Monday, June 30, 2008

The Case of Floyd

Today, Floyd Landis lost his final appeal to Court of Arbitration for Sport, (CAS), the highest court in all the land, when it comes to sport and doping offenses. He now goes down as a convicted cheater, forever linked with the likes of Ben Johnson, Bjarne Riis, Nina Kraft, and many others.

I am often asked what I thought of Floyd, and if he cheated. My answer has been, and always will be, "It doesn't matter." Why? Because Floyd's rights were violated, and as long as the system has to cheat to catch the cheaters, the system will never work, and will always leave us questioning who is really guilty, allowing more scandal and corruption than already exists.

Today's article by the Associated Press, quotes the CAS panel's 58-page decision, which admits the lab used, "less than ideal lab practices". No where did it even mention that his name was released to the press before he was even notified of his A sample being positive. Never mind his right to protection until the B sample has been tested. Never mind the fact the sample showed degradation levels which, by lab policies and procedures, were deemed too high to get acceptable results.

Talk with someone who works in a lab, and ask them what would happen if they used the practices and acted as these labs did. Guess what the response would be. You can bet it would be, "I'd be fired." The lone exception apparently being if you work in anti-doping lab. Ask a criminal attorney how viable this evidence would be in criminal court.

When I look at USADA, (US Anti-Doping Agency), and WADA, (World Anti-Doping Agency), and their handling of Floyd's case, I see a governing body who gets to choose who is guilty and who is not. They violate rights of athletes without repercussions, and before Floyd, no one had the resources to fight it. The costs involved for the attorneys and court fees, have always been far too great to give a professional athlete in Olympic sports a fair opportunity to fight the charges they face.

"That's always been part of the system, that they've always had more resources than the athlete. This is the first time it's even been close," Landis' attorney, Maurice Suh, said in an interview last year.

Bankrolled through several private sources, including a fundraising campaign he launched on his own, Landis forced a case that cost more than $2 million -- a burden on him, but also a strain on the bottom lines of both USADA and WADA, which shared the cost of prosecuting the case.

After his unprecedented public hearing at his first arbitration case last May, the arbitrators upheld his doping ban but scolded USADA and the labs it uses for practices that were less than airtight. (source - AP, June 30th, 2008)

The biggest fear I have is testing positive, especially since I don't cheat. If I were to test positive, I could never afford to fight it, even though my innocence would be obvious, (at least to my family and me.) If you think it's unlikely, look at how many athletes claim to be innocent, it's hard to believe they are all lying. And then I see Floyd's case, where clearly there is enough reasonable doubt, and he makes the financial investment to fight it, and still loses.

What consequences would I face? What would happen to my reputation? I couldn't fight it. I would just have to accept the label of cheater, no matter the truth. My family forever shamed, my dreams shattered, and future career aspirations related to the sport most likely over. And this would be an innocent person.

Why did the CAS uphold the ban? I haven't read the entire 58 pages, but I can guess as to why, which wouldn't be written. There is no contingency plan if something were to happen to USADA or WADA. If they are overly critical or overrule these agencies, what would happen? You can bet chaos, until the agencies were restructured and reinstated with these issues resolved. I'm guessing they didn't have the courage to make the right decision, and open the flood gates.

Is Floyd innocent? I don't know. But I do know that USADA and WADA are running the show. Athlete rights, testing policies and protocols, and repercussions be damned. All athletes lost today, not just Floyd.



Big Rig said...

Well stated.

Zippy said...

My sentiments as well.

CJM said...

People will alwqys cheat to get an advantage as long as there is big money involved. As long as there are big egos involved, they will deny it until the cows come home, even in the face of overwheling evidence (see, Roger Clemens, Marion Jones, etc.) While I agree that there needs to be a fair testing system, I think that your take is a little naive. Anyody who saw Floyd's ride when he got droppd an lost 10 min. and then his ride the next day had to wonder how anybody could make such a rapid and dominant recovery.