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Hearing Over, More Wrangling Ahead For Landis

MALIBU, Calif. (AP) _ Whether Floyd Landis is found innocent or guilty of doping during his Tour de France victory, it's a near certainty the world hasn't heard the last of him and his defense team.

The cyclist's tabloid-style arbitration hearing ended Wednesday, but it could take months for a decision to be reached. And when it comes, the case almost certainly won't end there, because the loser is expected to appeal at the next and final level, the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

There, they'll rehash much of the evidence that was presented over these nine days in a public hearing that certainly wasn't fit for all ears.

Landis' attorney Maurice Suh used closing arguments to assert that the hearing was about more than just his client's quest to retain the Tour title and avoid a two-year ban from cycling.

``It is the first to comprehensively challenge the systematic failures of an anti-doping lab to follow its own rules,'' Suh said.

But it was hard to imagine Landis wanted the challenge to morph into such a spectacle.

The Greg LeMond affair defined these hearings, and also served up an easily exploitable piece of evidence for attorneys from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. They used it at every opportunity.

``Usually all you get to hear about in a case like this is what was in the athlete's urine,'' attorney Richard Young said. ``In this case, the events and the evidence have also shown us a glimpse of what was in the athlete's mind.''

LeMond, a three-time Tour winner, showed up last Thursday and told of being sexually abused as a child, then followed that bombshell with the revelation that Landis' manager, Will Geoghegan, threatened to reveal that secret if he testified.

USADA's point was to show Landis had set the tone in a plan to intimidate and embarrass LeMond. When USADA attorneys questioned Landis on Tuesday, they asked why he wore all black for LeMond's appearance in court after choosing a yellow tie all other days.

It was wacky stuff, and it overshadowed much of the dense science that was supposed to dominate the hearing.

Much of the Landis argument centered on the alleged incompetence of the technicians at the Chatenay-Malabry lab outside Paris where Landis' urine was analyzed.

Young seized on that contention, as well, and turned it into a character issue.

``They take great pride in their work and are not the sort of people who would try to hide anything or tamper with results,'' Young said. ``That's in contrast to what we saw on the part of the respondent's business manager, who did try to tamper in this case. ... You can be the judge of that relative credibility.''

Suh apologized for the Geoghegan mess.

``We were shocked, and we feel terrible about Mr. Geoghegan,'' Suh said. ``It was wrong. It was disgusting. But there should be no simple guilt by association, and ultimately, that has nothing to do with the science underlying this case.''

Addressing that science, Suh listed failures at almost every step of the testing process that could have compromised the results, stating that USADA prosecuted Landis based on ``lawlessness, not rules.''

Young countered by saying every result met standards approved by the World Anti-Doping Agency, even if they didn't live up to the standards Landis wanted.

But once argument about science and standards is hashed out, this hearing will really be remembered for its sordid aspects, which began with LeMond's testimony and included Geoghegan's firing after he acknowledged making the threatening phone call the night before LeMond testified.

A news release sent out by LeMond's agent Wednesday, said LeMond ``is exploring his legal options against Mr. Geoghegan and others.''

The Los Angeles County sheriff's office is investigating the incident after LeMond filed a police report that night.

Regardless of whether it moves into the legal system, each side will have spent millions to reach the end.

Landis spokesman Michael Henson estimated his defense would cost $2 million, and it wouldn't be any surprise if USADA spent the same amount. Costs include everything from rent at the Pepperdine Law School, the hundreds of billable attorney hours and, of course, that $20,000 charter flight for one of Landis' key witnesses.

The case shined a light not only on the anti-doping system but on the world of cycling, where athletes are found guilty of doping on a disturbingly regular basis.

The way this system works, Landis already has been found guilty. At this point, the burden is on him to prove differently. It's a tough hill to climb, though Suh said in closing arguments that Landis had made it.

He challenged the panel to agree with him.

``Every athlete deserves to be treated better than this,'' he said.

Meanwhile, the Tour de France starts in six weeks. With the resolution of this case still far away, it's almost certain the 2007 champion will be crowned before anyone knows who last year's official winner really is.
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