Lab at center of Landis case breached by hackers

Tuesday, November 14th 2006, 8:42 am
By: News On 6

PARIS (AP) _ Hackers stole data from computers at the French anti-doping lab where tests are being challenged by American cyclist Floyd Landis, police said Tuesday.

The Chatenay-Malabry laboratory, which is accredited by the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency, analyzed the samples which indicated that Landis had elevated levels of testosterone in his system when he won the Tour de France in July.

Police are investigating a complaint that computers at the lab were breached by hackers. The complaint was lodged by French Anti-Doping Agency president Pierre Bordry on Nov. 7.

The prosecutor's office in the Paris suburb of Nanterre has opened a preliminary inquiry into ``intrusion into an information system'' and ``theft of data.''

``Floyd is troubled to learn from these reports about the continued security issues at the Chatenay-Malabry lab,'' Landis spokesman Michael Henson said. ``Regardless of content, the actions being investigated are damaging to all parties involved, including Floyd.

``Unfortunately, this is not the first time the security of documents in this lab has been called into question,'' Henson added.

L'Equipe's article claims it has evidence from a police source that the hacker was allegedly part of Landis' team.

Henson said the allegations were part of a ``character assassination'' toward the cyclist.

``Any claims attributing it to Floyd or his defense team are baseless, untrue, irresponsible,'' Henson said. ``Floyd continues to work on his case with his advisers and will prove his innocence.''

The inquiry has been turned over to police specialists.

Bordry said he wants the French government to help tighten security around the lab.

``Intruders penetrated the lab's information systems and used material taken inside in order to denigrate the lab,'' Bordry told France Info radio Tuesday.

According to sports daily L'Equipe, a hacker accessed data and sent out letters to the IOC and WADA with the aim of discrediting the lab by calling into question its reliability.

Bordry said letters were also sent to an official at Montreal's anti-doping lab.

``It's true that there were letters sent as if they were coming from the lab,'' Bordry said. ``To foreign labs such as the one in Montreal, which immediately caught our attention ... we are talking about manipulation of information.''

Calls made to Montreal lab director Christiane Ayotte were not immediately returned.

L'Equipe said the hacker was posing as an employee of the French lab, and in his letters said the lab was unreliable _ with the aim of suggesting mistakes are frequent by piecing together apparent proof of botched tests.

On Sunday, Landis said in a French television interview that the same lab made crucial errors in his tests.

``Even the best people make mistakes,'' Landis said. ``I can't say that the lab is always a bad lab, but I can say that in this case it made some mistakes ... I did not take testosterone.''

Tour de France organizers no longer consider Landis the Tour champion. Landis will contest the test results in hearings before the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. If found guilty of doping, he would be formally stripped of the title and face a two-year ban.

Seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong, a former teammate of Landis, has also claimed the French lab is unreliable. The lab helped develop testing for the performance enhancer EPO.