Experts challenge lab

USADA attorneys don't get chance to question Landis


May 22, 2007|By Michael A. Hiltzik | Michael A. Hiltzik,LOS ANGELES TIMES

MALIBU, Calif. -- Two scientific witnesses appeared on behalf of Tour de France winner Floyd Landis yesterday on the seventh day of public hearings into the 31-year-old cyclist's challenge of doping accusations.

Their testimony delayed the eagerly anticipated Landis cross-examination by attorneys for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Landis denied ever doping when he testified Saturday.

The two expert witnesses took direct aim at the reliability of the Paris-based Laboratoire Nationale de Depistage du Dopage, which tested his urine sample after Stage 17 of last summer's Tour and ruled it positive for the presence of synthetic testosterone.

Dr. Wolfram Meier-Augenstein, an expert in the test with which the Paris lab analyzed Landis' sample, outlined a raft of errors and false assumptions he said were made by the lab. He asserted that the work was so poor that its findings amounted to "speculation."

Meier-Augenstein testified that the lab's analytical work was so sloppy that "I have no confidence in the data."

"Isn't it `close enough?'" asked Landis attorney Maurice Suh sarcastically, alluding to USADA's position that any errors by the lab are insufficient to invalidate its findings.

"No, it is not," the witness replied. "You can't go by appearances. You have to go by data. If someone's life or career depends on it, you don't work on assumptions."

Meier-Augenstein also observed that LNDD's readings on Landis' urine were so far out of line with results found in the clinical literature, even in studies of known testosterone users, that they raised more questions about the lab's technique than about Landis' actions.

"If I were running this lab and got this result," he said, "before I was on the phone to say this guy's a positive, I would run the test again to make sure the results stand up to scrutiny."

Implications that Landis may have used testosterone to bolster his endurance or add a shot of aggressiveness late in the race also were dismissed by an expert on hormone physiology.

"I don't know of a physiological process" that could account for the lab's results, said John K. Amory, an expert in testosterone therapy at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Amory said he found the French lab's test results contradictory and scientifically implausible. He testified that the lab's documentation didn't "make a lot of sense."

Amory said he volunteered to testify for Landis without pay after concluding that LNDD's documentation of test results was so inadequate.

Amory contended that the pattern of testosterone readings found in Landis' urine samples, taken at various race stages, were inconsistent with each other and with any conceivable pattern of testosterone doping, whether by injection, oral administration, or topical gel.

Michael A. Hiltzik writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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