Howard Jacobs, the attorney acting on behalf of Tour de France champion Floyd Landis, has revealed his hand. There's no talk of Jack Daniels, cortisone injections or embryonic twins. The T/E ratio abnormalities and synthetic man-juice in the A and B urine samples Landis gave after stage 17 are all down to "sloppy" work by the French anti-doping lab, said Jacobs. This sloppy work included mismatching of sample codes, a "gross error".

It woz the lab wot did it, says Landis lawyer

When his A test was found positive, Floyd Landis flapped, throwing out possible explanations like confetti. Some folks thought this was suspect behaviour, others thought it demonstrated Landis was surprised and confused by the testosterone/epitestosterone (T/E) abnormalties found in his urine.

Last month, Bike Biz editor Carlton Reid created a petition to highlight that LNDD, the French lab at the centre of the current doping scandal, has form. It has found some athletes positive for performance-enhancing drugs but, upon investigation, the lab’s findings have been overturned because of alleged mistakes.

An independent report by a Dutch lawyer acting for the UCI found that LNDD does not follow accepted protocols for the handling of urine samples.

In September last year, Denis Oswald, president of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF), and Sergei Bubka, the IOC’s athlete’s commission chief, wrote to the World Anti Doping Authority asking for an investigation into the handling of aged urine samples by LNDD.

Many scientists – including former and current anti-doping technicians – have contacted Bike Biz with their concerns over the fallability of the carbon isotype ratio test used to identify artificial testosterone.

Howard Jacobs argues that LNDD had been guilty of "sloppy" testing and has breached WADA protocols. In a summary, his legal and scientific team said:

"Tests conducted on the athlete’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ urine sample from Stage 17 of the Tour de France do not meet the established World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) criteria for a positive doping offense."

Jacobs has not published the 307-page doping report supplied to Landis on August 31st, a failing bemoaned by David Brower of the Trust But Verify blog which is keeping a scorecard on the believability of the Landis defence strategy. Brower is agnostic on the guilt of Landis but is sceptical about the way the scandal has been handled by WADA, UCI and the media. He wants to see more detail from Landis’ legal team:

"What is present [in the summary] doesn’t seem wrong, but so far it is unconvincing."

Landis is happy with his legal team’s scientific findings. He said:

“I did not take testosterone or any other performance enhancing substance and I’m very happy that the science is confirming my innocence. I was relieved, but not surprised, when I learned that scientific experts found problems with the test. look forward to restoring my good name so that I can focus on my hip replacement and begin training for next season when I want to return to France to defend my title.”

Here’s the summary from Jacobs:

Based largely on the carbon isotope ratio (CIR) – the test that has been characterized by the anti-doping authorities and the UCI as a fool-proof method for detecting the presence of exogenous testosterone – the Motion focuses on three issues with the testing protocol and results provided by the LNDD lab at Chatenay-Malabry. In summary, these three arguments demonstrate that the CIR test conducted on Landis’ stage 17 urine samples does not show a positive result:

• WADA’s own protocols require that all testosterone metabolite differentials provide clear evidence of testosterone usage to find an athlete positive. Given the data, three of the four testosterone metabolite differentials tested in Landis’ sample are reported as negative considering the margin of error.

• The only testosterone metabolite that can even be argued as positive under the WADA Positivity Criteria resulted from an unknown laboratory error and is not the result of testosterone usage.

• The one metabolite that has been identified by WADA-accredited laboratories as the best, and longest-term indicator, of exogenous testosterone usage was reported as negative in Landis’ urine samples.

In addition to the analysis of the testing documentation, Jacobs argues “the single [positive] T/E [Testosterone/Epitestosterone] analysis in this case is replete with fundamental, gross errors.” These errors include markedly inconsistent testosterone and epitestosterone levels from testing on the ‘A’ sample as well as multiple mismatched sample code numbers that do not belong to Landis. In the case of the mismatched sample identification codes, the alleged confirmed T/E data on the ‘B’ sample is from a sample number that was not assigned to Landis. The differences in sample identification numbers also point to issues in the chain of custody of the Landis sample.

Jacobs concluded: “Clinical laboratories making these types of gross errors could easily find themselves answering to a wrongful death lawsuit, and often do. At a minimum, those laboratory errors must go to the defense of the athlete and must result in a finding that the T/E results are wholly unreliable.”

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