November 16, 2006

Dick Pounded Again Over Lab's Leaky Security and Procedures: WADA Chairman Dick Pound is once again standing by the French laboratory that tested Tour de France Champion Floyd Landis' urine sample, even though their computers have been hacked into and they've admitted a clerical error in the labeling of Landis' "B" sample.

posted by The_Black_Hand to other at 08:07 AM - 20 comments

Pound should be concerned about administrative errors or any errors. First, it seems like a pretty serious error to me. The laboratory director, Jacques de Ceaurriz, said yesterday the flask with Landis's B sample had "unfortunately been recorded with the wrong number on the form during the second analysis". Second, what kind of procedures do they have in place to ensure that they are testing the correct samples? WADA needs to take these things seriously because credibility in testing is just as important as accuracy.

posted by bperk at 09:04 AM on November 16

This is very old news, and probably the least significant element of Floyd's defense. The only reason that this is news is that the director of the lab has spoken about it. All of the laboratory documentation is available on the web (put there by Floyd), so you can see the error for yourself if you know where to look. A great (although somewhat pro-Floyd) source for information is Trust But Verify. This particular error -- one incorrectly written sample number out of dozens, if not hundreds of instances in the documentation package -- is not going to get Landis off. Nobody is even seriously arguing that the sample that was tested was not Floyd's.

posted by Amateur at 10:10 AM on November 16

The fact that the lab director felt impelled to comment on this suggests to me some nervousness about the upcoming Landis hearing. I agree with Amateur that this is only one, very small, part of Landis' defense and by itself, unlikely to sway the decision. I also find the use of the term "administrative error" interesting. This was not some secretary that made this mistake - it was the lab technician responsible for the analysis who recorded this incorrectly in their lab notebook. So how many other errors did this technician make? Can any of the results be trusted?

posted by BikeNut at 11:38 AM on November 16

The bottom line is that these guys need to be unimpeachable - perfect. None of it works if there isn't certainty with the process. Not because of any real legal implications, but because any doubt can be leveraged by cheater atheletes in the court of public opinion. Echoing Amateur's sentiments about this really not putting Landis' test in much doubt.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 12:54 PM on November 16

Pound downplayed the mistake Doesn't he always? Is there any competition for WADA? I would think if there is some other agency that could do the job and take Pound, the French, and all the others that keep screwing up out of the occasion, that alone would help build credibility. Are athletes doping? Undoubtedly. But half of the focus on the issue seems to be Pound spouting off his mouth, showing his bias, proclaiming himself god of the anti-dopers, and repeatedly asking for more countries to support him, or on repeated errors and questions regarding the testing procedures, results, and violations of the rules (especially the supposed confidentiality due to leaks or payoffs). Maybe if they got rid of Pound and WADA and the French lab and put some new person and agency in charge, there could be a fresh start with fewer questions on the procedures and more on the results.

posted by graymatters at 01:36 PM on November 16

The entire world of pro cycling's become a farce. From the riders who never come forward to the mistake-making labs to the organizing bodies who somehow grant a license to Manolo Saiz, the one guy who was caught red handed... Nonetheless I eagerly await the Spring Classics :)

posted by JohnSFO at 02:52 PM on November 16

Pro cycling will be saved by the glorious introduction of the new Tinkoff Credit Systems cycling team. So far they've signed Danilo Hondo and are close to signing Jan Ullrich and Francisco Mancebo. Their team director will be Manolo Saiz. You think I'm joking, don't you?

posted by afx237vi at 03:15 PM on November 16

Dick Pound, that's going to be my porn name,....yup, Dick Pound.

posted by tommytrump at 05:04 PM on November 16

Dick Pound, that's going to be my porn name,....yup, Dick Pound. What more can be said?? It seems like cycling should just legalize all this crap so everyone can use it. That way they can save all this time, money, and energy trying to determine if someone has cheated. I mean they have a special governing body set up to test all of the athletes and they still can't seem to get it right. If doing your job is really that hard, then it probably shouldn't be your job.

posted by yay-yo at 05:10 PM on November 16

yay-yo: It seems like cycling should just legalize all this crap so everyone can use it. And then your son comes up to you one day and says "gee dad, I'd really like to win the Tour de France when I get older." Would you let your son become a pro cyclist (or any other sport that tolerates doping) if you knew he'd need to ruin his body just to make it onto the lowest rung? Of course you wouldn't. No parent would. And in 10 years time, pro cycling is dead.

posted by afx237vi at 05:21 PM on November 16

You think I'm joking, don't you? Heh. Unfortunately I know you're not. Also, rumor has it they're signing Tyler "I'm innocent I tell ya" Hamilton. Innocent is the new guilty!

posted by JohnSFO at 05:46 PM on November 16

Of course you wouldn't. No parent would. And in 10 years time, pro cycling is dead. I can agree with that. I just don't understand why they have so much trouble accomplishing such a simple goal. The NFL has a pretty good policy in effect. Is it that they just can't stay ahead of the game? I'm afraid cycling is killing itself with its ineptness in this crucial area.

posted by yay-yo at 06:39 PM on November 16

But half of the focus on the issue seems to be Pound spouting off his mouth, showing his bias, proclaiming himself god of the anti-dopers, and repeatedly asking for more countries to support him Couldn't agree more. Pound is on the way out, though. He won't reoffer for the position.

posted by Amateur at 07:18 PM on November 16

haha what an awkward phrasing of title. either i'm a pervert or there was a better way to say it then dick pounded again over lab's leaky..

posted by RyanThaRappa at 09:27 PM on November 16

And after serious review the WADA has found a much tougher Chairman who won't take that kind of action laying down.

posted by kyrilmitch_76 at 09:53 PM on November 16

I'm afraid cycling is killing itself with its ineptness in this crucial area. I partially agree. I think cycling's biggest problem right now is the fact that it is being run by ex-cyclists. The teams are owned and operated by former riders who competed in the 70's and 80's, when doping was absolutely rife and no-one cared. Just check out this story on Pez. In many ways it's a heartwarming little story, about a long-forgotten British cyclist who made it good in a big race. Pretty much the kind of thing that makes cycling a great sport. Then you get to last part of the story - almost an afterthought - and it's all about paying to make B-samples disappear and team-mates who went to bed at night but didn't wake up in the morning. These are the kind of people who are controlling the sport today. This needs to change if the sport is to remain credible. One beacon of hope, as far as I can see, is that T-Mobile (probably the most well-known team apart from Discovery) seems to be taking a real hard line on doping. T-Mobile, the phone company, is of course a huge company, and they finally seemed to have got pissed off with their brand being tarnished by dopers. They've had a huge clearout of managers and riders, with Olaf Ludwig, Mario Kummer, Jan Ullrich, Andreas Klöden, Oscar Sevilla and loads of others being given the boot. They've also employed Bob Stapleton, an American businessman, NOT an ex-pro to run the team. I've always been a T-Mobile fan, but now even more so. And I hope other teams follow suit. It needs to be done.

posted by afx237vi at 08:05 AM on November 17

Given the ineptness of WADA, the labs, and their obvious willingness to leak information to the press before sharing evidence with implicated riders or conducting confirmatory analyses, I can't blame any rider for being hesitant to cooperate. The Tour kicked out a whole host of riders based on inuendos and weak references in Operacion Puerto - now even the Spanish courts are saying there isn't enough evidence to indict anyone. A lot of press slams cycling for being weak on dopers. But when caught, the doper faces a 2 to 4 year ban for a first offense and lifetime ban on second offense. Imagine if the NFL, MLB, and NBA had similar rules. I don't deny there's a clear problem in cycling, but I do think they are trying to work on it. Improving their procedures on how investigations are handled (e.g. not trying those implicated in the press) would go a long way to fixing things. In addition, they need to put some of penalty on teams, not just riders. If a team has multiple riders shown to be doping, the entire team needs to be banned, including the sports directors and doctors of the team.

posted by BikeNut at 08:53 AM on November 17

I'm not convinced that either WADA or the lab(s) are inept. What's convinced you? The mountain of technicalities collected by Landis' team don't amount to a verdict of "inept" to me, and I have looked at the documentation in some detail. WADA has played a very important role in anti-doping efforts, wrestling authority away from the IFs, NSFs, and NOCs -- all of whom might have a vested interest in covering up offenses committed by their star athletes. Having a third-party agency responsible for law enforcement is a good idea and one that has paid big dividends in my opinion. Dick Pound has a single, major flaw, and that is that he can't sit quietly and impartially on the sidelines. For that reason I think it is time for him to go. But I don't think that WADA is inept or ineffective. The Tour kicked out a whole host of riders You're right -- that wasn't WADA. In fact as I understand this, no anti-doping rules were invoked at all. The Tour asked the teams to withdraw the riders, and the teams complied. There wasn't any due process provided and there is probably no recourse for the athletes. Improving their procedures on how investigations are handled (e.g. not trying those implicated in the press) would go a long way to fixing things. I agree completely. This is WADA's major failing in my opinion. They (and their accredited labs, for which they should be responsible) absolutely suck at keeping secrets, and that sometimes means that the athletes don't get a fair hearing.

posted by Amateur at 11:49 AM on November 17

Amateur, I may have erred in my use of the word inept, but I have worked in laboratories producing reports for FDA and EPA regulated products. When we produce a report, quality assurance has to verify that every piece of data can be verified, the equipment used to produce it has been properly calibrated and maintained, and the people involved in the analysis are trained in the procedures they are running. If not, the whole study and its results are thrown out - and no, "administrative error" is not an acceptable argument. This is the level I believe WADA accredited labs should strive for in their work as well. After all, they are dealing with peoples careers and reputations. And leaking information to the press should not be tolerated by anyone associated with these labs. In fact, I believe it should be a criminal offense. While you may doubt the quality of Landis' team defense, this is not the first time the LNDD lab results and procedures have been questioned. The report of independent investigator Emile Vrijman following the claim by LNDD and WADA that Lance Armstrong used EPO in 1999 concluded that the lab had no internal chain of custody for samples, analyzed previously opened samples for whch the identity and integrity could not be guaranteed, and used analysis methods that were not validated and did not follow WADA's own laboratory and testing standards. To my mind, these findings draw serious questions concerning the LNDD labs quality of work. I agree, an independent third party conducting the analysis is highly desirable. I also believe the independent lab also needs to be held to a very high standard which I do not believe WADA accredited labs are anywhere near reaching at this time.

posted by BikeNut at 06:24 PM on November 17

BikeNut, I think we agree on many points. I do not know for certain whether the lab made any important errors in the Landis case. I allow for the possibility and I may change my mind once both sides are heard from in the hearing. However, it is not clear to me yet that any of the critical elements you list in your opening paragraph were missing. The Armstrong case you mentioned was indeed shameful for the lab but again this comes down to confidentiality. It may be perfectly legitimate to test seven-year-old urine samples using experimental techniques. What is clearly not legitimate is attempting to use those results as if they were from valid anti-doping tests. I don't think it's something I could point to as a demonstration of the lab's technical incompetence, but somebody's head should have rolled over it for sure.

posted by Amateur at 09:04 PM on November 17

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