Cooked case

floydWASHINGTON – Let’s just get it out of the way at the top…

I believe Floyd Landis got screwed. I believe that if his case were held to the same standards of the rule of law, Landis’s case would have never gone to trial. Hell, he would have never been indicted.

If Floyd Landis were a baseball player instead of a bike rider, he would still be out on the field without even the slightest threat of suspension.

But whatever. Righteous indignation is typically the rallying cry for losers. Everybody gets screwed at one time or another. However, the part in the case against Floyd that seems so… wrong is that it doesn’t seem as if he was given due process. That’s really the crux of my righteous indignation, aside from the notion that Floyd seems A LOT more believable than Dick Pound, Travis Tygart and the rest of those bureaucrats.

Look, I don’t care if Floyd was cocktailing HgH with winstrol and deer urine all while freezing his rest-day blood in a hyperbaric chamber. Due process is ESSENTIAL.

Wizened old sage Bob Ford, who has been around the loop at the Tour de France numerous times and could be the best cycling writer in the world, dropped me an e-mail minutes after I received one from Floyd’s PR representative, Pearl Piatt, to announce the arbitrator’s ruling. The subject line said it all:

“Cooked case.”

The rest of the email would have made a hell of a column, but it’s football and baseball season in Philadelphia so such things as a doping case involving a Mennonite bike rider from Lancaster County tend to get buried.

Except for here.

As Bob wrote last May:

Landis was caught by the Laboratoire National de Dépistage du Dopage in Châtenay-Malabry, a facility in a suburb just southwest of Paris. The methods and procedures at the lab are sloppy, and the results it issues are increasingly suspect. Recently, the International Tennis Federation announced that drug tests from the French Open – held in Paris, by the way – would be shipped to a lab in Montreal rather than shuttled to Châtenay-Malabry. The ITF said it was an economic decision, but what was it going to say?

The French lab has spit out approximately three times as many positive results as other labs sanctioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Those results, particularly the ones involving notable American cyclists, are also quickly leaked to L’Equipe, the French sports newspaper, which happens to be owned by the company that owns the Tour de France. So it’s quite a racket.

Does any of this mean Floyd Landis is innocent, set up by nefarious Frenchmen who twirl their moustaches and laugh heartily at his plight? No, it does not. He may well be guilty. It means only that you can’t trust the evidence.

This would be fine for Landis if his case was being heard in a court of law that adhered to innocent-until and the overriding escape hatch of reasonable doubt. Instead, his arbitration, which is being prosecuted by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, will be judged by a three-man panel, and was probably decided before it began.

Each side in the case picks one arbitrator, and the third is supposed to be mutually agreed upon. That didn’t happen, and the compromise member of the panel is someone who almost always rules against athletes. The decision is cooked, in other words, and Landis is done.

Floyd won the 2006 Tour de France, fairly, I think. But even for as much as I’d like to say his incredible ride in Stage 17 is still one of the most exciting days in sports I have ever seen, I’d be lying if I said it’s not a little tainted now. Yes, Floyd will probably continue to race and could one even go back to ride in the Tour de France, but it will never be the same.

And that just sucks.

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