If you’ve had your head under a rock this weekend, you may not have heard that Floyd Landis has been found guilty of doping at the 2006 Tour de France, and will be stripped of his title, and suspended for two years, retroactive to January, 2007, when he said he’d stop racing professionally while the case was sorted out.
Me? I’m not sure how I feel about the decision. Trust but Verify has both the decision documents themselves as well as summaries of the dissenting arbitrator. He’s much more interesting than the two that voted to support the test.
I’m of a split mind. There are enough inconsistencies that have surfaced about lab process to make me want to side with Floyd. Being a recovering Navy Nukeular Power Officer, procedure and documentation are near and dear to my heart, and especially when someone’s life is on the line, there is absolutely no excuse for having paperwork that is anything but perfect. I’ve seen guys kicked out of their career (one a 17 year veteran, 3 years to go to retirement) for falsifying records. The testing lab needs to be held to an amazingly high standard, ESPECIALLY if cycling is to be kept clean. Even the suspicion of impropriety on the part of the lab makes booting real dopers less of a right thing to do.
Plus, there’s motive on the part of the French lab. 8 straight American wins? And an amazing comeback on the part of Landis? Incroyable! Sacre Bleu! N’est pas possible…
On the other side, getting off on procedure is complete and total BS, and identifying problems with the lab is something that teams should have a vested interest in BEFORE the racing season starts. An example (possibly too effective) is the interface with doping authorities that the Baseball and Football players’ unions have in the US. The tests and conduct are a part of their labor negotiations. Shoot, the scientists’ and engineers’ union that represents me has a say in the drug testing that we have on our jobs. Cyclists should have the right to have a say in the process too.
But, that’s BEFORE a positive result comes back. After the test comes back – well, sometimes the best thing for everyone in the long run is to take a bullet. Is a clean sport worth a couple of ended careers? Even assuming Floyd’s guilty, isn’t it possible that a couple of folks who popped positive have really been innocent? That’s a tough call.
In any case, it’s in the history books now. Landis’ legal bills are staggering; I’m considering a donation to the Floyd Fairness Fund. I’m really still not sure if he’s a doper or not, but I do know that he’s been publicly outspoken against doping, and is a heck of a rider. He’s also a human being, and it’d suck to be fiscally ruined by a mistake. Plus, I’d kind of like him to appeal to keep the media scrutiny on the world’s anti-dope testing labs. They need to be cleansed of any suspicion that there could be a false positive.