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CYCLING

French judge issues arrest warrant for cyclist Floyd Landis in alleged hacking incident

The French national anti-doping lab says its computers were compromised. Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title after failing a drug test, dismisses the idea that he was involved.

February 16, 2010|By Diane Pucin

A French judge issued an arrest warrant Monday for cyclist Floyd Landis, disgraced and stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title because of doping, in connection with a computer hacking case that occurred as he defended himself.

The court wants to question Landis about allegations that he or someone involved with the cyclist hacked into the computer system of the French national anti-doping lab.

Landis on Monday denied he hacked anything and said no one has served any warrant against him, though he wasn't sure whether his former coach, Arnie Baker, had received one. It was allegedly a computer registered to Baker that is associated with the case.

"I can't speak for Arnie, but no attempt has been made to formally contact me," Landis said in an e-mail. "It appears to be another case of fabricated evidence by a French lab who is still upset a United States citizen believed he should have the right to face his accusers and defend himself."

Baker did not respond to e-mail or phone messages.

French news reports quoted Pierre Bordry, the head of the Paris lab used by the World Anti-Doping Agency, as saying an international warrant had been issued, although a court spokesman later corrected that. The warrant is limited to France's borders, and Landis would have to travel there for an arrest to be made.

Bordry has said the hacking occurred at a time when Landis was trying to defend himself against the failed drug test. Landis, unable to prove his case, was ultimately banned from the sport for two years.

In an e-mail, Landis said he has no idea what motive the French have in pursuing the hacking charges.

"But certainly I hope it's not lost on anyone that it is a grand admission to having substandard computers at their self-proclaimed 'nation's best lab,' " he said.

Travis Tygart, head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said, "Obviously, the French believe they have sufficient evidence to ask Floyd to appear before them. It was a serious breach of security in a high-profile situation. Hopefully, French law enforcement can get to the bottom of it. Somebody hacked the lab and whoever did violated the law."

Yet Landis right now is a man without a team, and he has been relegated to competing in local races, most recently this last weekend in Phoenix. As of now, Landis said, he intends to race only domestically this year.

It has not been easy for the 34-year-old Landis, who lives and trains in the Riverside County community of Murrieta. He has had no success getting signed to a top team. At the end of the 2009 season, he left Team OUCH, for which he was riding, in part because it wasn't licensed to compete in the top international races such as the Tour de France.

It was during the 17th stage of the 2006 Tour de France that Landis tested positive for testosterone -- a stage he won with a stunning solo attack that secured the yellow jersey only a day after he had lost a huge amount of time during the 16th stage.

Landis won the Tour but was stripped of his title in September 2007. He argued his case to the highest level, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, accusing the Paris lab of bias, fraud and incompetence. But in June 2008, the court threw out his case.

He served his suspension but began racing again last year, competing in the Tour of California, among other domestic races.

The original allegations of hacking were based on an electronic paper trail that allegedly was tied to Baker's computer address.

But Philip Lieberman, founder and chief executive of Lieberman Software, a Los Angeles-based company that specializes in software management, including security issues, said he thinks there must be more to the story.

"This story is contradictory in that, in one sense, there seem to be extensive logs, yet it is a system that appears to be capable of being hacked into. You either are not security-aware and don't have logs or are security-aware and do have logs."

Lieberman said he would like to ask the lab who had access to the system.

"An interesting question about this," he said, "is was there a third party involved that had authorization to get through the firewall to see results and shared that account?"

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

Times special correspondent Devorah Lauter in Paris contributed to this report.

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