Landis hearing gets underway, cyclists lawyer calls case an 'utter disaster'

MALIBU, Calif. &

Arlene Landis took out her camera to snap a picture of her son sitting next to his lawyers in the courtroom.

Surely, photos of the arbitration hearing that began Monday won't go in the front of Floyd Landis' scrapbook of Tour de France highlights. Still, the moment was something to remember.

After months of explaining himself to anyone who would listen, Landis finally got to have his case heard by the arbitrators who will decide his fate.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said before the hearing, wearing a yellow necktie that matched the color of the famed jersey he captured last year in Paris. "I'm looking forward to there being an end, so I'll know whether I can keep riding or not."

What promises to be nine days of mostly dry scientific evidence began with some good theater.

"Make no mistake about it," Landis attorney Maurice Suh said in his opening statement, "this case is an utter disaster."

The disaster, Suh said, is the way the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has gone about prosecuting the case, which could result in a two-year suspension for Landis and make him the first cyclist in the 104-year history of the Tour de France to be stripped of his title.

Richard Young, the lead attorney presenting USADA's case, said in his opening statement that despite the publicity, this was simply another in a long list of cases USADA handles &

one in which the cold, hard scientific data would prove an athlete had used synthetic testosterone.

"There's nothing unique about what the panel has to decide," Young said. "It's one of dozens of cases in which a high testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio is confirmed by" a different, more sensitive test.

Suh, however, said it was more than just another case.

"It's a historic case, and it needs to be done right," he said.

Accused of using banned synthetic testosterone during his win last year, Landis insisted on turning his arbitration hearing into a public process, in part to expose what he says is the fraudulent way USADA and its partners in the industry do business.

Landis generated lots of support and raised about $750,000 through the Floyd Fairness Fund, though that public support didn't translate into attendance at the hearing.

About 100 people &

mainly attorneys, family, media, witnesses and folks from the university &

showed up. An overflow room that had been set up especially for extra spectators was dark at day's end.

The hearing will last through next Wednesday with dozens of experts scheduled to testify before a three-man panel of arbitrators who will decide the cyclist's fate. On Tuesday, USADA will call workers from the French lab that has been under heavy scrutiny from the Landis camp. The cross-examination should be intense, especially if the tone on opening day was any way to judge things.

The first USADA witness, steroid metabolism expert Cedric Shackleton of the Oakland Research Institute, was subject to a long, unfriendly cross-examination that included some testy interplay.

"This is about the 15th time that the witness hasn't been allowed to answer the question," Young said while objecting during Suh's cross-examination.

"This is about the 15th time that the witness has answered some other question" than what he had asked, Suh replied.

At times, Landis seemed mildly amused, looking to friends and smiling as he sat at the corner of the defense table. He is expected to testify later in the hearing.

"We believe in his innocence, so this hasn't been a stress to us," Arlene Landis said.

The crux of USADA's argument is to provide evidence of Landis' testosterone use by looking at results from two tests.

The first, the testosterone-to-epitestosterone test, showed Landis had an 11-1 ratio in the urine sample taken after Stage 17. Anything higher than 4-1 can be considered a positive test.

The second, a carbon-isotope ratio test, is a more complex analysis of the urine; debates about that likely will fill up much of the next eight days of testimony.

The Landis plan is to question the credibility of the process used at the French lab where the urine was analyzed. That evidence then will be used to impeach USADA's science. Suh's opening statement included visuals that repeated the word "incompetence" in bold, red letters six times.

"This is science?" Suh said while discussing one piece of USADA evidence. "This is an embarrassment."

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