Floyd Landis verdict update: still waiting and waiting and waiting...
At the end of May and beginning of June we wrote a series of three articles on the Floyd Landis vs. USADA arbitration hearings related to accusations that he had doped on his way to winning the 2006 Tour de France. Our first article was written by my mother Roberta Barbalace. It was an initial look at what we saw to be a seriously broken chain of custody and bad testing procedures by the French testing lab LNDD - who was responsible for conducting the tests that accused Floyd Landis of doping. The second article was by me and decried most of the mainstream media for being suckered into the soap opera distractions of the hearings and not doing a good job of reporting on the science of the hearings, which was what really mattered. Our third article, which was again written by Roberta, came two or three weeks after the hearings were over and took a harder look at the chain of custody issues and relied on the just released official transcripts from the hearings rather than the "play by play" accounts posted by the blog "Trust but Verify", which was the de facto official source for all things related to the hearings. It was our conclusion then and still is that the testing procedures and chain of custody at the testing lab LNDD where so flawed and so incompetent that not only was their testing completely unreliable in Floyd's case, but that the integrity of ALL testing ever conducted at the lab was completely suspect. In short, we felt and still feel that the entire case against Floyd Landis should be thrown out and Floyd Landis exonerated. In our opinion, what was presented as scientific proof that Floyd Landis had doped was nothing short of scientific fraud perpetrated by the testing lab LNDD.
It is now the middle of August and I have been on a daily verdict watch for over two months. So far, there hasn't even been a hint of when a verdict is coming. Right near the beginning of this year's Tour de France some European reporters made predictions as to when we were going to hear the verdict but those predictions turned out to be unfounded. It seems to me that even the Supreme Court of the United States could reach a verdict in a more timely fashion.
I am really nothing more than a spectator to the proceedings and have found the wait for a verdict to have become a tedious experience. I can't even begin to imagine how frustrating it is for Floyd Landis and his family. The blog "Rant Your Head Off", which is one of the best written blogs I have found any where on the Internet, has also been on this verdict watch and unlike me has had an opportunity to meet and actually ride with Floyd Landis. In their latest blog post "Being Floyd Landis" Rant expresses the frustration I share with how poorly the media has covered this issue with a few exceptions. They also review a really long article in the New York Times by Sara Corbett entitled "The Outcast" (subscription may be required). As "Rant" points out, Sara Corbett is one of rare exceptions to the poor reporting by the mainstream media (Michael Hiltzik, of the LA Times is another), and "The Outcast" is an excellent view into Floyd Landis the person and just how it must be for him to have to wait for so long for a verdict to be rendered.
For spectators like myself the final verdict will have no impact on our lives other than a momentary feeling of satisfaction in feeling that justice had been served or feeling of outrage that the system is broken. As Sara Corbett points out in her article, however, for Floyd Landis and his family the wait must be an excruciatingly long and frustrating purgatory. Their lives are in limbo and they can not make plans for the future. For the good of the sport of cycling and out of fairness for Floyd Landis, I hope the final verdict is a unanimous decision that is solidly based on the science of his case not the soap opera drama. At the same time, I hope that the opinions written by the arbiters are exceedingly well crafted so that we can all feel confident that justice was served. I also hope for the sake of Floyd Landis and his family the wait for a verdict is not too much longer.
At this rate, once all of the appeals have been exhausted and there is every reason to believe the verdict will be appealed regardless of outcome, the final adjudicating of this case and Floyd Landis' ineligibility to compete while his case is being heard will be as long or longer than if he had just rolled over and accepted a suspension from the get go. This is not justice. Athletes should have a right to thorough, fair and speedy hearings if they decide to contest doping allegations. It should not take longer than a year simply to get through the primary arbitration process and athletes should not need to spend over two million dollars (as Floyd Landis has done) to mount a defense. If an athlete is guilty of doping, they need to be exposed and suspended from their sport with their sporting records stripped (this includes baseball by the way). Any system, however, that is designed to catch athletes who dope will on an occasion wrongly accuse innocent athletes, and innocent athletes deserve the right to speedy hearings which clear their names. In the quest to rid sports of doping, innocent athletes should not have their lives destroyed by a system designed to railroad athletes or be left in purgatory for an eternity when they contest their cases.