The French anti-doping lab at the centre of the Floyd Landis case is said to have wiped computer data of the Isotope Ratio Mass Spectometry (IRMS) tests conducted on Landis’ urine samples from stage 17 of last year's Tour de France.

LNDD erases Landis lab test data

The Floyd Landis legal team has claimed this data erasure is "criminal tampering."

Bill Hue, a US judge and commentator on the Floyd Landis case, said "How can we search for the truth when the truth has been erased?"

David Brower of Trust But Verify, a blog which documents every twist and turn in the Landis saga, said: "If there are straight file copies with wrong mod-times, that would be no-harm, but there’s no way to know. If other files were only on the drive that got wiped, they probably aren’t coming back. It would have been smart to get MD5s or checksums of the files on the instrument, and to have taken a complete backup before wiping its drive.

"But doing this wipe just before the experts arrived for testing the other B samples, that takes a special sense of timing.

"The safe move, unless there is stuff we don’t know about, would be for Landis to treat them as correct, and do the analysis necessary to show/not show the problems they suspect. They still need to prove something. If they fail to find what they want, they can still claim tampering; but if they find what they want, then it doesn’t matter."

Simon Davis, technical director of Mass Spec Solutions and expert consultant to Landis, revealed that evidence stored as electronic data files (EDF) had been erased from the hard drive and the original data destroyed at the Laboratoire National de Dépistage du Dopage (LNDD). The existing data bears indication of alteration, he said.

The EDFs are electronically preserved records of the Isotope Ratio Mass Spectometry (IRMS) tests conducted on Landis’ Stage 17 samples. Davis was at the LNDD last Thursday along with representatives from the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to witness the extraction of the data files by an independent expert tasked with retrieving and analysing the EDFs.

Originally run by the LNDD on outdated OS2 software, the Landis defence team had first requested access to the original EDFs last December in order to process them on more accurate software.

Prior to the arrival of Davis and the independent expert on April 26, the LNDD, under the authority of USADA, extracted the EDFs from the machinery.

Davis said the hard drive from the Isoprime OS2 machine had been “wiped” by the LNDD and all of the original files destroyed, thereby providing no way to verify the authenticity of the EDFs from Landis’ Stage 17 analysis.

Relevant files for Landis’ Stage 17 sample analysis had been opened and re-saved by the LNDD, corrupting the integrity of the files’ time stamp authentication and exposing the files to potential tampering, said Davis.

The data concerning the Stage 17 “A” samples were re-saved on 1/30/2007. Landis’ “B” sample data bore a time stamp of 4/26/07, 9:51 a.m. CET, prior to the scheduled arrival of the independent expert and Davis later that day.

The altered EDFs from the Isoprime OS2 hard drive had been removed by the LNDD and transferred to a CD-ROM.

The Landis legal team also alleges other critical data from Stage 17 were missing from the files copied to disk.

Arnie Baker, M.D., scientific advisor to Landis’ defence team said:

“Protecting and assuring electronic files are required by every certifying laboratory authority, as the International Standards of Laboratories clearly define. With the erasure of original evidence contained on the hard drive, the lab simply cannot document its findings.”

Landis is considering an appeal to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate the use of Federal funds in the adjudication of his anti-doping proceedings.

"Since the Federal Government is funding this and other proceedings at USADA, it makes sense for them to be responsible for it," Landis said.

"Over the past few months, we have learned of disturbing facts regarding the protection and production of key evidence in my case and I hope to call on the DOJ to investigate the handling of this matter. I have every confidence that they can determine if any misuse of federal funds and any resulting criminal activity has taken place on the part of USADA in my case."

"I find it highly suspicious that of all the files on the LNDD computer equipment, only the data relating to my alleged positive shows signs of potential tampering. It is my impression that USADA’s goal is to secure a conviction by any means available whereas the DOJ will be more determined to arrive at the truth.

"Make no mistake about it; I support tough anti-doping measures, enforcement and education. But, if the Federal Government is going to fund the adjudication of anti-doping actions, then the defendants in those cases should be afforded the due process protections of anyone accused of a crime in America.

"Under the USADA process, I have repeatedly been denied critical evidence, I have been denied the opportunity to depose critical witnesses and I have been denied a jury of my peers. Everything they have done, including this continued denial of discovery, the retesting of already cleared samples and the subsequent leak of scientifically unsupported results to L’Equipe, simply reconfirms every contention that my team and I have been making about USADA’s ‘win at all costs’ mentality. Their behaviour is nothing short of criminal."

Not so, say lab technicians on the forum of, lab data is erased all of the time.

Thomas A. Fine, creator of a a wiki in defence of Landis, said:

"What does "wiped" mean? It could mean that all of the files were removed. Or it could mean that the entire filesystem was recreated. In both of these cases, the actual data remains on the disk, albeit in the form of a giant electronic jigsaw puzzle. If some real legal case existed, the drive could be obtained and a forensic analysis could probably rebuild everything.

"But wiped can also literally mean that all of the data was erased fully and completely. There are commands that can "wipe" the data file by file. And you can "wipe" the entire disk clean. These are very unusual things to be doing to a disk.

"Pulling a disk drive out of a computer is standard procedure for forensic analysis – for data retrieval from a damaged disk, or for legal purposes. Of course the point is to isolate the drive from possible alterations — you would put it on another system where you could be sure the disk will be read-only, where it is impossible to make changes by accident."

Posting on the forum of Daily Peleton, Landis said: "What good reason could there be, or what loophole could exist that would make it explainable that the hard drive had been physically removed and placed in another computer and parts of the info saved and then the entire hard drive deleted?"

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