all of this, but the incidents rattled his image of goodness. As journalists, we felt guilty reporting the LeMond stuff instead of the hard science that was supposed to decide the case. We called LeMond versus Landis a circus, a sideshow.

But it was more significant than that. It was a glimpse beyond the urine samples, carbon isotope ratio tests, and chromatography, a glimpse into the sordid doping reality of paranoia, backstabbing and win-at-all-costs mentality that threatens the fabric of all sports, not just elite cycling.

Ironically, Floyd Landis wanted to open the doors of the hearing room so the public could see and hear. After what happened, one can imagine that last year's Tour de France champion wouldn't have minded one bit if someone had decided to swing those doors shut.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

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