Anti-doping officials: Corrupt, inept, or well-intentioned dopes?

I’m flabbergasted. Two days ago, I wrote about the chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency, one Dick Pound, and his baffling and unsupportable desire to eliminate WADA’s two-sample testing protocol. The AP and BBC reported he was “disturbed” that Marion Jones’ B sample tested negative for EPO, so under anti-doping rules she was cleared of suspicion. He continued, “We are going to see how that happened, learn from it, and try to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future. The worry we have is that someone is misinterpreting things or doing things wrong.” Finally, he suggested that, if WADA’s experts felt that Jones’ guilt was sufficiently proven by the A sample alone, “we have an opportunity to put that into play.” Obviously, Pound’s idea of “someone… misinterpreting things or doing things wrong” is limited to mistakes that let the guilty appear to be innocent, and not the other way around.

Paradoxically, Floyd Landis’ lawyer announced last weekend that scientific review of documentation provided by Chatenay-Malabry, the WADA-certified drug testing lab turned up “the foundation for a very strong defense.” Further, Landis’ lawyer would be filing for dismissal on 9/11/06. CNN reported on the filing, as did the AP (still running the same unflattering picture of Floyd), and of course, Landis’ own web site. The paradox is that Landis’ lawyer, Howard Jacobs, has submitted documentation from the testing lab showing multiple examples of lab technicians “misinterpreting things or doing things wrong,” just as Pound suspected, but not quite the way he presumed. From the CNN coverage: “‘In the case of the mismatched sample identification codes, the alleged confirmed T/E [testosterone/epitestosterone ratio] data on the B sample is from a sample number that was not assigned to Landis,’ Jacobs’s statement said. The only testosterone metabolite that can be argued as positive under the WADA Positivity Criteria resulted from an unknown laboratory error and is not the result of testosterone usage, the statement added.” There’s even more damning evidence against the lab, but the only place I can find to read it is on Floyd’s web site.

The final, flabbergasting fact: Reacting to the documented mistakes by Chatenay-Malabry in “proving” Floyd’s guilt, Dr. Gary Wadler, a member of WADA and a spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine, said Landis’ attempt to have the charges dismissed by questioning the science behind the tests wasn’t unusual. “It’s not useful to speculate about the science, until the science has had its day in the hearing process,” Wadler said. “Only then do I think we can come to some conclusions. Until then, any assertion is only an assertion.” This statement seems to have the same, “he’s guilty, we just know it” tone of Dick Pound and Enrico Carpani (“We are confident in the first [test]. For us, the first one is already good.”), president of the International Cyclists’ Union. Saying we can’t come to conclusions until after a hearing is disingenuous at best—the man has been found guilty in the public eye, thanks to leaks and public statements by WADA and UCI. And like Dick Pound’s unwitting double-entendre, Wadler’s implicit trust in Chatenay-Malabry’s “science” is speculative in the face of historical and current, documented fact, and WADA’s (unethical pre-announcement and) assertion of Landis’ guilt… “is only an assertion.” Sorry, Dr. Wadler… your backpedaling doesn’t take back the intent behind your previous statements like, “‘Doping is the presence of a prohibited substance in your body, regardless of intent or sabotage. Even if he had no significant fault or negligence, he would have to give up the title’ because he was doped at the time of the race.” In other words, The Tests are never wrong. If you really didn’t take any banned substance, and some overly-enthusiastic roadside fan handed you a drug-laced drink, it’s still your fault, and You Lose. It’s far more likely you cheated, so just come clean.

Back up a sec… “Science is speculative?” You feeling OK there, Steve? Mr. “I did medical research for 13 years?” Hmmm?

Oh yes. Read more.

So we have another voice in Floyd’s ongoing struggle to prove his innocence. In fairness, Dr. Wadler has had probably the most lucid take on Landis’ case, compared to his peers in the sport anti-doping community. He has said, for instance, that “there is something missing” when asked how and why a cyclist would take testosterone in the middle of a race, and why that would only be detected on one day. Nevertheless, he has never once allowed that the testing might have been flawed.

Paola Pezzo is a world-class mountain cyclist, an Olympic champion and World Champion. She, like Floyd, was accused of doping based on tests performed at the Chatenay-Malabry laboratory. Yes, the same lab involved in the ethical and public mess with L’Equipe and the bogus “Lance took EPO in 1999!” story which broke after Lance’s retirement in 2005. And like Floyd’s case, Paola’s case had “‘too many mitigating circumstances,’ including the procedures used in the testing by Chatenay-Malabry lab in Paris; the fact that the steroid in question is produced naturally in female athletes; and, the recent clearing of Dutch cyclist Yvonne Brunen under the same circumstances.” Paola was cleared of all suspicion, science and assertions notwithstanding. Why? At least in part, because Chatenay-Malabry botched the test.

This took place nine years ago, but so far it closely parallels Floyd’s story. Read Fisher Cycle’s Press Release here (scroll down about 1/3 of the way), particularly the Chronology and Relevant Issues prepared by Dr. Guido Norbiato. He relates other stories of tests bungled by Chatenay-Malabry.

For his part, Floyd said, “I did not take testosterone or any other performance-enhancing substance and I’m very happy that the science is confirming my innocence… I look forward to restoring my good name so that I can focus on my hip replacement and begin training for next season.”

Good luck, Floyd. I hope you are exonerated. I hope you’ve learned you cannot trust the mainstream media. Not only did your Sports Illustrated buddy Austin Murphy screw you over, but even with the compelling evidence you now have, nothing I’ve read online has gone into satisfactory detail about all the mitigating facts that have come to light. The coverage is a tiny fraction of the feeding frenzy that followed the leaking of your A sample results. Why? Well, it’s not nearly as juicy a story as “American TdF Champion Fails Drug Test!” There are no good pictures to go with yesterday’s story to engage a reader, so that they might read more ads. No one’s bludgeoning your integrity, your very self, for the public to witness, to judge, to spectate, and to participate in the morality play about the supposedly pitiable state of sports today. No, the various officials and the media outlets are a bit more circumspect now, and for good reason—you seem to have a good chance at actually seeing justice served. I dearly want to see that happen, and to see you kick some serious butt in next year’s Tour.

I also dearly hope that the anti-doping agencies get their houses in order. For all the good that they could actually do for sport, it is unbearable to watch as they break their own rules, publicly rush to judgement, risk ruining people’s careers and lives, cause irreversible harm, hide behind “science” that actual scientists dispute, and somehow avoid all accountability for their actions.

Earlier articles on this debacle:
Fri – July 28, 2006 – Tour de France winner Floyd Landis accused of testosterone doping. Here we go again.
Tue – August 1, 2006 – The sad Landis saga, and other doping casualties, continued
Sun – August 13, 2006 – Lance Armstrong: “I am a fan and supporter of Floyd Landis. I believe in him.” (Me, too.)
Thu – August 17, 2006 – Floyd Landis’ father-in-law commits suicide
Sun – September 10, 2006 – Floyd Landis’ lawyer will file to dismiss charges on 9/11/06
Mon – September 11, 2006 – World Anti-Doping Agency chairman disagrees with his own agency’s rules

The opinions expressed in Steve’s Peeves are intended to entertain and uplift. Or in this case, perhaps to de-obfuscate. They may not be appropriate for young readers or the satirically challenged. Parental supervision is advised.

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