$20,000 charter flight among exorbitant costs in Landis hearing

Updated: May 22, 2007, 12:01 PM ET
Associated Press

MALIBU, Calif. -- The $20,000 charter flights. The $250-a-night hotel rooms. Those attorney fees piling up at $300, $400 an hour.

Keep adding it up, day after day, and it's easy to see how the cost of the Floyd Landis arbitration case could reach $1 million or more.

In fact, before the arbitration began, Landis' spokesman Michael Henson estimated the cost of defending the Tour de France champion could reach $2 million once it winds its way through this hearing and another appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

With two days left in the hearing -- Landis was scheduled to be cross-examined Tuesday -- the bills were adding up, as predicted.

Take, for example, the $20,000 charter flight the Landis team sprung for to bring expert Dr. Wolfram Meier-Augenstein to California. That was on top of commercial fares that got him from Ireland to Canada, and the nearly $1,500-a-day fee -- "standard university rate," he called it -- he makes for his time.

At least he was memorable.

"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 during nearly six hours of compelling testimony Monday, one of the best days of the hearing for Landis thus far.

Last week, when Landis attorneys began cross-examination of witnesses for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the first question they asked each witness was how much money USADA was paying them to be here.

Cedric Shackleton testified he was getting about $200 an hour for a total of $1,800. That didn't include the expenses for his trip from the San Francisco area. Cornell professor J. Thomas Brenna said he was getting $125 an hour for around 100 hours of work "including the trip to Paris."

USADA also brought in no fewer than four witnesses from France. A typical airfare from Paris to Los Angeles, with 30 days' notice, was selling for $1,100 on Expedia on Monday night. Those witnesses spent four or five nights in Los Angeles while they testified or waited to testify. One hotel in Santa Monica where a few participants were staying cost $230 a night before tax and parking. Other hotels in the area were even more expensive.

Even though Landis wasn't on the U.S. Olympic team when his positive doping test was reported, his case was referred to the U.S. Olympic Committee, which pays a small part of the bill for the arbitration. Among that part of the tab are the expenses and billable hours for the arbitrators and their assistant; a public-relations coordinator and media setup for this, the first public arbitration hearing in the history of the current system; rent for the space at Pepperdine. (Some at the school originally balked at the idea of taking on such a big logistical challenge, but the dean of the law school, Kenneth Starr, insisted Pepperdine accept an offer to be the host.)

USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel approximated the federation's expenses at about $35,000, and guessed that figure was dwarfed by the costs USADA was footing. USADA, of course, gets its budget of around $12 million a year from the USOC and the federal government.

"The rising cost of these proceedings is a concern and will need to be examined in the future," Seibel said.

USADA general counsel Travis Tygart couldn't comment on aspects of the case while it was still ongoing, though it's not too difficult to put some figures on the agency's cost.

USADA is represented by lawyers from the Denver-based Holme, Roberts and Owen law firm. Top lawyers at Denver firms can bill $400 an hour or more, and though the firm likely gives USADA some kind of break, it also wouldn't be a stretch for the four-lawyer team working the case to cost up to $10,000 per day.

That, of course, doesn't count the billable hours they worked to prepare for the nine-day hearing.

Landis' attorneys don't come cheap either.

Howard Jacobs is one of the best-known attorneys in cases like these. Maurice Suh is the former deputy mayor of homeland security and public safety in Los Angeles. Before that, he won "prosecutor of the year" at the U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles. Last year, he joined the firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher in Los Angeles as a partner.

Henson said the Floyd Fairness Fund, which is bankrolling much of Landis' defense, had raised about $750,000. Much of it came $35 at a time from cycling fans who came to one of Landis' appearances on his barnstorming tour around the country.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press