December 23, 2006

Michael Hiltzik follows up his superb series on sports labs (and the bogus science they practice) with a piece on Floyd Landis' innovative approach to charges he was doped when he won the Tour de France last summer:
Landis' team has posted online the laboratory reports on which the charge is based. This step, unprecedented in an anti-doping case, has allowed independent scientists to study the evidence against Landis — 370 pages of technical documentation.

The result is a vigorous debate on Internet message forums and bulletin boards about the science underlying the charge and whether Landis, successor to Lance Armstrong as America's leading competitive cyclist, has been unjustly accused.

Landis' representatives say they have gleaned a wealth of clues about how to attack the evidence when the case goes before an arbitration panel, probably this spring.


Landis' defense team calls its decision to publicize the evidence against him the "wiki defense," referring to an online application allowing members of the public to collaborate on encyclopedias, dictionaries, computer programs and other services.

The idea is to counteract the advantages that anti-doping agencies have in bringing cases against athletes. As The Times reported this month, WADA uses a zero-tolerance standard, punishing athletes for unintentional or inconsequential violations of doping rules.


With the wiki defense, Landis's team can subject the prosecution's scientific evidence to global scrutiny.

"There has been a tremendous amount of knowledge-sharing among the folks online, even among those who disagree about what the tests say," says Kevin Dykstra, 47, an amateur cyclist and professional chemist who has posted extensive analyses of the lab reports under the online alias "Duckstrap."

Dykstra's posts criticize the Paris lab for failing to demonstrate that it measured Landis' testosterone and epitestosterone accurately and that it could reach consistent results with multiple tests.

"To make the kind of accusations they made as publicly as they did, this has to be a slam-dunk," he says. "And this was not a slam-dunk. The data that's here leaves ample room for doubt."
Read the whole thing; it's the kind of investigative piece that wins Pulitzer Prizes.

[UPDATE: For more on all things Floyd Landis, both pro and con, check out this site.]

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