Tar Heel Fan

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Change of Heart

Well sort of. I actually started mulling this Floyd Landis controversy a little more and found a whole new litany of questions. 1. Why only one positive results out of hundreds he has had? Landis like every other world class cyclist is tested numerous times over the course of his career. Bobby Julich wrote that the testing is so rigorous that cyclists are forced to inform the US Anti-Doping Agency and the UCI of there wheareabouts and are subject to random tests at their home even if they are not racing. So given this level of scrutiny why was Landis only caught this one time? The scenario that is playing out is that Landis was so devasted by his Stage 16 failure where he fell eight minutes behind the yellow jersey that he used some sort of synthetic testosterone that night to enable a quicker recovery which led to his amazing comeback in Stage 17. However, there is some debate over whether anything Landis could have taken or any patch he could have used would have provided enough effect to enable him to pull of the comeback he managed that day in France. It is also been made clear that for him to try anything of this nature would have been exceptionally stupid since there is no way to mask it. So what we have here is a set of conditions which must be proven true: (1) The testosterone had to be effective (2) Landis had to act in a manner out of character for him and turn to some kind of perfomance enhancer to ausuage the pain of losing the yellow jersey by such a wide margin and (3) Landis would have to be inherently stupid to think he would not get caught on the post-stage test. I think the media would be well served to ask these questions and address the issues as part of the debate. 2. Swift Justice No one really wasted one moment(myself included) in pronouncing Landis guilty as charged. I saw very little in the way of actually anlysis or postulating some kind of reasonable explanation for the postive result. Sure there were the "kitchen sink" theories which lawyers for Landis threw out in the first days following the leaked results of the "A" sample but no one in the media actually engaged in any objective reasoning. And on Saturday when the "B" sample result was made know the headline at ESPN.com read something like: "A+B=C'Ya" In my opinion that is neither professional or objective but a sensationalized headline. It also should be noted that the level of interest in the Tour de France was minimal until this happened and now the media seems to care so much because we live in such a rubberneck culture where the misery of others is entertainment to us. If anything the media has been totally complicit with process to convict Landis which is far removed from there role. As for the speed of the condemnations, it seems a little odd that everyone is tossing Landis under a bus so quick when Tyler Hamilton was accused of blood doping two years ago and has yet to be fired from his team(Phonak the same team that dismissed Landis ten seconds after the results came out) nor widely condemned by the media in general. And while this is not unusual for the people to hang you before the trial, the move to dismiss Landis has a air that someone might be hiding something. Speaking of which... 3. Conspiracy Theory Landis said yesterday that the UCI and WADA have an agenda. He blasted them for failing to follow their own procedure in leaking his "A" sample results and lamented the fact he was condemned in the media before being properly informed so he could mount a resonable defense(which he says led to the wild theories coming from his camp). Now I think conspiracy theories are often times wrong because it requires too much complicity among too many people to get it all right and keep it a secret. In other words someone in the conspiratorial chain of individuals is going to slip up or talk about it. That being said, let's take Landis' theory at face value and ask what agenda the UCI, WADA, and the Tour de France could have. First there is a longstanding feud between WADA president Dick Pound and Lance Armstrong. Basically everyone at the UCI, Tour de France, and WADA believe Armstrong cheated and was blood doping at some point in his string of seven wins at the Tour. The problem is no one has been able to prove it and it has led to some nasty back and forth between the parties. The question is would the WADA, UCI, and Tour de France be so petty as to switch the samples on Landis in an effort to discredit him and his Tour win as a veiled shot at Armstrong and United States? Would these parties be so petty as to frame Landis out of spite because another American won the Tour? Did they decide to make an example of someone in light of banning the top contenders prior to the Tour? Granted these all seem a little silly or not very plausible but that is not the real issue. The real issue is we are ready to believe Landis is a cheater without pausing to ask whether the WADA, UCI, and Tour de France are capable of unehtical behavior. If it is so easy to believe that Landis, who had one positive test out of the hundreds he has taken, is capable of committing such a horrendus act of cheating on one occasion then does it not stand to reason that we can also believe that members of the WADA, Tour, and UCI who have made numerous accusatory statements against Lance Armstrong are also capable of engaging in a fraud to frame Landis. The point is you cannot(easily) declare Landis to be unethical without also considering the possibility of something shady going on with these governing bodies who have repeatedly shown a penchant for anti-American seniment where Armstrong was concerned. I do not think it is that much a stretch of logic to believe they would flog Landis as an example to others, as a cheap shot at the U.S. or just out of anti-American spite in general. Now I will grant Occam's razor and the general complexity of conspiracies puts a serious damper on this thinking but I also see nothing in the past behavior of people like Dick Pound or the director of the Tour de France which makes me comfortable granting them absolute moral authority in this issue. 4. Maintaining Innocenence I brought this up yesterday and it deserves a little more thought. If the evidence is so damining what reason would Landis have for maintaining his innocence? I said there were two possibilities: The first is he is mounting the Pete Rose defense which is to deny everything in hopes you can be exonorated on a technicality or you deny because you are trapped into it by the PR machine. The second possibility for maintaining your innocence regardless of the evidence is because...well...you are innocent. After having considered the issues I am beginning to lean towards the possibility that Landis may actually be innocent because the Pete Rose defense is such an idiotic defense to mount I am not sure why anyone would undertake it. Landis denied wrongdoing from Day 1 which is usually a good PR move but to maintain the denial even after the evidence is in means you are unwilling to come out of the corner you painted yourself in by initial denial or you actually believe you are innocent. Based on what I have seen and heard from Landis, he seem to believe he is innocent. Could he be a great liar playing the PR game with deft skill? Sure, he wouldn't be the first and certainly not the last. However, the issues above cast a long shadow of doubt on his guilt. Granted it is not nearly the shadow his innocence is under but the postive result not withstanding I still see the final verdict on this in doubt. Final Thoughts I am not familiar with how the testing is done but the first thing I would do, if I were Landis, is demand a DNA test on the samples in question to make sure they were my samples that were tested. There may not be a reason for this. There may be enough evidence in the chain of custody to perclude this test but I would want to make sure the samples they tested were mine. I would also ask for a release of all my test results from the Tour de France. I would be interested to know what his test after Stage 18 showed. Of course synthetic testosterone probably clears the system in the time frame between stages but I think providing overwhelming evidence of clean tests with one tainted test could be a powerful PR tool. Of course given the swift justice he has endured Landis needs to come up with incontrovertible evidence that he did not use a performance enhancer or that someone at the UCI, WADA, or Tour de France framed him for the crime. Absent that he will be considered guilty and the governing bodies will ban him with the evidence in hand.

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