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Landis Details Doping Defense

U.S. cyclist claims lab made errors on serial numbers as he contests Tour de France results.

October 13, 2006|Michael A. Hiltzik | Times Staff Writer

American cyclist Floyd Landis, whose victory in this year's Tour de France has been clouded by accusations of doping, on Thursday publicly outlined his legal defense.

Landis posted a sheaf of documents on his website, www.floydlandis.com, along with a lengthy analysis by his doctor and former coach and a legal submission by his Agoura Hills-based attorney, Howard Jacobs.

The documents will be part of Landis' appeal before an arbitration panel early next year and they challenge the findings of the French laboratory that declared his urine sample positive for synthetic testosterone.

If Landis loses the appeal, he could face a two-year suspension from competition and be stripped of his Tour de France championship.

Landis also posted evidence that his urine samples were so sloppily handled by anti-doping officials that they were recorded at various points of shipment to the testing lab under three different inaccurate serial numbers.

"Whether these are typographical errors, or we're looking at different samples, I don't know," said Landis' medical advisor, Arnie Baker, in an interview. "But we're pointing out that there are errors."

One expert in anti-doping law said that authorities should take evidence of mishandling seriously.

"If procedures are not strictly followed, that really calls into question the legitimacy of the findings themselves," said Edward G. Williams, a lawyer who has represented other athletes.

Landis' postings signal that he intends to defend himself by attacking what some critics of the anti-doping system say are among its weakest links -- the handling of athletes' specimens and the complexity of the lab tests relied on to file doping charges.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency and World Anti-Doping Agency stand by their tests. Under arbitration rules, the tests are presumed to be accurate, meaning that an accused athlete bears the burden of proving they are defective. Although numerous athletes have challenged the tests' underlying science or the technical expertise of the testing labs, none is known to have prevailed before an arbitration panel since the current anti-doping system went into effect in 2000.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency says its system of checks and balances ensures that athletes are charged only on solid evidence.

"No case we've charged has been overturned" in arbitration, said Travis Tygart, the agency's general counsel.

Landis has pronounced his innocence since the doping charge was first made public in July, days after his victory in the Tour de France. He questions whether the lab properly interpreted as positive the results of a carbon isotope ratio test, which is designed to indicate whether a sample of testosterone is natural or synthetic.

Baker noted that only one of the four metabolites, or chemical components of testosterone, measured by the French lab in Landis' urine samples was found to exceed a threshold reading indicating synthetic testosterone. He argued that under international anti-doping protocols, all four must exceed the threshold for a sample to be declared positive. WADA's written policy merely refers to measurement of "metabolite(s)," leaving ambiguous whether it requires one or more to fall within the positive range.

michael.hiltzik@latimes.com

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