Tuesday, May 22, 2007 Updated: May 25, 4:48 PM ET
Landis grilled on final day of testimony
By Bonnie DeSimone Special to ESPN.com
MALIBU, Calif. -- Floyd Landis' odyssey to defend himself against doping charges came to an end -- for now, at least -- somewhat the same way it began 10 months ago, when he struggled to hit the right note before a doubting public.
Landis was forced back on his heels Tuesday during cross-examination at his arbitration hearing as he tried to explain away events ancillary to the central issue of whether he used synthetic testosterone during the 2006 Tour de France. Closing arguments in the case are tentatively scheduled for Wednesday.
During Tuesday's cross-examination, USADA never directly asked Floyd Landis whether he had taken performance-enhancing drugs.
Matt Barnett, one of the lawyers working as outside counsel for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, never asked Landis directly whether he'd taken performance-enhancing drugs. Landis denied doping under questioning from his own lawyers Saturday.
Barnett rifled through many other compartments of the case, however, quizzing Landis on everything from the pockmarked doping history of his former team, Phonak, to his choice of black attire on the day three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond testified against him.
Once again, Landis spent more time than he probably would have liked dealing with the threatening phone call his former business manager, Will Geoghegan, made to LeMond the night before LeMond was scheduled to take the stand. Landis has admitted he was in the room when Geoghegan placed the call but didn't understand its contents or import until it was over.
The USADA seems determined to make Landis' overall credibility, as well as his test results, a major issue. The agency got a boost in that regard when arbitration panel chairman Patrice Brunet announced Tuesday that he and his two colleagues had voted unanimously to allow LeMond's testimony into evidence after considering arguments from both sides for the past several days.
Landis' lawyers objected to the testimony on the grounds they weren't allowed to conduct a full cross-examination. LeMond said Landis made an implicit admission of doping in an August phone call; Landis later contradicted him.
On cross-examination, LeMond refused to answer any questions about seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong and their contentious past, which Landis' lawyers had wanted to illuminate to undermine LeMond's motives.
Landis faces a minimum two-year ban from competition and would be stripped of his Tour title if the doping violation is upheld. He finally stepped down late in the morning after testifying for roughly an hour and a half, and the evidentiary pendulum in the case swung back to the scientific side.
The cyclist's defense attorneys, who have nearly finished presenting their case, called a third consecutive highly confident technical witness Tuesday -- Simon Davis, who has a Ph.D. in mass spectrometry, the method used to analyze urine samples for the presence of synthetic testosterone. Davis is the technical director of a global company that manufactures and maintains mass spectrometry machinery.
Davis delivered a lengthy, detailed critique of the condition and operation of equipment used by the French laboratory where Landis' samples were tested. Davis visited the laboratory as one of Landis' expert observers.
Smiling pleasantly, Davis said he considered Landis' carbon-isotope ratio test results "completely unreliable" for a variety of reasons.
He elaborated over the next three hours, citing sketchy calibration and pressure settings; the 20-year-old software used to process results; improper discretion by lab technicians in re-processing the electronic data files associated with the test results; and the fact that he was not permitted to see whether lab technicians were using an updated operating manual.
"Mass spectrometers are not washing machines," said Davis, who is British. "They're very complicated machines. There's no way you can keep all that knowledge in your head."
Mass spectrometers are not washing machines. They're very complicated machines. There's no way you can keep all that knowledge in your head.
Davis bolstered previous testimony favorable to Landis when he said the French lab technicians' failure to document manual changes in the way they conducted tests cast grave doubts on the results. He said that if an engineer from his company did something similar, "he'd be sacked."
At another juncture, defense lawyer Maurice Suh displayed a cell phone photograph Davis took of the mass spectrometer. The snapshot showed that technicians had left a sizeable metal device -- designed to help lift the machine -- on top of the mass spectrometer after moving it. Davis said the careless act could have thrown off the sensitive magnets within the mass spectrometer.
"I was astounded," Davis said. "I can't, hand on heart, say that this has caused a huge, major problem. It could be small or catastrophic. We'll never know."
Similarly, no one may ever know exactly what happened in the approximately 18 hours between Geoghegan's harassing phone call to LeMond and LeMond's appearance on the witness stand.
Tuesday, Landis said Geoghegan had LeMond's phone number because the two had "synched," or mutually transferred, all the information in their cell phones. Landis also said his personal physician and interim business manager, Dr. Brent Kay, became aware of the call because he walked into the hotel dining room when it was being made. Kay was the first person to inform the defense lawyers that something untoward had happened, Landis said.
Barnett aggressively probed Landis' actions in the wake of that call and asked why he did not fire Geoghegan until after the information was publicly revealed in LeMond's explosive testimony. Landis' lawyers Suh and Howard Jacobs then interrupted Landis' testimony to cite attorney-client privilege.
It remains unclear exactly when and how much Landis told his lawyers about the Geoghegan-LeMond exchange. LeMond's testimony appeared to surprise the defense team at the time.
Suh said he and Jacobs had been made aware of the call "moments before" going into the courtroom Thursday, although he didn't specify whether he meant in the morning or after the lunch break, when LeMond began his testimony. "We were completely caught off-guard, and did not have an opportunity to consult" with Landis or Geoghegan, Suh said.
Brunet stopped Suh at one point and told him his professional integrity was not in question.
Landis also was grilled on whether he had received results of blood tests conducted by the UCI, cycling's governing body, that were requested by USADA when the two sides were collecting evidence before the hearing.
Barnett displayed e-mail correspondence between the UCI and former Phonak team doctor Denise Demir and noted that Landis was copied on the messages. Landis said he never received the information.
The arbitrators have wide discretion to wade through everything they've heard, keeping what they consider relevant and discarding what they don't, in deciding the case. Their ruling is expected several weeks from now.
Bonnie DeSimone is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com.