Lab technician discusses issue with Landis experts

Updated: May 17, 2007, 1:24 AM ET
Associated Press

MALIBU, Calif. -- The lawyers bickered. The translator translated. The arbitrators tried to make peace. And no one stuck to the schedule on another painstaking day in Floyd Landis' arbitration hearing.

A long argument about access to certain documents clogged up most of Wednesday afternoon. When the day was over, only three witnesses on a list of dozens had completed their testimony in the case that could decide the Tour de France champion's fate.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency plans to bring three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond to the stand Thursday -- an appearance that figures to offer a much-anticipated break from the dry science and procedural bickering that has filled the first three days.

All of Wednesday belonged to Cynthia Mongongu, an analytical chemist at the Chatenay-Malabry lab outside Paris that tested Landis' urine.

Her most interesting moment came when she testified that she taped a do-not-cross line across the floor of her workspace to keep Landis' observers from interfering last month with tests of his backup "B" urine samples.

Her most interesting moment came when she testified that she taped a do-not-cross line across the floor of her workspace to keep Landis' observers from interfering last month with tests of his backup "B" urine samples.

She was responding to questions about a written statement she signed last month in which she stated she was "accosted" by one of Landis' experts. She testified it was not a physical confrontation.

"I needed to be able to concentrate on my work," she said in French, her testimony relayed by a translator.

Landis is accused of using banned synthetic testosterone during his 2006 Tour victory.

Much of the testimony Wednesday was about the backup "B" samples of Landis' seven negative tests that were, at USADA's request, subjected to carbon-isotope ratio testing last month to look for synthetic testosterone. Four of those seven returned "abnormal testosterone profiles," and the Landis camp is trying to prove that's a result of mishandled tests.

A three-man arbitration panel hearing nine days of testimony will decide whether to uphold his positive doping test after Stage 17 of last year's Tour. If it does, Landis could face a two-year ban from cycling and become the first person in the 104-year history of the Tour to have his title stripped.

Most hearings like this are wrapped up in four or five days, but this one's unique because it's the first to be held in public. Further complicating matters is the translation, which slows things down immensely.

After lunch, Mongongu's testimony came to a halt when she told attorneys she needed a more detailed graph of results from a test used to calibrate the machine that analyzed Landis' urine. Without it, she said she couldn't answer questions about whether the test gave a truly accurate measurement.

The defense lawyers didn't have that graph. What followed was a long, heated argument over whether they had been given access to such a graph, along with the time to analyze it.

USADA attorney Richard Young said the Landis attorneys had chances to see the data and have it processed into the kind of graph Mongongu requested.

Landis attorney Maurice Suh disagreed, saying there was too much data to sort through and that it was impossible to predict the witness would ask for details from that specific graph.

After not getting the solution they hoped for, the Landis defense stopped its cross-examination, though complaints are sure to continue.

They have protested about equal access to documents for months. This was the latest example -- one that certainly will feed their argument that there's no such thing as a fair hearing when USADA is involved.

Mongongu's cross-examination was designed to try to puncture her credibility and prove she was biased.

For example, Landis' attorneys asked why she filed a sworn statement about interference from Landis' observers while she was conducting the "B" sample tests, but not from J. Thomas Brenna, who was present to observe for USADA.

"It wasn't necessarily Dr. Brenna," said Mongongu, an analytical chemist at the lab. "It's just the whole ... any kind of group of people who are around me."

The attorneys followed those questions with more about whether Mongongu was the source of leaks to the French newspaper L'Equipe about any positive tests.

"Absolutely not," Mongongu said. She also denied knowing the source of the leaks.

Both sides have decried the number of leaks from the French lab. The Landis camp is trying to use those leaks as part of a larger effort to show a pattern of incompetence, and possible malfeasance, at the lab.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press