Closing arguments bring down curtain on Landis hearing
MALIBU, Calif. ” They got ready to turn out the lights on the Floyd Landis courtroom drama Wednesday, a whopper of a case that whirled wildly between arguments about wardrobe choices, malfunctioning machines, shoddy science and much more.
Like any other soap opera, this story isn’t close to being resolved.
It could be a month or more before the three arbitrators who sat through nine days of testimony sort through all the evidence and issue their decision. Whoever loses is almost sure to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The final day began with scientific testimony and ended with closing arguments. Not surprisingly, the sides squabbled over who would go last.
When they finally figured that one out ” the Landis people prevailed ” Landis attorney Maurice Suh told the panel what he thought of the testing methods that produced Landis’ positive tests.
“Garbage in, garbage out,” Suh said.
He spoke after attorneys for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency resumed their attacks, showing evidence they say proves Landis used synthetic testosterone during his win last year, and taking one last swipe at his character.
“Usually all you get to hear about in a case like this is what was in the athlete’s urine,” attorney Richard Young said. “In this case, the events and the evidence have also shown us a glimpse of what was in the athlete’s mind.”
Young was referring, of course, to the Greg LeMond affair, a debacle of a day for the Landis camp that must have made him wonder if exposing the arbitration process to the public was such a good idea.
LeMond, a three-time Tour de France winner, showed up last Thursday and told of being sexually abused as a child, then followed that bombshell with the revelation that Landis’ manager, Will Geoghegan, threatened to reveal that secret if he testified.
USADA’s point was to show Landis has planned to intimidate and embarrass LeMond. When USADA attorneys questioned Landis on Tuesday, they asked why he wore all black for LeMond’s appearance in court after choosing a yellow tie on all other days.
It was wacky stuff, and it obscured much of the dense science that was supposed to dominate the hearing.
Much of the Landis argument centered on the alleged incompetence or bad intentions of the technicians at the Chatenay-Malabry lab outside Paris where Landis’ urine was analyzed.
Young seized on that contention, as well, and turned it into a character issue.
“They take great pride in their work and are not the sort of people who would try to hide anything or tamper with results,” Young said. “That’s in contrast to what we saw on the part of the respondent’s business manager, who did try to tamper in this case. … You can be the judge of that relative credibility.”
Suh listed failures at almost every step of the testing process that could have compromised the results.
“We’ve looked behind the false positive and what supports it,” Suh said. “And the answer of what supports it is incompetence and false representations.”
He said USADA prosecuted Landis based on “lawlessness, not rules.”
Young countered that by saying every step was done according to international standards, though maybe not to the standards Landis implied should be used.
But what this hearing will really be remembered for were its sordid aspects, which began with LeMond’s testimony and included Geoghegan’s firing after he acknowledged making the threatening phone call the night before LeMond testified.
Geoghegan ended up in rehab, and LeMond moved the story forward Wednesday, sending out a news release to set the record straight. In the testimony, LeMond said Geoghegan identified himself as LeMond’s uncle.
“Mr. LeMond wishes to make it clear that his abuser was not his uncle nor any other member of his family,” said the release. “Indeed, during his testimony, Mr. LeMond did not identify the person who sexually abused him.”
The release also said LeMond “is exploring his legal options against Mr. Geoghegan and others.” The Los Angeles County sheriff’s office also is investigating after LeMond filed a police report that night.
Regardless of whether it moves into the legal system, each side will have spent millions to reach the end.
Landis spokesman Michael Henson estimated his defense would cost $2 million, and it wouldn’t be any surprise if USADA spent the same amount. Costs include everything from rent at the Pepperdine Law School, the hundreds of billable attorney hours and that $20,000 charter flight for one of Landis’ key witnesses.
The case shined a light not only on the anti-doping system but on the world of cycling, where athletes are found guilty of doping on a disturbingly regular basis.
Landis already has been found guilty. At this point, the burden is on him to prove differently. It’s a tough hill to climb, though Suh said in closing arguments that Landis had made it.
“At the beginning of this case, we told you this case was a disaster and I believe a disaster is what we have proven,” he said.
That’s for the arbitrators to decide.
While their decision and the likely appeal wind on, the clock will be ticking. The Tour de France starts in six weeks, meaning there’s a very good chance the 2007 champion will be crowned before anyone knows who last year’s official winner really is.
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