Defense expert has 'grave concerns' over doping evidence

Updated: May 21, 2007, 9:35 PM ET
Associated Press

MALIBU, Calif. -- The witness wagged his finger, wouldn't let anyone get a word in edgewise and warned everyone not to stake lives and careers on the basis of shaky scientific data.

Floyd Landis?

No, Dr. Wolfram Meier-Augenstein, a spike-haired, jeans-wearing expert with a pinky ring and German accent who proved Monday that, indeed, not all dense scientific testimony has to be boring.

Flown to California in a private jet at Landis' expense, then whisked away just as quickly so he could make his return flight home to Ireland, Meier-Augenstein dominated most of the 8½ hours of testimony.

GABRIEL BOUYS/Getty ImagesLandis' family, including his father Paul (left), have been on hand for the hearing.

That delayed Landis' return to the witness stand for his cross-examination, now scheduled for Tuesday, the eighth day of a nine-day arbitration hearing. On Saturday, Landis told his story during friendly questioning, saying "it wouldn't serve any purpose for me to cheat and win the Tour, because I wouldn't be proud of it."

A three-man arbitration panel will decide whether to uphold the Tour de France champion's positive doping test, which would make him the first person in the 104-year history of the race to have his title stripped because of a doping offense.

On Monday, it was Landis' witnesses who spelled out the case that the positive test after his Stage 17 comeback ride last year was based on faulty scientific data.

"I'm terribly sorry, but if someone's life depends on it, his career depends on it, you don't go on assumptions," said Meier-Augenstein, an expert in the kind of testing that produced Landis' positive result.

He said the process of trying to analyze what he said was sloppy data was akin to "shooting fish in a barrel."

Landis attorneys showed the scientist test data they claim strays far from World Anti-Doping Agency standards.

"But they're all cheaters?" Landis attorney Maurice Suh asked Meier-Augenstein, mockingly suggesting U.S. Anti-Doping Agency officials would disregard the rules to catch a cheat.

"Even cheaters have a right to a fair hearing and to have data used against them that can be proved," Meier-Augenstein said.

Every bit as convincing, though maybe not as entertaining, was John Amory, a University of Washington endocrinologist who sometimes serves on the USADA review board.

The board is the first line of appeals for an athlete after he tests positive for doping. If the board won't overturn a positive result, the athlete's next option is to take the case to arbitration.

Attorneys never asked Amory whether he served on the board in this case. But Landis attorney Howard Jacobs did ask Amory why he had become interested.

"The case didn't make a lot of sense to me," Amory said. "Initially when I saw the documents, I thought there were irregularities, first with the handling of the samples, then with the results."

He testified that claims made last week by pro cyclist Joe Papp, who said testosterone gel would help with recovery in a multistage cycling race, didn't make sense to him based on the science he was familiar with.

Amory also said the wild fluctuation in Landis' testosterone-to-epitesosterone profiles during the dates surrounding his positive test didn't make sense. The ratio went from 1.5-to-1 and 1.8-to-1 to 11-to-1, then quickly back below 2-to-1 over the span of 10 days.

"I don't consider those results to be consistent with the use of testosterone gel over that period of time," Amory said.

He also said data from the Landis testosterone-to-epitesosterone screening tests didn't conform with results from the more detailed carbon-isotope ratio tests that are administered to confirm the T-E tests.

"They'd be down one day and normal the next" if the tests were to corroborate, Amory said. "This doesn't look anything like that."

During cross-examination of Meier-Augenstein, USADA attorney Richard Young tried to punch holes in many of his claims, and repeatedly stated that his experience didn't come in actual steroid testing. Meier-Augenstein barely let Young get the words out, interrupting frequently and giving long, multipart answers -- pausing after thoughts, then resuming just when Young seemed ready to ask something new.

Meier-Augenstein said he was "baffled," "amazed," "totally confused," about "nonsensical results" produced from tests done on Landis' urine at the Chatenay-Malabry lab near Paris.

Asked to answer a question about comparisons between different tests, he refused.

"That you cannot compare. I'm terribly, terribly sorry," he said.

Given a chance to do redirect on the witness after Young was done, Suh demurred, saying he'd rather make sure his witness get to the airport to catch his private charter back to Washington, where he would cross the Canadian border to make his business-class flight back to Ireland.

Meier-Augenstein didn't want to fly in and out of the United States. The cost of the special arrangements -- charter plus business-class commercial flights to Vancouver -- was estimated by one person in the Landis camp at $35,000. That person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the arrangements.

Also Monday, Landis' new manager released a letter acknowledging former manager Will Geoghegan is "entering a rehabilitation program today in an effort to address his problems."

Geoghegan called Greg LeMond last Wednesday night and, posing as LeMond's uncle, threatened to reveal the secret that LeMond had been sexually abused as a child if LeMond showed up to testify.

LeMond did testify, and moments after he told that story Thursday, Geoghegan was fired. When Landis testified Saturday, he said he had no idea Geoghegan was making those phone calls.

"To make light of that, I can't even put words to it," Landis said.

The letter from the new manager, Brent Kay, reiterated Landis' feelings.

"While Floyd and the entire team find Will's actions regrettable and abhorrent, he is still a friend and we wish him the best in his recovery," Kay wrote.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press