Landis dons yellow at arbitration
Vail CO, Colorado
MALIBU, Calif. ” Floyd Landis began a most unusual defense of his Tour de France title Monday, trading his yellow jersey for a yellow necktie and doing it in an open courtroom instead of the open road.
Striding into the law building at Pepperdine University, Landis said he was confident he’ll retain his title if the arbitrators rule fairly and “on the facts.”
His mother and father, Arlene and Paul, and his wife, Amber, sat behind the defense table. Before the proceedings began, Arlene Landis stepped to the front of the room to snap a picture of her son and the team of lawyers leading his multimillion-dollar defense.
Then, it was showtime.
Landis’ lead attorney, Maurice Suh, didn’t disappoint.
“Make no mistake about it,” Suh said in his opening statement, “this case is an utter disaster.”
The disaster, Suh said, is the way the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has gone about prosecuting the case, which could result in a two-year suspension for Landis and make him the first cyclist in the 104-year history of the Tour de France to be stripped of his title.
“I’m excited to get the case under way,” Landis said before the hearing began. “I hope the arbitrators rule fairly and on the facts. I’m confident if they do, I’ll retain my title and be racing again.”
Richard Young, the lead attorney presenting the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s case, said in his opening statement that despite the publicity, this was simply another in a long list of cases USADA handles ” one in which the cold, hard scientific data would prove an athlete had used synthetic testosterone.
“There’s nothing unique about what the panel has to decide,” Young said. “It’s one of dozens of cases in which a high testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio is confirmed by” a carbon-isotope ratio test.
Suh, however, said it was more than just another case.
“It’s a historic case, and it needs to be done right,” he said.
Accused of using banned synthetic testosterone during his win last year, Landis insisted on turning his arbitration hearing into a public process, in part to expose what he says is the fraudulent way USADA and its partners in the industry do business.
Landis generated lots of support and raised about $500,000 through the Floyd Fairness Fund, but that public support didn’t translate into attendance at the hearing.
About 100 people ” including attorneys, family, media, witnesses and folks from the university ” showed up. Only two people made use of an overflow room that had been set up especially for extra spectators.
The hearing is expected to last through next Wednesday with dozens of scientific experts scheduled to testify before a three-man panel of arbitrators who will decide Landis’ fate.
Opening day included plenty of hostile exchanges between the lawyers, who spent 10 minutes before opening statements arguing with the arbitrators over what, exactly, could be said.
The first witness, Cedric Shackleton of the Oakland Research Institute, was subject to a long, unfriendly cross-examination, one that began in the morning, picked up again after lunch and included some testy interplay.
“This is about the 15th time that the witness hasn’t been allowed to answer the question,” Young said while objecting during Suh’s cross-examination.
“This is about the 15th time that the witness has answered some other question” than what he had asked, Suh replied.
Through it all, Landis looked mildly amused, at some points looking to friends and smiling as he sat at the corner of the defense table. He is expected to testify later in the hearing.
“We believe in his innocence, so this hasn’t been a stress to us,” Arlene Landis said.
The crux of USADA’s argument is to provide evidence of Landis’ testosterone use by looking at results from two tests.
The first, called the testosterone-to-epitestosterone test, showed Landis had an 11-1 ratio in the urine sample taken after Stage 17. Anything higher than 4-1 can be considered a positive test.
The second, called a carbon-isotope ratio test, is a more complex analysis of the urine and debates about that figure to fill up much of the next eight days of testimony.
The Landis plan is to question the credibility of the process used at the French lab where the urine was analyzed. That evidence then will be used to impeach USADA’s science. Suh’s opening statement included visuals that repeated the word “incompetence” in bold, red letters six times.
“This is science?” Suh said while discussing one piece of USADA evidence. “This is an embarrassment.”