Paying attention is hard

FloydFor the past four weeks I think I’ve spent 24 hours in one place two times. If I wasn’t at the ballpark, I was in a plane, train or automobile that was taking me to the ballpark or some baseball-related event.

In those four weeks I’ve ingested enough coffee and diet coke to kill a Shetland pony. If the caffeine wouldn’t get him, the aspartame[1] likely would.

Needless to say, I have a newfound respect for the guys who travel around with the baseball team every day since the middle of February. Yeah, they get to go to the ballpark, but sometimes that’s no picnic either – work is work.

Anyway, because of the Phillies and their short run into the playoffs, I have been unable to follow too much else outside of that realm. Some of this is my fault because I’m not much a multi-tasker. And other parts are my fault because I don’t live closer to where I have to work…

Nobody forced me to move out to the sticks (well, not really forced, but really… who wants to live in Philadelphia if they have a choice?)

Part of what I missed and have not been able to get deeper into was the decision by the arbitration panel in the USADA’s case against Floyd Landis. When the decision came down I was in Washington for the four-game series at RFK Stadium against the Nationals. As I recall, that was a long day – I wrote about the decision, etc. and then took the Metro over to RFK just an hour before the first pitch (3½-to-4 hours before the first pitch is the customary time of arrival for baseball writers…) to write more about the Phillies’ push to the playoffs.

The plan, as I remember, was to ride the baseball stuff out until the end of the season and then revisit the Landis case. The trouble was the baseball season kept on going, which is a new phenomenon in Philadelphia. As a result, I fell out of touch a little bit. When people asked about the case/decision during the past few weeks, I couldn’t offer anything more eloquent than, “Huh? Who? Oh yeah… that guy. I pass his old house on my way to work. It’s quiet in that neck of the woods, and there are a lot of cornfields – apparently the corn crop has been really good this year…”

Plus, there have been a few new developments in the doping front.

Let’s get this out of the way again: Floyd Landis got screwed. I don’t know if he used PEDs and I guess I really don’t care (or maybe I do seeing as how much coffee I have been drinking lately – drugs are drugs). The point is the testing process, the screening and the entire circus that went on with the French lab, the UCI, WADA and USADA is borderline criminal and completely unethical. I know there are some good people who work at those places, but they need to reevaluate what’s going on.

Besides, if the tests are performed incorrectly, then the results are B.S.. Even the two arbitrators hand-picked by USADA to deliver the desired result by the government-funded agency alluded to this in the decision.

In fact, in a strong rebuke, the two arbitrators who ruled against Landis wrote that more sloppy work by the French lab could lead to a dismissal of a case in the future.

Shudder the thought.

Dave Zabriske, Landis’ former teammate and current pro rider, summed it up perfectly.

“That’s kind of strange to me,” Zabriske told “Why could it be grounds for dismissal in the future and not now?”

However, Landis’ attorney, Maurice Suh, says it wasn’t a matter of a lab doing incompetent work, though that didn’t help matters. Instead, Suh told the Associated Press that the tests did not show that Landis tested positive.

“This wasn’t a technical defense,” Suh said. “It wasn’t: ‘You didn’t do this right. You didn’t put the beaker in the right case.’ This was a case that showed that they came to the wrong result.”

Travis Tygart, the new head of the USADA, stands by the result and says it will hold up on appeal.

“This is another sad example of the crisis of character plaguing some of today’s athletes, which undermines the honest accomplishments of the overwhelming majority of athletes who compete with integrity,” he said.

Yeah, but what about the testers, the arbitrators and the alphabet soup organizations that base their funding on how many pelts they can nail to the wall?

So, after much consternation, Landis – like any stubborn dude from Lancaster County – decided to appeal the decision to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport. A final, binding decision is expected in February.

“I hope that the arbitrators of the case will fairly address the facts showing that the French laboratory made mistakes, which resulted in a false positive. Although the process of proving my innocence has been difficult for me and my family, I will not stop trying to prove my innocence.”

It seems as if Landis’ appeal is as much about proving his innocence as it is proving that the anti-doping system is “cynical and corrupt.”

Certainly, if anyone has paying attention to the case, it’s pretty clear that Floyd has already shown the flaws in the system. Corrupt is a good place to start. But if Floyd wants the UCI, WADA, USADA, etc. to operate within a framework of the highest standards and ethics, forget it. He’s going to lose.

He’s dealing with career bureaucrats, you know, as in: “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job.”

Suh told that Floyd understands it.

“We had always embarked on this trial with the understanding that ultimately victory would be difficult,” Suh told “There are so many arbitrators in the system that are against the athletes that it doesn’t provide you with many options. It leaves the athletes in a difficult spot because of the small number of fair-minded arbitrators that are objective. Partisanship on part of the arbiters is a terrible thing. It doesn’t give you confidence in the outcome. One of Floyd’s primary goals was to expose flaws in the system and make known what some of the issues were. And we were prepared to deal with the fact that we wouldn’t win.”

That’s fine, but I doubt this is a completely altruistic move – I don’t think Floyd wants to take one for the team. My guess is he wants to win.

Meanwhile, the new, popular argument is that Marion Jones’ admission to doping before the 2000 Olympics in Sydney also casts Landis in a bad light…

What does one case have to do with the other? Marion Jones was a notorious doper who left a trail of concrete evidence behind her. In fact, the book Game of Shadows is more damning to Jones than it is to Barry Bonds – and it nails Bonds pretty good with documentation and leaked grand jury testimony. What does Marion Jones and Barry Bonds have to do with Floyd Landis?

Are people’s attention spans that short? Is it really that difficult to pay attention?

Yes. Apparently it is.

[1] I’m going to name my lesion, “Donald.”

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