Annoyed, French lab technician drew a line
AP National Writer
Vail CO, Colorado
MALIBU, Calif. ” A lab technician had to mark a line on the floor of her workspace to keep Floyd Landis’ observers from interfering with her testing of the Tour de France champion’s urine samples.
Last month, Cynthia Mongongu of the Chatenay-Malabry lab in France signed a statement in which she described being “accosted” by an expert observing the testing of Landis’ backup “B” samples.
Mongongu testified Wednesday at Landis’ arbitration hearing about that statement, saying she used Scotch tape to create a line on the lab floor, past which Landis observers Paul Scott and Simon Davis could not cross.
“I needed to be able to concentrate on my work,” she said.
Landis’ attorneys raised the issue during cross-examination to try to puncture Mongongu’s credibility and prove she was biased in the case. They asked why she filed a sworn statement about interference from the Landis observers, but not from J. Thomas Brenna, who was present to observe for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
“It wasn’t necessarily Dr. Brenna,” said Mongongu, an analytical chemist at the lab. “It’s just the whole … any kind of group of people who are around me.”
The attorneys followed those questions with more about whether Mongongu was the source of leaks to the French newspaper L’Equipe about any positive tests.
“Absolutely not,” Mongongu said. She also denied knowing the source of the leaks.
Both sides have decried the number of leaks from the French lab. The Landis camp is trying to use those as part of a larger effort to show a pattern of incompetence, and possible malfeasance, at the lab outside Paris.
Landis is accused of using banned synthetic testosterone during his Tour de France victory last year.
A three-man arbitration panel hearing nine days of testimony will decide whether to uphold Landis’ positive doping test. If it does, he could face a two-year ban from cycling and become the first person in the 104-year history of the Tour to have his title stripped.
During the Tour, Landis was tested eight times. Of those, one tested positive.
Much of the testimony Wednesday was about the backup “B” samples of Landis’ seven negative tests that were, at USADA’s request, subjected to carbon-isotope ratio testing to look for synthetic testosterone. Four of those seven returned “abnormal testosterone profiles,” and the Landis camp is trying to prove that’s a result of mishandled tests.
For the second straight day, testimony moved at a crawl as a translator relayed questions and answers from attorneys to the French-speaking witness.
At one point, lead arbitrator Patrice Brunet admonished Mongongu for not giving direct answers.
“We’ll go through this day a lot faster if perhaps you took a few seconds in understanding the precise question and answered it in the way it is asked to you,” Brunet said.
Early in the cross-examination, Landis attorney Howard Jacobs grilled Mongongu about how many times she had called for assistance. She said she couldn’t remember the number of calls or what they were about, or specifically whether they were because the CIR machine was broken.
But she had a better memory about some specifics of the testing in the Landis case, such as what she did with bottles from some of his original tests last year and the calibration last month on the carbon-isotope testing machine.
Mongongu’s cross-examination was still ongoing at the lunch break. Each side was allotted 23 hours over the nine days for questioning, and through lunch both sides had used about seven hours each. It didn’t bode well for either party to make it through their witness lists by the scheduled end of the hearing next Wednesday. Mongongu was just third on a list of nearly four dozen witnesses submitted to the arbitrators.