MALIBU, California (Reuters) - Much of day two in the Floyd Landis arbitration hearing was lost in translation as lawyers on both sides focused on the French laboratory that analyzed the Tour de France champion’s urine samples.
The legal team representing the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) called the laboratory’s analytical chemist, Cynthia Mongongu, as a witness on Tuesday, painstakingly going through all the checks and balances of the lab’s testing system.
Landis, battling to maintain his 2006 title after a positive doping test, has consistently denied using performance enhancing drugs and his advisors claim the French laboratory failed to adhere to “international standards”.
A significant part of the morning was wasted, though, when the testimony given by Belgium-born Mongongu was frequently interrupted because of an unclear translation of her replies in French.
At one point, her translator incorrectly interpreted Mongongu as saying it took one-and-a-half hours instead of one-and-a-half days to prepare an ‘A’ sample for IRMS (carbon-isotope ratio testing) analysis.
Landis’s attorney Maurice Suh intervened, asking whether there might be a better way to proceed. Lead arbitrator Patrice Brunet, who speaks fluent French, then called for a 90-minute recess so that a replacement translator could be summoned.
The rest of the day went much more smoothly with USADA attorney Dan Dunn asking Mongongu to explain how the Chatenay-Malabry laboratory (LNDD) outside Paris went about its business.
Mongongu said standard operational procedures were followed and all instruments used for testing the Landis samples, given after he had completed the 17th stage of the 2006 Tour, were verified for precision.
In analyzing the Landis ‘A’ sample, did all the controls and verifications check out, she was asked by Dunn. “Yes, all were within the specification,” she replied.
Mongongu, who verified the Landis ‘B’ sample, conceded manual adjusting was occasionally needed in IRMS analysis.
“Sometimes the level of peak integration needs to be adjusted when the software has added background noise,” she said.
Asked by Dunn whether such adjustments were made in the data reduction on the Landis sample, she relied: “Yes, I performed it.”
Mongongu, who frequently replied to Dunn’s questions with a simple yes or no, said she had no idea she was testing an ‘A’ sample from Landis.
“And no, I didn’t follow the Tour because I’m not really a fan of cycling,” she said.
At the start of the day, Landis’s attorney Suh maintained his attack on the LNDD’s efficiency, claiming the laboratory had manipulated the calibration of instruments used for testing the ‘B’ samples.
Citing examples from the lab’s computer logs, Suh highlighted calibration tests that appeared to be performed, stopped and then re-run with the initial records over-written.
“Without these log files, we wouldn’t know the data that was deleted,” he said.
Mongongu later told Dunn that what appeared to be initial test performances on the computer log were in fact pre-runs to prime the machine.
Former Tour de France champions Greg LeMond and Eddy Merckx are expected to be called as witnesses later during the hearing being held at Pepperdine University.
Three-times winner LeMond is scheduled to testify against fellow American Landis while Belgian Merckx, who won the Tour five times between 1969 and 1974, is set to testify in Landis’s favor.
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